« FöregåendeFortsätt »
Let none brand our Southern brethren with the reproachful epithet of woman-whippers, so long as our courts of justice are governed by such barbarous laws, for these laws approximate so nearly to woman-whipping, that the United States of America has won for itself the dishonourable title of a woman-whipping republic. O! shame, where is thy blush!
If the husband die intestate, the law immediately takes his place and deals out to the widow, of her own property, what it sees proper, as if she were a pensioner on the State, or a pauper in the alms-house. A list of articles is drawn out, a pompous display of the munificent provision for the widow; as a specimen of her paraphernalia, she is to inherit her own clothes and ornaments! Most generous almoners, truly. Who has authorized them to take charge of her wardrobe? Might gave them right, brute force! Most insulting and degrading to say she does not own her own clothes and ornaments, except by statute law! when these effects are often the product of her own industry. “She maketh to herself coverings of tapestry.” This interference of the law is professedly for the purpose of securing to children their inheritance. This is only a mere pretext; when there are no children to provide for, the husband's relatives come in as legal heirs to two-thirds of all the real estate, the same as when there are children. We have previously given instances of widows being turned out of house and home in consequence of this regulation. We will add another instance of the husband's relations, some of them rolling in affluence, becoming heirs to two-thirds of a small estate, the widow being turned out and left destitute of a residence of her own. Is it as bad for the Hindoos, in their uncivilized and unenlightened condition to light the funeral pile and assist the widow to mount it, or throw her in with her own consent, as to take the means of subsistence from the widow in our enlightened and boasted land of liberty and equality ?—take the poor aged widow's property and give it, (may be,) to the young and vigorous, or to those who were already rolling in affluence! Perhaps a female relative of the husband's becomes the heir, who is liable to every objection that could be brought against the widow becoming the sole proprietor, as common sense and common justice say she should. As it is not customary in our country, as in Hindoostan, to consume the corpse by fire, would it not be as well to bury the widow alive in the husband's grave, as to let her pine away by hunger, and in want of the common necessaries of life? If we have a natural right to life, we cannot enjoy it without the means of support.
of the Roman church. He considers he has a right to avail himself of the privileges of the law “to lock her up in a closet, or bind her with cords, as it is a case of gross misbehaviour" on her part to attend on these soul-destroying, heretical institutions. And are protestants one whit more tolerant to papists than papists are to protestants? Supposing the wife wished to attend the Roman worship, would not the same results follow in a great many instances ? It may be said, it is a constitutional guarantee that people may worship God according to the dictates of their own conscience. True, so it is, but is there not also a constitutional guarantee that “no person shall be deprived of liberty without due process of law ?”.
Those who wrest from us our lawful means of support, are murderers! Let it not be said that there is provision made at the public expense, that none shall die of hunger, for the law that wrests the property from the wife, never takes into view this provision. The widow would be deprived of her property, were there no poor laws in existence. Why should she be thrown on the public charity when she has property enough of her own? She may have used the most persevering industry, and the most rigid economy, to secure some property to support her in her old age-dreading the idea of being thrown on the public charity of the world. In all probability, she has at least been a joint labourer with her husband in contributing to acquire the property; in some instances the only contributor, as we have already exemplified in the case of a widow whose husband was both a gambler and a drunkard, and yet his relations came like vultures after his death to pounce on the widow's property.
We will take the liberty to recommend our Christian Republican legislators, to take a lesson of justice from the heathen statute book, not withstanding some of their barbarous laws respecting women. " By the Roman law a wife became a partner of all her husband's substance: if he died intestate, and without children, she inherited his whole fortune as a daughter-if he left children, she had an equal share with them.” See Roman Antiquities, p. 500, by Alexander Adam, LL. D., of Edinburgh, 2d American edition, Instead of the civil law being the friend and protector of the wife, or the widow, it is her “adversary," her tyrant, and oppressor. We are convinced, if there were no organized civil government, in our present enlightened and civilized condition, that the wife and widow would enjoy more rights from the common sense of an enlightened community, than they do from the civil powers.—Would not the common sense of an enlightened community award to the wife, a right to acquire and own property, a right at least to what she would earn by her own industry? Would an enlightened community permit a husband to exact the personal labour of his wife, and pocket her earnings ? No! it would brand him as a despicable tyrant! A right to acquire and own property, is most emphatically a natural right, and inalienable; and a right which distinguishes man from the brute. If life itself is a natural right, we must have the means to support it. It may be said, the husband is bound to support the wife, but he is frequently incapable of supporting himself. Would not an enlightened community brand a man as a savage that would “ bind his wife with cords, lock her up in a closet, and if she resist his brute force maim her?” We ask, would an enlightened community sanction such a deed of savage barbarity, if it were not sanctioned and sanctified by the legal tribunals of our country? Whatever the law sanctions by its authority, is supposed by a great part of the community to be right, and were it not for legislative enactments, who would ever think of pouncing on the poor widow's property, and wresting it from her, dealing out her apportionment as if she were a salaried domestic, and making such a disposition of the residue as they saw proper. No, the common sense of an enlightened community would say that the widow was the proper person, after her husband's exit, to have the sole control and management of that property, and that she is the God-ordained guardian of her children, the same as the husband, after the wife's death. Many women show themselves well qualified for this dutythus we see the civil law is the wife's and widow's tyrant and oppressor.
The magnanimous sons of Christian Republican America have ordained that when woman becomes a wife she loses her identity! There is nothing more revolting to the human
mind than the thought of annihilation. The wife can conduct no legal business whatever, in her husband's lifetime she cannot even be a legal guardian to her own children, whom she may have by a former marriage. She cannot be the legal owner of any property. The law declares, that the mother of mankind shall be a servile dependent vassal.
“ In the general course of human nature,” says Mr. Hamilton, “ a power over a man's subsistence, is a power over his will, so a power over a woman's subsistence may enslave her will, and degrade her pride.” A. P. Hurlbut. “ May enslave her will, and degrade her pride.” Judge Hurlbut. It is intended to have that very effect. What homilies do we have preached to women to enforce on them the duty of being confiding dependents—their will being always in subjection to another will, in all cases, unless it would violate the conscience, (the conscience only embracing their religious exercises.) A grievous wrong is inflicted on a human being when she is deprived of her inherent and inalienable right of owning, or acquiring property on her own behalf.
It would appear from the Jewish law, that the widow held all the property, possessed by herself and husband, unmolested during her lifetime. In order to keep the tribes distinct, and for each tribe to keep possession of their own inheritance for reasons peculiar to the Jews, if a man died without children, son or daughter, his inheritance, after the death of the widow, went to his nearest kinsman by the father's side, Numb. xxvii. 1, 11, 36. But the widow held possession during her lifetime, as may be seen by Naomi and Ruth selling their land, Ruth iv. 1, 8. We hear nothing of their husbands' relations falling heir to two-thirds of the inheritance, and the widow still living, as would have been the case in our enlightened age, under the same circumstances. As for moveable property, we have reason to believe the widow inherited the whole, and their property was, in a great measure, vested in flocks and herds. When the Shunemite returned from a seven years' sojourn, in the land of the Philistines, she went forth to cry unto the king, for her house, and for her land, and the king commanded to restore all that was hers, and all the fruits of the field, since the day that she left the land until now. 2 Kings vii. 3, 6.
The whole property was called hers, although she had a son. She was spoken of in the same way as the father would have been, under the same circumstances.
We think we have proved conclusively, that this husbandly authority, or aristocracy of sex, exercises the authority of slavery, and political despotism, with some modifications ; and that the government of the United States is nothing better than a political despotism to women. Male subjects of despotisms do not suffer the deprivation of rights to any such extent, as does the wife or widow in the United States. We rejoice to say that the general practice respecting the personal treatment of the wife, is much better than the law. But still it is not a dead letter. We believe it was a true opinion which a respectable lawyer gave us, when he said he could select twelve men, out of either of three " orthodox” religious denominations which he mentioned, in our vicinity, who would say that a husband was perfectly justifiable in many instances, in treating his wife with the utmost rigour that the laws admit. We had a practical demonstration of the truth of this in a decision of one of their church courts, in a case of this kind. As long as their bad conduct is sanctioned, and sanctified by law, they feel no compunctions. As to the treatment of the widow, the law is obeyed with strict punctuality, even to turning her out of a home, a dependent on the cold charity of an unfeeling world. Surely mischief is framed by law, and law by mischief.
Women, in their church relations, are barely permitted to enter the sanctuary to sit at the footstool of their mastersnot only are her lips sealed with silence, but she is excluded from all official standing, either secular or spiritual. There is at present considerable interest elicited in some quarters on account of the extinction of the office of deacon; but no regret is expressed on account of the office of deaconess being extinct; notwithstanding both offices were instituted under the supervision of inspired men.
Until lately, women were even denied a voice in the selection of their spiritual rulers, and in one branch of the Presbyterian church (the Associate Reformed) they are still excluded from the right of suffrage by a constitutional interdict. (See Constitution of the Associate Reformed Church, page 460.) Is not this unmitigated ecclesiastical tyranny?