|The humble Petition, and earnest cry and prayer of that moiety of the women in these dominions, who are usually designated SPINSTERS, to the Legislature of Great Britain and Ireland, in Session assembled;—|
With a melancholy retrospect of the past, and hopeless foreboding of the future, the youthful amongst your petitioners see in prospect, the long array and dreary waste of days they are destined to spend in that languishing and ungenial state of celibacy, to which their equally abused sisterhood were, from the same cause, doomed in former ages; and it is with grief and despair that they now behold the yearly increasing numbers of the forlorn, down to the present time, when they form nearly two-thirds of all the women in these realms, between the ages of fourteen and seventy years.
In the present perverted condition of society, where it is usual to establish laws and customs so far in opposition to reason, as to supplant every thing natural, the arts of dissimulation, as they regard concealment of inherent feelings and propensities, are instilled into the female mind as the most essential part of education: every instinctive emotion however innocent,—every impulse however connected with health, must, under an assumed placidity and acquiescence, be suppressed as the height of sin and wickedness, though the fatal resistance exposes her to the maladies attendant on all such violations of the principle of animal existence; whilst the salutary disregard of this carefully cultivated hypocrisy, subjects her to all the odium which false delicacy and unnatural religion can invent. But so intolerable has female wretchedness now become in what is called civilized society, that the free expression thereof, together with its lamentable cause, shall no longer be prevented or concealed by fashion's irrational tyranny; and, therefore, your petitioners, stimulated by an assurance becoming fearless virtue, at once declare that the sole cause of their untoward and isolated condition, is the all-blasting marriage laws now in operation, which, having been rendered indissoluble through ecclesiastical usurpation, are now become the dread of all men possessing sound reflection, by whom they are shunned as the most direful pestilence of the social system. From this fell cause alone, and not from any prudish perverseness on their part (as God knows), your petitioners are doomed to that cheerless state of singleness which prevents them from fulfilling, in a lawful manner, the intentions of genial Nature, a predicament of all others the most abhorrent to that power.
Grounding their arguments on the palpable truths displayed both by fact and analogy, throughout the whole animal world; and denouncing all such conventional laws as have been palmed upon the credulity of society, under the false pretence of commands emanating from heaven, your petitioners would modestly and respectfully suggest, that if the principles, propensities, and necessities, of the human species were duly considered, and that they only form a link in the animated chain, lessons of wisdom might be derived from the wise and faultless association of all other animals, amongst whom the union of the sexes is perfect, solely because it is not perpetual; where fidelity during frequently renewed marriage is inviolable,—the gallantry of the male towards the female admirable, and separation in due time mutually assented to, because highly proper and salutary. These are the dictates which spring from the innate principle, and constitutional elements of every thing that has life; but which, in the instance of man, have been thwarted and outraged by the atrocious laws of Christian matrimony; whereby silly and deluded mortals, in the sacrifice of their dearest liberty, have made themselves the outcasts of Nature; throughout whose unbounded empire, love constitutes the chief solace and enjoyment of all animals, man alone excepted,1 to him only, as the well-merited consequence of the gross and revolting violations of the benevolent impulse, it brings degradation and misery; for whenever the familiar intercourse of marriage ceases to be cemented by reciprocal affection, it becomes not only genuine prostitution, but the cause of it wherever it exists;2 all seduction being induced either by marriage or the dread of it. To the perpetuity of this tie alone, which is utterly abhorred by the universal mother of all existence, is to be attributed the thousand snares laid for female seduction, and its woful train of miseries; but these pass unpitied, and even unheeded, in this Christian country of boasted humanity.
When mankind are taught from infancy, to bend under the delusion of supernatural hopes and fears, and through, fallacious promises of another world, to give up their felicity in this, they are very easily led to trample upon all the rights and principles of their nature. When reduced to this abject state, it has ever been the wicked policy of corrupt legislators, in the nations of Christendom, to found their laws and institutions, not upon these principles and rights, though they alone form the proper basis of all social order and morality; but, on the contrary, to crush them, by taking into partnership the priesthoods of the various superstitions, pampering and abetting them in their incessant guileful practices against human liberty; and allowing them to usurp a mischievous interference and control in affairs purely civil; and the union of the sexes being unquestionably of that description, all agency or influence of priests should be wholly excluded in all its concerns and relations. Every particular marriage ought to be as different as any other species of bargain or contract; and as for the inconsistent absurdity of supposing, that parties who have the right to enter into this contract, at their mutual will and pleasure, have not an equal right to dissolve it for their reciprocal comfort and convenience, it is too hostile to human happiness to originate any where but in the Pandemonium of theological tyranny. To increase the gains3 and power of this all-pervading evil, the expedient was invented of calling down from heaven a commission, authorizing it to mix its life-lasting alloy in the simple union of the sexes, and to confound the civil contract with what is called a sacrament, or preternatural obligation, taken before a divine tribunal, as is ridiculously imagined, and not dissolvable but in death, or through the commission of a certain crime, which is thereby greatly promoted. Thus, by sacerdotal trammels, which are intrinsically grievous and degrading, has matrimony been rendered a snare, of all others the most sorrowful.
Your petitioners having shown that the evils they contemplate arise from a source inherently depraved, would now specially draw your attention to those which no hypocrisy can conceal, and to which is attributable the growing shyness to matrimony in the misogamistic "lords of the creation." The most prominent of these preventives stands confessed in the miserable lives led by the nine-tenths of the wedded world, solely owing to the perpetual gall of that yoke, which was first forged by the Christian priesthood,4 whose influence in this, as in every other case of their interference in social affairs, hath produced effects the most inimical to human welfare. Laws tainted by the noxious leaven of supernaturalism, (and what law have we that is not so tainted?) the property of which is to vitiate every thing in this fair world, and promulgated in times of ignorance, in combination with despotic aristocracies, will necessarily partake more of feudal savageness, and superstitious thraldom, than of civilization; their object being the mental and bodily slavery of the people—not humanity. But in the particular instance of the existing marriage law, love, which disdains, all constraint, and whose life and essence is freedom, is so flagrantly outraged at the sacrilegious attempt to fix his almighty power by vain and unearthly compulsion, that the more sapient and cautious of his votaries amongst the other sex, are horror-struck at a connexion so indissoluble; and which, instead of being a state of peaceful union, is generally one of hostility to its victims.5 The experienced in the common-place strife of matrimonial warfare, talk of it as being "only the ordinary quarrels between man and wife," whom pernicious custom, as if seeking deadly mischief, has pent up in the same apartment, continually exposing the belligerants to daily and hourly collision,6 after every vestige of mutual feeling or sympathy has been utterly destroyed—a tone of reciprocal defiance has been brought into play, and there hath been generated, a cancerous mental poison of such exquisite subtilty, as to cause a pain far exceeding any other human suffering, and which can be borne only by wo-begone minds already broken down by the abject slavery it produces. This is the state that exhibits the most dismal portraiture of human misery.
Your petitioners will venture an appeal; even to your own domestic experience, whether disgust and aversion be not too generally the result of matrimony; owing to incompatibility of humour and temper (these being commonly as different as are the sexes); and whether time, instead of healing the wounds laid open by mutual reproaches, does not increase their virulence daily by fresh recriminations and injuries? Alas! the two persons turned into one by the presumptuous priest, soon find that they not only continue to be two still, but that they are diametrically opposed to each other; and then follow through life those well-known clouds and storms, which, though familiar in every day's experience, baffle all description; whilst the frightful list of progeny engendered in this procreative nest of nuptial discord, are—repentance, melancholy, jealousy, animosity, poverty, disgust, despair, &c.,7 and the frequent catastrophe is, that one or other of the miserable victims, labouring under the jugum calamitosum, commits the greatest of all crimes, as the only available means of effecting that necessary separation which an inhuman law has prohibited.8 These bitter accompaniments of this chain of sorrow are so proverbial as to be well known beyond the circle of the initiated; and the consequence is, that the virtuous classes amongst your petitioners are so far from being in demand, that they are considered the chief things to be avoided: and that kind of intercourse which has no law, but usage alone for its sanction, is adopted as the lesser evil. Men argue thus,—"since our heaven-descended laws of marriage are so cruelly repugnant to nature, as to forbid the cancelling of bonds which stand in direct opposition to her most sacred dictates, reason bids us beware of signing and sealing them." Thus, when the horror of unnatural laws is so acutely felt by persons of delicate sensibility, as to oblige them to commit the outrage of detaching themselves from the most genial and pleasing of all connexions, the principal bond of attachment, even to life itself, has been obliterated.9 Now, so long as the yoke of matrimony shall continue to be fastened on by priests, and require, as they say, the perpetual clinch of some personage residing beyond the clouds, your petitioners feel themselves bound in conscience, to excuse these too well-founded fears in the prudent portion of the male sex, who cannot shut their eyes to the glaring fact, that a vast majority of the ill-fated beings whose necks have been so subjected, have found, not only the extinction of sacred liberty, but the sad weight and variety of its other miseries. The heart of man (aye, and of woman too) delights in freedom; even the idea of constraint is grievous; and every attempt to confine it by violence, makes it spurn even that object which would have been its choice if left at liberty.
|"Love, free as air, at sight of human ties,|
Spreads his light wing, and in a moment flies."
Against the perpetuity of marriage, the authority of the greatest and most enlightened minds may be quoted :—Milton says, "indisposition, unfitness, or contrary humours, proceeding from any unchangeable cause in Nature hindering, and always likely to hinder, the main ends and benefits of conjugal society, peace and delight, are greater reasons of divorce than adultery or natural frigidity." Toland, Grotius, Erasmus, Swift, Leibnitz, Hume, Byron, the sublime poet Shelley, and last but not least, the good and great philanthropist Robert Owen, have all openly avowed similar opinions; in which they are justified by innate principles, and universal analogy throughout the animated creation. In the present baneful system, if genuine love, THAT ONE CORDIAL IN THIS MELANCHOLY VALE,10 exists previous to marriage, that very act crushes it in the bud—it can no longer hold up its head; the free-born mind shrinks aghast at the absurd impossibilities enjoined by the terms of the irrevocable bond,11 which is thus imposed by our traffickers in celestial statute laws. But as no such juggling pretences can render this obligation sacred, longer than it contributes to the comfort of the parties, it is virtually and properly cancelled when its evils become greater than its benefits; therefore the facility of separation is the more indispensable.12 Can there be anything more cruel than to maintain such a connexion by violence, after being naturally and morally dissolved by deep-rooted aversion? Such insane coercion against reason and imprescriptible rights, could be devised no where but in the aforesaid Pandemonium of artificial theology. In every ramification of European community, the influence of that unearthly canker-worm, corrodes the vitals of wholesome liberty in every thing it touches. All men in Christian wedlock are in some measure shorn of their native dignity, and to a certain degree in bondage; women of every description whatsoever are notoriously slaves; from which state there can be no efficient emancipation, whilst any action committed by them shall carry more odium, and have effects more prejudicial to their reputation and welfare, than the commission of the same action has upon those of men. Your Petitioners therefore repeat, that although they are not slaves to the male sex, yet all are decidedly so to pernicious laws, usages, and institutions, palmed upon society in times of ignorance, by Aristocratic Despotism, Priestcraft & Co., as so many state devices to perpetuate ignorance and slavery. From this corrupt fountain hath the nuptial cup been poisoned; and, as if putting the final barrier against human felicity, love, without marriage, has been branded and denounced as a deadly sin ;13 and as there is no equivalent under the sun, the professional enemies of Nature promise atonement in their own fanciful regions, for this fatal privation, which has murdered millions of millions of the female sex;—no evasion of its effects but through risk of their honour, these wretched virgins spent every moment of their lives in disgust and anxiety—fixed to the soil where they were born, and languishing like flowers in a scorching sun, they drooped their heads and perished—carrying with them, even to the grave, a sense of their wrongs in not being permitted to listen to the voice of Nature. Laws proceeding from such vicious conventions,14 may thus violate the universal order of things; and leave to deluded man not a thousandth part of the happiness he is capable of enjoying; but as superlative power cannot be suppressed, all such impious infringements will for ever return upon the violators.
Every law and custom of society, which has relation to the intercourse of the sexes, being thus so many outrages against the principles of human nature, nothing but what is malefic can be expected in their results; and not less injurious are those under which the education and habits of young women are formed; as all of them operate to perpetuate the warfare which virtuous woman is doomed to wage against her physical salvation, in a state of "single blessedness." Amongst the latter anomalies, there has grown up an absurd French usage, which is equally at variance with analogy and the beseeming order of things, the exposure whereof is prompted by a generous candour on the part of your petitioners. This false custom has been ludicrously dignified with the name gallantry ; and consists in preposterously placing woman at the head of society;15 and by endowing her with unseemly distinctions, she is made to occupy a wrong position, and forced out of that condition or sphere in which Nature intended she should move;16 and, as might be expected from such distortion of rational order, the proper behaviour of the sexes towards each other has been reversed—where the masculine should be, we find the feminine, and vice versa. As this ephemeral folly cannot be maintained in the sober realities of life, its perverting effects are soon experienced after the connubial yoke has been fixed, under the everlasting clinch,—then indeed has love been turned into "life's greatest curse."
In regard to those vain, empty, and utterly useless "accomplishments," which the young women of the present day acquire in what is falsely called "good education," their only effect is to pervert the mind by inflating it with visionary notions and fashionable follies, which deserve rather to be called expensive and learned ignorance, raised as a barrier against, and ever after occupying the place of, needful knowledge. As these erroneous impressions, and the Utopian ideas which accompany them, connot be unlearned by the victims, they sink as vitiated leaven into the plastic female mind, precluding every view of utility, and disqualifying it for the realities of life, by preventing a correct knowledge of its true condition and interests. Unhappily, to be useful in any way, is reckoned "shockingly vulgar and unfashionable"; so the lady's good education is "finished," in entire innocence of knowing any thing sufficiently useful to disgrace a lady. Such a course of education is absurdly intended to elevate the female mind; but its true tendency is to degrade, by fixing upon it, as matters of becoming importance, trifles destitute of all utility, which unnerve it for higher and more proper attainments.
After a youthful training of this kind, in the school of false notions and erroneous views, where the only visible effect of an expensive education is to disqualify her for the domestic utilities, and to keep her so wholly ignorant of herself and of the world, that she is totally unprepared to meet the sad vicissitudes which may await her in life's calamitous journey, what has the "happy man" to expect in his wedded dame? Not the domestic virtues certainly. These are so far beneath notice, that they must not be acknowledged in any way—not even by pretensions to them; they are neither lady-like nor compatible with that constant routine of pleasure which boarding-school accomplishments lead to anticipate; and therefore it is not to be expected that such low matters will meet with a moment's consideration. But in lieu thereof, he may expect strong self-will, with an undisguised contempt for every thing in the shape of that due deference and subservience—that winning complaisance which, by Nature's decree, she obviously owes to her companion, man; for with a mind so imbued by wayward precept and example, she fatally mistakes her destination—overleaps the bounds of dependence assigned her by that decree; and, utterly forgetful of her former humble, depressed, and dependant situation, by every means in her power, establishes her control over his household, his purse, and, as far as possible, even over his mind itself, which, in most instances, becomes feminized and shorn of its masculine energy :— the subdued tone and look, characterize the lion of the cage,—now no longer the high-minded free lion of the desart. In short, when once the poor man is CAUGHT, he is no longer suffered to be altogether himself; he must undergo a fresh moulding—be rendered tame—learn not only to bear, but to show respect for conversation however puerile and trifling; but above all, to be perfectly pliant and passive to every thing around him; whilst the tyranny of custom and laws founded upon superstition, justify the unnatural dominion.
The female mind thus estranged from itself, and from its true destination, acts in defiance of this immutable truth, that, in the physical and mental organization of animals, the mother of all existence hath constructed the male with superior powers with respect to these qualities; and when this axiom is morally applied to the human species, it indicates that, in the connecting medium of sexual sympathy, those soft blandishments and submissive endearments, which are the only legitimate and irresistible weapons of woman-kind, and which give them an ever-pleasing empire, are met on the part of the male by an impulse which, operating as an instinct inseparable from his manhood, prompts him to secure for her that protection and subsistence which she is nowise fitted to procure for him. This social reliance is the law of Nature—inherent in the order of things; yet neither the sacred natural right of women, at all times to choose associates on whom to place reliance, nor the civil rights of property, precisely as they are possessed by men, should thereby be infringed, but always held inviolable. It is not without reluctance that your petitioners have developed several of the foregoing absurd incongruities, but as they stand, and have long stood as bugbears in the way of marriage, candour demands their exposure.
In venturing to draw so frightful a picture of wedlock's mass of evil, and consequent miseries, your petitioners, though determined no longer to hug the theological viper that stings them,17 are actuated by no unrestrained humour or levity of disposition; they pray not for those accommodating liberties which were enjoyed of old by the Spartan ladies; nor would they have the ideal republic of Plato realized, wherein marriage would have been entirely abolished; nor do they approve St. Paul's plan to "defraud," by borrowing wives occasionally, though "it be with consent for a time;"18 neither are they advocates for the still greater licentiousness of Zeno, who asserted that women ought to be altogether unrestrained in their amours, that their children might be equally dear to all men, as it was in ancient times amongst the small republics of this country: lastly, they cannot entertain the opinion of Diogenes, who said it was always too soon for young persons, and always too late for old ones, to think of marrying. Yet any one of all these modes is infinitely preferable to Christian matrimony, which your petitioners have shown to be the most woful trap that was ever set for human liberty. But so deep-rooted is the dissimulation and falsehood which priestcraft, and its offspring of bad laws and customs, have diffused through all ranks of society, that the truths thus honestly laid bare before you, by removing the veil of hypocrisy, will not only be denied by the colleagued upholders of church and state abuses, but by a vast majority even of those who, from their long experience in connubial miseries, are the most fully convinced of their sad reality.
And now, O legislators! your petitioners having traced the cause of their forlorn predicament, up to its source in the noxious incubus of artificial religion, and its progeny of unwholesome laws, are come to the special part of their petition, the prayer of which is of such vital and paramount importance to the happiness of both sexes, in this great empire, as to demand your earliest and most serious consideration.
First. — As the innovation creating inequality of rights and liberties between the sexes, has been equally fatal to both, your petitioners pray that, instead of the false and unnatural distinctions with which they have been bedecked, those inalienable and imprescriptible rights and liberties, which are alike the birthright of all the human race, and of which they have been deprived as aforesaid, may be legally restored to them. That, after having attained the age specified by law, they may, under all circumstances, be rendered as capable of holding, in their own right, every species of property, and to all intents and purposes of using and bequeathing the same, in virtue of the same rights and privileges as those held and enjoyed by the male sex;19 and that the simple casualty of living under the social protection of a husband for the time being, shall in nowise weaken or alter this absolute right of property.
Secondly. — That the church-corrupted, and highly immoral laws of marriage, which now vitiate the union of the sexes, may be wholly abrogated. That new institutions and regulations may be formed, limiting the duration of that purely civil contract, so as to be entirely subject to the mutual inclination, convenience, and well-being of the parties concerned; and that these laws may, in all respects, be consonant with the principles, wants, and necessities of human nature; these being the only proper foundation on which to establish all laws affecting the moral government of society.
Thirdly. — As it is only a fair deduction drawn from experience in the affairs of mankind, that all the doctrines of supernaturalism, by whom or whensoever propagated, have never had any other operation than that of strangling the social rights, and poisoning all the choicest sweets of human life; your petitioners most earnestly implore that in the formation and ministration of the future laws, all ecclesiastical influence, interference, or control in any way whatever, may be wholly excluded.
Fourthly. — Having shown the absurd inconsistency which cruelly prevents the separation of persons whose couples alone render them wretched, and by which two people are lost to the community, who might otherwise be useful, your petitioners pray, that all parties who have the civil right to enter into a marriage contract, at their own discretion, may have the equal right preserved to them of dissolving the same, for their reciprocal comfort and convenience, or at the instance of either party, and subject only to such moral and political regulations as, in your wisdom, you shall deem beneficial for the protection and education of the offspring, and for the general interests of society.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, &c. &c.
In Nature's silent eloquence, declares
That all fulfil the works of love and joy,
All but the outcast man. He fabricates
The sword which stabs his peace; he cherisheth
The snakes that gnaw his heart.
Perpetual marriage, and the observance of its injunctions, (allowing
for a moment the possibility), after all sympathetic affection between the
parties has ceased, is by far a greater crime against Nature than the breach
of these injunctions.
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"If marriage were taken out of the hands of the priests, who
would or could complain? Priests alone! Therefore, take it out of
their hands, and all minor obstacles will immediately vanish."
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The present superstition of Europe has been one continued violation
of Nature's laws, and of humanity's dearest rights and liberties.
Nicholas the 1st, erecting himself into a judge and comptroller of these
rights and liberties, set them aside, and, by his own fiat alone, abrogated
divorces in the 9th century; after they had been in common use
amongst all the people of the earth, and lawfully authorized by Pagans,
Jews, Christians, and Mahommedans. What evils hath not religion
produced? One man alone is allowed to deprive mankind of a most
precious right; and out of a civil contract to forge that execrable chain
which for ever rankles and foments domestic variance.
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"The conviction that wedlock is indissoluble, holds out the
strongest of all temptations to the perverse; they indulge without restraint
in acrimony, and all the little tyrannies of domestic life, when
they know their victim is without appeal. A system could not well
have been devised more studiously hostile to human happiness than
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It is impossible that European man, under the trammels of
Christian marriage, and its concomitant usages, should enjoy the full
respect and esteem of the female sex, owing to that frivolity and want
of dignity which is the result of his daily and hourly familiarity.
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7. These are not the only deleterious effects, nor are they confined to the coupled alone, for the venom of the connubial virus is so contagious as to breed hostile passions in their children, and generates a snappish acerbity of temper in all who live in presence of the jarring pair.
"Progenies obtusus lectus connubium."
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It has been slavishly said, that the minds of the wretched couple
should submit quietly to bear their miseries:—Bear ! What can the
most abject slave on the face of the earth, do more than bear?
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Marriage, while love and affection continue, is the most happy
and natural of all contracts: after these cease—the most unnatural and
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Christian marriage "is a suicidal covenant, which annuls itself
in the very forming :—thou makest a vow of eternal constancy under a
rock, which is even then crumbling away."
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"Are there any advantages attached to the present system of marriage,
which could not be obtained by another, allowing the freedom
or divorce? Would there be any disadvantages attending the freedom
of divorce, equal to the disadvantages attending the present system?"
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"Has a woman obeyed the impulse of unerring nature, society
declares war against her—pitiless and eternal war. She is consigned
to a life of infamy: the loud and bitter laugh of scorn scares her from
all return." Thus is she expelled as a foul abortion from the bosom
of that corrupt and polluted society, whose unnatural laws have made
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The actions which are made criminal or vicious by artificial or
conventional laws alone, are so multitudinous, that the breach of
them can scarcely be avoided by either man or woman. This is
the reason why natural liberty and real virtue are almost extinct in
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As a momentary impulse of wayward humour, in Pope Nicholas
the First, palmed perpetual marriage upon the good folks of Christendom;
so the Song-of-Solomon love of Henry the Fourth of France
for his mistresses, established in Europe the usage alluded to in the
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Robbed of her natural rights and liberties, woman is insultingly
clothed in factitious robes of superiority, which, in the eye of good
sense, will always sit upon her grotesquely.
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Purposely blinded by error, from childhood, restrained and
enslaved by false opinion,—overcome by chimerical terrors, and her
faculties repressed by fostered ignorance, woman has hitherto attributed
her wretchedness to any thing but the true cause.
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1st Corinthians, chap. 7th, v. 5th
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Should a woman be stripped of her property, beggared, and
ruined, merely because she has, in a moment of weakness, married a
worthless profligate? If so, our marriage laws are truly atrocious,
their perpetuity being the sole cause of such enormous injustice.
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From the book Christian Mythology Unveiled by Mitchell Logan. 1842, p. 251-272
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