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move slowly for an hour in a crowded line of guests to shake hands with the host and hostess for a moment in passing, with no chance for more than a formal greeting, and then sweep on with the line into a refreshment room to eat a second supper of unhealthy pastries, say a few meaningless things, if perchance you come on anyone in the crowd whom you know, and then, at a late hour return home for a broken sleep—not one whit wiser in knowledge or richer in friendship for the great expenditure of precious time, which one might have put into fellowship with the great in books or with some living friend.
The monotony of the usual routine of what is often called in disgust "sassciety" is such that I do not wonder “monkey dinners” and “pajama parades” and all sorts of freak devices are invented to vary the tedium.
Occasionally we find a worthy American fellowship such as that of the National Archaeological Society, which brings together people of refinement in some private home, or on a lawn, where they first hear a lecture, and then discuss it in small groups, standing about a table of light refreshments.
Clubs of men and women are often intended for some high discussion of political and commercial and welfare objects, but too frequently natural laziness seeks the line of least resistance, and about all the time goes to games and dances that make the least possible draft on either brain or body. Would it not be far better to have more small clubs of neighbors, both men and women, that meet in turn in the members homes, and so foster instead of disturb the home life-which it should be the supreme purpose of society to recover? The most American thing in American social life is the American home-a separate building, with beautiful exterior and interior and surroundings, however simple, owned by a husband and
wife with at least four children, all of whom care more for their own home fellowship than for any artificial “society" outside.
Our Unamerican Divorces
It is not pleasant to put on the background of the true American home anything so unamerican as the present nationwide carnival of unamerican divorces. As stated before, we can not lay this on "Catholics" or "foreigners." President Woolsey of Yale College, writing on divorce, invented the term “net population,” meaning non-Catholic population, as the only part to be counted in getting the tragic relation of divorces to marriages.
And yet we say and can prove that our divorces are unamerican because divorces were much fewer when this country was most truly American, in the middle of the 19th Century, when we were in the golden mien between Puritan severity and our present laxity.
Congress passed a law, in 1901, on the Reform Bureau's initiative, for the national Capital, previously branded by Judge Bradley as "a Mecca for divorces," and brought down the net rate to 15 per 100,000, against 112 as the average for the whole country-one of many proofs that, in the language of Edmund Burke, law "makes it harder to do wrong."
Both the District law and the effective law of Japan give support to the Jones divorce amendment to the national Constitution, the purpose of which is to give Congress power to establish a minimum standard of marriage and divorce, whose provisions would undoubtedly include a month's publication of the bans of marriage, and an absolute termination of the granting of divorces in any State to non-residents.
Let us purge our country of this scandalous “tandem
polygamy” of divorce, and also the polygamy of our "Turkey in America,” which the marriage and divorce amendment will also put under the jurisdiction of Congress, provided the people are sufficiently roused to drive it through Congress in face of the fierce opposition of Utah Senators, which will be reënforced, no doubt, when the battle is on, by the less open opposition of other national legislators in many far Western States where the Mormon vote is to be reckoned with.
State divorce laws, and especially their administration, also need to be mended. For example, in 1922, an amazing situation was uncovered in the chivalrous old State of Virginia, at Alexandria, a small city where about a dozen divorces a year for the whole county would naturally be expected. The record showed a thousand divorces a year, mostly non-residents, who would come to the city, enter a divorce case, and engage a room for a year to prove residence by the receipt. They might not reside there a single night but they would come back in a year and get a divorce unopposed, often with no knowledge on the part of the other party to the case that any divorce had been asked. One woman in a little house with only six bedrooms swore in successive cases that 117 different people had been "domiciled” in that house for a year, all at the same time. And the judge accepted her affidavits. Not until a newspaper exploited the fraud was anything done by anyone to check this wrong. Everybody in town would have been rebuked by the old prophets for tolerating in silence such a great wrong. And the whole nation is at fault for the divorce situation being the worst in the world. And everyone should straightway do something to change it by legislation or by education. A New Orleans pianist is astonishing the public by playing the “Wedding March” backwards. “It ought to make a great musical
accompaniment for divorce trials,” says a press sniper. Let us get that glad tune turned back again for a great national forward march.
Educational Preventives of Divorce Something more than law is needed to lighten our divorce scandal. Parents, teachers, and pastors must teach from childhood the sacredness and nobility of marriage, and its duties and difficulties. Love stories and dramas exploit the physical and selfish side of it. Many girls and boys look forward to it as something to minister to selfishness. The girl hopes to marry wealth; the boy looks chiefly for physical beauty and pleasure. They "take each other for better or for worse," and the moment they find a hint one has got the "worse" he agreed to take, there is not only disappointment but thought of division.
One thing all married people ought to “take” a good stock of is a saving sense of humor. They should expect to find that they are both human, and smile inwardly saying, "Yes, I expected it." A mate is not worth having that agrees to everything. Probably more marriages are broken up because the wife takes herself too seriously-or perhaps it is the husband—than because of any serious matter. “Till death do us part” was the promise of the union. Let us forgive and forget, and keep step to that end.
When it is so fully known through divorce courts and courts of domestic relations and juvenile courts that an average of one-tenth of the families goes to and through the divorce courts, and when it is known through charitable and welfare agencies that at least as many more go round it in unofficial desertion, or live in a discord that makes home a hell for parents and children, why is it that almost none of the great host of agencies working for social betterment are devoting their skill to recovering the
American home? Too many social agencies are seeking to make people better by drawing parents and children away from home almost every evening to halls and settlements and churches. Even churches draw people too much from their homes. Why should not all churches concentrate their week-day council meetings all in one mid-week church convention, centering in the weekly prayer meeting, before which should be held all afternoon meetings of women and children, and the church supper and choir and board meetings and a forum and a teachers' meeting? Some churches are getting more people out that way, and saving most of the evenings for home fellowships.
IS AMERICAN POLITICS AMERICAN?
To Follow Up Chapter VII I know of no more significant story of American politics, than one which comes from the days when Senator Clark of Montana, was under investigation before the Senate Committee on Privileges and Elections, of which Senator Chandler was chairman, on the charge of having bought his seat in what was then often called our "House of Lords.” (It is never called that since popular election of Senators was adopted.)
During the period of that investigation a little boy and girl strayed into the reception room of the Senate. It seemed to the boy quite like the vestibule of some of the big theatres to which he had been taken for matinees and so he took out his little purse to see if he had money enough to pay the admittance for himself and his girl. Being in doubt whether his few pennies were sufficient, he asked a man passing by, who happened to be Senator Chandler, “What does it cost to get in there?"-pointing