Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Men and Women

The Purpose of Marriage

In honor of the ongoing California Supreme Court trial of Prop 8, I thought I would post a bit of wisdom about marriage in general.  Many today say that marriage is not about child-rearing.  On the contrary, they say, marriage is fundamentally about the partnership of two adults.  That's not how most people used to think (I suspect it's also not how many think about it today). 

Anyway, here's a young John Adams, in his diary, thinking through the question of when divorce ought to be legal. (Adams was a son of the Puritans, and Puritans, as you may recall, were open to legal divorce.  For them, of course, marriage was a civil, not religious ceremony):

Is it for the benefit of society, for the convenience and happiness of human life, to allow divorces, in any cases. I think it is. I think that either Adultery or impotence are sufficient reasons of divorce. But Quere, if Dissonance and Disputations is a sufficient Reason."  [Adams suggests] "this may be known, if sufficient caution is taken beforehand" [to get to know the person]. "But would an unlimited toleration of Divorces promote the multiplication of Mankind or the Happiness of Life.

Suppose every Man had a Power by law, to repudiate his Wife and marry another at his Pleasure. Would not such a power produce confusion, and misery?  After a man and woman had cohabited 7 years and had as many Children a separation would be very inconvenient and unhappy. If either retained all the Children the other would be deprived of the Pleasure of educating, and seeing [them]. But if the Children were divided, each would want to see and provide for the others half.

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