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A New Atmosphere by Gail Hamilton

Swamp mud and vile air have not polluted him


Wrong

opinions concerning the relations between husband and wife are also occasionally expressed in another and opposite manner. A wife comes into the possession of property. The husband, determined not to encroach upon her rights, leaves the disposal of the property to her. He insists that it shall be invested in her name. He will take no responsibility as to the mode of investment. This may be done from honorable motives. The man means to be just and blameless; and if he is conscious of innate weakness or wickedness, or if the marriage be an ill-assorted one, he may be pursuing the best course. There may also be outside, merely business reasons which make it the best course. But to do it simply from a notion of justice, is as far as possible from what ought to be. The man shows himself entirely at fault regarding the range of justice. If life were what it should be, the law would be right in recognizing for the woman no existence separate from her husband. Love is but the fulfilling of that law. The reason why such a law is unjust is, that life is so constant a violation of the higher spiritual law, that this lower one which embodies it works mischief. It fits the righteous theory only, not the wicked facts. But law is for the evil, not for the good. There is no enactment that a man shall possess his own property. The enactments are to punish those who attempt to wrest his property from him. There need be no enactment that a man shall be master of his wife's possessions; he has but
to be to her a true husband, and all that she has is his. The law should punish him for neglect of duty and disregard of claims, by a forfeiture of property. If the law this day completely reversed the position of husband and wife, it would make no jot or tittle of change in their actual position, where they love each other as they ought. Women naturally have a distaste to business, and an indifference to money. Of their own motion, they would leave such things in the hands of men, if the instinct of self-preservation did not force them to interference. In addition to this generic negative willingness, the happy wife has a positive delight in enriching with every blessing the man she loves. When Aurora gave her love with all lavishment, and prayed Romney,

"If now you'd stoop so low to take my love, And use it roughly, without stint or spare, As men use common things with more behind, To any mean and ordinary end,-- The joy would set me like a star, in heaven, So high up, I should shine because of height And not of virtue,"--

did she make a mental reservation to herself of the money which her books had brought her?

What the law should do, is to step in and guard woman against the possible disastrous consequences which may spring from the spontaneous self-abnegation of love. What it should not do, is to guarantee to the miser, the spendthrift, the tyrant, debauchee, or vampire, the things which _a man_ would possess of his own inalienable right. What a husband should do, is to show himself great enough and good enough to know and feel that, in love, giving and receiving wear the selfsame grace. What he should not do, is to talk of justice when they twain should be one flesh.

VIII.

Woman's rank in life depends entirely on what life is. Her importance is decided when it is decided what service is important. If money is the one thing needful, and its acquisition the chief end of man, the wife's position is very inferior to her husband's. The greater part of the money is earned in his, and often spent in her department. He does the work that is paid for, and he belongs to the sex that is paid. She does the work that is not paid for, and she belongs to the sex that is pillaged. Men go out and gain money: wives stay at home and spend it. The case is against them--if that is the whole case. But if money is only means to an end; if happiness, intelligence, integrity, are more worth than gold; if a life ruled by the law of God, if the development of the divine in the human, if the education of every faculty, and the enjoyment of every power, be more lovely and more desirable than bank stock, then the woman walks not one whit behind the man, but side by side, with no unequal steps. He furnishes and she fashions the material from which grace and strength are wrought. Her work is in point of fact incomparably fairer, finer, more difficult, more important than his. It is not money-getting alone, or chiefly, but money-spending, that influences and indicates character. A man may work up to his knees in swamp-meadows, or breathe all day the foul air of a court-room; but if, when released, he turns naturally to sunshine and apple-orchards and womanly grace, swamp-mud and vile air have not polluted him. He is a clean-souled man through it all. But if a man find rest from his work in mere eating and drinking, if the money which he has earned goes to gross amusements and coarse companions, he shows at once the lowness of his character, however high may be his occupation.


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