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LADY MORG AN'S FIRST AND LAST WORK.
may blunt the feelings so far as to render us insensible to misery; it would certainly never lead one to mistake it for felicity. Do the half-starved labourers, who have spent all their days from infancy in the English mines and factories, entertain the least doubt that their condition might be infinitely improved? Has it ever entered into the head of a slave, on a plantation in Cuba, to imagine that he was as well off as his master? But there is a more decisive argument on this point. Every one has read the stories—well authenticated facts recorded in the early annals of our country—of young girls carried off by the Indians, who, after living several years among them, when at length their existence was discovered, have astonished and pained the friends who would have relieved them, by refusing to quit their savage homes, and return once more to the comforts of civilized life. One affecting instance, well known by the use which has been made of it in a popular novel, was in the family of the minister of a town in Massachusetts, who, with his wife and children, was seized and carried prisoner to Canada; one of his daughters was separated from him, and it was not till long after his return home that the Indians were compelled to restore her; and then, to the anguish of her parents, they found that she had left her forest lodge against her will, and was resolved to return thither. It was with the greatest difficulty that she could be induced to exchange her Indian garb for the dress of her sisters; and shortly afterwards she made her escape, and was no more heard of. This is by no means an isolated case. Similar events are frequently recorded, and even at this day we are assured that inci. dents of the kind are not unfrequent on the borders of Texas and Mexico. But, who ever heard or read of an instance in which any individual, made—not born—a slave, to whom an opportunity of escaping was presented, had become so capti. wated by the charms of servitude, that he voluntarily renounced his freedom, and clung to his bonds? We have dwelt the longer on this point, because it seems to us to have been generally misunderstood, even by those who do not draw from it all the inferences which we are combatting. If it is established that among the lowest savages, the female sex is not really oppressed and ill treated, but enjoys a fair and equal share of all the advantages—few as indeed they must be—of their uncivilized state, it will surely follow that in communities where the highest moral and intellectual culture prevails, this equality is not less scrupu. lously maintained. We might point to various nations, and inquire whether a Turkish woman in her harem possesses fewer sources of happiness or improvement than her husband; whether driyelling in an opium-shop, or cutting the throats of infidels in the name of religion, are enviable privileges, or of higher moment to society than working embroidery and training children? We might ask also how far the Grecian ladies of ancient time,
whose lot has been so much deplored, were below the Grecian gentlemen, for whom the highest idea of the glory of human nature was embodied in a wrestler or a racer at the Isthmian games, who, with his naked limbs reeking with oil, stood up to receive the crown of victory amid the plaudits of admiring thousands, and be immortalized by an ode of Pindar? But we shall probably be told that though all this may be to a certain extent correct, and though it is true that in social life the rank of woman has always been graduated closely enough to that of her master, yet his tyranny has been shown clearly and decidedly in the legal disabilities to which it has been his constant aim and study to subject her. There is some truth in this, or rather some fact, which is often a very different thing from truth. The facts in this case are partly as stated; but they prove by no means the purpose ascribed, nor the oppression which is said to be the result. It is necessary here to discriminate carefully. The disabilities in question are of two kinds, the purely legal and the political. Among the former there are some which ought not to exist; such, for example, as the law by which all the property of a wife becomes her husband's, without a special agreement to the contrary before marriage, a law which has been and is productive of much misfortune and distress, especially in those cases of frequent occurrence, where an industrious and prudent woman is fettered to a worthless spendthrift husband. But it would be most unjust and irrational to argue from a few isolated instances of this sort, a settled purpose in the legislators to injure any one or any class. They are among the anomalies in that code of customary law, which is usually celebrated as the collected wisdom of our ancestors,'—though for the last sixty years, ever since our independence, we have been doing our best to leave as little of it as possible unaltered. Many of its provisions, which have been acknowleged to be unfit for the age in which we live, have been expunged, - among others that of imprisonment for debt in many of the states; and it is worthy of remark that the first step, in general, towards this amendment, has consisted in exempting females from the liabilities of the law, - which certainly cannot be regarded as a proof of a very tyrannical disposition on the part of the legislators of the present day towards woman. As to the origin of the few injurious laws which are justly complained of, we may ascribe it to the same causes that produced the regulation which has existed from time immemorial in several of the most ancient corporations of the mother country, and which is commonly known as the law of borough-English, whereby the mass of the property descends, not as elsewhere to the eldest, but to the youngest son of the family. Different opinions have been formed as to the circumstances in which this singular law originated; but we believe it has never yet entered into the head of any
one to imagine that the youngest sons themselves, out of malice and selfishness and an overbearing and tyrannical disposition, procured its enactment, for the purpose of exalting themselves by the impoverishment and degradation of their elder brothers. Those who view the matter in the false light which we have endeavoured to expose, seem to look upon the sexes—the opposite sexes, as they are sometimes pleased to call them—in the light of two contending parties, drawn up in hostile array, like the Thracians and Amazons of old, each expecting to gain great advantages by the defeat, or at least the capitulation, of the other. They hardly seem to take into consideration the relations in which the supposed combatants stand to one another—as fathers and daughters, mothers and sons, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives —the strongest, closest, most endearing, and most holy bonds which can unite human beings. Is there not an absurdity in supposing that a single passion—the love of domination—can be so strong in one of the parties, as to disregard all these ties, to overpower all the domestic affections, and to annihilate the influence of those early associations which in all other cases exercise such a potent and lasting sway? This, above all, is not a subject to be discussed in the abstract. We are not to inquire whether it does not belong to the selfishness of human nature for the strong to oppress the weak. This may be true as a general maxim, à la Rochefoucault, and yet utterly false in its particular application. Do strong fathers feel an irresistible inclination to oppress their weak sons? The true question is, whether Mr. Smith, seated on one side of the fender, with his little darling Molly on his knee, is likely to be possessed with an inexorable determination to humble, crush down to earth, and tyrannize over Mrs. S., who sits on the other side of the fender, with their youngest pledge, the infant Johnny, slumbering in her arms. But, it will be said that, admitting all this to be true, we cannot deny that women are treated as an inferior class, in being refused all political privileges, and especially the right of suffrage, the source of all liberty. This is a point which has been pressed with earnestness by persons of no slight abilities and attainments—among others by a distinguished lady, highly respected in her own country, and not unknown in ours, -Miss Martineau, and it is therefore proper to give to it a careful consideration. We might, perhaps, by investigating the nature and origin of all government, come to some satisfactory decision as to the cause and the justice of the exclusion complained of. But we prefer to view the question in another light, and to judge from the nature of the privileges denied, whether this exclusion be, as is pretended, a real grievance and mark of degradation. It seems to be taken for granted, by those who prefer this complaint, that the right of voting is, in itself, an advantage; yet nothing can be clearer
L. A D Y MORG AN'S FIRST AND LAST WORK.
than that it is, on the contrary, an evil, and one of no ordinary magnitude. It is certainly no source of enjoyment or gain to our farmers and mechanics, and merchants, to be obliged to quit their business for two or three days, and sometimes oftener, in a year, for the purpose of depositing a few bits of paper in a box; but the mere loss of time is nothing in comparison with the dissensions, the embittered feelings, the corruptions, the dissipation which universally attend on, or result from the exercise of this right. Suffrage is in itself a great evil, and it is only endured as a safeguard and defence against evils still more to be dreaded, tyranny and misgovernment. Now, if it were really the fact that women are subject to peculiar oppression from laws passed expressly to keep them in subjection to the stronger sex, there would be good reason for a desire on their part to possess the best and surest means of freeing themselves from this thraldom. But as we have shown that such a state of things not only never has existed, in any country, among any class of people, but that, in the very nature of society, its existence is almost inconceivable, it would seem to be in the highest degree irrational for the advocates of female emancipation, as we occasionally hear it term. ed, to insist upon the possession of a privilege from which few, if any, beneficial results would accrue to them, while the evils which always accompany it would, in their case, be peculiarly ag. gravated. The business of the legislator, like that of the sailor, the cultivator, the soldier, the sheriff, is a labour necessary for the benefit of the community; but so also is that of the housewife, the instruc. tress, the nurse, the seamstress; and there seems, as we think, no earthly reason why those to whom one class of these duties has been assigned, from a feeling of natural adaptedness, should conceive themselves to be any way aggrieved or oppressed because they are not also required to perform the others. And it is, no doubt, from an instinctive sense of this truth, that the general contentment with which the present system is regarded, proceeds. As we have before remarked, no stronger proof can be required, that the condition of the female sex is not one of subjection and suffering, than the fact that all the effort and argument which have been expended, from the days of Mary Wolstoncraft to our own, have utterly failed in awakening the party oppressed to a conscious. ness of its misery—a most unaccountable fact, if that misery really exists. But it is foolish to speak of the sexes as standing towards one another in any relation of super riority and inferiority; they have different but equal spheres to fill, different but harmonious duties to perform. It is as irrational to make any comparison between their respective positions, as it would be to inquire into the comparative value of a picture or a poem, or of an oak tree and a fountain. The relation between them now is the same that has existed in all time, and in every
We know not, indeed, if the spirits of the holy dead return to earth. We cannot say that “the mother who watched o'er our childhood,” and whose eye was fixed so kindly and so sweetly upon us, as she closed is, in death, is permitted to hover around our pathway in spirit, and guard our footsteps from error and crime. We cannot assert that the infant, whose rosy smile, and bright glance, charmed the spirit of the doting parent here, comes back on angel. pinion, and visits us in the watches of the night. Nor can we contradict that beautiful theory of the ancients, that the loving dead return to watch over the destinies of their friends in this world. Or whence cometh that wild, strange, beautiful, mysterious music, that sometimes breaks upon the dull ear of slumber, and seems to woo the listener with its solemn melodies? Why those soft whisperings among the tree tops at eventide, when the calm, clear heavens reveal so brightly the pompous march of the circling stars, that we almost fancy them the impalpable echoes of the music of the spheres? Why is it, when the bright young moon rides through ether, with her solitary star-worshipper at her side, that the tranquillizing beauty of the scene breathes a soft, delicious sadness over the spirit, and we look up into the clear depths of the heavens, and sigh “for the wings of a dove,” and long to “fly away, and be at rest?” Comes there no remembered tone in that wild gush of midnight music, telling in its strains of “melancholy beauty,” that the holy dead are about us, wooing us from our wanderings, and charming us by the touching loveliness of their numbers? Breathes there in those tree-top voices, no memory-stirring thought of the gentle ones who sleep beneath the green grass of the quiet churchyard, and who whispered as their spirits passed away, of sister spirits, beckoning them on? And oh! when gazing up, up, up into the illimitable depths of Heaven, we watch the myriad stars, and the placid moon, as they smile upon hill top and plain, and river; feel we not then that spirit is communing with spirit, and saying in its mute but vol. xxvi.1.-12
powerful language, “Come up and dwell with us, and “be as one of us?' " It is one of those mysteries we cannot know, but it is a hallowed reflection that it may be so— that every good impulse, that every virtuous thrill, that every kindly thought, every noble aspiration, every heroic resolve, every triumph over unsanctified passion, every victory over dark ambition, are the promptings of good angels, sent by God to assist us in our warfare against “the world, the flesh and the devil!” If Moses and Elias appeared on the Mount, and if in Heaven “they are as the angels,” is it a stretch of fancy, at the expense of facts, to say, that as the salvation of mankind is a special object, it is not, therefore, improbable that the blessed spirits of our friends are permitted to watch over us, and warn us of dangers near? If we are met with the objection that this would prove too much, viz. the absence of those spirits from Heaven, and consequently a diminution of their own happiness, occasioned by their leaving their bright and hallowed abodes, we answer, by no means. For us to understand the mysteries of that eternal world, is not given us; nor will that knowledge be imparted, until the thick film that obscures our spiritual vision is purged away by death; but we can well imagine, that as a star can emit its ray from an immeasurable distance, even from Heaven to our earth, so may an angel, without leaving its shining throne, throw its influences from its far-off glory, around our pathway by day, and our couches by night. It is a belief that wars not with the sacred Scriptures. It is a doctrine which assails in none of its essentials, or fundamental truths, the Gospel of Christ, as interpreted by all who name His name; and it is a speculation, that, unlike unsanctified philosophy, lays no desecrating hand upon the shining columns of the temple of truth. To me the belief is fraught with pleasing associations, and though its adoption or rejection cannot affect the destinies of the spirit, I would not willingly divest the soul of its touching influences. Perhaps while I write, a sweet child, whose
little eyes I saw close in death, whose fragile limbs I saw shrouded in the cold, white grave clothes, upon whose little coffin I heard the damp clay rattle, and above whose little grave I saw the green grass wave, my beautiful, my first-born, is throwing her rosy smile upon the very sentence that records my belief! Perhaps the young wife of my bosom, to whom, in boyhood, the heart's wild idolatry was given, who, in after life, blest my pathway by her piety and devotion, till the very thorns of life seemed to blush into flowers, beneath the sunlight of her smile, but who, like a too early rose, paled away, and one soft summer evening was laid to rest beneath the green turf of the churchyard—perhaps she, the young, the gifted, the gentle, the unforgotten one, now, even now, as she sweeps the songs of the immortal from the harp strings of
Heaven, sends some tone of old remembered lays, to remind me of the past, and to lead my spirit to the better land. I can imagine angels around me, when some exalted thought swells my bosom; I can imagine angels near, when I see virtuous poverty cheered and sustained, and purse-proud insolence abashed and rebuked; I can imagine angels ministering, when I see youth, and beauty, and intellect, uniting to promote “peace on earth, and good will toward men.” I can readily imagine angels to be at hand, when I behold a weeping penitent transformed into a child of God, and almost fancy I hear angel wings rustling in the hallowed sane, when the songs of the ransomed ones of the church of Christ, rise, in their full volume of sweetness, above the rich strains of the solemn organ, in its anthem roll.
CHAPTER I. TIMES chang E -- AND WE CHANGE WITH THEM.
Two young ladies sat together, in pretty earnest discussion—into which we shall take the liberty to drop, just at its close. One had been earnestly defending an absent young man—whether in sincerity, or merely to draw her companion out, it is not possible to say. Perhaps a very little malicious impertinence was among the motives prompted her advocacy. When she had done, the other said: “I am sure that I have as high an opinion of Mr. Francis Meredith, as— as— as—” [The listener laughed outright, and most provokingly. The speaker blushed downright, and most brilliantly..] “Now what a tease you are! We are both past our boarding-school days, and it were folly in me to dissemble my knowledge of the drift of his intentions.” “Or your consciousness that they are not disagreeable.” “I can receive any gentleman as an acquaintance, who, is as you say, not disagreeable.” “I said his attentions were not disagreeable.” “Will you be quiet, Julia, or not? I say that I can recognize any man as a gentleman, who has the entreč of good society; I can even flirt a little in moderation, with him, if he is accomplished and good-humoured. But when he grows too marked and particular in his devotedness, it is time, as the politicians say, to ask for his credentials, or, as the merchants have it, for his references. When an alliance for life is talked of, we must drop our abstract notions of equality and all that, and sacrifice something of our republicanism to our standing in society.” “Hear! hear!” cried the other laughing. “Well really, Mary, I have betrayed you into quite a dissertation. You talk more like one's mother's maiden sister, than like a young woman not out of her teens. I cannot think of destroying the impression that your remarks have made on an unanimous auditory of one, by broaching any new topic—so good morning.” And Mary was left alone. Who, think you, was she? None other than our old friend, Mary Richardson. She forgot that those delicate hands had ever been worked to the bone, as her eye
rested with complacency upon her taper fingers, hooped with gold, and sparkling with gems. She forgot, as she trifled with an ingenious device in lace, that she had once laboured with might and main upon coarse and stubborn materials to earn a livelihood. In her elegant and tasteful apparel, and in the neatness and luxurious comfort of all about her, she forgot that she had once been compelled to pledge almost her entire wardrobe, to escape starvation. The reader, we trust, has learned to love Mary for her filial piety—for that fortitude and perseverance in exertion, under misfortune, of which woman only is capable — for that patient industry which never ceased, though ill and tardily requited—for that kind attention and devotion to an impatient invalid, which found its reward only in innate self approval; the object of her kindness being too childish for gratitude— too peevish to reward her assiduity even with a smile. The reader has admired, too, that practical piety, which forbade Mary to repine while passing through all this suffering, and which, under Heaven, brought her through her trials and temptations not only uncontaminated, but improved in mind and in spirit. Alas, that prosperity should be more dangerous than adversity! But so it is. If pride were tolerated in any case, one might excuse Mary if, not only in her thoughts, but in her words, she claimed honour for the real merit which she had possessed—the worthy and dignified manner in which she had endured adversity— the self-denying industry with which she had laboured to support in honour, herself and an indigent relative. But we have no need to apologize for her pride for such a cause — she was ashamed of that passage in her life, of all others—proud of her present wealth, which conferred no merit upon her—proud of the personal beauty which bade fair to ruin the hopes of her father, by making her a coquette! And that father—shall we own it of our heroine? She could not bear to sit with him in the twilight alone, because that it recalled the hour, when she first looked through her tears upon a father's face. She started at the tone, when he spake to her in kindness, because it brought vividly to her mind the hour when, with the chill of death upon her hopes, she was summoned back to life and happiness by his voice. She disliked to enter his