This section of the book is from "The Complete Herbalist" by Dr. O. Phelps Brown. Also available from Amazon: The Complete Herbalist: The People Their Own Physicians By The Use Of Nature's Remedies.
This implies the separation of the married pair, by legal dissolution of the matrimonial bonds. Divorces are most commonly given by the courts for causes occurring after marriage; but jurists, in treating upon this subject, also include those causes by which a marriage may be rendered null upon antecedent grounds; as where a marriage was accomplished by forcible or fraudulent means, or where, in consequence of near consanguinity, the act of cohabitation between the pair is by law considered incestuous. Where a physical incapacity for marriage prevails in one of the parties, divorces are usually granted by nearly all courts, provided such an incapacity existed previous to marriage.
It is not our purpose, however, to discuss the subject in its legal aspect, however interesting it might be, but to consider it rather in its popular sense. It is not within the province of the medical writer to consider the subject relative to its legal bearings, though he may with propriety give the subject the attention it claims with reference to abuse of the marital privilege. There are practically many divorces between husbands and wives, of which the law takes no cognisance, and for causes for which no court would grant a dispensation. The author is fully aware that the divorce laws are not any too stringent, and probably too facile in many commonwealths; but, while he is by no means in favor of easy divorce laws, he is ready to admit that the strong hand of the law sometimes is not waved to the side of justice, but inflicts intolerable anguish by enforcing a matrimonial existence which in its very nature is adverse to the very spirit and essence of matrimony.
It is practically divorcing the marriage tie when mutual love no longer characterizes the union. The only bond that unites and that makes the union an inseparable one is love, and not the mere formal ceremony of espousal. The law, however, does not and cannot recognize anything but the vinculum matrimonii as binding, but the philosopher delves deeper, and while he does not dispute the necessity of legal ceremonies, he nevertheless knows that marriage is in its very essence not such a union as defined by law, but a linking of affections, a union of souls and hearts. Marriage is practically annulled when love is no longer the cord of union; without mutual affection the association becomes intolerable, the higher purposes of the tie are defeated, and the sacred precinct is invaded by elements foreign to the psychical character of the marital atmosphere. Law can, however, not remedy this; the candidates for marriage must, as before advised, exercise such precautions, that they may not decieve themselves, and only form a matrimonial alliance that augurs a congenial wedded life. Divorces cannot be granted for uncongeniality, provided no actual infringement of the marriage bond has been committed, and cannot extend a dispensation because married life is loveless. Abuse of its privileges would follow, and divorce laws should therefore of necessity be stringent, so that marriages be not recklessly contracted, and obliging intended union to be the result of guarded and careful deliberation, as it is easier to prevent mistakes than to rectify them. Negligence of consulting the better knowledge brings its own reward, and, however intolerable the punishment, a separation cannot ensue by virtue of law. Humanity would grant the dissolution of the tie, but the purity and purpose of law must be protected. Stringency must shield it from disgrace, or the possible chance of its becoming the agent whereby injury may be done, or flagrant violations of matrimonial duty may be prompted by its laxity. Every candidate should lose sight of every consideration except that of happiness in married life, and see that no one can exclaim
"She (or he) whom the law calls yours, Is by her (or his) love made mine."
In nearly all courts, adultery is sufficient cause for divorce, and very properly so. It is the most heinous violation of the duty and trust attached to a conjugal union. Everything besides pales in comparison with adultery in the enormity of its malfeasance in the marital sphere. It is such a flagrant abuse of duty and fidelity that the conjugal pair owe to each other, that it has even been recognized by divine law as sufficient cause for divorce, and as long as civilization has a foothold, and morality considered a virtue, so long will adultery be regarded subversive to the integrity of the conjugal union. It is a crime admitting of no extenuation, and incapable of condonement by the morally upright or the virtuous pure. It is the brand that inflames the worst passions in the one who has thus been injured and disgraced by his or her conjugal associate, surely engendering hate and detestation if the proper value is placed upon marital loyalty. The bubble that has just burst is as easily reconstructed as to again establish confidence, peace and happiness in that family, of which either the husband or wife has sinned. The wound is incurable, and prolongation of the wedded association only aggravates. Therefore, the only remedy is a legal separation from the one who has proved so unworthy of marital trust. It is not enough that the husband and wife should be guiltless of adultery, but their conduct must be such as to arouse no suspicion of neighbors or others. The conduct must be so guarded that loyalty is not doubted, but manifested even under circumstances where the liability to err is great, so that fidelity is established and suspicion disarmed.
That wife, who, by her conduct in society, or in her social intercourse with other men, brings upon her mistrust, and who provokes public scandal by her vagaries and lax conduct, actually debauches her husband's good name, and does him as much injury as she would were she guilty of adultery. She may never have committed the act, and probably never would, but her deportment is such as to lead observers to the opinion that she would prove disloyal if circumstances favored, thereby committing a grievous wrong, and staining the honor and good name of her husband to an unwarrantable extent. The man that brings to his bride the legacy of honor and respectability is greatly injured if she by her immoral conduct begets the suspicion as to loyalty of his friends and neighbors, and she is unworthy of his love and protection if she so far forgets her duty as bring a stain upon his character by her own imprudence. She is guilty of adulterous proclivities, which should be considered sufficient cause for divorce, even if adultery cannot be proven. On the other hand, the husband, who by improper behavior in company is so unguarded as to be suspected for his loyalty and attachment to his wife, is unworthy of her, and cannot justify his conduct by even the most liberal interpretaton of the marriage contract. It would, unquestionably, be well if the law would recognize conduct that suggests an adulterous proclivity as sufficient for divorce, even if adultery per se could not be proven, as it would most probably have a salutary effect in counteracting the tendency to the degeneracy of modern free-loveism.
The cry of many wives of the present day, who think that their duty to society is paramount to the duty they owe to their husbands is -- Would you exclude us from society? Am I to be imprisoned in the home you afford me and not be allowed to receive my friends, or to mingle again with society? No, not at all; the seclusivism of the harem is not calculated to promote the best interests of conjugal life; but it is to be insisted upon that when wives are in society their conduct should be so dignified, so hedged in with propriety, that their reputation remains unsullied, that the most suspicious need not suspect, and that the libertine is given no opportunity to make his offensive proposals, nor his heart gratified by a passive submission to his lascivious conversation, looks, and hints. Caesar claimed not too much in his requirements of a wife -- she should in all respects be above suspicion. The wife's greatest pride should be the observance of such a line of conduct as meets her husband's approval. All her actions should be characterized by purity and fidelity, and no cause should be given for unpleasant comment. Such noble wives are denominated the oppressed, the slaves of men, etc., etc., by the Women's Rights women; but they are not, -- they and they only are the idols of men, at least of those whose affections are pure and worth having. The angelic quality of women, so often the theme of poets and lovers, is surely only manifested by the virtuous and in the faithful. The very existence of civilization is dependent upon virtuous women and faithful wives; men may become depraved, but as long as women remain pure, civilization, morality, and religion will be fostered and propagated. If women live the truth and act the truth, humanity will ever be blessed with the benefits of civilization.
To the sterner sex the mantle of virtue is no less becoming; and fidelity is as much of an adornment and requirement to them as of the gentler sex. The libertine is a despicable creature; and the adulterer is so lost to honor and nobility of characters, that his presence in the society of the pure and good should be considered an outrage upon decency and propriety. Chastity is a superior virtue, and loyalty in wedlock a noble attribute; and whichever one of the conjugal pair proves reckless to these connubial trusts is unworthy of marital companionship and defiles a sacred institution.