Socialistic, Communistic, Mutualistic, and Financial Fragments/1

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[From the Princeton "Word."]


Dear Sir,—I have read your communication in the August number of the "Word," on the subject of free love. Perhaps no subject is at the same time so important, so much talked about, and so little understood. You call it a "muddle." To the schoolboy, mathematics is a muddle. That intelligent persons like yourself are muddled, is the fault, to some extent, perhaps, of those who profess to understand the subject, and have undertaken to expound it. While I do not presume to speak for all who may style themselves "free-lovers," I think I am safe in saying that you misapprehend entirely the free-love movement. It is not at all an "attack upon other people's privileges," excepting the privilege of holding slaves; nor is it at all a mere attempt to patch up the marriage-system. To make the case plain by a familiar comparison, the free-love movement is very like the Garrison movement for the abolition of chattel slavery. We do propose the utter ABOLITION of marriage: in other words, we propose the complete emancipation of woman; which emancipation will constitute the abolition of marriage. While, however, the freedom of woman is the major fact, practically, of course all laws interfering with the freedom of man will have to go by the board.

You quote the United States Constitution, and infer that the abolition of marriage would violate a given provision. If so, it cannot be helped; but I think not. No innocent contracts will be interfered with by the abolition of marriage. Suppose you go to a brothel, and make a "contract" with one of its inmates, who, on getting possession of the pecuniary consideration, refuses to fulfil on her part; can you compel compliance, or a refunding of the money, under State law? If not, does the State law violate the United States Constitution? A "contract" to cohabit on a single occasion does not differ in character from a "contract" to cohabit indefinitely, or for a lifetime. Of course, people will be perfectly free, after marriage is abolished, to make all the contracts they please; and all of them that are innocent in character can and should be enforced. A contract, however, to cohabit for an indefinite time, or during life, is in its nature essentially vicious. Such contract is prima facie evidence of an intention to commit prostitution. The idea that lovers would ever need to make a contract to manifest their love to each other is, of course, ridiculous. The only use of the contract, or of the marriage-bond, is to insure cohabitation in case there is not sufficient love to insure it. All such cohabitation is, in the estimation of all right-minded people, prostitution.

The abolition of marriage, in other words the emancipation of woman, in other words the inauguration of free love, is simply the abolition of slavery. People will be at perfect liberty to engage in, or observe, all the ceremonies they please; and they can call them marriage ceremonies, or free-love ceremonies, or any thing else that suits them better. They will be equally free to neglect, or refuse to observe, any ceremonies whatever; and parties can live together in any way they please, and so long as they please. And they can cohabit only with whom and when there is the highest order of love, or with whom and when there is only a moderate degree, or with whom and when there is none at all. And they can also make just such other arrangements as they please, or none at all. Government will interfere only (but always in such case) where and when there is a trespass upon a natural right.



RAVENNA, O., September, 1874.

[From the Princeton "Word."]


BOSTON, MASS., Oct. 10, 1874,

MR. FRANCIS BARRY. Dear Sir,—In your letter to me, printed in this month's "Word," you define the scope of the "free-love movement" by saying, "We do propose the utter ABOLITION of marriage." (The Italics and small capitals are yours.) You then go on, in a mystical way, without assigning any reasons whatever for your affirmations, to assimilate the absolute nature of marriage with the absolute nature of slavery, and the emancipation of woman with the utter abolition of marriage. Speaking like the Pythoness on the tripod, and therefore not scientifically, but inspirationally, you make the seemingly idiosyncratic affirmation, that the inauguration of free love is the equivalent of an abolition of marriage and slavery. It is plain to me that you use the terms, "marriage," "emancipation," "abolition," "love," "freedom," "slavery," and the like, in senses altogether foreign to my experience, and that I shall understand your meaning then only when you condescend to tell me the precise signification you attach to common words. In the ordinary sense of the words, "marriage," "emancipation," "love" and "slavery," your equations of the abolition of marriage with the emancipation of woman, of the emancipation of woman with the inauguration of free love, and of this last with the abolition of slavery, are interesting, because coming from you, but void of instructiveness, because utterly unintelligible. What do the words "free love" mean? Judging from your own statements, I am justified in concluding that you mean by free love what other persons designate by the words "sexual promiscuity;" for you say expressly (I will quote your own words): After the inauguration of free love, "Parties can live together in any way they please, and so long as they please. And they can cohabit only with whom and when there is the highest order of love, and with whom and when there is only a moderate degree, and with whom and when there is none at all. And they can also make just such other arrangements as they please, or none at all." If I misrepresent you, say so, and I will take back all I have said. The ideal of free love, as I understand you to explain it, is embodied in the marriage-relation of the canine race, where every gentleman dog is the unmarried husband of every lady dog, and where every lady dog is the unmarried wife of every gentleman dog. But this definition of yours is of no general value, because it is the individual definition of a single free-lover, a definition repudiated by other free-lovers, and throwing, therefore, no adequate light on the scope of "the free-love movement."

It is hard to say what Mrs. Woodhull means by free love; but she certainly intends something other than the programme you explain. Sometimes she seems to mean what was formerly called true love, and of which the course is said "to never run smooth." She seems to affirm that cohabitation without true love is prostitution. Mrs. Heywood seems to define free love as sentimental love, or refined love, or, rather, love as experienced by refined people, such as was written about in the novels of a hundred years ago. Mr. Heywood holds his wife's bonnet in this particular, and therefore does not agree with you. Mr. Heywood is capable (when he sees fit to exercise his native or acquired faculty) of writing plain English, and would confer a favor by explaining (1) what he really means by free love, and (2) by showing how, under his own definition, he acquires the especial right (which he claims) to publicly expose persons who practise your principles at their own personal cost. Mr. Heywood has not, to my knowledge, exposed anybody as yet; but he claims the right to hold up to public derision all free-lovers of your sort, and to pluck the masks from their faces, if they attempt any disguise. This pretension seems to me to be exorbitant. From what special aspect of the free-love principle does Mr. Heywood, who himself believes in individual sovereignty, derive the right to make inquisition into other people's private conduct, to arraign other people before a mob court of newspaper readers, and to himself act as executioner? If Mr. Heywood will write out an intelligible definition of free love, I will guarantee that his definition shall be effectually scrutinized.

You differ, however, no more from Mr. and Mrs. Heywood, and from Victoria Woodhull, than you do from many others who fight under the free-love banner. Mrs. Stanton, Mrs. Laura Cuppy Smith, and even Moses Hull, and, in fact, all the advocates of free love I ever came across, take grounds exclusive of yours. Your statement, being that of one man only, cannot be received as conclusive. The question, What is free love? remains unanswered. With some, perhaps with many, free love means, as it means with you, liberty for sexual promiscuity. [I thought this was Moses Hull's doctrine; but he tells me I am mistaken.] With others, it means that women incompetent to maternal functions ought to be excused from performing them. With others, it means pure sentimentalism, and gives ground for the now-famous distinction between the free-lovers and the free-lusters. With others, it means opportunities for unmasking hypocrites, and of exposing them to public scorn. With others, it means opportunities for panel-thieving, black-mailing, and malicious assaults upon reputations, and, as such, receives and merits the execration of all right-minded men and women. With others, it means opportunities for unsettling the foundations of property. With others, it means a protest against the laws of marriage, which, as many allege, have become an intolerable outrage. And so on to the end of the chapter.

You say, "We do propose the utter ABOLITION of marriage." I think there are very few persons who will approve of your proposition. Marriage is a contract to which there are three consenting parties, (1) a woman, (2) a man, and (3) the organic society of which the man and woman are members. The organic society, which is one of the contracting parties, is represented at the marriage-ceremony by an authorized priest, a minister, a civil magistrate, or else by competent witnesses. The contract of marriage (like all other contracts) can be annulled by the consent of all the contracting parties; and such annulling, when authenticated by a legislative body, or by a competent court, is called a divorce by mutual consent. Marriages may also be annulled by decrees of tribunals representing the organic society, whenever the contracts are shown to have been originally vitiated by inadequacy, or fraud, or to have subsequently become vitiated by crime, or other sufficient cause. But the abolition of marriage you propose, which is no mere generalization of the law of divorce, but an annihilation of marriage itself, would involve an arbitrary and invidious withdrawal of the sanction of the organic society from contracts made between men and women for the regulation of their respective interests as contracting men and women. The utter abolition of marriage means a sacrifice of the women and children for the benefit of the grown men, and a destruction of the social guaranties by which the rights of -women and children are protected. What, after all, is the end, aim, and object of marriage? It is, according to the popular belief, the securing of the reciprocal happiness of the husband and wife, and the procreation and education of children. Marriage may be polygamic, monogamic, polyandric, complex according to the Oneida pattern, or other, and is true marriage (I do not say perfect marriage) so long as it promotes the happiness of the persons married, and the procreation, support, and education of children, and so long as it is founded on the joint free contract of the persons married, and remains under the sanction of the organic society of which those persons are members. The immediate abolition of the Turkish and Mormon marriage-laws, with the substitution of no new marriage-laws in their stead, would not be at all in the interest of the women and children of Turkey and Utah. Marriage exists now; and such utter abolition of it as you propose might be accompanied by serious inconveniences. For instance: suppose Maria and John to take each other for their reciprocal happiness, and for the procreation and education of children; then suppose Maria to give birth to six children in eleven years, and to suckle them, and to be used up in health by the process. Such things occur. Suppose John to get tired of Maria, and to take Susan Jane in her stead, casting Maria off; suppose Maria, having no other means of support, to go to the poor-house with her children; and suppose John to use up Susan Jane as he did Maria, and to take up with Sarah Ann, leaving Susan Jane and her children to join Maria in the poor-house. Would there be no injustice here? Has a man, who himself bears no children, a moral right to throw the whole burthen of children, he being the begetter of them, on the woman who bears them? Has he a right to absolutely get off without making any compensation whatever, by simply repudiating the woman who, through him, has lost her health, her beauty, and all her prospects for future marriage? The Old Testament says, "Jehovah hateth putting-away." In my humble opinion, the hatred is well merited. And mark, if you regulate this matter, if you do justice to the woman, if you decree that she is entitled to compensation, and fix the principle on which the compensation is to be computed, you establish marriage-laws, and your abolition of marriage goes utterly by the board. If you say, "The woman had no right to have children, for there are means of preventing increase," then I leave you to the stringent disapprobation of all right-minded persons who overhear your remark. If you say, "Let the children be cared for at the public expense, either in the poorhouse, or elsewhere," then I answer you, that the average American tax-payer is not yet ready to be mulcted for the support of children not of his own begetting.

The free-love doctrine is profounder, and better grounded, than you appear to imagine. You may be gray-haired in the profession of it; but you are, in my humble opinion, if I understand you at all rightly, a mere suckling in the appreciation of it. The existing marriage-laws sink the existence of the woman in that of the man. The woman is legally "covered" by the man. The women demand that the old principle of "consolidation," by which the woman is nothing, and the man is every thing, shall be replaced by the principle of "federation," under which the woman may become something. They demand that the marriage relation shall no longer be a centralized government, vested solely in the man, but that it shall become a federal union of the man and the woman; the two exercising together a collective sovereignty, not over each other, but over such minor members of the family, as—because of imbecility or immaturity—are not yet clothed with sovereignty by nature, and still require protection and care. What the American Democrats demand under the formula of "State's rights," and the French Communists demand under the explicit formula of "federation," is now demanded by the American women in the matter of marriage. It is marriage-reform, not the abolition of marriage, that the women are calling for. The principle of "mutuality"—originally enunciated by Jesus in his ethical discourses, and at the existing moment of history for the first time consciously and intelligently accepted among men—is now being put forward by the American women as the ideal law of the marriage-relation.

It has been the misfortune of the American women that they have never yet recognized the fact, that mutuality in marriage cannot be realized as divorced from mutuality in finance. When they come to appreciate the situation, they will join the more advanced labor-reformers in the demand for a mutualization of the currency. As soon as they get ready to ask questions on this point, Mr. Heywood—or, if not Mr. Heywood, then Mr. Benjamin Skinner— will put them on the right track for obtaining answers. It is commonly affirmed that our existing marriages are Christian. There is not any thing Christian (nor even any thing Jewish) about them. They are Pagan. The laws respecting the separate property of married women, made by the Massachusetts legislature of 1873-74, virtually annul the marriage-relation as it heretofore existed in Massachusetts. Under the progressive legislation of Massachusetts in respect to property, Christian marriage is gradually becoming possible; and, when Christian marriage shall once obtain in Massachusetts, Massachusetts property will be changed in its essential basis, and turned upside down, and end for end. It will not be abolished, but it will be transmuted, reformed. Touch property, and you touch marriage: touch marriage, and you touch property. Under the peculiar organization of property which we have inherited with the English laws, and which still appears to many of us, perhaps to the majority of us, as natural and just, while it is, in reality, the contrary of natural and just, just marriage is impossible.

The American women demand mutuality, which implies equality, in marriage: they ask to re-enter upon the use of their own confiscated personalities. They demand federation between the husband and the wife, to the exclusion of consolidation; and such federation shuts out all confiscation of the wife's personality. They claim that their individual sovereignties over their own personalities, and whatsoever inheres in their personalities, forming a part of them, or essential to them, are, of right, inalienable, and, when wrongfully alienated, to be immediately restored to them. At the least, it is so that I understand the inarticulate and almost universal outcries of the women. They do not demand promiscuity; they do not demand license; they know not exactly what they do demand: but they know instinctively that they are demanding a marriage-relation based on a more just ground, and therefore on a holier ground, than any that was known to the Anglo-Saxon and Norman hogs, our ancestors, from whose Pagan marriage-customs our existing marriage-laws are derived.

Respectfully, WM. B. GREENE.

NOTE.—Mr. Heywood's theory of the "Criticism-cure" for existing evils—a theory he is said to hold in common with the more radical of the antislavery and female suffrage agitators—seems to be this: "No man has a right to complain or protest, when acts performed by him in private are made the subject of public praise or censure; for either the acts brought suddenly to light are praiseworthy, and the man assailed is benefited by their publication, or else they are disreputable. Again: if the acts charged are disreputable, they are either falsely charged, in which case the public accusation gives the accused party an opportunity to publicly show the falsity of the allegations, and to vindicate his reputation; or, on the other hand, the alleged disreputable facts are truly charged, and, in this last case, the accused party has no rights that the public is called upon to respect." We think we have stated Mr. Heywood's position correctly.

This doctrine is in every way untenable. A man has a natural right to not let his left hand know what his right hand does. Moreover, both common sense and the Eleventh Article of the Massachusetts Bill of Rights recognize that the individual citizen ought to be guaranteed against wanton assaults upon his private character. The individual citizen of full age, and not convicted of crime, has a right to decide for himself how he will employ his own time. His time is his. But, if Mr. Heywood's doctrine is true, no man has any control over his own avocations; for the first numskull, or intriguer, or malicious person who comes along, may say, for instance, that Peter stole a sheep. Suppose Peter to be a man engaged in investigations of high science. Forthwith, according to the doctrine of the "Criticism-cure," Peter must give up his scientific investigations, and the tranquillity of mind requisite for successful scientific investigation, in order that he may turn his whole energy to the defence of his private character. Justly acquired good reputation, if it is to be maintained at such extravagant cost, is not worth having. The "Criticism-cure" may do very well in the Oneida community; but among right-thinking, self-respecting men and women, who repudiate communism, it assumes the form of a public nuisance, and is the quintessence of supercilious inquisition and tyranny. It puts all the men and women, wherever it is enforced, ho amount to something, in the power of every booby and mischief-maker who amounts to nothing. Peter would say, probably,—

"My arraignment,—not before any lawfully constituted and sworn court,—not through the action of any sworn public prosecuting-officer,—not in consequence of any finding of a grand jury,—on the charge that I stole a sheep, is an outrage upon my right to live an individual life. If I make answer to the charge, I become a consenting party to the confiscation of my own right. If I put myself on my defence, I become an accomplice in the wrong done me. The attack made upon me is an outrage on my natural liberty. I stand on my right to not be attacked in my private character. I have a right to not defend myself, and I refuse to defend myself."

Gratuitous criticism, when it invades personal sovereignty, is always a wanton outrage It is written, "Judge not, that ye be not judged." The greatest outrage upon individual liberty is the outrage committed by a person who constitutes himself an inquisitor and judge in matters that are none of his business. The right to arraign for trial, and to judge, is the highest prerogative of sovereignty; and the usurpation of this right is a criminal confiscation of the sovereignty of the person tried and judged. The wanton denouncer of private character, the stirrer-up of mischief which would have subsided of itself if left alone, so far from being "a public benefactor," is an enemy of individual liberty, and a person to be summarily excommunicated from the society of all right-thinking men and women. The plea of the malicious-tale-bearer, that he is acting in the interest of public morals, and that his story, if not true, can be refuted, is an aggravation of his crime. Who appointed him to be the guardian of public morals? What right has he to usurp functions that were never lawfully devolved upon him?

The methods usually employed by lawyers in cross-examining witnesses in court are an outrage on individual sovereignty and natural right; and they are, moreover, in distinct violation of the Twelfth Article of the "Declaration of the Rights of the Inhabitants of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts." The peculiar mission of the Quakers, in the matter of "law-reform," is not more than half accomplished, as yet, in this country. The legislation which puts men and women on the stand, or allows them to be put there, to testify in cases where the question of their own character and criminality is involved, is barbarous. It is a return to the ancient system of extorting testimony by torture only it substitutes moral torture in the stead of physical torture; and the new practice is worse than the ancient one. If the lawyer is to be the judge of the questions he puts, the witness ought to be the judge of such answers as he may see fit to make. No man is naturally responsible for what he says under the application of torture. "Nemo in propria causa testis esse debet." "Nemo tenetur seipsum accusare." It is to be hoped that some Quaker, or other non-resistant, will bear his testimony against this practice of the lawyers, and contest its legitimacy.