This section is from the book "Free Love: Or, A Philosophical Demonstration Of The Non-Exclusive Nature Of Connubial Love", by Austin Kent. Also available from Amazon: A Practical Guide to Polyamory, Open Relationships & Other Adventures.
We have meant to make the title of our book so plain that no thoroughly conservative mind could mistake - and so waste his money in purchasing it. We have given much of the last twenty years of our life and time to the world, "without money and without price;" and if we should find it necessary, or for any reason think it best to let our little work partly bear the expense of its own publication, we wish no one to be deceived in getting it. We have no thought of any material remuneration for our own labors. Reader, this is very radical; - and we confess to a choice not to be the first to wake any who, with all the influences of the nineteenth century about them, are yet soundly asleep upon the lap of the past. We do not wish such to be too suddenly brought into travailing pains for their own spiritual and mental birth to the future - even though we know these must sooner or later come. Some milder and more gradual dose might be better as a first stimulant. We took our pen mainly for the benefit of reformers, and for those whom nature has given some ability to be such.
These are more than welcome - we invite them to read us critically
The subject of Love and Marriage will ever be one of vast importance to our race: we can hardly conceive it possible to rate it too highly. Between 1837 and 1840 Theophilus R. Gates published a series of radical tracts, called the "Battle Axe." This stirred the waters of orthodoxy. In these, he inserted a letter from John H. Noyes, which declares, that, in a state of heavenly holiness on earth, "Every dish is free to every guest." The context put his meaning beyond question. All of this, then, amounted to but little more than prophecy.
In 1849, Mr. Noyes came out with a full exposition and defence of his principles in his "Bible Argument" This was an able, but small, work on Free Love for all saved and redeemed humanity.
Not far from this time - we simply write the date from memory - the Fowlers (L. N. and 0. S.) wrote each a book on "Marriage." They taught that love was marriage, but confined it to dual order - to pairs. On the whole, these last books were elevating in their tendency among the mass of minds
In 1850, Henry James wrote to good effect in his "Moralism and Christianity."
In 1852, Dr. Lazarus published "Love vs. Marriage." This book was of the Fourier cast; and, for the time, was "written without gloves." It was a most lovely and lovable book, but not so argumentative as some which have succeeded it. It must have put many minds into a right train of thought.
In 1853, Horace Greeley published, in the "Tribune" a part of a discussion between Henry James, Stephen Pearl Andrews, and himself. The whole came out afterwards in a tract, by Mr. Andrews. This must have been deeply interesting to minds on all sides of the questions.
In 1854, Henry C. Wright and Dr. Nichols each published a fair sized book on "Marriage."
The present year, we have Andrew Jackson Davis on the same subject. We have long had the writings of Fourier, Owen, and others on the Affections.
We consider all of these books most valuable. None of them are superfluous. We think Mr. Wright elevates connubial love as high as it can be elevated in exclusive dual marriage. He teaches that love is marriage, and sticks by nature, as he understands it.
Dr. Nichols (his wife wrote a portion of the book) takes nature for his guide, but denies its exclusiveness. His book is very instructive; and favors the Free Love doctrine. Mr. Davis, in the main, teaches the philosophy of marriage with great clearness and beauty, but contends that connubial love is monogamic in its highest manifestations. Before closing our book, I intend to review this exclusive phase in Mr. Wright and Mr. Davis, so I will not add more here. Several of these last books have seemed to come almost simultaneously. It has multiplied the number of readers, on the subject of which they treat, tenfold; and yet it has, comparatively, but just begun to agitate the public mind. It is now destined to be thoroughly discussed. The fire is already kindled which will bring to the judgment the traditions, with the imperfect institutions, of the past, and burn up the "hay, wood, and stubble" which are found in them. On the whole, I am not sorry that these late authors took, in the main, the several and diverse positions which they did. We are in an age of active thought, and truth is more deeply planted in the understandings and hearts of men by this friendly opposition and discussion. Truth is always safe in such discussions.
So far as we hold opinions not based in truth, these may and will suffer a loss in such a mental refiner, - but absolute truth never can. When we get an article of great utility, we are apt to feel a sort of wonder how we could so long do without it. So I felt on reading most of these late works on marriage. Yet probably the world was not prepared for them before. I will add - to my mind, they all seem to have come in about the right order.
We repeat - none of these are superfluous. The subject is not yet exhausted. We hold the pen to add another book to the list, - and we promise the reader, that ours shall not be superfluous. We do not promise that it shall be agreeable to his mental taste, - unless his taste Las been harmoniously adjusted to some of the most radical in the past. We come in defence of Free Love. We do this, because we are sure we find it in nature, in its most exalted and harmonious manifestations.
On the subject of morals and marriage, there has been a great advance in a short space of time. I refer more specially to reformers. A little time ago, "Moses" was the standard. Outward and legal marriages were first, - love and harmony were secondary. Then obedience to simple legal morality was virtuous. Now all this has changed. Among all of these writers, except Mr. Noyes and Mr. Gates, nature is the standard. Nature is the Infallible and Inspired Book; and its normal promptings are the law of virtue and of morals. Mr. Noyes defends his positions both from nature, and the spiritual and higher teachings of the New Testament. Here, then, there is no controversy among these radical, reformatory writers, as to what is the standard of truth, or as to where the law of marriage is to be found; none as to the propriety of, or chastity in, obeying these laws. These writers do differ as to the proper reading of nature's laws. Fourier, Owen, the Fowlers, James, Lazarus, Nichols, Andrews, Wright, and Davis, agree that true love is marriage. The Fowlers, Wright, and Davis contend that connubial love, in its highest development, is exclusively dual. Here the latter agree, though in other respects, of much less importance, they differ widely.
Fourier, Owen, Noyes, Andrews, and Nichols, deny the evidence of the exclusive nature of this love, and teach more or less the modern doctrines of Free Love. These last differ on other points among themselves.
I am happy to find the controversy so much shortened in space - in extent of range. We all teach that the laws of mind are our guide; and that these laws must be absolutely free. In this sense, we all contend alike for Free Love. We agree that healthy affinities and attractions must reign supreme. But Mr. Wright, and some others, tell us that this healthy attraction will, and must, in its nature, be always exclusive. I hear some, on the other hand, say to Mr. Wright and his friends, - "Hands and opinions off! Allow us the freedom to settle the nature of our own attractions. Admitting you may know what is most healthy, elevating, and pure for yourself - do not measure all men and all women by your own affectional stature!" I say to Mr. Wright, if you see a law of mind as mind - or the highest law of mind as such, - it is not impertinent for you to speak out that law. We think we know and see some of the unalterable laws of mind, and we claim the right to so far expose and defend these laws. If others differ from us, we not only leave them free to live their views of truth, but we respect them in it. All of us, it is probable, are as yet comparatively in but the "abbs" of mental Philosophy. I will never attempt to live any law farther than I think I see it.
Reader, we are very near Mr. W.'s opposite. We believe that though men differ much - very much, none, in entire freedom, and uninfluenced in the past and present by other minds or institutions in the bondage of the past or present, - would ever be absolutely exclusive in any of the manifestations of connubial love. This is our position, and our extreme - if it be an extreme. We all agree in the positive nature and force of these laws of mind. Some of us believe these laws can be demonstrated. Mr. Wright finds this connubial love to be "a law of attraction superior to our wills, and which we have no power to create or destroy." Again he says: "Our souls, I believe, are substance, as truly as are air, light, electricity, and magnetism. The same law of creation governs souls that governs all other material bodies." Mr. Davis fully harmonizes with all of this. I am most thankful for all of this agreement to shorten the labor of future discussions.
The Book of the Law, and the power and binding nature of the law, is equally settled. I here record my gratitude to all of those writers who have done much to elevate marriage over the power of mythology and legal bondage, though they are our opponents as to the main doctrine of our book. They have each written up to the mental and moral elevation of their own understandings. We shall write our highest perceptions of truth. The developing mind of the future will better understand all of us; and better see our faults. They will do us all justice. For though, "round and round we go, truth will at last come uppermost." With the fullest and most entire assurance, I commit my radical book to present and coming humanity.
Austin Kent. Hopkinton,
St. Lawrence Co. N. Y.