Marriage and Revolution

Here’s a brief history lesson on divorce and revolution in the United States and France from Andrew Cherlin’s The Marriage-Go-Round: The State of Marriage and the Family in America Today:

“It’s true that divorce was difficult to obtain, seen as shameful, and never granted merely because the spouses wanted to end their marriage. Nevertheless, the seed of divorce was planted in the northern colonies. Connecticut had the most liberal laws of any colony or state in the 1700s, and divorce petitions appeared to increase in the aftermath of the Revolution. Even though the numbers were tiny by modern standards – perhaps fifteen to twenty divorces per year in the second half of the eighteenth century – the rise caused concern among prominent clergy and academics. The middle colonies were more restrictive, while the southern colonies that followed Anglican law did not allow divorce until after the Revolution.

No colony or state, however, went as far as the French National Assembly in 1792, three years after the start of the French Revolution. It passed a law, influenced by the individualistic spirit of the revolution, allowing divorce by mutual consent or at the request of only one spouse on the grounds of incompatibility of temperament and on specific grounds including cruelty and ill treatment and desertion for at least two years. This breathtaking statue introduced principles that would not be seen in Western divorce law for nearly two hundred years. It set off a wave of divorce and a round of opposition from conservatives, especially to the ground of incompatibility. After Napoleon seized power, the law was significantly restricted and the ground of incompatibility was dropped. (Napoleon retained other grounds and divorced Josephine in 1809.) In 1816, after the fall of Napoleon, King Louis XVIII abolished divorce altogether, returning France to the Catholic position. Over the next half century, several attempts to legalize divorce were unsuccessful. Opponents had merely to refer to the excesses of the revolutionary period to beat back divorce legislation. Only in 1884 did France finally legalize divorce.”

This book is interesting because it is more data driven and relies on a comparative perspective. In the United States, 1 out of every 20 marriages ended in divorce in the 1850s, but by 1900 it was 1 out of every 10 marriages. By 1950, it was 1 out of every 4 marriages and now it is roughly 1 out of every 2 marriages.

There’s a long term trend in divorce that long predates the Sexual Revolution of the 1960s. The same is true of European and American birthrates, the spread of contraceptive knowledge, forms of birth control other than the pill, and premarital sex. The legal authority of the husband over his wife and children had also been steadily eroding since 1850. By 1900, it had become commonplace for courts to award legal custody of children to the mother over the father, which was a reversal of the traditional custom.

The French Revolution introduced many of these innovations, but was beaten back by reactionaries in later decades. This is true not only of the divorce laws under Napoleon, but also of slavery, racial equality, and black citizenship in the French Empire.

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  1. My parents lived through the fifties. I’m not sure your scenario is accurate. But you still haven’t explained how singleness is a threat to a stable society.

  2. Traditionally, American culture and law has valued social stability over equal rights. There are numerous examples of this:

    1.) In the 19th century, Mormon polygamy was suppressed in Utah before it could become a state.

    2.) In the 19th century, federal courts repeatedly rejected the arguments made by feminists that marriage was the equivalent of slavery.

    3.) Social scientists never studied “domestic violence” until the 1970s.

    4.) The spread of birth control information through the mail was banned under the Comstock laws.

    5.) Abortion was banned.

    6.) Interracial marriage was banned.

    7.) Sodomy was banned.

    8.) Mandatory vaccinations were upheld by the courts.

    9.) Eugenic sterilization laws were passed to curtail the spread of morons and imbeciles in the 1920s.

    Like I said, until the mid-twentieth century, social stability was considered a winning argument over individual rights. There were strong boundaries that contained the destructive potential of liberty and equality to wreck havoc on institutions like marriage and the family which were considered too vital to the state to tamper with.

  3. HW are you asserting that there was never any such epidemic as domestic violence? This famous white male author disagrees with the notion that we don’t have a rape culture, or that it’s strictly black male on white female:

    I guess there was no Vietnam War, either, when you consider that roughly the same number of women died at the hands of their male partners as american soldiers in Vietnam during the war. And this comes from someone who doesn’t think domestic violence really matters much anymore, since women started enjoying economic and political freedom in the public arena at least a decade ago. If *most* women wanted to get away, they could. Most women who remain in abusive relationships are just too weak emotionally to live alone. That’s not my problem as a citizen. The spotlight on a practically nonexistent problem is a way to distract attention from the real one plaguing women – white women face near constant threats from black and of color males (and people) in the public arena, and domestic one.

  4. Does anyone want to explain what the fuck is happening here:

    A seemingly hispanic and/or asian convicted sex offender has the nerve to SUE the state after seducing two white female prison guards, who are then prosecuted as some kind of sex offenders and sent to jail, one for four years.


    White women are getting raped by EVERYONE. Robbinson above tried to use the insanity defense, since one prison psychologist noted she’d become unhinged or whatever regarding the prisoner, yet she lost.


  5. Remember that only a state away, in Washington, Jordan Monasmith was ‘diagnosed’ with a ‘mental illness’ for having been almost strangled to death by a black male.

    Until white men in any pro-white movement declare an absolute moratorium on violence, physical or psychological, against white women in their own country by any male they should expect absolute failure. Black men are ‘mentally ill’ and ‘need help’ when they plot to rape and torture white women yet a white woman who succumbs to the manipulations of a colored pervert are evil tyrants. Both of the Oregon prison guards are blonde, interestingly.

    The ‘mental illness’ racket is all about laundering black criminals and pathologizing and further punishing white women for having been victimized by them. The psych system can decide on pure whim, without any transparency or legal process, the fates of both groups.

  6. I’m saying that even social scientists didn’t study “domestic violence” until the 1970s. The internal affairs of the household were considered off limits until the mid-twentieth century.

    Marriage and social stability were considered such vital public goods that equal rights arguments were dismissed until around that time. Gradually, the claims of liberty and equality were allowed to invade the family, and when that happened they destroyed it.

  7. There is no such thing as a ‘social scientist.’ Anything ‘social’ is never an actual ‘science.’

    How is a man beating his wife (or killing her), or sexually abusing her children, ever considered some ‘public good?’

  8. Society does an awful lot to protect women, and that isn’t a bad thing, but this is self defeating if it becomes something that destroys societal trust. There are unintended consequences, and there are perverse incentives.

  9. “Marxists don’t give a shit about individual rights and you’re about to find this out in spades.”

    I’d say we’ve been finding it out in spades for half a century, at least; but still, you’re right, TJ. Here’s a May 1 story that’s just been linked in a piece at National Review Online:

    An English academic considers what “we [want] to allow parents to do for their children, and what … we [don’t] need to allow parents to do for their children, if allowing that would create unfairnesses for other people’s children, very, very roughly.” He seems to think private schools should be done away with but that there’s no need to prohibit parents from reading their children bedtime stories.


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