Amazing articles on just about every subject...


Other Causes Of Matrimonial Unhappiness

( Originally Published 1936 )



FROM the unhappiness which may be ultimately traced to the sexual impulse we shall pass to frictions that are liable to arise from the community of life between husband and wife. These depend largely upon an unfortunate choice of partner. It may be unsuitable for various reasons. Sexual compatibility alone is an inadequate basis for married life; other requirements are that husband and wife shall be able and willing to fulfil their respective functions in the domestic circle, as also that there shall be companionship and mental compatibility between them. As Mr. De Pomerai remarks, " mentally incompatible spouses are little more than mere sleeping partners, and, since no cultured human being can be permanently bound by physical chains alone, it will inevitably happen—if the couple possess any courage or initiative at all—that they will sooner or later cease to be even sleeping partners ".

A great peril of marriage is ennui from lack of a common interest and the resultant estrangement of the partners from one another. This generally inflicts greater suffering upon the wife than upon the husband; for while the latter can take refuge in his main preoccupation—his work—the woman's nature, more profoundly emotional, is dependent on personal relation-ships. Such a relationship arises particularly between people of the same position in life and on the same level of culture. An extreme instance of the fate of ignorant and unintelligent wives married to highly intellectual men is afforded by the fully developed Greek civilization. The wife lived in almost absolute seclusion, in a separate part of the house, together with her female slaves, deprived of all the educating influence of male society, and having no place at those public spectacles which were . the chief means of culture; and the man recognised in her no other end than to minister to his pleasure and become the mother of his children. The higher culture was the exclusive privilege of the men and the courtesans. The latter were the only free women of Athens, and often availed themselves of their freedom to acquire a degree of knowledge which enabled them to add to their other charms an intense intellectual fascination. Gathering around them the most brilliant artists, poets, historians, and philosophers, they became centres of a literary society of matchless splendour. Aspasia, who was as famous for her genius as for her beauty, won the passionate love of Pericles; Socrates owned his deep obligations to the instructions of a courtesan named Diotima; the courtesan Leontium was among the most ardent disciples of Epicurus.' And it was not the courtesans alone who drew away the men from the company of their wives. The ignorance and dullness of the latter also led to pederasty, as it nowadays does in China and among Mohammedan peoples.

On the other hand, I have never seen happier marriages among my friends than those in which the wife takes a keen interest in the intellectual occupations of her husband, even assisting him in his work. It is in these marriages that I have found the best confirmation of Balzac's saying: " A happy marriage is the result of perfect understanding between two souls ". But even in lower spheres of life the link between husband and wife is reinforced especially when it is possible for her to stand shoulder to shoulder with him in his life-work and to be an adroit and efficient help-mate. Moll thinks that this is the reason why we find such comparatively happy marriages among small tradespeople, where the woman often helps by serving in the shop, or among artisans, where she also " lends a hand with the job ". According to Kisch, a marriage may be harmonious even where there is considerable divergence in the intelligence and education of the couple, and in support of this he mentions professors and head physicians among his acquaintances who have married their cook, their servant-girl, a waitress, or a barmaid, and nevertheless are quite happy in their wedded life. American divorce statistics, however, tend to show that marriages between college students are much more successful than marriages generally; and Woodhouse, studying 250 successful families, found that nearly three-fifths of the couples had shared a common background of school or work. According to Van de Velde, there can hardly be any doubt that, generally speaking, mental equality is a presumption of ideal marriage, although the mental harmony need not be derived from similar education: " the single presumption which absolutely must be fulfilled is a mental and temperamental capacity for such a rise above the narrow scope of former interests to the development of talents hitherto latent ". He adds that the prospect of a good marriage is much more favourable when the husband is mentally superior to the wife than when the reverse is the case, because in marriage the woman will be happiest who feels herself protected by a stronger man.'

It is no doubt a risky experiment to marry into a social class which is considerably lower than one's own. Even though differences in rank and wealth of the consorts may not directly affect the relations between the parties concerned, outside influences are often brought to bear that tend sooner or later to disturb the harmony of marital life. As Loewenfeld observes, " the man who during the flood-tide of his love saw in the possession of his dear one a sufficient compensation for all hostility engendered in his family and all the other disadvantages accruing to him on account of his choice, may, when marital life has lost the first charming novelty, reach a point when he begins to regard his choice with very different eyes than he did during his engagement and during his honeymoon ". C. Gasquoine Hartley thinks that one of the most prolific causes of so many unhappy marriages at the present time in England has been the comparatively recent tendency of women to marry out of their class. Sameness of class is of importance not only on cultural grounds: disparity of habits, manners, and tastes is as likely to wreck a marriage as intellectual maladjustment. Among many peoples marriage outside the same class or caste is strictly prohibited by custom or law.

To be a source of marital happiness mental compatibility must imply, besides homogeneous interests, agreement on vital questions. " Now this is where there should be community between man and wife ", says Stevenson. They should be agreed on their catchword in ` facts of religion ', or ` facts of science ', or ` society, my dear '; for without such an agreement all intercourse is a painful strain upon the mind... . The best of men and the best of women may sometimes live together all their lives, and, for want of some consent on fundamental questions, hold each other lost spirits to the end ".1 " Facts of religion " are nowadays among ourselves less important than they used to be. Difference of faith is no longer a legal bar to intermarriage, and mixed marriages have rapidly increased in frequency. In Germany the number of marriages contracted between Jews and Gentiles was about 8000 during the period 1901—1910 (against 38,000 pure Jewish marriages) and 20,000 during the period 1911-1924 (against 52,000 pure Jewish marriages), although no section of Jewish opinion favours marriages between parties who are not of the same religion. Marriages between Jews and Christians are said to be less satisfactory and more often end in divorce than others. And Van de Velde speaks of the tragedy of marriages between Protestants and Catholics, which are very widespread in both Germany and Holland, the tragic conflict becoming exceedingly painful when the children are grown up and obliged to be estranged from one or other of the parents.

In Dr. Davis' study of educated American women III of the definitely unhappy group of married ones gave a variety of reasons for their unhappiness, but incompatibility of temperament or interest stood at the head of the list, being about 40 per cent. of the total. " You can forgive people who do not follow you through a philosophical disquisition ", says Stevenson; " but to find your wife laughing when you had tears in your eyes, or staring when you were in a fit of laughter, would go some way towards a dissolution of the marriage ". Yet the harmony between temperaments need not be perfect. By analysing the temperaments of one hundred married couples Kretschmer even arrived at the result that dissimilarity of temperament is attractive, and that the more extreme and one-sided two persons' temperaments are, the more strongly do they prefer marriages of contrast. Thirteen of the couples were judged by several of their acquaintances to be predominantly similar with reference to temperaments, 63 to be predominantly dissimilar, and 24 to be about equally similar and dissimilar. He adds: " Accurate observation and psychological analysis of a large number of married couples teach us plainly that combinations most useful for procreation frequently lead at the same time to individually propitious life-partnerships; that, for example, the instinctive inclination to the marriage of contrast not only advantageously mixes the qualities of the offspring, but that this natural supplementing of qualities often proves likewise of great advantage to both parties to the marriage themselves in the struggle for life ".

Kretschmer thus supports the popular saying that opposites attract each other, which is accepted by several scientists and philosophers, though it is denied by others.' The charm of disparity is of course obvious in the case of the standing differences, physical and mental, between the sexes, and there is probably some truth in Schopenhauer's assertion that the most manly man will seek the most womanly woman, and vice versa.' In some other cases the preference for contrast may be due to the sexually dulling effect of familiarity and the charm of novelty. Richard Burton wrote that " as a general rule Somali women prefer amourettes with strangers, following the well-known Arab proverb, ` The new-corner filleth the eye ' ". People generally feel most attracted by their own racial type, but at the same time even great racial differences have proved to act as sexual stimulants. An American writer observes that " in the South in particular, prior to the Civil War, concubinage with the negro woman was a common, if not a sanctioned practice "; and the Southerners, on their part, averred that among the Northerners lust for the African women was a far more prevalent motive than their pretended humanity or their liberating zeal.

It is a general opinion, in some circles almost an unwritten law, that a man should marry a woman who is at least slightly younger than he is. It is therefore surprising that among the one hundred married men and the one hundred married women who were studied by Dr. Hamilton, the highest percentages of satisfied spouses were found in the groups in which the husbands were from one to three years younger than their wives or were of equal age with respect to them, whereas no man or woman found satisfaction in any marriage in which the wife was as much as seven years older than the husband; but, as he himself remarks, his figures were too small to be convincing on any score. Van de Velde is of opinion that " for a certain period of his life it is certainly no misfortune for a young man to be married to a somewhat older woman. We see quite often that such marriages are very happy. . . . Also at the age between twenty-five and thirty, the fact that the woman is some years older will involve no essential deterioration in the marriage. On the other hand, the case generally becomes critical when the woman has passed the age of forty-five, and begins to grow notice-ably old ". He thinks that as a practical rule the principle may be laid down that for married couples between twenty and forty-five a difference in age of ten years is the utmost limit of the normal, and that this difference is better reduced to five or seven years for the middle years, between twenty-five and thirty-five. Of 252 individuals examined by Mrs. Jessie Bernard the women were most satisfied with their husbands when the latter were from zero to five years older than they, and their satisfaction tended to diminish at about an equal rate when this difference increased, regardless of whether it was they or their husbands who were the older. The men tended to be most satisfied with their wives when they were from zero to ten years older than their wives, but their dissatisfaction with their wives tended to increase more rapidly when their wives were older than they than when they were older than their wives .l According to Judge Bartlett, considerable disparity of age is one of the commonest bases of divorce, because " modern standards of living put such a premium upon the husband's earning power that few girls can hope to marry a husband near their own age without facing a grievous sacrifice ".

I have already said some words of the importance of the economic factor at the conclusion of a marriage. Dr. Hamilton was once told by an elderly bachelor, a wise man whose impressions were worth listening to, that the matrimonial barque is usually wrecked on the rock of finance. He thinks that the old gentleman overstated the importance of marital economics as a source of discontent; but he found himself that while in his group 54 per cent. of the women whose husbands had an annual income exceeding 5000 dollars had relatively high satisfaction with the marriage as a whole, only 36 per cent. of those whose husbands had a smaller income enjoyed such satisfaction. The corresponding figures for the men of his study, how-ever, suggest that their marital satisfaction was much less dependent on size of income than was that of the women. The answer which was given to his question, " If your parents did not get along well together, what was the chief source of friction between them? " also throws some light upon modern American marriages: by far the most frequent answer was that the father's economic inadequacy was the chief cause.' While in the lower strata of the population the economic conditions may constitute a serious obstacle to conjugal happiness, the desire to increase the property may exert an unfavourable influence among the higher classes. Judge Bartlett writes: " Modern couples are money-conscious, whether rich or poor. Not one in ten divorce cases entirely omits the money problem... . Too much money is just as bad as too little money. Women are probably more sensitive about domestic finances than men are ". Another American writer remarks that the economic interests which once tended to draw together the members of a particular family group are now frequently the cause of emotional separation, suspicion, jealousy, and open antagonism.

The financial situation of the family may be improved by income earned by the wife outside the home. Whether this is conducive to domestic happiness or not, depends on various circumstances. It may be extremely bad both for the wife as mother and for the child. Reid, the medical officer of health for Staffordshire, where there are two large centres of artisan population with identical health conditions, has shown that in the northern centre, where a very large number of women are engaged in factories, still-births are three times as frequent as in the southern centre, where there are practically no trade employments for women; and the frequency of abnormalities is also in the same ratio. So disastrous consequences might presumably be averted by proper legislative measures. In Soviet Russia, both before and after birth the mother (whether married or not) is given time away from work, ranging from six to eight weeks, with pay and with medical attention; and in addition to her full pay she 'receives an extra stipend for food. After she returns to work she is permitted a half-hour in every three and a half hours to feed and care for her child.' But there can be no doubt that in normal cases the mother's employment is antagonistic to the interests of the child; and it may be so even when the child grows older. It tends to weaken the ties between the members of the family; and the home may be badly managed.

The relation between husband and wife may be disturbed for other reasons as well. The idea that a man shall support his wife may be so ingrained in the husband's mind that he feels himself degraded by her employment, and at the same time he may fear the loss of caste in the eyes of other men. That idea, says Dr. Goodsell, " may be reinforced by a feeling of active dislike of his wife's financial independence, and by carking jealousy of her success if it be too pronounced ". Dr. Hamilton found that among his group of married men and women there was a smaller percentage of satisfied spouses in the families in which the wife had an extra-domestic vocation than in those in which she had none. In her study of several hundred situations Lorine Pruette noticed that husbands of little education tended to be least sympathetic towards careers for their wives, whereas those having more education were more liberal in their attitude.

The wife's experiences in the workaday world should tend to make her a more interesting companion. To the wife herself her employment outside the family may offer obvious advantages. It may give her an opportunity to exercise her talents in a more stimulating field than domestic occupations, it renders her more independent of her husband, it makes the dissolution of an unsuccessful marriage easier for her. Dr. Olga Knopf goes so far as to say that " for a married woman to have an occupation, paid or unpaid, outside of the home is one of the best ways, possibly the best way, to guarantee happiness in marriage. For an unmarried woman it is a vital necessity ". It is alleged in Germany that the way to marriage is usually over an occupation, except among particularly well-to-do people; in Berlin three-fourths of the women who married in 1925 had a vocation.' In Stockholm, according to preliminary information received in connection with the census taken in 1930, about 27 per cent. of the married women had some occupation which was a source of income. " In the new family ", say Alva and G. Myrdal, " in the same manner as in the old patriarchal one, the wife will stand beside her husband as his companion also in productive activity ".

In some cases the evils resulting from an unfortunate choice of partner may be avoided by a more careful selection, but in other cases the incompatibility can only be expected to become apparent afterwards. Marriage is always something of an adventure. Where two persons are brought into so close contact with, and into such constant dependence on, each other it would be little short of a miracle if their wills always acted in complete unison. In modern civilization, where life is becoming richer in interests and individual differences are getting more accentuated, the causes of disagreement are multiplied and the frictions are apt to become more serious and, consequently, more likely to end in a rupture of the marriage tie. The idea that it is a right, or even a duty, to assert one's own individuality is characteristic of our age. As Lord Bryce observes, " the desire of each person to do what he or she pleases, to gratify his or her tastes, likings, caprices, to lead a life which shall be uncontrolled by another's will—this grows stronger. So, too, whatever stimulates the susceptibility and sensitiveness of the nervous system tends to make tempers more irritable, and to produce causes of friction between those who are in constant contact. . . . It is temper rather than unlawful passion that may prove in future the most dangerous enemy to the stability of the marriage relation ". A " better temper " was the most prominent change of mental qualities that the men of the Hamilton group wished in their wives, and the women who had the same wish with regard to their husbands were only slightly less numerous than those who complained of the latter being too " selfish " or not enough " talkative ".

Women's emancipation has undoubtedly a share in bringing about matrimonial unhappiness among the cultivated classes of our time. In former days when, in accordance with the Christian doctrine, the husband was the head of the wife, she had to adapt herself to him; and community of life and collaboration are generally easier between a superior and a subordinate than between two equals. There is, fortunately, no reason whatever to suppose that women in the future will fall back into their former state of subjection—their independence will presumably become still more complete than it is at present—but this does not imply that married life will become more difficult. On the contrary, I think it will rather smooth down when the memory of wrongs suffered in the past has faded, and there is no reason, and consequently no inclination, to emphasise rights already gained. I even believe that certain feminine traits which the movement of emancipation tended somewhat to obscure will again demand their due in full. Wives' subjection to their husbands was, of course, in the first place the result of the men's instinctive desire to exert power and of the natural inferiority of women in such qualities as are essential for personal independence. Generally speaking, the men are their superiors in strength and courage, and have therefore been not only the protectors of their wives, but also their masters. But at the same time there are in the sexual instinct elements which are apt to lead to domination on the part of the man and to submission on the part of the woman.

In courtship, animal and human alike, the male plays the more active, the female the more passive part. During the season of love the males even of the most timid animal species engage in desperate combats with each other for the possession of the female, and there can be no doubt that our primeval human ancestors had in the same way to fight for their wives; even now this kind of courtship is far from being unknown among savages.' Moreover, the male pursues and tries to capture the female, and she, after some resistance, finally surrenders herself to him. The sexual impulse of the male is thus connected with a desire to win the female, and the sexual impulse of the female with a desire to be pursued and won by the male. In the female sex there is consequently an instinctive appreciation of manly strength and courage; this is found in most women, and they may enjoy the display of manly force even when it turns against themselves. It is said that among the Slays of the lower class the wives feel hurt if they are not beaten by their husbands; that the peasant women in some parts of Hungary do not think they are loved by their husbands until they have received the first box on the ear; that among the Italian Camorrists a wife who is not beaten by her husband regards him as a fool. Havelock Ellis believes that the majority of women would probably be prepared to echo the remark made by a woman in front of Rubens' ` Rape of the Sabines ', " I think the Sabine women enjoyed being carried off like that ". The same judicious student of the psychology of sex observes: " While in men it is possible to trace a tendency to inflict pain, or the simulacrum of pain, on the women they love, it is still easier to trace in women a delight in experiencing physical pain when inflicted by a lover, and an eagerness to accept subjection to his will. Such a tendency is certainly normal. To abandon herself to her lover, to be able to rely on his physical strength and mental resourcefulness, to be swept out of herself and beyond the control of her own will, to drift idly in delicious submission to another and stronger will—this is one of the commonest aspirations in a young woman's intimate love-dreams ". Van de Velde quotes Michelet's statement that " a woman's torment is not the man's tyranny—but his indifference ".

Although hardly any mutual interest could unite a married couple more closely than the love and care for their children, there are very many cases in which children are no unmixed blessing in conjugal life. They are not always desired. We are told by experienced observers that numbers of marriages are wrecked by the fear of, or by the complications arising from, unwanted pregnancy. The husband fears it either because he does not care for children or because he cannot afford them; the wife fears the pain in addition to the fears complementary to those of the husband. There are also married people who are averse to having children for fear lest the presence of a child should interfere with their love for each other.' Dr. Hamilton's question whether there was or had ever been any friction between the spouses in the matter of having children, was answered in the affirmative by 12 per cent. of the men and 15 per cent. of the women belonging to his group; while 12 per cent. of the latter declared that pregnancy exercised a weakening influence upon their friendly feelings towards their husbands. To have many children taxes the strength of the wife, and is apt to aggravate the financial situation of the family. Instead of being a strong bond between the parents, the existence of children may cause tension or discord between them: there may be disagreement as to their management, or the woman may neglect the man or the man the woman on account of the children claiming the whole interest. Finally, children's relations with their parents, or their behaviour in other respects, may be very disturbing factors in the life of the family.

However real and frequent these difficulties are, I nevertheless think that some of them have been exaggerated by certain writers. I cannot endorse Mr. Ludovici's opinion that " children, far from cementing the affection existing between their parents, are rather inclined to supply its most potent and infallible corrosive ". Dr. Bjerre says that there are few things that separate man and woman so much as does the child, owing to disagreements as to the management of it. This statement, which evidently refers to family life in Sweden, is certainly not confirmed by my own experience among the Swedes of Finland ; and in the answers given to Dr. Hamilton's various questions as to the chief cause of marital trouble in his group of American men and women, disagreement with regard to the management of the children plays a negligible part, varying between 0.5 and 1.5 per cent. of the total number of answers. Another American author, Mr. Calverton, writes: " The old family has decayed. The old home has been replaced by the movie, the club, the dance-hall. Home has become a place to dine and die. The sentimental hymn of Payne—' There's no place like Home '—has been converted into ` There's no place like home--thank God ' ". If this statement is meant to imply a general rupture of family ties, it is contradicted by the large percentage—amounting to more than 50 per cent.—of affirmative answers given to Dr. Hamilton's questions, " Were you and your father always on friendly terms while you lived at home? Are you still on such terms? " and to the corresponding questions relating to the mother. Another American writer, Dr. Collins, while admitting that children often cause their parents much sorrow, nevertheless affirms that " more than virtue ever was, parenthood is its own reward ". From papers written by about 1700 male and 400 female pupils at professional schools in Berlin on the subject, " What does my family mean to me ?" the conclusion was drawn that, in spite of frequent tensions and even ruptures of family ties, the proletarian youth in Germany are, in general, attached to their families.'

According to Freud the son is hostile to his father, even wishing his death, because the father is a rival of his son in the latter's incestuous love of his mother; and the daughter is similarly hostile to her mother because the mother is a rival of her daughter in the latter's incestuous love of her father. These feelings are supposed to be rooted deep in the unconscious part of the mind, but also to appear in the conscious part and be discernible by ordinary observation. We all know that frictions do occur between a son and his father and between a daughter and her mother; but, as I have pointed out in another book, there is no reason whatever to attribute them to sexual jealousy. Dr. Hamilton asked the men of his group if they had any memories of childish jealousy of their mother and of hostility toward their father-rival, and the women if they had any memories of childish jealousy of their father and of hostility toward their mother-rival. Seventy-eight per cent. of the men and 68 per cent. of the women answered that they had no such jealousy; while 7 per cent. of the men mentioned jealousy directed against the father, the mother being the beloved object, and 6 per cent. of the women mentioned jealousy directed against the mother, the father being the beloved object. But there is no indication that, in these cases, the jealousy was connected with infantile sexuality. A. boy may, in his love for his mother, be jealous of his father, jealous of one of his brothers or sisters, jealous even of a dog to which his mother pays attention; and a girl may similarly, in her love for her father, feel jealousy associated with every possible variety of sympathetic feeling. It is also interesting to note that among those in the group who stated that they were always on friendly terms with their father the percentage of men were higher than the percentage of women.

Conflicts between parents and children are more frequent in modern civilization than they used to be. Parental, or paternal, authority and filial submission reached its height among peoples of archaic civilization,' and the old notions of parental rights and filial duties have left traces that still survive, especially in Latin countries. Many parents concern themselves about the doings of their children in a way that displeases the latter, but instead of yielding to their will, as they would have done in former days, the children revolt against the interference. Just as the emancipation of woman has tended to increase the frictions between husband and wife, so has the emancipation of the child tended to increase the frictions between parents and children. But in this case, also, there is reason to believe that when one party will no longer try to assert his old rights, nor be suspected of trying to do so, the spirit of opposition will cool down in the other party. The duty of obedience will be replaced by a tendency to give a more willing ear to a good advice, and the duty of reverence by natural regard and affection. I have noticed that a distinct change in this direction has taken place, in the course of my lifetime, in my own surroundings.

Of all troubles arising from the existence of children those which are due to unwanted births are most easily remedied, and have already been so to a very large extent. The knowledge of birth control makes it practically possible for married couples to have no more children than they want. At present there is no absolutely reliable method of contraception, but there are methods that approach perfection, and there will presumably be such as reach it. Many of the cases of failure, however, are to be ascribed not to the contraceptives themselves but to the wrong use of them, due either to carelessness or to ignorance or half-knowledge, which might be removed by proper instruction. The limitation of the number of children in a family not only prevents debility in the mother resulting from too frequent child-bearing and may ward off economic difficulties: it also enables the mother to bestow more care on the children, tends to improve their physique, and gives them a better chance of life. From material collected in Germany it appears that the more children are born in a family, the smaller is the percentage of those who will remain alive; 1 Hamburger found that the percentage of deaths was 23 in families with one child, 51 in families with eight children, and 69 when the number of children exceeded fifteen.' It should also be noticed that the use of contraceptives is the best preventive against abortion; it is particularly for this reason that, in Soviet Russia, instruction in contraception may be obtained freely by anyone seeking it.

At the same time birth control, if carried to excess, may be bad for the family. It is a common opinion that it is unfortunate for a child to be the only one. Olga Knopf writes: " Often he will never find his way to meet the external world independently. He expects that others will be indulgent to him as his parents were.... Very probably, he has not had as much experience as children of larger families in meeting others whom he can consider as equals. He did not learn to work with others and to play with them; he did not learn the give-and-take of social life. In married life the only child will expect the same interest, the same attention from his partner that he received from his parents; and he will expect it to be given without a return. In consequence, the marriages of only children are often a failure ". Many family social workers recommend that it is wiser to adopt a second child if parents can have but one child of their own. Dr. Hamilton's findings, again, suggest that men who have sisters and women who have brothers are more likely to be satisfied with their spouses than those who have none. The opinion that it is a disadvantage to be an only child, however, is not universally shared: such a child has, for instance, been said to excel in intelligence. But Busemann's investigations in a school at Greifswald for middle-class children gave the result that the least teachable pupils were those who had no brothers or sisters and those who had a large number of them, while the best pupils were those who had two or three.

Other arguments have been adduced against birth control in all circumstances. I have already spoken of the condemnation of it on religious grounds. A moral argument is that it is apt to promote sexual licence outside of marriage by removing the danger of conception. It is further argued that it lowers the quality of the population by being practised more extensively by the upper classes, who generally carry better hereditary factors, than by the lower ones. The best remedy for this would of course be to disseminate knowledge concerning contraceptives among the latter; but this would clash with another principle, to which much weight is attached, namely, that the population must not be lowered in quantity. Fear of this has led to prohibitory laws in various countries. But neither religion nor law has been able to prevent birth control from being practised on an enormous scale, of which the great drop in the birth-rate bears significant evidence. It is obvious that those who condemn it are defending a lost cause. Nowadays it is practised among all classes;' but we may hope that there will be a time when it is least prevalent in the best parts of the population. Professor Carr-Saunders, in his Galton lecture, laid it down as a task for eugenists to urge and encourage those sections of the nation (irrespectively of income) that are physically and mentally best endowed to regard children as voluntary contributions to the State which they ought to make.

Another eugenic measure has been recommended, which might save marriage from much harm and at the same time benefit the State, namely, the demand of health certificates before marriage, that should be a necessary legitimation of it in the eyes of the civil and religious authorities. There are different opinions among eugenists on the question whether the time is come for embodying such a demand in legal codes.

Sexologists like Moll, Hirschfeld, Muckermann, and Havelock Ellis, maintain that we do not yet know enough about the principles of heredity and the transmissibility of pathological states to enable us to formulate sound legislative proposals on this basis. Ellis even doubts that there should ever be any legal compulsion in the matter. He argues that " an explicit prohibition to procreate within marriage is an implicit permission to procreate outside marriage ", and that the undesirable procreation, instead of being carried out under the least dangerous conditions, is then carried out under the most dangerous conditions.

Force is helpless here ", he says; " it is education that is needed, not merely instruction, but the education of the conscience and will, and the training of the emotions ". I fear, however, that it is rather sanguine to credit the mass of people—even if the necessary knowledge could be instilled into them—with the necessary caution and self-control. Dr. Ellis points out that a man may be passionately in love with a woman of lower class than himself but seldom marries her, and thinks that " it needs but a clear general perception of all that is involved in heredity and health to make eugenic considerations equally influential ". But in the former case there are obvious selfish reasons to refrain from marriage, whereas the perception of possible diseugenic consequences may easily fail to exercise any influence at all.

Eugenic instruction and medical examination and advice are, of course, exceedingly desirable preliminaries to marriage. In various countries there are nowadays special consultation bureaus intended to give such advice, and they seem to do useful work;' though Moll may be right in saying that the family physician is the best counsellor on account of his intimate know-ledge of the attendant circumstances of the case.

Home | More Articles | Email: info@oldandsold.com