William Henry Van Ornum, “Mating or Marrying, Which?” (1898)











William Henry Van Ornum





(Revised and enlarged from an address delivered by the author, before Lucifer Circle of Chicago, in October 1896, on the subject of Natural Selection.)

The distinctions of sex seem to extend throughout all nature, certainly through all animate nature; and there is reason to believe that it does not stop at the limits of what is termed the inanimate. In fact, who can say that nature is anywhere inanimate? Every atom of the universe seems to possess the power of selection, by which it is able, under favorable conditions, to attract to itself certain other atoms widely diverse from itself in physical properties, which, together form new substances and manifest new attractions. Along with these attractions and their correlative repulsions goes the active interplay of natural forces, which, throughout every part of the universe, is working evolutionary changes not unlike a progressive growth. Even deep below the ocean’s bed, or far beneath the foundations of the everlasting hills, under pressures so great that they cannot be estimated, heat, electricity and magnetism, combined with chemical reactions are changing old forms into new ones in a manner strangely suggestive of vital action. Even there, the separate atoms are moving freely among each other and arranging themselves in definite order, building up crystals always according to certain patterns, each after its own kind.

No matter how much people may differ in opinion as to the First Cause of all this power of selection in nature, there can be no difference of opinion as to the fact of its existence. There are certain ways in which things act under certain conditions; and those conditions being the same, the same actions will always follow. It is convenient to call this uniformity of action a law of nature, taking nature to mean the sum total of the universe in which we live, with all the forces operating in and through it, including the possible First Cause, it there is such a First Cause. We may say then that the power of selection is inherent in every sentient being, every plant and every atom of the universe; and that the impulse to exercise it is a law of nature. All this may not be sexual selection; but sexual selection is clearly a part of it. It is a part of this universal impulse which drives different animals, different plants and different atoms to blend with others, either for their own perfection or for the production of others distinct from themselves. There is just one thought right here that is worth noting, because it is likely to have an important bearing upon our conclusions. Each separate animal, plant, or atom possesses this power of selection for itself and not for others; and its own impulses are adequate for the proper exercise of it, without interference from others. At least, this is the case with everything below the human animal. Why should it not also be true of him?

This natural selection, as applied to sex when free from outside interference, is what we will call mating; while a union under formalities and regulations, imposed by society as a prerequisite to any union, constituting a limitation of the natural freedom of selection, is what we will call marriage.

Our purpose is not to enter into any elaborate consideration of the sexual relations of other beings than mankind, further than to throw needed light upon that important subject. Much has been written and spoken during the last twenty years on natural selection; but when it comes to elucidating the way in which natural selection works, in every day life, among human animals at least, and its consequent bearing upon social customs and moral standards, it does not seem to me that much light has been shed upon the subject. And yet, it is highly important that we understand the practical workings of a natural law which exercises so great an influence over the lives and characters of individuals; and, in a larger way, over the life and character of the race.

Marriage consists in certain formalities which society imposes upon individuals for certain purposes, as a prerequisite to the granting of its permission to the sexes to mate at all. Not that society rightfully has anything to say as to who may or may not mate; or the conditions of the mating; but it assumes to determine these questions as a means of perpetuating the institution of private property, and the inequalities which grow gut of it. The necessity and the only necessity for the exercise of any regulation whatever, on the part of society, of the relations of the sexes, arises from the necessity of preserving private fortunes. If private fortunes are to be preserved and perpetuated from one generation to another, then it is necessary to maintain the integrity of the marriage relation and the control of society over it. It is for this purpose that the distinction is made between legitimate and illegitimate children; that is, to preserve the succession of estates: to protect one man against being saddled with the expense of the support of another man’s children, and so be made to suffer in his estate. And again, if a system of property rights is to be preserved according to which each person’s claims are to be weighed and measured against the claims of each other person; if we must continue to take from some by law, to confer upon others, according to certain predetermined rules which the greedy will find ways to break whenever they think they will not be caught; if the present scramble for individual fortunes is to be kept up, with its resulting inequalities and injustices; if there must continue to be born into the world certain persons with more and better rights than ‘inhere in others, the right of succession to estates, for instance, then it is necessary that society should continue to interfere in the natural right of individuals to mate as they please; and to preserve the marriage relation intact, or as near intact as theological dogmas, moral codes and statutary enactments can compel. No matter at what expense of suffering, of suppression of natural instincts, of consequences to offspring born of low ideals, ruined from conception in their physical and mental constitutions: I say, no matter at what expense of all these, the marriage relation must be preserved. The reason to be for the institution of marriage lies in the institution of property. When that falls, marriage as a compulsory institution will fall with it.

Let those who entertain any doubt as to the truth of the statement that the purpose of the institution of marriage is solely to preserve private estates and determine who is to yet the property in cases of succession, study the laws on the subject of marriage, both civil and ecclesiastical, in every country in the world where private property prevails. Everywhere they tell the same story: the fact of the marriage is the thing that determines the right of the child in the estate of the parent. In order the more certainly and effectually to control the actions of individuals in this matter, the Church has made marriage a religious sacrament; and so surrounded it with supernatural terrors, which it visits upon those who mate independent of its sanction. In this, the State has largely acquiesced; because its own object is identical with that of the Church; and it recognizes the effectiveness of its methods. In my other works I have shown how completely our whole social fabric is built upon property as a foundation.

It has become quite the thing among a class of would-be reformers to talk of freeing women from the dominion of men; and yet not one in a thousand of those who indulge in such talk have any adequate conception of what the source is of that dominion. What good is it to preach to women to assert their in/dependence and become a law unto themselves, when they know that if they are to fulfill their manifest destiny they must be individually dependent upon some individual man for the bread they eat? Women know that they cannot fulfill the office of motherhood and still rely upon their own powers as breadwinners. It is true that some women do raise families and practically support the whole household at the same time; but no one will undertake to justify it or recommend its extension to women in general. Therefore, those who are so anxious for “woman’s emancipation” will do well to go deeper than the surface of things: to strike at the root of the evil, which lies in the institution of private property.

There are two powerful influences at work which seriously interfere with the natural law of selection; and which prove effective props to the institution of marriage. One is the Church and the other the state. One assumes to speak in the name of religion and the other of morality. One enforces its decrees by appeals to the superstitious fears of its adherents and the other by the penalties of the law. One binds the soul and the other the body.

Let no one misunderstand me. I say, the Church assumes to speak in the name of religion; but it is in a foreign tongue. Religion, so far from being the same thing as ecclesiasticism, or even a system of theology, is entirely distinct from either. It is a social force proceeding from the emotions and operating upon the emotions of others for the purpose of softening the asperities of mankind and fitting men for association one with another in this life. It has nothing necessarily to do with another life. The conception of a life to come belongs to the domain of theology and not religion. It is a dogma of the Church and not an impulse of the heart. For a fuller analysis of religion, see my forthcoming work “Co-operation, Past and to Come.” But the thing that the Church teaches as religion is quite another thing. It enjoins a love and veneration for something supernatural that is, above nature, as a source of authority and as a guide to human conduct. If a question arises among those who acknowledge the sway of the Church, respecting what may or may not be done, appeal is made to the authority of their pretended religious books or teachers. The question is settled strictly on authority by a “Thus saith the Lord.” Reason, or human needs do not enter into the question at all. It is easy to see then, how powerful must be the influence which the Church wields over its subjects to cloud their perceptions as to any matter in which its authority is acknowledged. The teachings of the Church are based wholly on authority; and just to the extent to which that is acknowledged, reason and love, the supreme guides in all things, are dethroned; or rather are never permitted to become enthroned, because, to enthrone love and reason is to dethrone authority.

Morals, on the other hand, have their origin in human needs. I say, that is their origin. They may outlive the needs which gave them rise; and, in that way, become just as great a hindrance to human progress as the authority of the Church or the State. But while the need remains they perform a salutary part in determining human conduct. The term “moral,” has a Latin derivation and signifies, a mode, a fashion, a custom, or habit. And like all customs which arise among men, in their origin they spring from some real or supposed need. But their tendency is to outlive the conditions which made them necessary at first, and thus to become clogs and hindrances to human development. The needs of mankind change from one age to another as development progresses; and therefore the customs: that is, the morals, must change with them correspondingly, or else moral codes become a curse. They act to cloud the judgment; hinder the enthronement of reason; and prevent the march of progress. Statute laws are only a concrete expression of so much of the moral codes as have been formally enacted into law.

It is time now, to consider the mating of the sexes, with and without the sanctions of marriage, and see if we can determine the relative effects of freedom and restriction respectively. To do it properly, it will be necessary to consider the effect upon all the parties in interest. Those are, first, the individuals who mate; second, their offspring; and third, society at large. While it will be necessary to study all these different aspects, yet it is impossible to separate their effects upon the different persons. For instance, the relations between mother and child are so intimate that whatever affects one is apt to affect the other; and therefore, it will promote clearness to consider them together.

Broadly stated, the objects for which the sexes mate at all, are, first, the happiness and improvement of the contracting parties; and second, the production and rearing of offspring. It will scarcely be denied that love ought to be the basis of all union between the sexes, and that too, a love unmixed with sordid considerations of every kind. In fact, natural sexual selection, or mating, is only the expression of love apart from any thought of property, rank or station in life. Where the sexes are so united, they need no law or regulation of society to keep them together or determine their conduct. They will remain together just as long as the love continues which brought them together at first, law or no law. And when that ceases, the relations ought to cease, as will be made manifest in the course of this work. To continue them is no longer a continuation of the natural selection. Love cannot live when the relations cease to be voluntary; it always dies whenever compulsion becomes necessary.

We cannot carry our study much further without taking into account the differences between the sexes; and the part those differences play in the accomplishment of the objects for which the sexes mate at all.

In the first place, we will note those characteristics of the female which most distinguish her from the male, and the part which they perform in determining the character of the offspring. What are those characteristics? Wherein does woman differ most widely from man? Admitting that this is a subject which is open to a wide difference of opinion, I will only undertake to present my own idea, based upon my observations, which must stand or fall upon its own merits. To me that difference, in the main, lies in her sympathetic, emotional and intuitive nature. These, I think, are the qualities which most distinguish her from man. And these are precisely the qualities which have most to do in determining the character of her offspring. While a man will reach his conclusions after an elaborate course of reasoning and calculation; a woman, being generally more en rapport with the “soul of things,” brushes aside his figures and details; and goes directly to the heart of the subject, as if by some intuitive impulse. She acts more spontaneously—more impulsively. And it is open to question if she is not quite as likely to form correct judgments as the man. Certain it is that this makes her more imaginative. She deals more with ideals. She is constantly seeking ideals in everything. And those ideals partake of the predominating characteristics of her own constitution. They express her longings. If, by training, temperament and association, her own ideals are gross and sensual, she will seek the gross and sensual among her male friends If however, she has learned to value something higher, even if she is unable to attain to it herself, she will form a higher ideal; and strive to realize it in her association with the other sex. This quality of ideality, resulting from her emotional, intuitive and sympathetic impulses, is the great distinguishing characteristic of the sex: the characteristic which has more to do in determining the character of the child than any, perhaps than all other causes combined. It rises superior to heredity. It can absolutely neutralize the influence of heredity just as a strong and robust man in the full vigor of health can throw off the germs of disease and prevent them from obtaining a lodgement in his system. There are men, and I doubt not women also, whose vital forces are so vigorous that they can with impunity, expose themselves to the contagion of small pox without taking them. Some even are able to overcome venereal diseases where the exposure is by actual contact. The vital forces, when acting vigorously through the physical system enable the individual to pass unscathed through dangers which would be fatal to those in whom they are less active. And so, with a woman soul free, with her woman’s nature unhampered and in vigorous exercise she may bid defiance to the laws of heredity so far as any taint that can attach to her offspring If a woman mates with the man who best meets her ideal, or whom she thinks meets that ideal she will stamp that ideal upon her child. I say, “whom she thinks meets that ideal,” for the question is not so much what he is as what she thinks he is. His real character may differ as wide as the poles from the conception she has formed of him; and yet, it is her ideal that she will stamp upon her child. The powerful influence which the imagination of the mother exerts over the offspring is well known, especially in cases of malformations and abnormalities. Have we any reason to suppose that it Is less powerful when operating along beneficient lines? If now a woman who has yielded herself to the man who has won her affections whom she believed was the embodiment of all that was noble generous and true finds that he is not all that her fancy had painted him; but, on the contrary that he is mean vulgar and heartless, so that her ideal is destroyed which she had formed of him her child will certainly partake of the new characteristics she has discovered; and if she continues to mate with him, the disgust and loathing which takes the place of love is likely to find expression in a moral or physical monstrosity, according to the degree of the mother’s repulsion to her mate. It is from this that come deformities, congenital and hereditary defects, degenerate reversions, and monstrosities. Here is where we get our Guiteaus, our Prendergasts and our Jesse Pomeroys. If married, the woman no longer finds her ideal in the man who claims her by legal right; but law and custom still compel her to submit to his embraces; or else she is placed under circumstances in other ways which call into activity the characteristics which are afterward found impress upon her child. There is a consciousness of degradation and she makes actual, in her offspring, the degradation which she feels. Therefore, it will be seen, how important a part love plays in the development of the child, and, in a larger way of the species; and also, how absolutely sexual relations should cease when love no longer exists.

It will be seen from all this that the influence of the male upon the character of the child, except at the time of connection, is wholly secondary: that is, it is an influence exerted upon the mother through her emotions and her imagination; and by her impressed upon the child. Undoubtedly, at the time of connection his influence is of the utmost importance. Some have regarded it as so great that it makes little difference what the mother may be if the father is all right. They have claimed that it is the father that fixes the character of the offspring; that the mother does little more than furnish a receptacle into which the seed is dropped and in which it develops until birth. Such claim that the child will follow closely the characteristics of the male parent with little regard to the female. But this ignores some of the most obvious facts in nature.

At certain regular periods the female ovaries give off what is known as the “ovum,” germ cells, which, if they come in contact with the germ cells of the male, are likely to become impregnated. If so, they pass on into the womb where they are developed until birth. But without such a blending of these opposite cells the germs of either are incomplete. If connection takes place at a time in the month after ovulation has ceased so that this blending is impossible, there can be no conception. I contend that at the time of conception the part which the female pays in determining the character of the child is equally as great as that of the male; and that for the whole nine months following, her influence is not lessened one particle, while that of the male is greatly lessened; and, under some circumstances ceases altogether, so far as exerting any direct influence beyond the initial point. Every particle of nutrition comes from the mother; and every emotion, every thought, every aspiration which she experiences carries its impress to her unborn child. It is her soul, her spirit her ideal that is being stamped, indelibly stamped upon its young and plastic being. Let her experience fright disgust, horror or any other strong emotion and she will register that emotion upon her unborn child with absolute certainty in some way.

Nor does her influence cease with the birth of her child. While nursing a babe, the ready sympathy between the mother and child is scarcely less delicate and active than before birth. Strong emotions act almost as promptly through the mother’s milk as they formerly, did through the umbilical cord. And then it is the mother’s love that comforts and soothes it in its little troubles; her approbation and encouragement that stimulates it to early endeavors; and her lullaby that wafts it to dreamland. Whatever influence the father exerts up to a comparatively late period is purely secondary. It is an influence upon the mother, mainly, as already shown, through her emotions and the building of her ideals, which she in turn stamps upon the child. He fills a larger place in her thought than all other men combined. If he impresses her with the idea that he is an ideal man that he possesses ideal qualities she will fix those same qualities upon her child, even to physical conformation. His conspicuous habits, his walk, his methods of expression, his ways, every kind of a peculiarity she will photograph as it were, upon the child. If on the other hand, he proves to be something different from her ideal of a man—if he is mean, vulgar vicious dishonest, brutal, or that her emotions become those of disgust and loathing the chances are good as for a child strongly marked with some hereditary taint, some congenital defect, physical or mental or some degenerate reversion.

More than this, the very habits which prevail in married life actually do tend to produce these very effects. When men and women are constantly thrown together in such close relationships as they are, it promotes excesses, if nothing more, which are unfavorable to the preservation of lofty conceptions of the character which each may have formed of the other. Excess always produces satiety; and satiety leads to revulsion. It is even probable that a large proportion of the female diseases, those which are peculiar to the sex, are the result of sexual excesses. Could but a tithe of the physical sufferings the sorrows and heart-burnings of married life be told it would be appalling. It is only when exceptional cases find their way into the divorce courts; or startling tragedies are enacted in real life, that the world gets a peep behind the scenes. And yet, we regard it as a matter of special wonder that children are born with undesirable hereditary characteristics.

I am fully convinced that the family life as now commonly lived, wherein the husband is the breadwinner, while the wife attends to the domestic labors of cooking, washing, ironing and the general housework, is bad; and promotive of anything but harmonious relations between them, or lofty ideals in either as to the qualities of the other. The adage, “familiarity breeds contempt,” here finds an abundant verification. After the night’s rest, each is engaged in their own way at their peculiar duties, until the labors of the day are mostly done. They are then brought together again when each is wearied with his or her own cares and labors. Oftentimes they are irritable and worried, or inclined to find fault. Then bickerings arise, too often ending in criminations and recriminations; or one is moody and exacting or is careless of the other’s feelings. To make it still worse, they commonly occupy the same bed, which should never be done habitually. Aside from the excesses which it promotes, the sanitary objections are conclusive. And then, it is all calculated to dispel any high ideals which they may have formed of each other. If neither ever entered the presence of the other except under such conditions as would stimulate a mutual love and respect there would be less necessity for the interference of the law in the relations of the sexes.

Coming back now to the influence of the mother upon her child, if the social atmosphere in which she lives is unfavorable to healthy growth: if her lot is cast among those whom we call criminals, those who must live by preying upon others; if she is called upon to resort to stealth, cunning or strategy, or depend upon the exercise of these qualities on the part of her husband or others, for the supply of necessities, so that these qualities come to be regarded as desirable, ideal, even for the time being, she will be sure to give birth to a child marked by cunning, secretiveness, or given to strategy and deceit. She will give it the qualities of a criminal. And further, if her children continue to live in this atmosphere of criminality, as is frequently the case, because society closes and bars the door of their exit, we are likely to head a race of criminals, or rather, several generations of men with criminal instincts. And then the social Pharisees will compile long genealogical tables to show the tendency of crime to become hereditary in certain families. Of course, as long &s the conditions continue the effects of those conditions will be felt. The thing that I wish to make clear now is, that it is the female, far more than the male, who determines the character of the offspring, that she does it through her emotional, impressional and idealistic nature, in response to the conditions which environ her; and she does it, not as a reproduction of her own character; but, first as a representation of what she sees, or thinks she sees in the male; and second, of the predominant feelings, emotions and aspirations which govern her during the time of conception, gestation and lactation. And I am so strongly impressed with the power which favorable or unfavorable conditions exert, that I fully believe that if no woman ever mated with any man except one which fulfilled her best ideal as to noble manly qualities; and the conditions surrounding her during gestation and lactation were favorable, even to a normal degree, it would be impossible to produce a deformed or depraved child, or one possessing congenital or hereditary taints. As I have before said, heredity, regarded as a transmission of the undesirable qualities of ancestors, is a reversion; and, under favorable conditions will be thrown off, just as one strong in vital force, can, within certain limits’ resist the attacks of disease. Nature, when free to act, is capable of overcoming the tendency to reversion, otherwise it would be impossible to make any progress whatever. All this goes to show how direct is the influence of the surroundings upon the making of the individual. It is the way that nature works to adapt man to his environment. When there is a bad social environment those who must live in it, in this way are fitted to it. If we want better men and better women we must change the conditions—the environment.

The influence of low ideals upon the mother and through her upon her child, is well illustrated among the lower animals It is well known among the breeders of dogs that a thoroughbred female, if once paired with a mongrel, will taint her future offspring long afterward, even when it has been fathered by a thoroughbred. I see no way to account for this except that the mother becomes debased in her ideals by association with the cur. The same thing too, has been observed in the breeding of horses. There is a probability that the same distinguishing characteristics run all through the animal kingdom, only varying according to the degree of the animals’ development; and that it is the quality which gives direction to natural selection. This impressionable characteristic of the female, when it has its natural and proper action, is fraught with untold good to the species; but when thwarted by low and debased ideals born of bad social conditions, or by legal restrictions, it carries with it an awful punishment.

So far we have dealt with conditions and laws which apply to women in general; but I do not wish to be understood as maintaining that the principles laid down, while universal in a degree, apply to all women equally. The coarse, uncultivated and undeveloped woman, who has been trained under a system of restriction; who has been taught that the first duty of a wife is subjection in all things to her husband; who is ready to shut her eyes to all his imperfections; and who thinks that any thought of another is an act of infidelity to him, will not feel as keenly as another would his deficiencies; and therefore, she will be less susceptible to feelings of disgust at his shortcomings. Such a woman may continue to cohabit with a brutal husband without serious danger to her offspring. But under favorable circumstances, even she may loose her balance and be carried into open or covert revolt by a power she little dreams of. Let her be brought in contact with another, who, from personal qualities or peculiar relationships, she regards with esteem and veneration; and the chances are good that formal marriage ties will be broken. She does not understand that she is acting in obedience to a natural law which impels her to select the best possible paternity for her child. She may succeed in stifling her natural promptings in obedience to her early training; but if she does, it is at the expense of her woman’s nature; and thereafter, if she accepts the embraces of the husband, when he no longer fills her ideal, it must be at the risk of bringing into the world a monstrosity. Nature has little respect for human laws, even when made to preserve so sacred a thing as private property; but it punishes any infractions of its own laws by penalties which the guilty can not avoid.

But the woman of independent spirit, of refined and cultured tastes, who instinctively revolts at manifestations of brutality and sensuality and who yearns to realize her ideals in her association with the male sex, dares not, must not accept the embraces of one who fulfills none of those ideals, but who excites in her nothing but disgust, no matter what may be the ties which an artificial marriage institution has imposed upon her.

Several facts have now been established, in the course of this study, with sufficient clearness to be accepted as a basis for further inquiry.

The first is, that marriage, in-so-far as it interferes with freedom in sex relations, is an arbitrary social regulation imposed solely for the purpose of determining and maintaining property rights. The question of marriage is not a religious one at all. The Church in attempting to make it such has succeeded in giving it only the sanction of its theology which is quite another thing.

The second fact is that a natural mating of the sexes, free from any interference of society, fulfills all the requirements of human needs apart from determining and maintaining property rights. It qualifies the requirements of religion regarding religion to mean a social force proceeding from and operating upon the emotions for the purpose of fitting mankind for association one with another in this life. Love is but another name for religion.

The third fact is that the function of sexual selection naturally rests with the female. It is she who is to determine with whom she is to mate; and she must do it with reference to her own ideals. Any restraint placed upon her freedom of choice must operate disastrously in the building of the race.

The next question is, is the institution of private property of such vital importance to mankind as to justify so great an interference with the operation of the natural law of sexual selection as is involved in the institution of marriage?

I shall not undertake here to answer this question fully; because I have sufficiently done so in my forthcoming work “Co-operation Past and to Come” wherein I have shown that the institution of property is but a passing phase of human development; that it has had a definite mission to fulfill in that development; and that when that purpose has been accomplished it will disappear and be replaced by common rights, common duties and common property. In the mean time, it is enough to call attention to the fact that the world is paying a very high price for what little good it can get out of these restrictions to liberty. When we take into account the domestic infelicities sometimes resulting to awful tragedies; the moral, mental and physical monstrosities which are born to mismated couples; and the poverty, strife degradation and crime which result from property not to say anything of the anxiety and worry from which none can wholly escape so long as it continues, we shall be likely to ask ourselves, what can we do to hasten the time when private property shall be no more?

So, it will be seen, that the reasons to be for the prevailing moral codes, or customs which uphold the marriage relation, are still operative and must continue to operate until people realize the necessity of abandoning the institution of property. I do not mean by this that sex reformers, by reason of their preachments, will not be able to induce a few women, who chance to be possessed of independent sources of support, to act independently of moral codes; but I do mean that no considerable headway can be made in that line. Such women, in number, are to the great mass of women about like a dipper of water to the great Atlantic. A thousand times more can be done by putting in practical methods of co-operation—in such a full and adequate co-operation as will replace private rights, divided interests and individual properties with a common property. Then the economic question will be eliminated from the problem of the relations of the sexes. The production of wealth will be carried on for the common account, by means of the best appliances and under conditions which will insure the best results with the least expenditure of labor. Every one will be provided for from the common estate. Then no woman will be compelled to depend upon any particular man for a support. Her support will come just like the support of all others. There will be no question of legitimacy to arise to place her offspring at a disadvantage with others. She can seek her ideals as associates. She will not be compelled to accept a man who fulfills none of her ideals, and thus risk bringing into the world a brood of degenerates. If men wish to enjoy the association of the other ser, they will be compelled to make themselves worthy of it; not one time but every time. This will make better men and better children, children freer from the taints of heredity, from congenital defects and degenerate reversions. And it will make better women. It will take away the drudgery of woman’s life; and give her such an object in life as she can never realize under present conditions. It will give her leisure and opportunity for improvement. It will give her the absolute control of her own person, under the workings of such a system, it is reasonable to expect a higher physical, mental and social development than anything ever heretofore known.

These changes will necessarily come gradually. As co-operation takes the place of capitalism, the economic conditions must become easier and woman’s lot more independent. Then the old forms and customs will respond less and less to the manifest needs; while the new may, for a time, be regarded as immoral and disreputable; but they will continue to approve themselves and justify their practice until they become finally established. In this way a new morality, or custom will arise.

Then the association of the sexes will be purified from every sordid or base consideration. It will be the highest expression of love unmixed with greed or ambition for social station. So far from being in any way degrading, it will be the highest and purest form of association. Nor need there be the least fear of what purists are pleased to call promiscuous sex relations. If those relations depended upon the volition of the male, there is no doubt that this would follow; because the male is lacking in that form of ideality which is so strong in the female. It is perfectly natural for a man to mate sexually with women, with little regard to selection; and any pretense of moral scruples may generally be set down as a pure pretense. He may, by a sort of religious phrensy, cultivate certain scruples, especially if his amativeness is weak; but those scruples constantly run counter to his impulses, which are always in revolt against them. And when the opportunity comes, the scruples are apt to be forgotten. But the case is different with women. That quality of ideality is natures own safeguard of the race. If woman could be left perfectly unhampered in the exercise of it, her own natural promptings, which are always good when healthy, and when freed from sordid considerations, would be adequate to its perfect use. So, there is not the slightest danger to be apprehended in the utmost freedom on the part of the woman in the matter of sex. But, on the other hand, there is the greatest danger in every form of restriction not imposed by nature itself.


(Revised and Republished from the Twentieth Century.)

The following extract is taken from Ridpaths’ History of the United States.

It is a part of the concluding chapter of the early history of Connecticut.

“The half century preceding the French and Indian war was a period of prosperity to all the western districts of New England. Connecticut was especially favored. Almost unbroken peace reigned throughout her borders. The blessing of a free commonwealth were realized in full measure. The farmer reaped his fields in cheerfulness and hope. The mechanic made glad his dusty shop with anecdote and song. The merchant feared no duty, the villager no taxes. Want was unknown and pauperism unheard of. Wealth was little cared for and crime was of rare occurrence among a people with whom intelligence and virtue were the only foundations of nobility.”

Remember this was in Connecticut; and in times extended over a period ranging between 150 and 200 years ago. Massachusetts had been settled under the authority of the Plymouth Company which had obtained a royal patent from the English Crown vesting in that company not only the title to the lands of Massachusetts but the right to govern the Massachusetts Colony; while Connecticut was settled somewhat later not under authority of any special grant but by enterprising pioneers who had previously settled in Massachusetts. These settlers for various causes, had left the older settlements and pushed further into the wilderness until they reached the valley of the Connecticut, where they stopped and established themselves beyond the jurisdiction of the Massachusetts Colonies. Being beyond that jurisdiction they felt that they were under no obligations to pay rents to the proprietary governors as those were expected to do who remained within the limits of the royal grants. They were seeking for free land; and here is where they found it. The result is stated by the historian already quoted.

This picture of prosperity was realized under what would now be considered in many respects very diverse circumstances. It was before modern invention had made it so easy to bring wealth into being. It was before a railroad had been built; the telegraph had been invented; machinery had been applied to the manufacture of the thousand and one articles which we find so essential to the comfort of everyday life; and before the increase in population had made possible the almost infinite subdivision of labor with its endless saving of labor required to produce wealth. The population was confined to a few scattered villages and farms. There were no cities and scarcely any commerce. There was not even a stage coach in the whole colony; and not more than two or three stage routes within the entire thirteen colonies. And yet, mark the statement: “Want was unknown and pauperism unheard of. Wealth was little cared for.” Why was it little cared for? Because it was so equally distributed that there was no rich class on one side and poor class on the other; and no one lived in fear of being brought to want. “Crime was of rare occurrence.” The conditions which produce crime were absent. The farmers were not oppressed. They feared neither the landlord nor the sheriff. The account says: “They reaped their fields in cheerfulness and hope. There were no strikes among the workingmen. The full product of their labor was the measure of their wages. “The mechanic made glad his dusty shop with anecdote and song.” It was before the modern contrivance was adopted whereby the people tax themselves rich. Mr. McKinley had not been thought of yet, for the account says: “The merchant feared no duty and the villager no taxes.” It is common to accuse a man of being visionary who attempts to depict an ideal condition of society, as if he were picturing something, outside the limits of human experience. But here was a realization of almost perfect Anarchy, not in the dreams of a future utopia, but in the practical experience of one of the early colonies in this country; an experience which lasted more than half a century. Can we find a place like that in Connecticut today? Can we find a place like that within the broad expanse of these United States today? To the people of Connecticut the progress of these 200 years has been a progress in come respects backward instead of forward. And yet, during this time vast improvements have been made in everything pertaining to the satisfaction of human needs. New sciences have been constructed and old ones enriched with vast stores of knowledge; literature has been purified and exalted; and old superstitions have been shaken to their very foundations, or swept away altogether. The arts have flourished beyond the wildest dream of the enthusiast. The earth has been girdled as with a shoe string, so that any important event which takes place anywhere throughout the civilized world is fully reported in the morning’s newspaper; and we read the account of it at the breakfast table or on the way down to the office. We have found out how to produce almost everything that we eat, drink or wear with but a small fraction of the labor and expense which used to be required to obtain them. We can build houses in a few days which formerly required months or years; and build them a great deal better. We can bring articles of comfort, convenience or luxury from the uttermost ends of the earth in exchange for our own handiwork within a few weeks; sometimes within a few days.

Taken by themselves, these improvements tend directly to make the burdens of life easier; to shorten the hours of labor; to increase the rewards of labor; to elevate and ennoble human life; and to increase the sum of human enjoyment. But it has not done it. On the other hand, it is harder today; and it is constantly growing harder for a poor man to get a living. The struggle everywhere is growing fiercer and fiercer. In Connecticut, instead of progressing from good to better, the condition of the people has changed right the other way. Want, and the fear of it, has become well-nigh general and pauperism is almost, if not quite, as prevalent as many of the countries of Europe. Crime is of so frequent occurrence that prisons have been multiplied everywhere; and yet; they are kept filled to overflowing. Not only the villagers but everybody else is crushed down under a load of taxation. The mechanic no longer whiles away his hours of work with joyous song, but is driven by the lash of hunger to a servitude as exacting and arbitrary as a galley slave. What is it that has reduced a once free people to such straights? Were those early settlers unmindful or careless of the real blessings of liberty that they have allowed themselves and children to be robbed of the fruits of liberty? No! Their hearts were right; but their heads were at fault. They did not realize that human authority once set up, no matter how humbly, and no matter what safeguards are provided against abuse, it grows and grows till liberty is subverted. Once make men account-able for their conduct to other men: once allow one man to sit in judgment upon another: ‘once allow him to pass laws for others to obey and we have planted a deadly upas tree, which, in time, will grow and choke out the tender tree of liberty.’

This is what those early settlers of Connecticut did. On the 14th day of January, 258 years ago, delegates from the scattered hamlets in Connecticut met at Hartford to form a constitution. The one made was said to have been the most simple and liberal ever adopted. “An oath of allegiance to the State was the only qualification of citizenship. No recognition of any English king, or foreign authority was required. Different religious opinions were alike tolerated and respected. All the officers of the colony were to be chosen by ballot at an annual election. The law making power was vested in a general assembly; and representatives were apportioned among the towns according to population.”

This was a very mild sort of a government; almost no government at all. Its growth was slow, attracting slight attention, just as a farmer may give slight heed to a single Canada thistle which he finds in his wheat field, until it has so multiplied and spread as almost to choke to death all the other crops of the field. The settlers of Connecticut were a sturdy and robust people; ready to resist to the last extremity anyone who should attempt to encroach upon their liberties. Over and over again they beat off the representatives of the English crown sent out to set up its authority over them. They refused to acknowledge that authority, only admitting a vague sort of allegiance which carried with it no right of taxation or legislation; and finally, when the war of the revolution broke out, they cast off even the slight semblance of allegiance which remained. But they failed in one thing. They did not realize that a foreign landlord is no worse than a domestic one; that a foreign tyrant is just as good as one of home production; and that the tyranny of the majority is just as relentless and grinding as the tyranny of a king. They brought to this country their old country notions of property, especially in land. It was true that land was free; and every one took as much as he wanted or expected to want. But they regarded it as property—as a chattel; and as such it must have laws to protect the so-called owners in the possession of it. True, for a time, little law was needed, because land was so plenty; and there was no occasion for much dispute until it was all monopolized. But the laws grew, little by little; and taxes grew with them. Poverty, pauperism and crime kept equal pace until the conditions in Connecticut became exactly like the conditions in the older countries in Europe, so far as the relative positions of the rich and poor are concerned. After a half a century of almost perfect Anarchy, when there was a nearly complete absence of law, and under which the people enjoyed the greatest prosperity, happiness and freedom from crime; we find it now, under the law, with its people pauperized, its prisons overcrowded with criminals; and its industries paralyzed.


( Reprinted from the Twentieth Century.)

I am asked a thousand and one times, by those who fear the establishment of a society based upon personal liberty, “What are you going to do with your criminals?” But this is not a question which is half as important to me, or to those on my side, as it is to those who are opposed to any change at all. For ourselves, we are not called upon to answer that question until we have criminals to dispose of. We hold that just social conditions would reduce and finally abolish criminality. In other words, the result would be to stop making them. But with the other side it is quite different. “What are you going to do with your criminals?” is already a pressing question for them. Criminality is increasing at such a ratio that it is difficult to find prison room to confine the criminals. What with the criminals in and out of prison (and the indications are that there are more out than in), capitalism is having a hard time of it. And yet it asks, in the most confident way, what are we going to do with the criminals, as if its own solution of the problem was entirely satisfactory. But it is not. Every student of social questions knows that the growing importance of the problem of criminality and its treatment is one of the most pressing and difficult which this age is called upon to face. In fact, capitalism presents no solution. The most it does, or attempts to do, is to forcibly repress the expression of it. But this is like a man trying to hold a plank against a break in a dam to prevent the water from cutting the dam away altogether, although he knows that the water is rising higher and higher and must soon sweep both him and the dam away together.

So we are asking the apologists for things as they are what they are going to do with their criminals. And it is a question which they must answer, for they must do something It they don’t, the criminals will do something with them The special privileges, inequalities and injustices in society cannot continue without maintaining that stress which results in crime. The greater the stress the greater is bound to be the crime. So, pile up your repressive laws. Fortify and protect the privileges of the rich. Hold the plank tight against the dam lest any of the water escape. See how the great fortunes are growing. The water is rising higher and higher. Well! how long can you keep it up? That is the only question.

There is another view to take of the matter. Does it pay to take such risks? Is it worth what it costs to rear a race of human wolves who are ready to tear you in pieces at the first opportunity that offers? Stop and think what those great fortunes cost yon, my rich friends, who control for the time being the destinies of the world? There is something in this world of more importance than wealth, that is manhood. Can you develop a high type of manhood in an atmosphere of greed? Do you receive anything which will compensate you for the worry and anxiety attendant upon making and watching investments, and collecting and managing their revenues? Do you not see that you are sacrificing your possibilities for personal development, your ease, your comfort, even your very safety, in order to get and keep fortunes which you can never use, and that only bring labor and worry to care for them? All any man can have in this world is what he can enjoy. If he takes more, he merely withdraws it from the possibility of others’ enjoyment, without benefiting himself. Then, when some take more than they need, others have less, and there is stress in society. This requires law and the machinery of administration to protect the few in possessions which are of no use to them except to minister to their avarice and greed. It requires law to hold the people down and enable the rich to acquire and keep their riches. Do you know what crime is? Do you know what it comes from? Let me tell you! It is the natural and inevitable resistance to the laws which enable you to get and keep your wealth. I will try and make that clear. Suppose you were a mechanic and wanted to raise a column of water to a given height, you would have to apply force in some way, to do it. And the greater the force applied, the higher the water would rise. But the return pressure of the water always exactly equals the force applied. This is a physical law of nature, and acts with unvarying certainty.

Now, the same thing applies in human dynamics. If you apply the pressure of restrictive laws to men, they, naturally and inevitably, resist just in proportion to the force of the restriction. They, naturally, seek freedom; and, openly or covertly, rebel against whatever restricts them in the exercise of it. Your laws of property, that you call “rights of property,” which are purely creations of the law, bear heavily upon the people. They hinder them in the freedom of their action. If the people wish to build houses for themselves, you own the land; and the law protects you in the possession of it. If they would raise food, they must make terms with you or go hungry. Would they mine ores with which to fashion useful implements, you stand in the way. They cannot even cut firewood, make bricks, dig coal, do anything without paying toll to those who do nothing but who have the law on their side. Then, on top of all this come patent laws, copyright laws, laws of taxation, laws of debt and for the forcible collection of it, laws of interest, laws of money and for the restriction of business, private rights to the highways of commerce, private ownership of the means for the employment and a multitude of others, all working to the advantage of a few and the disadvantage of the many. Even the sexes are not allowed to mate without consulting the law for the benefit and in consideration of the property rights of somebody. So the law is a constant instrument of restriction and repression in every act of life from the cradle to the grave. And, by means of its workings, the many are held down while a few get on top. Consequently, there are plenty of people all the time who resist the law; who seek to acquire wealth by methods which the law forbids, and who are called criminals. The proportion of those criminals and the degree of their criminality always exactly correspond to the intensity of the repression of the law.

The same principle holds good as to crimes against persons where no property is involved. Restrict the freedom of the individual and the individual, openly or covertly, rebels. His aspiration is for freedom and he chafes and frets against the bonds which bind him down. That is why I say that the resistance will always equal the force of the laws; and crime must keep pace with law. The more law the more crime. And vice versa, the less law the less will be the crime. This principle holds good the world over. All the statistics of crime in every civilized country where observations have been made and recorded, prove that crime rises and falls exactly in proportion as the social conditions bear lightly or heavily upon the masses.

I say again to the rich and to the apologists for things as they are: “What are you going to do with the criminals?” You are industriously grinding out more laws every year in congress, in the various state capitols, in the common councils of the cities, in the county boards and even in the school districts; and you are getting the equivalent in an increased number of criminals in every state in the union. You haven’t prisons enough to accommodate them; and yet, you are making more all the time. What are you going to do with them?

About Shawn P. Wilbur 2703 Articles
Independent scholar, translator and archivist.