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XVIII. the single will.

In an interesting paper on “Marriage and the family,” by Hermann Lotzc, lately translated by Professor Ladd, of Yale University, there may be found some very liberal views, for a German, in regard to marriage. He readily admits that “nothing but the ancient depreciation of the female sex could lead to the thought of a patria potestas (paternal authority), which ascribed to the father the unconditional right over the child's life and death.” He defines marriage as being a complete surrender of personality in respect to what is most peculiar to this personality, namely, the body; but instead of making this a wholly one-sided surrender, as has been too common with both civil and religious writers, he makes it distinctly and explicitly mutual. He finely says, following Kant in this, that “this complete surrender works no detriment to personal honor only in case it is returned by just as complete and unreserved surrender of the other personality in relation to all the interests of life.” From this he concludes, first, that marriage must be no temporary union, but a [91] fellowship of the whole life, of all human and divine interests; and then that only monogamy corresponds to this ideal.

All this is afterwards summed up by him as “the perfect moral equivalence of the two partners in marriage;” and it is rather a disappointment when we find him, nevertheless, declaring that this equivalence “does not annul the necessity that a single will must decide in relation to the externalities of the conduct of life.” What he afterwards says under this head seems a little indistinct, and might be variously interpreted; but this general proposition, heard so often from the lips of mediocre men, seems a little unworthy of the strength and fearlessness of Lotzc. It is my experience that the men who talk in this way, and who dwell on the companion conviction that “a woman is never so well off as when she finds a strong man to rule her,” do not belong in general to the strongest class of men. A man of really large and broad force likes to find some companion quality in the partner of his life, as Shakespeare's Brutus found it in Portia:

O ye gods,
Render me worthy of this nolle wife!

It is rather the man failing to impress his own individuality on the world outside who insists on making the most of it by his own fireside, and at least [92] posing as a little monarch there. A weak wife will sometimes be happy in being crushed by such a fireside despot; and a strong and good-natured wife will smile inwardly while she listens to the lofty words of a husband whom she perhaps winds round her finger. But neither of these represents the ideal household. That is found only where the “moral equivalence of the two partners” is recognized through everything, and they learn to harmonize into one joint power, or else by mutual agreement assign to each a separate portion of the sway.

This is now partially recognized by our courts, in regard to the custody of the children, for instance; and there are probably few judges within the United States who would go as far as that Canada judge who lately ruled that a mother had no legal right to the custody of her child so long as her husband lived, although that husband had long deserted both her and the child. It is more and more recognized also in respect to the management of property. This joint control of the two most important possessions is a recognition of the possibility of equal alliances where neither party shall have absolute sway. That this is perfectly practicable in the affairs of common life is shown by the vast multitude of business partnerships between two persons, neither of whom claims to control the other. Enormous commercial responsibilities, involving delicate [93] and complicated decisions, are often vested in two persons who have to rely solely on mutual confidence to settle all differences of opinion. It is not found necessary to reason abstractly that government must be in the hands of one person, and that therefore the one partner must be an autocrat and the other a figure-head only. We thus know that in the most active business of life-that, indeed, which is technically and habitually called “business,” as if it were the only serious matter-things may be as well managed by two leads as by one. Indeed the assumption is that the two heads will be even better than one, as the common proverb goes, for purposes of consultation; and where final action is needed, it can be delegated by mutual agreement to the one or the other.

Now if two business partners, coming together with only material interests at stake, can thus work successfully on what may be called the two-headed plan, why is it not to be expected that two married persons can do it? They meet, as Lotze says, in “perfect moral equivalence,” as do the business partners; they have to unite them all the common interests which business partners share; but they have, unlike business partners, the whole realm of sentiment and association and parentage and household life to hold them in harmony. Their success, if they succeed, is a success far more important [94] to their happiness than any business triumph; their failure, if they fail, is more disastrous than a whole series of mercantile bankruptcies. Under ordinary circumstances they can go on by mutual agreement; in extraordinary circumstances they must consent, as business partners do, to delegate t-he decision by the same mutual agreement to that one for whom it is most obviously fitting, or who has most at stake. In most families this is already done, so far as concerns the broad general method of letting the husband decide on the domicile, and the wife as to the care of children. Even here the two things intermingle, since in a proposed change of domicile the welfare of the children is one of the most important elements. It is difficult to think of anything, even the investment of money, in which the habits of modern life do not recognize that the wife as well as the husband has some concern. The main thing is to remember that marriage is, as Lotze points out, a mutual surrender, and that the two partners are morally equivalent. This should be the standard; and not that of Mr. Thomas Sapsea in Dickens's story, who recorded upon his wife's tombstone that he had “never met with a spirit more capable of-looking up to him!”

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