By a James Campbell.. “ There shall be no widows in the land, for I will marry them all; there shall be no orphans, fori will father them all.” — Old Play. Boston:
THERE is a mingling of gayety and seriousness in this title which at once fixes the attention. As if it were not sufficiently surprising that a Christian Philanthropist should call himself so flattering a name, our author chooses for the motto of a book commending polygamy to the public favor a light-minded sentiment from an Old Play, which, one’s heart misgives one, can have no very improving context. It is, in fact, quite all that we can do to accept him at his own valuation; even with the indorsement of the courageous literary gentlemen who have read the proof-sheets of his book, and who, while dissenting from his conclusions, declare his work written with “knowledge, candor, and evident honesty of purpose,”and entitled to “ attention, respect, and refutation by those competent to meet the arguments presented with other arguments.” But for this testimony of Mr. Curtis and Mr. Sanborn, we should have had no hesitation in pronouncing this Christian Philanthropist a Silly Quack ; and as it is, we feel almost sure his book is as trivial in point of study and research as it is mediocre and vulgar in manner.
As for the arguments in favor of polygamy presented by our author, we must refuse to consider them in the “presence of ladies,”for reasons hinted at by Mr. Wegg as lying in the way of a full explanation of the difference between the Russian and the Roman Empires. We must own that there is Scripture for polygamy, and that if sufficiently extended it would put an end to the existing form of the social evil, and would restore the lost numerical balance of the sexes by giving every lady a husband,— more or less. But polygamy is a boon which, like the ballot, ought not to be bestowed unsought by the sex supposed to be blest in receiving it, — though whether they ever were thus blest might well be doubted by the faithful reader of the Old Testament, and of the contemporary “ interviews ” with Brigham Young and other Mormon saints. It may be true that old maids and unfortunates do not abound in polygamous society, but neither do happy wives; and, if it were necessary to treat our author seriously, it would seem a sufficient answer to call his notice to the fact that while monogamy leaves some women to die unwed, and many to be ruined, it does here and there create a home and make women happy; while polygamy degrades and disgraces all women, and, satisfying no desire of the heart, while glutting the lust of the flesh, unutterably deforms the relation of marriage, and founds a harem or a brothel under every roof.
But fortunately there is nothing in the whole book that calls for serious treatment, unless it is the author’s failure to suggest some way out of the difficulties of courtship, which would at once indefinitely multiply themselves if polygamy were introduced. It is all very well for your Mormon, who can confer glory in the world to come, along with the honor of a share of his hand in this ; but in our less religious communities no honest man could pretend to do such a thing; and what prospect or advantage the polygamously-minded celibate, or the already twice or thrice wedded wooer could offer instead of it, our author neglects to say. We should have to fall back upon the patriarchal and Mohammedan method of acquiring the ladies from their parents ; or the ladies must act upon Doctor Bushnell’s notion, and become themselves the wooers. In this, as in everything else, it is the first step that costs, and we think it is not the part of a true Christian Philanthropist to leave us in the dark as to how this first step is to be made. At present we can see only one way in which the great reform could be proposed, and we do not feel very confident in regard to this. Some people — we will allow that they are not the wisest people, though it may be worth while, once for all, to silence them — hold that nothing is required to put an end to all the pother about woman’s right to vote and to be paid a man’s wages for a man’s work, but to give a husband to each of the agitators. Why then should not the Christian Philanthropist,— if he is a Christian Philanthropist, and not a Pagan Misanthrope in disguise, — appear in person at the next convention, and try (on his principle that half a loaf is better than none) if the offer of part of a husband would not suffice to hush the clamor ? He himself is in a position to become an unimpeded sacrifice to the truth, being, as he tells us, a bachelor ; and though we by no means think it just always to hold the preacher to the practice of his own precepts, we are really almost persuaded that it is a duty in the present case.