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Vol. II 









• :.i *.' 





COPVmCHTt 1918, BY 



Introduction 9 

I Marriage AND Fecundity- IN" THi- NEW Nation . ii 

The Unsettling of old Foundations ... 27 

The Emancipation of Childhood . 51 

The Social Subordination OF Woman . . . 79 

The Emergence of Woman ■ 103 

The Family and the Home ..... 131 

Sex Morals in the Opening Continent 14.9 

VIII The Struggle for the West . . ibi 

IX The new Industrial Order 171 

The Reign of Self-indulgence .... 201 
Negro Se.x and Family Relations in tiii: .Anti;- 

BELLUM South 243 

Racial Association in the old South . 281 

XIII The White Family in th.e old South . 311 

XIV Effects of the Civil War ..... 357 
Bibliography 377 







Page 177, line 8: Insert "favorinR manufactures a» a re- 
lief to poor whites" after the word Charleston. 

Page 202, footnote 100: Sherrill instead of Sherill. 

Page 209, footnote 105: Thorndike instead of Thorndyke. 

Page 214, line 23: Insert quotation marks before "sacri- 

Page 220, lines 10-12: Sidons, pseuilonym of Sealsfield. 


The evolution of the American family during; the 
period that accomplished the nationalization of the 
federal union manifests the operation of several large 
groups of formative factors that were present at least in 
rudimentary form in the colonial period. The chief 
of these was the influence of pioneering and the fron- 
tier, the development of urban industrialism, the rise 
of city luxury marked by conspicuous consumption, 
and the culmination of the chattel slave system. All of 
these agencies, it will be observed, are essentially eco- 
nomic and their outstanding importance supports the 
large lines of the economic interpretation. The first 
was a phenomenon of the westward-moving forefront 
of settlement- the most distinctively American factor 
in our history. The long persistence of a genuine fron- 
tier continually brought a considerable part of the pop- 
ulation under the direct influence of pioneer life and 
has profoundly affected conditions even in the older 
sections of the country. Notions and usages brought 
from the various European backgrounds were ine.x- 
orably modified by contact with the rough, large, free 
life of the New World. To a considerable degree the 
frontier acted equally on the North and South, but the 
fullness of its influence was reserved for the free section 
where there was no servile class to constitute a buffer 
to its hardships and to modify its liberalizing power. 
The rise of industrialism, urbanism. aiul high life were 
in the main peculiar to the North, l^he slave system, 

lO 1 hf .1 nit t turn iHtittly 

on the other hand, had by the end of colonial days sur- 
rendered its potency in northern life. In the period 
covered by this volume its direct influence is confined 
to the South, where its climax and decadence tinned 
with gruesome yet romantic color tlie family institu- 
tions of a nation within a nation. 

It is to be remembered that in the epoch covered by 
this volume North ami South were ^rowin^ apart - 
losing the liigh degree of similarity that marked the 
two sections in the early days of colonization. It is 
possible, nevertheless, to generalize largely as to many 
elements in the family institution of the whole union - 
elements due to the fundamental sameness of origin and 
to the relative identity of many environmental influ- 
ences peculiar to the Xew World. The South even had 
a touch of the Industrial Revolution that captured the 
North; and the North developed a new and more effec- 
tive slavery of its ou n wjiich manifested many of the 
degenerative influences that marred the social system 
of the South. It is continuallv apparent in the follow- 
ing pages what riiatter is relevant to the nation as a 
whole and what is peculiar to East or West, North or 


Conditions in the new American nation favored mar- *• 
riage, early marriage and high fecundity, and so long 
as pioneer conditions persisted mating and breeding 
went on apace. Independence signified no fundamen- 
tal revolution in the currents of social life, and colonial 
traditions passed on unbroken into the folkways of the 
republic; for until the Civil War the population was 
distinctlv rural, and urban sophistication had acquired 
no dominant influence over the thoughts, standards, and 
habits of the major part of the inhabitants of the United 
States. The pioneer environment and the pioneer spirit 
were still in their prime and tinged the whole people 
by reason of the currents of movement between East 
and West. 

Inasmuch as the pioneer settler's time was divided 
mostly between home building and home protection, 
the psychology of domesticity was supreme; the family 
was the one substantial social institution in a nation 
that had discardeti hierarchical religion and that had 
reduced government to the minimum, while business 
corporations had not yet attained notable development. 
On the frontier at least was the case thus. The field 
was rather bare for the unmarried man or woman; 
neither sex could get along comfortably, and woman 
could scarcely get along at all, without a partner. Wil- 
derness rigors arid lack of suitable employment in the 
settled regicms impelled woman to marrv, irrespective 

12 7//f' .1 tnrrti (in liitnilx 

of love, as alternative to a rather impersonal and per- 
haps menial existence in the liDriic n\ parent or other 
relative; while on the other hand, even in the cities, 
facilities for comfortahle hachelorhood were not great 
in the early days, and in the wiKierness a wife was val- 
uahle tor her lahor. her coFiipanionship, and as the pre- 
sunipiive niother ot nuriKious sturily workers. 

Nor was there anything to discourage early marriage 
so long as the abundance ami cheapness of land, to- 
gether with the simplicity and easy procurability of 
ei]uipment for farming or trade, offered an outlook and 
a leverage for labor antl maintained thereby a reason- 
ably high standard of well-being even in the older 
states. Simplicity of life, abundance of the prime ne- 
cessities, certainty of subsistence, and the shortage of 
population and labor promoted marriage and procrea- 
tion. Such facts appear in numerous writings of the 
colonial and nationalizing periods. 

Benjamin I'Vanklin before the Revolution drew an 
impressive contrast between the old settled countries 
where all berths were full and the new world where the 
abuntlarue anil cheapness of land aiui the relative ease 
of subsistence banished forebodings and led to readi- 
ness for early marriage; so that "marriages in America 
are more general, and more generally early than in 
Europe. And if it is reckoned there, that there is hut 
one marriage per annum among one hundred persons, 
perhaps we may here reckon two." At the time of In- 
dependence marriage was the regular thing; sports and 
recreations turned largely on the mimic choice of a 
partner; tlie unmatcd plaver was the butt of ridicule. 
Thus did merrymaking reflect the status of "the min- 
cing spinster or the crusty old bachelor." 

As cnrlv as 1776 people were marrying in Kentucky. 

Marriage an J Fecundity 1 3 

The newcomers had to settle in forts and contact was 
sufficiently close for courtship. Many of the rtrst 
Westerners married at fifteen or sixteen. In pioneer 
Kentucky, "a marriage that sometimes united a boy of 
sixteen to a girl of fourteen was an occasion of merri- 
ment and brought out the whole fort." Schoepf, who 
travelled in the Confederation, notes that people "gen- 
erally marry with less forethought and earlier" than in 
more artificial civilizations. He was informed, for 
instance, by a gentleman of Petersburg "that he would 
be sending his son to Edinburgh to make a doctor of 
him, since he now doubted whether he would ever 
marry and take a plantation, his age being already 
twenty-one years." 

Colonial conditions persisted far into the national 
period so that in writings of the early nineteenth cen- 
tury we find frequent reference to the facility and prev- 
alence of marriage in the United States as compared 
with Europe. Instances are recorded of the marriage 
of boys of fifteen and of girls in the early teens or 
younger. Bernard, an English comedian who was in 
America at the beginning of the century, observed that 
Virginia ladies bloomed early. "A lady here was in 
the habit of marrying nearly ten years earlier than a 
European, so that at twenty, if she had proved a fruit- 
ful olive, her husband's table was surrounded with tall 
shoots sufficient to supply him with shade for the re- 
mainder of his days." 

According to report, the girls of North Carolina 
married so early that grandmothers of twenty-seven 
years of age were frequently found.' Pearly marriages 
were usual in all the states. I^ven girls of the "higher" 
classes often married at tiiirtecn. Men were iFi excess; 

' Hunt, liif in .1 mrrira one /lunJrrJ Yrars tii^o, 77. 

14 The American Family 

so there were few spinsters; widows remarried if young; 
and widowers sought new mates anyway. Hodgson 
wrote from Charleston in 1820 that patrician damsels 
"are freijucntiv married at sixteen or eighteen 
ami generally uruier twenty." In Kentucky early mar- 
riage was common; "men at eighteen or twenty; girls 
at fourteen or sixteen." One writer of about 1820 says: 
•'The American youth of both sexes arc, for the most 
part, married ere they are two an(i twenty; and in- 
deed it is usual to see a girl of eighteen a wife and 
mother. No care is taken to prevent contracting 

early engagements." Another a little later writes: 
"Perhaps a great majority of the females marry before 
the age of twenty, and it is not an uncommon thing to 
see them mothers at sixteen, seventeen, or eighteen." 

Nothing was more natural than such promptitude 
among pioneers where one neeilcd merely to go to the 
other side of the spring, put up a cabin and start a clear- 
ing. A (jerman- American writing in 1826 said that 
in the country as soon as a young fellow had gathered a 
few dollars, seldom over one hundred, he thought of 
marriage. The wedding gift to a son consisted of a 
horse, farm implements, and seed; a girl received a 
bed, a cow, kitchen utensils, and maybe a clothes chest, 
tables, and chairs. The young man procured a hun- 
dred acres of forest; relatives put up a house and stable; 
and in r\vo or three years he was tolerably well-fixed, 
for the pair were used to work. A visitor of 1831 
speaking of the vicinity of Springfield, Ohio, said: 
Any man who is able and willing to work for his livelihood, 
can always, in rwo or three years, make himself master of a 
farm, in this or any other part of the Union. The average 
value of uncleared land is a hundred dollars for eighty acres. 
A single man can everywhere earn at least twelve dollars a 
month. Provisions are exceedingly cheap: a sheep or a deer 

Marriage an J Fecundity 1 5 

can be purchased for a dollar, wheat may be about two shil- 
lings the bushel. 

On toward the middle of the century the phenom- 
enon of easy marriage continued to attract attention. 
There was still an abundance of unoccupied soil, ample 
elbow room for the energetic and efficient man, and 
fruitful opportunity for judicious investment. In spite 
of the clever devices of grasping exploitation it still re- 
mained true that for the average spirited and intelli- 
gent young man opportunities for maintaining a family 
in comfort were far more abundant than in older coun- 
tries. A bachelor's life did not hold out the charms 
that it did in Europe; a wife was a light burden if not 
a source of income and a conserver of values. For 
some years following 1850 the federal land law for 
Oregon was a great attraction to immigrants, for it en- 
abled a man and wife to obtain a section of land. A 
single man was entitled to but half a section. The situ- 
ation encouraged early marriages. Girls were in great 
demand. It was not uncommon to see brides of four- 
teen. Some persons tell of having found married 
women in the woods of the Columbia playing with 
their dolls. ^ Additional citations corroborative of the 
tendency to early marriage and indicative of the social 
etTects of the situation might be given. 

Moreover pioneers found large families desirable: 
vast empty spaces kintlled ambitions for dominion; the 
labor of growing children was valuable; anti a suf- 
ficiency of stalwart sons increased security against the 
Indian. The value of children for defense and labor 
is mentioned by numerous writers. Amitl the boisterous 
cheer of a frontier wedding one might hear the toast: 
"Health to the groom, and here's to the bride, thump- 
ing luck, and big children." Says Doddridge: " fhis 

* Lyman. The Columbia River, 177. 

i6 The American Family 

was considered as an expression of a very proper and 
friendly wish; for bi^ children, especially sons, were of 
great impt)riance as we were few in number ami en- 
j^aj^ed in perpetual hostility with the Indians." 

The birth-rate of pioneers far outstripped the iii^h 
death-rate; natural selection drew fecund women from 
the Kast and weeded out weaklings. In 1751 Ben- 
jamin I-Vanklin said that "if in Kurope they have but 
four births to a marriage we may here reckon 

eight." About ly^'x^ it was estimated that the common 
rate of increase in .Anierica "when unmolested bv en- 
emies is: doubling the population every twenty-hvc 
years, by births, exclusive of immigration." The long- 
sutTering pioneer mothers did not rebel against the 
trageily of incessant child-bearing; the continent called 
urgently to them, it ofTereii no sterile "careers;" no age 
of surplus had yet breil delicacy and worhlly wisdom; 
maternity was their portion and they bravely played 
their part. Pioneer women were grandmothers at 
forty; mother ami daughter often had infants at the 
same time. I'or the Scotch- 1 rish, as for the Puritan, 
the scripture conspired with environment; families of 
txvelve or more are not inf re(]uently encountered in the 
earlier rec(jrds. Irving refers to the New England 
pioneer who buries himself in the wilderness and is 
soon surrounded by "some half a score of flaxen-haired 
urchins, who by their size seem to have sprung up all 
at once like a crop of toadstools." 

Adam Smith's reference to American fecundity is 

Tho*f who live to old a^f. it is said, frrqucntly scr thrrc from 
fifty to a hundred, and M)mctim«s many more drsccndants from 
their own body. Labor w there so well rewarded that a nu- 
merous family of children, instead of being a burden, is a 
•ource of opulence and prosperity to the parents. The labor 

Marriage and Fecundity 17 

of each child before it can leave their house, is computed to be 
worth a hundred pounds clear gain to them. A young widow 
with four or five young children, who, among the middling or 
inferior ranks of people in Europe would have so little chance 
for a second husband, is there frequently counted as a sort of 
fortune. The value of children is the greatest of all encour- 
agement to marriage. We cannot, therefore, wonder that the 
people in North America should generally marry very young. 
Notwithstanding the great increase occa^sioned by such early 
marriages, there is a continual complaint of the scarcity of 
hands in North America. 

In 1784 Franklin, writing advice as to migration 
from Europe, calls attention to the rapid increase of 
inhabitants "by natural generation," which multiplica- 
tion he attributed to salubrity of climate, abundance of 
good provisions, and the facility of early marriage. 
He said that persons of moderate means 

Who having a number of children to provide for, are desirous 
of bringing them up to industry, and to secure estates for their 
posterity, have opportunities of doing it in America, which 
Europe does not afford. Small capitals laid out in lands, which 
daily become more valuable by the increase of people, afford a 
solid prospect of ample fortunes thereafter for those chil- 
dren. . . It is easy for poor families to get their children 
instructed ; for the artizans are so desirous of apprentices, that 
many of them will even give money to the parents, to have 
boys from ten to fifteen years of age bound apprentices to them, 
till the age of twenty-one ; and many poor parents have, by that 
means, on their arrival in the country, raised money enough to 
buy land sufficient to establish themselves, and to subsist the 
rest of their families by agriculture. 

Like considerations appealed of course to native 
Americans. Inilay writing from Kentucky spoke of 
"the e.xtraordinary fecundity it is observed everywhere 
prevails. . . Plenty ... is essential to occa- 
sion that fecundity which distinguishes the rapid popu- 
lation of most infant countries after they have over- 
come the first difficulties of establishing a settlement." 

iS The Amtrican Family 

Michaux said of Kciiiiuky at the bc^innin^ of tlic new 
century that few houses had less than four or five chil- 
dren. At that time "everything in the I'liited States 
favors the progress of population above all, 

the aburuiancc of the means of subsistence." 

In the Literary Ma](azitii- and ^Inuruan Rc^tsttr of 
1803- 1804, an article on the proj^ress of population in 
the Uniteil States exhibited the following facts: i. 
States and parts of states containing new land and now 
settlinj^ contain the greatest percentage of children; for 
migration to new lands is chielly by young and middle- 
aged and such hardy people are prolific. 2. The e.\- 
cess of children in Kentucky and Tennessee shows mild- 
ness and salubrity of climate favorable to the rearing of 
children. 3. .Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode 
Island, owing to emigration, show the greatest per- 
centage of people over forty-five, and the smallest per- 
centage of children under ten. 4. More children un- 
der ten occur and fewer persons above forty- Hve as we 
go southwanl. 1 he difference is chiefly in the flat 
country. [At this point one is moved to interrogate the 

In Ramsay's Sktt( h hf South diifjlind there is the 
statement tliat 

In many instances, from seven to ten. arul in a few, from ten to 
fifteen children have been raised to maturity in South Carolina 
from a sinjjlc pair. There are now eiyht familii's in Hroad 
Street between the statr-housc and the western extremity of that 
•trret. in which sixty-nine children have been born and of these 
■ixty-five are alive. In that part of Meeting Street . . . 
between Tradd . and Ashley River, from six mar- 

rtaK^ (which with the exception of one, have taken place 
>ince . . . 1782) forty-two children have been born, all 
of which, except three are now alive, and the eldest . . . 
is little more than fourteen. Within the same limits, seven 
,.,u^^ ,,.,,^'0 K..^ ^^^y.j^^.Q children living, the youngest of 

Marriage and Fecundity 1 9 

whom is twelve years old, and forty-seven are jjrown to ma- 
turity. Greater instances of fecundity frequently occur in our 
middle and upper country, chiefly amon^j those who inhabit 
poor land, at a distance from the rivers. There is a couple in 
Orangeburgh district, near the road that leads to Columbia 
from Orant^eburgh, who lately had fifteen children alive out 
of sixteen, and a fair prospect of more. Another couple live 
in Darlington county, fifteen miles from Lynch's creek, who 
lately had thirteen children and fifty-one grandchildren all 
alive; and of their thirteen children, twelve were married at 
the same time. 

In the History of South Carolina Ramsay stated that 
one woman of Greenville district had had thirty-four 
children of whom but one pair was twins. 

From sixteen to twenty-two have been brought alive into the 
world by individual mothers in the low country; but these in- 
stances are rare. . . From six to nine children are often 
raised in the western districts. Twelve is the largest number 
of children now living from one pair in Charleston, and only 
two such can be recollected ; but there are several who have 
from eight to eleven alive; and many from four to seven. 
Some women have been mothers at fifteen, and a few grand- 
mothers at thirty. The number of children born is great; but 
the deaths in infancy are also great, tho considerably less than 
was usual forty years ago. 

Melish, who traveled in the United States between 
1806 and 181 1, wrote : 

The Georgian ladles appear to be very fond of children, and, 
in the country at least, they seem to be sufficiently prolific; for 
we hardly ever passed a house without seeing a cluster of young 
ones; and often a child at the breast of a mother, whom, judg- 
ing from external appearance, I would have reckoned past 

Beaujour in a [F'rench] Ski'tcli of the United States 
in the first decade of the century noted that births were 
''more multiplied" than in Kuropc, and deaths rela- 
tively less frcqucfit. 

It is calculated that [the birth rate is one to every twenty of 

The American Family 

cbe population] and that the proportion of deaths is only one 
in fort)'. . . No human consideration . operates as 

a hindrancr to reprmluction, and the inhabitants swarm on the 
rich land in the same manner as do the insects. 

Warden in 1819 gave the same birth-rate as Bcaujour 
recorded, and set over against it an estimate for Europe 
of one birth to twcntv-scven of the population. 

Major Jonathan Hunter, writing on large families 
in a certain \'irginia county, said: 

In i8io I pavseii by .Mr. Watters and was shown five houses 
all in sijiht and farms adjoininj^ with the old people livinj;, and 
each with ten children making sixty f>rrsons in five families, 
and Major Morris' (living only rwo or three miles from Wat- 
ters) wife died leaving nine children. Morris married a 
widow Harrison with nine children and they had a son David- 
ton ... so there were twenty-one in the family. If you 
come across a farm as prolific in Cereals as that neiRhborhood 
was in children I would advise you to buy it. 

Kingdom in 1820 advised mechanics, etc., with fam- 
ilies or wishing families to come to America. In 1822 
there was said to be "a greater proportion of children 
in the I'nited States, under si.xteen, to the general 
amount of the population than in any other country, 
on account of early marriages." Madison, writing 
after the census of 1820, stated: 

It is worth remarking that New England, which has sent out 
»uch a continued swarm to other parts of the union for a num- 
ber of years, has continued at the same time ... to in- 
crcx^e in population, altho it is well known that it has received 
but aimparatively few emifn'ants from any quarter. 

The fecundity of the Kentucky stock was subjected to a 
similar lest. Singleton in his Letters from the South 
and ff est (published in 1824) remarked: 

The Kentuckyans in c«'nTaI have numerous families, the fruit- 
fulness of the climate extending even to the wives . . 
brides who were as Rachels in the Adantic states, having mi- 

Marriage and Fecundity 21 

grated to the west, become as Leahs; and , . . they 
esteem it no unusual compliment to receive even the double 
blessing of Rebeccas. 

It seems that for two or three generations the Kentucki- 
ans scarcely intermarried with the people from other 
states but into other families in the state, "perhaps even 
of different nationality tho always Kentuckyans. The 
result was that these happy, brave, strong, healthy peo- 
ple founded large families of children." In old Ken- 
tucky most families were large. It was not unusual to 
have twelve to sixteen children. From 1820 or there- 
abouts to i860 and later there was great emigration 
from Kentucky to other Mississippi Valley states. It 
has been estimated that Kentucky's contribution to the 
white population of the other states amounted in i860 
to at least one million. If the figure is correct, the 
fecundity of the Kentucky population in its first eighty 
years must have been unsurpassed. Shaler suggests 
several reasons: the original settlers were vigorous; 
they came of their own initiative unforced by need of 
subsistence; difficulty and danger deterred the weak. 
The soil was rich; there was plenty of unoccupied land 
for the rising generation; for a long time, children 
were profitable to the agriculturist, and there was patri- 
archal pride in an abundant progeny. "The syphilitic 
poison does not seem to have been common." 

Tennessee enacted a law in 1829 authorizing any 
man whose wife had three or more children atone birth 
to take up two hundred acres of state lands for each of 
the children. Buckingham noted in 1842 that in the 
log huts of the Georgia mountains "the number of their 
children appeared to be excessive, ten or twelve in each 
hut at least." One woman not over thirty-five had 
thirteen children. In 1839 Stephen Thomas, aged 

22 Tht Anifrican Family 

cighiy-cighl, "the last of the Huguenots," died in 
South Carolina. His descendants consisted of between 
sixty and seventy persons, of whom three were his chil- 
dren and four his ^reat-^raiulchihlren. A North Caro- 
lina man borti liiirin^ the period under study in this 
volume had twenty-seven brothers and sisters. Num- 
bers of South C\irolinians hail families of from nine to 
seventeen children. John R. Commons says, "From 
earliest colonial times until the census of 1840 the peo- 
ple of the I'nited Slates multiplied more rapitily than 
the people of any other modern nation, not excepting 
the prolific French-Canadians." 

A writer in the Di ni^jcrnlic Rfvii'w of 1844 said: 
Hic ptKir man in the new country has one aid not dreamed 
of in the older ."iettlements - his children. Thi-se are here 
a subject of dread to those wlm depend on the day's lahor for 
the day's food, and not always as welcome as they should he to 
wmr people who have plenty to eat. Here "the more the mer- 
rier" and the better off, too. For si.x months of the year hats 
and *hoe* arc out of fashion, and drapery of an almost chissical 
simplicity is quite sufficient for the younger children. (At 
seven or ei^ht they bejiin to be useful. They become more and 
more u«rful until they reach their teens], when he must be a pom 
block indeed who does not pay back into the common treasury 
more than he takes from it. . . ( )ur poor man counts each 
one of hi» half -do/en or half score a blessing: . stout 

band\ and active hrad> are the very thing's we need. 

A family was an emumbrance to an immigrant in 
that it delayed his getting; settled. Hut, said a traveller 
of 1849, "to the emigrant of small means and a large 
family. I would say let him not be discouraged. If his 
family arc healthy, sober, thrifty, and industrious, they 
will be a fortune to him. and they make him indepen- 
dent, being a little, well-ordered community within 
themselves." Naumann in his NonJnmcrikn noted: 
"Tl^'- A "•""-;< riM r-c^ards a numerous familv as a treas- 

Marriage and Fecundity 23 

ure, but often only for tlie reason that his children by 
their work until their majority arc useful to him." A 
writer in 1852 tells us that 

Each new babe is a new source of dt'iij^ht; and should the num- 
ber surpass that of a common family, you cannot but smile in 
pleasant emotion with the father, who u ill tell you that he has 
the round dozen, or he can produce you "any quantit)" of little 

Burn in his Three years avion<^ the JVorking-classcs in 
the United States during the [C'/t;7] Jf'ar said: "Set- 
tlers with families of children able to work, as a gen- 
eral thing, will find no trouble in obtaining employment 
for them." 

Conditions facilitated adoption. "One blessed cus- 
tom they have in America," wrote an English visitor in 
1848, "resulting from the abundance which they enjoy; 
a man dies, his widow^ and children are objects of pe- 
culiar care to the surviving branches of his family; the 
mother dies- her orphans find a home among her 
friends and relatives." Another visitor in a work pub- 
lished in 1852 said: 

Observing how easily and frankly children are adopted in the 
United States, how pleasantly the scheme goes on, and how 
little of the wormwood of domestic jealousies, or tlio fretting 
prickle of neij^hbors' criticisms seem to interfere with it, one is 
led to enquire why the benevolent practice is so common 
there. . . The facility with which enough, and more than 
enough, is found to satisfy every hungry mouth on a farm, 
gives wonderful scope to the benevolent sentiment. [There is 
plenty of room in America. A fresh hand growing up is valu- 
able to the sons of labor] who are quite as ready to adopt a 
child as the wealthy. [Absence of primogeniture favors adop- 
tion. The novelty of the plan of adoption] led me to enquire 
very carefully as to its results, and the statement was, that if 
one in a hundred tired or failed to do by the adopted as they 
would have done by their own, it was but one in the hundred. 

Opinion as to the merits of earlv marriage varied. 

24 The American Family 

All early writer remarked: "It is curious to see how 
soon these laui;liiii^ maidens are metamorphosed into 
fond wives and attentive mothers; and these ^iddy 
youths into inilustrious citizens and thinking; poli- 
ticians." Another considered early marriage in some 
cases desirable as a spur to enterprise. Another said: 
"The facility of gettini^ on in the world, and marrying 
young, is, upon the whole, most favorable to the morals 
of the community, alih(j it sometimes leads to uncon- 
genial and unhappy unions." Another: "Karly mar- 
riages offer to parents the great advantage of bringing 
up their children under the parental eye. . . There 
are certainly inconsiderate marriages, which ought to 
be disapproved, but still in this kind of lottery they 
cheat the less." 'J'hese are the views of foreigners. A 
writer in the Lady's Book of 1836 expressed the opin- 
ion that as a rule early marriages are advisable. 

Others noted ill effects. Mackenzie held that: "The 
youth of twenty, and the female of fourteen are ill- 
fitted for the cares, anxieties, and education of a fam- 
ily." Miss Martineau said that in the South and 
West, "owing to the disproportion of numbers, every 
woman is married before she well knows how serious 
a matter human life is." Cooper said: "It is far 
more common to find" Afiierican women "mothers of 
eight or of ten children, at hfty, than mothers of two 
or three. These early marriages . have 

an obvious tendency to impair the powers of the female 
and to produce a premature decay." A visitor noted 
that American womanhood decays early. By thirty 
"nothing remains but the traditions of former con- 
quests, and anticipation of the period when her reign 
of triumph will be vicariously restored in the person 
of her daughter." Another considered the early fad- 

Marriage and Fecundity 25 

ing of woman's beauty attributable "to the great assi- 
duity with which American ladies discharge their du- 
ties as mothers. No sooner are they married than they 
begin to lead a life of comparative seclusion, and once 
mothers they are actually buried to the world." Bunn, 
a mid-century author, thought women should "not mar- 
ry at so tender an age, nor have half-a-dozen ciiildrcn 
before they ought to have one." It is only fair to say 
that part of the decay was doubtless due to the inactiv- 
ity and indulgence of incipient luxury. But degen- 
eracy could not have gone very far in the ante-bellum 
period. F. A. Walker said: "There is not the shadow 
of a statistical reason for attributing to the native 
American population prior to the war of secession a 
deficiency in reproductive vigor compared with any 
people that ever lived." 


The same economic basis as stimulated marriage ami 
procreation in the new nation operated in tiie direction 
of general liberalization and even radicalism. The 
abundance of natural res(jurces hampered the designs 
of such as aspired to establish the prerogatives of aris- 
tocracy by means of narrowed holdings of wealth; it 
reduced the importance of vested riches, and created a 
social optimism tliat measured men by their future 
possibilities rather than by the tokens of the past. Thus 
conditions eventuated in lessened regard to properly 
considerations and social gradations in the making of 
matches and opened the held for unhampered cross- 
ing of strains, a tendency which was augmented by the 
free circulation of population untrammeled by the 
meager systems of exhausted countries. The frontier 
created also the economic basis for egalitarianism inas- 
much as the a.xe and the ritle "made all men equally 
tall;" hence there arose an individualistic democracy 
akin to anarchy- a state of affairs quite in harmony, 
moreover, with the paucity of public enterprises in a 
region where the government even left the settlers 
largely to their own devices against the Indians. In 
so far as grasping Easterners retarded government pa- 
ternalism in the West lest population should be drawn 
thither and wages raised in the old states, thev were 
really furthering; that (ierce demncnuv that was to 
mean so much in the wav of genera! iiisurgencv and 

28 77/(' . I niirit (in /■<irfiil\ 

social transtOrniatinti. The whole weight of frontier 
freedom conspircil with the modernist individualism 
imported from Kurope to work that family disintegra- 
tion whose later phenomena are so conspicuous today. 
The relative absence of mercenary marriage in 
America was noted by various authors. In St. John's 
Juifr'uati Lftti-rs it is rcportctl of Nantucket: 

Kvcry man takes a wife as soon as he chuses ... no por- 
tion is required; none is expected; no marriage articles arc 
drawn up amonK us, by skillful lawyers, to puzzle and lead 
posterity to the bar, or to satisfy the pride of the parties . . 
as the wife's fortune consists principally in her future economy, 
modesty, and skillful manajjement ; so the husband's is founded 
on his abilities to labor, on his health, and the knowledge of 
some trade and business. 

Mazzei reported in 1788 that it is not "rare for a girl 
to refuse a man whose face and fortune are his only 
recommendations." The utter absence of the Euro- 
pean custom of parents' providing their daughters with 
marriage portions excited many comments among our 
French guests. 

Lambert in his Trtiri-ls of 1806- 1808 tells that: 

Several young ladies in New ^'ork have fortunes of a hundred 
or a hundred and fifty thousand dollars, and often bestow their 
hand upon a favorite youth who has everything to recommend 
him but money. . I understand that unhappy marriages 

are by no means frequent ; and that parents are not apt to force 
the inclinations of fh<-ir children from avaricious motives. 

Several writers of the next decade referred to the ab- 
sence of monetary considerations in the typical Amer- 
ican marriage. One remarked on the non-existence of 
family wealth, another on the rarity of dowries. A 
German traveller noted: "It is generally hard here 
for widows to get another husband, and likewise for 
girls of advanced years, for Americans mar- 

ry more from natural inclination than do Europeans." 

The Unsettling of Old Foundations 29 

For the period between 1825 ami iSOo nunicrous 
writers might be cited in evidence of the non-commer- 
cial character of American marriage. Sidons says 
that "parents seek less to secure a rich match than a 
steady man for their child." Cooper in 1H2H re- 
marked : 

A young woman of the middling classes . . . seldom gives 
much of her thoughts towards the accumulation of a little 
dowry; for the question of what a wife will bring to the com- 
mon stock is agitated much less frequently here than in countries 
more sophisticated. My companion assures me it is almost un- 
precedented for a lover to venture on any inquiries concerning 
the fortune of his fair one, even in any class. . , From all 
that I can learn, nothing is more common, however, than for 
young men of great expectations to connect themselves with fe- 
males, commonly of their own condition in life, who are penni- 
less; or, on the other hand, for ladies to give their persons with 
one or two hundred thousand dollars, to men who have nothing 
better to recommend them than education and morals. 

Golovin in Stars and Stripes wrote: 

It is quite coinmon among parents to give their daughters only 
their parental blessing for dowry, and to make them wait till 
after death for the inheritance. . . P'ortune-hunters arc de- 
spised here, and men take a wife with the same carelessness as 
they would take a glass of brandy, especially when "bound 

Of course indifference to economic attractions in 
matrimony was more common in rural and especially 
in pioneer regions than among "the richer portion of 
the inhabitants of cities." There was certainly a ten- 
dency in the direction of sordid unions among the class 
that rose with coniiiuTcialization anil the waning of 
wilderness influences as well as among the beneficiaries 
of the slave svstem. These phenomena will receive 
treatment in a later chapter. 

With neglect of pecuniary considerations went care- 
lessness as to social rank. De T^^icqueville commented 

30 TJte American Faviily 

on tlic tact lha( democratic ciiualiiy by obliterating so- 
cial barriers opened tbe way to marriage between al- 
most any man and almost any woman and tbereby tend- 
ed to lessen irregular se\ relations such as occurred in 
aristocratic countries where passion ilrcw together men 
and women whose permanent union would have been 
unthinkable. To the pioneer, health ami courage were 
sutlicient commenilations of a prospective son-in-law 
and staniiards scarcely less simple were of wide preva- 
lence, riiere were certain limits, however, to easv tol- 
erance, as for instance a case reported bv an Knglish 
traveller who found at I^ufTalo a woman of Knglish 
birth, well-informed, good-looking, married to a negro, 
seemingly owing to his fortune. 1 ho the man was not 
an undesirable citi/en, the wife was despised bv the 
wives of white citizens and both were shunned. White 
eti(]uette would not let him attend her at their theater 
box; they never ventured out together. If one diii go 
our, it was usually after dark. On one occasion the 
man was mobbed ami nearly lost his life." Cariier, 
whose work on Marrid^i- in the United States appeared 
on the eve of the Civil War, was struck by the elope- 
ment of girls of good family with men of low station; 
such unions were stigmatized bv public opinion. 

In so far as indifference to economic and social rank 
prevaileii, marriage and the preliminaries to it were 
naturally simplihed. Some of the I-'rench visitors of 
the end of the eighteenth century were much impressed 
with the .American freedom of courtship. .Mazzei 
said: " I he voung girls and men see each other every 
hour of the liay, and that too without masks; they (\n 
not marry unless both are pleased, and don't postpone 
until too late the discovery that they have been de- 

* Bcnwcll. Engliihman's Travrls in Amrrica, 56-58. 

The Unsettling of Old Foundations 31 

ceived. 7 he object of both sexes is \.o learn each oth- 
er's character." Bayard reported: 

The time which passes between the proposal and the marriaj^ 
is K'vc" over to mutual observation. The \(\r\s insist upon an 
absolute independence which they devote to testing the char- 
acter of their future husband. . . They yield to every 
fancy . . . and do evcrythinj^ they can to escape the re- 
proach later on of having concealed their imperfections. It is 
a contest of frankness, inspirni h\ the dt'sirc for comnicm hap- 

Especially numerous were the remarks made on the 
fact that young women did not allow themselves to be 
hampered before marriai^e by the jealousy of their 
men. Additional light will be thrown in a subsequent 
chapter on the sovereignty assumed by woman. 

James Franklin in his Pliilosopfiiial and Political 
History of the Thirteen United States of America, said 
of Pennsylvania and Delaware: 

The matrimonial state is so much the more happy, and con- 
sequently the more reverenced, as the freedom and sanctity of 
marriage depends entirely on the will of the parties. They 
choose the lawyer and the priest, rather as witnesses than as 
means of cementing their engagements. When they meet with 
opposition from their relations, the two lovers go off on horse- 
back together. The man rides behind his mistress, and in this 
situation present themselves before the magistrate, where the 
girl declares she has run away with her sweetheart, and that 
they are come to be married. Such a solemn avowal cannot be 
rejected, nor has any person a right to give them any molesta- 
tion. In all other cases the parental authority is very exten- 

Sidons in Die ^ereinigten Staaten von Xordavierika 
{1826) related that even before a girl's majority the 
parents "sehiom make objections ... to her 
choice, provi(ied the suitor has the means to support 
their child ; and even about that the chihlren usually arc 
more careful than the parents. If the lover is an en- 


32 The American Family 

tire stranger, investigation is more exact." Another 
writer of the same period says : "Taste and inclination, 
rather guided than controlled by the prudence of older 
heads form most of our matches." CJiven such freedom 
of choice, couples had onlv themselves to blame tor a 
mismating and small excuse to justify infidelity; be- 
sides, it tendcil to enhance the chances of congenial 
mating. The wider connections of the reign of free- 
dom will appear in subsequent chapters. 

New world lite tended not only to make marriage 
independent of economic considerations, social grada- 
tions, and parental constraint but also to loosen social 
control. Kven at the dawn of Independence, while 
each communitv firmiv upheld matrimony, the Protes- 
tant repudiation of Catholic doctrine was already por- 
tending freedom in marriage and divorce that threat- 
ened to produce further laxity. The ceremony was in 
general simple and complaint was made that the pair 
were kept too long in the company, exposed to banter. 
The doctrine of free love was bound to develop as an 
ethical counterpart of laissez-faire economics; both are 
anarchism; both were stimulated by the spacious frec- 
-^om of the new world. An article in the Literary 
Maj^azirw of 1805 may perhaps be taken as corrobora- 
tive of this assertion of tendency. It said that probably 
the mischief that some moralists attribute to novels is 
due to their exaggeration of the omnipotence of love 
(with the inference suppliable that licentiousness is 
justified thereby). "Those people who are willing to 
indulge irregular desires have created [the doctrine 
of the omnipotence of love] and the force of love is now 
a part of the creed of almf)St every master and miss in 
the reading world." Such might naturally be the case 
under the influence of such liberalizing factors as pre- 
viously detailed. It would seem that what had always 

The Unsettling of Old Foundations 33 

been a practice (licentiousness) was now investing it- 
self in a theory, and thereby assuming a more frightful 

Pioneer marriage relations sometimes became in- 
volved in strange vicissitudes. Sometimes a man de- 
tained long from home through capture by Indians or 
otherwise returned to find his wife remarried. If one 
thought dead thus came back, the neighbors and inter- 
ested parties seem frequently to have held a sort of 
court and to have decreed that the woman should make 
choice between the two men. The other was to leave 
the settlement. No one seems to have been disturbed 
at the thought of possible legal irregularity in such 
proceedings. Incidents of the sort are often mentioned. 
Usually the woman returned to her first husband.* 

Some hazards of pioneer marriages appear in the 
following incidents.'' In the history of early Tennessee 
is recorded the account of a wife's becoming tired of 
her husband and taking up with another man. She 
left her husband sick and induced the party with which 
they were travelling to leave him, doubtless to his death. 
In the same state in early days a man named Hean, a 
noted character, went with a cargo to New Orleans and 
remained two years. On his return he found his wife 
nursing an infant, the reputed child of a merchant. 
The outraged husband left the house without a word 
but later returned intoxicated, took the baby from the 
cradle, and cut off both ears, muttering that he had 
marked it so that it would not get mixed up with his 
children. He was arrested and sentenceil in addition 
to other punishment to be branded; while his wife was 
granted a divorce and married again. After tiic licath 

* Roosevelt. K'inning of Ihf H'est, vol. i. 129. 

"* Hale and Merritt. History of Trnnriirr anJ Tfnntsserani, vol. ii, 345, 
365-367, 370. 

34 The American Family 

of the child and of her second liusbaml, Bean remarried 
her. Another frontiersman, on his way home to Ire- 
land to brin^ his family to the home prepared, heard 
in Virginia that his wife, believinj^ him dead, had mar- 
ried again. The report turneil out to be false; so in 
1796 he set out for I rchuul after an absence of twenty 
years and returned with wife and son. In 1S19 a trav- 
eller writing from Jellersonville, huliana, observed 
that "runaway wives are fretjuently advertised." 

Unconventionality sometimes attended the celebra- 
tion of the marriage ceremony. At tlie beginning of 
the nineteenth century, upon the Tombigbee and Lake 
Tensaw (Alabama) the people still lived without civil 
government anil without the rite of matrimonv. I'Or 
years the se.xes had been pairing off and cohabiting with 
the mutual promise of regular marriage when ministers 
or magistrates should appear. In one instance where 
the parents of a rich girl objected to a pairing, she and 
her poor lover paddled off with a crowd of young 
people and begged the commandant at Fort Stoddart 
to marry them. He said he had no authority of the 
sort. They told him that the government had put him 
there as general regulator of affairs. He presently ac- 
ceded and said: "I Captain Shanneberg of second 
regiment, U.S.A. and commandant of Fort Stoddart, 
do hereby pronounce you man and wife. C}o home! 
behave yourselves- multiply and replenish the Tensaw 
country." Ihe settlement pronounced them the best- 
married people it had known in a long time." 

The early settler west of the mountains received only 
occasional visits from ministers. McConnell in his 
JVcsti'rn Characters said: 

Protestant ministers . . . urrc few [and the words] were 

usually spoken by a Jesuit missionary ... or by some 

• Pickett. Hitlory of Alabama, 465. , 

The Unst'ttlui^ of Old F 01171(1(111011$ 35 

justice of the peace of doubtful powers and mythical appoint- 
ment. If neither of these could Ik* procured, the father of the 
bride, himself, sometimes assumed the functions. . . It was 
always understood, however, that such left-handed marriaues 
were to be confirmed by the first minister who wandered to the 
frontier; and, even when the opportunity did not of?er for 
many months, no scandal ever arose - the marriage vow was 
never broken. 

Such free and easy arrangements speak strongly of a 
new world with a clean slate. 

The development of marriage law in the United 
States is completely summed up in Howard's History 
of Matrimonial Institutions and need not be detailed 
here. Its evolution has been largely a history of ad- 
justment to new conditions caused principally by pio- 
neer life and industrial evolution. Thus owing to 
shortage of ministers legal arrangements had to be made 
for civil marriage. A civil marriage that occurred in 
1805 among the Spanish colonists of the South was 
later declared valid by the United States Supreme 
Court, the Council of Trent notwithstanding. It is of 
interest to note, on the other hand, what was happening 
in New England, that early stronghold of civil mar- 
riage. Dwight said in 1822: 

Justices of the peace are throuRhout New England authorized 
to marry, but are rarely, if ever, employed to perform the ser- 
vice, w'hen a clergyman can be obtained. As it is evernvhere 
believed to be a Divine institution ; it is considered involved, of 
course, within the duties of the sacred office. An absolute de- 
cency is observed liuring the celebration. 

An illustration of the breezy freedom of the frontier 
marriage is given bv an early settler in Wisconsin 
whose servant girl, taken aloiii^' from the East, contem- 
plated matrimony. As justice of the peace he was 
asked to perform the ceremony but at first tlatly refused 
owing to unwillingness to lose the domestic until her 

^6 riw .Itiurii an h<itnil\ 

year was out. The offer of five bushels of turnips as 
wedding-fee proved a sufrRicni inducement and the 
rites were performed. But just as the guests were about 
to leave, one of the bride's rejected suitors incjuired 
"whether the Squirt- hail seen the license authorizing 
the parties to be joined in marriage." This question 
produced tremendous constcrnatiDii. "\\'as it a fact 
that a license was necessary; ami if such was the fact, 
why had not our friend made it known before the cere- 
monv was performed?" The scandalous wight replied 
that he "thought it would be greater fun to let the cere- 
mony go on. ami blow it up afterward. Then, you 
know, we could have another wedding!" Vainly did 
the new husband remonstrate. 

Thry threatened to tear the house down if their will was not 

obeyed, and D was forced to submit to their mandate -to 

be separated from his bride - which he did with a very bad 
grace. The next morning he pnKured the important dcKument 
from Milwaukee. ITie ceremony was repeated.^ 

That the adjustment to changing economic conditions 
was destined to prove a more ticklish problem than ad- 
justment to wilderness needs becomes apparent at the 
time when slavery was becoming e.xtinct in the North. 
Judge Piatt of New York in 1S22 delivered an opinion 
that marriage was legal where one of the parties was a 
slave and that if the mother was free the children were 
also free. "The husband is not emancipated, nor is the 
wife enslaved by such a marriage." But in 1827 it 
was held that a slave could not marrv under common 
law. 'I'he children of a slave could not inherit at com- 
mon law. But by a special law a slave could take 
possession of land granted for military service in the 
Revolution; hence all marriages and births involved 

^ H't$tfrn frontirr lifr, 520-522. 

The Unsettling of QlJ Foundations 37 

were legitimate, and the children of such a slave could 

The advent of male political democracy consequent 
on the free life of the frontier went hand in hand with 
an intense individualism akin to anarchism. The dom- 
inant idea tended to be "that the individual is superior 
to the community and that the latter should not exercise 
any restraints except in rare cases and from reasons of 
most serious moment." A disposition to govern mar- 
riage by some such principle became manifest. The 
progress of individualistic democracy was quite con- 
sistent with the reduction of social control over mar- 
riage, as in the abolition of banns and the dropping of 
the requirement of publicity as if the union of the in- 
dividuals were their own exclusive afTairs concerning no 
one else. A writer in 1823 noted that 

Marriage ... in the United States, is considered a civil 
contract, therefore a justice can marr}- equally as well as a 
clerp>'man. In general a clergyman is employed. . . I was 
one evening at the house of a Baptist clerg>m:in : he was called 
out of the room, and was not ahscnt more than three minutes, 
but in that time he had tied H\iiien's indissoluhle knot. This 
facility of marriage is fret]uently attended with very injurious 
effects. I have known perfect children married, often to the 
great grief of their friends. [The government will have to in- 
tervene and require license.] " 

Another writer said: 

If the youth be of age and the girl likewise they marry without 
asking leave of any one, and if not, they frecjuently ilo the 

Le Comtc de St. X'ictor. who visited the \ nited States 
(and liked to make out a bad case against America). 

* Adams. Nrglrctrd VrrioA of .Inti-slavrry in .Imer'ua, 239. 
" Holmes. Accnunt of the Vnitfd Statn, 399. 
'"Sealsficld. The V nited Statrs, 133. 

;S The American Family 

wrote ill 1H32 that the laws seemed to make sport of 
marriage, turning it over to the bizarre rei^ulaiions of 
the sects. A justice could marry a couple w ithout any 
ceremony by a mere acknowledgment. The consent of 
parents mii^ht he agreeable, but was not necessary. A 
parson frequently married a couple on the spot without 
knowini^ who they were. Then they stayed married till 
they felt like yetting a divorce. .Marryat reported: 

Hiuamy is nor uncommon in the United States from the women 
being in too (jreat a hurr>' to marry, and not obtaining sufficient 
information, relative to their suitors. When a foreigner 

is the party, it is rather difficult to ascertain whether the gentle- 
man ha5 or has not left an old wife or two in the Old World." 

Wyse said in his America: 

Marriage is regarded throughout the union as a purely civil 
compact. There is no mystical rite, no set form of words, or 
stated observance necessary ... no particular class of 
persons appointed to prc-side at its ordinance, and requires the 
a&sent merely of the contracting parties, who may have the 
ability to contract and nothing further. . Marriages con- 

tracted in Kngland . . . are sometimes made subject to 
inconvenience, if disavowed by either on their landing; the laws 
generally in force . . requiring under such circumstances 

a legal attestation of such marriage, uniier the seal of the arch- 
difK;r>.e of Canterbury before they will enforce its obligations. 
Of this, many heartless and unprincipled individuals take ad- 
vantage, and who cannot, without such evidence, be charged 
with the crime of bigamy, In the event of fraudulently contract- 
ing any other, or second marriage." 

One source of inconsiderate marriage was the dearth of 
women in new settlements. The demand was adver- 
tized and attracted a supply of women ready to take the 
chances of haphazard mating. But Gorling in Die neue 
IVelt saw a bright side of American freedom: "Every 

" Marryat. Diary in /Imrrira, pt. 2, vol. ii, 6. 

"WjTie. Amerifa, vol. i, 298, 309. Thi» author nhould be read with cau- 
tion; for he >ayt that marriages are let* frequent in proportion to population 
than in the old country-. 

The Unsettling of Old Foundations 39 

one can marry unceremoniously if he takes the notion 
and this fact totally removes many of our European 
evils." Naumann said: "To be married by a minis- 
ter is optional, but is the prevailing custom." 

In 1849 Miss Bremer was impressed with the way in 
which the marriage ceremony was sometimes hurried, 
in travelling costume, after the manner of American 

Carlier, the French historian, in his work of i860 
dilates on American la.xity as U) marriage. The Amer- 
ican girl, he says, enjoys great freedom and is unguided 
in the choice of a husband. She is disposed to receive 
with great reluctance any parental opposition, and the 
delicate deference of daughter to mother is too rarely 
seen. Under such conditions is marriage very often 
contracted, l^he law does not recjuire parental con- 
sent, but parents usually consent, or acquiesce in their 
child's choice. The common law does not compel pub- 
lication of banns or require witnesses to the act or even 
the signature of the parties themselves and the marriage 
may be performed by a justice of the peace or a min- 
ister-no matter where they may reside -at any hour 
and in any place. No more paternal authority; clan- 
destinity is substituted; the salutary office of the min- 
ister, who might lend solemnity to the occasion, is re- 
placed by some obscure justice of the peace. These 
customs are not yet very widely spread but the law is 
sadly deficient. There are, it seems, two states where 
publicity is required but without penal enforcement. 
The fact of cohabitation suffices to render the judges 
very lenient in validating an imperfect marriage. 

Eccentric forms of marriage occur, as in the case of 
the Maine railroail conciuctor who was married while 
making his run, the minister being taken on the train; 

40 y/if' American Family 

or of the couple who, unable to cross a swollen stream, 
dill not wait tor it to subside but called to some one to 
summon the minister, who came to the opposite bank 
and from there performeii the ceremony. Mock mar- 
riages also occur and sometimes one party to the sport 
found to his dismay that the joke formed a le^al bond 
which couKi be sundered only by divorce. Carlier is 
leil to remark: In view of the "excessive readiness of 
the law in the formation of Fiiarriai^e, should wc not be 
authorized in saying that it aimcil only at a promiscu- 
ous intercourse, desii^ned to increase the population, 
without re^anl to moral considerations or the future 
of the family?" 

Certain religious bodies found it necessary to impose 
restrictions of their own beyond the scope of civil law. 
Such an incident occurred in 1796 at the General Con- 
ference of the Methodist Episcopal church where an 
in()uiry was answered thus: 

Wc do not prohibit our proplc from marryinR persons who arc 
not of our S(x:icty, providcil such persons have the form and arc 
seeking the power of godliness; but if they marry persons who 
do not come up to this description, wc shall be obliged to purge 
our society of them. And even in a doubtful case, the member 
of our society shall be put back upon trial. . . Wc arc well 
assured that few things have been more pernicious to the work 
of Ciod than the marriage of the children of God with the 
children of this world. Wc therefore think ourselves obliged 
to bear our testimony, both in dcKtrine and discipline, against 
so great an evil. 

The matter was again up in 1804 and was similarly 

The question that seemed most recurrent in the early 
days of the Presbyterian church was that of forbidden 
degrees. The church was in general very cautious in 
the handling of this (]uestion. Thus in 1797 a case 
came up respecting a man who had married his for- 

The Unsettling of Old Foundations 41 

mer wife's half-brother's daughter. It was resolved, 
"That though the Assembly would wish to liiscountc- 
nance imprudent marriages, or such as tend in any way 
to give uneasiness to serious persons, yet it is their opin- 
ion, that the marriage referred to is not of such a na- 
ture as to render it necessary to exclude the parties from 
the privileges of the church." In iSoz in a similar 
case the decision reHects uniquely the state of mind of 
an assembly face-to-face with the problems of a new, 
unsettled society. It was resolved 

That such marriages as that in question have heen deterniined, 
both by the late Synod of New York and Philadelphia, and by 
the General Assembly, to be on the one hand not forbidden by 
the laws of God, and on the other hand to be contrary to the 
general practice of Protestant churches and the feelings and 
opinions of many serious Christians among ourselves, and on 
that account to be discountenanced ; therefore, resolved, that 
when such marriages take place, the session of the church where 
they happen are carefully to consider the case, and if they 
think it expedient, to administer such discipline as they may 
judge to be deserved, for that want of Christian tenderness and 
forbearance that are incumbent on all the professors of our holy 
religion, or for violating any municipal law, if this has been 
done; and then to admit or restore them to good standing in the 
church. And if the session judge that the state of society is 
such, where these marriages take place, as that neither the duty 
of Christian tenderness ami forhearance, nor the laws of the 
state have been violated, they may admit the persons concerned 
to Christian privileges without censure. 

Later this action was reconsidered and it was resolved: 
"That the decision given bv the (General Assembly in 
the year 1797 . . . niav be adopted on this occa- 

In 1804 such cases were left to the decision of lower 
courts of the church on account of apparent diversity 
of opinion in ilifTerent p;irts of the couiitrv. Similar 
action was taken in iSio touciiinii marriage with a de- 

42 Till' ^JniiTtcan Family 

ceased wife's sister, and tor the same reason. In iHi i, 
"The committee appointed to draui^ht a letter to tlie 
joint sessions of Hethel arui Indian Town on the case of 
a person marrying the sister of a deceased wife, prayed 
to be dismissed from further attention to this duty, and 
their recjuest was granted." On another occasion the 
Assembly showed itself reluctant to settle a case of mar- 
riage with a brother's widow. It returned the case to 
the session. "I^ifference of opinion" among the people 
was the ground of the dilhcully. The Assembly seemed 
to act consciously on the principle that folkways can 
make a thing right or wrong, at least within bounds. 

In 1821 it was decided that marriage to a deceased 
wife's sister was to be discouraged, but treatment was 
left to the session. In iS^j there was a proposition to 
refer to the presbyteries the cjuestion of erasing from 
the Confession "the last clause of the fourth section of 
the twenty-fourth chapter" on marriage within pro- 
hibited degrees. The motion was laid on the table. 
Similar action was taken in 1H59, and again in 1H60. 

The Presbyterian church was confronted very early 
with the problem of se.\-irrcgularity. The Assembly 
of ij^x) gave a careful solution of a case such as was 
probably not uncommon in the new world. A man 
had come from Ireland some years before, leaving his 
family behind. Three times he went back for his fam- 
ily but his wife refused to come and finally refused 
further cohabitation. He returned to America and 
lived single for ten years. Then he married and had 
children. Should the man and his wife be admitted 
to communion? The case is of value as a further il- 
lustration of ecclesiastical circumspection. The As- 
sembly thought such a man ought nf)t to be admitted 
to privileges because it did not appear that he had pro- 


The Unsettling of Old Foundations 43 

cured a divorce and in the eye of the civil law was liv- 
ing in vice. 

It does not appear . . . that he has used the proper 
means to obtain a le^^al divorce, nor even to authenticate the 
facts, . . But . . . if it shall appear that this man 
has separated from his wife by her wilful and obstinate deser- 
tion, and that he has taken all just means to obtain a divorce to 
which he was lawfully entitled, but was prevented and op- 
pressed by the power of antagonists or of unjust courts; and if 
he shall . . . produce such evidence ... as would 
entitle him to a divorce by the law of the land and of the 
church, then ... it is the opinion of the General Assem- 
bly that such a man, behaving himself otherwise as a good 
Christian, may be admitted to church privileges. [But great 
caution must be used that the church] may not be inconsistent 
with the civil law, and that a door be not opened to laxness. 

This incident throws interesting lii?'">t on several 
points : ( I ) The church tacitly accepted the patriarchal 
theory of the family. Else why was not the man con- 
sidered the deserter inasmuch as he had come away 
and left his family in Ireland? Evidently the assump- 
tion was that to the man belonged the right of deter- 
mining the place of abode. (2) A disposition on the 
part of the church to review the acts of civil courts; 
yet not in conflict with civil law. (3) A spirit of rea- 
sonableness, yet of firmness in discouraging marital 

It will be observed, in fact, through its national his- 
tory that the Presbyterian church has pursued by no 
means a fanatical course in the matter of marriage and 
divorce. It was a recurrent question. The church 
did, indeed, act ecclesiastically, yet not without regard 
to a wider social viewpoint. Matters were not settled 
offhand. Thus in the Assembly of i SoS arose a ijues- 
tion : 

If a living child is born in five months and twenty days after 

44 The American Family 

fhc marria^ of its parents, shall the parents In- licalt with ;is 
tjuilty of antp-nuptial fornication? 

The answer was that as the question was in tlie abstract 
Ami drcisions on questions of this nature must, in most in- 
stances, depend on attendant circumstances . the As- 
sembly do not jud^r it proper to decide on the abstract ques- 

Deniocratic ituleperulencc in America tended to easy 
divorce. The precedents set by colonial New England 
were in that direction. At the beginning of Independ- 
ence there was little show for divorce in America nor 
was legal separation freijuent or easy.'' For the evolu- 
tion of divorce, Howard's History of Mtitrintonutl I n- 
ititutions should be consulted. It must suffice licrc to 
illustrate sparingly the trend. 

After Independence, divorce by private statute con- 
tinued for more than half a century in most states. 
Gradually, however, general statutes began to emerge 
and jurisdiction began to pass to the courts. Cjeorgia, 
Mississippi, and Alabama were the first to abolish leg- 
islative divorces, tho the approval of a two-thirtis ma- 
j\)rity was still re(]uired after the court had made its 
decree. In the other states, legislative divorces were 
used on occasion till about the middle of the century 
when in the majority of states tlie method was abolished. 

In the early part of the nineteenth century divorce 
was not a momentous danger. Rhode Island had a 
singular law to the effect that if a riiarried couple gave 
to a magistrate a mutual tieclaration of desire to sepa- 
rate by reason of incompatibilitv and then lived apart 
for twf) years conducting themselves with prtjpriety they 
might obtain r)n application annulment of the marriage. 
A writer of 1818 told that few sought the benefit of this 

* On family troublr* »«e chapter vi. 

The Unsettling of QIJ Foundations 45 

act and of those that did, some broke the stipulation in- 
side of the two years.'* 
Miss Martineau about 1834 wrote: 

In Massachusetts divorces arc obtainable with pccuh'ar case. 
The natural consequences follow: such a thin^ is never heard 
of . . . protection offered by law to the injured party 
causes marriage to be entered into with fewer risks and the 
conju};al relation carried on with more equality. 

xMarryat declared 

In the United States divorces arc obtained without expense, and 
without it being necessary to commit crime as in England. The 
party pleads in forma pauperis, to the State Legislation, and a 
divorce is granted upon any grounds which may be considered 
as just and reasonable. 

A few years later another observer remarked upon the 
facilities afforded for persons to get rid of innocent 
partners, who perhaps did not know of the applica- 
tion." Brown in 1849 asserted: 

There arc more divorces in one year in the state of Ohio than 
there are in ten in the United Kingiioni. In the year 1843 
there were 447 bills of divorcement sued out in that state, and 
they were principally at the suit of the women, whose husbands 
had behaved ill, neglected them or . . . run away.'" 

Two Other mid-century writers remarked, however, on 
the rarity of divorce in the Unitel States. 

The la.xity of individualistic laissez-faire ilcinocracy 
borders on Owen's scheme according to which 

They unite and part as it pleases them, while the children arc 
brought up at the general expense of all. It is true, that far 
from encouraging libertine life, he assumes that man, being a 
monogamous animal, may be permitted to choose a companion, 
to whom, after a slight previous intercourse he might be more 
attached, than if bound by lawful uedlock.'^ 

'*\N'riplit. I'irtL' &f Society and Mannrrs in .Imrrica, 4^5. 

''■ Wysc. .tmrrua, vol. i, 300. 

""■ Brown. .Imrrica, 48. 

*^ Murat. .Imrrica and thr .Imrricans, 107. 

46 The American Family 

A Southerner who h.ul lived in the North wrote in i860: 
'V\\c socialists anil trrr lovers ar^juc ai;;ainst the marriage rela- 
tion because married people are always quarrcllinj^ and ruIlni^^^ 
off to Indiana to he divorced.'* 

In 185S the Preshyteriaii (ieneral Assembly sustaineil 
the deposition ami exioniinunieation of a minister who 
had married a woman divorced on an unpermitted 
ground, and in so doing took "occasion to call the atten- 
tion of the churches ... to a tendency, manifest 
in some portions of our country, to relax the sacredness 
of the marriage tie;" and to express abhorrence of *'any 
attempt to diminish its sanctity or to extend beyond the 
warrant of the Holy Scriptures the grounds of di- 

C'arlier observed that each state had its own divorce 
law, though there was a tendency to adopt uniform rea- 
sons for deciding divorce. Besides absolute divorce 
there was divorce a lucnsa et loro. The latter was al- 
lowed in very few states and met with no favor. It was 
considered immoral, was conducive to adultery, and 
punished the innocent more than the guilty. He gave 
the following variety of causes for divorce sanctioned 
in different sections: bigamy; adultery; voluntary de- 
sertion for one. two, three, or five years; absence con- 
tinued for five vcars; imbecililv or mental alienation; 
union with a negro, mulatto, or an Indian; vagrancy; 
cruelty or abuse; slighting conjugal (iuties; habitual 
drunkenness during a certain time; the excessive use of 
opium; imprisonment for certain crimes; impotence; 
nf)n-support; immorality; membership in the Shaker 
sect. Kentucky had made a law that when a husband 
announced in the papers his intention of not paying 
the debts of his wife, she had sufficient cause for a 

"Hundley. Social Relations in our Southern States, 148. 

The Unsettliuj^ of Old Foundations 47 

Carlier said that much depended on the judge. In 
some states the Legislature decided cases in concur- 
rence with tlie courts. This participation of the Legis- 
lature was a source of abuse. The almost indefinite 
power granted to the caprices of married couples in 
America tended to nothing less than indirectly pro- 
tiucing polygamy. In Ohio a judge remarked 

That there was no law more abused in that state than that of 
divorce; and that a majority of the inhabitants thouj2;ht, of all 
contracts, marriaj^e was the least oblijjatory, and nothing fur- 
ther was necessary to dissolve it than to make an appeal to the 
competent tribunals. 

The courts of Indiana were crowded with cases, whose 
m(jvers were very often citizens of other states, an evi- 
dence of the superior facilities there afforded. Simple 
affirmation proved residence and no one hesitated to lie 
in so trivial a matter. An Indiana judge was reported 
to have said 

That the advocates of "free love" . . . could not ask a 
statute more favorable to their views than the law of divorce 
in Indiana, and that the polyfjamy of the Mormons was prefer- 
able; for it at least obliged husbands to provide for the sub- 
sistence and protection of their wives. 

Carlier added 

Throughout the States, it is thought that ail which tends to sep- 
arate the married contributes to the increase of population, and 
that facilitating the dissolution of the tie is of social utility; be- 
cause it allows the parties to seek another union, better assortni, 
destined to fulfil the ends of marriage. 

The majority of the divorces were granted at the re- 
quest of the wife. The step was often in consequence 
of the husband's abandoning her to seek his fortune in 
the West, especially in California where the thirst for 
gold lured. The one that gained the case had a right 
to remarry. The lot of the defendant varied. Some 
states allowed an immediate second marriage; others 

48 The American Family 

withhcM this privilci^c tlurinu; the lite of the other 
partner. 1 he l.iw enuhi he e\.itieii, however, hy mov- 
ing to another state. 

Horace Greeley, who was so radical on tuntlainental 
social questions, was ultra-cautious in this matter. A 
Trihutic eiiitorial of March i, 1 S6{), opposeii the loosen- 
ing of New ^'ork. divorce law and referred to Indiana 
as the paradise of free lovers 

W'luTc the lax principles of RohiTt I):ilc Owi-n, and the utter 
want of principle of John Pcttit (Icadinj; revisers of the laws) 
comhined to establish, some years since, a state of law which 
enables men or women to f^t unmarried nearly at pleasure. A 
le^al friend in that state recently remarked to us, that, at one 
county court, he obtained eleven divorces one day before din- 
ner; "and it wasn't a fjood morning: for divorces either." In 
one case within his knowledtje, a prominent citizen (jf an eastern 
manufacturinj; city came to Indiana, went throuj^h the usual 
routine, obtained his divorce about dinner-time, and, in the 
course of the eveninj; w;is marrieii to his new inamorata, who 
had come on for the purpose and was staying at the same hotel. 
[They went back and ejected his astonished ci-devant spouse.] 

Owen replied correcting misstatement and uphold- 
ing the morals of Indianans. He asserted that they 
then recjuirecl one year's residence and timely notice to 
the absent partner. 

It is in New York and New Kn^land. refusing reasonable di- 
vorce, that free-love prevails; not in Indiana. I never even 
heart! the name there. [Indiana law allows the court to prant 
a divorce for any cause it sees fit.] You have elf)pements, 
adultery, which your law, by rendering it indispensable to re- 
lease, virtually encourages; you have free love, and that most 
terrible of all social evils, prostitution. We . have 

refjulated, legal separations. [You believe a p<K)r woman 
should be kept bound to a brute, subject to his rape.] In no 
country have I seen marriage and its vov^-s more strictly re- 
spected than in my adopted state, where the relation, when it 
engenders immorality, may be terminated by law. For the rest, 

The Unsettling of Old Foundations 49 

divorces in Indiana arc far less frequent than strani^crs, read- 
ing our divorce law, mi^lit be led to imaj^inc. [ Prople are 
more disposed to suffer what is suffcrablc than to break, bonds.] 

Greeley was able to reply that New York granted 
separation to Owen's supposititious poor woman. Puit 
what of South Carolina, one of whose judges said that 
in that state "to her unfailing honor, a divorce has not 
been granted since the Revolution"? Bishop cites a 
case in which "a man took his negro slave-woman to 
his bed and table and compelled the unofifending wife to 
receive the crumbs after her" and the state refused any 
remedy to the wife! The legislators of this state 
thought "necessary to determine by a special statute 
what portion of his property a married man may give 
to his concubine, even under pretext of a compact pre- 
vious to adulterv." ''■* In the South, general conserva- 
tism retarded the introduction of divorce. In the 
southern rural community there was small facility ior 
separation, even, in case of estrangement. In the old 
South a person divorced save for adultery was tabooed. 
Separation meant ostracism. Yet "it is precisely in the 
South," says Howard, "that legislative divorce was 
tried on the widest scale and bore its most evil fruit." 
On one occasion the Louisiana legislature liivorced 
seven couples in two days. 

The South of course had no tolerance for loose views 
as to the familv! Radical opinions developed in the 
North might echo towartl the Cjulf but were certain to 
meet with professed abhorrence. I'he family pride of 
the slave power could not contemplate with ei]uanimity 
community care of chihiren or the abolition of inheri- 
tance. A British visitor who was in the United States 

'" Kitchin. History of Divorce, 222; Carlicr. Marriage in thr I'nitf.i 
Stairs, 109- 1 10. 

50 Th€ siuurican Family 

during the War records tlu* tOllowinu; utterance from 
the Richmoiul Sfntintl: 

Ratiunalism, intrtuliucil by the Puritans, is j^ratlually uiidrr- 
minin^j all rclinitjus ami political faith and all conscrvativt* 
opinions at the North, The marrage institution, reduced by 
them to a mere civil contract. b<*tiat frequency and facility of 
divorce, led next to Mormonism, and we suppose has cul- 
minated in free love. \Un pure Yankee reiuson is about to 
achieve a still hi^'her triumph . . . miscegenation. 
Hrjjinnint; with liberalism and free inquiry, the North seems 
about to wind up with free love, amaljiamation, infidelity, 
a^rarianism, and anarchv, while the South becomes ilaily inore 

The tuli force of this contrast will be made apparent 
later in a chapter on the family of the South. 

it is evident from the foregoing considerations that 
the stability of marriage institutions in the past has 
been a function of economic pressure. Decrease the 
importance of family wealth by throwing open a virgin 
continent; and a crude anarchistic imiividualism throws 
ofT trailitional checks ami puts personal fancy on top. 
\N'e might ask whether marriage has since developed 
spiritual sanctions that will guarantee stable monogamy 
in the absence of economic necessity for permanent 


The nineteenth century witnessed a very remarkable 
revolution in the status of the child in America. As the 
vastness of the unfolding continent and its needs im- 
pressed themselves more and more on the minds of men, 
the valuation placed on childhood rt)se. In a society 
whose population is small as compared with available 
resources, children always occupy an important posi- 
tion. Moreover, as in colonial days, child-rearing 
seemed to present special difficulties in the New World. 
The climate was different from that of the historic hab- 
itat of the race. As late as 1848 an Englishwoman re- 
marked that "the difliculty of rearing children until 
they have passed the second summer and gone through 
the troubles of teething, makes the American mothers 
more solicitous than we are in iMiglish nurseries." An- 
other writer said: "Children's diseases are hasty and 
come with a fell swoop, desolating cities and hearts." 

The utter dependence of the frontier childrcFi on the 
parents' care in absence of physician's aid increased the 
parents' burden of responsibility. Pioneer women 
suckled their own children and cared for them them- 
selves. Until schools and churches came, child-train- 
ing was of necessity exclusively a faiiiily affair; conse- 
c]uently of the simplest character. The pioneer was not 

His children were never "little chcriihs," "angels sent from 
heaven," but generally "tow-heailed" and very earthly responsi- 
bilities. . . He looked forward anxiously to the day when 

^2 riw .Itiuru (in iatmly 

the bo)'S should be able to assist him in the Held or fight the In- 
dians, and the ji'tls to help their mother make arul mriui. 

In a new world men face the future and worship, not 
ancestors, but pt)Sterity. "F«)r tlie children" was the 
motto of manv a pioneer, who endured the wilderness 
hardships that the next i^eneration miy;ht have a better 
chance, mi^ht grow up with the country and enter into 
their inheritance. The struggle for existence had not 
yet closed the door of hope. 

In addition to its direct stimulus, the pioneer en- 
vironment crealCil a specific economic situation that 
tended to emancipate childhood and vouth. l-'amiiy 
wealth or even surplus was small among settlers, but 
facilities for making one's way by labor were abundant 
ami thus children began early to produce for them- 
selves. This economic self-sufficiency, uninvaded by 
any lure of artificial pastimes, matured and emanci- 
pated children from unciue proiongment <jf parental 
control. Where parents stretched their prerogatives 
or tricil to retain jurisdiction past the majority of the 
boy, estrangement was likely to ensue. 

The general preoccupation of the ordinary American 
husband and wife with the urgent economic problems 
of life contributed to throw youth upon its own re- 
sources and to raise it to sovereignty. This was true 
even in the cities, or perhaps one should sav, particu- 
larly in the cities. The rush of the new country left the 
men no time to be fathers; they were away all day and 
children came to be left entirely to the care of their 
motherv The wives of the !abf)ring class, doing all 
their own work, seldom looked after their children 
with due care. They sent the little ones to school to be 
rid of them or let them run with chance associates, ex- 
posed to dangers that they were not fitted to meet. 

The Emancipation of Childhood 53 

"Baby citizens arc allowed to run as wiKl as the Snake 
Indians," said Oldmixon in 1855, "and do whatever 
they please." 

The well known effect of pioneer environment and 
the economic processes engendered by it is to produce 
an extremely libertarian democracy bordering on an- 
archy. The most familiar instances of this operation 
are in the realm of politics but it goes on in every other 
phase of life, partly through direct influence and part- 
ly through reflection from democratized politics and 
other agencies of social control. Such lines of causa- 
tion can be traced in the liberalization of the American 

Many observers, commenting on the freedom al- 
lowed to children in the new nation, attributed it to the 
spirit of republicanism. The decay of patriarchism is 
a natural corollary of political democracy; for the gov- 
ernment recognizes, not families, but individuals. The 
father counts no more as a citizen than does his grown 
son and the lingering of paternal authority beyond the 
majority of the son would be incongruous. The pre- 
monition of the youth's coming citizenship casts its 
shadow before and anticipates the day of his majority. 
At the ends of the first c]uartcr of the nineteenth cen- 
tury a visitor to the United States wrote: "The Amer- 
ican woman sees in her son the future citizen, and there- 
fore she has a certain feeling of respect even for her 
child." Moreover in a democracy the idea of "su- 
perior" fades before the idea of equal sovereignty. All 
men are sovereigns. Personality is e.xalted; and the 
political status overflows and democratizes family in- 

Dc Tocc]ucville asserted that "in America, the fam- 
ily, in the Roman and aristocratic significance of the 


Tfie American Family 

word, docs not exist." During the infancy of chiKlrcii, 
the father did, imlecil. exercise unopposed the neces- 
sary domestic authority. But as youn^ America ap- 
proached manhood the ties of filial obedience were re- 
laxed ami the youth hecame master of his own thought 
and conduct. This result was not the outcome of a 
stru^ijle between parent and child. The parent did not 
care for the possession of authority. The father yield- 
ed as a matter of course and the son entered naturally 
on the enjoyment of his freedom. 

American conditions encouraged practical utilitari- 
anism. In a new country, reliance is less on tradition 
and more on a study of existing fact. 'I'he son's opinion 
seems likely to be as valid as the father's (at least that 
is the assumption underlying manhood suffrage) and 
the hold of ancestral and paternal prestige diminishes. 
Thus the austere, the conventional, and the legal ele- 
ments in parental authority go with the passing of the 
aristocracy and a species of equality grows around the 
domestic hearth. Rules and authority recede before 
tenderness and confidence, and spiritual values in kin- 
ship are free to assert themselves. 

Mrs. John Adams related that her little grandson 
every day after dirnier set "his grandpa to draw him 
about in a chair, which is generally done for half an 
hour to the derangement of my carpet and the amuse- 
ment of his grandpa." If such was the amusement of 
the distinguished vice-president, and a New Englander 
at that, we can guess what the later trend must have 
been. An educational jf)urnal of 1833 contains an in- 
teresting description of the new cult of childhood. 
"The attention now bestowed on children forms an in- 
teresting feature of the day. An interest seems to be 
rekindling, analogous to that which animated the 
ancient philosophers." 

The Emancipation of Childhood 55 

There was something spontaneous and charming 
about the new unfolding of juvenile life. The little 
ones went and came unquestioned and unconstrained, 
unceremonious and frank. Beaujour remarks (]uaintly 
on the children that "sparkle in the streets of American 
towns like field Mowers in the springtime." To Miss 
Martineau "the independence and fearlessness of chil- 
dren were a perpetual charm." Duncan found in 

The little citizen ... a companion who will do you a 
service, \l.cX you information, or ask. it from you as the case 
may be. . The first impression produced by their manner 

is, that they are brave, bright, pleasant, little "impudent 
thinj^." Hut . . . the "impudent thinf^" is gradually 
dropt, and . . . you adopt "intelligent" or "independent." 

The new freedom evoked an astonishing competence 
on the part of childhood. Whether it was the nine- 
year-old girl doing the honors at table in the absence of 
her mother; or the barefoot Irish newsboy on the streets 
of New York rushing to sell you a paper with the re- 
mark, "Fait\ it's little mudder or daddy cares what 1 
does, it's not the like of them as will mind me" -in any 
case, the blessed years had come into their own, for 
good or for ill. Duncan was moved to record that 

Little creatures feed themselves very neatly, and are trusted 
with cups of fjl^^s and china, which they K^asp firmly, carry 
about the room carefully, and deposit unbroken, at an age 
when, in our country mamma or nurse would be rushing after 
them to save the vessels from destruction. 

Precocity was a natural correlate of the emancipa- 
tion. The child was willing enough to plav his role. 
Children came quickly to maturity. The new country 
was not ready for the "prolonged infancy" that marks 
advanced civilization. "[American children]," said 
Duncan in 1852, "receive educaticMi with facility and 
smartness, but those who are destined for commerce arc 
so generally mounted on a tall desk-seat in their four- 

56 The American Family 

tcciilli or tiftccnth, th.ii they iiukIi rcijuirc exact 
and strict moral discipline before that . pe- 

riod." In iS;;() (J rattan said: "A 'Boston boy' is a 
inelanclioly picture of prematurity. It niij^ht be al- 
most said that every man is born middle-aged in that 
and every other great city of the union. The principal 
business of life seems to be to grow old as fast as pos- 

Owing to the preeminence of the young, American 
"Society" came to be marked by a gaiety that some 
would call frivolity. "Pert young misses of sixteen" 
took things into their hands. The mother, eclipsed by 
her daughters or oppressed by household cares, some- 
times did noi even appear at parties. This reign of 
youth was in part attributable to the fact that children 
were enabled to enjoy opportunities that their parents 
had lacked and were thus able to act as authorities on 
social matters. It is evident, therefore, that the sw^ay 
of the young in social affairs corresponded to that bour- 
geois construction of societv which offered room to the 
man that was "on the make" and enabled his children 
to i]ualify for acceptance in approved circles. No 
doubt one underlying characteristic of the play life has 
always been a function of sex, and social amusement 
has been primarily in the interests of mating. But in 
a static society such functions are presided over by 
tradition, conventionality, and maturity; whereas in 
America they followed the normal trend of a dynamic 
civilization which transfers power to the young. 

One form taken bv the new freedom was correlate 
with the overcoming of the age of deficit. "The sim- 
plicity, the frugality of the parents, contrasts often dis- 
agreeably with the prodigality, the assumption, self- 
assertion, and conceit of the children," says Gurowski 

The Emancipation of Childhood 57 

in 1857. "In European domestic life the children even 
of the highest aristocracy, are educated with more com- 
parative simplicity than is the case in America." 

The wave of youthful freedom colored theology. 
Lyman Beecher felt called upon to deny that Calvin ists 
teach infant damnation.'*" A Baptist convention at Sa- 
vannah in 1802 "agreed that in the tenth chapter of our 
excellent confession of faith, the elect infants, men- 
tioned as dying in infancy, are not opposed to non-elect 
infants, who, we are humbly of opinion, never die in 
infancy- but to those elect infants who, in possession of 
rational powers, arrive at maturity."*' Doctor Hum- 
phrey, president of Amherst, indicated the trend in 
1840. He said: "There is a great deal of fine, hot 
press poetry to be found 'now a-days,' in booksellers' 
windows and ladies' parlors, about the angelic sweet- 
ness of infancy. . ." 

Beaujour said, at the beginning of the nineteenth 
century, that some fathers "gave no religion" to their 
children in order that these might pick one for them- 
selves when they reached the age of reason. Harriet 
Robinson, one of the early mill girls of Lowell, went to 
the Congregational church and Sabbath School. 

Wc were well taught in the Ix'licf of a literal devil, in a lake 
of brimstone and fire, and in the "wrath of a just God." The 
terrors of an imaginative child's mind, into which these mon- 
strous doctrines were poured, can hardly he described, and their 
lasting efifect need not be dwelt upon. 

No wonder that the mill girls and boys were to a large 
degree drawn awav to the liberals. 

A liberal revolution in the field of law and penology 
was well under wav in the ante-bellum period. Ac- 
cording to the Northwest Territory code of 1788, chil- 

^'^ Autobiography, etc., vol. ii, chaptrr xvi. 
** Georgia .Inalyticnl Rrpnsitory, vol. i, 77. 

58 The American Family 

drcn that disobcycil ihcir piarcnis niij^ht, on approval of 
a justice of the peace, be sent to jail till, as tlie law put 
it, they were liumbled. l-"or a chihl that struck a parent 
the law prescribed ten stripes." in antithesis to this 
lin^erin^ Puritanism observe what Xauniann says of 
the rniled Stales in his S 'jfiidtturika (1H48) : 

The law has seen fit to take children into its special oversight 
even at an a^e when with us they are still under the exclusive 
supervision and direction of parents and teachers. If a father 
has chastised his boy somewhat severely, and it occurs to the 
lad, or he is put up to it by some foolish person, to complain to 
the justice of the peace, the father is punished by line or im- 

In one most important particular, enfranchisement 
of chiKlh«)()d came but slowlv: education was primitive 
and at first juvenile literature was lacking. At the 
close of the Revolution, says McMastcr, 

Rude as was the school system of New Kn^land, it was incom- 
parably better than could be found in any other section of the 
country. In New ^'ork and Pennsylvania a schoolhousc was 
never seen outside of a village or a town. In other places chil- 
dren attending sch(K)l walked for miles through regions infested 
with ui»lves and bears. 

A French visitor of the latter part of the eii^hteenth 
century observed that though children are happy while 
in the bosom of the family, "the a^e of iron succeeds 
rapidly to that of ^old." Bavard said that the Ameri- 
can school-teacher was dreary and pedantic, better suit- 
ed for training slaves than citizens. 

Dr. Henjamin Ru*-}! has in v.iin recommended the humane 
mrrho<ls of J. J. Rousseau. [Hcttrr whip scholars than let 
them go, and lose your fee!] The unfortunates who toil 
under the direction of these pedants soon lose that sweetness of 
character which they to^)k to school, and \n\\ see them emerging 
from their torture-chamber tormenting and beating each other. 

"McMa»ier. Uiilory of the People of the United States, vol. iii (1902), 

The Eimancipntifjti of Childhofjd 59 

It is relief to find Bayard speaking of one school-master 
who "had neither the air of a pedant nor of a mission- 
ary, but of a father of a family." 

At the end of the eighteenth century there was no 
real juvenile literature and in many places schools 
could be maintained only with difliculty if at all. 
Michaux in his Travels told that 

Throughout the western country the children are kept punctu- 
ally at school . . . supported at the expense of the inhah- 
itants. . . Upon the Ohio, and in the Barrens, where the 
settlements are farther apart, the inhabitants have not yet been 
able to procure this advantage, which is the object of solicitude 
in every family. 

In Kentucky and Tennessee in early days the gentry 
made every effort to bring about the erection of acad- 
emies where their boys and girls could be well taught. 
But in the highlands many that bore the names of dis- 
tinguished Virginia families raised children that could 
scarcely read or write. F^ven in the venerable P^ast the 
masses w^re long devoid of adequate educational facil- 
ities. Education remained a special privilege. W'il- 
lard Hall wrote that when he settled at Dover. Dela- 
ware in 1803, 

There was then no provision by law in the state for schools. 
Neighbors or small circles uniteil and hired a teacher for their 
children. . . The teachers frequently were intemperate, 
whose qualification seemed to be inability to earn anything in 
any other way. . . Even in the best neighlwrhoods teachers 
of the young frequently were immoral and incapable.*'' 

From 1809 to 183^ the laws of Pennsylvania pro- 
vided education for the children of those that were 
willing to take a pauper's oath. This condition put a 
stigma on the public schools. In Delaware and Mary- 
land the schools were little better and were fre(]ucntly 
taught by redemptioners and indentured servants. A 

"Powell. History of Education in Delaxvarr, 14J. 

6o The American Family 

Delaware act uf 1817 appropriated one thousand dol- 
lars to each county for tlie education of the poor. The 
measure was never popular because it drew a hard and 
fast line between poor and rich. Governor Cochrane 
said: "It is not surprising that a provision wiiich in- 
vited an independent people to have their ciiildicn 
schooled as paupers proved a failure."'* In Connecti- 
cut, about iH;^()-iH4o. women teachers of district schools 
received four to six dollars a month and board. Parents 
were indifTerent. 

By 1830 there were in Boston two infant schools sup- 
ported by charity for the poor. The first infant school 
in New Kn^land seems to have been established about 
1828. Neilson wrote (in his Rrrollt'ctions of a six 
} t(irs' Rtstilttii (■ in the I nitci! States of .1 nurtcd) : 
Education for children may he had on various terms; but even 
poor people are at no loss in regard to this, for at least the most 
usctul branches. There are several free schools in New York, 
supported chiefly by the state, where fx-ople may have their 
children educated on very low terms; or if rhey cannot at all 
afford it, they are taught jjratis. 

The Mini of March 17, 18-^4 cited the Brooklyn Star 
as noting "several llDurishiiii; infant schools" there, that 
were supporteil, or should be supported, by charity. 
From the point of view of labor this was wron^. "Ed- 
ucation is the ri^ht of every child, and it is the interest 
of the communitv that the ri^ht should be possessed 
and e.xerciscd by all."^'' About this time a committee 
of Philadelphia workin^men outlined a scheine of ed- 
ucation, including kindergartens.*" The Man of Feb- 
ruary 18, i8;^4 contained an extract from the Philadel- 
phia "Operative" recommending the abolition of West 

'♦Oneal. Workers in .imrriran History, 207; Howell. Hislnry of Educa- 
tion in Dflaxvare, 140. 

^^Man, Nfirch 17. 1834, p. 86. 

*• Simon*. Sorial Form in .Imrriran History, 183. 

The Emancipation of Childhood 6l 

Point, an aristocratic institution good only to enable a 
few privileged persons to have their sons educated at 
public expense. I'he issue of May 14 contained the in- 
formation that a professor had been appointcil to teach 
the young Tories at West Point "to draw at the expense 
of the people, many of whom are not enabled to teach 
their own children how to read!" 

In September, 1834, Pennsylvania provided for tax 
supported schools. Three months later petitions for re- 
peal of the act were received from thirty-eight counties 
out of fifty-one and only a hard struggle saved the law." 

The National Gazette of Philadelphia in editorials 
in 1830 ridiculed the public school as an impractical 
dream and as class legislation. The public school 
would place a premium on idleness. 

A scheme of universal equal education . . . could not be 
used with any degree of cqualit}' of profit, unless the disposi- 
tions and circumstances of parents and children were nearly the 
same; to accomphsh which phenomenon, in a nation of many 
milhons, engaged in a great variety of pursuits, wouUi he be- 
yond human power. 

The first state education convention of Delaware, at 
Dover, 1843, said: 

The report of the Massachusetts Board of Education declares 
that the cardinal principle ... at the foundation of their 
education system is that all the chililren of the state shall be ed- 
ucated by the state. . . This is not the principle of our 
school system , our school system is founded upon the 

position that the people must educate their own children. [All 
the state can do is to help and encourage.] ^'' 

Margaret Fuller cited a circular which estimated that 

the country needed sixty thousand additional teachers. 

Progress in an appreciation of child nature and neetls 

-^ Oncal. H'orkfrs in .-imrruan History, zorj. 

**OncaI. H'orkfrs in .■imrritan History, 307-308; Powell. History of 
Education in Drltmtire, 146-147. 

62 The American Family 

gradually acLrucil. An cilucational journal in 18^3 
rcc«)rdc*l the impression thai 

Mothers have derived new ideas on education, and entered 
with increased intelli^jence and zeal into the discharjje of their 
duties. The infant school has become an assistant, an 

observatory to the mother ; and the season of infancy and child- 
hixxl a period of progress and enjoyment. [Children have not 
hitherto been properly trained. The dominion of passion and 
appetite is too obvious. Little has been done to help mothers 
in the training of the young. Tli<* b(K)ks are inadequate. 
.Mothers are deemed more as nurses of the child, than its men- 
tal and moral ijuide.] '• 

Certain magazines for women essayed to remedy 
the shortcomings of maternal care. They gave some 
wise liints as to the nature of children and the ap- 
propriate treatment. One contained an interesting 
article by V. S. Arthur relating an incident in the 
history of a frieml written for the benefit of a moth- 
er, in this tale a woman guilty of passionate pun- 
ishment of her unruly children was reproved by her 
bachelor brother who demonstrated that an explan- 
ation of reasons for prohibitions would accomplish 
more than violence. He maintained tiiat "no child is 
ever improved by scolding; but always injured." Few 
chihlren escaped this injury. "No cause is so active 
for evil among children as their mother's impatience." 
The old gentleman had found that the vandal children 
respected his property and that to forbid an offender to 
come into his room for a while was a cure. He said: 

We expect children who do not reflect, to act with 

all the propriety of men and women. . They must regard 

our times, seasons, and conveniences, and we will attend to their 
ever active wants, when our leisure will best permit us to do 
U it .my wonder . that children arc trouble- 

'* Amrrican .Innalj of EJuralion tinJ Instruction, vol. iii, 16-19. 
"* The Ijidifi' H'reath, vol. iii, 113-124. 

The Emancipation of Childhood 63 

Doctor Humphrey had some interesting ideas on 
"Domestic Education." He thought that infants "arc 
generally, except in very poor families, kept too much 
from the air, especially in fine weather." Mothers 
were inclined to keep the child from creeping: "till the 
poor child can walk like other folks, it must not move 
at all." Most American fathers had much leisure hut 
many intelligent and excellent men "lose by spending 
so many of their evenings abroad." 

Children of pious families have by far too many religious story 
books put into their hands, and are kept too lont^ upon milk, 
essences and hit:;h-seasoned condiments. The same objection 
lies against almost all the family readinjj of the present day 
[thou^jh] ... a certain amount of such easy and familiar 
reading;, in childiiood, is very useful. . . The Hible is not 
read half so much in religious families, as it was thirty years 
apo. . . Within the last thirty years, the [shorter] cate- 
chism has been gradually falling into neglect, and has been to a 
great extent displaced in pious families, by simpler, and in too 
many cases extremely superficial substitutes. The common ob- 
jection is . . . that [the doctrines] are above the compre- 
hension of children at the tender age, when it used to be com- 
mitted and recited. 

As to the doctrine of angelic infancy, "All this is 

very well ... if we understand it right." But 

the learned doctor urges that we always should 

Carefully distinguish between the sfKial affections, anil the 
state of the heart in the sight of a holy God, so as not to leave 
the impression, that there is anything in all this infantile and 
juvenile loneliness, to set aside the teachings of Scripture in re- 
gard to native depravity. . . I conceive the great laxness of 
family government, which characterizes the present age, may be 
traced very often to erroneous views on this very point. 
The opinion seems to be gaining ground, in some rcsi>ectable 
and influential quarters, punishments are rarely if ever 
necessary in family government. It is said, tliat if parents 
would begin early, ami cultivate the MX'ial affections of their 
children, and enlighten their understandings, and bring the 

64 The American Family 

whole force of moral influence to bear . there would 

be no nerd of rcsortinjj to punishnicnts. 

Most parents, he continued, were probably not so well 
verseil in these persuasive methods as they ought to be; 
perhaps in some families punishment could be avoided 
but as a rule it was necessary. 

The reader needs only to be reminded of the altera- 
tion that had taken place since the days of regnant 
Puritanism, and of the moiiern controversy on the same 
question of child nature between opposing schools in 
the field of religious education. 

Naturally the transition to child-freedom was dis- 
concerting to such as could not discriminate between 
the soundness of the fundamental trend and the inci- 
dental evils attendant on the relaxation of constraint. 
A "Stranger in America" wrote as early as 1807 that 

One of the j^rcatest evils of a Republican form of government 
is a loss of . . . subordination in society. . Bo^-s as- 

sume the airs of full prown coxcombs. This is not to be won- 
dered at, when most parents make it a principle never to check 
those unKovernablc passions which are born with us, or to cor- 
rect the prowinjj vices of their children. . . Often have I 
with horror, seen boys, whose dress indicated wealthy parents, 
intoxicated, shouting and swearing in the public streets.'* 

In 1 81 8 profligacy had become so common in New 
York that a respectable inhabitant said: "There is nf)t 
a father in this citv but who is sorry that he has got a 
son."" A writer of that year said: 

Strictly speaking there is no such thing as social subordination 
in the I'nited States. Parents have no command t»ver their 
children. . Owing perhaps to the very popular nature of 

our institutions, the American children arc seld«)m taught that 
profound reverence for, and strict oln-dience to their parents, 
which are at once the basis of domestic comfort and of the wcl- 

*' Jan*on. Slrani^er in .-Imfrica, 297. 
" Fcaron. Skfldirs of .Imfrira, 172. 

The Emancipation of Childhood 65 

fare of the children themselves. . . Nay the independence 
of children on their parents, is carried so far, as to raise doubts 
if a father or mother has any rijiht to interfere in the marriajjc 
of a son or dauj^hter. A few weeks since, this question uas 
publicly discussed at one of our New York Debating Clubs, for 
the edification of a numerous audience both male and female; 
and it was determined by a stout majority, that in a free and 
enlightened republic, children are at liberty to marry whom 
they please, without any interference on the part of the 
parents . . . and for this most sagacious reason, that the 
child, and not the parent, is about to commit matrimony ; it be- 
ing quite an exploded prejudice, that parents can have any pos- 
sible concern in the welfare and happiness of their offspring. 
The doctrine doubtless is palatable to every needy and unprin- 
cipled adventurer, who wishes to persuade some silly daughter 
of an opulent father, to accompany him to the next trading 
justice, who, for a few shillings, will perform the marriage 
ceremony, and consign her to a husband, and disgrace and mis- 
ery, for life.'^ 

A German visitor to America about the same time, 
wrote of the "indulgence shown by parents toward the 
excesses of children in earliest youth (often I saw chil- 
dren in quarrel with old people pick up stones, and 
threaten to fling them at the head of the old man that 
wanted to punish them)." He often saw young girls in 
convulsive anger at their parents." An Englishman 
who took tea in a family remarked that 

The children's faces were dirty, their hair uncombed, their dis- 
position evidently untaught, and all the members of the family, 
from the boy of six years of age up to the owner ( I was going 
to say master) of the house, appeared independent of each other. 
I have seen the same characteristics in other families - in some 
decidedly the contrary; but these latter would seem to be the 
exceptions, and the former the general rule.'" 

'•' Bristcd. Rrsourcfs of thf VnitfA Statti, 459-460. 
** Mcckc. Retse Jurrh die lereiniglrn Stuatrn, vol. i, 42, 63. 
*'• Mackm/ic. Ilistnrudl, topographical, and descriptive I'ie^u of the 
United States, 357. 

66 77/ f" .Iniifu an I'd mil y 

Abdy, a visitor of the early thirties, thought that "the 
Americans are too anxious to make money and too apt 
to spoil their children. The boys are mucli more 

spoiled than the g''"'^- ' ^'^ ''^^" daily Mtiri [labor news- 
paper] of March 21, iS^4, occurred a "modern cate- 
chism adapted to the times." The followin;.^ questions 
are suggestive: 

Who is the oldest man? The lail of fourtrrti who struts ami 
swanK^rs and smokes his cijjar, and drinks rum ; treads on the 
toes of his jjrandfather, swears at his mother and sister, and 
vows that he will run away and leave "the old man" if he will 
not let him have more cash. In what families is there the 
best government? Those in which the children covern the 
parents. Who brings up his children in the way they 

should Ko? He that teaches them to spend money without 
earninj; it; mi.xes sling whenever he thinks it will do him good, 
and always saves the bottom of the glass for little Frank. 

77/ «• Lddit's' Repository of Cincinnati from 1S41 to 
1849 contained numerous comments on the problem of 
child control. It is observed that the young lack re- 
spect for aged persons. "In travel, especially on 
steamboats," said one writer, "I have often remarked 
the selfishness of the young, monopolizing sofas, rock- 
ing chairs, etc., sometimes even to the disregard of the 
invalid." In another number, it was asserted that the 
good old breaking-in of children could not but have 
happy results. "We have fallen on evil times, 'i'herc 
is a fearful decline of familv religion. Karthly 

good . has filled the parental eye, and the heirs 

of the covenant are sacrificed to this Moloch." Parents 
waxed careless and tended "to relax their personal at- 
tentions to the great business of educating their off- 
spring, and to surrender them up almost entirely to 
their academic and Sunday vSchool instructors." "Bro- 
ken-hearted mothers are often seen mourning over the 
wavwardncss of their children." 


The Emancipation of CJiilJIiood 67 

An English woman in 1848 wrote: 

The indulKfficc which parents in the United States permit to 
their children is not seen in En^jland ; the child is too early his 
own master; as soon as he can sit at table he chooses his own 
food, and as soon as he can speak argues with his parents on the 
propriety or impropriety of their directions. 

In his Old Enj^land and New England, Bunn said: 
"Young America calls his father *the governor,' his 
mother 'the old 'un,' his sisters 'our gals,' and his 
brothers 'pals.'" 

Emerson quoted a man who said that it was a misfor- 
tune to have been born in an age when children were 
nothing and to have spent mature life in an age when 
children were everything. Such must have seemed to 
many the effect of democracy on family relations. Cer- 
tainly children were coming to the fore. People taught 
their children to show off before guests. Duncan in 
America as I found it said : 

The parents, full of frank, simple emotion, brinp; their little 
treasures under notice and ask you with pride and joy, "Don't 
you think my Charley is a brave little fellow?" ... If 
the children are not at home, you will be shown their pictures 
and told their histories. . . They come, not w ith a "make 
your bow," or "courtesy to the lady," - that is not republican 
fashion ; but with a becoming courage, looking straight into 
your eyes, and extending the ripht hand for a cordial shake. 
My surprise has also been excited by the len^jths they are per- 
mitted to po in mischief without punishment, or scarcely ad- 
monition. . As each child obtains a seat at the family 
table at meals as early as they can be trusted in an elevated 
chair, they are used to ask for and to receive all manner of 
varieties of food. . . [They arc commonly allowed to sit 
up] to see the fjuests at evening parties and share oysters, jellies, 
and ices, fruits, and preserves . . with all the heartiness 
and excess of "frugivorous children" ... to see sensible 
people smile with secret admiration of the "spirited" exhibition 
of rebellious will on the part of their offspring, excites in an 

68 The ^hucru (Ui idtmly 

English mind, a sense of lurking danger - as also to hear pupils 
asserting boldly what thr\ "will never K-arn." 

Olilmixon said tliat the thiM u;()t cvcrythini^ on iiis 
plate and left half of it. 

riic plicnonicna ot thiKl cnfranciiiscnicnt recall the 
waywardness of ne^ro children after emancipation and 
of the chihiren of immigrants culling loose from paren- 
tal archaism. Like these two latter types the children 
of the new American family were children of migrants 
to a new civilization. As in the case of immigrants of 
our day not all parents were reconciled to letting go. 
There was still a good deal of cruelty to children, ami, 
moreover, a sturdy defense of paternal supremacy. 

Doctor Humphrey in his work of 1840 sponsored 
patriarchism. Me conceived of the domestic relations 
as prior to all others in time and paramount in impor- 
tance. "Families, are so many divinely instituted and 
independent communities, upon the well ordering of 
which, the most momentous interests of the church and 
the state, of time and eternity arc suspended." No 
power on earth has a right to interfere with the patri- 
archal head. He is amenahle to God only, save in 
the most extreme cases of neglect or ahuse. A ncighhor 
may lack everv patriarchal (jualihcation. Perhaps his 
children would be better off in another's charge "but 
you may not thus interfere with one of (iod's ordi- 
nances." Nor can government assume parental duties. 
He thought the country was menaced by growing lax- 
ity of family government. It was more difllcult than 
half, or even a (]uarter of, a centurv earlier for parents 
to "command their household after them." 'I'he author 
was of the opinion that considerable progress at estab- 
lishing parental control could be made "under six 
months, if not under four; and that parental authority 
ought to be well established witiiiFi the first year and 

The Emancipation of CJiildhood 69 

a quarter. . . The young man of twenty, in his 
father's house, has no more right to say that he will use 
his own discretion, in regard to observing the rules and 
regulations of the family, than a child of ten." Chil- 
dren must submit to parental authority even after their 
majority if they choose to remain at home. 

Writers in the Presbytfrian Ma^azitw of the fifties 
represented similarly the conservative point of view. 
One thought 

1 hat the deficiencies which disclose themselves in the niarriat^c 
relation must be ascribed mainly to an inadequate and improper 
training. . . It can e.xcite no wonder, that young persons 
who liave grown up without restraint - allowed to treat their 
parents with disrespect - indulged in all their whims and ca- 
prices-accustomed only to flattery and adulation - should be 
found very troublesome inmates in another household. 

Another article asserted the entire authority of parent 
over child, and denied any one's right to intervene 
against the parent's will. 

The signs of the want of family discipline appear in the way- 
wardness of the children while yet they are young. Given up 
to idleness, knowing no restraint but such as they are wont to 
defy, having no domestic exercise for entertainment and profit, 
and nothing to keep them at home but their bed and board, and 
dreading their home for their leisure hours as a place of ct)n- 
finement; familiar with drunkenness, profaneness, and all the 
captivating forms of youthful dissipation; what have the parents 
or the community to hope from such children? 

In another number it was affirmed that "i'hc levelling 
system of the present age is nowhere more unfavorable 
than in the familv. Tyranny is offensive to 

(jod. . . But the parent's authority ought to be 
early, absolute, and entire." 

It must not be supposed that the abdicatioFi of sov- 
ereignty by parents in the perioil of this volume was 
universal or due to indifTercntism. There are indica- 

yo The Aiuiru (in I-dtmlv 

tions of serious parental concern for the welfare and 
training of children and of the persistence of the ohi 
religious zeal. Children ni.iv have seemed to foreign- 
ers spoiled and pert hut there was not lacking a large 
element of genuine filial ilevotion. An Knglishwoman 
writing in 1H4S on the excessive indulgence shown to 
children in America conceded that "this early develop- 
mentof republicanism does not injure so much as might 
he expecteil the future man. does in no way lessen the 
domestic afTections." 

Gurowski's work of iS;;7 obser\eti that 
American parents, allowing an almost unlimited choice to their 
children, spare nevertheless no hardships and pains to hrinjj 
them up, and to educate them accordin^^ to their conception of 
what is the best and the most useful for the mature duties of 
lite. Parents love their children as dearly and intensely here 
as in Kurope, but exercise less control, less authority. 
American parents are far more forbearing, nay meeker with 
their children than are tliose in Europe. What here results 
from freedom or a yielding disposition, to the European com- 
prehension appears as irreverence. A slight or no constraint is 
imposed upon children in America; and as childhood 
is eminently imitative, their good breeding depends upon the 
bad or good examples which in various quarters arc freely set 
before them. Children accustomed to the utmost familiarity 
and absence of constraint with their parents, behave in the same 
manner with other older persons. . Even in the serious de- 

cisions of life, children in America enjoy a fulness of indepen- 
dence not customary in Europe. They make freely the choice 
of their intimacies, then of their church, of their politics, their 
husbands and wives. 

Kspeciallv noteworthy was the emancipation of girls 
in the new world. This was correlated with "the 
political order of things in America." There is not 
much surface connection between the political democ- 
racy of the nineteenth century and the emancipation of 
girls from parental control; for political democracy 

The Emancipation of Childhood 

was a male affair and could not logically serve as a 
premise for reasoning about the status of woman in the 
family. But when the spirit of democracy is in the air 
it does not wait altogether for logical rules of proce- 
dure. The emancipation of boys, consonant with the 
new egalitarianism, could not but have influenced the 
status of girls despite their exclusion from political ac- 
tivity. Moreover the conditions of the new world 
operated to raise the position of woman as will be seen 

The French visitors of the end of the eighteenth cen- 
tury were almost shocked at the freedom enjoyed by 
girls yet they admit that no harm came of it. Perrin 
du Lac said that "because girls may go unattended to 
parties, married women seldom go." It was a surprise 
to the Frenchmen to find the delicate business of mar- 
riage confided to the young people. St. Mery report- 
ed : "The chosen sweetheart comes to the house when- 
ever he pleases, he takes his beloved out walking when 
he likes. . . Young people sit up spooning after 
their elders go to bed." Brissotadds: "You will sec a 
young girl drive off with her sweetheart in a light car- 
riage, and injurious suspicion never interferes with the 
pure pleasures of this trip into the country." Rocham- 
beau hinted that unmarried girls did not waste time on 
married men. 

John Quincy Adams wrote in a student diary of 
1787- 1788 (Newburyport) : 

[On a terrace in HiKh Street we] saw a number of younR la- 
dies who seemed to expect to be accosted ; and some of them 
finally sat down on the ^rass, perhaps to see if that would not 
call our attention to them ; but we were . . inexor- 

able. . . Some of these youn^: ladies were so much piqued 
at our apparent net^lect of them that they revenged themselves 
with proper spirit by laughing loud at us as we past by them ; 

72 The American Family 

and what punishment could possibly be niDrc severe than the 
ridicule of a youn;; lady? 

An interesting instance showing the common sense of 
the new daui^hter of America coupled with the old sub- 
ordination to parental will is found in the letters of 
Eliza Southi^ate Howne. At the age of eighteen she 
wrote: "1 despise the comiuct of those girls who think 
that every man who pays them any attention is seriously 
in love with them." Later she writes very sweetly and 
beauiifullv to her mother regarding Mr. Bowne's at- 
tentions to her. "He knew I was not at liberty to en- 
courage his addresses without the approbation of my 
parents, and appeared as solicitous that 1 should act 
with strict proprietv as one of mv most disinterested 
friends." She sizes him up very sanely. "I wish my 
Father would write to Mr. Derby and know what he 
says of .Mr. B's character." Ihis careful maiden mar- 
ried .M r. Bowne. 

IVom sundry references in the period between i8oo 
and the W^ir, the inference is that the American maid- 
ens enjoyed great freedom, cherished their independ- 
ence, and used it cleverly. Unhampered acquaint- 
ance with voung men put them in a position to choose 
their mate, perhaps not always wisely yet doubtless 
with results happier on the whole than the fruits of 
marriage in more conventional periods. If some 
maidens kept a keen eve open for "desirable" hus- 
bands even foreigners -their unwisdom was probably 
not so much a spontaneous product of their self-will as 
a result f)f the artificial culture that was beginning to 
cnt^If the wr)men of the more prosperous classes. 

Shortlv before the war Grattan in Civilized America 
said : 

F"eniale children of the most respectable parentajjc live, even 

before they are said to have quitted the nursery, in public. 

The Emancipation of Childfiood 73 

At the a;4c of twelve or thirteen, when female children rejoice 
in the appelation of "Misses," they bej^in to enjoy all the priv- 
ileges of self-management. 

Not all girls were sweetly sane. Fcjiidness for fiction 
came to be a common source of parental regret. John 
Quincy Adams, about 17H7, records a social function at 
which he danced with a girl, of whom he wrote: 
"She . . has read too many novels, which render 

her manners rather fantastical and affected." The 
New England Quarterly Magazine of 1802 reprinted 
an article from the Monthly Mirror of 1797 to the 
efTect that novel reading led to female depravity. Some 
boy too young to marry commits fornication with the 
novel-fed girl. A girl lures her chum's husband. The 
writer was acquainted with three such instances in as 
many years. The peace of several families was de- 
stroyed. Novel reading was responsible. (Perhaps it 
was also to blame for the desire of girls to be ethereal 
and slender, delicate and shrinking, which clima.xed in 
the early years of the nineteenth century.) A writer of 
1842 lamented the defective education that makes 
women more sentimental. Many pore over sickly nov- 
els regardless of duty as wife and mother. "Is it not a 
melancholy prospect for the country, that mothers so 
full of sentiment and romance are to train the future 
generations of this republic?" 

Martha H. Whitehouse, in the Ladies' Repository of 
1852 said that one cause that might be assigned for 
woman's inferiority was her morbid taste for light read- 
ing. "Our country, at the present day, is flooded to an 
unparalleled degree with the vain imaginings oi man, 
and presented to the public for a recompense so slight 
that 'he who runs mav read'; and our voung ladies de- 
vour with eagerness such books." This unreal world, 
she believed, unfitted for the real. 

74 The American Family 

Dc r()cH]ucvillc describee! the emancipation of ^irls 
from maternal control. To otiset the risk ot unconven- 
tionalily and freedom, he said, democratic education of 
^irls developed. They were permitted to learn what 
was what ami were not shielded in "innocence" accord- 
ing to the method ot older societies. "If democratic 
nations leave a woman free to choose her husband, they 
take care to give her mind sufficient knowledge, and 
her will sutlicient strength to make so important a 
choice." I)e 'lOcciueville probably exaggerated the 
emancipation of girls from traditional seclusion; the 
foregoing quotation is doubtless hyperbolic in its eu- 
logy. Apart from any specific efforts to enlighten girls 
in the ways of life the usage of coeilucation could not 
but accomplish large results. Dc Tocqueville thought 
that the matter-of-fact treatment accorded to girls 
Tends to invij^oratf the judj^ient at the expense of the imagi- 
nation, and to make cold and virtuous women instead of aflFec- 
tionatc wives and agreeable companions to man. S(x:iety may 
be mure tranquil and better ret^ulated, but domestic life has 
often fewer charms. These, however, arc secondary evils, 
which may be braved for the sake of hiijher interests. 

The Man of 1H34 contained an article to the effect 
that at fifteen or sixteen the young girl began to think 
of the mysterious subject matrimony. Her youth- 
ful imagination was captivated with its delights. It 
was a subject of ever recurrent interest among her com- 
panions. A little later she thought more intently about 
it. She believed herself destined to happy wedlock. 
Eighteen to twenty was the "witching time," the time 
for marriage. Most women became more thoughtful 
after that and "lof)k before they leap." In another 
number .Mr Cobbett was quoted thus: 

The girls in America are beautiful and imaflPected ; perfectly 
frank, and at the same time, perfectly modest; but, when you 
make them an oflPer of your hand, be prepared to give it, for 

The Etuancipation of Childhood 75 

wait they will not. In England we frequently hear of court- 
ships of a quarter of a century; in that anti-Malthusian coun- 
try, a quarter of a year is deemed to be rather "lenjjthy." 

Susan B. Anthony was an American girl of the com- 
ing type. Her father always encouraged the children 
in their independent ideas. Once when a spooler was 
sick in the mill Susan and Hannah clamored to take 
her place. The mother objected but their father let 
them draw straws for the chance. 'I'he winner was to 
divide her wages with the loser. Susan was the for- 
tunate one. She worked two weeks and received three 
dollars. With her dollar and a half she bought half a 
dozen pale blue cups and saucers that she had heard her 
mother wish for. She later taught. She said there 
were plenty of beaux, "but I never could bring myself 
to put anything about them on paper." She often re- 
fers to their calling, escorting her to parties, etc., but 
there is scarcely any expression of her sentiments 
toward them. One, of whom she says: "He is a most 
noble-hearted fellow; I have respected him highly 
since our first acquaintance," went to see a rival, and 

she wrote: "He is at 's this evening. O may he 

know that in me he has found a spirit congenial with 
his own, and not sutler the glare of beauty to attract 
both eye and heart." 

Goethe's Correspondence with a Child exercised a 
strong fascination upon young minds. It led more 
than one young girl to form an ideal attachment to a 
man far her senior but full of nobility and intellectual 
power. Theodore Parker said of letters to him from a 
young New Hampshire girl: "They are as good as 
Bcttine's without the lies." It seems that "this ming- 
ling of idealism and hero-worship was strongly char- 
acteristic of the transcendental period when women, 

"6 I h(' .htii t u (in liiniily 

havini^ little solid education and less industrial employ- 
ment, were full of noble aspirations and lon^in^s for 
fuller and freer life, which must fiiul expression in 
some way." Louisa Alcott (born iS^2) wrote letters 
to Kmerson pourini; forth her i^irlish loni^in^s and rap- 
tures, but never sent them. " 

On the whole the South was probably more conserva- 
tive than the North in its treatment of the young, par- 
ticularly of girls. The general emancipation of chihl- 
hood prevailed, nevertheless, to a degree in the South. 
Ramsav wrote in 1809 of South C^irolina revolutionary 
spirit that the sons 

Too little accustomed to the discipline of a strict education, 
serm equally zealous for the rights of boys, and ur^Je their 
claims so practically that many of the merchants import from 
Europe clerks trained to habits of obedience, rather than make 
vain attempts to subjujjate the hii^h-minded youths of Carolina. 
Their repugnance to subjection [is often excessive]. 
The too early introduction of young lads into company has an 
imhappy effect on their habits. [They are led to drink.] 

Letters from rir<j^inia (1816) relate that "V^irginia 
youths are not naturally overpatient of re- 

straint, or submissive to authority, even of the most 
parental kind." 

Buckingham in The Slavf States of /Irncrira wrote 
of Savannah : 

The youths of both se.vcs appear to be brought up in less sub- 
jection to parental authority than in England. The boys arc 
educated chiefly at day schools: between the hours of school 
attendance they are under very little restraint, and do pretty 
nearly what they like; many carry sticks or canes with them, 
and some even affect the bravo, by carrying bowic knives, but 
it is more for show than use. The young-ladies being also edu- 
cated at day schools, or at home, have much greater liberty al- 
lowed them in the disposal of their time, and the arrangement 

"Cheney. Louisa May .lUolt. her I. iff, I.fttrrs, and Journals, 57-59. 

The Emancipation of Childhood 77 

and control of their visits, than girls of the same age in Eng- 
land. The consequence is, great precocity of manners in both 
sexes, and often very early marriages. 

The actor Tasistro in Rdtidom S/iols an J S'^iit/ii-rn 
Breezes remarked: 

Southern children do not come exactly up to my notion of 
what children should be. Educated almost generally under 
the French system, which converts children into ladies and 
gentlemen before they are ten . . . they exhibit none of 
that hearty and most unceremonious gayety and good-humor 
which prevail among the younger branches of families in the 
North, particularly at . . . holydays, when the inroads 
of these little Goths and V^andals is the signal for the overthrow 
of any remaining stiffness and formality, and for the commence- 
ment of all sorts of trifling games and sports. 

The distinctive features of child-life in the South arc 
treated in a later chapter. 

From all the forcgoini^ items it is evident that the 
century of the child was under way. To old-fashioned 
people it seemed that the foundations were beino; de- 
stroyed; but the emancipation was a forward move 
toward family reciprocity, democracy, and sponta- 
neous, unforced loyalty. 



The line of liberalizing influences surveyed in the 
foregoing chapters had a positive effect on the status of 
woman that requires to be detailed; but first it is im- 
portant to visualize the relics of medievalism lingering 
in woman's status throughout the period under consid- 
eration. Such "equality" as was enjoyed by woman in 
the nineteenth century was a stingy concession even 
though it may have looked large to European visitors. 
The "fathers" did not plan a democratic America; 
hence it is not surprising that sufifrage was limited and 
that woman suffrage was eliminated. 

When English law crossed the ocean with the seven- 
teenth century colonists, the women had the constitu- 
tional right to vote and in some cases made use of it. 
Not one of the constitutions of the thirteen states ex- 
plicity restricted the suffrage to men. New York was 
the first state to tamper with its charter by adding the 
qualification "male" in the year 1778; state after state 
fell in line, concluding with New Jersey in 1844.'' 
The constitution of this state had been carelessly made; 
so that during thirty-one years women had the suffrage. 
That they used it is evident from the traditions in many 
families of a great-grandmother or great-grandaunt 
who voted year after year and also from the law of i Snj 
which limited the franchise to free white males and de- 

*^ Miinsterbcrfj. Amrricans, 573. 

8o 77/ 1' .Itnttiiun Family 

Glared as a reason that women, negroes, and aliens had 

been allowed to vote." 

American democracy is to he traced partly to old- 
worhl ideals and partly to the intluence ot pioneer life. 
Hut it will he observed in eitlier case that comlitions 
did not favor the inclusion of woman in the circle of 
privilege. Pauls interjuetation of woman's sphere 
was vivid in the minds of those in whom Calvin had 
broken ground for democracy. And in the new 
worlil a woman without a man was so helpless, having 
no protection against frontier perils and small oppor- 
tunitv for procuring a satisfactory livelihood, and civic 
life was still so obviously a man's world with its crude- 
ness ami fighting, that woman still ranked as a dcpeiui- 
cnt on man as in the old days of ordeal and could not 
logically claim equality. 

In the Pennsvlvania Park ft of September 23, 1780, 
occurred the following advertisement: 

W.mti'd at a scat about half a day's journey from Philadelphia, 
a single woman of unsullii'd reputation, an affable, cheerful, 
active, and amiable disposition ; cleanly, industrious, perfectly 
quah'fied to direct and manape the female concerns of country 
business, such as raisin)^ small stock, dairying, marketinfj. comb- 
ing, cardinj;, spinning, knitting, weavinp, scwinp, picklinj:, pre- 
serving, etc. Such a person will be treated with respect and 
esteem, and meet with every encouragement due to such a char- 

Even if this advertisement did point to economic inde- 
pendence for some woman (the only sure basis of equal- 
ity), opportunities of the sort must have been few. It 
is more likely, indeed, that the person in question was 
shrewdly advertising for a wife. 

The attitude of the public toward women in business 
is suggested in the prospectus of a "Lady's Journal" 

'" McMaster. History of thr People of the United States (1902), vol. iii, 


The Social Subordination of IVornan 8i 

(issued by Mrs. Carr of Baltimore in the early part of 
the nineteenth century). This prospectus states that 
she knew the malignant part of mankind would scoff 
at a woman editor but a mother would brave death for 
the support of her children and she had five. 

Daniel Anthony, father of Susan, at Battcnville, 
New York, was much criticized for allowing his 
daughters to teach as in those days women did not work 
for wages save from urgent necessity; but he was far 
enough ahead of his time to believe that every girl 
should be trained to self-support. But even at the mid- 
dle of the century woman had no recognized individu- 
ality in any sphere of life. She toiled in domestic ob- 
scurity to educate the boys. The girl was a chattel 
with no career in prospect. The boy past twenty-one 
was free but the girl continued to work without wages 
after twenty-one as before. Marriage transferred her 
services to the husband. Food, shelter, and clothing were 
considered adequate reward. Almost every woman had 
to marry wlicthcr or notor else become an utter depend- 
ent, living after her parents' death with some married 
relative as family drudge without wage and usually re- 
garded with disrespect by the children. 1\) step out as 
a wage-earner was to lose caste and be barred from the 
neighborhood functions. No man would be brave 
enough to marry a woman tliat had unsexed herself by 
becoming a literary woman. It was believed to a great 
extent that any woman that attempted a vocation out- 
side of domestic service was henceforth unfitted to be a 
wife and a mother. 

Catherine E. Beecher, who was bv no riicans an icon- 
oclast, in 1 81; I recognized the real crux of woman's ile- 
pression, for she said : 

The jjrand source of the heaviest wron;; that oppresses our sex 
is found in the fact that they arc so extensively cut oflF from 

82 Thr .1 ruitii (in Fatutly 

honorahlr and remunerative eniploy in their professional voca- 
tion riirrc are now more than two million children in 
this (.i>u[itr\ without any schcM)ls! There are probahly as many 
more in schcMils tauj^ht by men, who could be far more appro- 
priately employed in shops or mills, or other masculine pursuits. 

She (]untcs Doctor Coombs as referring to inactivity of 
intellect and feelini; as predisposinu; to nervous disease, 
of which females of the midcile and upper classes were 
the most frequent victims, "especially those of a nervous 
constitution and of ^ood natural abilities." Miss 
Beecher went on to say: 

The results of hi^h cultivation on the character and happiness 
of youn;j ladies of the hijjhcr classes [after quittinK school is 
painful to me]. That restless longinR for excitement, that 
cravin;! for unattainable }iood, that morbid action of the imaj^i- 
nation, that dissatisfaction with the world, that factitious in- 
terest in trifles, and those alternations of high excitement and 
brixidinjj apathy - tlu*sc arc the secret history of many a ^:ifted 
and highly-cultivated female mind. . . The ability to secure 
an independent livelihood and honorable employ suited to her 
education and capacities, are the only true foundation of the 
social elevation of women, even in the very hijihest classes of 
society. While she continues to be educated only to be some- 
body's wife, and is left without any aim in life till that some- 
body, either in love, or in pity, or in selfish regard, at last 
{H'ants her the opportunity, she can never be truly independent. 
And true freedom and equality are the essential requisites of 
genuine affection. 

Mrs. Stantf)n also said that uoman mu^t be taught to 
be economicaliv indepeiuicnt. 

The two-fold situation of transmitted bigotry and 
economic subjection tended to a mischievous effect on 
family relations: it left the way open to patriarchal des- 
potism, and tended tf) make the boys overbearing, while 
the girls and mother were likelv to be subdued with a 
sense of "woman's place" that prevented the full cx- 
jiansion of their personalities. Thus the seeds of equal- 

The Social Subordination of If'onian 83 

ity were slow to reach their normal fruitage and the 
status quo was slow to dissolve even under the liberal- 
izing influences already portrayed. In sharp contrast 
to those signs of promise appear many relics of medie- 
valism that encumbered woman's status down at least to 
the Civil War. Marriage reduced her to a sub(jrdi- 
nate and cramped position. She was expected to em- 
brace her husband's religion, to confine her activities to 
the home, and to make her husband's pleasure her guid- 
ing star. Ignorant of her husband's business, subordi- 
nate in the church, barred from politics, and possessing 
a scanty or a silly education, it is not strange that she 
scarcely aroused in her husband a sense of "conscious- 
ness of kind" or a real sympdthy. She did not have to 
think; hence it was but natural that light reading or 
trifling gossip satisfied her, that she accepted indulgence 
instead of justice, or even gloried in her degradation. 

A hundred years ago a woman of polite breeding 
would have been oflfended if told that she meddled in 
public affairs. Her attitude is illustrated bv the re- 
mark of an unusually intelligent woman to a Federalist 
whom she met shortly after her flight from Washington 
on the occasion of the British invasion. He said that 
the disaster argued for a standing army and she replied 
that she had always associated a standing armv with 
despotism, but added: "T am not competent to discuss 
such questions, sir." Mrs. Madison enjoved the friend- 
ship of many public men but we have no record of her 
views on public questions or that she ever influenced 
the political views or acts of her devoted husband. 

About 1840 Catherine K. Beecher voiced the dom- 
inant theory of the relation proper to the nature of tiie 
se.xes. She said : 

Heaven has appointed to one sex the superior, and to the other 
the subordinate station, and this without any reference to the 

84 Till' .Iniitnnn Itntitly 

character or conduct of cither. It is therefore as much for the 
dit^nity as it is for the interest of females, in all respects to con- 
form to the duties of this relation. And it is as much a duty 
as it is for the child to tultill similar relations to parents, or 
subjects to rulers. Hut it is not . . . designed 

that her duties or her intiurruc should he any the less impor- 
tant or all pervading. Hut it w;is desi^jned that the mode of 
jjaininjj influence and of exercising power should be altogether 
different and peculiar. Woman is to win everything by peace 
and love; by making herself so much respected, esteemed and 
loved, that to yield to her opinions and to gratify her wishes 
will be the free-will offering; of the heart. But this is all to 
be accomplished in the domestic and social circle. All the 
sacred protection of religion, all the generous promptings of 
chivalry, all the poetry of romantic gallantry, depend upon 
woman's retaining her place as dependent and defenceless and 
making no claims, and maintaining no right but what are the 
gifts of honor, rectitude, and love. [Hetter education will fit 
women to be school-teachers.] Hut if females, as they ap- 
proach the other sex in intellectual elevation, begin to claim, or 
to exercise in any mafiner. the peculiar prerogatives of that sex, 
education will provt- a doubtful and dangerous blessing. But 
this will never be the result. For the more intelligent a 
woman becomes, the more she can appreciate the wisdom of that 
ordinance that appointed her subordinate station, and the more 
her taste will conform to the graceful and dignified retirement 
and submission it involves. 

A writer in the Ltidiis' Rfpository in 1842 reduced the 
duties of a wife to three heads: affection, reverence, 

The Puhllr Li-Jirrr an J D/iily Transcript of Phila- 
delphia about the middle of the century had an article 
on "The \\'omcn of Philadelphia." in which occurred 
the following cfTusion : 

Our ladies . . . s(jar to rule the hearts of their worship- 
pers, and secure obedience by the scepter of affection. , . Is 
not everything managed by female influence? ... A 
woman is nobody. A wife is everything. A pretty girl is 
equal to ten thousand men, and a mother is, next to God, all 

The Social Subordination of ffoman 85 

powerful. '1 he ladies of Philadelphia, therefore, under 

the influence of the most serious "sober second thoujijhts," arc 
resolved to maintain their rights as wives, belles, virgins, and 
mothers, and not as women. 

Miss Barber of the Madison (Georgia) f'isiior says, 
It is written in the volume of inspiration . . . that 
man ... is superior to woman. He has a more stately 
form, stronger nerves and muscles, and, in nine cases out of 
ten, a more vigorous intellect. 

H. P. Grattan, editor of the New York Sunday Age^ 
loved women, on the proper pedestal. "If they give 
evidence of a knowledge of puddings and pies, how 
much happier they might be." 

Margaret Fuller, writing on the wrongs and duty of 
American women said: 

It is not generally proposed that [woman] should be suf- 
ficiently instructed and developed to understand the pursuits or 
aims of her future husband ; she is not to be a help-meet to him 
in the way of companionship and counsel, except in the care of 
his house and children. [But] a vast proportion of the sex, 
if not the better half, do not, cannot have this domestic sphere. 
Thousands and scores of thousands in this country, no less than 
in Europe, are obliged to maintain themselves alone. Far 
greater numbers divide with their husbands the care of earning 
a support for the family. 

Woman's education before the Civil War was of a 
most inferior sort. Nearly all girls' schools before 
1800 were limited to terms of a few months and con- 
fined themselves largely to needlework, music, dancing, 
and the cultivation of morals and manners. Referring 
to the literature of the cwd of the eighteenth century, 
McMaster has said: 

For young women there was a class of bcMjks designed to incul- 
cate a morality of the most unhealthy sort. . . They were 
popular and the list is long. . . There was a collection of 
dramatic pieces designed "to exemplify the mode of conduct 

:y{) The Anuruan Family 

which will rmtlcr younn ladies bt)th amiahir and happy when 
their school education is completed" and containing such dc- 
lil^htful rcadinu a*. "The (jtH>d Mother-in-Law," "The Good 
D«ughier-in-La\v, ITie Maternal Sistcr-in-La\v." 

In the first half of the nineteenth century there were 
no adequate facilities for the education of women. 
Some liiii imlecii receive a ^ood education, sufficient to 
enable them to prepare their sons for college. lUit in- 
asmuch as woman was excluded from the walks of life 
in which a broail education seemed re(]uisite, slight at- 
tention was ^iven to her education and she was denied 
the proper means of intellectual development. Some 
did get a good domestic education; others were miir- 
ricd "without knowing anything of life hut its amuse- 

The New Kngland (Junrtirlx Md^azinc for iHoz 
contained the opinion of Doctor Rush that several cir- 
cunistanccs in America re(]uired a peculiar mode of fe- 
male education: I. Karly marriage made contracted 
etlucation necessary. It shouhl he conHneci chiefly to 
the more useful branches of literature. 2. Most citi- 
zens had to work. Women should he trained to be 
stewards and guardians of their husbancfs' property. 
3. Professional life often took men away from their 
families. Women should be prepareti to train children. 
They should know how to instruct their sons in the 
principles of liberty and government. 4. Servants 
needed looking after. 

One hundred years ago the object of female educa- 
tion was to enable girls to attract men. gain husbands, 
maintain homes, and manage families. It would have 
seemed absurd to give a girl the same course as a boy 
beyond the first reader Hunt thinks that 

Addi«on'* deMrription . . . oi the accompli'^hmrnts of an 
Fnglishuoman of high brcedinjj in 1712, would have answered 

Till' Socuil Subordination oj Ho man 87 

with some modifications for the daughter of a well-to-do family 
in America in 1815 : 

"She sings, dances, plays on the lute and harpsichord, paints 
prettily, is a perfect mistress of the French tongue, and has 
made a considerable progress in Italian. She is, besides, ex- 
cellently skilled in all domestic sciences, as preserving, pickling, 
pastry, making wines of fruits of our own growth, embroider- 
ing, and needlework of every kind." 

The domestic arts were taught to rich aiui poor. All 
women were expected to learn to nurse. But the book 
education of women was better and more diffused than 
in earlier days. Women whose grandmothers could 
not write were able to write well. 

Americans generally were in accord, however, with 
Rousseau's view that 

The education of women should be always relative to the men. 
To please, to be useful to us, to make us love and esteem them, 
to educate us when young and to take care of us when grown 
up, to advise, to console us, to render our lives easy and agree- 
able; these are the duties of women at all times. 

Women accepted the gospel according to Paul. Books 
written for young women's guidance cited Milton : 
To whom thus Eve with perfect beauty adorn'd: 
"My Author and Disposer, what thou bidst 
Unargued I obey; so God ordains; 
God is thy law, thou mine; to know no more 
Is woman's happiest knowleiige and her praise." 

Books for women indicate what was expected of them. 
They were advised to cultivate the power of pleasing 
conversation. Married women were to concentrate 
upon husband and home. One author bade woman 
understand "that there is an inecjuality in the sexes, ami 
that for the economy of the world the men, who were 
to be the guardians and lawL^ivcrs, had not oidv the 
greater share of bodily strength bestowed on them, but 
those also of reason and resolution." She was remind- 

8 s The Am trie an Family 

cd that chastity was less important in man than in 
woman; that she should not expostulate with an un- 
faithful husband lest she alienate him, but should feign 
ignorance of his behavior and charm him back; that 
she should not expect the public to sympathize with a 
blazoning of her wrongs; and that to separate from her 
husband made her responsible for his later vices. 

Kor w«)man was prescribed strong doses of reading, 
mosilv religious books; but she could read the Rambltr, 
the IJltr, and the Spfctator. Shakespeare was too 
coarse but selections from him were admissible. Byron 
was taboo but V(iung. Thomson, Milton, Cowpcr, and 
(joldsmith afforded desirable reading. Moral essays 
were regarded as her best pabulum. She was encour- 
aged to read American history but was warned against 
novels, though T/n- Ficar of Jl'ake field , Don Quixote^ 
and a few others escaped the ban. The young lady 
even put up with Swift's insults." 

F(jr at least fifty years longer the education of women 
was in general of this degrading type. Too much time 
was given to frothy accomplishments, to dress, to ro- 
mance and unreality, and too little to a substantial in- 
tellectual development that would have enabled her to 
interest and hold her husband and to escape from stag- 
nation and inefficiency. The saner people of the period 
realized the defects of the system and urged amend- 
ment both in the interest of woman's function and of 
her own happiness. At school, however, none of the 
men teachers would teach Susan B. Anthony long di- 
vision or understand why a girl should insist upon 
learning it.*' It looked as if women were "to be mere 
kitchen maids, without a particle of information, ex- 

•• Hunt, l.ile in .Imrrica one hundrrd Years ago (a valuable general 
refrrefKe on womcn't >iatu*), 74-84. 

♦•Harper. IJIe anJ Work of Sujan li. .Inlhony, vol. i, 22. 

The Social Subordination of IVoman 89 

cept it belong to mere labor of body," or if taught 
more, naught but flashy acconriplishmcnts. 

Many periodicals and papdrs for women (some oi 
them by women) were in existence in the first half of 
the nineteenth century. At the middle of the century 
the leading magazine was Godey's Lady's Book-^Wtd 
with fashion pictures "and stories supposed to be adapt- 
ed by virtue of their domestic imbecility to the taste of 
the women of the period." The Ladies' National Mag- 
azine was of like character. Women of the fifties took 
intense delight in novels of a "domestic, semi-pious 
character" -books that to men seemed trivial and emp- 
ty. More substantial reading was afforded by some 
magazines, such as the Ladies' Repository of Cincin- 
nati, in which in 1841 a writer advocated literature for 
women on account of their large influence on the race. 

The arguments that so long deprived women of lib- 
eral culture rested almost entirely on the assumption 
that education would beget distaste for the pleasures of 
domestic life and would unfit women for family and 
social duties. When reading was first taught women 
in America, it is said that opposition arose on the 
ground that a woman would forge her father's or hus- 
band's name if she learned to read and write. Geog- 
raphy was likewise opposed on the score of its tendency 
to make her dissatisfied with home and desirous of 
travel. The first public examination of a girl in geom- 
etry, given in New York in 1829, raised a cry of disap- 
proval all over the land -"the clergy, as usual, prophe- 
sying the dissolution of all family bonds."" In 1841 
Mrs. Graves wrote: 

It is their pencral anti-domestic tendency which is the greatest 
defect in our modern systems of female education; and to this 

*^ These absurdities are rccordeil in Cja^e, If'oman, Church, and Slnlt, 
533, faotnofr, and Hecker, Short History of H'ontfn's Rights, 170. 

90 //'' .Imt'riiun Family 

wc m«y trace the restless craving for the excitement of public 
duties and public pleasures, which so strikingly characterizes 
the anjjret:ate of female s(Kiety at the present clay. 

Mrs. Graves ni.iv h.ivc been jusiilicd in her criticism 
of what passed for higher education of ^irls, curricula 
of showv pretention, but it is strange tliat it did not 
occur to the thinkers of tlie day to trace more funila- 
mental causation of woman's unrest. What could be 
accomplished by seclusion and prudishness? Suflicient 
commentary on the old system should have been found 
in such experiences as that of Paulina NN'rii^ht who in 
1K44 ^avc public lectures on physiology. "When she 
uncovered her manikin, ladies would drop their veils 
or run from the room; sometimes they 'fainted.'"*" 

When about 1S48 the first woman presented herself 
at the Harvard medical course she was ejected. When 
in iH^;; the Regents of the State of New York gave to a 
woman's college the right to grant degrees and offer 
courses similar to those given to men the presidents of 
other institutions were horrifieil. One college presi- 
dent wrote: "A few dreamers I understand are trying 
to develop a college for women in the village of Klmira. 
The idea of giving woman a man's education is too 
ridiculous to appear credible." In a public address a 
professor in a well known eastern college said: "1 am 
informed that a charter has just been issued in New 
York State for the forming of a woman's college and 
that a foolish effort is being made to place young wo- 
men on the platform before an audience. To my mind 
this borders on the vulgar." Dr. Jcwctt, who in 1861 
was organizing X'^assar, met with similar criticisms.*^ 

Wc must beware of taking the subject of female cdu- 

■ Pirv»n« Old Fa/ftionrJ H'oman, 219. 
♦' Pusard. tut Sofi/I/ Amfricainf, 184-18$; Rcit/cl. Trrnd of CoUfgrs for 
H'omtn, )t(X 

The Social Subordination of Woman 91 

cation entirely out of its perspective. It must be re- 
membered that the formal education of men was like- 
wise very narrow and futile. Mackay, who travelled 
in the United States in 1846- 1847, said: "As a general 
rule, the men in America fall far short of the women in 
intellectual culture and moral refinement. Most of 
them enter upon . . business at an early age." 

Gurowski reported: "The intellectual education of 
an American woman, especially in the Free States, av- 
erages a higher degree than in Europe, even in coun- 
tries considered as foremost in civilization. . The 
culture of the mind is superior and more generally dif- 
fused among women than it is on the average among 
men. [Men are too busy.]" (In this fact may be an 
explanation in part of the strength of the woman 

Woman's legal status during the first half of the nine- 
teenth century was medieval and permeated with in- 
justice. The reality of woman's bondage is made vivid 
by a case in New York City in which a husband re- 
covered ten thousand dollars damages from persons that 
had received, harbored, and sheltered his wife after she 
left him." Mrs. Robinson, a Lowell mill girl, saw 

More than one poor woman shulk bi-liind her loom or her 
frame when visitors were approaching;. . . Some 
were known under assumed names, to prevent their husbands 
from trusteeing their wages. It was a very common thing for 
a male person of a certain kind to do this, thus depriving his 
wife of all her wages, perhaps, month after month. . . A 
woman was not supposed to he capable of spending her own or 
of using other people's money. In Massachusetts, before 1840, 
a woman could not legally be treasurer of her own sewing- 
society, unless some man were responsible for hcr.*'^ 

** C»ape. IVoman, Church, and Stdtr, 141. 
*" Robinson. Loom and SpindU, 66-68. 

92 The American Family 

M.iri,Mrft I'ullcr rccordcil that 

[In innumerable instances] prollinatc and idle men live 
upon the earnin^:^ oi industrious wives; or if the wives leave 
ihcm, and take with them the children, to perform the double 
duty of mother and father, follow from place to place, and 
threaten to rob them of the children, if deprived of the rights 
of a husband, as they call them, planting themselves in their 
poor lodgings, friijhteninn them into payini^ tribute by taking 
from them the children, running into debt at the expense of 
these otherwise so overt;isked helots. Such instances count up 
by scores within my own memory. I have seen the husband 
who had stained himself by a long course of low vice, till his 
wife was wearied from her heroic forgiveness, by finding that 
his treachery made it useless, and that if she would proviilc 
bread for herself and her children, she must separate from his 
ill f anK - I have known this man come to install himself in the 
chamber of a woman who loathed him, and say she should never 
take f<x)d without his coinpany. I have known these men steal 
their children, whom they knew they had no means to maintain, 
take them into dissolute company, expose them to bodily dan- 
ger, to frighten the poor woman, to whom, it seems, the fact 
that she alone had borne the pangs of their birth, and nourished 
their infancy, does not give an equal right to them. This 

mode of kidnapping ... is frequent enough in all classes 
of society. 

I could give instances that would startle the most vulgar and 
callous; but I will not. for the public opinion of their own sex 
is already against such men, and where cases of extreme tyranny 
are made known, there is private action in the wife's favor. 
But she ought not to need this, nor, I think, can she long.*' 

Emily Collins, speaking of the period previous to 
1848 and thereabouts, said : 

In tho*e early da>'S a husband's supremacy was often enforced 
in rural districts by corporeal chastisement, and it was consid- 
ered by most people as quite right and proper - as much so as 
the correction of refractory children in like manner. I remem- 
ber in my own neighborhood a . . . .Methodist class- 

**t>»»oli. Woman in thf Sinrlfenth ('.rnlury, 32-33. 

The Social Subordination of fVoman 93 

leader and exhorter . . . esteemed a worthy citizen, who, 
every few weeks, gave his wife a beating with his horsewhip. 
He said it was necessary, in order to keep her in subjection, 
and because she scolded so much. Now this wife, surrounded 
by six or seven little children . . . was obliged to spin 
and weave cloth for all the garments of the family ... to 
milk ... to make butter and cheese, and do all the cook- 
ing, washing, making, and mending . . . and, with the 
pains of maternity forced upon her every eighteen months, was 
whipped by her pious husband, "because she scolded." *'' 

In 1845 Edward D. Mansfield set forth the le^al 
status of women. He exhibited the marriage relati(jn 
as a legal unity the object of which arrangement was to 
secure unity of family support and government. Hus- 
band and wife could not make legal contracts with each 
other. It was only through trustees that an agree- 
ment between husband and wife could be enforced. If 
a husband, in order to stimulate his wife's industry, 
agreed to allow her a share of the proceeds, the court 
of chancery would enforce the agreement. Agree- 
ments to live separate and to allow the wife the use t)f 
her property could be enforced. In general they could 
not be witnesses for or against each other. 

The h usband wa s_the,legal heaii. — He-iield the ex- 
ternal powers of the family with reference to property. 
The wife's being was largely merged in his. The hus- 
band had a right to the person of his wife and hence the 
sole right to redress for legal wrongs against her per- 
son. She could not sue aloae^ nor execute a deed or 
other instrument to bind herself and property^. (In 
some states a wife might make a will or devise of her 
property.) She forfeited all personal control over her 
property so long as the marriage lasted. Her person- 
al property vested absolutely in the husband. The hus- 

*'' Stanton rt al. Iliilory nf If'nmun Siiffrai^r, vol. i, 88-89. 

94 I ii^ A nitric an luniily 

barul was liable for wrongs and frauds of the wife com- 
mitted during marriage and for debts contracted by her 
before marriage. 

The husbanil had ilic right to claim his wife's so- 
ciety; to reclaim her if she went away nr was detained; 
to use gentle constraint upon her liberty to prevent im- 
proper conduct. If preventive means, within limit, 
failed he must hanvi her over to the law or separate. 
He might mr- lor injurv to Iut person. He might de- 
fend her with force. "In marriage the legal control of 
the wife passes to the husband, not that of the husband 
to the wife." The public opinion of men required of 
woman a stricter observance of certain morals than it 
demanded of men; but they had not ventured in that 
age to put the idea into the criminal code. "Prob- 
ably the greatest amelioration of American jurispru- 
dence is the relaxation of the old English rules in re- 
gard to the husband's control over the wife. The 
free spirit which pervades the whole legal and social 
structure of the United States, has entered this branch 
of jurisprudence also." 

'I*he wife might take some measures to restrain her 
husband from wrong but not to the same degree that he 
might in her case. She had redress at law against im- 
proper treatment. She was entitled to protection and 
maintenance. Legal title to propertv might be vested 
in trustees for the use of a w ife. Any act of the mother 
over a child had the same validity as if it had been per- 
formed by the father. I'nder law of assault or seduc- 
tion the father could claim damage on the ground that 
his daughter was his servant. 

Even in mid-century if an employer paid to a neces- 
sitous wife her own earnings he could be prosecuted by 
a drunken and improvident husband and compelled to 

The Social Subordination of Woiiuui 95 

make payment again to him. The wife had no right to 
custody of her person or of her children. The hus- 
band could^ apprentice the children at an early age 
against her will aiul at his death could dispose of the 
children by will even though they were unborn. The 
formula constantly used in Ici^al decisions was: "The 
wife is dead in law," or "Husband and wife are one, 
and that one the husband." According to English com- 
mon law, which then prevailed in every state save Lou- 
isiana, a man might beat his wife to the point of en- 
dangering her life without being liable to prosecution.*" 
At a Woman's Rights Convention of 1852 xMrs. Nichols 
said : 

If a wife Is compelled to j^et a divorce on account of the in- 
fidelity of the husband, she forfeits all right to the property 
which they have earned together, while the husband, who is 
the oflFender, still retains the sole possession and control of the 
estate . . . he . . . retains the home and chil- 
dren. . . A drunkard takes his wife's clothing to pay his 
rum bills, and the court declares . . . the action 
legal because the wife belongs to the husband. ^^ 

In i860 a veiled lady told this story: She was sister 
to a United States Senator and married to a distinguish- 
ed member of the Massachusetts Senate. They had 
three children. He proved unfaithful. When she 
confronted him with proof, he threw her down stairs. 
Later he had her shut in an insane asylum (a very easy 
thing for husbands in those davs to do). She got out 
on habeas corpus. The chiUlrcn were in the father's 
custody. Her brother said that if slie made more 
trouble they would return her to the asylum. She lied 
with one child. Miss Anthony took her to New ^'ork. 
They could not get shelter at night as hotels would not 

** Anthony. Status of U'mnnn, f)oi-902. 

*" Harper. I.ijr nnJ If'nrk of Sujtin li. .Inthony, vnl. i, 74. 

i)f\ The Anuriciin Family 

lake ladies alone. Even Garrison and Phillips ur^cd 
her to return the "abducteil" child. Later the father 
kidnappeil the child. Nothing' could be done."" 

The subjection of woman was even used as an argu- 
ment to bolster up slavery. 'I'he rcvciciui 1'. .\. Ross, 
D.D., Presbyterian pastor at Iluntsville, Alabama, in 
an attempt in iH;;7 to prove Slanry ordnuutl of CJoJ 
said : 

I>o you say, the slave is hrlil to involuntary st-rvitudr? So 
is the wife. Her relation to her hushaml, in the immense ma- 
jority of cases, is made for her, and not by her. And when 
she makes it for herself, how often, and how soon, d(H-s it be- 
come involuntary! How often, and how soon, would she 
throw off the yoke if she could! O ye wives, I know how su- 
perior you are to your husbands in many respects - not only 
in personal attraction ... in j^race, in refined thought, 
in pxsnive fortitude, in enduring love, and in a heart to he fdlcd 
with the spirit of heaven. . . Nay, I know you may surpass 
him in his own sphere of boasted prudence and worldly wisdom 
about dollars and cents. Nevertheless he has authority from 
(»<>d to rule over you. . . \'ou are bound to obey him in all 
thinjrJ. ^'our service is very, very, very often involuntary from 
the first, and, if voluntary at first, becomes hopeless necessity 
afterwards. I know (jod has laid upon the husband to love 
you as Christ loved the church. Hut the husband may 

not so love you. He may rule you with the rod of iron. 
What can you do? He divorced? God forbid it, save for 
crime. Will you sa\ that you are free, that sou will i^o where 
you please, do as y(»u please? Why ye dear wives, your hus- 
bands may forbid. And listen, you cannot leave New York, 
nor your palaces, an> more than your shanties. No ; you can- 
not leave your parlor, nor your bedchamber, nor your couch, if 
your husband commands you to stay there. What can you do? 
Will you run away with your stick and your bundle? He can 
advertise you! What can you do? You can, and I fear some 
of you do. wish him, from the bottom of your hearts at the bot- 
tom of the Hudson. 

»*Harp«r. Lift and H'ork of Susan R. .Irtt/iony, vol. i, 201-205. 

The Social Subordination of Ho man 97 

In the Presbyterian Magazine for 1852 the follow- 
ing keen comment on woman's status appeared : 

Our . . . position ... is, that the Hible does not 
favor the manhood of woman - that it is opposed to the idea of 
a perfect equality of the sexes. . . Maternity, which we 
will here confine to the single idea of takinj^ care of children, 
brings woman more within the precincts of the home. . . 
Authority must be vested somewhere. . . This authority in 
the human race is vested in man, as the divinely appointed head 
of creation. "Wives submit yourselves unto your husbands as 
unto the Lord." . . Woman has a mission to perform, which 
dignifies her even among angels. . . To light up the house- 
hold with joy and love, to nourish and train the immortal chil- 
dren within its precincts, to minister to the good government 
of the little family kingdom, to cheer the husband who is the 
"head" amidst the sorrows and trials of life, to be an example 
of faith and righteousness. 

A western legislator tells how he urged the passage of 
a bill giving to the widow of an intestate dying without 
children one-third of the husband's real estate in fee 
absolute and two-thirds of his personal property. He 
pled the wife's contribution to success in a new country. 
"The legislature, brought face to face with the notori- 
ous fact that, throughout the toilsome farming life, the 
wife bears her full share of the burden and heat of the 
day took a first step in righting the grievous wrong done 
to her." (The old law entitled her, in most cases, to 
but one-third of his personal property, and the use dur- 
ing her life of one-third of his real estate.) The legis- 
lature passed his bill; the people approved; but later a 
codification commission left it out." 

In this matter of the distribution of property, sex 
discrimination lingered long. Men of liberal views 
whose outlook transcended the system that denied fe- 
males equal opportunity to earn a livelihood could, in- 

^* tyestern Proplf iinJ Potil'uians, 262. 

pS Thf American Family 

deed, provide preferentially fi)r their daughters. Some 
sue h h)gic may be rcMcctcd in the observations of a writ- 
er who said in 1K2S: "Rich men, here, often give more 
to their sons than to their daughters, tho it is very com- 
mon for men of small fortunes to make the daughters in- 
dependent at the expense of the sons." But Gorling in 
iS4(i wrote: "Seldom does the American provide his 
daughter in proportion to what the sons receive. She 
is a girl; girls are in great demand; well, let them go 
and marry." At this period a Massachusetts farmer 
would usually leave his daughter a home on the farm 
as long as she remained single. Fathers frequently 
willed all their property to their sons." 

Various stirrings of unrest among women were visited 
with indignant reprobation. With reference to know- 
leiige of sex phenomena a bodv of New England 
churchmen wrote in 1837: 

Wc c>prcially deplore the intimate acquaintance and promiscu- 
ous conversation of femal<-s w ith regard to thinfys which ouu'ht 
not to be named; by which that modesty and delicacy which is 
the charm of domestic h'fe, and which constitutes the true influ- 
ence of woman in society, is consumeil, and the way opened, as 
we comprehend, for degeneracy and ruin. 

Women's activity in behalf of anti-slavery, circulat- 
ing petitions, raising money, attending meetings, and 
forming societies, was an object of condemnation. Af- 
ter the attack on the Boston Female Anti-Slavery So- 
ciety and the mobbing of Garrison in 183^ the editor 
of a religious journal declared that such as persisted in 
a course that led to such a riot were as much to blame 
as the rioters. .Another remarked that when matters of 
grave political reform were up it might be wiser "for 
the gentler sex to seek information at home." When 

*' Cooper. Solionj of the Americans, vol. ii, 254-235; (iorling. Die neut 
If^flt, 4J J Robinvin. /.00m an,i SpinJle, 68; Anthony. Status of <woman, 901. 


The Social Subordination of 11 oman 99 

in 1837 the Grimke sisters championed on the platform 
immediate emancipation, the religious prcj-slavery 
crowd cried out against the indelicacy of women's tak- 
ing an active part in affairs of religious reform and as- 
sailed "Women's Rights." The General Association 
issued a pastoral letter urging that the churches should 
be closed to anti-slavery lecturers and that church mem- 
bers should not countenance women lecturers, saying 
that it was very wrong to encourage women to play an 
obtrusive and ostentatious part in matters of reform or 
countenance any "of that sex who so far forget them- 
selves as to itinerate in the character of public lecturers 
and teachers." Thirty-nine students of Andover Sem- 
inary sent out an appeal to abolitionists. As abolition- 
ists they condemned public lectures by women. 
In 1841 Mrs. Graves wrote: 

The great principles of liberty and equal rights, which are 
about to overthrow the long-existing institutions of despotism, 
and are stirring the hearts of men of every station, in every 
clime, have penetrated even into the quiet haven of domestic 
life. . . "The Rights of Women" are almost as warmly 
and wildly contested as the "Rights of Man;" and there is a 
revolution going on in the female mind at the present day, out 
of which glorious results may arise. [Woman] is yet too often 
found either the petted, capricious plaything, or the toiling care- 
worn slave; and thus she lives and dies without knowing or ful- 
filling her responsibilities as the helpmate of her brother man - 
a being intended to be a coworker with him in promoting the 
spiritual and intellectual advance of the race. 

We lament the erratic course of many of our female re- 
formers, believing that they have inflicted deep injury where 
they intended good, by drawing woman away from her true 
and allotted sphere - domestic life. Nor are our female lec- 
turers and female politicians alone at fault; for it is to be feared 
that even some Christian ministers, with greater zeal than 
knowledge, have, by their impassioned appeals, sent women 
abroad into the highways and byways of life, thereby deaden- 

lOO The Anurican Family 

ing their Mrnsc of home rr*pt)nsibilitlrs and st)cial duties, and 
teaching: them to violate that ^;«>>prl injunction which plainly de- 
clares that women sliould be "keej^ers at home." . . Not a 
few of those who come forward to advocate the mental equality 
of the sexes, do so in order to show that \\(jman is entitled to 
the wimc political rinhts and privilcRes as man ; a doctrine 
which, if brought into practical exercise, would tend to the 
total disorganization of the family institution, and even more 
effectually than the spirit of the age, dissolve the domestic tics, 
and destroy all that makes woman efficient as a moral help- 
mate of man, , . The opponents of the claims set up in be- 
half of woman, instead of entering into a philosophical and 
scientific examination of those claims, resort to jests and witti- 
cisms, and unwarranted assumptions. They would seem to 
shrink from examining the subject fairly lest they should be 
drawn to concede more than they wish to do. 

.Many who are strenuous in denying to women all inter- 
ference in the aflFairs of the State, arc no less zealous in urging 
her to engage in those of the church. Kvcry argument is 

brought forward to induce them to labor in adding to the funds 
to be appropriated to the building of a church, to the education 
of young ministers, etc., but u lun do we hear the sacred doc- 
trine of home duties enforced? . . . [If such lessons] are 
left almost wholly untaught, and in their place public services 
arc constantly pressed upon woman's attention, can wc wonder 
at the result? ... It is, indeed, deeply to be regretted, 
that among the many praiseworthy efforts of Christians at the 
present day there should be so much in the spirit and character 
of thc»se eflForts that is anti-ilomcstic. . . Have not many of 
our females, by a>isuming public responsibility but little in ac- 
cord with their nature, and more properly belonging to the 
other sex, neglected thc)se congenial, paramount, and untrans- 
ferable duties imposed (in tlicin by the God of nature and rev- 
elation! . . . 

The supremacy of tlie husband as the head of the family 
institution is similar to the supremacy of the governing power 
in the state, and there is like obligation to obedience in both. 
But there is nothing servile or degrading in this 
"merely an official relation held for the mutual good of both 
parties and of their children." . , She is required, therefore, 

The Social Subordination of Woman lOl 

not only to submit to man as her head in the marriage relation 
but she must not assume to herself any right of participation 
with him in the management or control of civil or political 

The intense animus against the woman's movement 
can not be fully understood or elaborated until the back- 
ground and nature of that uprising have been studied, 
as is done in the next chapter. 


The economic forces back of modern progress and of 
the democratic enthusiasm involved in it could scarcely 
fail to unsettle the subordination of woman. The in- 
fluences of the new world contributed to her elevation. 
This result was due in part to the operation of the law 
of supply and demand. In the pioneer regions women 
were usually scarce and hence were highly esteemed. ^ 
There came to be almost a commerce in unmarried 
females between the old East and the new West. The 
deficit of women on the frontier accounts for their 
superior standing in some of the newest states. 

In 1781 there was a large migration of young unmar- 
ried women into the country south of the Ohio, result- 
ing in the establishment of many new families. Re- 
garding early Memphis, 

I would like to give an account [said one writer] of the younp; 
ladies that flourished here at that time. It is due to them to say 
that they did not generally partake of the rude spirit of the men, 
though the few who did were not for that reason excluded from 
society. They could not be spared, as all of them made hut a 
small-sized party. 

In 1824 there was no Society worthy of the name. 
There were a few young men, unbridled adventurers. 
There was no preaching. There were no ladies to visit. 
Indian women and black girls were in abundance; but 
not a respectable white woman was to be seen once a 
month. Two or three respectable men married Indian 
women, with the excuse that there were no white women 
about. In the Chattanooga region some Scotch settlers 

!<>.^ 7 Vic* ^J merit an I-'utnily 

CDuried and married Indian ^irls. In California in 
Spanish ilays the i*'ranciscan lathers tried to keep wliite 
men and red women apart but failed. The practice of 
scllinj^ young Indian girls to white nicn became so com- 
mon that in some regions a red man could not get a 
Mjuaw. "liv taking Indian mates and rearing offspring 
ruuiul the camps, these Spanish soldiers struck their 
roots into the soil" so that they couM not be removed tho 
the Spanish policy had been to leave California as mis- 
sionary territory free from whites. Thus California 
developetl the Latin miscegenation with its usual ille- 

In a newspaper of iS^z it was recorded that: "Some 
humane person, not long since, in reference to Mat 
Carey's benevolent exertions to raise the wages of 
females proposed a scheme for transporting the ex- 
cess of spinsters in our large cities to the new settle- 
ments where there is a great scarcity of the female 
sex." An eiiitorial of 1836 commenting on the excess of 
women in the older states recommended that they go 
West, where few would remain single for many months. 
A paper of the next year noted that "a wagon load of 
girls for the western market lately past through North- 
hampton, Mass." 

The value f)f wonun in the voung settlements is well 
illustrated in the narrative of a pioneer who in 1H36 
made preparation to migrate to Wisconsin. His wife's 
health was not verv good and ihev had two small chil- 
dren: so it was necessary to secure a hired girl. All 
that applied were tof) young and good-looking; his wife 
said thcv would marry within a month and leave the 
houschohl without help and bereft of the passage 
money. Finally they attained their aim, as they sup- 
posed, by securing the services of a coarse and ugly 


The Emergence of Woman 105 

spinster who surely could not attract a man to matri- 
mony. In order to clinch tiic certainty, however, it was 
agreed that in case of marriage within a year she should 
forfeit her wages. But their arrival in the new h(jme 
created notable excitement. Betsy was the first single 
\voman. Various remarks were overheard, such as, 
"She is not handsome, certainly;" "Better than none, 
tho;" "Too old to add much to the future population," 
etc. In a few weeks it became apparent that her days 
of service were numbered. Betsy soon had an offer of 
marriage; indeed, she had several oflfers. Tho she 
probably had never before had a beau, she now had a 
dozen, could put on airs, could pick and choose. So 
the marriage came to pass as related in a previous chap- 
ter. Of like significance was the request sent back by 
an emigrant to Texas who among other things asked: 
"also one wife for me, handsome, etc. Mother knows 
what will suit me." 

Another factor contributing to the standing of wo- 
man was pioneer isolation. As European life moved 
westward, first came the hunter's cabin. 

The next cabin [said a writer on the West] was more preten- 
tious. It was lar^e cnou{j:h for two. The man who built it 
had induced a woman to share his lot. The woman who had 
courage to so adventure had also muscle enough to lift one end 
of a log sufficiently long to build a cabin for herself and her 
husband. . . This pair came to found a home, to rear a 
family, and ultimately to own broad acres to enrich their pos- 
terity. In one of these built by a man and a woman the writer 
hereof was born. 

Such a pioneer family, living in isolation remote from 
civilized neighbors and far removed from the conven- 
tionalities of old societv was apt to experience some 
relaxation of traditionally rigorous family relations. 
The feudal loni, living remote from kiiuired spirits, 

ic/) The American Family 

was Icil. \vc arc tnKl, to cultivate the society of liis fam- 
ily, a condition favorable to gentler and more kindly 
family relations. Similarly the frontier helped to lib- 
eralize the American family. "What woman was in 
the days of chivalry," says one writer, ". . . she was 
in pioneerdays. The pioneer wife was 

the ideal of courage, industry, and virtue in the settler's 
home. Here she reigns as mistress." 

To isolation was adiied heroism and fortitude. Much 
depended, of course, on the character of the pioneer 
couple. There uouhl be men whom isolation wouKl 
render morose and despotic and women whom loneli- 
ness would drive to insanity. In the sparse West, in- 
sanity among farm women was not infrequent. 

The silence, the monotony, the absence of all society, the never- 
ending vista of the snow-covered plains, deathlike in their si- 
lence, with no moving creature or thing to afford even a mo- 
mentary diversion, unbalanced these women, their physical 
vitality lowered by the enervating climate and unremitting 

It has been noted that women, having fewer oppor- 
tunities for contact with other people, were more sus- 
ceptible to excitement at camp-meetings. 

The selection exercised by the frontier was rigorous 
but it was on the whole salutary. The outcome attest- 
ed the sterling (jualitics of the men and women that 
opened the West. The elevation that came in the status 
of woman was earned by devotion, labor, courage, self- 
control. herr)ism. Never was the adaptility of female 
character more strikingly displayed than in the open- 
ing of the West. Women stood by their husbands' side 
and fought for life and little ones against human and 
other foes. Ladies whose husbands had lost everything 

**'I"hi» factor in the production of insanity ha< pprhaps been over-cm- 
pha»iird, hc»>«rver. Compare Romanzo Adama'i Public Range Lands, 338, 

The Emergence of IVoman 107 

threw aside ease and luxury and fared boldly into the 
far West where they endured without complaint toils, 
danger, sickness, and loneliness. Reciprocity in the ^ 
marriage relation was the logical consequence where 
woman bore a man's share in the struggle for existence. / 

Women's toils were great. It required not only 
heroism but muscle to make and maintain a cabin 
home. It required incessant labor to provide for the 
numerous household; for "she was lonesome until she 
had a half-dozen children about her. She did not be- 
gin to feel crowded in the single room until the second 
dozen began coming." She had to spin, and usually 
to weave all the cloth for her family, and it required 
all a woman's efforts to keep her brood comfortable. 
Privation and toil were her portion and upon her de- 
volved the entire education of her children. In 1800, 
"the farmers' wives and daughters labored on the farm, 
in parts of New York, Pennsylvania, and in all the set- 
tlements where German or Irish people dwell in con- 
siderable numbers. The arrival of the New Eng- 
landers among them banished the females from the 
fields. . ." 

Even in the South, pioneer conditions bore hcaviiv 
upon women and were efficiently borne. On occasion 
woman was capable of assuming headship of the fam- 
ily and discharging its duties with success. In early 
Tennessee "calico was very scarce, and [women vied] 
with each other in making the prettiest cotton frock, 
and eyed each other very closely at church to sec who 
excelled." They "had no predilection for the cult of 
lilies and languors." The pioneer women, in daily 
peril and weighted with racking cares, resorted to to- 
bacco, perhaps as a sedative. Mrs. Andrew Jackson 
was only one of thousands of women that smoked. The 
habit of chewing "obtained among numerous excellent 

loS Tilt .Inwrican Family 

women nt the rural districts of middle Tennessee until 
lon^ subscquciil to the close of" the Civil \\'ar.''* 

Amon^ the Scotch- Irish pioneers women held to the 
traditional sacrifice of self for the sake of the education 
of son or brother and his advanccnicnt into the sacred 
ministry. Some refused "the ^ift of loving compan- 
ionship with stroni; and loyal spirits who wooeii them 
to wifehood, and so lived and died voluntary celibates 
for the glorv of God and the honor of their family." 

Some conception of the toils of ante-bellum women 
even in the I^ast may be gleaned from the case of Susan 
H. Anthonv's mother, who married in 1817. Mr. An- 
thony was a generous man. loved his wife, and was well 
able to hire help; but such a thing was unthought of. 
A housewife would probably have been piqued by an 
offer of assistance. When Green Mountain girls came 
to work in Anthony's cotton-mill they boarded in the 
proprietor's family as custom was. Mrs. Anthony, the 
summer her third baby was born, boarded eleven fac- 
torv hands who roonieil in her house and she did all 
the cooking, washing, and ironing with no help save a 
thirteen-year-ohl girl who went to school and did chores 
ni'^ht and morning. When brick was being burned fo6 
a new house, Mrs. Anthony boarded ten or twelve 
brick-makers and some of the factory hands with no 
help but that of her daughters (nielma, Susan, and 
Hannah, ageci fourteen, twelve, and ten. W^hcn the 
new baby came these three little girls did all the work, 
cooking the food and carrying it to their mother's room 
to let her see whether it was nicely prepared and wheth- 
er pails were properly packed." 

'Hic American women [said Marryat in 1839]. have a vir- 
tue which the men have not, which is moral courage, and one 

••Hile ind Merritt. History of Trnnrsiff and Tennesseeans, vol. ii, 404. 
** Harp«r. I.iff artA H'ork of Susan B. Anthony, vol. i, 12, 19. 

The Emergence of JVovian 109 

also which is not common with the sex, physical courage. The 
independence and spirit of an American woman, if left a widow 
without resources, is immediately shown; she does not sit and 
lament, but applies herself to some employment, so that she 
may maintain herself and her children, and seldom fails in so 

But not only on account of the scarcity of women in 
the newer regions, not only on account of the softening 
inHuence of pioneer isolation, nor of the devotion, hero- 
ism, and fortitude of pioneer women did woman's status 
begin to improve. All these influences had their effect 
on the frontier- an effect that reflected eastward. But 
indirectly, by the way of the democratic spirit which its 
economic conditions promoted, the new world furthered 
the equality of woman. The social changes that worked 
to the equalization of father and son, employer and 
employee and levelled class barriers generally could not 
but elevate woman and undermine arbitrary sex dis- 
tinctions. Amid such conditions and influences sex 
barriers began to weaken; a belief in the equality of 
woman to man began to emerge; and the western habit 
of co-education came to register the new outlook. (The 
modern sweep of the suffrage movement toward the 
^ast is a correlate phenomenon.) 

Quotations might be multiplied to show how observ- 
ers were impressed with the regard shown to woman in 
the new nation. One remarked that woman's treatment 
was "too good" as man's was in Kngland. ^^'e must 
allow for idealization. The reality was certainly not 
ideal any more than was the realitv of chivalrv with 
which comparison has been made. But neither was it 
a matter of mere sentimentality. A substantial open- 
ing was made for a better future. 

A survey of the period covered bv this volume shows 

lio Till Afuiiuan iatmly 

us that woman had already attained a status markedly 
supcriDr ti) the usa^e i)f Kuropc. Not only was the 
wife's managerial capacity recognized and rewarded 
with full sway over tlie domestic hearth but woman 
exerted an exceptional inlluence in the larger world as 
the adviser of her husband and the arbiter of social 
stamiards, of morals, of propriety. NN'omen were not 
sheltered and futile as in some older civilizations but 
were free to travel in safety Awd to know the world. 
The relationship between husband and wife was freed 
from sefitimentality yet husbands treated their wives 
with notable tenderness and the outraged woman could 
ordinarilv count on law and sentiment to protect iier 
against abuse. Kasy divorce ofTered a release for dis- 
illusioned wives. The extreme courtesy shown to 
ladies was based on a genuine and growing respect and 
deference which found its retlection in a remarkable 
air of self-respect on the part of all women. Woman 
was largely freed ivniw field work and other heavy la- 
bor; men even assumed responsibility for the market- 
ing. If woman still "kept her place," if she was still 
hampered by a lack of business knowledge, if she still 
used the sex appeal and played upon her weakness, if 
she still sanctioned duels and other social atavisms -all 
these shortcomings were of the past anci could not hide 
the better future. 

I)e I«)C(]uevillc commented pointedlv on the evolu- 
tion of woman's status in America. He said that her 
prf)spective et]uality ditl not mean identity of functi(jn; 
American women did not manage the outward concerns 
of the family, or embark in business, or participate in 
politics. Tho often possessed of "a masculine strength 
of understanding and a manly energy" the women of 
America generally "preserve great delicacy of personal 

The Emergence of IVoman i i i 

appearance, and always retain the manners of women." 
The Americans still hold "that the natural head of the 
conjugal association is man . . . and . 
that . . . the object of democracy is to regulate 
and legalize the powers which arc necessary, and not 
to subvert all power." Women seem to be proud of 
the yoke; "such at least is the feeling exprcst by the 
most virtuous of their sex; the others arc silent; and 
in the United States, it is not the practice for a guilty 
wife to clamor for the rights of women, whilst she is 
trampling on her own holiest duties.'' The Americans 
believe in keeping the spheres of the sexes distinct but 
consider them of equal value. 

If they hold that man and his partner ought not always to ex- 
ercise their intellect and understanding in the same manner, 
they at least believe the understanding of the one to be as sound 
as that of the other, and her intellect to be as clear. Thus, 
then, whilst they have allowed the social inferiority of woman 
to subsist, they have done all they could to raise her morally 
and intellectually to the level of man; and in this respect they 
appear to me to have excellently understood the true principle 
of democratic improvement. . . Altho the women of the 
United States are confined within the narrow circle of domestic 
life, and their situation is, in some respects, one of extreme de- 
pendence, I have nowhere seen women occupying a loftier posi- 

The distinguished Frenchman thought that Ameri- 
cans did not recognize the "double standard." 
"Amongst them the seducer is as much dishonored as 
his victim. A young unmarried woman may, 

alone and without fear, undertake a long journey." 
Rape is still a capital offence. "As the Americans can 
conceive nothing more precious than a woman's honor, 
and nothing which ought so much to be respected as her 
independence, they hold that no punishment is too se- 
vere for the man who deprives her of them against her 

112 The Ami 111 an iaimly 

will." Somehow, in spite of his unfriendliness to de- 
mocracy, Dc 'rocqucvillc tends to exaggerate the vir- 
tues ot America. 

Miss Martincau speaks of 

Thr prevalent prrMixMon that thcrr are virtues u hicli are imtu- 
liarly masculine, and others which are peculiarly feminine. . . • 
[Marriage is safer than in England owinR to] the Krcater free- 
dom of divorce, and consequent discourat^ement of swindling and 
other vicious marriaj;es; it is more tranquil and fortunate from 
the marria)^ vows bcinj; made absolutely reciprocal; from the 
arranjiements about property beinj^ j^enerally far more favorable 
to the wife than in Knj^land ; and from her not being made, as 
in England, to all intents and purposes the property of her 

Mrs. Hodichon in 1857 expressed the belief that 

America is full of hopeful signs for women; the men arc not so 
dead set against the rights of women as in the old country. 
Men of position and reliable sources of information have as- 
sured me that when in any State in America a majority of 
women shall claim the suffrage, it will be granted them. 
'ITiere is always hope of change in America; evils do not go 
on for ever dragging their slow length as in England. . . 
The ideas of human liberty and justice arc too widely spread 
in America for any state of things in direct opposition to these 
principles, to endure forever.^" 

Burn, who spent three years among the working 
classes in the I'nited States during the war, said that 
in America female notions of e(]ualitv and personal in- 
dependence had to a great degree reversed the old state 
of affairs in the relations of the sexes to each other. It 
was common for the husband "to do a considerable 
part of the slip-slop work." in the morning he made 
a fire in the stove, emptied the slops, got his breakfast, 
and, if his work was at a distance, packed his lunch, 
and departed for work while his wife was still abed. 
"Kvcn among the trading classes who have private 

i. li'hon. K'omrn and H'ork, 20. 


Tlw Emergence of jy avian 113 

dwellings, it is quite common to see the men bringing 
parcels from the market, the grocer's, fishmonger's, (jr 
butcher's, for the morning meal." It might be sup- 
posed from man's bending to "dishclout service," he 
went on to say, that the husbands were examples of 
kindness and affection and that the ladies "are S(j many 
connubial doves!" But the conclusion would be has- 
ty. . . 'Wives would not black their husbands' sh(jes. 
For some time a real interest in the education of 
women had been developing. Many seminaries had 
been established. As early as 1830 literary and scien- 
tific men were devoting attention to the preparation 
of lectures on science for female audiences." Better 
education was broadening woman's opportunity for 
usefulness. In ladies' periodicals of the forties or 
thereabout appear many assertions of woman's intel- 
lectual equality and the champions are frequently men. 
This idea was coupled with a demand for ample edu- 
cation as an oflfset to woman's seclusion from the world 
or in order to enhance her personality. To such objec- 
tions as that education made women pedantic, disa- 
greeable, and undomestic one writer remarked: 

For the consolation ... of men, who fear that our sys- 
tem of female education will soon become so perfect that they 
cannot find ignorant women enough for wives and companions 
for them, we can assure them that do all we can to educate 
them, yet there will always be ignorant women enough for all 
such men. [Men of liberal minds and true politeness enthusi- 
astically prefer a learned woman as wife.] 

Oberlin College opened in 1833 and was from the 
start co-educational tho disposed to frown upon grad- 
uates that agitated for "women's political rights." It 
was in 1841 that it granted the first three arts degrees 
ever received by women in the United States. For 

^''Ladles' Magazine (Boston), vol. iii, 41. 

114 Ifii' Amirimn Family 

almost twenty years Oberliii was the only institution to 
receive women on substantially the same terms as men. 
Mt. Holvoke Seminary was incorporated in 1H36. 
Antioch College (coeilucational ) opened in iSt;^. 

riie life ot the women at ()berlin in its first genera- 
tion was "plain, earnest, iiulustrioul, pervaded and 
guided by highest ideals." Lucy Stone said: "Near- 
ly every one of us worked. We were poor. We 
earned our w.iv. \N e diti our own cooking (most 

of the time) anil our washing and ironing all the time. 
Some of the girls paid their wav bv washing for the 
male students." 

Klizabeth Cady Stanton wrote in i8:;i : 

The jnrl must be allourtl to ronip and play, climb, skate, and 
swim; hrr clothirn; must br more like that of the lx)y 
that she may be out at all times, and enter freely into all kinds 
of sport. Teach her to go alone, by ni^ht and day, if need be, 
on the lonely hichway, or through the busy streets of the 
crowded metropolis. The manner in which all courage and 
self reliance is educated out of the girl, her path portrayed with 
dangers and difficulties that never exist, is melancholy indeed. 

The fundamental life factors of the new world could 
not but result in new aspirations on woman's part for 
iTccdr)m, opportunity, enlightenment, and sovereignty, 
and leatl to a pervasive insurgency. Away back in 
Revolutionary times (not to speak of the colonial days 
ami Ann Hutchinson, with her deman(i "that the same 
rights of individual jutlgment upon religious (]uestions 
should be accorded to woman which the Reformation 
had already secured to man"), the spirit of female re- 
volt was awake. In the following humoro-scrious let- 
ter to John Adams from his wife we see how closely it 
was correlated with the male revolutionary activity. 
I long to hear you have declared an independency, and by tlic 
way, in the new code of laws, which I suppose it will be neces- 

The Emergence of JVoman i 15 

sary for you to make, I desire you wtjuld remember the ladies 
and be more generous and favorable to them than your ances- 
tors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of hus- 
bands. Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could. 
If particular care and attention are not paid to the ladies, wc 
are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold our- 
selves bound to ODey any laws in which we have no voice nor 

The "we" connoted Mercy Otis Warren, Hannah Lee 
Corbin, etc. Dame Adams is sternly logical in her 
deductions from revolutionary principles. Male "de- 
mocracy" is pseudo-democracy. John replied on April 
14, 1776, in substance as follows: Our authority is 
nominal ; I hope all would fight rather than give up this 
shadow of power. But he wrote to Warren that wives 
must "teach their sons the divine science of politics!" 
In 1778 Mrs. Corbin, sister of Richard Henry Lee, 
presented a protest against taxation without suffrage. 
Her brother replied that women were entitled to vote.^" 
The Due de La Rochefoucauld-Liancourt, who trav- 
elled in the United States in 1795-1797, noticed at the 
house of General Warren that 

His wife, of the same age as he, is much more interesting in 
conversation. Contrary to the custom of American women, 
she has been busy all her life with all sorts of reading. She 
has even printed one or two successful volumes of poetry, and 
has written a history of the Revolution which she had the mod- 
esty and good taste not to wish published until after her 
death. . . They assured me that the literary occupations 
of this estimable dame have not diverted her attention from the 
duties of housekeeping. 

The fact that as early as 1794, Mary XA'oUstonecraft's 

''''' S(juirc. It'oman MovfmrnI in .Irncrim, 47; .Ailams. Familiar Ulttrs 
of John .IJams and his U'iff, 15s; aiul Porritt. H'oman Suffrat^f, 
6; Stanton rt al. History of Woman Siiffraj^r, vol. i, 32-33; BarncM. Unman in 
modern society, 64. 


1 1 6 Th f yl m t' rica n Fa m ily 

y indication of the Rif^/its of Women was republished 
in Philailelphia shows that her ideas must have had 
some vogue in America. A few American writers of 
the early nineteenth century wrote on the rights and 
wrongs of women hut thcv did not ^ain a great follow- 
ing. There was present nevertheless the nucleus of the 
moilern point of view. Some people saw that a worse 
thing than spinsterhood might befall a woman. Kliza 
Southgate Howne, who was born in 1783, wrote in her 
girlhood : 

The inequality of privilcKC between the sexes is very sensibly 
felt by us females, and in no instance is it j^cater than in the 
liberty of choosinK a partner in marriage. After a long 

calculation, in which the heart never was consulted, we deter- 
mine whether it is most prudent to love or not. , . I con- 
gratulate myself that I am at liberty to refuse those I don't like, 
and that I have firmness enough to brave the sirens of the 
world and live an old maid, if I never find one I can love. 

At eighteen she professes admiration for many of xMary 
Wollstonccraft's sentiments on freedom of woman. A 
year later she wrote: "I thank heaven I was born a 
woman. As a woman 1 ai7i e(]ual to the general- 

ity of my sex, and I do not feel that great desire of 
fame I think 1 should if I was a man." The murmurs 
of female derelicts scarcely constituted as yet a momen- 
tous social force. 

Robert Owen preached absolute equality of all men 
ami women. A writer in the Ladies' Magazine (Bos- 
ton) in 1H30 says it is fo<dish to make marriage your one 
end. Sale of yourself is degrading. Let women learn 
housekeeping, keep up \n ith their children, learn to think 
for themselves. In 1H34 during a turbulent strike of fe- 
male operatives at Lowell against a reduction of wages, 
one was said to have made a radical speech on the rights 
of women. Susan H. .\nthonv. at school at the age of 

The Emtrgftice of llornan WJ 

eighteen, learning that a yuung friend had married a 
widower with six children, comments in her diary: 
"I should think any female would rather live and die 
an old maid." Her father believed in giving sons and 
daughters the same advantages. The daughters were 
taught business principles. He enc(3uraged and backed 
her in her desire to go into reform work. Her mother 
also supported her, not wishing her to take any time 
from her public affairs for home work. Her father, 
years before his death, wrote her brother: "Take your 
family into your confidence and give your wife the 

In iht Ladies' Magazine (Boston) in 1833 appeared 
"A New Method of Improving the Comple.xion of La- 
dies." Persian ladies were quoted to the effect that a 
husband should always be kind and give his wife limit- 
less money. "If the man be but a day-laborer, and do 
not give his wages to his wife, she will claim them on 
the day of judgment." On this text was made the com- 

The early decay of female beauty in our country, has been 
often remarked by Europeans. Now we leave it for gentle- 
men to decide, whether the effect arises from climate, and the 
delicate constitution of our women, or whether it is caused by 
their beinj2; allowed too little cash. 

In 1835 Ernestine L. Rose and Pauline Wright Davis 
circulated the first petition for property rights for wo- 
men. The woman question was becoming a large one. 
By 1840 it had split the American Anti-Slavery Socie- 
ty. A faction seceded because of the appointment of a 
woman on the business committee. The executive com- 
mittee disclaimed disposition \^^ take sides on the wo- 
man question. 

The periodicals of the day give us some hint of lines 
on which thought was running. Thus Graham's Mag- 

Il8 Tht^ American Family 

azirif for 1842 contained a story (written by a woman) 
in which a ^irl was not spoiled for matrimony by licr 
scentitic stuilies. The volume f(jr 1845 portrayed a 
woman that had had three liusbands, a spendthrift, a 
philosopher, ami a gourmand, ur^in^ her niece to mar- 
rv a fool -"a man that would let his wife have her own 
way in cvervthin^." It this be fiction, it may never- 
theless be signihcant. in the Ladies' Ifreatli (New 
^'ork. 1 848- 1 849), Mrs. S. V Martvn discussed three 
ways of managing a wife. First came a picture of an 
outlandish husband, tyrannizing^ over wife and child. 
The wife became an adroit dissimulator; the child was 
spoiled. The second exhibit was a husband who "yield- 
ed to his wife's choice" but always managed to bring her 
to doing what he wanted. The third case was that of a 
young man that married a girl ignorant of housekeep- 
ing. "Servants often leave in our C(3untry." He en- 
couraged her to learn and she took hold and came out 

Louisa M. Alcott had an offer of marriage, about 
which she consulted her mother, telling her that she 
did not very much care for the lover. Her mother 
wisciv saved her from the impulse to self-sacrifice, 
which might have Icvi her to accept a position that 
would have brought help to the family. This was not 
her only chance but Louisa had no inclination toward 
matrimony. She could hardly look upon her own in- 
terests as separate from those of the family. She loved 
activity, freedom, independence. She ''could nf)t cher- 
ish illusions tenderly," and she always said that she 
tired ni everyone and felt sure she should of her hus- 
band if she married. She never wanted to make her 
heroines marry but she gave in to public taste. Doubt- 
less many a wife in those days was of essentially the 
same temperament as Miss Alcott. 

The Emergence of Ifonian 119 

The first organized body to formulate a declaration 
of the rights of women was at Seneca h alls, New Y(jrk, 
in 1848, This first Woman's Rights Convention pire- 
pared a Declaration of Sentiments following closely 
the Declaration of Independence. I'\)r the present 
study it will sufiice to quote a few of the charges made 
against man : 

He has made her, if marrii'tl, in the eye of the law, civilly 

He has taken from her all ri^ht in property, even to the 
wages she earns. 

He has made her, morally an irresponsible beinp, as she can 
commit many crimes with impunity, provided they be done in 
the presence of her husband." In the covenant of marriage, she 
is compelled to promise obedience to her husband, he becoming 
to all intents and purposes her master - the law giving him 
power to deprive her of her liberty and to administer chastise- 

He has so framed the laws of divorce, as to what shall be 
the proper causes, and, in case of separation, to whom the 
guardianship of the children shall be given, as to be wholly re- 
gardless of the happiness of woman - the law in all cases going 
upon a false supposition of the supremacy of man, and giving 
all power into his hands. 

The declaration from which the above indictments 
are taken illustrates very clearly the then prevailing 
status of woman. The convention resolved that woman 
being man's equal ought to be enlightened as to the 
laws so that she would no longer be satisfied ; "that wo- 
man had too long rested content in the narrow limits 
worked out for her by corrupt customs and a perverted 
application of the scriptures;' that women should now 
secure their rights. Two weeks later at Rochester the 
same convention resolved that women not being repre- 
sented ought not to be taxed ; that the assumption of the 
law to settle the estates of intestates that left widows 
was an insult to women; that the husband had no right 

I20 1 hf Anurican Family 

to hire out the wife and appropriate her waives to his 
own use; that the promise of obctliciice in the marriage 
contract was a hideous barbarity that ought to be abol- 

The proceedings of the convention were ridiculed 
by the press ami ilenounceii by the pulpit from one tind 
of the country to the other. (Since then most of the 
Seneca I'alls demamis have been granted.) The Mc'- 
chatiu'i .IJrordtr (All)any) seemed to see in the move- 
ment a mere bourgeois insurgency; for it said: *'It 
wouM alter the relations of females without bettering 
their condition. It presents no remedy for the 

real evils that the millions of the industrious, haril- 
working, and much suffering women of our country 
groan under and seek to redress." The Rochester 
Democrat reported that "the only practical good pro- 
posed -the adoption of measures for the relief and 
amelioration of the condition of indigent, industrious, 
laboring females -was almost scouted by the leading 
ones composing the meeting." At Rochester Sarah 
Owen reported the complaint of seamstresses of the city 
"that they get but thirty cents for making a satin vest, 
and from twelve to thirty for making pants, and coats 
in the same proportion." She thought that husky men 
ought to (]uit selling ribbons. Mrs. Roberts 

Made virnc appropriate rrmarks relative to the intolerable ser- 
vitude and small remuneration paid to the \vorkinp-cla<>s of 
\vf)men. She reported the average price of labor for seam- 
stresses to be from thirty-one to thirty-eijjht cents a day, and 
hoard from one dollar twcnty-fivc cents to one dollar fifty cents 
per week to In* drdurted therefrom, and they were K<*n'*'"ally 
obliged to take half or more in due bills, which were payable in 
Roods at certain stores, thereby oblij^ing them many times to pay 
extortionate prices. . It did not require much arpument, 

to reconcile all who took part in the debates, to woman's right 

Tlw Emergence of JVoman I2I 

to equal wages for equal work, but the gentlemen seemed more 
disturbed as to the effect of equality in the family. [Who was 
to be the head?] 

Certainly Wendell Phillips was not guilty of over- 
looking the proletarian connections of great move- 
ments. At the Worcester convention in 1851 he re- 
ferred to the pulpit's declaring 

It "indecorous in woman to labor, except in certain (Kxupa- 
tions." . . The whole mass of women must find employ- 
ment in two or three occupations. . . They kill each other 
by competition. . . From what sources are the ranks of fe- 
male profligacy recruited? [In some cases the cause is giddy 
idleness.] But, undoubtedly, the great temptation to this vice 
is the love of dress, of wealth, and the luxuries it secures. . . 
There are many women, earning two or three dollars a week, 
who feel that they are as capable as their brothers of earning 
hundreds, if they could be permitted to exert themselves freely. 
Fretting to see the coveted rewards of life forever forbidden 
them, they are tempted to shut their eyes on the character of 
the means by which a taste, however short, may be gained of 
the wealth and luxury they sigh for. 

" In 1855 Lucy Stone called attention to the fact that 
society was keeping woman at home a dependent.'' 
Women working in tailor shops, moreover, were paid 
one-third as much as men. 

Some one in Philadelphia has stated that women make fine 
shirts for twelve and a half cents apiece; that no woman can 
make more than nine a week, and the sum thus earned, after 
deducting rent, fuel, etc., leaves her just three wnd a half cents 
a day for bread. Is it a wonder that women are driven to 
prostitution? Female teachers in New York are paid fifty 
dollars a year, and for every such situation there are fifty ap- 
plicants. . . The present condition of woman causes a hor- 
rible perversion of the marriage relation. It is asked of a lady, 
"Has she married well?" "(^h, yes, her husband is rich." 
Woman must marry for a home, and you men are the sufferers 
by this. 

In the course of the niid-ccnturv niovcmciit, protest 

122 The Am trie an I'umily 

was iiuulc against the legal nonage of the wife, against 
the husband's control of property, against the wrongs 
of slave women. Women were urged not to let a 
drunkard beget children. It was recognized that the old 
"dainiv imiions" had ni.ulc women hot-house plants- 
half of them invalids; that humanity was only just 
emerging from the age when might made right; and 
that superstitious fears and dread of losing man's re- 
gard smothercil frank expression of woman's views; 
women did not dare support their champions. It was 
denied that any portion of the species had a right to 
determine the sphere of the rest; and suffrage was de- 
manded as a means of self-defense and education. It 
was urged that rights and burdens, taxation anti repre- 
sentation should be coextensive, that all civil and pro- 
fessional employments shf^uld be opened to women, 
that there should be a single standard of propriety for 
both sexesVthat women should assume the right to woo; 
that they should he given title to their own wages 
and equal guardianship over children; that drunkards 
should have no claim on wife or child; and that neither 
law nor opinion should presume to hold together souls 
not bound by love. 

The bloomer costume and war against corsets sprang 
up during the woman campaign. Amelia Bloomer's 
followers thought that if woman was to take her place 
as man's et]ual, competing with him in the professions, 
in business, in ihe trades, she must adopt a rational 
costume fitted to her new sphere. Jeering mobs fol- 
lowed the new-costumed women. In Easthampton, 
Massachusetts, some young women that appeared in 
bloomers were warned by their pastor that if they con- 
tinued to wear such clothes they would be put out of 
the church. Ridiculed by the press, hooted by the 
crowd, discountenanced by other wf)mcn, the mass of 

The Emergence of IFoman 123 

devotees of short skirt and trousers speedily returned 
to the old garb." 

Fierce opposition developed against existing mar- 
riage laws. In 1832 Robert Dale Owen and Marv 
Robinson had married by signing a document written 
by the groom, with a justice of the peace and the imme- 
diate family as witnesses: 

New York, Tuesday, Afrh. 12, 1832. 
This afternoon I enter into a matrimonial engagement with 
Mary Jane Robinson, a younp; person, whose opinions on all 
important subjects, whose mode of thinking and feeling, coin- 
cide more intimately with my own than do those of any other 
individual with whom I am acquainted. . . We have select- 
ed the simplest ceremony which the laws of this state recog- 
nize. . . This ceremony involves not the necessity of mak- 
ing promises regarding that over which we have no control, the 
state of human affections in the distant future, nor of repeating 
forms which we deem offensive, insomuch as they outrage the 
principles of human liberty and equality. . . Of the unjust 
rights which in virtue of this ceremony an iniquitous law tacitly 
gives me over the person and property of another, I can not le- 
gally, but I can morally divest myself. 

RoBKRT Dali: Owen. 
I concur in this sentiment, M arn' Jane Robinson."" 

Another couple protested similarly in 181;:;. 'I'hev 
declared that they did not sanction or promise 

V^oluntary obedience to such of the present laws of marriage as 
refuse to recognize the wife as an independent rational being, 
while they confer on the husband an injurious and unnatural 
superiority, investing him with legal powers which no honor- 
able man would exercise. . . We believe . . . that 
marriage should be an equal and permanent partnership, and 
so recognized by law. . . We believe, that, when domestic 
difficulties arise, no appeal should be made to existing tribu- 
nals; but all difficulties should be submitted to the equitable 

''^ McMastcr. History of the Proplr of t/ir I'nilrJ States {1913), vol. viii. 


""Stanton et til. History of H'oman Suffrage, vol. i, 394-395. 

124 ^ ''"' -Jffif'ii^^tifi I'ciniily 

adjustment of arbitrators, mutually chosen. Thus, reverencing 
law, we enter our earneit protest a^^ainst rules and customs 
which arc unworthy of the name, since they violate justice, - 
the essence of all law. 

The officiating minister, the reverend 1. W. lli^- 
ginson, wrote a letter to a newspaper, as follows: 

I never perform the marriage ceremony, without a renewed 
sense of the iniquity of our present system of laws in respect to 
marriage, a system hy which man and wife arc one, and that 
one the husband. It was with my hearty concurrence, there- 
fore, that the protest was read and signed, as a part 
of tl>e nuptial ceremony ; and I send it to you that others may 
be induced to do likewise." 

It niav he woiuiereil what was the character of the 
women that espoused the cause of revolution. Cath- 
erine Bcechcr, who certainly was not an ultra-radical, 
passed the following verdict: 

In my long-protracted and extensive journeyings I have dis- 
covered, that the Woman's Rights party, in this country, em- 
braces many women whom even the most conservative can not 
but concede to be persons of superior talent and acquisition, of 
great benevolence, of great purity of motive and elevation of 
aims, and whom, saving where conventional points arc antag- 
onistic to their principlts, all would allow to be women of mod- 
esty, delicacy, and refinement."^ 

The unthinking conservatives of the day had distinct- 
ly uncomplimentary views of the whole movement. 
An iH:;^ convention was marred by the riotous pr(j- 
cccdings of "antis." The women of the revolt were 
"Amazons," "unscxed," "disappointed of getting hus- 
bands or perhaps of ruling over them," "a hybrid 
species belonging to neither sex;" or else, 

perhaps, "dull and uninteresting, and, aside from their 
nf)velty. hardly worth notice." It was supposed that 
separation of interests would cause domestic strife and 

•' New York Tribunr ami Boston Travflirr, May 4, 1855. 
•* Bccchf r. Truf Rrmrdy fnr thr H'rongj of Women, 9-10. 

The Emergence of iroman 125 

that suffrage would engender endless household quar- 
rels. The idea that married women should possess 
their own wages and have c(iual guardianship of the 
children was a start toward "a species of legalized adul- 
tery." Jests were made about the possibility of women 
(whose names were appended) giving birth to children 
in the law-court or in the pulpit, and these pleasantries 
were not directed solely at married ladies. The Utica 
Evening Telegraph said that Miss Anthony in a public 
address urged women not to allow intemperate hus- 
bands to add another child. Shocking! a maiden lady! 
The "Editor's Table" of Harper's New Monthly Mag- 
azine for November, 1853, contained an illuminating 
discussion of the subject: 

The most serious importance of this modern "woman's 
rights" doctrine is derived from its direct bearing upon the 
marriage institution. The blindest must see that such a change 
as is proposed in the relation and life of the sexes cannot leave 
either marriage or the family in their present state. It must 
vitally, and in time wholly sever that oneness which has ever 
been at the foundation of the marriage idea, from the primitive 
declaration of Gtntsis to the latest decision of the common law. 
This idea gone - and it is totally at war with the modern the- 
ory of "Woman's Rights" — marriage is reduced to the nature 
of a contract simply. . . That which has no higher sanction 
than the will of the contracting parties, must, of course, be at 
any time revocable by the same authority that first created it. 
That which makes no change in the personal relations, the 
F>ersonal rights, the personal duties, is not the holy marriage 
union, but the unholy alliance of concubinage. 

As late as the Woman's Rights Convention in Phil- 
adelphia, in iS:;4, an objector in the audience called 
out: "Let women first prove that they have souls; 
both the Church and the State deny it.'" In Massa- 
chusetts in 1 8^7 an attempt was made to grant greater 
rights to a surviving wife. One of the opposing sena- 

"* Gage. Woman, Church, anJ Slntr, 57. 

126 Thf Anwrican Family 

tors maintained that wives were already too much dis- 
posed to rid themselves ol their husbands. The senator 
alluded to certain crimes of a short tiiiie before, which 
were imputed to a desire for succession. The judiciary 
committee of the New York Assembly to whom in 1856 
women's rii^his petitions were referred reported that 
when both husband and wife had signed the petitions 
"thev would recommend the parties to apply for a law 
authorizing thcni to change dresses . and tluis 

indicate the true relation. 

'I'he generation before the War witnessed positive 
improvement in the legislation governing woman's 
status and rights. By the early thirties nine states had 
abolisheti imprisonment of women for debt, viz. Mas- 
sachusetts. Connecticut, New \'ork, New Jersey, Penn- 
sylvania. Ohio, North Carolina, Alabama, and Missis- 
sippi. In some states a woman was allowed to retain 
some or all of her propcrtv in her own hands after mar- 
riage. Miss Martineau heard decideil criticism of 
existing laws. "I heard a fre(]uent expression of in- 
dignation that the wife, the friend and helper of many 
years, should be portioned off with a legacy like a sal- 
aried domestic." 

As early as 1809 Connecticut granted to married 
women the right to will propcrtv. In Alabama, about 
18^0, the "Ladies' Bill" to give women the right to hold 
after marriage propcrtv that belonged to them before 
was warmly debated in the legislature. In 1839 Mis- 
sissippi placed the control of her own property in a 
married woman's hands. During the forties and fif- 
ties several states granted property rights to wives. The 
California constitution of 1849 provided that the real 
and personal propcrtv belonging to a woman before 
marriage was to remain her separate property after 

The Emergence of Woman 127 

marriage. In the new Texas instrument it was provid- 
ed that all real and personal property owned by the wife 
before marriage or acquired by gift or device after mar- 
riage was to be her separate property. The legislature 
was required to enact laws clearly defining the rights 
of the wife and providing for the registration of her 

A spirited debate attended the progress of the radi- 
cal innovation. Use was made of the case of the Mas- 
sachusetts heiress, worth fifty thousand dollars, who 
married and in a year was widowed and endowed by 
her generous husband with the fifty thousand dollars 
for so long as she should remain his widow. When 
the Tennessee Senate passed a bill to secure to married 
women enjoyment of their own property, the Nashville 
Union said : 

Under the old law, which has been miscalled the "perfection of 
wisdom," how many worthy women have been reduced from 
competency to beggary? how many have been victims of worth- 
less fortune hunters? how many have suffered cruel privations 
from miserly husbands? how many have been left penniless 
widows, their property being taken to pay their husbands' 
debts . . . The measure injures no one . . . and 
last, though not least important in its consequences, it will 
diminish the number of old maids, who now refuse to marry 
lest their effects should be squandfrcd. 

In the New York convention it was pointed out that law 
as it had been, protccteii wives from crucltv to about 
the same extent as animals. I'inal passage of the New 
York law was due in large measure to two facts: 

Some aggravated cases of cruelty in families of wealth anil 
position had just at that time arousetl the attention of influen- 
tial men to the whole question; [and, second], among the 
Dutch aristocracy of the state there was a vast amount of dis- 
sipation ; and as married women could hold neither property 
nor chililren under the common law, solid, thriftv Ihitch 

128 1 hf Atturican laniily 

fatliri> writ- daily confronted with the fact that the inheritance 
of their daui;htcrs, carefully accumulated, would at marriage 
pass into the hands of dissipated, imi^ecunious husbands, re- 
ducing them and their children to p(jverty and dependence. 

The bill was originated by a conservative member who 
had all his life tried to keep his wife's property dis- 
tinct, so as not to risk its loss, but felt himself hampered 
by the old laws. Another member had been at great 
pains to draw up a trust in order to safeguard a beijuest 
to his daughter but was not sure that it would hold. 
"When the law of 1S48 was passed, all I had to do," 
he sail], "was to burn this will." What the New York 
reformers intended was "to strike a hard blow, and if 
possible shake the old system of laws to their founda- 
tions, and leave it to other times and wiser councils to 
perfect a new system.""* 

The enemies of the reform pointed out that the ques- 
tion had often been before the New York legislature and 
asserted that the people had not demanded a change. 
I'hey urged that such a separation of interests would 
cause domestic strife. The cry of injustice to women 
was representeil as a figment of delusion, an attack on 
foreign adventurers in the interests of the daughters of 
millionaires, not for the benefit of the daughters of the 
plain people. Some conservatives alleged that if women 
were given the new right thev would be brought into 
contact with the roughest scenes of life, their sensi- 
bilities destroyed, their dependence on man weakened, 
and thereby one (jf their hn'eliest charms removed. 

The New York law allowed the wife to engage in all 
civil contracts or business on her own responsibility, 
rendered her joint guardian of her children, and grant- 
ed both husband and wife a one-third share of each 
other's property in case of the death of either. Step by 

••Stanton et at. History of Woman Suffrage, vol. i, 63-65. 

The Emergence of Woman 129 

step the Middle and New England States modified 
their laws. In Massaciiusetts constitutional conven- 
tion, however, a resolution to secure married women's 
rights was reported adversely. In 1857 the Ohio leg- 
islature passed a bill that no married man shcjuld dis- 
pose of any personal property without consent of wife. 
The wife was empowered in case of violation to com- 
mence civil suit in her own name for recovery. Any 
married woman whose husband deserted or neglected 
to provide for the family was to be entitled to his wages 
and those of her minor children. Not until i860 did 
the New York legislature grant to married women 
possession of their own wages and equal guardianship 
of their children, and in the midst of the War, finding 
women off guard, the solons took away the right of 
equal guardianship and control by widows of property 
for minor children."^ 

In the background of this transition period men anti 
women lived and worked in normal wise. Wives were 
reminded of their husbands' business stress and of the 
need of gentleness and love. Complaisance was sug- 
gested as the way to control the man. Very likely 
such advice was sound. We can not suppose that the 
typical American wife was as cramped and oppressed 
as the law would allow. Legal changes came more 
slowly than the modification of social ethics; legal ad- 
vance was slow down to the Civil War. It remained 
for the more decided economic revolution of the post- 
bellum period to complete the emancipation set on 
foot by the push of new world libertv. e(]ualitv. and 

•* Harper. Life and li'ork of Susan B. Anthony, vol. i, 219. 


American family life seemed to the observer from 
Europe to be strangely lacking in closeness and warmth. 
Count Carlo Vidua wrote in 1827 on American man- 
ners as follows: 

Paternal and filial affection is not [very] lively among them. 
In a large family the sons gather together at meal time, each 
coming from his business; each enters the room, says not a 
word to father or brother; opens not his mouth, in fact, except 
to put something therein ; devours in a few instants the few 
ill-cooked dishes, and whoever is first satisfied, without waiting 
till the others have finished, rises, takes his hat and is off. 
A son who goes off ... to establish himself in Kentucky 
or Missouri has no more to say in the way of adieu than if he 
were going to see a fcsta in a neighboring village. The father 
on his side, welcoming some other son returning from China, 
will say to him, cool as a cucumber, "Good day, John" and at 
the very utmost do no more than throw in a shake of the 

Another visitor wrote: "Domestic life in America 
has the appearance of being cold and formal. . . 
The American conducts himself towards his wife and 
children with very little more familiarity than towards 
his neighbors.""^ There is seeming want of feeling on 
parting from chikiren. St. Victor in 1832 wrote that 
the child in the lower classes quit his parents readily, 
"almost like the animal does." Parents saw with in- 
difference the departure of their children. There were 
numerous cases of children abandoned by parents on 

^^ Decay of the family affections, 291. 
■^Sealsficld. The United States, 118-119. 125. 


132 The American Family 

Icavini; for ilistant stales.'" Xauinann remarks in 1848 
that the rchuioii between parents anil ehiUlren often 
does not impress the observer as joyous. 

Cj<rncrally they treat unv another coUlly and soberly; imitual 
love and cordiality often seenis foreign to them. [At ma- 

jority, children feel that they have discharged their duties to 
parents. Usually the son leaves the father's house to establish 
his own hearth.] Farmers, who g^'ncrally can not well con- 
duct their affairs without the aid of their children, often, in 
their later years arrive in a very unple.isant situation, owin^j to 
their children's leaving them. 

The father of the frontier bride usually gave her "a 
bed. a lean horse, and some good advice: and having 
thus dischari^cd his duty . . . returned to his 
work." Letters of 1840. even to children, began thus: 
"Respected Daughter." They were likely to be taken 
up mainly with the weather and sickness in the family, 
of which there was an appalling amount. 

The seeming coolness in American family relations, 
which so impressed Europeans, may be attributed in 
part to native tcnipcranicnt, but was evidentlv due also 
to the economic largeness of the new world which 
made family wealth and backing less significant and to 
the e.vaggerated individualism and independence that 
came with the spread of anarchistic democracy. The 
situation illustrates the general principle that the fam- 
ily is not an <:m\ in itself but varies in strength irf pro- 
portion as it is neede(] for race conservation and proves 
capable of serving that end. The abundant opportu- 
nities of the new country, the relative ease of getting 
along, the certainty that the children would be able to 
find good openings, tended to loosen family attach- 
ments; for children past their earliest years were not 
essentially dependent on the father and necessity did 

•• St- Victor. Lettres lur des Ltatt I' nit, 222. 

The Family and the Home 133 

not enter so strongly as in old countries to bind the 
family closely together. The family ceased to be an 
economic unit: each member could follow a calling to 
taste. The ease with which the son could start for 
himself upon attainment of legal majcjrity tended to 
make previous relations with the father a period of 
quasi-servitude which tended to beget estrangement 
and make separation easy for both. 

Moreover a people alert to grasp fresh material op- 
portunity crowding upon them in profusion will tend 
to be matter-of-fact and unsentimental. The stren- 
uous life of a society whose prime business was pro- 
duction rather than consumption lessened family en- 
dearment. Paternal preoccupation left wife and chil- 
dren a larger scope. Men were too busy to know 
their little ones, to enjoy much of their wives' society, 
or to lavish affection. One writer accounted for the 
intensity of the maternal affection of New England 
women by the fact that it was almost their whole ro- 
mance, inasmuch as the men were too busy to be very 
affectionate. ''I have hardly ever seen that tender 
affection -that union of souls, in which two persons 
require nothing but each other's consent for the com- 
pletion of their happiness." . . Suppose a man to 
marry a woman with tastes, disposition, and character 
essentially different from his. The points of contact 
are so few that he might become the father of a large 
family and die without discovering his mistake. He 
has no time to be unhappy. Women are left all day to 
themselves: the life is monotonous. Hence they love 
their offspring passionately, "while for their husbands 
they feel a sort of half distant respect." 

A considerable factor in this attitude of women to- 
ward men, however, must have lu-en the fact that wo- 


134 Ihi' .1 nic-fii (tn I'dnuly 

man was under necessity nf marrying for the sake of a 
home even tho she hail not experienced love. At the 
end of the eighteenth century, Eliza Southgate wrote 
to Moses Porter: 

I may be censured for declarinR it as my opinion that not one 
woman in a humlrt-d marries for love. [1 mean] she would 
have preferred another if he had professed to love her as well as 
the one she married. . Gratitude is undoubtedly the foun- 

dation of the esteem we commonly feel for a husband. 
[One is surprised] at the happiness which is so generally 
enjoyed in families, and that marriages which have not love for 
a foundation on more than one side at most, should produce so 
much apparent harmony."" 
An article in the Litrrary Mngazirw (uid .Imcrudn 
Rt-gisttr of 1 803- 1 804 Stated that nothing was more 
common than marriages where the parties were un- 
equal in capacity and dissimilar in feelings. Misery 
was a result. 

Other factors in the obscuring of family sentiment 
were the binding out of the children of the poor, a 
usage that killed Hlial affection; the stress put by nas- 
cent capitalism on contract and free competition as op- 
posed to status and fi.xed restraints; the fact that parents 
were under no legal obligation to adult children and 
could disinherit them freely; the cult of democracy 
which made the son a citizen in every respect independ- 
ent and attachetl him positively to social responsibili- 
ties, so that a mother's apparent indifference at seeing 
her son go to the ends of the earth was not lack of love 
but a recognition of civic and social needs. Moreover 
respect for the independence and rights of women and 
children tended to replace sentimentalitv with a certain 
deference. Sometimes, of course, man's rut of busi- 
ness kept him so narrow that he was not much of a 

•• Bownc. Gtrt't I. iff eighty Yrars af;o, 37-40. 

The Family and the Home 135 

companion for his more cultivated wife. Lack of 
suitable reading and other home attractions must be 
taken into account as a factor in the lessening of family 
fondness; males sought recreation abroad. One writer, 
attributing superior domesticity to the Bostonians, gave 
their taste for reading as a contributory cause. 

Woodruff (in his work of 1862 on Legalized Prosti- 
tution) saw a great lack of proper knowledge. He 
pointed out that in marriage the question whether "na- 
ture has made them for each other" was "left for the af- 
ter-clap." The form of law was followed with dignity, 
but "the spirit of the act they commit they are ignorant 
of." The majority of those whose connubial relations 
were normal contracted them ignorantly. School edu- 
cation avoided the problems of life. 

Life in its reality constitutes no part of the modern scholar's 
study. . . Young ladies are falsely and artificially educated 
and grow up to know comparatively nothing of the relations of 
life or the duties they are to fulfill. . . They are taught ta 
show the outside rather than the inside; to cultivate taste in 
dressing their bodies rather than their minds; while young 
men are but little better instructed save as they spend more time 
in the busy world. . . With so much of wrong educational 
bias given to the young, with so much falsity in society, we can- 
not have marriage as it should be. 

Certain factors of American life worked against 
familism. Political democracy is congenial with 
equality among brothers. 1 he superior position of the 
eldest brother that prevailed in old societies does not 
appear or yields to the general spirit of democracy. 
The laissez-faire spirit of nascent capitalism could not 
tolerate, in the new world, governmental interference 
in the form of entail, which made competition unequal 
among the members of the upper caste. Sentimental 
democracy, also, entered the lists against the survivals 

136 The Auuruun Family 

of feudalism. The abundance of land minimized the 
prestige of priniou^cniture. JclTcrson attacked entail 
on the grounil that it defrauded creditors; was unjust 
to unprivileged members of the family; and supported 
an aristocracy. It was arj^ued that to permit land to 
remain in the same family prevented "that equal dis- 
tribution of property which was the legitimate reward 
of industry," and discouraged the poor from the hope 
of "ever gaining any part of the property" guarded 
by entail. In \'irginia entail was abolished in 1776. 
After iHcK) the traditional influence of the old families 
had in large degree disappeared with their great land- 
ed possessions. Many early settlers, such as the Liv- 
ingstons in New ^'ork and Calvert and Carroll in 
Marvland, attempted to introduce entail and to found 
manors as the basis of a titled aristocracy. But all 
these air castles mouldered with the bodies of their 
founders and primogeniture was not allowed perma- 
nenilv to obstruct the agricultural development and the 
industrial settlement of the country. 

Thus in the nineteenth century, equality among chil- 
dren came to pass. Carlier found public opinion op- 
posed to disproportionate bequest. Equal division of 
propertv among numerous children prevents the 
formation <»f family wealth. In the absence of the 
custom of primogeniture, said one writer in 1H33 or 
carlier: "It will rarelv happen that a father can be- 
queath to each of his children enough to render tiicm 
independent." Property ties being thus weakened, 
family integration would be less distinct. Daughters 
and vounger sons would not be dependent on their old- 
er brother and familv cohesion would he less essential. 
Rapid movement and dispersion of population tended 
to obscure lineage, arid to destroy the influence of the 

The Family and the Home 137 

wider kinship group and the sentimental power of an- 
cestral seats. The revolt of individualism against fam- 
ilism attacked the principle of inheritance. Even in 
1829, Ebenezer Ford was elected to the New York 
legislature on a Labor Ticket, on a platform declaring 
hereditary transmission of wealth and p(n'erty at the 
root "of all our calamities."" 

Dyring the first half of the nineteenth century the 
development of the public school and the spread of the 
Sunday school drew attention from the home as an 
agency of education. The great revival work and the 
tendency of the general work of the churches had a like 
effect. Moreover the spirit of democratic individualism 
was early manifest in religious differences, which often 
crossed family lines. 'I'he split-off'of the Hicksite Quak- 
ers, for instance, divided many families. Sectarianism 
is a normal correlate of the capitalist regime of free com- 
petition and class rivalry. The alinement of the vari- 
ous sects runs back in part to fundamental economic 
cleavage (e.g. landlordism and the Episcopal church 
on the one hand, commercialism and the non-conform- 
ist churches on the other) but individual tastes might 
outweigh the economic undercurrent in determining 
the affiliations of individuals. There has all along 
been a tendency for wives to adopt the religion of their 
husbands and for children to grow into the church of 
their parents. It must have been hard tor luiropean 
visitors in the period of this volume to comprehend, 
however, the freedom and tranc]uility with which hus- 
bands and wives, parents and children, brothers and 
sisters exercised individual choice of church connecti«)n. 
Time and again this phenomenon is noted, sometimes in 
specific detail. Doubtless such facility for idiosyn- 

^^ Simons. Sodul Forrrs in .Imrriian history, 184. 

13H 1 Iw ,hui ru (in I-dnii/y 

cracy. toj^ether "with the multiplication of reliy^ious 
services furthered hy sectarian competition, did nuich 
to weaken the spiritual bond ot family coherence and 
to "draw attention away from the religious duties of the 
family." In 1855 SchafT said that table prayer was al- 
most universal; and daily family worship the rule at 
least in religious circles. Hut if so, not for long. 'J1ie 
forces of the new social order were turning the tiile 
away from the home center to which Puritanism had 
originally directed it. 

The family problems that beset the people of the 
new nation were often the old-fashioned difficulties 
such as inhere in the ordinary course of human rela- 
tions and bear little formal relation to time or place. 
In newspapers of the revolutionary period occurred 
various instances of marital incompatibility, such as 
advertisements for deserting wives: "She has left my 
beil and board;" "She has been verv unfriendly to me;" 
"She has behaved badly with other men;" "Her impru- 
dence has reduced me to great poverty and distress." 
One man cited /. (lorinthidtis, vii, 10- 1 i. One offered 
a reward for the arrest of the seducer. I'he wife some- 
times responded in type. One said her husband had 
become insolvent and used up the whole income of 
her inheritance. Another said her husband's cruelty 
drove her out. "I never ran him in debt one farthing," 
asserted a third, "neither has he ever purchased me or 
his infant child one article of clothing, except two or 
three pairs of shoes for almost two years." Another 
said that her husband deprived her of the barest neces- 
sities and forceci her to do servile work, such as caring 
for cattle in winter and she exhibited an affidavit he 
made shortly bef(Ke, acknowledging her wifely good- 
ness and obedience and his fault. Thus public opinion 

The Family and tlw Home 139 

was a favorite tribunal; but reconciliation, forbear- 
ance, or regard for appearances (a strong feminine 
trait) impeded many a breach." 

America had a due share of family troubles. In a 
magazine of 1821, for instance, was reviewed a iS eiv 
England Tale which the reviewer considered a perfect 
illustration of American society and manners. In the 
story Jane Elton was left an orphan, thrown on the 
bounty of a cruel relative. In the family that adopted 
her she was assailed by bad example and injustice; con- 
solation came from her mother's domestic. Her foster 
mother had a son, whose moral cultivation was neg- 
lected and his nature spoiled by tiresome religious ser- 
vices and harsh doctrine. He drew on his mother, 
while at college, beyond her resources; and also se- 
duced and deserted a girl. Jane found him robbing 
his mother's desk. The heroine finally married a 

Family troubles that in some countries would have 
been settled by main force or in family council, Ameri- 
can democracy and independence took to court. St. 
Victor, the muck-raker, notes family quarrels -fathers 
accusing sons of insubordination; sons, their fathers of 
injustice; and he says that "among the persons tried 
[at one session of court] was a husband for assaulting 
his wife, an aunt for assaulting her nephew, a son for 
assaulting his father, a daughter for assaulting her 

A southern clergyman in defense of slavcrv declared 
in 1857: 

I say deliberately, what one of your (irst men told um\ that he 
who will make the horrid examination will discover in New 
York City, in any number of years past, more cruelty from 
^' Schouler. .tmrruans of 17^6, 37-41. 

1^.0 The .1 niinmii iinml\ 

husband to wife, parent to child, than in all the South from 
master to slave in the same time. 

There were iloubtlcss too many cases of callousness and 
heartlessness. riuis Olmsted said in 1861: 

Kvery year somr nusrrablf wretch is ft)uiul in our dark places 
to have a cra/.y father or brother whom he keeps in a ca^e in 
the garret, and whose estate he takes care of, ami w ho is of the 
opinion that it will be oi no use, but ... a manifest de- 
fiance of . . . Providence, and most dangerous to life and 
property to let this unfortunate out of his cage, to surround 
him with comforts, and contrive for him cheerful occupation, as 
our State requires. 

It has seemed best to marshal at the beginning of this 
chapter such material as might be taken to intiicate a 
weakening of family bonds and then to array on the 
other side the more vital facts of family integrity and 
strength. Certainly the Americans had not fallen into 
indifference to fundamental values. They were emi- 
nently a ilomestic people; home was still home -the 
center of affection and the school of sociability. Lack 
of surface sentiment did not betoken absence of happi- 
ness. Generalizing from the testimony of a host of 
observers we may assert that in the United States be- 
fore the War. marriage was on the whole a happy con- 
summation marked by mutual esteem and respect. 
.Morality was high. Though women received what 
seemed to Europeans great adulation, they were not 
spoiled. Mirts settled down into staid and efficient 
domesticity. After marriage, if not before, women 
became thoughtful, responsible, and painstaking. Do- 
mestic order and comfort were marked. Affection, 
fidelity, and good management on the part of wives 
conserved the best interests of husband, children, and 
home. The very reserve and mutual respect that ex- 
isted tended to obviate collisions and to render Amcri- 

The Family anJ the Home 141 

can families largely free from "that brutality which 
too often disgraces the lower classes of other nations." 
Gurowski in his America ami Europe stated: 
Americans stand out best in the simple domesticity of family 
life. It is the only nornial condition f^rowin)^ out of their 
earh'est traditions and liabits; it is their uninterrupted inher- 
itance. The domestic hearth, the family joys and hardships 
must have formed almost the exclusive stimulus of existence for 
the first settlers; therein they concentrated all their affections 
and cares. . . Relipious convictions, local impossibility, the 
limited means of the colonies, prevented them at the outset and 
for a long time afterwards from recurring to public joyful 
gatherings. . . The day spent in hard labor or in profes- 
sional duties, was cheerfully ended in the family circle. Even 
now, notwithstanding the rapidly increasing wealth and expan- 
sion in large cities, out-door pleasures seem rather exotic to the 
American life. At any rate far more so in America than in 
Europe, the family hearth is about the only preventive against 
gross and often degrading recreations; it alone assuages the 
tediousness and burdensomeness of existence even for the 

American homes are warmed by parental love. 1 he rela- 
tions between parents and children, harmonizing in their out- 
ward manifestations with certain conditions and modes special 
to the development of Amcrcan society, being misunderstood or 
not thoroughly examined by several European writers and vis- 
itors, have created the erroneous opinion of the want of parental 
feeling. At the outside, however, the reverse is apparent ; less 
filial affection, or at least a less licmonstrative one from chil- 
dren towards parents, seems noticeable; less so than is cus- 
tomary in Europe. Family ties seem to be looser, because gen- 
erally Americans bear small affection to the spot of their birth; 
young members leave it or change with indifference, and parents 
do not make undue sacrifices to keep their children around 
them. Events providentially enforced upon Americans this un- 
concern, otherwise the task of extending culture and civiliza- 
tion would not have been fulfilled. 

The outbreeding promoted by American freedom 
from inertia and caste lines afforded that enjoyment of 

142 The A mill I an I'd mil \ 

novelty which bulks so larj^e in the quota of happi- 
ness. The crossing of strains was also favorable bio- 
logically -a fact iluit was not without recognition. A 
writer in the Ladits' Magazine (Boston) of 1833 spoke 
of several married couples that essentially rcscmbletl 
each other in looks ami disposition and said that they 
had proved unhappy ifi their offspring. "Hither they 
have no chiKlrcn, or their chihlren ilie in intancv, or 
they are not such as their parents would desire." This 
writer thought that marriage of cousins should be pro- 

Some specific illustrations may serve to make clear 
the spirit that prevailed in the better type of American 
families during the period we are covering. 

Lyman Beechersaid: 

I had sworn inwardly nevrr to marry a weak woman. 1 had 
madr up my mind that a woman, to be my wife, must have 
sense, must possess stren;:th to lean upon. [When I became 
enRaped,] we agreed, quite bravely, that if either of us re- 
pented we would let it be known. 

In ijgS he wrote to the lady: 

^'ou doubt the permanence of my attachment. Believe me, it is 
not the result of fancy or a sudden flush of passion. . . I 
discover in you those qualities which I esteemed indispensable 
to my happiness lon^ before I knew you. 

He worries for fear she is not converted in heart. 

George Bancroft's mother, born in 1765, was "al- 
most a child of nature." She cared nothing for solid 
education; read novels and blank "verse." She was the 
eleventh child. She was born in the lap of plenty- 
"constantly more carcst than fathers generally do 
their children." She says that when she was in her ninth 
year she was even then the family plaything, indulged 
by her father. She married Aaron Bancroft. "How 
happy I was when I had a half douzen children. . . 

The Family and the Home 143 

I learned many cheap dishes and made them satisfac- 
tory to my family. I was grateful f(jr the bright pros- 
pect of the children as they advanced for their readi- 
ness to learn and the very great love they show their 
mother" -thus she wrote in a letter in 1828. She had 
thirteen children. 

Susan B. Anthony was born into a staid and quiet 
but very comfortable home where there was great re- 
spect and affection between father and mother. She 
was welcome. She had an insatiable ambition, espe- 
cially for learning the things considered beyond a girl's 
capacity. The children liked to go and feast at both 
grandmothers. When Mr. Anthony failed in business 
Susan and Hannah taught for next to nothing and gave 
their father all they could spare to help pay interest on 
the mortgage on factory, mills, and home. Years after, 
he paid them back. At school at eighteen Susan con- 
tinually expressed pain at separation from the dear 

A suggestion (jf the spirit that was possible in fam- 
ily relations with the advent of democracy appeared in 
the Memoir of Hon. JVm. Appleton whose second son 
died in 1843. He and his father had been chums. 
"We were more nearly brought together than most 
fathers and sons. We had entire confidence in each 
other." The son would tell his father the latter's 
faults. "I heard them from him with a better spirit 
than I should from any other." Louisa Alcott's father 
romped with the children. He was their chum, 'i'he 
family was never conquered by poverty and penury. 
It was a romping, boisterous family. They gave half 
their scant stock of wood to a familv whose head was 
on a spree with all his wages. 

With the abolition of imprisonment for debt the 

144 Tht' .1 nil r I id It l\iniil\ 

home became more secure. Additional laws were 
passed for its prtitection. In 1S20 a speaker at the 
Massachusetts Constitutional Convention argued tliat 
the household furniture exempt by law from attach- 
ment was nearly enough to i^ive the riu;ht to vote. The 
constitution of the new state of Texas authorized the 
legislature to exeiTipt from taxation two hundred fifty 
dollars' worth of household furniture or other property 
beloni^ing to each family in the state. The homestead 
of a family, not exceedinu; two hundred! acres, or town 
or city lots not over two thousand dollars in value were 
not to be subject to forced sale for debt. The legisla- 
ture niiL,dit bv law exempt from forced sale a portion of 
the property of all heads of families. According to 
the California Constitution of 1849 laws were to be 
enacted exempting from forced sale a certain pcjrtion 
of the homestead and other property of all heads of 

Familism was a marked element in early American 
affairs. According to De Tocqueville it was hard to 
find an American that did not plume himself on be- 
longing to one of the original families. In the first 
half of the nineteenth century occur numerous hints of 
kinship solidarity. One hundred years ago the family 
"was still the microcosm of the state" and accepted re- 
sponsibility toward poor and incapacitated members. 
Well-to-do families had many dependent members, 
chiefly women, but also old and worthless men; the law 
could be invoked in order to compel families to look 
after their own. "The diflerent members of the fam- 
ily," wrote an observer of 1833-18-^4, "are firmly united 
together." "When a brother or sister dies leaving 
orphan children." wrote another person, "they are 
readily adopted \nU) the families of their uncles and 
other kindred, who treat them entirely as their own." 

The Family and the Home 145 

Democracy divides the children's "inheritance but al- 
lows their hearts and minds to unite," said De Tocque- 
ville. On the frontier, there was even some develop- 
ment of clan spirit. In many of the colonists this was 
a fixed quality to begin with; but isolation, breeding 
aloofness and independence, would tend to hold the ex- 
panding family of the frontiersman together, thus 
forming the nucleus of a new-world clan life. Such a 
development of kin-consciousness was possible even 
along with the disposition of children to leave as soon 
as possible the paternal roof. 

Family ties constituted an important factor in pol- 
itics and business. A study of political manoeuvres 
and economic frauds perpetrated in the early days and 
entailing a lasting legacy of corruption and exploita- 
tion upon the country will show how largely the family 
motive was operative and the family tie accessory. A 
few conspicuous instances may be given. Beard in his 
Economic Interpretation of the Constitution has shown 
the significance of family connection and family wealth 
in the formative days of the nation. Thus according to 
Maclay, Hamilton imparted important official secrets 
to a financier who was engaged in dealing in securities 
for Hamilton's brother-in-law, Church, under Hamil- 
ton's orders. Myers in his History of the Supreme 
Court continues the tale of family cohesion and incen- 
tive in big deals. In spite of America's technical free- 
dom from hereditary nobility and a privileged caste, 
the substance of this anachronism has been ever 
present. John Jay was allied by birth, marriage, 
and interest with some of the greatest manorial lords 
in the United States. He was "descended from an in- 
termingled line of landed families," and "marricil into 
another mighty landed family, which . had its 

alliance of familv and interests with powerful British 

146 I he Anil ru (in Family 

nobles." This was the Livinj^ston family, members of 
which held high federal, state, and city otVices. 

The political motto of the Livinj^ston family was direct and 
concise: the family should always derive benefit, and notliing 
of any degree of value was to escape it. . . For a century, 
the Livin}:ston family, bej^innin^; with nothing, and becoming 
one of the richest in the colonies, had assiduously pushed them- 
selves, their ties and connections into every office and scheme 
promising profit and assuring power. . 'Hie Livingstons 

again proved their political skill and great power hy having 
Jay installed as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the 
I'nited States. 

After the Revolution the courts "were hlled with 
judges wlio had been attorneys for, or were relatives of, 
families whose estates had been confiscated." Ham- 
mond related that he was informed that the Livingston 
family "one evening had a meeting and that 

the result of their deliberation was such, that the next 
morning every member of it took a position in the 
ranks of the Republican party," except some Living- 
stons in Columbia County. 

They did not neglect to have their alile representatives and con- 
nections on both sides, so that whichever party won. the family 
would be in a position to draw benefit. . From the tiinc 

of the organization of the Supreme Court of tiie United States, 
[till the twenties of the nineteenth century] the Livingston 
family had four direct or related representatives on that bench, 
in the persons of John Jay. William Paterson, Hrockholst Liv- 
ingston and Smith Thompson. It was virtually a succession of 
the Livingston dynasty. 

This is but one instance of familism in public affairs. 
Justice Curtis wrote from Washington in iS^z : "Wayne 
anii Daniel dissent, on account of an interest, in some 
way, which Sf)me of their relatives have." In one case 
Taney did not sit, as a near familv relative was in- 

The Family and the Home 147 

Democracy introduced a new complication into 
American family life-the servant problem. While 
white servitude lasted, a supply of menials was obtain- 
able. But as this atrocity dwindled in the first part of 
the nineteenth century the servant problem became 
acute. Mistresses were troubled by the disobedience, 
carelessness, faithlessness, inefficiency, and independ- 
ence of their hirelings. Mrs. Graves in 1841 said: 
Domestics are very exacting; they repeatedly threaten to leave, 
and on the slightest pretext execute their threats; so that the 
mistress is afraid to reprove her menials. Servants no longer 
consider their time at their mistress' disposal but after doing 
the specified work claim the rest of the time for themselves. 
They are beginning to demand the right to receive visitors. 

The influx of immigrants relieved, in a measure, the 
dearth of servants; but the newcomers were not always 
above learning American independence. Mistresses 
were largely to blame for the unsatisfactory state of 
affairs. "Christian" women were almost wholly inat- 
tentive to the spiritual needs of their help. \n many 
families no duty was recognized toward the domestics 
save the payment of wages. Such negligence some- 
times led to seduction by some sympathetic man and 
then the girl had almost no recourse save prostitution. 
Even such a girl as Louisa Alcott, having gone im- 
pulsively as companion for two old folks in a family, 
was treated with great indignity "by a family in which 
no one would have feared to place her." What must 
have been the lot of the obscure, unfriended girl? 

A girl of seventeen in 1840 did the entire housework 
of a family including cooking and care of a new babv 
for one dollar per week. This was average pay of her 
neighborhood in Massachusetts. This case suggests 
that the inertia of domestic wages handed down from 
the days of unpaid drudgery by spinster relatives was 

148 The American Family 

a cause of the difficulty' over servants. The unsavory 
status of the prohlem niav have worked toward an in- 
crease oi wa^es for liousehold service. Nauniann in 
1848 said that a sixteen year old German girl receiveil, 
it only moderately usable, niorc than the stoutest fel- 
low did for the hardest work. 

Besides the general indepenilence of girls in Amer- 
ica ami the feeling that menial service was unworthy 
of a native American there were the attractions of fac- 
ti)rv industrv with its better pay and freer life. If 
American matrons had been willing to meet this com- 
petition they could have had servants. As it was, one 
Knglishwoman of the mid-century said: '*So far as the 
observations and cniiuiries of sixteen months could 
elicit such facts, I have not discovered that the servants 
in the I'nited States arc of a worse description than the 
same class of persons in England." The relatives of 
the help were not usually in such abject poverty as to 
tempt the servants to steal for them -a happy contrast, 
it would seem, to England. 

The fact that women of some means had to attend to 
housekeeping was regarded by some as a blessed con- 
straint and indeed as a possible boon to health; but dis- 
satisfaction with the trials of housekeeping promoted 
resort to hotel life -an untoward phenomenon that re- 
ceives due attention in a later chapter. 

It will, of course, be necessary to treat separately the 
unique phenomenon of the Slave States family. It was 
more conservative and intense, more careful of the old 
values and less open to the new, than was the family in 
North and West, where diffusion of economic oppor- 
tunity and the resultant democratic dignity held prom- 
ise of an exalted tvpc of democratic family life based 
not on economic necessity but on spiritual values. 


New world conditions save as marred by slavery 
were relatively favorable to chastity. So long as eco- 
nomic conditions facilitated early marriage and large 
fecundity; so long as mercenary marriage remained 
largely in abeyance; life, while crude or even coarse, 
remained measurably pure. Democratic freedom of 
choice contributed to raise the moral tone and the im- 
proving status of woman worked in the same direction. 
Moreover conditions in the early days of the nation 
were such as to give public opinion great force; for life 
conditions were not complex, the ordinary community 
was small, and relations were personal. A man was 
very greatly dependent on his neighbors and his life 
was under their observation more than in older, more 
densely settled regions. Public opinion was on the 
side of purity, though it seems to have weighed more 
heavily on women than on men. Schoepf is probably 
putting it over strongly when he says: ''Conjugal dis- 
loyalties, on either side, are punished by ineffaceable 
infamy." Doddridge in his western Notes says of the 
early days that seduction "could not then take place 
without great personal danger troni the brothers or 
other relations of the victims of seduction, family honor 
being then estimated at a high rate." In settled com- 
munities legal process could also be invoked. 

The relative absence of fixed class distinctions in the 
free states served as a certain protection to the chastity 

150 1 Iw . I tut rii tin iintiily 

of women. In Europe liic victims of lordly lust were 
chosen from classes tliat could not secure redress, while 
ill America justice was perhaps less hiased. The fact, 
too, of the general American preoccupation with in- 
dustry or business helped to avert evils that attemi on 
the goings of a leisure class. There may have been 
something in the climate, also, to curb excess. Gurow- 
ski in 18^7 advanced an interesting theory as to the 
superior chastity of the American woman. 

The American woman has the appearance of cohlness, foundril 
in notions, principles, as well as in the temperament; she seems 
not to be exposed to the ebullitions of blood, to those violent 
emotions common to the women of the Old World. 
The climate affects the senses differently, it is supposed, in the 
New and in the ( )ld Worlii. . The American woman is 

not often thus exalted passionately to that extent as to overstep 
the limits traced by the social comprehension of morality. In 
fjencral she is, therefore, a surer puardian of the domestic 
hearth and of its purity, than is, in many cases, the European, 
surrounded by inner and outer ur^ings and temptations. 

It was only with the development of feverish luxury 
and conspicuous consumption that depravity began to 
threaten seriously the integrity of women of the "bet- 
ter" class. 

Chastellux. who visited the country toward the close 
of the Revolution, said: "There is no licentiousness in 
America." Social scandals at the end of the colonial 
period related mostly to the "mishaps of love-making." 
Crcvccocur said: "A general decency everywhere pre- 
vails; the reason, I believe, is that almost everybody 
here is married, for they get wives very young and the 
pleasure of returning to their families f)vcrrules every 
other desire." .Mazzei wrote: "In America . . . 
girls have a good time with the young men, but mar- 
ried women are reserved, and their husbands arc not so 
familiar with young girls as before they were married." 

Sex Morals in the Opining Continent 151 

Bundling lingered long in Pennsylvania among the 
Dutch and German settlers and their descendants. It 
was a matter of court record as late as 1H4C;. In New 
England it prevailed longest in the Connecticut Valley 
where there was Dutch influence. Holmes in his Ac- 
count of the United States says that among the Dutch 
in the Middle States bundling is a custom. Parties of 
men and girls spend the night together at inns, both 
se.xes sleeping together. 

Such threat commatul have the females acquired, that several 
who have bundled for years, it is said, have never permitted 
any improper liberties. Indeed, it is considered as not in the 
least indelicate . . , the females say, that the Dutch boys 
would never think of actinj:; improperly. ^- 

In general as regards pioneer life it is probably safe 
to say as Cooley does of Michigan: "Domestic scan- 
dals were exceedingly rare, and divorces almost un- 
known. Society was very primitive and there was 
little courtesy and less polish, but there was no social 
corruption and parents had faith in each other and 
little fear for the morals of their children." Of course 
Arcadian simplicity did not imply delicacy. In gen- 
eral we may assume for the frontier what has been said 
of early Tennessee, that "a broad humor that enjoyed 
obscene jests was dominant among the males." 

Nor were the vices of a sophisticated society slow to 
arise with town life. 

One hundred years ago there were many unfaithful 
husbands but very few unfaithful wives. Colonial 
penalties had weakened. For the first half of the nine- 
teenth century we can affirm that in spite of (or per- 
haps by reason of) the great freedom of contact be- 
tween the sexes, offenses against the seventh command- 

^' Eirle. Customs and Fashions in old \nv England, 63-64; lli)lmf». 
Account of the United States, 347. 

152 I III' .1 tiuru (in l'(nml\ 

meat were remarkably rare. Infidelity on the part of 
the witc was ahiiost unknown and a liaison was well 
nij^^h out ot the i|ucstii)ii ; successful intrii^uc meant 
odium. For a married lady U) receive attentions from 
a man not her husbaiul would have made her the scan- 
dal of the community, and ailultery spelled for her 
ostracism, ihe seducer risked death or heavy atone- 
ment. Country lile particularly was pure. On the 
whole, the free section of America contrasted favor- 
ably with the OKI World in point of purity. Marryat 
was indeed of the opinion that conjugal disloyalty was 
invariably husheil up and he implies that the number 
of illegitimate births may not have been an adequate 
measure of illicit intercourse. Miss .Martincau was 
rather of the opinion 

That married life is immca,surably purer in America than in 
England: but that there is not otherwise much superiority to 
boast of. I can only say, that I unavoidably knew of more 
cases of lapse in highly respectable families in one state than 
ever came to my knowledge at home; and that they were got 
over with a tlis^jrnce far more temporary and superficial than 
they could have been visited with in Knjrland. 

She recognizes, however, the facilities afforded in b>u- 
rope for concealment owing to social stratification. 

I'here was a specific connection between religious 
e.xcitiment and sex morals. James D. Davis, a pioneer 
lawyer of Memphis, writing as late as 187^ of a camp- 
meeting held between Raleigh and Memphis jirior to 
i8'^o. when the cnuntrv for miles was depopulated, 
said : 

There may Im* some who think that a camp-meeting is nf) place 
for love-making ; if so they arc very much mistaken. When 
the mind becomes bewildered and confused, the moral restraints 
give way, and the passions arc quickened and less controllable. 
For a mile or more around a camp-meeting the woods seem 
alive with people; every tree or bush has its group or couple, 

Sex Morals in the Opening Continent 153 

while hundreds of others in pairs are seen prowh'ng around in 
search of some cosy spot." 

Ihe reverend John Brooks wrote: 

All denominations of Christians except the Cumberland Pres- 
byterian, opposed them with all their power, . . There 
was a great many who thought it would have disgraced their 
wife or daughter forever if they stayed on the camp ground all 
night. Sometimes their wives or daughters would be so con- 
victed that they would go up to be prayed for -they would 
come into the altar in great haste to get them out. Those who 
were praying for them would reason with them and entreat 
them to let them get religion, but to no purpose; out they 
would have them, right or wrong. Then in great rage cursing 
the straw pen, as they called the altar; and off home they would 
take them. . . If the children of other denominations would 
get religion among us, they would rather that they would be 
anywhere else than in the Methodist church. They would do 
all in their power to keep tlu-m out, and, if they had joined, to 
get them out again. . It was dangerous for a Methodist 

preacher to walk out of the encampment unless he had a re- 
spectable company with him, for there were some, it would 
seem, always watching for some opportunity to tell a slanderous 
tale upon them ; and as there were more or less women of ill 
fame lurking about, they only wanted suitable circumstances to 
give coloring to their hellish designs.'^ 

It is scarcely necessary to take up the various sects 
that specialized in peculiar doctrines as to marriage; 
in most cases they have had little permanent influence. 
The Mormons constitute the most conspicuous excep- 
tion. Just what interpretation is to be put upon the 
rise of their communion the viewpoint of this hook 
does not make it easy to say. To attribute so great an 
achievement to mere animalism is the cheap recourse 
of the idler or the fanatic. 

Clearlv one of the main factors to be counted was the 

^' Hale and Ntcrritt. History of Trnnfjjrr nttii Trnnrssreans, vol. i, 225. 
T* — IJrm, 225-226. 

1 :;4 The Ami riniti luituily 

call of the empty continent for prolific propagation, 
and this need set a sanction upon "the most sacred duty 
man can owe to (jod aibl the huiiiaii race." "in the 
world, it takes two sets of parents to produce five chil- 
dren while in Mormondom this numher is produced 
hv one set." That polvi^aniv and rapid increase were 
fruits of pioneer possihilities is suggested positively hy 
the fact that of late it has heconie iiuurnheiil on Mor- 
mons to frown upon untrue "saints" and to fight Mal- 
thusian temlencies in the midst of the church. l*resi- 
dent Smith with his forty-two children and Lorin Vaxt 
with his fortv are not likely to he duplicated in the 
present era of capitalist control of natural resources, 
universal ailoption of "prolonged infancy," emancipa- 
tion of woman, and inflated standards of living. 

Another element in determining the rise and success 
of iMormonism was the excess of women in the h>ast. 
"Mormon plural marriage was never a menace to 
monogamv. . It took up the old maids . 

now accumulating ... ; it arrestetl that contin- 
gent which now directly, or through marital failures, 
finds its way to gilded palaces of sin." If hosts of men 
eschewed matrimonv and buried themselves in remote 
pioneer activities or in urban irresponsibility how 
couhl everv fit woman be a mother and fulfil her nor- 
mal desire save bv polygamy? The institution, how- 
ever, could never be very widespread; for it is impos- 
sible to marry more women than there are. 

Polygamy was interlocked, also, with the need for 
economic e.xertion in a difficult region. The priests 
permitted plural marriages only to such as had means 
to support several, families, "and so used the satisfac- 
tion of polvglhiious instincts as a reward for unusual 
econf)mic" prowess. 

Sex Morals in the Opi'ning Continent i 


It can not be seriously argued that M(jrmonism 
meant degeneracy in any fundamental sense; it was 
merely a reversion produced by the recurrence of an 
earlier phase of racial experience. "The real growth 
of the Mormon ideal in family life began with their 
exodus" and pioneer struggles close to nature. 'Mie 
new system "permitted such a choice of sires as pre- 
vented the thriftless and vicious from perpetuating 
their undesirable progeny" or at least from swamping 
the more competent strains of heredity. Economic 
prosperity attested the practicability of the Mormon 
cult. "But the primitive moral virility of the pioneers 
did not survive in the polygamy of the second genera- 
tion. The younger generation was in danger of being 
utterly debauched by it;" and naturally so, inasmuch 
"as it was normal only so long as the peculiar conditions 
that evoked it persisted. Disappearance of free land; 
pressure of organized exploitation; the opening of 
careers for detached women; the development of 
wealth and ease -all conspire to alter the merits of the 
whole situation. 

Opposition to Mormonism had the advantage of 
cloaking itself in the pretext of outraged decency. But 
base factors were in play. In the Mormon War in 
Missouri a mob outraged fifteen or twentv Mormon 
girls and drove the Saints out. It would seem that the 
Mormons had fertile land that they would not sell to 
the "mobocrats" at their own price." 

Certain elements in the Mormon theory ot the fam- 
ily tend to corroborate the preceding interpretation of 
the movement. When it is asserted that the natural 
use of copulation is procreation, and that ,\n\ other use, 
at least in so far as it interferes, is against nature, we 

^* Amcriran ,'\nti-»Iavcry Society. Amrruan Slnvrry as it is, 191-192. 

1^6 Tht' .1 itii t u (III iinnil\ 

envisage forthwith an environment that puts a pre- 
niiuni on fecundity aiul cllnrt rather than on leisure 
ami conspicuous consumption. W hen it is alleged that 
to refuse to procreate is to block the path of a soul we 
call up to a view a situation in which the coming of a 
new child meant a larger total of life, rather than a 
reduced total bv reason of economic stringency. (The 
argument for propagation had not the same back- 
ground as the identical commantl of the Catholic 
hierarchy who urge fecundity for the laity while prac- 
ticing sterility themselves.) When we are told that 
hereafter the Mormon family idea requires to be sus- 
taineil bv hope of salvation and exaltation in the life 
to come and that fitness for authority in heaven must be 
developed bv experience here, we are reminded that 
supernatural sanctions once developed as a justifica- 
tion for forms of conduct tend to persist as unnatural 
sanctions after the conditions that evoked them have 
passed away. The Mormon leaders need not e.xpect 
to maintain the patriarchal ethic in the new regime of 
capitalism. The claim that "the Bible Family" as 
upheld bv .Mormons will be the dominant type of the 
future is made in forgetfulness of the fact that the re- 
cedence of the Mormon forbears to the tribal type of 
the Hebrew patriarchs could last only so long as eco- 
nomic isolation and group solidarity consequent on the 
desert struggle lasted.'" 

In view of the furor that has raged over Mormon- 
ism it is of interest to remember a contemporaneous 
pronouncement from reputable S(jurces. In 1846 the 
American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Mis- 
sions voted unanimously against instructing mission- 
aries to exclude polygamists. The reverend Doctor 

^•()n the Mormon*, nee the "Bibliograpliy," iicm Tlir Mormon /'amily; 
Mun>terbcrg. Americans, 516. 

Sex Morals in the Opening Continint 157 

Allen, missionary in India for twenty-five years said: 

If polygamy was unlawful, then Leah was the only wife of 
Jacob and none but her children were legitimate. And 

yet there is no intimation of any such views and feelings in 
Laban's family, or in Jacob's family, or in Jewish history. . . 
God honored the sons of Rachel, Bilhah, and Zilpah equally 
with the sons of Leah." 

7"he early Mormon could make out a plausible case 
for the superior morality of his system as compared 
with the pernicious promiscuity that tended to spring 
up in the growing centers of population. DeBou's 
Review of March, 1857, contained this indictment: 
In eighty years, the social system of the North has developed 
to a point in morals only reached by that of Rome in six cen- 
turies from the building of the city. . . Already married 
women, moving in the fashionable circles of the North, forego 
the duties of domestic life, bestow their minds upon dress and 
equipage, and refuse to no inconsiderable extent to undergo the 
pains of child-bearing. . . Already the priceless gem of 
chastity in woman has been despoiled of its talismanic charm 
with men. [The moral rule is], so long as exposure is avoided, 
no wrong is done. 

DeBow idealized the society of the South though 
he very well knew that it was rotten to the core with 
illicit miscegenation. Moreover ordinary sexual 
pathology was early important there as is witnessed by 
such an advertisement as the following from the Times 
of Alexandria, Virginia, January i, 1801 : ''The Cor- 
dial Balm of Gilcad, an immediate restorative and 
corroborant, a most powerful rcmcilv in female ob- 
structions and suppression, and in cases of retention at 
maturity." There is advertised also a restorative 
counteractant of masturbation. Also "A (juide to 
Health" with essay on the "Venerial Disease and Sem- 
inal Weakness" recommended to men and boys. 

^T Gage, ll'oman. Church, anj Stiitr, 406. 

158 Tilt' .Inurii (in Finml\ 

Sex sin in its ordinary forms was early prevalent. 
Congressman Rutledgc of South Carolina shot a man 
in intrigue with his wife. 'iWo theatrical men at 
Charleston fought over the woman kept by one. The 
lover was beaten in the eluel. The victor ejected the 
woman, who went and lived with the wounded lover. 
The other man married. Hodgson who in 1824 pub- 
lished Letters from Xort/i .hiurira thought that Mo- 
bile seemed io be characterized by profaneness, licen- 
tiousness, and ferocity. Arfwedson in 1834 recorded 
that opposite Columbus, Georgia, "on the Alabama 
shore, a number of dissolute people had founded a 
village, for which their lawless pursuits and notorious 
misdeeds had procured the name of Sodom." They 
were in Indian territory. Virtue and beauty they 
regarded as proper prey. Abdy, who was in the 
United States in 1833- 1834, found influences ruinous 
to unprotected youth. "Two boys, about twelve or 
fourteen . . . stationed themselves in front of us, 
and one . . . exhibited a drawing . . . the 
most indecent . . . possible to imagine. . . I 
remonstrated . he burst out into a laugh." 

Abdy's companion, a North Carolina slave buyer, 
seemed to think very little of the incident. "Inhere is 
a greater regard for dccencv even in Paris." 

The reverend K. i. Mallard in P/antntion Life hc- 
forr Kni(iri( ip/itiori sa\s: " I ii our county . . the 

most fre(]uent cause of suspension from church fellow- 
ship ami even excommunication was offences against" 
the seventh commamlment. The pastor of a colored 
church in the South said in a letter tliat "the violation 
of chastity among my congregation is the be- 

setting sin. Of the three hundred seventeen persons 
excluded during a certain period . . . two hun- 

Sex Morals in the Opening Continent 159 

dred were for adultery." The congregation contained 
an unusual proportion of free blacks. 

North and South were fond of bandying back and 
forth charges of immorality. Slavery, the exploitation 
of the poor whites, and the feverish city life of New 
Orleans marred the South with impurity. Capitalism, 
urban industrialism, and the rise of luxury in the North 
bred comparable evil. The influence of these factors 
upon the standards of sex morals observed in the rural 
simplicity of the new world will be touched in other 
chapters. The North had at least one moral advan- 
tage -a more normal and wholesome rural life which 
held back the tide of demoralization. 

At a ''Free Convention" in Rutland, Vermont, in 
1858, the platform was used for a vigorous advocacy of 
free love. An attractive woman recommended it to 
her audience. The speech was so well received that 
the meeting "went forth to the world as a free-love con- 
vention. But the almost unanimous northern 
sentiment in regard to this convention, and the haste 
with which some participators in it rushed into print 
to clear themselves from any accusation of sympathy 
with free-love, are an indication of the severity of opin- 
ion touching sexual relations."" Such evidence is, 
however, far from conclusive. I'he public is noto- 
riously antagonistic to a public theoretical justification 
of evils whose practice is patiently tolerated. 

Prudery was an interesting phenomenon of the social 
life of nineteenth century America. The mother of 
Susan B. Anthony was very timid. Before the birth 
of every child she was ovcrwhclnicd with embarrass- 
ment and lived in seclusion and would not speak of the 
expected event even to her mother. Harper relates: 

^'* Rhodes. Ilijtnry of thf I' nit f J Stiitrs, vol. iii, 98-99. 

l6o llw Atiitriciin F(imd\ 

That mother would assist her overburdened daughter by mak- 
ing the necessary K^rments, take thnn t(j her house and lay 
them carefully away in a drawer, but no word of ack now led ce- 
ment ever passed between them. This was characteristic of 
those olden times, when there were seldom any confidences be- 
tween mothers and dautjhters in re^jard to the deeix-st and most 
sacred concerns of life, which were looked upon as subjects to 
be rigidly tabooed. 

Marryat. wlm was in America in 1837-1838, spoke of 
ptruilcr\ : Anicrican girls would not say "leg." Sonic 
even referred to the "limb of a tabic." An English 
lady keeping a boarding-house in an Atlantic citv said 
some girls showed hysterical agitation at meeting a 
man or hoy unexpectedly. Cirattan in his Civilized 
.'Imerica said : 

The newspapers . . . abstain, on a point of delicacy, 
from ever announcing,' the birth of a child; while marriages 
and deaths occupy their columns without reserve. . . No 
lady allows herself to be seen publicly while she is visibly en- 
ceinte. A rigid confinement to her house, and even to her 
"chamber" is observed for a considerable time preceding her 
confinement. . It frequently happened to me to miss 

ladi«"s from . . . parties . . . and on enquiring . 
to be told tliey were "in the country" or "visiting" and on 
meeting them, in probably a year or more, to find them [with 
a new child]. 

Buckingham ifi the Shivc Stales of .hmrua has a 
comment, made at Athens, on American prudery. 
"Hip" and "thigh" arc, he says, tabooed. They alter 
praycrbo(ik and Hibic by the elimination of "womb," 
"belly," "cock." He speaks in contrast of the demor- 
alization wrought upon young New Englandcrs, many 
of whom rcturti from the Soutli dissipated rakes. 


The project of building a homestead West enccjun- 
tered five large obstacles: the opposition of the Indians, 
the stubbornness of distance and environment, the ex- 
pansionist projects of the plantation South, the un- 
scrupulousness of voracious land speculators, and the 
selfish obstructionism of the eastern capitalist jealous of 
his cheap labor. All these were positive enemies of the 
homestead family and handicaps to the western home. 
All save the first require brief attention. 

In 1786 William Cooper, father of James Fenimore 
Cooper, opened the sales of forty thousand acres 
"which, in sixteen days, were all taken up by the poor- 
est order of men." 

The greatest discouragement was in the extreme poverty of the 
people, none of whom had the means of clearing more than a 
small spot in the midst of the thick and lofty woods, so that 
their prain prew chiefly in the shade; their maize did not ripen ; 
their wheat was blasted, and the little they did gather they had 
no mill to grind within twenty miles distance; not one in twen- 
ty had a horse, and the way lay through rapid streams, across 
swamps, or over bogs. They had neither provisions to take 
with them, nor money to purchase them; nor if they had, were 
any to be found on their way. If the father of a family went 
abroad to labor for bread, it cost him three times its value be- 
fore he could bring it home, and all the business on his farm 
stood still till his return. [Cooper canu* in one April with 
several loads of provisions. Sofin it was all snapjx'd up, for 
people were living r)n roots and on maple water.] Judge of 
my feelings at this epoch, with two huiuired families about me, 
and not a morsel of broad. . . I . . . obtained from 
the Legislature . . . seventeen hundrni bushels of corn. 

1 62 The American Family 

This wc packed on horses' backs, and on our arrival made a 
distribution amonj; the families, in proportion to the number 
of individuals of which each was composed. 

This settlement was at the foot of Otsego Lake (Coop- 
erstuwn, New ^'ork). The extract is from Cooper's 
Guidt in l/if inUtrni'ss, published in Irelanci in 1810 
to promote migration (o Otsego. Me says further: 

If the fXM)r man who comes to purchase hind has a cow and 
a yoke of cattle to brin^ with him, he is of the most fortunate 
class, but as he will probably have no money to hire a laborer, 
he must do all his clearing with his own hands. Having no 
pasture for his cow and oxen, they must range the woods for 
subsistence; he must find his cow before he can have his break- 
fast, and his oxen before he can begin his work. Much of the 
day is sometimes wasted, and his strength uselessly exhausted. 
Under all these disadvantages, if in three years he attains a 
comfortable livelihood, he is pretty well of?: he will then re- 
quire a barn, as great losses accrue from the want of shelter 
for his cattle and his grain; his children, yet too young to af- 
ford him any aid, require a school, and are a burden upon him; 
his wife bearing children, and living poorly in an open house, 
is liable to sickness and doctors' bills \\ ill be to pay. 

John Hrailburv (author of Travels in the Interior 
of America in the Years iSOQ, iSlO, anJ / tS I / ) ,nn- 
ticed that emigrants lacking the stamina for clearing 
the wilderness always found opportunity to huv out 
the backwoodsman's clearing. The latter preferred 
the har^h frontier to the encroaching civilization. The 
clearing that he sold generally consisted of a log house, 
an orchard, ami from ten to forty acres enclosed and 
partly cleared. Poverty on the sea-board pushed peo- 
ple westward. Bradbury observed many farms aban- 
doned in X'irginia. A traveller in Pennsylvania about 
the same time mentions a "singular party of travellers- 
a man with his wife and ten children. T^he eldest of 
the progeny had the youngest tied on his back; and the 
father pushed a wheelbarrow, containing the movables 

The Struggle for the West 163 

of the family" They were leaving New Jersey and 
making for Ohio. Farther on a young woman was 
passed, "carrying a sucking child in her arms, and 
leading a very little one by the hand." 

An Irish traveller giving advice to his fellow coun- 
trymen drew an interesting picture of the possibilities 
for an immigrant on the cheap western land as con- 
trasted with ugly city conditions. A man and wife 
without children could get employment in the same 
family. She could earn four or five dollars a month - 
sufficient in a year to stock a farm. In one year or 
thereabouts, tho they landed penniless, they could be 
ready to start to the West where the land was cheap and 
good. A couple with small children, under ten or 
twelve years, would have difficulty in getting a start. 
Older children could get work in families or factories. 
But with small children the wife would have to have 
a home, where she must stay earning nothing. Thou- 
sands of Irish, reared on farms and unacquainted with 
the vicious life of cities, had, on coming to America, 
settled in filthy cellars and garrets, and worked in the 
nasty labor allotted to friendless strangers. When they 
have earned a little money, instead of moving out in 
search of a wholesome farm they married and started 
a familv in the midst of poverty, vice, and sin; the 
family, subject to the countless evil influences of city 
life, and often disgracing the parent and the father- 
land. "But when you get the farm, Patrick, the more 
children you have the happier you will be." Thus 
even in the first half of the nineteenth century the con- 
test between city and country was on; and their con- 
trasting influence on the family noted. 

The opening of California Icil to a mad rush toward 
the Pacific. 

Mothers Plight he seen w.uhn^ throuj^h the deep dust or hrax')' 

164 riw .1 tfttfiKin Fiunily 

sand of the deserts, or climbing mountain steeps, leading their 
poor children by the hand ; or the once strong man, pale, emaci- 
ated by hunger and fatigue, carrying upon his back his feeble 
infant, crying for water and nourishment, and appeasing a 
ravenous appetite from the carcass of a dead horse or mule. 

A traveller of iS;;4 w rntc of Chicago: 

A family of (jermans going by the hotel one morning 
struck me as the most remarkable show I had seen in the 
West - the coming in of Kurupean immigrants to take posses- 
sion of our western plains. 

The father sfrt)de down the middle of the street. 
customed to the convenience of sidewalks in his own country, 
he shared the way with the Iwasts of burden, no less heavily 
laden than they. . . Hy one hand he held his pack, and in 
the other he carried a large tea-kettle. His gude-wife followed 
in his tracks, at barely speaking distance behind. A babe at 
the breast was her only burden. Both looked straight forward, 
intent only upon putting one foot before the other. In a direct 
line, but still further behind, trudged on. with unequal foot- 
ster>s, and eyes staring on either side, their first-born son, or one 
who seemed such. There were well towards a dozen summers 
glowing in his face. A big tin pail, containing, probably, the 
day's provisions, and slung to his young shoulders, did not seem 
to weigh too heavily upon his spirit. He travelled on bravely, 
and was evidently trained to bear his load. A younger brother 
brought up. at a few paces distant, the rear, carrying, astride 
his nci k ... a sister. 

Tliey would not stop or turn aside, save for need- 
ful foiid and shelter, until they crossed the Mississippi. On 
the rolling prairies beyond, the foot-worn travellers would 
reach their journey's end, and, throwing their weary limbs 
upfjn the flowery grass, would rest in their new home, roofed 
by the sky of Iowa. 

As if the vast distances of the continent and the hard- 
ships that the environment imposed upon the pioneer 
were not enough, the history of settlement has been 
a continual record (jf the e.xactions of rapacious land 
speculat(jrs '* whose sj jjny tr^ il reaches from the Atlan- 

^* Myers. Hutory of ihf Stifrrmr Court, 304-354, 372-388, 403-469. 

Tilt' Struggle for tlw ll'ist 1 65 

tic to the Mississippi, to the Great Plains, to California 
and Oregon, and now linaliy to the ultimate continental 
frontier in Alaska. Early, the Supreme Court heard 
cases "revealing that thousands of families had been 
peremptorily driven from their homes, ami reduced to 
destitution, by the claims and exactions of land j(jbbers/' 
The Court had validated these claims. A Senate 
Committee in 1836 reported that land speculation was 
looking to a land monopoly. 

The poor but inciustrious occupant generally attends the land 
sales, having no more money than a sum sufficient to buy the 
land he occupies at the minimum price; a speculator bids a 
few cents over him, and becomes the purchaser of the land and 
the owner of an improved farm, paying not one cent for the 
value of the improvements. In other cases, where the settler 
has collected something more than the money sufficient to pay 
for the land he occupies, at the minimum price, and bids that 
sum, the speculator, by some secret agent . . . overbids 
the settler, the land is struck off to this agent, and the settler 
leaves the sale in disgust, to mourn over the injustice of the 
government of the Union, and to prepare for the removal of 
himself and family from the little farm which he has improved 
and expected to have purchased from a paternal government. 
After the departure of the settler, the tract is forfeited for non- 
payment, and the speculator purchases in his own name the for- 
feited tract, probably at the minimum price per acre. 

The scenes ensuing at many of our land sales are scenes of 
the deepest distress and misery. They arc scenes in which 
many families are driven forth from their homes to seek some 
other spot in the wilderness, where keen-eyed avarice and sor- 
did monopoly may not overtake them. Hut another laiul sale 
comes on, the same scene is repeated, till all hope is extinguished, 
and nothing is left to the settler but di*spair and ruin 
taking all the sales of the public lands, from the adoption of 
the cash system, in July. 1820, down to the present period, the 
average price received by the governmetit upon these sales, has 
been less than six cents an acre over the minimum price.*" 

'° Myers. History of the Sufrrmr Court, 386-387. 

1 66 'The A til I- ru (in I-drnily 

I'hc committee proposed the sale and entry of all of 
tlic public lands in forty-acre lots -"a whimsical sug- 
gestion to make to a Congress a large number of the 
members of whith were interested in the hind com- 

Gareschc wrote from Louisiana to tiie Secretary of 
the Ireasurv on June (), 1S36: 

It is folly to talk ot tlu- poor squatter - the laws have ncvrr 
bcrn made for him ; he j^rts but a very small fraction of the 
whole; all the benefits of the speculation fall into the hands of 
the intritruer ; it is for him that the bill is introduced; it is for 
him alone that the voice of our orators is heard on the floor of 

The New I'JiL^dand Protective Union declared: "We 
must proceed from combined stores to combined shops, 
from combined shops to combined houses, to joint own- 
ership in (jod's earth, the foundation that our edifice 
must stand upon." The first Industrial Congress of 
the United States (New York, 1845) declared "it is a 
well-known fact that rich men, capitalists and non-pro- 
ducers associate to devise means for securing to them- 
selves the fruits of other men's labors"; therefore farm- 
ers, mechanics, and workingmen ought to organize. It 
was declared that further traffic in land by the govern- 
ment should stop and that the public lands should be 
made free to actual settlers so that every person might 
have a home. 

The Laborers' Union memorialized Congress to end 
traffic in public lands. "This system ... is fast 
debasing us to the condition oi dependent tenants, of 
which condition a rapid increase of inequality, misery, 
pauperism, vice, and crime are necessary conse- 

" Myeri. History of tht Suprrmr Courf, 387. 
*' — fJrm, 444-446. 

The Struggle for the ff'fst 167 

Before the close of 1852, bills, resolutions, and me- 
morials for grants of land t(^ actual settlers were intro- 
duced in Congress. A homestead bill passed the 
House in 1852 but the Senate did not pass it. Ham- 
mond of South Carolina in 1858 said in the Senate: 
"Your people are awaking; they are coming here. 
They are thundering at our doors for homesteads, one 
hundred and sixty acres of land for nothing, and South- 
ern Senators arc supporting them." In 1862 Congress 
passed the Homestead Bill presenting one hundred and 
sixty acres to every settler on condition that he built a 
home and proceeded to cultivate and improve the soil. 

The consequences of the struggle for the soil have 
been far reaching. On the whole, even the well in- 
tended homestead acts have not safeguarded general 
welfare but have grown or been twisted into agencies of 
special privilege in the form of unearned increments 
to the undeserving successors of the pioneers or to their 
speculative exploiters. "Our efforts to give land to the 
landless have bred an immense amount of corruption, 
fostered speculation, endowed private monopoly with 
public wealth, and pauperized whole communities."" 
The far reaching fact is that originally through the 
ignorance, carelessness, or corruption of the govern- 
ment the people's heritage of land was dissipated and 
the vast stores of natural wealth not created by any man 
were made into a lever by which most of the created 
wealth has been separated from its producers so that 
decent home life has been for millions pushed far 
beyond the bounds of possibility. 

It is important to note how the self-interest ot the 
eastern labor exploiters opposed the opening up of the 
West for settlement for fear that the homesteads of the 
new country would reduce their supplv of labor and 

** Ely. Outlines of Economics, 593-594. 

1 68 The Anurii iin lunuilx 

advance its price. It was urged, indeed, that "instead 
• 't i^ivin*; homes to the liomeless, the hill will unsettle 
the homes of manv honest persons who have houi^ht 
their farms with iiard earnings by bringing them into 
competition with other farms received as an alms by 
men too indolent and improvident to ac(|uirc them as 
others have""* It is not generally known that Daniel 
Webster's "Liberty and I'nion" oration found its oc- 
casion in the conspiracv against the free home of the 
West as a refuge from exploitation in the Kast. It 
was delivered in support of a resolution by Senator 
Foote of Connecticut to stop the survey of public lands 
and limit sales."* One would suppose that the West 
and the laborers of the East might have awakeneil to 
the real situation and if necessary sought alliance with 
the South against what was to prove the deadly foe 
of ail of them the capitalist power of the financial 
centers. There were indeed signs of such a rapproche- 
ment of West and South; but the attempted expansion 
of the plantation system to the West and Northwest was 
regarded as an encroachment on the pioneer home and 
as a possible curb to the spread of the small farmstead 
by the sons of the pioneers. The danger was in reality 
insignificant; for, inasmuch as one can not repeal the 
laws of nature, the slave svstem could never have been 
a serious menace to the upju-r \N'est. Hut Westerners 
and would-be pioneers thought it was and gave their 
sons to crush the fancied foe. the South, while under 
cover (jf the Wat their nominal allies, the monied men 
of the East, were forging a new conspiracy and fasten- 
ing f)n the neck of the whole nation a new and lasting 
slavery, a practicable, workable sort of bondage. Thus 

•♦ Satiofirtl Intrltif^rncfr, June i, 1852, cited in McMaster's History of 
Ihe Pfoplf of the I'nitrJ Statrs (1913), vol. viii, 107-109. 
•* Simons. Social Form in /Imrrican History, 203. 

Tlw Struggle for the Wat 169 

the homes of the West and the proletarian homes of 
the East have suffered immeasurably for their faulty 
sense of proportion, their failure to size up the real 
enemy. The Civil War was in a sense a war for a 
specific type of family and a specific type oi home. Its 
sequel was not merely the reconstruction of the svstem 
of the South but the reconstruction of the West like- 
wise at the hands of the money lender of the East. 

The liberalizing influences of new-world life were 
largely a function of the frontier and tended to become 
conservatized as fast as the frontier receded before the 
advance of urbanization. Meanwhile migration west- 
ward factored in the shaping of family conditions in the 
more settled East. To the settlement of the Great West 
went the young and vigorous leaving the elderly, the 
invalids, the orphans to the care of some widowed or 
unmarried sister or daughter. Throughout the older 
states there were countless such broken families. The 
guardian of the household "stood in her lot strengthen- 
ing the things that remained.'' In consecjuence of the 
young men's migrating westward in great numbers, 
many eastern young women, who normally would have 
been their wives, married widowers oKl enough to be 
their fathers. Such conditions contributeii to the de- 
crepitude of the old New P>ngland stock. P3ven after 
the Civil War the westward drain of men continued, 
leaving an excess of women in New Englanil. 

It was not the "best people" from New England that 
moved to the Western Reserves. It was not the "suc- 
cessful" families at home that pioneered Ohio. But the 
\N\'St "has been icd all along bv the prolific stocks of 
New England. It was the families with large numbers 
of children that moved west. If tin- prolific stocks mi- 
grate to the west thev leave the unprolific stocks." 

lyo lilt' .1 niirii lift linml\ 

Hence (perhaps) some of the modern sterility of the 
North Atlantic Americans. 

The West constituted a refuse for the hard-pressed 
and hankrupt of the seaboard states. Hy 1S17 some 
eastern cities ceased to ^row, so great was the e.xodus of 
the poor from the coastal states. Hard times in the 
Middle States in the thirties pushed people West. Prior 
to 1840 some one remarked that "our fashionable wo- 
men do more for the settlement of the western 
country than the soil, climate, and cheapness of land." 
Competition in the Kast was too sharp for some mer- 
chants, and professional men were too numerous, even 
before the War. Some such, having married early, and 
having expensive habits could not keep pace with the 
demands of an increasing family. In such cases the 
West offered an escape. In that crude country one 
might live more simply and cheaply without losing so- 
cial position. ( )ften the wife consented to removal only 
because she could not help herself. Such women were 
likelv to be ill-suited to roughing it. In some instances 
families were driven back by the wife's discontent. But 
sometimes fashionable women, settling in the West, 
became, from e.xample or from necessity, splendid 
housewives. "That is to say," observed the Bostonian, 
"thev scrub their own floors, clean their door handles, 
wash the windows . . walk about with children 
in their arms; all which ... is done by the women 
of the best society in the western states without de- 
stroying either their health or good looks." Thus the 
hinterland served as a safety valve to the developing 
East. This relation must be kept in mind, for it re- 
tained in the older country something of the pioneer 
flavor and retarded the growth of the family phe- 
nomena that more recently mark our industrial civili- 


At the close of the Revolution, wages were low and 
the price of necessities was high. Only by strictest 
economy could a mechanic keep his children from 
starvation and himself from vile imprisonment. The 
home of the workman was plain and unattractive. "He 
rarely tasted fresh meat as often as once a week." The 
pinch of poverty, North and South, guaranteed a wel- 
come for anvthing that would make possible a com- 
pleter utilization of the labor force, including women 
and children, reduce dependence and charity, and 
add to the wealth of the community. Home produc- 
tion for the market developed to some extent but was a 
fleeting stage in America. Some more efficient system 
was indispensable. 

At the beginning of the nineteenth century many 
children of agriculture were just preparing to leave 
the farm for the factory. Household industry lin- 
gered long in country districts. In Indiana, for in- 
stance, in 1816 there were 2512 looms and 2700 spin- 
ning wheels, most of them in private cabins ''whose 
mistresses . converted the wool which their 

own hands had often sheared, and the flax which their 
own fingers had pulled, into cloth." Before 1836 in 
New England nearly every article of domestic use that 
is now made with tlie use of machinerv was "done by 
hand;" the population was mainly rural and the male- 
rial for clothing was grown on the home farm and 
fabricated by the women. Even the sons of compara- 
tively prosperous families went to college in homespun. 

172 77; c' Atturuan Funiily 

In the infancy of the factory system a frequent argu- 
ment in its favor was that it couhl utilize the hihor of 
women and children who would otherwise be iille. 
Washington in a letter to Lafayette said: "Though I 
would not force the introduction of manufactures by 
extravagant encouragements, and to the prejudice ni 
agriculture, yet I conceive much might be done in the 
way of women, children, and others, without taking 
one really necessary hand from tilling the earth.'"*" 
Hamilton observed that one advantage of the extensive 
introduction of machinery would be 

The employment of persons who would otherwise be idle, ami 
in many cases a burthen on the community, cither from bias of 
temper, habit, infirmity of body, or some other cause indispos- 
ing; or disqualifying them for the toils of the country. It is 
worthy of remark, that, in jjeneral, women and children are 
rendered more useful, and the latter more early useful, by man- 
ufacturing establishments, than they would otherwise be. 

He seems to have had in mimi principally the gain to 
the heads of families, for he said: "The husbandman 
himself experiences a new source of profit and support, 
from the increased industry of his wife and daughters, 
invited and stimulated by the demands of the neighbor- 
ing manufactories."*' Such philanthropists as Mat- 
thew Carey pointed out the extra value to be got from 
girls between the ages of ten and sixteen "most of whom 
are too young or too delicate for agriculture" and by 
way of contrast directed attention to the "vice and im- 
morality to which children are exposed bv a career f)f 
idleness." " 

Manufacture was earlv contemplated as the salva- 
tion of the South. The exercises incident to the lay- 

•* McVfV. MoJfrn Industrialism, 45. 

•^ Brard. Economir Intfrpretatinn of l/ir Constitution, 26. 
*' Abbot, Early History of Child Labor in .-Imrrira should be ronsulted 
a^ a Rcncral reference. 

The New Industrial OrJir 173 

iiig of the corner-stone of "The South Carolina Home- 
spun Company of Charlcst(jn" in 180H brcjught a gath- 
ering of three thousand people. Mr. Lloyd, head of 
the Masonic order of South Carolina, "said in a most 
memorable address about the prospective cotton mills:" 

Here will be found a nevcr-failiriK asylum for the friendless 
orphans and the bereft widows, the distribution of labor and 
the improvements in machinery happily combining to call into 
profitable employment the tender services of those who have 
just sprunj^ from the cradle, as well as those who are tottering 
to the K^'ivc, thus trainin}; up the h'ttle innocents to early and 
wholesome habits of honest industry, and smoothing; the 
wrinkled front of decrepitude with the smiles of competency 
and protection.®" 

Many instances might be given of the employment 
of children in the early factories. They became a more 
and more profitable mechanism and their labor was 
looked upon as a valuable asset in view of the scarcity 
and cost of male labor. (Jay complained in 1784 of 
the "wages of mechanics and labourers, which are 
very extravagant.") At Slater's first establishment in 
Rhode Island the operatives were described as between 
seven and twelve years. Manufacturing no longer re- 
quired able-bodied men but was "better done by little 
girls from si.x to twelve years old." A New Mamp- 
shire act of 1791 empowered overseers to bind out the 
poor and the idle. By means of such acts the factory 
capitalists obtained a cheap supply of woman and child 
labor. Before the close of the eighteenth century, 
manufacturing with child labor was so far developed 
that, as a French traveller put it, "men congratulate 
themselves upon making early martyrs of these inno- 
cent creatures, for is it not a torment to these poor little 
beings ... to be a whole day and almost every 
day of their lives employed at the same work, in an 

"" VVcthcrcII. .Irnnrn; ihf totton Mills, 416. 

174 1 Iw Auuriidn Family 

obscure and infected prison?""* Josiah Quincy in 1801 
found a RliDilc Island fattorv cniplovin^ over a hun- 
dred children at twelve to iwenty-tive cents a day. 

One attendant was very eloquent on the usefulness of this nian- 
ufacture. ami the employment it supplied for so many poor 
cluldrrn. Hut an oloquence was exerted on the oflu-r side of 
the ciufstioii more commanding than his, which callrii us to pity 
the>e little creatures, plying in a contracted room, amonj; flyers 
and conjjs, at an a^;e when nature requires for them air, space, 
and sports. There uas a dull drjecticjn in the countenances of 
all of them."' 

The early Anierican factories were "manned" large- 
ly hy women and chihiren. it was maintained that 
social as well as economic jj^ains came from the em- 
ployment of women in industry. Young women who 
had been "with their parents in a state of poverty and 
idleness, bare-footed and living in wretched hov- 
els .. . are comfortably fed and clothed, their 
habits antl manners and dwellings greatly improved and 
they have bcc(jme useful members of society," w hile the 
women in villages remote from manufactures are 
"doomed in idleness and its inseparable attendants vice 
and guilt." A village where "free independent and 
happy workmen with their wives and children were 
employed" was an emblem of pr(jsperity. Manufac- 
tures educated women in habits of honest inciustry and 
gave added encouragement to labor and pcjpulation. 
"They become eligible partners for life for young men, 
to whom they will be able to afford substantial aid in 
the support of families. Thus the inducement to early 
marriages ... is greatly increased . and 

immensely important efTects produced on the welfare 
of society." "To depri\e the wives as well as the chil- 
dren of the farmers and country laborers of profitable 

•^Oneal. H'orkm in .■Imfr'uan History, 128-129. 

" VlassachiMctts Historical Society, Proceedings, second »er., vol. iv, 124. 

Till' At u Industrial Order 175 

employment in manufacturing establishments would be 
most injurious.""" 

Women formed, njughly speaking, two-thirds to 
three-fourths, and in some places as much as nine- 
tenths, of the total number of factory operatives in the 
first half of the century. Many of the early mill-work- 
ers were country girls who simply came in for a time in 
order to earn a little money, often for their wedding 
outfits. Mrs. Robinson, who went to work in the 
Lowell mills at the age of ten, has said: 

The most prcvailinti incentive to our lalx)r was to secure the 
means of education for some male member of the family. To 
make a gentleman of a brother or a son, to give him a collei^e 
education, was the dominant thought in the minds of a great 
many of these provident mill girls. 

In such towns as Waltham and Lowell the hands were 
almost all farmers' daughters, who lived in corpora- 
tion boarding-houses. Since the board cost more than 
a child could earn, the employment of children was 
unprofitable. But children were often employed very 
young, even in "model" places like Lowell and Wal- 
tham. Most of the women operatives in the early 
days were in the lower twenties. Of a thousand women 
employed by the LawTence corporation only thirty 
were married or widowed. 'Vn Lowell came widows 
to open boarding-house or store, and sometimes mar- 
ried women came and worked in the mills in order to 
assist their husbands to pay for farms. \\'()men with 
a past came to hide their identity. In New York, fe- 
male operatives were enableil to support dependent 

Samuel Slater transplanted to Providence and the 
neighborhood the family-system which he had known 
in P>ngland. The Rhode Island type of factory vil- 

"' Abbot's articlrs ritrcl in the bibliography should be consulted as general 

reference on wom-in labor. 

176 The .1 nii rit (in l\intil\ 

lage was, therefore, made up of families entirely tie- 
pendent on their lahor in tlie mills, and the mill chil- 
li ren lived at home with their parents. Connecticut 
ami southern and western Massachusetts resemhled 
Rhoile Island with its tendency towanl the family sys- 
tem. The following memorandum of January 27, 
1815. illustrates the family system: 

Dennis Ricr . . has this clay cnKaRcd to come with 

his taniil> to work in our factory on the following conditions. 
He ... is to have the followinjj wa^jes per week: 

Himself . . $5.00 Sister . . . $2.33 

Son, loyrs. . . .83 Her daughter, 8 yrs. .75 

Daujihter, 12 yrs. . 1.25 Son, 13 , . 1.50 

Son, 13 yrs. 1.50 

Son. U) yrs. . . 2.00 4.58 


Smith Wilkinson wrote from Pomfret, Connecticut: 

We usually hire poor families from the farming business of 
from four to six children, and from a knowledj^e of their for- 
mer income, bein^^ only the labor of the man say $l8o-200, the 
wall's of the family is usually increased by the addition of the 
children to from $450-600. [A^ain] In C()llet:tinK our help, 
wc are oblij^ed to employ poor families, and Kcn^rally those 
having the greatest number of children. 

The company's real estate investments are explained as 
an attempt "to give the men employment on the lands 
while the children are employed in factory." A writer 
in \ilfs' Rt^ristt-r in 1H16 calculated the gain to the 
parents of employing the whole population of children 
in cotton factf)ries. Miss Martineau noted that more 
parents were bringing their children to the factories. 
Hefore 183^ "whole families (not one of whom can 
read or write)" were finding "an asvlum" in Maryland 
factories." An advertisement in the Federal Union 

*' Abdy. Journal of a Rrsuirnce anj Tour in the UnitfJ Stales, vol. i, 

The New Induitrial Order 177 

of Milledgeville, Georgia, 1834, showed that a textile 

company wished 

To hire twenty to thirty suitable laborers to work in the fac- 
tory. White women, girls and boys are such as will be want- 
ed, aged ten years or upwards. Entire families may find it to 
their interest to engage in our service. A good house of en- 
tertainment will be kept near the Factory.®* 

About 1850 J. H. Taylor of Charleston represented 

The active industry of a father, the careful housewifery of 
the mother, and the daily cash earnings of four or live children, 
will very soon enable each family to own a servant; thus in- 
creasing the demand for this species of property to an immense 

During the period in which the factory system was 
fastening itself upon the country, labor experienced no 
golden age. Of about 1816, Carey said: 

Thousands of our laboring people travel hundreds of mill's in 
quest of employment on canals at 62)'S, 75, and 87^^ cents per 
day, paying $1.50 to $2.00 a week for board, leaving families 
behind, depending upon them for support. They labor fre- 
quently in marshy grounds, where they inhale pestiferous mias- 
mata, which destroy their health, often irrecoverably. They 
return to their poor families broken-hearted, and with ruined 
constitutions, with a sorry pittance, most laboriously earned, 
and to take their beds sick and unable to work. Hundreds 
are swept off annually, many of them leaving numerous and 
helpless families. . . There is no employment whatever, 
how disagreeable or loathsome or deleterious soever it may be, 
or however reduced the wages, that docs not find persons will- 
ing to follow it rather than Ix'g or steal."" 

In 1820 Flint wrote of having seen upwards of one 
thousand five hundred Fiicn out of employment during 
the previous eleven months. Wages at Philadelphia 
and elsewhere had droppeii to twenty cents per day 

^* Documentary History of .Imrrican InJuitr'tal Socirty, vol. ii, 3J4. 

"* Tower. Slavery VnmaskfJ, 347-348. 

'"Simons. Social Forces in .Imerican History, 174. 

178 7 //'■ .1 tnttu tin I-titmly 

and board. A Cincinnati paper advertised a place for 
receivinj^ old clothes tor the poor and cast-off shoes for 
children. Of the period 1825-1829 .McMaster says 
that "Nothing hut perlect health, steady work, sobrie- 
ty, the strictest economy, and the help of his wife could 
enable a married man to live on such wages" as la- 
borers received. 

Northern capitalists diil not need to repine over the 
passing of the prolitless ne^ro slaverv. CJustavus 
Myers says: 

A system aliowini:; the iinrfstrictcd exploitation of white inen, 
women and children for fourteen hours every workinj^ day in 
the mills, and paying from $1.75 to $2.00 a week to wr)men, 
and less to chihiren. presented its superior advantaj^es over the 
chattel slavery system. That many of the workers were swept 
to premature death hy disease contracted in the factories, or in 
foul habitations, or hy accidents while plying their trade, en- 
tailed no economic loss to the mill owners."^ 

Southern enthusiasts were fon(l of boasting of the 
greater cheapness of labor in their section. An anti- 
slavery writer reported that while in Lowell men got 
eighty cents a day and women two dollars a week, in 
Tennessee the rate was not over (iftv cents a day for men 
and on the average a dollar and a c]uarter a week for 
women. A .Mr. (jregg said on one (jccasion: "It is only 
necessary to build a manufacturing village of shanties, 
in a healthy location, in any part oi the state [of South 
C^irolina], to have crowds . . around v<)u seek- 

ing employment at half the compensation given to 
operatives at the north." He shows that slavery is a 
club whereby in the South capital can control labor. 
But in spite of the fact that the races could be induced 
to work side by side, "the uhite girls working in the 
same room and at the same loom with the black girls; 

" Mycr*. Hiitory of the Suprrmr ('ourt, 301. 

The iVi'w InJustrud Order I 79 

and boys of each color, as well as men and women, 
working together without apparent repugnance or ob- 
jection,"'"' and in spite (jf the need to find remunerative 
employment for indigent persons and to relieve distress, 
industry could scarcely be said to flourish in the South. 

Early factory labor was almost incredibly severe: 
twelve to fifteen hours a day. By 1830 some of the 
factories became chambers of horrors. Women and 
children were frequently beaten with cowhides and 
otherwise abused. Wages, too, were miserably low 
and tended downward. By 1835 chiefly the poorer 
sort of workers filled the mills but even skilled labor 
complained constantly of cruelties and injustice. There 
were sad cases of cruelty to children, and outrage of 
every sort among the women, whose pay had dropped 
almost to the subsistence point. Parents gave false re- 
turns of age and grasped eagerly at the chance of their 
children's earning something. 

Harriet Robinson, one of the early mill girls of 
Lowell, has said : 

Except in rare instances, the rij^hts of the early mill-jiirls were 
secure. They were subject to no extortion, if they liiil extra 
work they were always paid in full, and their own account of 
labor done by the piece was always accepted. They kept the 
figfures and were paid accordinfjly. This was notably the case 
with the weavers and drawin^-in ^irls. ThouKh the hours of 
labor were lon^, they were not overworked . . . and they 
had plenty of time to sit and rest. Help was too valu- 

able to be ill-trratrd. After a time, as the wa^cs be- 

came more and more reduced, the best portion of the ^Irls left. 

Humane employers deplored "the policv which con- 
fines and constrains small children during the working 
hours of a long day, and consequently excUules them 
from the benefits of school." Hut the "benefits of 

'"'On this paraj^raph sec Dncutnfnlnry History of .Imfriiun InJustrial 
Society, vol. ii, 339, 357; Tower, Slavery I'nmaskeJ, 350-357. 

l8o The Amiricdti i(iniil\ 

school" were likely to be nominal."" School-teachers 
of 1835 were prone to cruelty. "The day of children's 
rights had not yet ilauncil." In 1836 the Massachu- 
setts House Committee on Education declared that 

Human labor . . . must inevitably be dearer in a country 
like our own than it is in any other with which we are brou^^ht 
in competition in manufacturing, this operates as a constant in- 
ducement to manufacturers to employ female labor and the la- 
bor of children, to the exclusion of men's labor, because they can 
be had cheaper. (The factory families arc near the poverty 
line.] Of course when such families numerous and indigent as 
they usually arc, be^in to increase, and when their wants bctjin 
to press hard upon their scanty means of comfort, or perhaps 
even of necessary subsistence, there is a strong interest and an 
urjjent motive to seek constant employment for their children 
at an early age, if the wage obtained can aid them even but 
little in bearing the burden of their support. . . [Causes] 
are operating, silently perhaps but steadily and powerfully, to 
deprive young females particularly, and young children of both 
sexes in a large and increasing class in the community, of 
those means and opp<jrtunities of mental and moral improve- 
ment . . . essential to their becoming . . . good cit- 

The committee called attention to the fact that in four 
of the largest manufacturing cities (excluding Lowell) 
with a population of a little less than twenty-five thou- 
sand, there appear to be "189c; children between the 
ages of four and si.xteen who do not attend the common 
schools any portion of the year." 

In the Vfjice of Industry, a labor paper published at 
Fitchburg, Massachusetts, in 184:;, a typical instance 
of labor conditions is given in the statement of a frail 
girl of eight or nine years: "I go to work beff)re day- 
light in the morning and never leave it until it is dark, 

»» McMaiiter. History of ihf People of the United States (1910), vol. vii, 
157-161; Robinson. Loom and Spindle, 19-20. 

The A t'u' Industrial Order i8l 

and don't make enough to support mother and baby." 
The paper refers to the increase of two hundred per 
cent in the cotton mill dividends in a single year, and 
a corresponding decrease of twelve and one-half per 
cent in the wages of women and children. 

Early labor organizations opposed child labor partly 
on account of its effects upon the wage-scale and partly 
out of regard for the physical, mental, and moral wel- 
fare of the children. In the forties and fifties some 
minor gains were made in the way of legislation -suffi- 
cient to stir the enthusiasm of well-wishers but not 
always sufficient to escape the scorn of Horace Greeley 
and the Tribune. A Massachusetts Legislature Com- 
mittee of 1850 reported with reference to long hours 
that left almost no time for amusement or betterment 
that so long as the operatives were the children of New- 
England trained in good homes and at school the men- 
ace was not so great. But foreigners were rapidly re- 
placing the New England mill hands. Untaught at 
home and having no leisure for education here they 
would remain steeped in ignorance, and morals and 
physical condition would be low. The committee ac- 
cordingly urged a limitation of the hours of labor and 
more time for meals, and reported a bill, which was 
not passed. "The real precursors of adequate child 
labor legislation were the two Massachusetts acts of 
1866 and 1867." 

Under the old apprenticeship system children were 
supposed to receive certain education. Franklin wrote 
in 1784 with reference to apprenticeship contracts: 

[They] arc made before a magistrate, who re^^iilates the agree- 
ment accordiiiK to reason and justice; and having in view the 
formation of a future useful eiti/en, ohhj^e the master to en- 
gage by written indenture, not only that during the time of 
service stipulated, the apprentice shall he duly provided with 


7 /it" .1 mcrii iiti iiimil\ 

meat, drink, apparrl, washing, and lodKinK, and at its expira- 
tion with a complete new suit of clothes, but also that he shall 
be taujiht to read, write, and cast accounts; and that he shall 
be well instructed in the art or profession of his master, or 
some other, by which he may afterwards k«i'" «i livelihood, and 
be able in his turn to raise a family. 

The factory system niii^ht possibly have been recjuired 
(as was sug^esleil by a writer in \ilt's' Jl't-ekly Rcgis- 
ttv in iSiO to assume responsibility for some instruc- 
tion; but one of the conspicuous ilctiiamls of or^aiii/.cil 
labor was for a system of free public schools. Some 
even favored a plan to remove the children from 
their parents lest they acquire the foolish ways of the 
old society, and to clothe, feed, shelter, and teach them 
alike. On this comtiiunism of education the New 
"\'ork labor movement split. But final victory for dem- 
ocratic facilities of education was secured over the op- 
position of aristocracy and intellectual fossildom. 

The t]uestion of woman in industry raised similarly 
urgent issues. The nnich-(]uotcd statement of Harriet 
Martineau that in 1H36 only seven occupations were 
open to women (teachini^, needlework, keeping board- 
ers, working in cotton mills, book-binding, type-setting, 
house service) is erroneous. Before 1837 women were 
employed in over a huncireci different industrial occu- 
pations. It is true, however, that prior to i8c;o there 
was no field for e(1ucated women; and there were prac- 
tically no t)pportunities for training. 

At the beginning of the second cjuarter of the century 
the earnings of women were lower than even the star- 
vation wages of men. Many occupations now open to 
women haii not then arisen or were confined to men. 
Women in need of work might bind shoes, sew rags, 
fnl(i and stitch books, become spoolers, or make coarse 
sheets anci duck trousers at eight or ten cents apiece. 

Tilt' New I nd Hit rial Order 183 

Shirt making was much desired because the work could 
be done at home, the seamstress being often the mother 
of a family and perhaps a widow. The most expert 
could not finish more than nine shirts a week, for wliich 
the stipend would be seventy-two or ninety cents. I'if- 
ty cents seems to have been the average. 

A Boston paper of 1832 contains reference to tables 
showing the gain to the community from having women 
spin and weave in factories instead of at home. In the 
factories they may earn perhaps one hundred twenty-five 
dollars each per year. But the strain of factory labor, 
of a different nature from old-fashioned home industry, 
however trying that may be, coupled with unsanitary 
surroundings and unhygienic habits raised a serious 
problem with regard to the health of the future moth- 
ers of the race, a problem that is still unsettled. In 
this way factory industry has an additional bearing on 
the family. In the early factory with its long working- 
day the ventilation and lighting were poor, and the 
corporation boarding-houses were overcrowded and 
insanitary. (The Lowell Manufacturing Company's 
rules, 1 830- 1 840, provided that all employees must 
board at the company house and observe its minute 
regulations.) Factory girls often slept si.x to eight in 
a room and even three in a bed. A delegate to the first 
National Trades' Union Convention (1834) asserted 
that the cotton factories were "the present abode of 
wretchedness, disease, and misery." 

Mr. I), cntcrrd into a licscription of the effects of the present 
factory system upon the health anil morals of the unhappy in- 
mates, and depicted in a strong lij^ht the increase of disease and 
deformity from an excess of labor, want of outdoor exercise, and 
of j;(kkI air -of the prevalence of depravity from their exposed 
situation, and their want of education, having no time or oppor- 
tunity for schooling, and observed, that the decrepid, sickly, anti 

184 1 fw .1 tiuruan I'drnily 

drbilitatcd inmates of these prison houses were niarryin^j and 
propajjating a race of beings more miserable if possible than 
themselves. "We talL." said Mr. D., "of the rising gen- 

eration! What must that generation be, coming from such a 
Stock of dise;Lse and deformity!" 

Charles Dickens visited several Lowell factories in 
1842 and found the K'^'s ^vell dressed and cleanly as 
they thronged from the mills. 

Tltry were healthy in appearance . ami had the man- 

ner and deportnKnt of young women ; not of degraded 
brutes. The rix)ms in which they worked were as well 

ordered as thenvselves. There was as much fresh air, 

cleanliness and comfort, as the nature of the occupation would 
possibly admit of. . 'Hie owners of the mills are partic- 

ularly careful to allow no persons to enter upon the possession 
of [the boarding-houses], whose characters have not undergone 
the most searching and thorough inquiry. . lliere is a 

joint-stock piano in a great many of the boarding-houses. 
The girls labor in these mills upon an average, twelve hours a 
day; these girls (often the daughters of small farmers) come 
from other states, remain a few years in the mills, and then go 
home for good. 

There were, indeed, in the life of the Lowell mill 
girls, in the early days, certain opportunities for im- 
provement and cultivation that must have been of im- 
portance to the communities to which they returned. 

One of the most interesting features of the situation 
arising from tlic presence of women in industry was a 
recognition on the part of workingmen, in spite of the 
irritaticjn felt at female competition, that the women 
were, so to speak, in their trust. In the thirties organ- 
ized labor took a serious interest in the problems inci- 
dent to woman's entry of industry, ami if, as earlier, the 
concern was stimulated by resentment at the conse- 
quences of female competition in the wav of lower wage 
levels and the elimination of men, still the discussion 

The New Industrial Order 1 85 

evidences serious concern for the health and morals of 
women and their economic rights. Frederick Robin- 
son in a July Fourth oration to Boston trades unionists, 

All lepslative power is in our hands \vc arc the 

natural p:iiar{lians of the other, the weaker and the better half 
of our own species. . . However much we have borne from 
the aristocracy in every age, our mothers, our wives, our sis- 
ters, our daughters have been still more abused. Their suf- 
fering calls for our immediate interposition and we ought never 
to rest until we regulate the hours of their labor in factories 
by direct legislation, until we make it a crime to work 
- more than six hours a day. 

Being subjected to like treatment, the man and the wo- 
man worker tended to draw together.' A new chivalry 
was in process of formation inasmuch as woman lacked 
the right to political self-expression. ' The pressure of 
the new industrial conditions began to forge a bond of 
fellowship between the sexes that furnished, in a sense, 
a substitute for the old industrial bond of family union 
that had been broken by the decadence of domestic in- 
dustry. ""^ But the new unity was broader than the family 
and more communal. 

The wrongs of working women received marked 
publicity, partly in connection with the woman's rights 
movement, as we have seen in a previous chapter, and 
partly in labor publications, but also in the general 
press. The Ladies' Matrazine (Boston) of 1830 con- 
tained an appeal for relief for orphans and widows. A 
writer said that inquiry showed that in New York, Bal- 
timore, and Philadelphia earnings of females were in- 
adc(]uate for their support. In I'hiladelphia a number 
of the most respectable ladies said that expert seam- 
stresses, if fullv employed, and unencumbered with 
children could not make over one dollar twelve and one- 

1 86 I Iw .Itnituiiii I'timtly 

half cents a week. They had to pay fifty cents for lodi;- 
iiii^s. leaving nine cents a day for all other expenses. 
Moreover there were cases uhcrc piece rates were as 
li)\v as half the ahove. These women were frequently 
unemployeil. Many were widows who formerly lived 
in affluence. Various other species of female lahor 
were as badlv j^aid. Ihe reverend Mr. Tuckerman 
said there were numerous cases of mothers iloiuL; their 
utmost ft)r the education of their children, with little 
assistance from their husbands, and rei]uirinj^ aid. It 
was hard, however, to arouse enthusiasm in the cause 
of this oppressed labor. 

The Mdti of .March 3, 1834, quoted the Trades Iti- 
ion on Lowell girls. 

rUv price ot tciiKilr lal^or is already too low, and tlu' amount of 
labor that females have to perform too preat. Many of these 
youn^ women have poor and a^cd parents depending on the 
earnini^s of their children for support. Others who are not 
oblij^ed to assist their parents, can receive no assistance from 
them, and must, out of their small earning, which rarely ex- 
ceeds two dollars and fifty cents a week, provide board and 
clothing, and lay by something to support themselves when 
they arc sick or unemployed. 

The M(in of March 7, 1H34, reports that six hundred 
factory girls at Dover, New Hampshire, met and pro- 
tested against a wage cut. "Resolutions evincing on the 
part of the girls a thorough knowledge of their rights 
and interests were passed unanimously." These reso- 
lutions set forth that manv of them were far from home, 
parents ami friends, and that it was only by strict 
economy and untiring industry that any of them had 
been able to lay up anything. The Man of March 15, 
1834, quoted the Sun as follows: 

The low rate of female labf)r h a grievance of the very fir=t 
magnitiide, and pregnant with the most mighty ills to socie- 
ty. . . This unjust arrangement of remuneration for scr- 

Tlic A i'li- Industruil Order 187 

vices performed diminishes the importance of women in so- 
ciety-renders them more helpless and dependent - destroys in 
the lower walks of life much of the inducement to marriage - 
and of course in the same dej^ree increases the temptations to 
licentiousness. It is difficult to conceive why, even in th«>sc 
branches, wherein both sexes are enjjaged, there should be such 
an extreme defjrec of disparity in the recompense of labor. 

The Man of March 20, 1834, quoted a Lowell girl 

If the proprietors and agents are not satisfied with alluring us 
from our homes - from the peaceful abodes of our childhood, 
under the false promises of a j^reat reward, and then castin^^ us 
upon the world, far from our friends and our homes and mere- 
ly because we would not be slaves. 

In the Man of March 26, 1834, there is an account of 
working girls at Lowell being insulted at a labor meet- 
ing. The instigation of the outrage was attributed to 
members of the aristocracy. 

Susan B. Anthony as a young woman was indignant 
at the ^'custom everywhere to pay men four times the 
wages of women for exactly the same amount of work, 
often not so well done. Even the government was an 
exploiter of women. Mrs. Bodichon shortly before the 
war declared : 

In the mint in Philadelphia, I saw twenty or thirtv youn^ la- 
dies who received half, sometimes less than half, the wa>;es 
given to men for the same work. They were working ten 
hours a day for a dollar. This pror>ortion shows the lament- 
able amount of competition amon^ women, even in the United 
States, for any work which is open to them. 

To a certain extent women found courage to stand 
for their rights. In New York City in 1845 several 
hundred women constituting the Female Industry As- 
sociation, tailoresscs, shirt-makers, book-folders, cap- 
makers, representatives of ;ill trades then open to wo- 
men, met in tfie Superior Court room to assert their 

1 88 The A nurii lui F(itml\ 

rights against oppressive employers. The president 
said that in her ir;uic wages were from ten to eighteen 
cents a day. Only the most capable received twenty- 
five cents. On such pay it was not possible to live de- 
cently and honestly. A committee was therefore ap- 
pointed to prepare an appeal to the public. 

In 1845 and 1846 great meetings of workers in Low- 
ell. Chicopee, Manchester, New York, Philadelphia, 
demanded a ten hour day. In these agitations girls 
ami women were as aggressive as the men. I'o supply 
the place of these agitators the Chicopee mill-owners 
sent a wagon on regular trips through New P^ngland, 
paying the man in charge a dollar or more for every 
girl secured. It was charged that farm girls were en- 
ticed on the representation that the work "was very 
neat, wages high, and that they could dress in silks and 
spend half the time in reading." 

Vicious conditions developed early. McMaster, 
writing of the period of 1825- 1829, says: 

To the desperate poverty produced by such [starvation] w aj^es 
[of women] many evils were attributed. . , Children were 
sent into the streets to bej; and pilfer, and younp ^irls were 
driven to lives of shame to an extent which but for the report 
of the Magdalen Society in New York and the action of the 
people elsewhere would be incredible. 

Newspapers of 182J; report that at Portland the people 
on three occasions pulled down houses of ill fame, and 
that a similar riot occurred in Boston. Horrible prison 
conditions had contributed to immorality. 

Miss Martineau thought that the morals of the fe- 
male factory population might be expected to be good 
considering of what class it was composed. Many of 
the girls, she said, were in factories because too proud 
for domestic service. Such could hardly be low enough 
for gross immorality, it seemed to her. Chevalier 

The Ne-w Industrial Order 189 

in the thirties quoted a director of a factory at Lowell as 
saying: "There have been in our establishment only 
three cases of illicit connections, and in all three in- 
stances the parties were married immediately, several 
months before the birth of the child." His statement 
seems very shallow. 

The Lowell Offering, however, in December, 1840 
had an interesting article signed by a "Factory Girl" 
in vigorous rebuttal to the editor of the Boston Quar- 
terly Review who had said: "'She has worked in a 
factory' is sufScient to damn to infamy the most worthy 
and virtuous girl." The writer asserted that the editor 

A class of girls who in this city alone are numbered hy thou- 
sands, and who collect in many of our smaller tow ns by hun- 
dreds; girls who generally come from quiet country homes, 
where their minds and manners have been formed umler the 
eyes of the worthy sons of the Pilgrinis and their virtuous 
partners, and who return again to become the wives of the 
free, intelligent yeomen of New England, and the mothers of 
quite a proportion of our future republicans. 

Wyse, in his America, wrote: 

[The daughters of shopkeepers and mechanics, the working 
girls] the moment they are enabled to work . are sent 

abroad to seek employment, in some of the numerous trades 
to which the American females are usually accustomed; and 
arc from thenceforth only entitled to a place within the do- 
mestic circle, as they are able to contribute to a proportionate 
share of its expenses. . . When a female arrives at an age 
that enables her to exert herself after this mode, she ceases, to 
be an object of parental anxiety, or consideration, is no longer 
considered entitleil as of course to any indulgence, or those 
other advantages she might reasonably expect to derive from 
her parents, circumstances, or position in the world. When 
with this is considered the difficulty of realizing by female in- 
dustry and labor the merest necessaries of life, the thoughtless- 
ness and love of dri-ss, which is almost inherent in every young 

IQO The American Family 

person, witli tlu* inirctiuus :iiul lirinorali/in^: iiiHufiicc of bad 
example - the many temptations to spend money, with the few- 
guards and restraints to which females arc subject in tlie United 
Stales, it is scarcely surprisinj; that morality should be at a very 
low ebb, and female impropriety (to speak in milder phraseol- 
oj^) amongst this class, unfortunately of frequent and very 
^Jeneral occurrence. 

The reverend A. Stevens, writing in 1849 on woman, 
said: "I'eniale viee does exist among us, but it is less 
common than in anv Kuropcan communitv: it prevails 
almost exclusively among our denser populations, and 
is chiefly the result there of poverty and miseducation." 

Southerners found satisfaction in assailing the indus- 
trial system of the North and sometimes impugned the 
virtue of its working women. The northern factory 
girl was representeii as a great slave, and the "misery, 
and poverty, and hunger, which is to be met with among 
the poor willows, and orphans, and free negroes of the 
north" was compared disadvantageously with slave 
conditions in the South. In truth, the wretched sewing 
girls who toiled incessantly for bare sustenance and 
broke down or ilieil in misery while benevolent cus- 
tomers beat down prices and neglected payment might 
have envied the slaves on manv a southern plantation. 
Conditions were of course worst in the P^ast. 

A book of the fifties entitled the North and Sou th, or 
Slavery anJ ils (loutrast asserted that there was just as 
real slavery in the North. Children were torn from 
bosoms that loved and nurtured them and exposed to 
every cruelty. In a recent case a so-called lady whip- 
ped severely a little bound girl and shut her up till she 
died of starvation. "Let the tliousands of slender, 
fragile, children, in each of our great cities, children 
covered with the coarsest garments; their little feet 
bare; their hacks bowed their features sharp 

The New Industrial Order 191 

and pinched . . . let their sorrows plead." The 
binding of apprentices to the employer's service by hard 
and fast indenture fell into disuse before the middle of 
the century; but for a long while after this change, in 
small towns the apprentice often lived with and drudged 
for his employer's family. 

The Industrial Revolution brought urbanization. 
In 1790, three per cent of our population lived in cities 
of eight thousand or over; in 1800, four per cent; in 
1830, six and seven-tenths; on the eve of the Civil War, 
sixteen per cent were urban dwellers. By the early 
twenties: "In many of the cities, the high price of 
fuel and rent is severely felt by the lower classes. This 
causes several families to live in one house. There are 
even instances of two families living in one room; the 
consequences of which are highly injurious to the health 
of the inhabitants." The tenement house was a prob- 
lem before 1830. The cities were growing with great 
rapidity. In New York, houses could not be found for 
all. Buildings were put up cheaply. Some collapsed. 
Others were torn down by order of authorities. 

The winter of 1837- 1838 was mild and open far into 
January but it was one of pervading destitution ami 
suffering in New York City owing to paralysis of busi- 
ness. Tens of thousands were in danger of starvation. 
Horace Greeley wrote: 

I saw two families, incluciin^ six or cip:ht children, burrowing 
in one cellar under a stable - a prey to famine [vermin, and]. I saw men who each, somehow, supported his fam- 
ily on an income of five dollars per week or less, yet who cheer- 
fully Rave something to mitigate the sufferinps of those who 
were really p(K)r. I saw three widows, with as many children, 
living in an attic 00 the profits of an applestand which \icliicd 
less than three (ioliars per utrk, and the landlord came in tor 
a full third of that. 

192 The American Fmuily 

Again in iS;;o he took uy> the intlictincnt of society: 
While Labor builds far more sumptuous mansions in our day 
than of old, furnishiiiji tlicm far more t^or^jeously and luxuri- 
ously, the laborer who builds those mansions lives oftenest in a 
squalid lodgint:. than which the builders of palaces in the fif- 
teenth century can hardly have dwelt in more wretched 
while the demands for labor, the uses of labor, the efHciency of 
labor, arc multiplied and extended on every side by the rush of 
invention and the growth of luxury around us, yet . 
lalxjr is a dru^: on the market the temperate, efficient, 

uprijjht worker often finds the comfortable maintenance and 
proper education of his children beyond his ability. 

By 1852, gold flow had resulted in depreciation and 
steady rise in prices. "Rents and the cost of clothing, 
meats, flour, hutter, provisions of all sorts went higher 
and higher till the workingman forgot all other griev- 
ances and cried out for higher wages." Hammond of 
South Carolina, in the Senate in 1858, said: "Your 
people are assembling . . . with arms 

in their hands, and demanding work at one thousand 
dollars a year for si.\ hours a day." 

In view of conditions disclosed, it would seem prob- 
able that some of those citizens that were so greatlv per- 
turbed lest higher education for women should "break 
up the home" might have found in the industrial sys- 
tem a real danger to attack. The reverend R. B. Thurs- 
ton wrote well when he said: 

All progress in domestic felicity and in religious culture de- 
pends on property, and also on the equitable distribution of pos- 
session of property, as one of its essential conditions. Property 
lies in the foundation of every happy home, however humble; 
and property gilds the pinnacle of every consecrated temple. 

The nascent capitalism of the North when put to this 
test did not compare too well with tlie chatteldom of 
the South. 

When Southerners, assailed bv the abolitionists, 

The New Industrial Order 193 

learned of negroes in Philadelphia living in houses and 
cellars with hardly any furniture they were excusable 
if they remarked: *'And this is nigger freedom!" 
Forrest in Historical and Descriptive Sketches of Nor- 
folk, Virginia, gave vivid information that was certain- 
ly of interest to Southerners. He quoted from the New 
York Express a description of "Cow Bay," a negro 
quarter of New York: 

A small narrow, and cxccodinKly dirty court, about one hun- 
dred twenty or one hundred thirty feet deep, with a row of 
shabby three story brick houses on one side, and dilapidated 
brick and wooden hovels on the other. Pips, cats, dogs, rats, 
and children black and white, wallowing in the mud, or taking 
their initiatory lessons in rascality together - a labyrinth of 
alley ways, bordered on all sides with dirty and filthy houses - 
a hive, sweltering full of human brutes - a small city in itself, 
teeming with a population altogether of a different nature from 
those who live but a few blocks from them. [Here] is the 
principal dwelling place of the negroes . . . here they live 
and die like pigs, and their carcasses arc stowed away in some 
corner of the Potter's field with about as much respect as would 
be paid to the carrion of an old horse. 

The houses have generally eight or ten rooms, including the 
attics and cellars, and in these are crowded not infrequently 
two or three hundred souls. The cellars are so arranged that 
the sidewalk comes up to within eighteen inches or a foot of 
the wall of the houses and, looking down, one may perceive a 
deep, dark, nasty trap, into \\ hich all kinds of refuse are thrown, 
and into which, not infrequently, the inebriatetl inmates of the 
courts themselves meet their end. At intervals, reaching from 
the sidewalk to the bottom of this gutter, are placed ladders or 
steps, to give ingress and egress to tiie animals who burrow in 
the cellars. The front cellar is usually eight or ten by six- 
feet . . . with a ceiling so low that an ordinary sized 
man must look out for his hat on entering. One end of this 
apartment is fitted up with a bar, st(K'krd with vilIainou>. com- 
pounds called liquors, which are sold to the wretcheil inhab- 
itants for three cents a glass each, as long as they have money, 
and four cents credit, as long as they have any personal prop- 

194 ^^^ American Family 

crty that the landlord can levy upon tor his pay when tlu-ir 
iDoficy is j^urje. Hack of the "bar-room" appt-ars another apart- 
ment, perhaps a little lar^tr, perhaps a little smaller, accordinn 
to the size of the house, and in this kennel arc often crowded 
toj^ether fifteen or twenty ixrsons, nejjroes and whites, male 
and fenule, adults and children, without any more li^ht and 
air than what can come in through the door. These sleep to- 
pethcr on the same rags - beds there are none - or on the same 
straw, and rarely or never do the inhabitants of these cellars 
retire to their rest until they arc too much inebriated to remain 
longer awake, when they lay themselves down, in the clothes 
which probably they have not taken off for months, and sleep 
off the fumes of their drunkenness in the midst of the most re- 
volting filth. 

Not infrequently, in the larger houses, one or two apart- 
ments are not all that are to be found in a cellar; sometimes 
these sinks arc two stories deep, or have side branches extend- 
ing under the courts, and these all, of course, worse than the 
lirst. With no floors, or with such as were originally laid, 
long ago rotten and worn out, so out of repair that whenever it 
rains the filth of the gutter and courts is washed down to make 
part and parcel of the heap the wretches sleep upon; never 
cleaned out from one year's end to the other - these noisome 
holes are not fit habitations even for the vermin which swarm 
in them; and yet here these creatures, who call themselves men 
and women, and who would feel insulted were a white man to 
call them "niggers," drag out their miserable existence. 

During the day, the inhabitants of "Cow Bay" and its 
"courts" and "alleys" keep themselves pretty quiet; they only 
step out to get their three or four cents worth of gin, and then 
burrow theniselvcs in their dens again. [By day they loaf or 
steal, or l>eg. By night they drink and dance and gamble - 
male and female. The law discriminates against negroes. They 
arc not citizens till they own (unencumbered) five hundred dol- 
lars' worth of real estate. They can't get licenses to do certain 
jobs till they arc citizens.] 

We have ourselves seen, in a six by eight attic room of a 
house in Thomas Street . two entire negro families 

containing thirteen individuals, male, female, young and old, 
who in that small kennel, with only one window of six panes 

The New Industrial OrJtr 195 

of glass, ate, drank, slept - indiscriminately, men and women to- 
gether-cooked, washed, and ironed (for the women generally 
help to support the family, by takin}^ in washing), and in fact 
transacted all the business of a household. . . Not only did 
they cover the floor, but moveable shelves, which during the day 
time were let down parallel with the wall by a hinge, were at 
night time, when the negroes wished to "turn in," propped up, 
and, having a raised edge to keep the inmates from tumbling 
out - with the clothes worn by the sleeper during the day 
thrown on the shelf to make it a little softer . . . they de- 
clared they had capital accommodations. Table they had none, 
chairs they had none, but the sleeping shelves, when a table 
was wanted for eating or ironing, answered every purpose, and 
the floor, or half a dozen camp stools, that could be shut up 
and stowed in a small space, answered for the seats. 

Such were conditions ten years before the War. The 
author of the book in which the extract was reprinted 
said, doubtless with a contented smile at the contrast to 
t!ie South: "We withhold the darkest part of the 
fri<^htful picture." In the Planter: or Thirteen Years 
in the South (1853) it is stated that in the North "among 
the millions of working people, the number is . . . 
miserably small, in proportion to the whole, who get 
for their labor more than the necessary food, clothing, 
and shelter for themselves and families; and innumer- 
able is the host that fall very far short of the commonest 
needful comforts of life." Hundley (a southern man 
that had lived north) in Social Relations in our South- 
ern States (i860) said: "We do not cntcrtaiti the least 
doubt butthere are fully one hundred thousand respect- 
able families in the North, who are out of employment, 
and who consecjuently will have to live for the next 
three months ... in a state of semi-starvation." 
The tenement class of New York City was living in 
1863 in "hives of sickness, vice, misery, and wretched- 

196 Ihi' .1 nurii (in Fiimily 

As in more recent times there was before the War 

positiNc niistrust ot (he tendencies awav troni tlie huul 
ami troni home. Coiuly Ra^uei argued in the I'^rcc 
TraJf Ailvocatt- "that farm work was better for both 
boys and girls than factory work, and that girls were 
more likely to become good wives if they worked in 
kitchens insteail of factories." As early as 18:54 a 
speaker at the Trades Union National Convention de- 
plored the drawing of the farmer's 

Sons and daujihtcrs from the farm to the factories. For a few- 
years past, the sons of our farmers, as soon as they are of 
sufficient ajje. have been induced to hasten of? to the factory, 
where for a few pence more than they could get at home, they 
arc tauj^ht to become the willing servants, the servile instru- 
ments of their employer's oppression and e.xtortion ! The 
daughters, too, must quit the farm house, the scene of ruddy 
health and former content, for a confined and baneful work- 
shop, where, to be sure, she earns a little more money, for a 
short time; but as surely loses health, if not her good charac- 
ter, her happiness! 

In iSy> a ccjmmittee of the Massachusetts House 
enlarged upon the fact that the industries of Massa- 
chusetts were rapidly changing from agriculture to 
manufactures; that the population was shifting from 
rural to urban; and expressed the conviction that in 
view of this change 

It becomes the solemn and indispensable duty of the represen- 
tatives of the people to provide seasonably and eflFectually that 
those institutions which have given New P'ngiand her peculiar 
character for general intelligence and virtue he not changed 
with the changing employment of her people . . . [for it] 
requires no spirit of prophecy to foresee and to know that the 
collection of large masses of children, youth, and middle-aged 
persons of both sexes, into compact villages, is not a circum- 
stance favorable to virtue. 

As manufactures and commerce took precedence 
over agriculture. New England h)St her young men 

Tlw A tic' Industrial Order 197 

while the young women were held by industry. Com- 
petition of Irish girls depressed the standard of labor. 
Catherine Beecher wrote in 1S51 : 

The power-loom and spinning-jenny have banished household 
manufactures. Conveniences and luxuries have attracted 

the j;entlcr sex, and artificial wants have rendered female labor 
more solicitous of employment. . Wages of men have 

been reduced; and half of the unmarried females have few 
means of obtaining support, or of gratifying their artificial 
wants, by labor appropriate to their sex. 

^ The significant feature of the economic transforma- 
tion detailed in this chapter is that the economic ground 
of family unity was slipping. Family bonds were being 
weakened. Woman seemed to be coming dangerously 
into competition with man, as when organized labor 
attempted to better itself by strikes. In the waiters' 
strike at the Broadway House in the fifties women were 
used as strike-breakers; girls were similarly employed 
on newspapers. The openings that woman secured in 
the industrial system were menial rather than uplifting. 
Long hours of factory labor abolished family life. In- 
sufficient wages forced parents to set children prema- 
turely to work. In short the transition had begun that 
has resulted in so many vexed questions of family in- 
tegrity to-day. Especially significant is the fact that 
with the passing of home industry woman had to go out 
into public work or remain a dangerous parasite. The 
man might go to the works without upsetting the home 
center, though his constant absence couhl not hut weak- 
en old ties; likewise the children; but when woman 
ceased to be "housekeeper" the reality of the home 
came in question. Evidently the sweat-shop conditions 
that introduced into the home the infection of outside 
industrialism were not preferable to the menace of the 
factorv. One notes with interest such an item as occurs 

198 riif Atiuru (in iiiuiilx 

in the Man of March 17, 1834, to the effect that the 
Dover Gaztttt- expects silk culture at honic to be a 
pleasant alternative to factory labor bv women. But 
no expedients couKi retain the old basis of family 

A transition j^limpse is gained in the case of Daniel 
Anthony (father of Susan B.), who in 1826 moved to 
New York State to manage a factory. His wife was 
almost heartbroken at leaving her aged father and 
mother. (The distance was forty-four miles.) Tene- 
ments were built for the operatives. Every man had a 
little garden around his house. Mr. Anthony looked 
on the employes as his family. But in the long run 
patriarchism had to go. It could not expand or other- 
wise adapt itself sufficiently to save the day. The stage 
of domestic industry had been favorable to the unity of 
the patriarchal family. As the business head, the 
father's will was the criterion of family interests. But 
when the family passed into the factory they could not 
be kept under his eye. They came to be trcateci, not as 
a family, but as units. The members of the family 
were no longer directly dependent on him for a liveli- 
hood. Moreover if he could not find work where the 
family liveii he would have to leave in search of em- 
ployment. A new basis of family integrity was in 

The movement described has had a large place in the 
democratization of the family. Whittier, who recog- 
nized many evils in connection with the early cotton in- 
dustry, saw compensation for the hardships of the mills 
in the fact that there, more than in any other mechanical 
employment, woman's labor was substantially on an 
equality with man's. He said: 

Here at, f>nr of the many social disabilities undrr which 
woman, as a distinct individual unconnected with the other 

The New Industrial Order 199 

sex, has labored in all times is removed ; the work of her hands 
is adequately rewarded ; and she goes to her daily task with the 
consciousness that she is not spending her strength for naught. 

We may question the adequacy of her reward but it is 
true that the day of woman's economic independence of 
man had dawned -the day of unsettled marriage rela- 
tions that force a readjustment of marital institutions 
on a new basis. 

To one class of women in particular, the new open- 
ing came as a boon. Mrs. Robinson has said: 

In almost every New F^ngland home could be found one or 
more [spinsters or widows], sometimes welcome, more often un- 
welcome, and leading joyless, and in many instances unsatisfac- 
tory, lives. The cotton-factory was a great opening to these 
lonely and dependent women. . . For the first time in this 
country woman's labor had a money value. 

It should be noted, too, in connection with woman's 
access to industry that public works constituted a new- 
prophylactic against inbreeding. They drew people 
from various communities and widened the range lor 
choice of life-partners. This fact was wholesome in 
the long run, both in the enhancement of opportunity 
for family happiness and in the dynamic effects of the 
mixing of cultures. Though according to Mrs. Rob- 
inson the early mill workers were not deemed capable 
of education into something more than mere work 
people, the most favored of the girls were sometimes 
invited to the homes of the dignitaries of the mills anil 
some Lowell mill girls married into the "best families." 
"At one time the fame of The Lowell Offertni^ caused 
the mill-girls to be considereil very desirable for wives; 
and that young men came from near and far to pick 
and choose for themselves, and generally with goovl 


Even in the colony days there were signs of aristoc- 
racy in the midst of the new life, Schouler says in his 
Americans of iyj6 that in some centers like Philadel- 
phia, feasting among the fashionable (at weddings) was 
prodigal. De Rochambeau, one of the French allies, 
said that the wives of American merchants and bankers 
were clad to the top of French fashions. Brissot de 
Warville, who visited America in 1788, wrote: 

At Mr. Griffin's house at dinner, I saw seven or ei^ht women 
all dressed in great hats, plumes, etc. It was with pain that I 
marked much of pretension in some of these women ; one acted 
giddy, vivacious, another the woman of sentiment. This last 
had many pruderies and grimaces. Two among them had 
their bosoms very naked; I was scandalized at this indecency 
among; republicans, 

A Hessian captured at Saratoga wrote: "The daugh- 
ters keep up their stylish dressing because the mothers 
desire it. Should the mother die, her last words are to 
the effect that the daughter must retain control of the 
money-bags." Chastellu.v wrote: 

The salary of a workingman must not «)nly provide subsistence 
for his family, but also comfortable furniture for his home, 
tea and coffee for his wife, and a silk dress to put on every time 
she goes out. 

Bayard said: 

In vain Citizen Livingston, of venerable memory, recalled his 
fair compatriots to their spinning wheels and to conservative 
simplicity of manners and fortune, for he was not listened 
to. . , The rage for luxury has reached such a point that 

202 I hi' . I nifriitin luniily 

the wife of the laboring man wishes to vie with the merchant's 
wife, and she in turn will nut > ielil to the richest woman in 
Europe. '^° 

So much for the ci^litccFith century. But on through 
the era of nationalization a well-marked type of 
''swell" life continued to rise counter to democracy. 
This new development inlluenceil markedly the family 
and the home. 

One of its most important consequences was a de- 
cline in marriai^e. In Pennsylvania even before the 
national government came into existence tliere was a 
''Batchelor's tax." Schoepf wrote: 

Kvery male person twenty-one years old and still unprovided 
with a wife pays from that time on I2s. 6d. ... a 
year. . . It cflFects the desired purpose, because youn^ men 
will not long expose themselves to mockery of this sort in a 
country where working hands can so easily find support for a 

The existence of such a law implied a reluctance to 
marry. Both Brissot and Mazzei attacked vigorously 
the hard-hearted bachelors, the former conceding, how- 
ever, that luxury is to blame "for the extravagance of 
the women makes them fear marriage." Mazzei adtl- 
ed : "As for bachelors, who should be rarer here than 
in Europe (and for well-known reasons), they are more 
numerous in Philadelphia than in any other American 
city, while in other parts of Pennsylvania they are no 
rarer than elsewhere." He thf)ught the bachelors ran 
small risk, because they were treated so frankly. Im- 
lav noted that the sea-faring life of New^ England kept 
the sexes apart there, but he observed also that slavery 
caused contempt ft)r labor; amusements were invented; 

**>* Schoulcr. .-Imfrirnns of IT7^>, 36-37; Hale and Mcrritt. History of 
Tennttttf and Tennrssrrans, vol. ii, 417-418; Shcrill. Frrnch Memories of 
Eighteenth Century America, SS-5<»- 

The Rt'ign of Self-indulgence 203 

dissipation followed. "The fair sex were neglected; 
marriages were less early and less frequent.""" 

In the early years of the nineteenth century fast wo- 
men of fashion were not numerous enough to form a 
considerable class in any part of the land; but in the 
Ladies' Magazine (Savannah) of 18 19 occurred an 
item from the (New York) National Advocate^ on the 
falling off in marriages. 

Why don't people marry? Why are there so many antiquated 
damsels and superannuated bachelors? . . . The errors of 
education, and the extravagance of fashion, for which young 
ladies are celebrated, frighten the young men from making ad- 
vances - and the follies and personal expenses of young men, 
render them insensible of all the joys and comforts of matri- 
mony; faults thus on both sides, have a tendency to keep them 
separate, 'till young ladies become old, and old bachelors marry 
to get nurses. . . I see, with regret, mothers dragging their 
daughters of twelve and thirteen years to parties and balls, 
under an erroneous impression, that it gives them an air of ease 
and confidence . . . boys arc very apt to be equally spoilt. 

The New York Cabinet of 1829 made note of "in- 
creasing extravagance of the modern fair" and that 
"the really prudent and somewhat home-bred man feels 
obliged" to relinquish or postpone marriage bv reason 
of the cost of living. 

Writers of the forties and fifties call attention to the 
repression of marriage by the luxury and rivalry of 
fashion and by the indolence and extravagance of young 
ladies. Artificial standards of consumption were de- 
terring many from assuming the risks of matrimony. 
"We see marriages in fashionable life every day becom- 
ing fewer; thus leaving in our cities a nunicrous class 
of finely dressed, pretty and accomplished young ladies. 

'°* Schocpf. Travrls in the ConffAtration, vol. i, 139; Slirrrill. Frenrh 
Memorlrs of Eii^htrfnth Crntury .Irrtfrira, 64.-6$; Imlay. Topographlcat Dr- 
scrlption of thf iirstrrn Trrritory of Sorth Amfrica, 57-58. 

204 1 he Atturii (in Fatuily 

doomed to become disappointed 'establishment seekers' 
and to fade into trcttul and repining 'old-maids'." 
Men took rclu^c in clubs; it unscrupulous they not in- 
frequently tried their hand at peculation or specula- 
tion; vice was promoted.'"^ 

Tower (a formerly proslavery preacher) wrote of 
New Orleans: "As no young man ordinarily dare 
think of marriage until he has made a fortune to sup- 
port the extravagant style of housekeeping, and gratify 
the expensive tastes of young women, as fashion is now 
educating them, many are obliged to make up their 
minds never to marry." A mistress would suffice. Ac- 
cording to this author there were hundreds of the 
lowest grade brothels all through the city; and adultery, 
fornication, and prostitution seemed to be unknown 
categories. A record for their practice made one a 
beau ideal. Hundreds .of pairs lived like man and 
wife but unmarried. Some had private marriages per- 
formed in onler to enable children to inherit property. 
A gentleman found in a clergyman's private book of 
marriage records that he had within two years married 
thirty-three heads of families many of whom were 
parents of married children. Business men and others 
from the North kept here a second family. Such men 
were (juite respectable. The concubine might be as 
faithful as a wife; otherwise she would be discarded. 
Such differences were fewer, Tower said, than if the 
pair had been really married. 

It was a sort of honor to be able to support two fam- 
ilies; but 

There is still another class of individuals here who have not 
the means to support two families. They are for the most 

''"' Compare for instance, "Family Circle," in Democratic Revinv, vol. 
xliii, 243; Olmsted. Journry in the Seaboard Slave States, 600; Bodichon. 
K'omcn anj Work, "Introduction," by Catherine M. Sidgwick, 5-6. 

The Reign of Self-indulgence 205 

part, men enga{ied in the same business with others, and re- 
quired to be absent from the city nearly half the time. Thi-sc 
men also have mistresses, cither white or colored. . . \V hilc 
the man is in the city, the house which the woman (Kcupies is 
their home, jointly and as distinctly as if they were married; 
and when he is absent, the woman seeks another companion, 
for the time being, and in doing this does not in the least 
hazard the displeasure of , . . "her husband" as she calls 
him. [Thus] she is able to support herself in great style, and 
with as much ease and comfort around her as can be desired. 
They usually occupy a room, or suite of rooms, a parlor and 
bedroom, furnished with as much elegance and splendor as 
money can purchase. Most of [these females] have been flat- 
tered and seduced, poor things, away from their home and 
friends by glowing descriptions and representations of the pleas- 
ures, and gaieties, and unceasing enjoyments, which go to make 
up life in New Orleans. Connections of this character are as 
much a matter of contract, and the terms and conditions by 
which each shall be governed are as definite, as any other busi- 
ness transaction can be, and thus they live for years, and in 
many instances an attachment for each other is the result, and 
they finally settle down as man and wife, and sooner or later 
are married, and become respectable, for New Orleans at least. 
The extent of licentiousness and prostitution here is truly 
appalling, and doubtless without a parallel, and probably double 
that of any other place in the whole civilized world. The in- 
dulgence and practice is so general and common that men sel- 
dom seek to cover up their acts, or go in disguise; but in all 
these things keeping their mistresses or frequenting bad houses 
and having women come to their rooms at night, they tio it as 
openly, and as much before the eyes of the world, as any other 
act among the common civilities of the social circle. 
Three-fifths at least of the dwellings and rooms in a large por- 
tion of the city are occupied by prostitutes or by one or the 
other class of kept mistresses. Those women who are the 
companions of one man, and hold that position under a pledge 
of confidence not to seek intercourse with others, hold them- 
selves very much above the character of common prostitutes, 
and regard themselves as respectable ; and as such many of them 
move in society with some degree of favor and consequence. 

206 The American Family 

The rr^^lar prostitutes . . arc composed of a crowd - 

nay an army of broken down females so large tiiat tlu-y can 
scarcely be numbered. 

One day in my tour of observation I came pat upon whole 
streets and squares of these localities occupied by these poor 
creatures. There, said I to myself, are thousands of ruined, 
fallen immortal beintjs, once fair and beautiful, of elevated 
moral caste, the pride and center of some distant family and 
social circle: perhaps a wife or daughter, the adored of her hus- 
band and parents. 

Many of these poor, abandoned things, I am informed, come 
here at the opening of business in the fall, and return to the 
North in the spring as business closes, as regular as mechanics 
and other business men; (juite a number of them come from 
New ^'ork and other northern cities under the protection of 
young men, a certain class of gamblers and blacklegs who have 
long made this their field of operations during the winter 
months. The prostitutes of this migratory class form the great 
mass of the inmates of the regular kept brothels, of which 
their number here is legion. 

The character of these houses cannot be misjudged, as the 
females who occupy them arc constantly making voluptuous ex- 
hibition of themselves at the doors and windows and very un- 
ceremoniously inviting men as they pass by to come in. And in 
some of the principal streets . . . just at evening, it is no 
unusual sight to see the windows and doors of almost every 
house as far as the eye can recognize them, filled with these 
women. As bad as New Orleans is, its municipal regulations 
arc such that these creatures are prohibited from publicly prom- 
enading the streets; hence they are obliged to resort to other 
measures to make themselves known. In view of all these 
abominations, doubtless the main cause of so much licentious- 
ness, and the immense number of prostitutes, of every class, 
grade and color that is human, is the overwhelming number of 
loose irresponsible men who frequent this place. Under such 
circumstances as men meet here, they almost lose their identity 
as resp>onsible beings, having no checks around them, and un- 
der no obligation to society, consequently no pride of character, 
they soon become as bold and reckless in licentiousness and 
crime as though the pall of night perpetually shrouded their 

The Reign of Self-indulgence 207 

deeds. And yet men, and some women too, will come here, 
and mingle in rounds of dissipation and pollution, who before 
and while at home and in other associations, would shudder at 
the sight, and even at the very thought of deeds they have un- 
happily been lured into. Such persons I daily meet. . . 
Another cause that aids in promoting these evils, is the small 
portion of men who have families here. Probably not one in 
twenty is married, and if so, leaves a family at the North, and 
while here entirely forgets that at home he has left a wife, who 
is little dreaming of the rounds of licentiousness and dissipa- 
tion, that constitutes the almost daily track of her truant hus- 
band. [Good men] arc "few and far between," [so that] the 
sins of licentiousness, adultery and prostitution [come] to be re- 
garded as the proper elements of society. 

A large number of men with their wives, who visit New 
Orleans to spend the winter ... to support themselves 
take the round of the gay and fashionable throng, and . . . 
the wife, with a perfect understanding of the matter with her 
husband, suffers herself to become seduced, and thus falls into 
the arms of some wealthy, wild, dashing young southern blood, 
who is proud of his conquest. He lavishes uf>on her costly 
presents and money, and in fact will bestow upon her anything 
that she may demand, within the compass of his purse. And 
when he ceases to give large sums, the husband contrives to 
make the accidental discovery' of their intimacy, and in the fear- 
less rage of an injured husband, threatens to come down upon 
the seducer with all the heated vengeance of southern chivalry. 
And to save himself the man will pay almost any sum the in- 
jured husband may demand. Thus the wife will go on, for 
months, making conquest after conquest, and being seduced at 
least by half a dozen different men she has victimized, and with 
all of them, practicing the most cunning and deceptive arts, 
charging each one to be exceedingly circumspect and cautious, 
so as to avoid the least suspicion in the eyes of the world and 
her husband i*spccially. During all this time her hands arc 
filled with costly and magnificent presents and money, and in 
fact, anything she may desire, while each one of her victims re- 
gards himself as the sole possessor of the stolen fruit. She is 
enabled to pursue this course, and avoid suspicion among her 
favorites of being intimate with more than one, by meeting 

2o8 The American Family 

them at houses of assignation. . '1 lu-y usually ^o in dis- 

t;uisc, 1 am intormcd, and ottrn in mxsk, and very frequently 
are unknown to the men w ho see them there, and their name is 
ne\er inquired for, as it is generally understood, that none hut 
respectahle ladies, both married and unmarried, frequent these 
houses. Ami yet durinj^ all these love stenes . the 

lady anil her husband are in the foremost rank of the fashion- 
able circle, supportinj^ a style and splendor of equipage that 
few can surpass or even imitate, . . Into this circle arc 
thrown the virtut)us and unsuspecting visitors who come into 
this city for pleasure, pastime or business, and if they can pass 
throu^h and come out unsullied and as pure in mind and as 
chaste in their sense of propriety and as virtuous in feeling as 
when they entered, they are equal to the three Hebrew children 
at the fiery furnace."" 

In the South the extreme facility of promiscuity, or 
concubinage, with nei^ro women encouraged some men 
to remain bachelors. Similarly in the North the de- 
velopment of vice went along with celibacy. St. Victor 
wrote in 1832 of terrible prostitution and debauchery. 
A little later Miss Martineau wrote: 

Even in America, where every youn^^ man may, if he chooses, 
marry at twenty-one, and appropriate all the best comforts of 
domestic life, even here there is vice. Men do not choose to 
marry early, because they have learned to think other things of 
more importance than the best comforts of domestic life. A 
gentleman of Massachusetts, who knows life . . . spoke 
to me with deep concern of the alteration in manners which is 
going on: of the increase of bachelors [etc.].'"* 

In 1834 a New "^'ork grand jury indicted a paper run 
by a minister for presenting "odious and revolting de- 
tails" of vice. Marry at notes the case of a man in New 
^'ork who. having murdered his mistress in a brothel, 
was acquitted and allowed to depart for Texas. r)ne 
man at New Orleans, conceding that quadroon con- 
cubinage was not right, declared it "much better than 

"•'Tower. Slavery I'nmaskfJ, 319, 321, 335-342 
"** Martineau. Society in .Imfrica, vol. iii, 127. 

The Rcign of Self -indulgence 209 

the way . . . most young men live who depend 
on salaries in New York." 

American fecundity, at least in some regions or class- 
es, suffered diminution even in the colonial period and 
the decline continued in the nineteenth century. Cen- 
ters of population were most likely to he affected. '°' In 
the early days and in country life the family had been 
an asset. With the rise of the standard and cost of liv- 
ing and the growth of cities it became an expense. I'he 
difference in cost of living between city and country 
districts early became great. Life in provincial cities 
is pleasanter and cheaper than in the great centers, 
wrote Sidons in 1826. He said: 

With seven to ei^ht hundred dollars a family of six to eipht 
memhers can, if they have their own house, live very decently, 
and keep three horses and as many hlack servants, which in 
l*hiladelphia would cost four thousand, in New ^'ork five 
thousand, and in New Orleans six thousand dollars.""' 

In the decade of the thirties immigation greatly in- 
creased, yet the population of 1840 was about what 
would have been expected had no increase in foreign 
influx occurred. In 1H43 Professor George Tucker 
predicted a decline in birth-rate by reason of prudence 
or pride, and increasing with the increase of cities and 
of the wealthy classes, so that the population in 1890 
would be sixty-three million. In the forties, arrivals 
from Ireland and Germany were enormous, but the 
population increased during the decade at a lower rate 
than when foreign arrivals were relatively negligible. 

Mansfield said in 1845: 

The progress of population, wealtli, and fashion in our country 
has made [the crime of criminal abortion] quite common. In 

*"'' EnKlemann. Education not the Cause of Race Decline, 178-180; Thorn- 
dyke. Professor Pearson on the Distribution of Fertility; Dwinht. Travels 
in Ne^w^land and S'rti.' York, vol. ii, 270-272. 

>o« Sidons. Die I'ereinigten Staaten, vol. i, 98. 

2IO I lit' .1 niifii tin itiunlx 

the large cities it is, we fear, practised frequently, as it has been 
in the large cities of the old world. Indeed, public advertise- 
ments, shameless as they are, have been published in the news- 
papers, directing the child of fashion or of vice, where she 
might find a woman to perform that service. 

A IcadiiiL^ rnciiiiai pri)fcssor said in iH;;4: 

The evil atlects educated, refined, and fashionable women; yea 
in many instances women whose moral character is in other re- 
spects without reproach. The contagion has reached mothers 
who are devoted with an ardent and self-denying afifection to 
the children who already constitute their family. 

In 1858, Professor H. R. Storcr read before the 
American Academy of Arts and Sciences a paper on 
the "Decrease of the Rate of increase of Population 
now obtaininu: in luirope and America." He attri- 
buted the declining birth-rate in America almost whol- 
ly to pruilential checks, tho he did not think that pas- 
sion had cooled or come more generally under control; 
nor was the infecundity to be attributed t(3 abstinence 
from marriage. "Prevention of pregnancy, to what- 
ever extent existing, can not account for the decrease 
of living births; actual pregnancies being proved fully 
as frcijuent as ever." in \ew Yovk City while the 
population had increased but sixfold since 1805, the 
annual number of still and premature births had mul- 
tiplied over twenty-seven times. Dr. Storer gave a 
table intended to show the increase in foetal death-rate 
in New "\'()rk. The figures indicate an almost uninter- 
rupted rise from one in i6;^3 of the population in 1805 
to one in 341 of the population in 1849. He added, 
however: "It is evident that but a small propc^rtion of 
the abortions and miscarriages occurring are ever re- 
ported," and f)ne may raise the (juestion whether part 
of the contrast of figures may not be due to improve- 
ment in accuracv of data. The New York ratio of 

The Rt'ign of Sclf-indulgcnce 211 

foetal to general mortality in 1804-1809 was given as 
one to 37.6 and in 1S56 as one U) ii.i. The foreign 
population of Massachusetts had a much higher pro- 
portion of living births to pregnancies tlian did the na- 
tive Protestant, and this fact the doctor attributed to 
the attitude of the Catholic church, whereas "we find 
infanticide and criminal abortion . . . justified, 
rendered common, and almost legitimated [by political 
economy]." '"^ This phenomenon is not hard to account 
for. The encroachments of luxury demanded retrench- 
ment somewhere. So long as women are not mistresses 
of their own persons, abortion is the logical outcome. 

During the generation preceding the war material 
conditions were becoming more favorable in some ways 
to normal increase of population. The old deadly 
medicine was being banished from civilized commun- 
ities; houses were becoming larger; food and clothing 
were improving. The changes, however, did not suf- 
fice to counteract the influence of the more ambitious 
standards of city life and the custom of boarding. 

Doubtless infecundity was not all intentional. There 
may be significance in the fact recorded by Schouler in 
his Americans of I JjO that "no advertiser figured more 
constantly in the local wants . . than the wet 

nurse with a good breast of milk." This prominence 
of hired lactation suggests functional (or social) de- 
fect. A book appearing in 1807 inf(ums us. too, that 
"venereal doctors . . . rise up in print like 
mushrooms." '"^ 

Female fragility was a considerable factor in the 

'"^ Nf.Tnsficlil. I.fs^nl Rights, I.iahilltirs, anJ Dutirs of H'omrn, ij6; 
Untjfje. On criminal .Ihortion, cited bv C'arlicr, in Mtirna(ff in ihf I'nitfJ 
States, 157-159. Storcr's article wan printnl in i8'>7 in the .Imeriran Journal 
of Sciencf and Arts, Kccond *er., vol. xliii, 141-155. 

•'*• Janson. Thr Strant^rr in .tmrriia, 349. 

212 The Anwncan Family 

question of racial integrity. Girls still married too 
young -were chcaicii out ot their youth. As late as 
1850 a girl was rather oM at twenty, an old maid at 
tweniy-tive.""' This earl\ marriage and the conse- 
(juent undue cares were very injurious to the health of 
women. Many writers of the first third or so of the 
nineteenth century comment on the early fading of 
American women. Works ot the forties continue the 
plaint of woman's frailtv. W'yse saiil that married wo- 
men very soon faded and that offspring were seldom so 
numerous as in Kngland. Von Raumersaid: 'T have 
seen in no country in the world, among handsome wo- 
men, so many pale, sickly faces. . Many profes- 
sional men complain of the great number of still-horn 
chiKlren ami premature births." The reverend George 
\\'. IJurnap wrote that women did not take enough care 
of their health ; there was a great falling off in one gen- 
eration ; the women then passing off were a very differ- 
ent race from their successors. "When I sec the fra- 
gile and diminutive forms of the women of our times, 
and compare them with the women whom I recollect as 
the partners of the men of the revolution, it seems to me 
that if the men of that age had had such mothers, we 
never should have had any revolution at all." Luxury 
had loaded the tables of the affluent with the delicacies 
of all lands. This rich living to women sitting in warm 
rooms reading or doing needle-w^ork while almost to- 
tally neglecting active exercise was absolute destruc- 
tion. Add to this late hours and improper clothing. 
\\'hen Ivuropean woman is at meridian, said Hurnap, 
American Wf)man is withered. "° 

The delicacy of American women during the first 
half of the nineteenth century was to some degree the 

'«>»Black«cII. Thf l.^Kij of IJff. 143. 

'>*Bumap. Tftf Health of /Imerican H'omrn, i8$-i88. 

The Reign of Self -indulgence 213 

realization of an ideal. Woman was supposed to be of 
finer clay; and this "finer-clay," fragility, futility ideal 
was already pretty well established at tlie end of the 
eighteenth century. In American periodical litera- 
ture of the early part of the nineteenth century, girls 
languishing of broken hearts or dying (jf (lower-like 
nature were an inmienscly popular theme, especially in 
ladies' magazines. Women up to the War and beyond 
were nourished in the cult of female delicacy and re- 
finement. Of course this theory was capable of com- 
plete application only in leisure-class circles; but it 
helps us to understand the neglect of physical training 
for girls and also to appreciate the remark of a physi- 
cian of the first quarter of the nineteenth century who 
said that not one woman in ten enjoyed perfect health. 
At a much later date Catherine E. Beecher "made 
enquiries into physical health of American females 
and . among her immense circle of friends and 

acquaintances all over the union, is unable to recall ten 
married ladies in this century and country who are per- 
fectly sound, healthy, and vigorous.'"*' 

With increasing prominciuc of wealth ami iuxurv 
went an increase in sordid economic marriage. Vzom 
the very beginning of the nineteenth century repeated 
evidences of shameful I v mercenary matches obtrude. 
Various writers of the first half of the centurv treat 
emphatically of this evil, sometimes witli reference to 
parents' abuse of their daughters' deeper welfare and 
again in condemnation of the procedure of ambitious 
young folks of either sex. Robert Owen attacked mar- 
riage resting on a property basis. 

A magazine of iHo;; informs us that "advantageous 
settlement" for their daughters is the universal aim of 

^"Rcrd. Fftnnlf l)el'uii,y in thf Sixfirs, 8<;<;-86j; Hixon. H'/iitf Con- 
qurst, vol. ii, 309. 

-14 i fi^' .'luit-rti (in Fdutilx 

parents and tlic major object of female instruction. A 
rc\ic\\ ot Miss Martiucaus work adirnis that "many 
of our fairest are sacrificed at the expense of their af- 
feciiiHis, and that this is an increasing evil." In a 
periodical of the early forties occurs reprobation of the 
numerous mercenary marriages forced by parents -of- 
ten with lieadly consei]uence to the victim. 

Fortune-liuntin^ males were at lar^e. A book of 
1807 cited a lottery advertisement in New York papers 
which ur^ed people to become rich since "the cjuestion 
now asked concerning a lady is not, Is she handsome? 
Is she accomplished? or. Is she amiable? hut, Is she 
rich?" A Broadway clerk thought he might "pick up 
a fortune in the way of marriage." A New York pa- 
per of 1829 remarked the "ridiculous rage among 
gentlemen for rich sweethearts. . . The first en- 
quiry that our young men make now. when a woman is 
proposed for a wife is, 'Is she rich?' and for variety, or 
a salvo, Ms she handsome?' Let a husband die and 
leave a rich widow or heiress and 

how the beaux scamper." A periodical of the forties 
referred to the many females of character and merit 
sacrificed to the machinations of a fortuFie hunter!" 
Marryat said : 

However much the Americans may wish to deny it, I am in- 
clined to think that there are more marriages of convcnancc in 
the United States than in most other countries. The men bc- 
fjin to calculate long before they are of an a^e to marry, and 
it is not very likely that they would calculate so well upon all 
other points, and not ur>on the value of a dowry; moreover the 
old people "calculate some," and the girls accept an offer, with- 
out their hearts being seriously compromised. Of course there 
are exceptions: hut I do not think that there are many love 
matches made in America, and one reason for my holding this 
opinion is, my having discovered how quietly matches arc 
broken off and new engagements entered into; and it is, per- 

The Reign of Self-indulgctue 215 

haps, from a knowledge of this fact, arising from the calculating 
spirit of the gentlemen, who are apt to consider twenty thousand 
dollars as preferable to ten thousand dollars, that the American 
girls are not too hasty in surrendering their hearts. . . On 
the whole, I hold it very fortunate that in American marriages 
there is, generally speaking, more prudence than love on both 
sides, for from the peculiar habits and customs of the country, 
a woman who loved without prudence uould not feel very 
happy as a wife [the men are so little at home]. 

That the feminine feelings often had a mercantile 
turn is corroborated by other writers. Mrs. Moustoun 
extenuates this failing by the consideration that Amer- 
ican young ladies see so little of their husbands that the 
amount of money they can secure from their mates is 
the prime concern. Thus matrimony is a business ven- 
ture. "A partner at a ball, who has chanced to receive 
encouragement as the owner of a pair of horses is 
speedily discarded for one with four, and he, in like 
manner, must stand aside if the possessor of a still larger 
stud should chance to present himself." The reverend 
F. A. Ross of Alabama in Slavery Ordained of God 

Do you say the slave is sold and bought? So is the wife, the 
world over . . the New Kngland man, the New ^'orker - 

especially the upper ten - buy the wife - in many, very many 
cases. She is seldom bought in the South, and never among 
the slaves themselves; for they always marry for love. . . 
Old ugly brute, with gray goatee - how fragrant - bids one, 
two, five, ten hundred thousand dollars, and she is knocked off 
to him - that beautiful young girl asleep up there, amid flowers, 
and innocent that she is sold and bought. Sir, that young girl 
would as soon permit a baboon to embrace her, as that old, 
ignorant, gross, disgusting u retch to approach her. Ah, h.ns 
she not been .sold and bought for money? Hut - Hut what? 
But, you say, she freely, and without authority ac- 
cepted him. Then she sold herself for money, and was guilty 
of that which is nothing better than legal prostitution. I know 
what I say; you know what I say. Up there in the gallery 

2i6 The American Family 

viiu know: ^ ou ikhI to uric anotluT. All! son know the" par- 
tics. \'cs, yuu say - All true, true, true. 

F^rcach of promise cases were a normal accompani- 
ment of mercenary marriage. In a magazine of 1819 
was an account of a verdict of five thousand dollars in 
New York against a man who seems to have been lured 
away by the wealth of anotiier woman. Naumann re- 
marks in his S orJamtrika that it behooves well-to-do 
young men to be very careful in their language to girls. 
Golovin said that "the most vulgar flirtation is often 
times considereil as a matrimonial declaration" and 
told of a Pole who was forced to marrv his washerwo- 
man. It would seem that juries were ready to decide 
in behalf of victimized women; and shrewd females, 
taking advantage of the readiness to accept circumstan- 
tial evidence of engagement, lured on elderly men of 
wealth until they thought sufficient evidence was ac- 
cumulated and then demanded marriage or indemnity. 
Sometimes the man yielded; sometimes the case came 
to trial \.\n(\ the man was heavily assessed. This busi- 
ness went on until the New York Semi-Jrcckly Times 
of April 6, i860, remarked that "it has become abso- 
lutelv dangerous for wealthy men to be polite towards 
an unmarried woman." 

.As in cverv propertv civilization, marriage in the 
Old South was largelv a mode of conveying possessions. 
It involved the economic dependence of woman and 
mercenary marriage. In Letters from Virginia pub- 
lished in iKf6, it was said: 

'Hie fair (iam.scls of Virginia show no disposition, that I can 
src, to drclarr themselves independent of the men. So far 
from it, I overhear frequent complaints of the scarcity of beaux 
and husbands. The embargo and other restrictive meas- 

ures have fallen very heavily upon the ladies by im- 

povcri-shinc their lovers at home, and cutting of? supplies from 

The Reign of Selj-inilulgence 217 

It is maintained that in the first half of the nineteenth 
century "the female portion of Tennessee's popula- 
tion . . . had an eye to the money bags." The 
author of "Singleton's" Letters from the South and 
IVest (1824) wrote of New Orleans: "It is common 
to ask a young gallant, who is about io marrv-'hovv 
much?' rather than -'whom?' And too fre(]uently do 
insolvent libertines come from the North to the South, 
to speculate into a lady's heritage." 
Buckingham was impelled to say: 

From all the observations I have been enabled to make 
and from the facts I heard from others, I should think that the 
wealth of the respective parties about to form a matrimonial 
alliance, was much more frequently an object of consitleration 
in the Southern States of America, at least, than in Kn^land, 
[although] no one need be deterred from marria^^e from a fear 
of being able to support themselves. There are two causes, 
which appear to me to lead to this state of pecuniary considera- 
tion in the marriages of the South. . . First . the 
chief, if not the only certain method, of ensuring homage or 
consideration from the mass of the community is the acquisition 
of wealth. To this, therefore, all attention is directed, and in 
this almost every other passion is swallowed up and absorbed. 
Marriage is one of the modes by which this object of universal 
desire may be most easily achieved ; and it is therefore planned 
and pursued as an affair of business: and a fortunate alliance of 
this description is talked of as a matter of skill and good man- 
agement on the part of the husband, just as a successful issue of 
some well-planned speculation in a commercial undertaking. 
Many are the instances in which a man marries two sisters, in 
succession, each of them very wealthy, and sometimes even a 
third, so rapidly do they give place to each other. A srcomi 
cause of pecuniary marriages, I think, is this - that the passion 
of love is not felt w ith the same intensity by either sex 
as even in F'rance ; still less so than in Fngland. 

A writer in the Louisville Exnttiiner prior to iH;;(^ 
said that the worst slaveholders were men that came 

from the North and marricii plantations and gangs of 

2i8 The American Family 

slaves, with wives annexed. An Kn^lish traveller said 
that women in South Carolina looked more to a pros- 
pective husband's means than m the probability of liv- 
ing happily with him. I'he Nortli Carolina Univer- 
sity Magazirif of 1S57-1S5H, in an article on "Husband 
Hunting" proclaimed that women were keen anglers. 

Let him but waltz once or twice and his fate is sealed. A 
touch of her soft hand - a glance of her bright eye smiling in 
voluptuous languor - the f^entle trembling; pressure of her 
rounded arm, resting in such innocent confidence upon his 
shoulders as they whirl around the room, f Hut she won't 
marry you unless you have money.] It requires no gift of 
prophecy to foresee what must be the ultimate effect of a sys- 
tem of education, which sets out with the datum that to obtain 
a rich husband is the summum bonum of a Rirl's existence - 
the great end to which she is born. To bring about this con- 
summation so devoutly wished for, she is taught from her earli- 
est infancy that no sacrifice is too great. It is to purchase this 
that she is endowed with beauty -it is for this that neither 
trouble nor expense has been spared to teach her the fashion- 
able accomplishments; it is for this that mamma is so particular 
about her dress - so careful of her complexion - so anxious 
about her health. She is early taught tiiat her smiles and 
glances are too precious to be wasted, and she measures them 
out by rules of proportion, which, by the way, is nearly all the 
arithmetic she is ever taught - as your income, so shall my af- 
fability be. Her creed is: "I believe in elder sons, a 
house in town and a house in the country, I believe in a coach 
and six, diamonds, a box at the f)pera, point <li- BrtixcUts lace, 
crinoline, etc." . . No natural emotions, none of the finer 
feelings find a place in such a system, neither would they flour- 
ish in such arid soil. . . Thanks to this cramping process, 
to which they are subjected day by day and year by year, the 
minds of most young ladies lose their elasticity altogether, and 
by the time they arrive at the age for turning out as the phrase 
goes (it should be trotted out), they arc quite as artificial as 
the most exacting parents could desire. Like the Chinese 
women, whose feet are so cramped from infancy, that they be- 
come utterly useless for walking. - the minds of most of our 

The Reign of St'lf-uuJulgence 219 

young ladies are so contracted, that it would be a difficult mat- 
ter to determine whether they ever had any. [How would 
such a woman] be a help to any man - unless to help him spend 
his money, for which most of them show a very decided talent, 
and for which, indeed, their previous training peculiarly fits 
them. [Our woman-culture is like that of the Turks. The 
rest of a Trans-caucasian family eat coarse food, bathe in the 
river, and wear old clothes in order that a handsome daughter 
may be groomed for the Sultan. Similarly in America.] Have 
you not seen the heads of families pinching themselves and the 
other children to give some favored one an education beyond 
their means that she may marry well as they call it? Have 
you not been witness in your own country to a bargain and sale 
quite as flagrant, as any that was ever transacted in the slave 
market of Constantinople? My innocent friend without going 
fifty miles from the place where I now sit, I could cite you an 
instance . . . where the lovely bride was forced into the 
arms of a man whom she loathed - where the agonizing screams 
of the helpless victim were unheard amidst the musical chink 
of the bridegroom's dollars. . . In most cases the victim is 
anything but unwilling . . . it is by no means uncommon 
for the lady to conclude the bargain for herself - indeed I be- 
lieve it is usually the case. . . "Charity covereth a multi- 
tude of sins" but money hideth them much more effectually. 
Dissipation of the very worst kind and an empty head - aye 
even disease itself is considered no drawback, if the bridegroom 
elect has metallic attractions sufficient. 

Such is the manner in which most of our young ladies arc 
brought up. . . Like the deadly Upas tree, its influence 
poisons and withers every natural emotion - dries up the very 
purest feelings of our nature . . and makes the victim a 

mere machine, capable of moving (aye, and gracefully too), of 
singing divinely, of smiling sweetly, of thinking - never. 

It extends to the marriage relation, and brings into con- 
tempt that which ought to be reganled as the most solemn 
compact into which a man can enter. . . Of this levity with 
which men look upon marriage, we have abundant proof in the 
"elopements in high life," and the numerous applications for 
divorce, and the readiness with which they are granted. 
Marriages of convenience, a term fit for the mouth of a liber- 

220 The American Family 

tine or a fool, arc the legitimate result ul the art of which we 
are speaking. • • As matters now stand, marriage is a lux- 
ury which is of necessity confined to those who arc compara- 
tively rich. And if the present state of thinj^ continues, we 
may look for a lar^e and continually increasing stock of old 
hachelors and old maids, in the upper classes of society. 

In the next volume of the same magazine an author 
told that some men counted a girl's father's "niggers"; 
nothing counteil with them but gold. 

Americans prized rank as well as wealth. Sidons in 
1H26 remarked about girls being on the lookout for at- 
tractive foreigners. Sealstield in 1828 said that the 
ladies are prone to set off their attractions, particularly 
if a foreigner of supposed rank should appear. St. 
Victor in 1832 commented on the passion of the Amer- 
ican laciies for titles of nobility. Mackay said, near 
the middle of tiie century: 

The social position of the husband is not carried, in all its ex- 
tent, into the social relations of his family. Kquality 
without, cxclusivcncss within - such seems to he the contrasts 
of American life. The professional man may be on the very 
best of terms with the bl.icksmith, but ten chances to one if the 
daughters of the professional man know the blacksmith's daugh- 
ters, or if they would acknowledge it if they did. 

Carlier held that the greatest ambition of the young 
American girl was to wed a title; an European of title, 
however doubtful his character, could be sure of a rich 
wife. "Place before her two men, one of whom has 
but his noble title; and the other a man distinguished in 
science, in letters, or in business, - there will be no doubt 
of the young American's choice." In his Lcj^alizcd 
Proslititti'-jn. published in 1862, Charles S. Woodruff, 
M.D., asserted that when two young people contem- 
plate matrimony 

Xhe social world looks on, with its long list of form and cere- 
mony, warning them continually that they must he of ccpial 

T/w Rt'ign of Sflf-indulgence 221 

rank, as established by social order, or else public opinion will 
frown upon them so terribly that one or the other shall lose 
caste, and be banished from all intercourse in certain cliques or 
grades of life. 

Woodrufif went on to say that in tlic case uf two young 
people of equal rank they put the best on the surface 
and were able to hitle under a pleasing exterior the 
shallowness and hollowness of their hearts. Many al- 
liances were contracted by the power of wealth alone - 
the soul being bartered for gold and the mismated 
couple held together in an unholy union entailingcurses 
on the offspring. The lives of many were no better 
than prostitution. 

We observe, in the daily walks of life, young and fair maiden- 
hood withcrinj:: and pininjx away under the curse of hereditary 
blif^ht, the product of disunited souls, who, living in disobedi- 
ence to nature's commands, have brought forth "buds of prom- 
ise" only to find, for earthly hopes, a premature grave; and on 
the other hand, imbecile young manhood stares us in the face 
at almost every turn of the street-corner having depicted upon 
the countenance the brand of that transgression of nature's laws 
which has been committed by parents and of which he remains 
a living witness, though entirely innocent himself. 

With the rise of econr)mic surplus and complex city 
life, old moral criteria lost influence. Even as early as 
the twenties in the nineteenth century in club-cellars of 
New York were found the sons of high and low enjoy- 
ing oysters, drams, tobacco, and low revelry. "Thou- 
sands become morally rotten before they are ripe. The 
number of tippling shops is prodigious; and there is 
perhaps no part of the world where [it is so cheap to 
get drunk as in the Cnitcd States]." Boys of twelve 
or under drink in li(]uor shops. VhcMan in iH;^4 notes 
that a fashionable hostess at a small party is drunk. 
Parents in the forties are warned against allowing chil- 

222 7 V/c- Anurii iiri I'd mil \ 

dren to run wild in the temptations of the streets and to 
loiter at nii^lu around some coffee house. "^ 

The cityuard ilritt was early a menace. Before 1820 
remonstrance was maiie against the sending of children 
to the city. "Most of our small retail stores are lilleil 
thus with the sons of fariiiers. who, eager to escape salu- 
tary lahor. and partake of the delusive pleasures of a 
cilv, are crowilini^ to New ^'ork."'" The old folks 
hack home were likelv to be more and more neglectetl. 
In the Hfties this subject received magazine attention: 
a young man in the city was reluctant to visit his "old 
folks" in the country; it was too dull; they wanted him 
to stay too long; he did not go as often as he could. 

The current of life was setting away from the home. 
New conditions augmented the new world tendency 
to coolness of family affection. At least as early as 1840 
many husbands and sons seemeii to consider home as a 
mere place of boarding and lodging; to provide for the 
physical wants of one's family was the sum of duty. 
"Shows, convivialities, plays, entertainments . 
do their part in turning men loose from home and 
breaking those hallowed social bonds whicli are the 
strong guards of virtue and the firmest barriers to 
vice." A thousand interests were crowding on the 
minds and stirring the blood of the vigorous and the 
young; hence h«ime influences and restraints suffered 
and home contacts were circumscribed. A magazine 
article of the fifties presents the f)pinion that too many 
wives burn the midnight oil waiting for their husbands 
and alleges that many men allow societies or clubs to 

''^* Literary anJ Scientific Repository, vol. i, 525-526; Cobbctt. Year's 
Residence in the I'niteJ States, 212; ^fan, .April 30, 1S34, 241; D'uight'j 
.■Imerican Sfai^azine, vol. i, 268. 

^^^ Indies' Maf^azine (Savannah), vol. i, 182-183, quoting New York 
S'aftnrt'il fdfocate. 

The Rcign fjf St'lj-indulgcnce 223 

crowd out their wives."* Carlier saw in summer jaunts 
a weakening of the family; the husband could visit his 
wife only at intervals; the children lost home restraints. 
Women of 1840 often received men that hati for- 
feited the approval of right thinking people. "Such 
ladies . . . are strong in the faith that 'a reformed 
rake makes a good husband';" (but they found in 
course of time that the charm was a failure). Kuro- 
pean looseness tended to creep into American society. 
In the Ladies Repository (Cincinnati) of 1H44 we learn 
that Bulwer and his type were diffusing in America 
ideas of European high life-sacredness of marriage 
betrayed; the seducer commonly the hero. And Sue's 
enormity "has been deemed a meet offering to the youth 
of America!" In the same periodical in 1S49 appeared 
this stricture: 

That fashionable and decorated vice, which exists amon^ the 
more pretending classes in all European communities, has not 
yet dared to obtrude itself amon^ the American people, how- 
ever frequently instances of it may be detected untier the deep 
concealments in which it is here compelled to shrouii itsrlt. 
[Yet] the almost universal apinj:; of European fashion and pay- 
ety amonfx us, and, above all, the imported h'teraturc and scenic 
drama, which have of late years overspread tlie land, threaten to 
break down the hallowed barriers that have circled the do- 
mestic purity of American life. 

There was surely point to a story in Grnhani's Magu- 
zine of 1845 of a husband's neglecting his wife and 
going with a scheming coquette; the wife pines and 
dies. Said Milburn in the Pioneer Preacher: 

Mamma sutigests that all youn^ men arc a little wild, but mar- 
riage cures them of that ; and our young ladies think him only 
the more interesting because he is esteemed a "fast young 

"* Ciraves. fl'oman in .tmrrica, 65, 160164; .Irthur'} Home Sfa)(a*inf, 
vol. vii, 123. 

2 24 I hi' .Iniirimn iintnl\ 

man." . . You pcmiit the seducer to lead your dau(;htcr to 
the altar, aiul ^ivc him >our patrrnal blcssinK. 

The domesticity (if women in certain circles seemed 
to suffer decline, in the Liti-niry Focus of 1827- 1828 
a man expressed a desire to marry but declared that in- 
stead of the former beauiilul domestic creatures he 
found a set of ^i^^lin^ tritlers, who thought chicflv of 
balls, carriages, and novels. They never entered the 
kitchen and were i ignorant of domestic affairs. Hus- 
band and father were simply old fashioned furniture - 
in the way. Fashionable females had nothing to do 
but harass servants and ^oui^e monev out of luishand 
and father. 

A woman answering tiie indictment acknowledged 
the prevalence of the evils in every part of the country 
but blameti the men: nine times out of ten thev paid 
more attentioti to the giggling nondescripts than to 
worthy, unassuming females. In order to get a train 
of admirers a girl needed to play a little, and sing af- 
fectedly, pretend to study French, have a name for hav- 
ing a fortufie, take a journey on pretext of ill health. 
Most gentlemen were attracted by these things, said 
this ladv. while (jualifications of greater use were treat- 
ed with ridicule. 

Fanny Kemble in her Journal of a Ri'siJcru c on a 
Georgian phintdtion said: 

Tlie democratic daughters of America are, for the 

most part so ignorant of fsewinR] that I have heard the most 
eloquent preacher of the city of New York advert to their in- 
capacity in this respect as an impediment to their assistance of 
the poor, and ascribe to the fact that the daughters of his own 
parishioners did not know how to sew, the impossibility of their 
giving the most valuable species of help to the women of the 
needier classes. . I have known young American school 

girls, duly instructed in the nature of the parallaxes of the stars, 
but, as a rule, they do not know hr>w to darn their stockings. 

The Reign of Self-indulgence 225 

In Grund's Aristocracy in America it was alleged that 
a fashionable young wife is no use save as a stimulus to 

Mrs. Graves charged women with overlooking home 
responsibilities and enjoyments or wantonly deserting 
them "for those of a more ostentatious character that 
are to be found abroad. Thus comparatively few wo- 
men at the present day are content to be simply useful, 
and to shine in the domestic circle alone." The de- 
cline of female domesticity was attributable to the 
"flood of European follies" that was sweeping in; to 
the new ideas of woman's sphere; to the "fatal notion 
that there is something servile in labor;" to the desire 
for the "luxury of indolent leisure." 

It is not avarice that crouds our cities with those who are 
"making haste to he rich ;" it is the desire to he lifted ahove the 
necessity of lahor. . . Many of our females in their ambi- 
tion to be considered "ladies" re-fuse to aid their toiling mothers, 
lest their fair hands should lose their softness and delicacy, and 
while using these useless appenilages in playing with their 
ringlets, or touching the piano or guitar, they will speak with 
contempt of the household drudge, and boast of their lady-like 
ignorance of domestic employments. Many a woman of intel- 
lect, on becoming a housekeeper, finds herself . . unpre- 
pared. . . Want of practical knowledge and the unskillful- 
ncss of inexperience cause what little strength she possesses to be 
IneflFectually expended. . Our women are generally less 
fitted for active household duties than in some countries are 
those even of the higher classes who are never placed under the 
necessity of performing them. . . [ Few mothers teach their 
daughters how to be happy and useful at home.] 

Thus idleness, the toilet, men, were displacing house- 
keeping. A writer in the Lndics' Repository (Cincin- 
nati) of 1841 complained that mothers often entrusted 
their children to coarse, vulgar servants; that tluTc was 
too much violent angry thrashing and scntiniental in- 

2 26 77/ 1' . 1 tnirti tin Idiuily 

Works of the fifties corroborate the charge against 
women. Mothers do not keep their girls within bounds 
and "romping giddv girls become dressy, un- 

companionable wives, and negligent and careless 
mothers." Ladies go shopping and lunch down town 
and are not good company at dinner, even it their hus- 
baruis are lucky enough to find dinner ready. 

In ru» sal(M>t> throughout America, diil I ever sec any fcinalf 
even momentarily rmployrd with chiltirfn, with b(K)ks. or with 
needlework. When an Knuiishuoman of whatever class, 

would have had her embroidery frame or her crochet work or 
even her novel, the American woman whether rich or poor, had 
her riK-kinn-chair and her fan ; her simper and her sij^h, her 
whine and her finery. 

Mrs. Bodichon said : 

I believe tlnre is in America as stronp: a public opinion against 
women working for a livelihood as in FZnKland. No father in 
a "respectable class" thinks of nivinj; his daughter a professional 
education. If he can live in some "style" he counts on his 
daughters marrying, and if he cannot, he probably sends them 
to some relative in a city, who receives them for a long visit, 
with the hope of "fjcttinK them of?." Many thousands of young 
girls come to the cities to stay with brothers, uncles, or friends 
for this purpose. A worse preparation for any serious life can- 
not be i()ncei\ed. ^'ears of idleness arc often passed in this 
way, years spent in nothing but driving and dissipation - and 
what does it lead to? Marriage probably: but what sort of 
marriage can be formed by young girls looking at the world 
from such a false position. . . Unless a wfiman can earn 
her own livelihood or has a certain income, she has little chance 
of forming an equal union. 

Another said : "Can it be ilenicd that the toilet and the 
men arc the two influences of absorbing interest to the 
mass of young American women between the ages of 
sixteen and twenty?" Catharine Sidgwick wrote: 

[Our forefathers' wives] were helpmeets. If they could not 
earn bread, they could make it. If they did not comprehend 

The Reign of Self-indulgence 227 

the "rights of wumcn" they practised her duties. If they did 
not study political economy and alt^cbra. they knew the calcula- 
tion by which the penny saved is the penny gained. Instead of 
waiting to be served by costly and wasteful Milesians they 
"looked well to the ways of their household, and ate not the 
bread of idleness." The Puritan wife did not ask her husband 
to be decked in French gauds. 

The fact of the matter was that the new world was 
developing Orientalism and among the "better classes" 
woman was developing into a parasite. From being 
regarded as drudges, women "came to be admired as 
dolls. The first decades of the nineteenth century 
record this transformation." The tendency has already 
been affirmed for the South in connection with econ- 
omic marriage and will receive e.xplicit treatment ifi 
connection with the discussion of the southern family, 
but the aristocracy of the North were involving them- 
selves in the same evil. Concerning this Mrs. Graves 
wrote in 1841 : 

"The tendency to Orientalism" is visible, too, in the false pt)si- 
tion in which woman is placed, as a being formed for no higher 
purpose than to be decorated, admired, and valued for her per- 
sonal charm. Do we not see females in every fashionable circle 
who fill no loftier station in social life, and who live as idly and 
as uselessly as the gorgeously attired inmates of the harem. 
When we hear it said that woman should he kept "like a jewel 
in a casket," and listen to the soft flatteries . . we can 

not help feeling the injustice that is done her. [Women thus 
become feeble u.seless things. They can not bear the trouble 
of taking care of children. A hired nurse or school will do. 
How many women fail of their full liuty to their husbands!] 
They seem to look upon their own interests, or those of the 
family, as being something separate from the interests of its 
head. Thus they consider whatever is added to the furniture 
or wardrobe as so much gained, without reflecting that every 
superfluous expense is a sum withdrawn from the general fund 
to which they must all look for support. .Ami if their husband 


228 The American Family 

bccoinrs embarrassed in business they regard these domestic ac- 
quisitions as a clear savinj;, tor^iettinu that the money thus laid 
out may have been one of the causes of their embarrassments. 
[This is natural] since so many husbands do but little to make 
their wives feci their responsibility as partners. Men are 

losers in every way by not charjiin^j their wives w ith tin- respon- 
sibility of managinn the family expenditures, and by keeping 
them iiniorant of the limits within which they must be con- 
fined. . . Do not experience and observation ordinarily show 
that the character of the wife depends more upon that of the 
husband that does the husband's upon that of the wife? Man 
usually does not enter into the married state until after his 
character has become f'lxt, but woman most frequently in all 
the tender pliancy of youth. . . We condemn the Chinese 
for barbarously cripplinj^ the feet of their women, while we 
with scarcely more humanity, anil with deeper injury, cripple 
in ours the jjrowth of all that is vigorous in thought or ener- 
getic in action, by keeping them bound from infancy to ma- 
turity in habits of indolence and of helpless dependence. We 
despise . . . the folly of the Turkish di'spot, who ab- 
surdly supposes that guards and imprisonment are required to 
keep women virtuous, while we, instead of relying upon the 
cultivation of virtuous principles and of moral strength, adopt 
the scarcely less preposterous maxims of the world, which teach 
that woman's safety is in the social restrictions by which she is 

Mrs. Bodichon in the later fifties wrote: 

In no country have I been so much struck by the utter idle- 
ness of the lady class, except perhaps in the East, among the 
Turks and .Moors. There is in America, a large class of la- 
dies who do absolutely nothing. . . In America - in that 
noble, free, new country, it is grievous to sec the old false snob- 
bish idea of "respectability" eating at the heart of society, mak- 
ing generations of women idle and corrupt, and retarding the 
onward progress of the great Republic. [In this respect, so- 
ciety presented great contrasts.] A great proportion of Ameri- 
can women live indoors and do nothing; the others, again, live 
indoors and do too much. There are thousands who have to 
do household work, bear and nurse children, cook and wash, and 

The Reign of Self-indulgence 229 

live continually indoors, often in badly built, undrainrd, un- 
healthy wooden houses, and suffer terribly. The be^inninK of 
civilization falls hard on American women. As a pendant to 
this, side by side, may be seen a sister, livinj^ in the midst of 
luxuries, which many an Kn^^lish lady ot rank would refuse as 

The proletariat naturally was adept at imitation. 
Burn who spent three years among the working-classes 
during the war said : 

In the towns, many of the younp women are ruined by vanity 
and false notions of personal independence. Pride of dress is 
rampant in all ranks, a masterly self-will sets them above ad- 
vice, and there arc few who will bend to paternal author- 
ity. . . Think of a workingman's partner being obliged to 
decorate her head with four different styles of bonnets in the 
course of twelve months! In the country, young women arc 
instructed in all the household duties; but in the towns it is 
difficult to find a girl who can darn a pair of stockings, much 
less do the duties of a domestic establishment. . . I was in 
the company of a woman a short time ago who had left her 
husband because, among other things, he did not allow her more 
than thirteen dollars a week, out of which she had to provide 
food for themselves and a baby ; the husband paying rent, coals, 
and clothing. This model wife was the partner of a sober, 
hard-working man. The father has the child, and she is per- 
forming in the character of a young wiiiow in a hoarding-house 
in another state, two hundred miles from all her woman's heart 
should hold dear. 

Female parasitism was in part due to man's propen- 
sity for admirini^ futility when he can afford to suh- 
sidize it. If American ladies hecame "very fond of 
show, adornment rather than culture." man was pri- 
marily responsible. Candler wrote prior to IS2^ : "It 
it be true, as I was several times assured, that the lailies 
prefer Europeans to their own countrymen, may it not 
be in part attributed to the superior respect paid to 
their understandings by the former? What sensible 

230 The American Family 

young lady admires being treated as if she were only a 
dressed doll?" In a ladies' magazine of 1833 occurred 
a comment on "Hiring a Cook." A man found that a 
cook demanded four dollars a week. He paid a boy 
and a chambermaid each one dollar and twenty-five 
cents. Each would cost at least two dollars a week 
for board -twelve dollars and fifty cents a week in all. 
His income was only fifteen hundred dollars at most. 
Something was wrong. An educated man might work, 

But women who arc educated must not put their hand to house- 
hold employment ; tho that is all the task we assi;jn to our fe- 
males. It would degrade a lady to be seen in her kitchen at 
work. (), how many are now sitting at ease in their parlors, 
while their husbands, fathers, brothers, or sons, are toilinjj like 
slaves! -and what is worse than toil, anxiously bearing a load 
of care, lest their exertions should not meet the expenses of 
their families. . It may be the folly and pride of us men, 

after all. We want the whole command of business, the whole 
credit of management. We do not communicate to our wives 
and daughters the embarrassments we suflFcr, or the need we 
have of their assistance, at least, cooperation. 

So he put his daughters to cooking and found it worked 
like a charm. Not all men, however, were guilty of 
folly. The Ladies' Wreath of 1848- 1849 has an article 
by Professor Alden of Williams College on Gentility 
and Industry -2. storv of two would-be ladies, girls that 
thought housework ungentecl. The hero passed them 
by and married a farmer's daughter of cultivated mind. 
It should be kept in mind that the status of women 
in general was by no means revolutionized. Mrs. 
Graves spoke of the opinion *'still so current, even 
among men of intellect, that a wife was intended to be 
nothing higher than the obsequious ministering servant 
of man -a menial without wages." Speaking of Amer- 
ican wives Mrs. Houstoun in i8:;o said: "When (as 
too frequently happens) their husbands are reduced by 

The Reign of Self-indulgence 231 

one unfortunate speculation from wealth and case, to 
poverty and privation, tlicn it is that tiieir fortitude 
smooths the path of misfortune, and their courageous 
exertions lessen the force of the blow." Mcintosh in 
1850 remarked : 

An incrc^sin^; family brinj"; increased expenditure; [retrench- 
ment must conic where the world will least sec. The wife 
must work! The superintendent of an insane asylum in Hart- 
ford, Connecticut reports that] in many cxses. not havinj^ re- 
ceived in early life a judicious physical or moral training for her 
new and arduous station, the youn^ wife, impelled by affection 
and an honest pride to her utmost efforts soon finds that, with 
her increasing family, the burden of care and duties increases; 
while her physical strength and capacity for endurance diminish 
in even greater ratio. An economy sometimes deemed neces- 
sary, more often ill-judged and cruel, leads the husband to re- 
frain from supplying the necessary domestic assistance; the 
nurse is discharged too soon and sometimes no suitable one is 
provided. . Thus it must naturally follow, that between 

child-bearing, nursing, and the accumulation of household 
duties and drudgery, the poor heart-broken and disappointed 
wife loses, in turn, her appetite, her rest, and her strength ; her 
nervous system is prostrated, and sinking under her burden, she 
seeks refuge in a lunatic hospital. This process of inducing 
insanity is by no means limited to the above-mentioned classes; 
the same thing, differing more in degree than in manner, is 
often seen elsewhere. 

Evidently the age of conspicuous consumption was 
on. In his Personal Narrative, 181 7- 181 8, Fordham 
noted that Virginia "women are pretty, languishing, 
made-up misses. Their chief pleasures seem to be in 
dressing well and in combing their long fair hair. 
They have most beautiful hair." In Tennessee at the 
same period "in the summer the girls wore Leghorn 
hats . sometimes costing fifty dol- 

lars."'" The -Methodists had occasion to condemn 

*" Hale and Mcrritt. History of Tfttnessff anj Tfnnfstffani, vol. ii, 419. 

232 The American Family 

garish apparel. The desire to reniain among the rela- 
tively luxurious scenes ot the h.ast began to lead to 
various inconveniences and even to pauperism. City 
stores lured women to speiul lavishly. In a periodical 
of 1819 occurred a (juotation from a New York paper 
inquiring why ladies of character and tlelicacy shouhl 
attire themselves in the trappings of luxury. A pros- 
titute goes along Broadway with several hundred dol- 
lars of attire on her person. A New ^'ork merchant is 
said to have sold a cashmere shawl to a lady in that city 
for eleveri hundred dollars."" In 1H34 in Tennessee 
some capes cost one hundred dollars.'" 

McMaster describes picturesquely the New ^'ork 
City of 1H40. Broadway of an afternoon presented "a 
sight such as no other American city couhl show." 
Barefoot girls swept the crossings and ragged urchins 
vended matches and newspapers; but young beaux ap- 
peared "with I^vron collars and whiskers under their 
chins" and women displaved bright attire. "Heaven 
save the ladies," wrote Boz, "how thev dress. We have 
seen more colors in these ten minutes than we could 
have seen elsewhere in as many days, \^'hat various 
parasols, what rainbow silks and satins, what pinching 
of thin shoes, and fluttering of ribbons and silk tassels, 
and display of rich cloaks with gaudy hoods and lin- 
ings!" Another traveller asserted that the finerv worn 
by the women was astounding, "That the show of 
shawls, bonnets, feathers, furs, and waists pinched al- 
most to nothing was astonishing, and that any fine day 
you could see enough velvet yt four dollars a yard to 
cover Broadway from one end to the other." Mc- 
Master says that "Fashion and luxury were running 
riot, and there were now a Ladies' Oyster Shop, a 

'•*/^</»Vi' \fajfatine (Sivannah), vol. i, 14. 

"^ Male and Ntcrritt. History of Trnnrssrr and Trnnnsrrans, vol. ii, 420. 

The Reign of Self-indulgence 233 

Ladies' Reading Room, and a Ladies' Bowling Alley 
with luxurious carpets and ottomans, and dressing 
rooms, and girls to set up the pins."'" 

The number oi servants employed was continually 
growing. People that used to tlo their work often 
hired help. In Atlantic cities and villages "we find 
the wives of j(jurneymen mechanics and laborers fol- 
lowing . . pernicious example set by the wealthy 
or those who are making a show of being such."'" 

In the absence of proper intellectual interests, fashion 
received inordinate attention. There was conspicuous 
consumption in the house. The wife made drudges of 
the servants. Thackeray wrote in New '^'ork: "It 
suffices that a man should keep a fine house, give par- 
ties, and have a daughter, to get all the world to him." 
Olmsted wrote in 1859: 

A woman may have spent a year in learninK how a loaf of 
bread and a dish of soup can be made, a steak broiled, and a 
potato boiled, in a perfectly wholesome and yet palatable man- 
ner; thinj^ which it is certain that not one American man or 
woman amon^ a thousand has ever seen. . . She may have 
spent ten years in the study of beauty, of taste and domestic 
fine art, and thus possess an unfailing power of self-cheerinc 
and of elevating the lives of all in her house, and it will com- 
mand for her, if her husbanil is a bookkeeper, or an editor, or 
an actor, on a small salary, less respect and less influence - tt)r 
her children, less exterior social advantages - than the woman 
with no solid acquirements will possess, it her husband is able to 
pay one thousand dollars rent for a stone veneered dwelling, 
and furnish a stylish carriage for her to send cards from. 

Perhaps I am wrong in saying that this is so. I believe in 
New York it is not so. But such is the general opinion, and 
by this unfortunate opinion the m.xss of young minds .ire 
ruled. There are ... so few houses built in our 

towns with prime regard to health and simple convenience, and 

"" McMastfr. History of Ihf Pfof^lf of ihf I'nilfJ Sttit/t (1910), vol. vii, 


'"•Ciravcs. U'omitn in .Imrrica, 84. 

234 7//t' .1 nitfii tin liinitly 

there arc so few of us suflRciently ctlucated as purveyors and 
cooLs, to provide a palatable variety ot ^ood food, except at a 
wxstetul expense, that a larj^e income is really made necessary 
for a merely wholesome and comfortable family life. 

Stirling in his Lfttcrs from tin- Slave States dcciarcil : 
The dresses of American women m-nrrally. at least of tin- lu-w 
rich class, arc Sf»methinii fabulous in evpcnse. The 

dresses of ladies in New Orleans. I am told (and by New 
Orleans people) are often equal [to] those of your crowned 
heads. . Ladies [in that city] think nothing of expend- 

ing a larjje proi>ortion of the profits of a year's trade on a few 
dresses. [Husband] WDrks, or speculates, and his wife 

wears the sf>olia opima. [Land in America is t(K) cheap to 
create adequate social distinction. ^Our \\ ife's back is the only 
place to display your wealth.] 

As has already been iiuiieateci. reckless expenditure 
brought many families to tiisaster. .\ nia^a/ine of 
1819 cited the New ^'ork National Advfjcatc to the 
effect that New York merchants were failing. Some 
of their houses had been furnished e(]ual to those of the 
British nobilitv. Several of the bankrupts had spent 
ten thousand dollars per vear for ten years in houses, 
carriages, and wines. A merchant would rent a house 
for one thousand or twelve hundred dollars. 

Whv will families plunge themselves in ruin, merely to live 
a tew years in luxury? . . . While . . . amiable 
wives are . anxiously strut^^linj: to >:et rid of their 

husbands' motu-y, their husbands ... are toiling in the 
sun, borrowing, at large premiums, in Wall St., and doing all 
to preserve their credit, while their unthinking companions arc 
plunging them into deeper difficulties. . . Why buy a plat- 
ed soup tureen for forty dollars? - will not one of china for 
five df)llars do full as well- [other things likewise]. The ec- 
centricities of f.ishion are ruining families by wholesale. 

In the same magazine was this statement: 

I was told that several bankruptcies occurred lately in Bal- 
timore, among merchants who had foolishly lived like nabobs- 

The Reign of Self-indulgence 235 

and I also heard, that their wives and daughter behaved 
well . . . and resij^ned their luxuries and extravagancies 
without a sigh."*" 

The New York Literary (iiizctti- in 1S25 contained 
warning against wifely expensiveness. In the LaJies' 
Magazine (Boston) of 1830 fortune was said to he pre- 
carious in America. "Family wealth" was relatively 
unknown. "Marriage settlements, properly speaking, 
are almost unknown." People were reckless. Extrav- 
agant women, lavishing large sums on foolish finery or 
extravagant housekeeping, were exhorted to remember 
this. In Grund's Aristocracy in America it was said: 
With us, where young men without fortunes marry, at the age 
of twenty-one, girls of eighteen that have no money either, 
where the husband relics solely on his wits for supporting his 
wife and children, but few men can indulge themselves in reck- 
less expenditure without growing indifferent as t<j the ways 
and means of paying their debts. . With all the morality, 

virtue, and beauty of our women, they are but helpless crea- 
tures. The wife of one of our young "merchants of respect- 
ability" requires more waiting than, in proportion to her rank, 
an English peeress; and, ten chances to one. does not even un- 
derstand superintending her servants. The husband has to 
take care of his household. 

Craving for finery resulted in reckless speculation 
and ruin. "\N'itness the innumerable instances," said 
Mrs. Graves, "of families by these causes plunged from 
afHuence into the depths of povertv." (ira/nnn's Mag- 
azine of 1843 gave a story of a "Decayeii Family." 
The father demanded retrenchment. The familv was 
extravagant; he as bad as they. They did. however, 
cut down expenses. F'inally failure came. In the 
I.dtlies' Repository ( Giruinnati ) of IS4^, a minister 
wrote: "Many a husband ami father is being made 

^^° iMiiifs' Mat^iitirtr (Savannah), vol. i, 137, ij8, 156. 

236 1 lit- American Family 

bankrupt by female extravai^ance. [Some ladies even 
boast ignorance ol domestic science.]" Greeley in 1850 
said : 

Half tlif mrn who arc loathed as dranKinn tlowii thrir faiui- 
lics to shanir and drstitution arc really themselves dra^'^ed 
down hy those famih'es - driven to bankruptcy, shanic, and 
crime by the thounhtiess and basely selfish extravacancc of wife 
and children. Let a man be in the way of receivinjj consid- 
erable niuney, and havinjj property in his hands, and his fam- 
ily can rarely be made to comprehend ;md realize that there is 
any limit to his ability to j^ivc and spend. The man of 

means or of business is too often regarded by his family as a 
sponge to be squeezed, a {joose to be plucked, an orange to be 
sucked. . . Not one of them could bear to disgrace him by 
earning a dollar; they couKln't go out shabbily drest, for fear 
his credit would suffer. 

'J'hc husband was often to bianic nevertlu-less in that 
he did not make his wife ac(|uainted with his affairs. 
One writer had saiil : "Her husband's hair stands on 
vuKi at the idea of her working, and he toils to indulge 
her with money." Another wrote in a magazine of 

[She] knows nothing -has not even an idea of her husband's 
fortune. . She spends, as a matter of course, all he gives 

her to spend with the full confidence that when that is gone, 
and she asks for it. he will give her more. Many a wife 

who is plunging her husband deeper and deeper into debt 
through ign(jrance. wf)uld, if she knew his embarrassment be 
the first to retrench [and] help . . reinstate his falling 


It is easy to imagine how children were reared in the 
circles of economic surplus. Timothy Dwight as ear- 
ly as I 82 1 assertcti that 

People of fa,shion in Boston and elsewhere often try to ni;ike 
their children objects of admiration. Children arc brought 
into the presence of guests for praise and show off. Children 
Icarn that the end of their efforts and existence is appearance 

The Reign of Self-inJulgence i^J 

only. Girls are taught to regard dress as a momentous con- 
cern. Girls are reared in romance and unreality. 

Children came to be neglected. Grund said: "The 
education of the children is only at the extreme North 
and South . . superintended pcr<<»ii.ill\ hv the 


According to Mrs. Graves, an oft- repeated Ameri- 
can ma.xim was: "Girls should enjoy themselves while 
single, because, poor things, they will have trouble 
enough when they are married." A young lady re- 
marked: "I do not kFiow how some of my acquaint- 
ances find time to do their own sewing; mine is whollv 
taken up in dressing myself, paying morning calls, and 
sitting on the sofa to receive my visitors." Through 
the eyes of Mrs. Graves: 

We see mothers toilinj:; on from day tn day; overwhelmed u ith 
the pressure of domestic cares; wearing out their lite and short- 
ening its natural period by exertions to which their age and 
failing strength are wholly inadequate; and who still permit 
their daughters to waste their hours in idleness or in trifling 
occupations, and neglect to call upon them for that assistance 
they so much need. . . We often see aged fathers, whose 
few remaining locks are whitened by the many years that have 
passed over them, still treading with trembling steps the same 
fatiguing round of business duties, while their sons are. per- 
haps, rioting in dissipation or li\ing in indolence, on the means 
thus painfully accumulated; and many, many a toil-spent, 
"time-worn mother." too. still hastening with anxious solici- 
tude to answer every call for every member of the family, as 
if her part in the duties of life was not only to have waited 
upon her children in infancy but to conduct them to an easy 
and luxurious old age; in short to spare their feet from 
walking, their hands from labor, and their heads from 
thought. . . Look around upon the groups of young fe- 
males who crowil our private parties or public balls; who 
lounge upon the sofa receiving visits, or throng the city prom- 
enades to exhibit their decorated persons or to'- moi-ninjj 

238 The American Family 

calls, aiul liiiw many can sou point out aniont:; thcni w lio have 
fulfilled one useful purpose of existence to themselves to their 
families or to s(Kiety. And all this waste of time and energy 
in the pursuit of folly is in the hope of becominji; thereby can- 
tlidates for matrimony, while by this very means they are un- 
tittinjj themselves for the situation they arc seekinj; to attain. 

Coxc said in 1842 : 

I apprehenil ^reat and aliixtst incalculable evil has been pro- 
duced by this ambitious feelin^, so prevalent amon^ the moth- 
ers of America. If we look around on every side, we behold 
innumerable examples of women, who are practicinK self-denial 
and enduring privation, not in reality to train their children 
for the stations to which God has appointed them, but to eilu- 
cate them above the place which they will probably be called 
on to fill; and who have thus, strictly speaking, been the en- 
emies anil not the true friends of the objects of their affections. 

Probably in this last instance we must blame the in- 
adequacy of means for real education. Parents them- 
selves had been poorly educated and accordini^ to 
Duncan (1852), at an examination of their children 
often exhibited weariness when the subjects of investi- 
gation were solid. 

In no country shall we find more lovely examples of cheerful 
domestic union, or more honorable and self-denying exertion on 
the part of the parents, in sharing and lightening the studies 
of their children . . but, in the ever-changing mass of 

people in the maritime and commercial cities, such steadfast and 
enlightened characters arc far from being the majority. 

Hotel and boarding-house life constituted a striking 
phenomenon of the generation before the Civil War.'^' 
Numerous causes contributed to this abandDinncnt of 


'"Holme*. Acrount of the Vnitrd States, 355; Martinrau. Society in 
America, vol. iii, 132-135; (Jrund. Aristocracy in America, vol. i, 125; Arf- 
wedton. The I'niteJ States and Canada, vol. i, 33-34; Von Raumer. America 
and the Ameriran People, 500; Maury. Englishiuoman in America, part i, 
J93. 196-197; Markay. fVestern H'orld, vol. i, 220-221; Duncan. America as 
I found it, 161-174; Bunn. Old England and Xeii- England, 37-42; Milburn. 
Pioneer Preacher, if,(,; Bodichon. H'omen and ff^ork, 16-20; Grattan. Civil' 

The Reign of Sclf-iiululgence 239 

the home: boys and girls marrying before they were 
ready for the cares and troubles of housekeeping t<Jok 
to boarding; the possibility of this course encouraged 
early marriage. Young married people constituted a 
large part of the clientele of the boarding establish- 
ments. 1 he life was livelier than could be fcjund in 
the seclusion of a home, and attracted young women 
still in giddy girlhood. It was a comfort to have no 
housework or other duties; plenty of time was available 
for amusements. In addition, boarding was thought to 
be more economical than housekeeping; it was some- 
times hard to get houses, and rents were in some cases 
excessive. The high standard of living of the "better" 
class made housekeeping too expensive for persons of 
limited means. "I know many an American that is 
now living in Europe merely because he does not wish 
to board, and is not rich enough to keep house accord- 
ing to our expensive fashion," said one person before 
1840. The scarcity, uncertainty, and difficulty of man- 
aging servants was another contributing factor. Al- 
most any city family, even the wealthiest, might, at 
some time, try this manner of life. Probably the 
responsibility lay chiefly with the wives. This care- 
less public existence often continued from a couple's 
youth to their maturity and might even be resumed af- 
ter a period of housekeeping. P^ven in the South the 
usage found entrv. Stirling in Ltlttts from the Slavt' 
States wrote from New Orleans that "the St. Charles 
Motel is a characteristic picture of American 

life." Owing to the scarcity and unsatisfactory cjuality 
of servants, he said, it was natural for the American 
girl-wife to seek refuge in a hotel. .Another contribu- 

izfd Amrrica, vol. i, 109-113; Oldmixon. Transallantii H'anJfriHft, 37; 
Mackay. I.ifr and Liberty in .imrrica, 3034. 

240 The American Family 

tory factor was the feebleness ol ihc domestic tie be- 
tween parents anil chlKlren in Anicrica. Accoriiini; to 
Slirlini^, tlie young American ni\ reaching self-support 
left home for a neighboring hotel. In summer, north- 
ern hotels were full of planters ami their families; in the 
winter, the reverse occur rcii. I^lanters spent one or 
more weeks or months in winter with their families 
at New Orleans. "In every large town in the Unit- 
ed States," sail! Mrs. Bodichon, "There are five or 
six (in some places t\venty or more) large hotels or 
boarding-houses containing several hundred inhabitants 
each. This hotel popuhition mainly consists of families 
who live altogether in hotels." 

It goes without saying that in hotels and boarding- 
houses real familv life was impossible. The women 
were free to gossip, and having nothing else to do, were 
prone to enjoy this freedom. Conditions were highly 
unfavorable to the character and happiness of young 
couples; there was little of the essential privacy; what 
shouhi have been family secrets became public prop- 
erty, ami differences between husband and wife were 
complicated by the "sympathy" of meddlesome on- 
lookers. The life ministered to selfishness, laziness, 
and vanity in the women or to positive vice; it offered 
no training for home-making, but rather tended to be- 
get carelessness and want of forethought. Mrs. Bodi- 
chon said : 

These [hotel] "ladies" have not the cultivation which glosses 
over the lives of so many women in F^urope, and does fjivc 
them some solid value in society as upholders of the arts and 
literature, hut are generally very ignorant and full of the 
strangest affectations and pretentions. The young ladies, espe- 
cially, reminded me of certain women I have seen in Scraglifjs, 
whose whole time was taken up in dressing and painting their 
faces; with this difference, tin- l.idirs of the East spend their 

I lie Rt'ign of St'lj-indiilgence 241 

days in adorning themselves to please one lord and master - the 
ladies of the West to please all the lords of creation. 

Especially was the homeless life pernicious for the 
children on account of unsuitable food, excitement, ami 
the promiscuous associations of life in public. 

The dangers of female parasitism even outside of 
hotel life were arousing discussion. In the period be- 
fore the War the importance of giving women a means 
of livelihood independent of marriage was discussed by 
the press. The necessity of greater activity among wo- 
men was urged vehemently by the newspapers in the 
belief that "the health of the mothers of men . . . 
is deteriorating in America in consequence of the ex- 
treme idleness and luxury in which the ladies live." 
Women were menials or idlers in too many cases. For 
want of discipline of the mind "large numbers of our 
married women degenerate into housekeeping drudges 
or drones, with scarce a thought above cooking and 
dusting, fall into scandalmongering, or what is worse 
into the wTetched and painful boarding-house life of 
towns and cities, sink into intrigue, wantonness, and de- 
struction." Professions for the idle hotel-women "are 
necessary to save their souls from the devil, and to save 
their husbands, too, from that terrible treadmill, that 
'everlasting grind' in which American men live." 

It must be remembered in retrospect of the ground 
so far covered in this volume that new world influences, 
the rise of industrialism, and the development of urban 
luxury were contemporaneous. The first factor was, 
indeed, soonest in the field, and the last was largelv a 
matter of the generation before the Civil War, but in 
order to understand that generation the three factors 
must be thought together. In a sense the latter two 
were different phases of the same thing; exploitation 

242 riic .Inurn (in /•titmlx 

and parasitism at opposite poles, but alike wreckint; the 
family. Duriiiii; the period so far covered, the special 
advantages of the new continent hei^an to he of less sig- 
nificance in shaping institutions, and the artificial proc- 
esses of commercialism and industrialism came to play 
an increasing role. In some particulars the three fac- 
tors tended in the same direction, e. g., in the matter of 
unsettling family traditions. On the whole, however, 
the influence exerted directly hy the conditions ot the 
developing continent was wholesome while the earlier 
manifestations of the new economic forces of indus- 
trialism, though not without their redeeming features, 
were ominous. Hy the time of the Civil War, the 
problem of the family had assumed, at least in outline, 
the character that it wears to-day. Before stutiying the 
consequences of that struggle upon the family, it is 
necessary to examine in some detail the distinctive fea- 
tures of the familv in the old South. 


During the period covered in this volume the South 
was becoming more unlike the North. The senescence 
of chatteldom expressed itself in institutions markedly 
different from those that nascent capitalism bestowed 
upon the North; different also from the usages of the 
new West. How much the new world movement and 
the counter-trend of industrial exploitation affected the 
civilization of the Slave States may be better estimated 
after a specific survey of the old South. 

Of family life in the old South, as indeed of all the 
social institutions, the suzerain was Slavery. The chat- 
tel system avenged by its pollutions the exploitation em- 
bodied in it. The threshold to our study of the vaunted 
family life of the South must be a study of the sex and 
family relations of the slave race. These were extra- 
moral phenomena-the behavior of irresponsible cattle. 
If the blacks were gross and bestial, so would our race 
be under a like bondage; so it is now when driven by 
capitalism to the lower levels of misery. The allegedly 
superior morality of the master race or class is not an 
inherent trait hut merelv a function of economic ease 
and ethical tradition. 

In some cases, negro-breeding was carried on like 
that of animals. A Charleston advertisement of ne- 
groes for sale stated "they were purchased for stock and 
breeding negroes. :\n^\ to aiiv piaiiter who particularly 
wanted them for that purpose, thev are a verv choice 

244 ^^''' ''JfHi'riitui I'lunily 

and desirable ^an^." Another notice read: "I-'or 
Sale- a CJirl abt)ut t\vcnt\-nine years of age, raiscil, in 
\'irginia, ami lier two teniale children. She is 

very prolitic in her generating ijualities, and aftords a 
magnificent opportunity to any man who wishes to raise 
a family of healthy niggers for his own use."'*' 

When a young man hail a tine family the planter 
very often forced him to serve as a stallion. A gentle- 
man interrogated a line-looking fugitive slave as to 
why he luid run awav. 1 he man was slow to reply: 
said he was not cruelly treated but ditl not like his work. 
When presses! to explain he reluctantly said that he had 
been kept "as a breeding man, in order to improve the 
stock of little niggers for the market. Similar 

statements are whispereil from other cjuarters." '*' 

A "Stranger in America" wrote in 1807 that the ne- 
gresscs were valued for their fecundity. "The infant 
slave is generally valued at a year's service of the 
mother, ami as she is compelled to work, three parts of 
the time she is breeiiing and nursing, planters are very 
attentive to this mode of enhancing the value of their 
estates." In Virginia it was common for planters to 
commaml girls and women to have children. ( )n a 
Carolina plantation of about one hundred slaves the 
owner threatened to (log all of tlie women to death be- 
cause thev didn't breed. "Thev told him thev could 
not while they had to work in rice ditches (in f)ne or 
two feet of water). .After swearing and threatening 
he told them to tell the overseer's wife, when they got in 
that way. and he would put them on the land to work." 

In iS^2 K.\-gr)vernor Randolph of Virginia protested 
against the state's being made a slave breeding mcnag- 

^** Dofumfntary lliilory of .■Imrriian InJustrial Socirty, vol. ii, 57-58; 
Suppmsfd Book about Slavery, 175. 

•" No«l. Frffdom and Slavery in the United Stales, 87; Newman. Char- 
acter of the Southern Stales of /Imerira, 8-9. 

Negro Sex and Family Relations 245 

erie.'''* Olmsted found that most gentlemen of char- 
acter in Virginia objected to discussing the slave-trade 
and that it was denied warmly that slaves arc often bred 
for sale. But "that a slave woman is commonly es- 
teemed . . . most for those qualities which give 
value to a brood-mare is . . . constantly made ap- 
parent." A slave-holder wrote him: 

In . . . Maryland, V'ir^iinia, North Carolina, Ken- 
tucky, Tennessee, and Missouri as much attention is paid to 
the breeding and growth of negroes as to that of horses and 
mules. P\irthcr South we raise them both for use and for 
market. Planters command their girls and womi-n (married 
or unmarried) to have children; and I have known a great 
many negro girls to be sold of? because they did not have 
children. A breeding woman is worth from one-sixth to one- 
fourth more than one that does not breed. '*^ 

An admixture of white blood tended to improve the 
breed. About the end of the eighteenth century in Vir- 
ginia an orphan white girl was identured to a man wjio 
died insolvent and left her thus in the hands of a cred- 
itor. He treated her as a slave and compelled her to 
cohabit with a negro, by whom she had several chil- 
dren. After long litigation she and her children were 
declared free. Obviously profit-seeking abetted sensu- 
ality; for, said Ferrall in 1832 "if the offspring . . . 
be a handsome female, from eight hundred to one 
thousand dollars may be obtained for her in the Orleans 
market. It is an occurrence of no uncommon nature 
to sec the Christian father sell his own daughter, and 
the brother his own sister." One planter offered a 
white man twenty dollars for every impregnation of a 
female slave -his purpose being to improve the brcrd 
Elliott remarked that 

Great solicitude is often manifested th.nt the breeding wenches. 

'**\\'vsc. .Imrridi, its Rfntilifs and Rfsourcfi, vol. ii, 8-9. 
''"Olmsted. Cotton KingJnm, vol. i, 57-58. 

246 1 III' .hui ru (in idniilx 

as they call them, should be the mothers of mulatto children, 
as the nearer the young slaves approach to white the hij^her 
will their price be, especially it they arc females. . . Some 
affirm that rewards are sometimes ^iven to white males, who 
will consent to be the fathers of mulattoes. 

Xcwniaii remarked that "the master's lieeiitinusncss does 
but breed for him a peculiarly valuable stock of cat- 
tle."''" Tradition still lingers of the importation of 
college boys from the North to spent! a profitable sum- 
mer improving the slave breed. 

There seem, hnwcvcr. to have been circumstances 
(probably altered market conditions) that sometimes 
worked against such miscegenation. Marryat in 1837- 
1838 reconled that planters of Virginia and other east- 
ern states did not encourage intercourse with negresses. 
[Young men visitors] cannot afiront them more than to take 
notice of their slaves, particularly the li^litcr colored, who are 
retained in the house and attend upon their w ives and dau^zh- 
ters. Independent of the moral feeling which really guides 
thrm (as they naturally do not wish that the attendants of 
their daughters should he degraded) it is against their interest 
in case they should w i>h to sell ; as a mulatto or light male 
will not fetch as high a price as a full-blooded negro; the 
cross betw^'n the Kuropcan and the negro, especially the first 
cross ... is f>f a sickly constitution, and quite unable to 
bear up against the fatigue of field labor in the West. As the 
race becomes whiter, the stamina is said to improve. 

Slave conditions furnished facilities for spontaneous 
sensuality. .Mr. Jefferson said that the negroes "are 
more ardent after their females," but an anonymous 
commentator added : "If thev appear so (though I am 
by no means satisfied of the fact) I think it may be 

"*• Abdy. Journal of a Rfsidrncr anJ Tntir in the Vn'ited Stairs, vol. iii, 
9-10; Ffrrall. Ramble of Six Thousand Milrs throuifh the United States, 
195; American Anti-«Iavcr>- Societ>'. Ameriran Slavery as it is, i6; Elliott. 
Sinfulness of /tmeriean Slavery, vol. i, 154; Newman. Character of the South- 
ern States of .'Imerica, 7. 


Negro Sex and Family Relations 247 

fairly ascribed to the greater facilities of indulging a 
criminal intercourse which their manners, morals, and 
mode of living impose upon tlic violence of their pas- 
sions." Yet "love seems with tiiem to be more an eager 
desire, than a tender, delicate mixture of sentiment and 
sensation." Carolinians said: "Oh, there is no dan- 
ger of a nigger being at a loss for a wife, or a wench in 
finding a husband upon any estate." Slaves paired at 
discretion and the more chihlren the better for the mas- 
ter. In 1834 Mr. Seabrook of South Carolina said: 
In general, the intercourse bi-tuorn servants is as unrestrained 
as the most unbounded ambition could desire. The daily bus- 
iness of the plantation having been finished . . . the mas- 
ter . . . knows not, and apparently cares not, in what 
way the hours of the nij^ht are passed by his people. 

A man who spent some time in the South in 1837-1838 
said: "I have seen from forty to sixty, male and fe- 
male, at work in a held, many of both sexes . 
entirely naked -who did not exhibit signs of shame more 
than cattle." Many slaves worked, especially in sum- 
mer, with only a breech-clout. Clothes were often so 
torn as not to serve common decency. Women worked 
in warm weather clad in a short petticoat with some 
covering for their breasts. Slave huts were ordinarily 
small and cramped. Men, women, and children often 
lay down together. Sometimes persons of both sexes 
were thrown together without regard to family rela- 
tions. Gorling said that when a negress became a 
mother, the father generally treated her as wife; the 
master would "set them up." 

The promiscuities of chatteldom must have spreail 
disease among both races. A Georgia overseer wrote 
to his employer that two negroes 

Are down with the venereal disease, Die and Sary. Doctor 
Jenkins has been ;ifr<tii!iti!' Die four weeks :mi(1 very little al- 

248 riw .1 till rudu iiiimly 

tcration as I can learn. It is very hard to gel the truth but 
from what 1 cari Irarn S;iry i^ot it trom Friday. 1 have {^ot 
Mr. Hrou^liton niiw to diKtor those that are yet to take it as 
I have been infornird he is a very ^;ood hand. 

At the bottom is a note, probably by the owner: "IVi- 
dav is the house servant sent to lletreat every suiiinKT. 
I have all the servants e.xainined before they leave 
Savannah." in view of the miscegenation detailed in 
the foUowinj^ chapter, one is prompted to surmise that 
the proverbial "delicacy" of the ladies of the South may 
ha\e been, at least in sonic measure, the result of ve- 
nereal disease cnntracted from their self-indulgent 

It should not be supposed, however, that ne^ro sex 
relations went entirely uncensored. Some masters re- 
strainc(i se.\ relations in order to prevent irregularities 
that mi^ht hurt male labor or female fecundity. Large 
owners often refused to allow marriage off the place. 
An essav on management of slaves written by Robert 
Collins of Macon, Georgia anil printed in many south- 
ern papers, says that marriage abroad should be avoided 
as it tends to trouble. 

They cannot live tojjether as they ou^ht, and are constantly 
liable to separation. .Many of them look upon their 

obligation to each other very lightly; but in others, a^ain, is 
found a de;;ree of faithfulness, fidelity, and affection, which 
«)wners admire; and hence they always dislike to separate those 
manifesfinp such traits. 

Sentiment was a precarious safeguard however. The 
St. Louis Rt'puhlican in I8^4 reported the complaint 
of a free negress that her husband has taken another 
wife. "As the subject of the second marriage is a slave, 
and some fears being entertained that lie might take 
her out of the state to the injury of the master, the City 
Marshall sent some police officers and had 

him arrested." 

Negro Sex and Family Relations 249 

Slave marriage was likely to involve the master's 
consent. Maryland forbade ministers to marry slaves 
without the owner's consent, under penalty of a heavy 
fine. In North Carolina free negroes were forbidden to 
cohabit with slaves without the written consent of the 
master and in 1830 even the master's consent was made 
ineffectual. Of course slaves could have no legal mar- 
riage and often there was not even a marriage form. 
The reverend Mr. Long, a Maryland man, said just 
before the War: "Masters seldom attach any impor- 
tance to the marriage of their slaves. This is shown by 
refusing to give the slave money to pav his marriage 

Favorite house servants might be honored with a 
pompous ceremony in the great house under the aus- 
pices of the white folks. Often there was a negro wed- 
ding at the holidays. The master might officiate, or a 
colored preacher might perform the ceremony in the 
quarters. "It was a gay occasion, and the dusky bride's 
trousseau had been arranged by her young mistress, and 
the family was on hand to get fun out of the entertain- 
ment, and to recognize by their presence the solemnity 
of the tie." In some cases proper ceremony was a re- 
quirement of the master, who provided the partners. 

The tie was as easily undone as formed. Unless the 
master enforced the bond a slave could leave his wife 
when he tired of her. There was little to emphasize the 
sanctity of the marital relation. Yet Hiiilreth asserts 
that "more husbands and wives among the slaves are 
separated by the hammer of the auctioneer, than bv the 
united influence of infidelity, disgust, or the desire of 
change." Yet a 

Gay carpenter's wife was a woman of serious sentiments. 
They did not aprrec very well. She had informed her 

owner that, if he would like to take her into the country with 

250 The A till- tic an Family 

him, she had no particuhir objections to being separated from 
her husband ... he was "so gay." 

A mother ot thirteen children left their father and went 
with another nian. A maid in South Carolina pre- 
ferred to go to Alabama with her mistress who married, 
rather than stay with her husband. She got a new man. 
On the occasion of a contemplated visit to the old place 
she laughed as she spoke of probably meeting her old 
husband. An overseer when asked whether marital 
partners were true to each other laughed heartily and 
"described a disgusting state of things. Women were 
almost common property, though sometimes the men 
were not all inclined to acknowledge it; for when 1 
asked: 'Do you not try to discourage this?' the overseer 
answered: *No, not unless they quarrel.'" The wife 
of an Alabama pastor says that a certain Colly could 
not be made to see the guilt of forsaking his lawful 
wife and taking another. She was too extravagant he 
said and he left her for some better-ofY nigger. He was 
distressed at ofTending his master but his conscience was 

Not one in a thousanil. I suppose, of these poor creatures have 
any conception whatever of the sanctity of marriage ; nor can 
they be made to have ; yet, strange to say, they are perfect 
models of conjugal fidelity and devotion while the temporary 
bondage lasts. I have known them to walk miles after a hard 
day's work, not only occasionally, but every night, to see the old 
woman, and cut her wood for her, etc. But to see the coolness 
with which they throw off the yoke is diverting in the extreme. 

This lady was amused at an attempt of a negro woman 
to discard her husband. The reverend Doctor Mal- 
lard, however, writing on plantation life says: "There 
were as many faithful husbands and wives, we believe, 
as are to be found among the working white population 
in any land." Jealousy was operative. A mulatto 

Negro Sex and Family Relations 251 

child was born to a black cook in Tennessee. Her hus- 
band hated the child and threatened her life so that she 
had to be sent away. Such facts were frequent. 

Of course slaves could have no guarantee of family 
ties. There was no such thing as legitimacy of chil- 
dren. The attorney-general of Maryland declared: 
"A slave has never maintained an action against the 
violation of his bed. A slave is not admonished for in- 
continence, or punished for fornication or adultery- 
never prosecuted for bigamy. . ." Marriage was a 
temporary contract dissoluable at any time at the ca- 
price of the master. Booker Washington wrote: 

In the days of slavery not very much attention was p;ivcn 
to . . . family records - that is, black family records. . 
Of my father I know even less than of my mother. I do not 
even know his name. I have heard reports to the efifect that 
he was a white man who lived on one of the near-by planta- 
tions. . . I never heard of his taking . . . interest in 
me or providing in any way for my rearing. 

The full property right of the master involved, of 
course, the right to break up families and sell the mem- 
bers apart, and this right was frequently exercised. 
When Miss Martineau asked a southern lady, "Is it 
possible that you pair and part these people like 
brutes?" the lady looked surprised and asked what else 
could be done. When slave mothers wished to keep 
their children quiet they threatened them with the ne- 
gro buyer. One woman had three husbands sold from 
her in three years by reason of the straightened circum- 
stances of the master. A fugitive slave from Kentucky 
complained that his "wife was sold at a great price to a 
French profligate for vile purposes." There was re- 
lated the case of a quintcroon daughter of a Scotchman 
who thought himself legally married. Nine children 
were kept in slavery. Delia, in sight of brother and 

1 hi' .1 nil in tin Itirnily 

mother, was brutally whipped because she would not 
submit to a new master's lust. When he could not pre- 
vail he sold her (o a New ( )rlcans brothel, ller beauty 
attracted a Kreiuhinan who took her to Mexico, eman- 
cipated, atui married her. One master was for live 
years doubtlul about selling a man and would not let 
him marry a woman because he did not like to part hus- 
band and wite. .Meanwhile the pair had four chil- 
ilren. A violent ne^ro wife tried to kill her husband 
with an a.\e. 'Ihe master sold her to a New Orleans 
trader in order to ^et her away but he sold her to a 
nearby planter. She threatened to kill anv ^irl her 
husband miL,dit take; so he had to stav single till her 
death. One ne^ro man ami wife about to be separated 
coriimitted suicide. A younu; mulatto girl, favorite of 
her master and disposed of on his marriage, did like- 
wise when she found that she was not being taken to her 
mother as promised. At Xew Orleans a doctor bought 
an old woman over si.\ty, mother of twenty-one chil- 
dren, all of whom at different times had been sold in the 
New Orleans market. In order to induce her to leave 
home (juietlv she was toM that she would be put with 
some of her chiklren. "And no," she said, "aldo I 
suckle mv massa at dis breast, vet now he sell me to 
sugar planter after he sell all my chihiren away from 
me." At '^'orkville. South Carolina, a negress was ex- 
ecuted for murdering her child. She did it because she 
was going to be sold away from her little one. An old 
man besought a lady with tears to buv his little bf)ys, 
as his master was about to sell them to Louisiana where 
he could never see them again. rhe lady did not want 
them ; so thcv w ere carried off. A St. Louis master sold 
a slave to a driver. Determined not to part from a 
beloved wife, he said to a prospective purchaser: "If 

Negro Sex and Family Reiations 253 

you buy me you must buy my wife too. [Then] I will 
willingly go. But if you dnn\ I shall never be of any 
use to you." Repelled, he cut his throat. In another 
case the wife became a raving maniac. 

Heartrending scenes occurred at slave auctions where 
families were separated. A train passenger described 
pitiful parting of wives and husbands sold apart, at 
which none of the passengers expressed sympathy. 

Young ladies, daufjhters of slaveholders, well educated, con- 
nected with refined families, were in the cars, but they did not 
.seem to pity the poor despairing; slaves. They iauj^hed at 
them and ridiculed their expressions of grief. "Look out here," 
said one to a schoolmate opposite, "just see those niggers! 
What a rumpus they are making! Just as if niggers cared 
anything about their babies! See CuflFee kiss Dinah! What 
a taking on! Likely as not he will have another wife next 

In 1835 the Presbyterian Synod of Kentucky pub- 
lished an address to their churches as follows: 

Brothers and sisters, parents and children, husbands and wives, 
are torn asunder and permitted to see each other no more. 
These acts are daily occurring in the midst of us. The shrieks 
and agony often witnessed on such occasions proclaim with a 
trumpet tongue, the iniquity of our system. There is not a 
neighborhood where these heartrending scenes are not displayed ; 
there is not a village or road that does not behold the sad pro- 
cession of manacled outcasts, whose mouriitul countenances tell 
that they arc exiletl by force, from all that their hearts hoM dear. 

A pamphlet on Virginia described slaves driven along 
fastened by iron chains "attended by a black woman, a 
reliance on whose conjugal or sisterlv affection pre- 
vented the application of handculfs or neck collars." 

Professor Andrews, sometime of the I'niversitv of 
South Carolina, inquired of a slave-trader near Wash- 
ington. "Do you often buy the wife without the hus- 
band?" "Yes, very often; and frcijuentlv too they sell 

254 Tilt' .1 nil I iKin Jiiniily 

me the mother while they keep the children. 1 have 
ulicn known tlicm to take away the infant from its 
mother's breast, aiul keep it wliilst they sold her." 
Farmers near Washington breil slaves like cattle for 
market and eared no more lor mother's agony than for 
the lowing of a c«)w. A standing advertisement in 
Charleston papers read: "Several small boys without 
their mother." A Cicorgia female slave had a chilil by 
one of the master's visitors. When the child grew up, 
it was thought desirable for its father's sake to send it 
away. The mother threatened to sulk and kill the boy. 
Accordingly she was sold to west Georgia anti the boy 
to South Carolina. "Such separations," says Bucking- 
ham, "are quite common, and appear to be no more 
thought of, by those who enforce them, than the separa- 
tion of a calf from its . . . parent." 

\\'hitc citizens of North and I^ast often kidnapped 
negro children and soltl them south. Many families of 
free colored people in free states mourned over rela- 
tives who had suddenly disappeared- presumably kid- 
napped and sold.'" 

Apologists for slavery tried to condf)ne the separa- 
tion of relatives by comparing it with similar phenom- 
ena among free peoples. 'I'hus the laborer places his 
children to service, many persons left home for the gold 
regions, and "many in Europe have abandoned their 
families for Australia, or the Cnited States, or the 
Canadas." We are told that in practice there was no 
more separation of children from parents in chatteldom 
than in New England families whose children as a rule 
scattered all over the earth. ]n the writings of a trav- 
eller of the early forties we read that "members of the 
same family of negroes arc not so much scattered as are 

'-'Hood. I'nitfd Slatfs Constitution and Sorialism, 23; American and 
foreign Anti-ilavery Society. Tenth Annual Rrport, 86. 

Negro Sex and Family Relations 255 

those of workingmcn in Scotlaiui, whose necessities 
compel them to separate at an age wlien the American 
slave is running about gathering health and strength." 
A northern man thought that "probably in no slave 
state were there more voluntary separations of husbands 
and wives among the slaves than in some of the New 
England states that could be specified for the same 

The influence of the slave system and the attendant 
lack of fundamental morality was disastrous to organ- 
ized religion among both whites and blacks. In gen- 
eral, the clergy were the chattels of the slave power and 
had to acquiesce in the evil; so that some even came to 
accept it as right. In Kentucky "in the kitchen of the 
minister a slave man was living in open adultery with 
a slave woman" church-member while the slave's wife 
was on the minister's farm at another place. The min- 
ister had had to bring a cook but instead of bringing 
the man's wife he had brought this other woman. The 
pastor of an Alabama church had two families of 
slaves, one pair of whom had been married bv a negro 
preacher. The wife's owner robbed the man of his 
wife. The other pair lived in concubinage. Both 
were church-members. Some ministers added a farci- 
cal clause to the marriage formula when used on slaves. 
The reverend Mr. Smith of Sumter County, Alabama, 
added to "death" "some other cause beyond your 
control. ." One Baptist association formally de- 

cided that a slave might lawful! v have several wives - 
that if a slave were sold off a plantation ten, twenty, or 
thirty miles or more, and took another woman, it wouiil 
not injure his standing in the Baptist church. An Ala- 
bama gentleman, c]uestioneii regarding the chastity of 
the so-called pious slaves, admitted that four negro wo- 

256 lilt' .1 nit ru (iti Itiniily 

men had borne children in his own house though all 
were church-incnibcrs in good standing and none had a 
husband. The onlv negro man in the liouse was also a 
church-nicniber but tlie gentleman believed him to be 
the father of the four children. He said further that 
he dill not know of more than one negro woman whom 
he coulil suppose to be chaste, though hosts were mem- 
bers of churches. It was common for a female slave to 
change husbamis and yet retain her church fellow- 
ship. In Missouri "most of the churches admitted that 
the removal of either partv sundered the marriage 

Not all miiiisterial consciences rested easy. The 
Synod of Kentucky (a state where slavery had a pre- 
carious hold) confessed in 1834 that 

The system produces nencral licentiousness amonj; the slaves. 
Marriage, as a civil ordinance, thry cannot enjoy. . . Un- 
til slavery waxeth old, and tt-ndcth to decay, there cannot Ix- any 
lejjal recojjnition of the marrlai^e rite, or the enforcement of its 
consequent duties. For, all the rej^ilations on this subject 
would limit the master's absolute right of property in the 
slaves. In his disposal of them he could no longer he at lib- 
erty to consult merely his own interest. . . Their present 
quasi marriages are continually . . . voided [at the mas- 
ter's pleasure 1. They are, in this way, brought to consider 
their matrimonial alliances as things not binding, and they act 
accordingly. \W are then assured by the most unquestionable 
testimony that licrofJnusncss is the necessary result of our sys- 

In the Lexington LutnitKiry of the same period ap- 
peared the following: 

Chastity is no virtue among them; its violation neither injures 
female characters in their own estimation, nor in that of their 

•'•Amcricm Anti-slavery Society. .Imerirnn Slavery as it is, 47, 180; 
BlitKhard and Rirc. Debate on Slavery, 61; fJlm»ted. Cotton Kirif^dom, vol. 
ii, 227; ,\mrrican ,^nli-SIave^y Society. First Annual Report, 17; Trexler. 
Slax'ery in Missouri, 87. 

Negro Sex and Family Relations 257 

master and mistress. No instruction is ever pvcn, no cen- 
sure pronounced. I speak not of the world. I speak of 
Christian families generally. 

Bishop Polk, strove to preserve the sanctity of family 
life among his servants. He christened their babies 
and gave them a ceremonial wedding in his own home. 
It a couple were guilty of misconduct with each other 
they were compelled to marry but without a wedding 
feast. A Catholic bishop in i860 wrote: "Marriage 
is scarcely known among [the slaves] ; the masters at- 
tach no importance to it. We can judge of the disorders 
which must result from such a state of things in a race 
greatly addicted to the pleasures of the senses." A 
Unitarian minister of St. Louis wrote indignantly that 
"the sham service which the law scorned to recognize 
was rendered by the ministers of the gospel of Christ." 
He adds that a religious ceremony was "according to 
slavery usage in well regulated Christian families." 
The Catholic church in Missouri regularly married 
slaves and held the tie to be as sacred as any other mar- 
riage. One priest stated that Catholics never sold their 
slaves and thus avoided the severing of church mar- 
riages. Record shows, however, that Catholic fam- 
ilies bought and sold many slaves. 

At an annual Methodist Conference in Georgia about 
1850 resolutions were passed in substance as follows: 

Tlic preachers are instructeii to require the colored nienihers 
under their charjje, who may hereafter take a husband or a 
wife, to be married in due form by an ordained preacher or au- 
thorized officer of law. provided the master do not object. 
When church-meml>ers have heretofore agreed to be man and 
wife, or may hereafter be married, thes are not to be allowed, 
voluntarily, to separate, except for Scriptural causes. 

In North Carolina "the marriage of slaves, whatever 
the law might say. was held [by the Baptists! to be 

258 The Anurican Family 

binding before God, and not to be broken if it could be 
avoided." Of course it would have been too much to 
expect the church to attack the system effectively at the 
potent end. 

Apologists for slavery tried to put the best face for- 
ward. An article of 1844 said: 

It is in the memory of many persons, that [the nej^roes] con- 
sidered clothes as an inconvenient encumbrance, that they were 
often almost at the a^c of puberty, seen in a state of perfect 
nakedness. A feeling of self-respect has been inspired, 

and this has brought with it pride of character, modesty, chas- 
tity. . . The proportion of females of irreproachable virtue 
is perhaps not greater in the lowest class in any form of so- 
ciety; while those who put away shame and give themselves up 
to licentious practices are as effectually put out of better society 
among them as among us. Many are still betrayed into youth- 
ful indiscretion, but the connubial tie is now commonly held 
sacred. There is an increasing disposition to consecrate it by 
solemnities, and to strengthen it by the obligations of religion. 
The Kpiscopal minister of the village in which I live, cele- 
brates the rites of matrimony between as many blacks as whites ; 
the white members of the family, with their most intimate 
friends, sometimes witness the ceremony. . . Even admit- 
ting, that, in the essoritial quality of female purity, the slave 
may come short of the class which fills the same place in 
society where slavery is not known ; yet it is . . . with 
the negro, in his primitive state of wild frcrdoni, that the com- 
parison is to be made. The improvement in this respect is 
moreover progressive. At intervals of ten or a dozen years a 
change may be distinctly seen to have taken place, and but little 
further progress is wanting to place the once degraded and 
brutish race on a level in this respect with the lower classes of 
society in the most moral country under the sun."" 

Negro slaves married earlv and sometimes often. 
There were no costly preparations to be considered and 
no ambition of the bride for a mansion. One reminis- 

^'^ Effrci of the Relation belv.'een thr Cnuraiian Master and the Ajr'ican 
Slave, 336. 

Negro Sex and Family Relations 259 

cent gentleman remembered "but two negro bachelors. 
I believe they only remained [so] for a season." A 
Mississippi planter said: "They don't very often get 
married for good . . . without trying each other, 
as they say, for two or three weeks, to see how they are 
going to like each other." 

Demand for slaves put a premium on fecundity, es- 
pecially after the African trade was outlawed. Fannie 
Kemble wrote: 

It seems to me that there is not a ^\r\ of sixteen on the planta- 
tions but has children, nor a woman of thirty but has grand- 
children. . . Whereas tlic increase of this ill-fated race is 
frequently adduced as a proof of their jjood treatment and well 
being, it really and truly is no such thing. . . It is more 
than recklessness, for there arc certain indirect premiums held 
out to obey the early commandment of replenishing the earth 
which do not fail to have their full effect. In the first place, 
none of the cares - those noble cares, that holy thoughtfulness 
which lifts the human above the brute parent, are ever in- 
curred here by either father or mother. The relation indeed 
resembles, as far as circumstances can possibly make it . . . 
the short-lived connection between the animal and its young. . . 
It becomes mere breeding, bearing, suckling, and there is an 
end. But . . . they enjoy, by means of numerous chil- 
dren, certain positive advantages. In the first place, every 
woman who is pregnant, as s(H)n as she chooses to make the fact 
known to the overseer, is relieved of a certain portion of her 
work in the field. On the birth of a child certain addi- 

tions of clothing anti an additional weekly ration are bestowed 
on the family; and these matters, small as they may seem, act 
as powerful inducements to creatures who have none of the 
restraining influences actuating them which belong to the paren- 
tal relation among all (tther people. Moreover, they 
have all of them a most distinct and perfect knowledge of their 
value to their owners as property; and a woman thinks, and 
not much amiss, that the more frequently she adds to the num- 
ber of lier master's live stock . . the more claims she 
will have upon his consideratiim .ukI uood will. 'V\wi was per- 

260 Till' AinLruan Juniily 

fcctly evident to mc from the meritorious air with which the 
women always made hastr to inform me of the number of chil- 
dren they had borne, and the frequent occasions on which the 
older slaves would direct my attention to their childrefi, ex- 
claiming, "I^)ok. missis! little ni^^ers for you and massa ; plenty 
little niggers for you and little missis!" 

An overseer said that women constantly shammed them- 
selves pregnant in order to obtain diminution of labor. 
J. B. Lamar speaks of ne^^roes increasing like rabbits. 
Charles Lyell thought that "the rapidity with which 
they increase bevoiui the white shows that 

they are not in a state of discomfort, oppression, and 
misery." A manai^er said that slave "women, from 
their labor in the field, were not subject to the difliculty, 
danger, and pain which attended women of tlie better 
classes in giving birth to their offspring." 

One influence retartling fecundity was the promis- 
cuity of girls. Said a manager: "They'd have them 
younger than they do, if they would marrv or live with 
one man sooner than they do. They often do not have 
chihlrcn till thcv arc tuentv-five years old." This phe- 
nomenon was perhaps accentuated in case of mulatto 
girls by reason of their superior attractiveness. 

Prolific increase of slave population furnishes solace 
to apologists for exploitation. It is taken as a sign of 
well being and contentment and 

Never did a race increase faster than the slaves of the South. 
They multiplied rapidly, in many cases the parents living to sec 
more than a hundred descendants. One case in Carolina is 
well authenticated where the female ancestor lived to be one 
hundred and four years old, and had, when she died, one thou- 
sand descendants. She became a mother at fifteen, had twenty- 
two children when forty-five, and two hundred grandchildren 
and great grandchildren when seventy-five. 

Hildreth maintained that slave population did not 
increase so fast as the white (even leaving out immigra- 

Negro Sex and Family Relations 261 

tion). In spite of the absence of prudential checks, he 
said, and the stimulation of child-bearing, increase was 
retarded. This fact he attributed to disease and death 
due to excessive labor and privation. Kven in the days 
of the Confederation, Schoepf had remarked that "the 
negroes do not multiply in the same proportion as the 
white inhabitants. Their numbers must be continually 
kept up by fresh importations." 'I'his necessity violated 
law up to the start of the Civil War. 

Henry Clay mistrusted estimates as to increase of 
slave population in the far Southwest. In the thirties 
he believed that the births among the slaves in that 
quarter were not equal to the deaths. The owner of a 
Louisiana plantation declared that his overseer worked 
his hands so closely that a woman bore a child while at 
work in the field; also that he was at a brick-yard at 
New Orleans where among the hands were twenty to 
thirty young women in prime of life. He was told by 
the proprietor that not a child was born to them for 
two or three years though all had husbands. Catalogs 
of slave sales on estates would tcinl to show that fe- 
cundity suffered diminution. An agricultural society 
of Baton Rouge in a report of 1829 estimates the annual 
net loss of slaves in excess of propagation at two and 
one-half per cent. An estimate by a congressman from 
Louisiana made in 1830 agrees. One man tells of a 
case in Virginia where a woman in travail was neglected 
by her master, whose custom it was to be thus negligent 
unless previously notified and asked for aid. A min- 
ister who lived in Georgia for some years said that 
"when women are confined they have no physician, but 
are committed to the care of slave mi(iwives." Of 
course any respite from labor or other relief afforded 
in such cases was a business proposition. In some in- 

262 The American Fiunily 

Stances women were whippeii till they miscarried at the 
post. The son of an Alabama pastor says that an over- 
seer beat a pregnant woman so that soon she was de- 
livered of a ilcad child In Louisiana, when prej^nant 
women were Hogged a hole was dug under them in the 
ground so as not to kill the babe. Women were so mal- 
treated that few children were raised on the sugar-cot- 
ton plantations. 

Fanny Kemble wrote of a miserable dilapidated in- 

Hrrr lay wonirn expecting rvcr\ hour the terrors and aponics 
of chililhirth. others who had just brou^jht their doomed off- 
sprinR into the world, others who were ^roaninn over the 
ani^ish and hitter disappointment of miscarriatjes. [Miser- 
able neglect \\ as in evidence ; yet] this is the hospital of an 
estate where the owners are supposed to be humane, the over- 
seer efficient and kind, and the negroes remarkably well cared 
for and comfortable. 

The reverend .Mr. Long says that no respect was paid 
to se.\: women worked in the field, cut wood, drove the 
o.\-cart, made fences. "Indeed, I have often seen them 
in situations, where, if the pecuniary value of their off- 
spring haci been consulted, they would have been re- 
moved to the 'quarters' till after a certain time." 
A Georgia overseer wrote in 1855: 

Now as regards the wimin loosing children, Treaty lost one it 
is true. I never heard of her being in that way until she lost 
it. She was at the house all the time. I never made her do 
any work at all. She said to me in the last month that she 
did not know she was in that way herself untill she lost the 
child. As regards I^uisine she was in the field it is true but 
she was workt as she please. I never said a word to her in 
any way at all untill she com to me in the field and said she 
was sick. I told her to go home. She started an on the way 
she miscarried. She was about five months gone. 

On one rice estate rules required that special care 

Negro Sex and Family Relations 263 

should be taken to prevent indecency in punishing 


Lying-in women arc to be attended by the midwife as long as 
is necessary, and by a woman put to nurse them for a fort- 
night. Thi-y will remain at the negro houses for four weclcs, 
and then will work two weeks on the highland. In some cases, 
however, it is necessary to allow them to lie up longer. ITic 
health of many women has been entirely ruined by want of 
care in this particular. Women are sometimes in such a state 
as to render it unfit for them to work in water ; the overseer 
should take care of them at these times. The pregnant women 
are always to do some work up to the time of their confinement, 
if it is only walking into the field and staying there. If they 
are sick, they are to go to the hospital, and stay there until 
it is pretty certain their time is near. 

Weston, in the Progress of Slavery in the United 
States^ said that free negroes multiplied slowly and 
cited Tucker of Virginia as saying: "Since the eman- 
cipated class are found to increase more slowly than 
either the slaves or the whites [the legislature] t)ught 
to encourage, rather than check, private manumis- 

Some light on the characteristics of the slave family 
may perhaps be gathered from points alleged in exten- 
uation of the current disregard of family ties contracted 
by chattels. For instance it was said that relatives ex- 
cept husband and wife often preferred being sold to 
different masters in the same neighborhood, as they 
found thus excuse for their roving propensity. The 
reverend Doctor Mallard says: "In our county [Lib- 
erty County, Georgia] they were permitted to marry 
wherever they chose; and their almost universal choice 
was of husbands and wives at a distance from one to 

'■'"On slave infcciiiulity, etc. see HiKireth, Dfjpotism in .Imrriia, 60-61; 
Schoepf, Trax'ris In the ConffJfrntion, vol. ii, 221; American .•\nii-slaven- 
Socict>-, /Imeriran Slavery as it is, J7-38, 45-46; Tower, Slavery unmaskrJ, 
31X-312, 331; Weston, Progress of Slavery in the United States, I3q-i3a 

264 The American Fattiily 

fifteen miles. [The negro on his w ay to liis family was 
a good telegraph]." More than one lady told Olm- 
sted she was sure her nurse loved the mistress's children 
twice as well as her own. It was maintained also that 
"cases of violent separation of husband and wife are not 
so many as the voluntary and criminal separations by 
the parties themselves." In \'ir^inia the slaves were 
accused of being "without natural affection toward their 
offspring." The cruel cynicism that could develop un- 
der the chattel system is illustrated in the remark of a 
ladv u ho said: "^'ou know mv theory, that one race 
must be subservient. . I do not care which ; and if 

the blacks should ever have the upper hand, 1 should 
not mind standing on that table, and being sold with 
two of my children." 

One factor in lessening family love was the separa- 
tion of relatives living on different plantations. A visit 
over Sunday or even twice a week was not sufficient 
guarantee of the marital bond. Another unwholesome 
clement was the bosses' jurisdiction over marriage. An 
excursionist of 1H16 remarks that a dealer "married" 
all the men and women he bought -ordered them to 
sleep together; as they sold better thus. Fanny Kemble 
blamed the negroes' small regard for marriage on the 
fact that the overseer, if he heard of disagreement, 
would redistribute the persons concerned to other part- 
ners. Negroes sometimes had to flog their own rela- 
tives. Parents, moreover, did not possess that claim to 
their children ami their children's obedience and re- 
spect that is essential to ideal relations. A North Caro- 
lina planter defended the practice of bringing up the 
children of the estate in common, as it was far more 
humane not to cherish domestic tics amf)ng the chattels. 
If maternal attachments in slave-mf)thcrs were some- 

Negro Sex and Family Relations 265 

times too short-lived, was not the fault attributable to 
the fact that from the moment of conception the idea of 
chatteldom overshadowed maternal solicitude? A 
slave-mother in one of the "best Christian families" dep- 
recated the possibility of being a mother again : "Vou 
feel when your child is born that you can't have the 
bringing of it up." Kannic Kemble added: 

The father having neither authority, power, responsibility, or 
charge in his children, is of course, as anionjj; brutes, the least 
attached to his of^sprin^;; the mother by the natural law which 
renders the infant dependent on her for its first year's nourish- 
ment, is more so; but as neither of them is bound to educate 
or support their children, all the unspeakable tenderness and 
solemnity', all the rational, and all the spiritual jjrace and fjlory 
of the connection, is lf>st. 

In a large colored Sabbath school the superintendent 
exhorted the children to be good -"what a comfort it 
will be to your masters and mistresses!" An eminent 
southern divine, Dr. R. I. Breckenbridge, said: 

Slavery, as it exists among us, sets up between parents and 
their children an authority higher than the impulse of nature 
and the laws of God ; breaks up the authority of the father 
over his own offspring, and at pleasure separates the mother at 
a returnless distance from her child, thus outraging all de- 
cency and justice. 

According to the laws of Maryland a white man could 
seize a free colored man's children, take them to a mag- 
istrate, and have them bound out against their parents' 
will. A lawyer stated to the court in such a case "that 
the laws of Maryland tiid not recognize the parental 
relation among negroes any more than among 


There was abundant evidence nevertheless that under 
proper conditions a sound home life was capable of de- 
velopment among the negroes. Familv devotion was 

266 I hf ^Imcru (III iHinily 

often touching. A traveller secretly gave a piece of 
nicat to the liungry-looking waiter. He took it to his 
sick mother who could not eat herring. A negro wo- 
man freed by her mistress refuseel to go to a place of 
f reetiom "as she had a husband belonging to C'apt. W'm. 
II. Hoe in King (ieorge County, from whom the bene- 
fits and privileges to be derived from freedom, dear and 
flattering as thev are, could not iniluec her to be sep- 
arated." Many advertisements for runaway slaves in- 
dicate the negroes proclivity for seeking to be with their 
relatives. Thus: "His wife belongs to a Mr. Henry 
Bridges . . who started with her .to 

South Carolina, Georgia, or Tennessee. It is supposed 
he will attempt to follow her." At Baltimore a negro 
was placed in the penitentiary for stealing his wife. 
Negr<jes often made great sacrifices in behalf of the 
emancipation of their relatives. A free black was try- 
ing to buy his wife. Her master kept her till seven 
children were born. The wife and children were all 
the while maintained by her husband yet he received no 
allowance on that account. Another negro worked six- 
teen years in order to be able to buy himself and family, 
paying his master one hundred twenty dollars a year 
and supporting the family himself. He contrived \o 
give his children a good eilucation. Then he gave 
twelve hundred dollars for himself and family. A 
(juadroon paid fourteen hundred dollars to his own 
father for his wife and three children born in slavery. 
Sometimes slaves were allowed to purchase themselves 
and families at cut prices. Again we find such a case 
as that of a free negro in Kentucky with a slave wife 
whose master saddled the man with the cost of main- 
taining the children and let him pay the poll tax. 
When the children became valuable the master would 
take them. 

Negro Sex and Family Relations 267 

In 1853 Forrest, writing on Norfolk, said: 
Often families of slaves "hire their own time," occupy a home, 
and dwell together in peace; pay a conimendablc re^^ard to their 
marriage vows (though sometimes impertectly soii-mnizcd) , 
rear children, perform their family devotions. They are 

generally attentive to one another in sickness, and appear to 
pay great respect to their dead. 

A free woman, in order to save her children, who 
were in danger of slavery by her being apprehended as 
a slave, jumped from a housetop and was so mangled 
as to be unfit for sale. "She knew a whole family of 
young slaves was too valuable . . not to turn the 

scale against her." 

Family ties among the negroes were close enough to 
cause alarm to the master race. A memorial of the 
citizens of Charleston to the South Carolina legislature 
of 1822 read thus: ''Many of the free negroes have 
parents, brothers, sisters, and children, who are slaves; 
should an insurrection occur, they would have every in- 
ducement to join it." 

The precise tendency of evolution in the treatment 
of the slave family is not perfectly clear. Exhaustion 
of border-state soil gave an impetus to the sale of ne- 
groes southward. "Oh," said Charles Hammond on 
his death-bed; "Oh! slavery is not the thing it was 
when I first knew it in Virginia. Then the slaves were 
treated like servants -called in to family worship, and 
considered members of the family. lUit men have 
grown sordid now; and God knows where things will 
end." Helper said: "The diabolical institution sub- 
sists on its own fiesh. At one time children are sold to 
procure food for the parents, at another, parents arc sohl 
to procure food for the children." Such is the expe- 
dient of Virginia planters when crops are short. .More- 
over the prospect of abolition in northerly slave states 

268 Thd American Family 

led to sales south. A Washington correspondent says: 
"Scarcely a day passes which does not witness dreadful 
heartrendini; cases of the sale of a human heing from all 
his associates and familv relations to the far South never 
to see them again." 

On the other {:\\^\ there was a noticeahle development 
toward conservation of the slave family. In iSoi the 
Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals declared that 

An niual division of slaves in numbiT and value is not al- 
ways possible and is sometimes improper when it cannot he 
exactly done without separating; infant children from their 
mothers, which humanity forbids and will not he countenanced 
in a court of equity, so that comix'nsation for the excess must 
in such cases he made and received in money. 

The right to separate husband and wife and larger chil- 
dren still remained, jutlge Bushrod Washington in 
1 82 1 told of having bought a number of negroes to pre- 
vent separation of families. A South Carolina planter 
said : 

In my neighborhood, every planter has a^jreed that, if he has 
a ncfjro married to a ncjjro woman belonKinjj to another, and lie 
wishes to j;et rid of the nej^ro or quit the vicinity, he will either 
offer the slave to the proprietor of the ne).;ro woman, or will 
himself purchase the latter: in this case the price is rcpulatcd 
by other planters. 

(This was prior to 1H35). A Louisiana law forbade 
masters to sell parents and children separately before 
the- hitter were twelve vears of age. 

Progress was, however, shainefullv slow. A ineniher 
of the Cicorgia legislature tried to pass a bill prohibit- 
ing the removal of slaves from the estate where they 
were born. He was a slaveholder but wished to coun- 
teract the separation of families. The hill met with no 
favor from his fellow citizens. About 1855 the govern- 
or of Alabama rccf)mmcnded a law bv which children 

Negro Sex and Family Relations 269 

under a certain age, say five years, sIkjuIcI n<Jt be sold 
from parents. The Richmond Enquinr called the pro- 
posal unwise and impolitic, a concession to fanaticism. 
Nothing came of the recommendation. Wives and 
daughters oi free negroes might be insulted by rowdies 
but their men must hold their tongues. 

The growth of finer feelings was not dependent on 
the slow march of law. A British writer of 1851 noted 
that feeling was growing up against separation of hus- 
band and wife. ''The very religious people [said my 
friend] won't sell the one without the other." Miss 
Bremer wrote: "The moral feeling, it is said, is be- 
coming more and more opposed to separation of fam- 
ilies and of little children from their mothers by 
sale; and that it now no longer takes place at the pub- 
lic slave auctions." Still, the best slaveholders can not 
always prevent heart-breaking separations. . . Even 
though Miss Bremer's statement probablv includes 
some exaggeration it indicates the trend of shame. 

A recent historian of Georgia says that: 

As a rule families were kept together, ami wlien their master 
died and division had to be made amonti the children. the\- were 
divided by families. If they were sold by the administrator to 
pay debts, they were sold by families, and in most cases they 
had chosen their masters before the sale. Separation of families 
was the exception and rare occurrence. 

Quite to the contrary however is the testimony of Doc- 
tor Caruthers of North Carolina: 

I have known some instances in which [the slave family] have 
been permitted to live on in fjreat harmony and afiFection to an 
advanced age, but such instances, so far as my observations 
have jjone [were] "few arul between." (Gen- 

erally in a few weeks at most, they have been separated, sold 
off under the hammer like other stock, and borne away to a 
returnless distance. 

270 I Iw Auuricati Family 

So negroes had too light views of marriage. "A few 
ChristiaFi owners liid what tlicy could to prevent the 
separation ot tlicir married slaves, but after their death, 
if not before, the slaves were sold for debt or to satisfy 
less scrupulous heirs." In one place the master of an 
excellent slave couple died in debt. The children 
were sold and the heartbroken parents succumbed. "1 
couKl till a volume," says Caruthcrs, "with similar in- 
stances." Another North Carolina gentleman olfers 
contrary testimony: "The separations of husband and 
wife, parent and young child, were not common. My 
family never did it, nor did any of the families known 
to mc, and I am sure that llie great majority of fam- 
ilies in North Carolina would not allow it." 

Some families arranged for gradual emancipation, 
a fixed percentage being freed by each generation. Hy 
will and otherwise they provided against division of 
families. Dr. Mallard writing on Plantation Life be- 
fore Emancipation says that marriage was not often vol- 
untarily broken by the master, but was frequently sev- 
ered by his death or bankruptcy. This divine had 
known cases of greatest sacrifice by masters in order to 
keep husband and wife together. His father sacrificed 
half the value of a slave in order to send him to Liberia 
to join his family emancipated by their master, and 
neighboring slaveholders made up the rest. "I have 
known planters ... to hire hands thev did not 
need, in order to keep husband and wife together." 
The appeal to public interest in cases of prospective 
separation is illustrated by the publication in the New 
York Tribune of a copy of a paper circulated in Wash- 
ington to the effect that "the wife of Sam. Marshal, a 
Wf)man of excellent character" is in the slave pen and 
will be sold from husband and children unless pur- 
chased from the trader for eight hundred dollars. An 


Negro Sex and Family Relations 271 

appeal is made for a ransom. Negroes were glad when 
the master married and had children; for thus there 
was prospect that the estate would be kept together. 

Negro home and family relations, even when the ne- 
groes were free, did not avoid censorship. According 
to a North Carolina law of 1787 no free negro was to 
entertain a slave at his house at night or on Sunday on 
penalty of fine. A free negro was forbidden to marry 
or cohabit with a slave without written consent of the 
master. In 1830 the prohibition was e.xtended to cases 
where the master consented -penalty thirty-nine lashes. 
In 1826 the courts received authority to bind out chil- 
dren of free negroes under certain conditions. In 
1 840- a free negro charged with the support of a 
bastard might be bound out for a sum in order to main- 
tain the child. 

Under favorable conditions, however, something of 
normal home life became possible even for ordinary 
slaves. In 1800 Sir William Dunbar wrote to David 
Ross that the slaves "are often allowed to raise hogs for 
themselves, and every thrifty slave has his pigpen and 
henhouse. They have as much bread, and usually as 
much milk and vegetables as they wish, and each family 
is allowed a lot of ground, and the use of a horse for 
raising melons, potatoes, etc." A writer on *'01d Vir- 
ginia" said : 

They have no anxiety about their families. They have 

pround . . . for . . . gardens and patch of corn. 
They . raise a hofj and fowls. The latter they sell 

to their master or others. . . Provision was made for 
those . . . ttx) younp; or t«>o old to labor. 

One Georgia budget found makes a specific allowance 
"for every grown negro however old and good for 

272 rill' ,1 nitfu an idviilx 

Charles Lyell in his Second Visit to the United 
States \vrt)te of coiuiitions at Tuscaloosa: 

Thf colorrd domestic servants arc treated with ^:^t•at itniul- 
Kence. . One day some of them j:avc a supper to a lar^e 

party of their friends in the house of a family which we visited, 
and they feasted their jju^ts "" roast turkeys, ice-cream, jellies, 
and cakes. . It is usual not to exact the whole of their 

time for domestic duties. I found a footman work- 

ing on his own account as a hocjtmaker at spare hours, and 
another nettintj perquisites by blacking the students' shoes. 

The writer of an Essay on Sea Coast Crops said that the 
negroes "arc well fed and clothed, well sheltered and 
cared for in sickness and during the infirmities and 
helplessness of old age." A Georgia master allowed 
all to draw shoes save the children and their nurses. 
*'My negroes are not allowed to plant cotton for them- 
selves. Kvervthing else they may plant." Olmsted 
described a farm on which slave-quarters 

Lined an approach to the mansion, and were well-made and 
comfortable lojj cabins, about thirty feet lonj; by twenty wide, 
and eight foot wall, with a high loft and shingle roof. Kach 
divided in the middle, and having a brick chimney outside the 
wall at each end, was intended to be occupied by two families. 
There were square windows, closed by wooden ports, having 
a single pane of glass in the center. . . [The planter's] 
manner towards them was paternal, familiar and kind; and 
they came to him like children who have been given some task, 
and constantly are wanting to be encouraged and guided, sim- 
ply and confidently. 

One planter had on high grcjund "a negro house for my 
negro children to reside in summer" bv reasf)n of the 
"bad summer climate of our rice fields for children." 

The reverend John D. Long, whose observations 
were mainly in Maryland and Delaware where slavery 
was mildest, said : 

The "quarters" of the large slave-holders are generally mere 
shells; very icw arc plastered; and no arrangement is made for 

Negro Sex and Family Relations 273 

the separation of male and female . . [Slaves of small 

farmers] live in the kitchen, mingle with the master's family, 
eat the same kind of food as the other members of the family, 
are not generally overworked . . . and are attended to 
when sick. Iheir children are raised with their master's chil- 
dren, play with them, and nurse them. . . A strong attach- 
ment frequently exists between them and their masters and 

A North Carolina physician and planter thought that 
the slave usually fared as well relatively as a child. 
One not unusual fault was the putting of more than 
one family in a room. 

Booker Washington could not remember a single in- 
stance during childhood or early boyhood when his en- 
tire family sat down at table together and ate a meal in 
a civilized way. "My old master had many boys and 
girls, but not one, so far as I know, ever mastered a 
single trade or special line of productive industry. 
The girls were not taught to cook, sew, or to take care 
of the home." Washington's mother snatched a few 
moments in early morning and at night for the care of 
her children. A man that lived in Mississippi for a 
time reported that 

On all the plantations where I was acquainted the slaves were 
kept in the field till dark; afti-r which, those who had to grind 
their own corn, had that to attend to, get their supper, attend 
to other family affairs of their own and of their master . 
and be in the field as soon as it was sutVicientiy light to com- 
mence work in the morning. 

The slave home could not, of course, be considered 

in any sense independent. A Mississippi planter gave 
the following instructions to overseers: 

At least once a week (especially during summer) inspect their 
houses and stx" that they have been swept clean, examine their 
bedding and see that they are occasionally well aired; their 

274 Tht' /I nil- run n idinily 

clothes mended and everything attended to that conduces to 
their health, comfort and liappiness. . 1 want all of my 

people . . . punished for inhumanity to their chil- 
dren. . . All hands shouKl he required to retire to rest 
and sleep at a suitahle hour and permitted to remain there 
until such time as it will be necessary to ^ct out in time to 
reach their work by the time they can see well how to 
work. Allow such as may desire it a suitable piece of 

ground to raise potatoes, tobacco. Tiu'v nia) raise chickens 
also with privileges of marketin^J the same at suitable leisure 

A South Carolina rice plainer directed that 

The overseer is every now and then to ^;o round at ni^;ht 
and call at the houses, so as to ascertain whether their inmates 
are at home. . . The hands are to be encourajjed to finish 
their tasks as early as possible, so as to have time for workinn 
for themselves. Kvery nej^ro, except the sickly ones and those 
with sucklinjj children (who arc to be allowed half an hour) 
are to be on board the flat by sunrise. . . Fi^htini;, par- 
ticularly amon^ women, and obscene or abusive lanpuaj^e, is 
to be always rigorously punished. 

Under such a system wives and children were protected 
to some extent from brutality. This was one advantage 
that they enjoycil in comparison with tiie coarser work- 
ing population in other regions. 

It is almost impossible to generalize about slave-life 
on the plantations. On some there was grinding of 
children anci neglect or sale of the oKl. On others the 
children were well cared for, the sick were nursed and 
the old protected. Similar contrasts appear in the 
matter of regard for motherhood. 

Persons unduly considerate of family welfare among 
the servile population were likely to encounter legal 
f)bstaclcs. A North Carolina case of 1849 is in point. 
A man conveyed to certain persons a slave married to a 
freeman and gave a house with land, presumably for 

Negro Sex and Family Rclati'.ris 275 

her use. The parties to whom the conveyance was 
made asserted ownership, the family having been con- 
veyed to them in order to avoid a break. I'hev al- 
lowed the husband to occupy, for a rental, the house 
with his wife, and agreed to look after her. The court 
voided the arrangement as being only qualified slavery 
and gave her and the children to the heirs of the donor. 
The donees were held liable "with just deductions" for 
the profits due from her services and for costs.'" 

Slave children received, as we have seen, very inaiie- 
quate care. A traveller wrote in 1784 of Virginia that 
"even when female slaves breed, which is generally 
every two or three years, they seldom lose more than a 
week's work thereby, either in the deliverv, or suckling 
the child.'' Abdy, who was in the United States in 
1833-1834, said that on Louisiana cotton plantations "no 
exemption from toil is granted to the females, many of 
whom, while suckling their infants are prohibited from 
seeing them till their return at night.'' At about the 
same time the following report was made of facts from 
North Carolina: 

Women are generally shown some little indulgence for three 
or four weeks previous to childbirth ; they are at such times 
not often punished if they do not finish the task assijjned to 
them. . . They are generally allowed four weeks after the 
birth of a child, before they are compelled to go into the field, 
they then take the child with them, attended sometimes by a 
little p'rl or boy, from the age of four to six. . When 

no child . . can be spared . . . the moth- 

er after nursing, lays it under a tree, or by the side of a fence, 
and goes to her task, returning at stated intervals to nurse it. 
While I was on the plantation, a little negro girl destroyed the 
hfe of a child about two months old, which was left in her care. 
[She tired of carrying it home at night - the mother had to 
work as long as she couKI see.] 

Hassftf. Slavery in the Slate of Sorth Carolina, JJ-34. 

276 The American Family 

A minister who livcil in ( Icort^ia from 1S17 to 1H24 
saiil : 

Women arc st-cn brint^in^j their infants into the ticld to their 
work, and leadinj^ others who arc not old cnouj^h to stay at the 
cabin with safety. Others are left at home shut up in 

their huts. . Some who have very young ones, fix a little 

sack, and place the infants on their backs and work. 
Master jji^cs each of his slaves one peck of corn per week 
( twelve and a half cents), . , It cost me upon an average, 
when at the South one dollar per day for board. . . Think 
of the little, almost naked and half starved children, nibbling 
upon a piece of cold Indian cake, or a potato! Think of the 
poor female, just ready to be confined, without anything tiuit 
can be called convenient or comfortable! 

A former slave-driver tells likewise of women working 
in the fields with infants strapt to them -when the chihi 
was three weeks old, the mother was put to work. 

Some plantations provided nurseries. Emily Burke 
in Riniiniscinrrs of Gi'onria (1850) said: 

Talcs are often circulated at the North about the infant chil- , 
dren of slaves being left unprotected in the field while the 
mother is obliged to continue at her task. . I never saw or 

heard of any such incident. . . On all plantations of much 
extent there are always nurseries where all the children from in- 
fants a week old, up to ages of four or five arc cradled and 
nursed as well as the aged women to whose care they arc en- 
trusted while their mothers are in the field, are capable of do- 
ing. . . I doubt not from the cries I have heard from those 
nurseries, that those helpless little ones often suffer from want 
of that nourishment nature has provided for infancy. 

Miss Bremer noted that on southern plantations every- 
where negro children were herded by one or two old 
women. She saw si.xty or seventy or more together 
under their rods of iron like a herd of cattle. 

The amount of care bestowed on negro childhood 
varied of course witli the profit in slave-breeding and 
with the master's economic insight as well as with hu- 

Negro Sex and Family Relations 277 

mane considerations. The property sense was funda- 
mental. Thus a negro woman condemned to death for 
killing her child (in order to set it free) was reprieved 
owing to her pregnancy and the owner's interest in the 
prospective child. But when slaves in Virginia were 
too cheap, "the damage to service in child-bearing and 
the cost of rearing the infant was viewed as involving 
a net loss." Harshness of conditions in chatteldom en- 
larged the mortality rate of infants. Fanny Remble 
speaking of pregnant women who begged for a month's 
respite after child-bearing instead of three weeks says 
that all had had large families and all had lost half of 
their children and some, more. Fanny had had six 
children; five were dead. Of Nanny's three two were 
dead. Leah had had six; three were dead. Sophy 
had had ten, of whom five were dead. Sally had had 
two miscarriages and three children born, one of whom 
was dead. Charlotte had had two miscarriages. Sarah 
had had four miscarriages and borne five dead chil- 
dren and two living ones. She was again with child. 
Sukey had had four miscarriages and borne eleven 
children; five were dead. Of Molly's nine children 
six were alive -the best account received. "There was 
hardly one of these women who might not 

have been a candidate for hospital, and they 

had to come to me after working all day in the fields." 
One woman haci had fifteen children and two miscar- 
riages. Nine children had died. Die had had sixteen 
children and four miscarriages. Fourteen of the chil- 
dren were dead. Venus -eleven children and two 
miscarriages; five children had died. Molly -nine chil- 
dren and two miscarriages; six children (iead. Anoth- 
er Molly had had eight chihlren and two iiiisr;irri.ii'es. 
Seven of the children had died. 

2/8 Tht' .1 tuttimn Family 

A slave-master writing to a New York paper in order 
to prove slaves better off than tree laborers said ot his 
own plantation: "Our [ne^ro] chihiren are as hearty 
and as saucy boys and girls as can be show n anvwhcre/' 
\N'onien with young children come to the cook-house 
thrice daily besides noon in order to nurse their chil- 
dren. Another planter wrote: "The child's cook 
cooks tor the childrt-n at the negro-houses; she ought 
to be particularly looked attcr, so that the ciiildren 
should not eat anvthing unwholesome." One criterion 
of the usefulness of the overseer was excess of births 
over deaths and the health of the children. On this 
estate uonien with six children alive at anv one time 
were allowed all Saturday to themselves. 

It was hard to secure from the negroes proper care 
(jf the children. Miss Martineau observes that the 
mistress is "obliged to stand by and see Diana put clean 
linen upon her infant, and to compel Bet to get her sick 
husband some breakfast." Fanny Kemble found that 
"the fiegro-women seemed incapable of drving or dress- 
ing their own babies." Negro mothers were often so 
ignt)rant, so indolent, or so exhausted that thev could 
not be trusted to keep awake and administer medicine 
to their own children. The mistress often had to sit 
up all night with a sick negro child. One mistress had 
to dress daily a negro child's broken arm. because the 
mother was too indolent. If ''it was rare to see a puny, 
sickly negro child" as a writer on Georgia alleges, the 
fact may perhaps be due to the high casualty rate. 

Slave parents were not model educators : They were 
too much given to blows and too much encompassed 
bv the conditions of exploitation. Manv child rcFi went 
naked in summer. The little ones learned from their 
parents to regard the white people with fear and to 

Negro Sex and Family Relations 279 

deceive them. Nor was the master's end of paternal 
responsibility always duly administered. Children 
were cruelly whipped for small offences, and that in the 
presence of their mothers. Olmsted reports that 
I'ntil the negro is big enough for his labor to be plainly 
profitable to his master, he has no training to application or 
method. . . Before the children arrive at a working age, 
they hardly come under the notice of their owner. An inven- 
tory is . . . taken on the plantation at Christmas, and a 
planter told me that sf)metinies they escaped the attention of 
the overseer and were not returned at all, till twelve or thirteen 
years old. The only whipping of slaves I have seen in \'ir- 
ginia, has been of these wild, lazy children, as they are being 
broke in to work. 

On some well-regulated plantations, however, special 
cfTfort was made to teach the slave children their duty 
and **the way of salvation." The young Africans often 
shared, also, much of the life of the white children. 



A considerable proportion of the southern slaves 
were in effect members of their masters' families; and 
negro children were playmates of the future masters 
and mistresses. A Virginian born in 1828 writes that 
until nine he lived on his father's plantation the life of 
a Virginia boy "always fcjllowed by tw(j or three negro 
boys of about the same age, my satellites and compan- 
ions, partners in any mischief and with whom 1 cheer- 
fully divided any good fortune which came to me in 
the way of cakes, fruit, or other edibles." Miss Mar- 
tineau saw "little ones . . . lounging about the 
court, with their arms around the necks of blacks of 
their own age." 

On the best plantations, especially when the slaves 
had been inherited, the position of the master was 
patriarchal. A historian of Mississippi pictures "old 
massa" as the head of a family of which the blacks 
considered themselves members; "old missis" as head 
nurse and stewardess of the plantation "seeing to the 
sick and the children and distributing clothing and 
comforts all around, '^'oung Missis' spruced up the 
colored 'gals,' taught them the fashions, and 'Young 
Marster' stood between the slaves and the overseer, got 
them out of trouble, and took the boys witli him to hunt 
and fish." 

The negroes often manifested great devotion to the 
white family. Mansion doors often stood open at 

282 rill' AtntriCiUi Idnnly 

night; for while a negro might now and then sequester 
a tOwl or a pig "the planter knew that, hardly more 
than his own children, would his own slaves be tempted 
to rob him or otherwise molest his repose." There 
does, indeed, seem to have been a good deal of haunting 
fear in the slave states, perhaps without much real 
foundation. \at I'urner refused to murder his own 
master and mistress; they "had been loo kind to hini," 
he said. (Jne of jiis lieutenants took a similar stand. 
At one place the slaves withstood hrmly Turner's gang 
and ileclared that they would "lose every drop of blood 
in defence of their master and his family." Especially 
in the regions where slavery was milder was such fond- 
ness developed. In the N'alley of Virginia, where 
slaves were relatively few and the masters more indul- 
gent, the negroes were much attached to their homes 
and to the white children. 

In some respects the whites admitted negroes to 
great intimacy. Fanny Kemble observed that the dis- 
agreeableness of negroes "does not prevent Southern 
women from hanging their infants at the breasts of 
negresses, nor almost every planter's wife and daugh- 
ter from having one or more little pet blacks sleeping 
like puppy-dogs in their very bed-chamber, nor almost 
every planter from admitting one or several of his 
female slaves to the still closer intimacy of his bed." 
In manv southern houses it was customary to have the 
slaves in at family prayers. Olmsted tells of a master 
who at dinner fre(]uently addressed the slave "familiar- 
ly, and drew him into our conversation as if he were a 
family friend, better informed on some local and do- 
mestic points, than himself." A minister with twenty- 
one years' southern e.xperience related that if a son 
brought home a bride he introduced her to the servants 
in their (|uarter<;, particularly to his old nurse. 

Racial Association in the ()l,l South 283 

Many slaves were taught in their owner's family. 
in Virginia in the days before the war, "the old gray 
headed servants are addressed by almost every member 
of the white family as 'uncles' and 'aunts.' The others 
are treated with as much respectful familiarity as if 
they were white laborers. They never hesitate to ap- 
ply to their masters or mistresses in every difficultv." 
On large farms the doctor for the slaves was paid by 
the year. In sickness the white folks acted as nurses 
for the negroes. Many Virginia families in the agri- 
cultural depression toward the middle of the nineteenth 
century were reduced to bankruptcy by their unwill- 
ingness or inability to sell their slaves. A distinguished 
professor of William and Mary testified, also, that 
"there are hundreds of slaves who will desert parents, 
wives or husbands, brothers and sisters to follow a kind 

The negro race to-day owes much to the fact that 
where the slaves were adopted into the household thev 
soon learned the ways of the master's familv. Such 
servants largely identified their interests with those of 
the white family. It was common to see negroes be- 
longing to different masters refrain from relations with 
each other by reason of the difference of rank of the 
two families that they considered their own. Social 
assimilation of the negro field hands on large planta- 
tions was naturally less complete than that of such 
slaves as enjoyed more personal contacts with the mas- 
ter race. Kspecially on the South C^irolina islantis 
where the white folks were likelv to be no more than 
winter visitors was the transforming process retarded. 
The idealization of slaverv builded rather on personal 

The "Mammy" was one of the most important mem- 

284 I hi' Anuruan lauiily 

bers of the master's family. She often slept in the 
n)t)m with the white children. All family secrets were 
in her keeping";; she was ilefendcr of the family honor. 
The tic of affection hctwccn her and her charges was 
never out-grown. Olten she was the contidentlal ad- 
viser of the older memhers of the household. I'o young 
mothers she was an authoritv on hrst bahies. Both 
white anil colored esteemed her liighly. "llow (juiet- 
Iv peach-tree switches dropped from parental IkuuIs 
when Mammy beggeii for us. .Mammy's cabin was 
the white children's paradise." Ihomas Nelson Page 
says that in all that related to the children 

Hrr authorit)' rcco};ni/i'(i . . . second only to that of 
the Mistress and Master. She temlcd them, rejjulated them, 
disciplined them: having authority indeed in cases to administer 
correction. Her regime extended frequently through two 

generations, occasionally through three. . . She may have 
been harsh to [her own offspring] ; she was never anything but 
tender with [her white children. When the young masters and 
mistresses grew up, they were still her children]. When they 
parted from her or met with her again after separation, they 
embraced her with the same affection as . . . in child- 
hood. . Hrr influence was always for good. 

Miss Bremer tells of a wedding at which 

A fnt old negro woman sat, like a horrid specter, black and si- 
lent by the altar. This was the nurse and foster mcjther of the 
bride, and u lio could not bear the thought of parting with 
her. . . Iliesc black nurses are cared for with great tender- 
ness as long as they live in white families, and, generally speak- 
ing, they deserve it. from their affection and fidelity. 

Next to Mammy ranked the butler and the carriage- 
driver. They hail a share in the training of the chil- 
dren. The butler was awesome. "Grandma," said 
the white child, "are you 'fraid of Unc' Tom?" The 
driver was the boys' ally and the girls' devotee; conse- 
c]uently he "had an ally in their mother, the mistress." 

Racial Association in the Old South 285 

Slaves frequently looked after orphan chiliircn of their 

Close attention should be given in tlic liglit of nioii- 
ern psychology to the consequences upon white chil- 
dren of constant association with nicmbers of the other 
race. The subject can be merely toucheil here. The 
more subtle effects in the realm of the unconscious will 
suggest themselves. White babes, for instance, com- 
monly had negro wet nurses, and it may be wondered 
whether in view of the psychic importance of the suck- 
ling process there may not have been implanted in the 
minds of the southern whites certain peculiar attitudes 
toward negro women and whether this possibility may 
not be a partial explanation of the sc.\ tastes of the 
men of the old South. 

Jefferson in his Notes on Virginia noted the 
Unhappy influence on the manners of our people, produced by 
the existence of slavery among us. The whole commerce be- 
tween master and slave is a perpetual exercise of the most bois- 
terous passions - the most unremitting despotism on the one 
part, and degrading submissions on the other, (^ur children sec 
this, and learn to imitate it. The parent storms, the 

child looks on, catches the lineaments of wrath, puts on the 
same airs in the circle of smnller slaves, gives a loose rein to the 
worst passions; and, thus nursed, educated, and daily exercised 
in r\Tanny, cannot but be stamped by it with (xllous pecul- 

Other writers commented on this tendency of child de- 
velopment. Miss iMartineau asked "what is to be e.\- 
pected of little girls who boast of having got a negro 
flogged for being impertinent to them?" Fanny Kem- 
ble exclaimed: "Think of learning to rule despotical- 
ly your fellow creatures before tlic first lesson of self- 
government has been well spelt over!" A \''irginia 
judge, a slaveholder, said in iH^z: "A slave popula- 

286 I III- .Itucru (in Idnnly 

tion exercises the most pernicious inHuence upon the 
manners, habits and character, of tliose among whom 
it exists. Lisping infancy learns the vocabulary of 
abusive epithets and struts tlie embryo tyrant of its little 
domain. " A minister, who lived in South Carolina at 
about the same date, tells of a slave woman mercilessly 
beaten before the familv for pouring too much molasses 
for one of the children. A traveller on an Ohio River 
steamer saw a hve vear old white bov go up to a slave 
child "and deliberately hit him a blow on the face with 
his fist and then kick him without anv provocation. 
The poor little negro did not resent this." Dickens re- 
ported that "the ilelicate maFiima . . . quiets her 
youngest child by promising the boy 'a whip 

to beat the little niggers with'." Helper exclaimed ve- 
hemently: "The challenger to almost every duel has 
been an abandoned wretch, who, on manv occasions 
during infancy, sucked in the corrupt milk of slavery 
from the breasts of his father's sable concubines." Of 
course some parents trieil to save their children from 
the psychology of arrogance but mere pedagogy can 
rarely ofTset the pressure of an economic system. 

The Synod of South Carolina and Georgia on one 
occasion said: "Our children arc corrupted from their 
infancy, nor can we prevent it." Association with the 
slaves was a prolific source of low ideas and of vitiated 
manners and morals. Miss Martineau said: 

I he pcncraliry of slaves arc as j;r<>ss as the total absence of do- 
mestic sanctity mi^ht be expected to render them. They do not 
dream of any reserve with children. The consequences are in- 
evitable. T he woes of mothers from this cause are such that, 
if this "peculiar domestic institution" were confided to their 
charge, I believe the>' would accomplish its overthrow. . . 
Amonp the incalculable forces in nature is the Rrief of mothers 
weeping fnr flu- . <.rrnpt;..n of their children. 

Racial Association in tlic Old South 287 

Slaves often gloried in corruptint; the chihircn of their 


A gentleman from Kentucky reportcti the matter 


I shall not speak of the far South, whose sons arc fast mchin^ 
away under the unblushinj; profligacy which prevails. I allude 
to the slave-holding West. It is well known that the slave 
lodgings- I refer now to village slaves -are exposed to the en- 
trance of strangers every hour of the night, and that the sleep- 
ing apartments of both sexes are common. . . There is no 
allowed intercourse between the families and servants after the 
work of the day is over. . . Should one of the younger 
members of the family, led by curiosity, steal out into the filthy 
kitchen, the child is speedily called back, thinking itself happy if 
it escapes an angry rebuke. . The slaves . . . roam 

over the village streets, shcK-king the ear with their vulgar jest- 
ings and voluptuous songs. . . [There is] indiscriminate de- 
bauchery ... in the kitchens of church-members and 
elders. [In spite of all care the] domestics influence very 
materially the early education of . . . children, jictwet-n 
the female slaves and the nurses there is an unrestraincil com- 
munication. As they come in contact through the day, the 
courtesan feats of the past night are whispered into the car of 
the unsuspecting girl to poison her youthful mind. . . 1 he 
slave states are Sodoms, and almost every village family is a 
brothel. (In this I refer to the inmates of the kitchen and not 
to the whites.) . . This pollution . . . springs not 
from the character of the negro but from the condition of the 

Olmsted reports an obscene (juarrcl of neu;ro nurses 
occurring on a South Carolina train while the white 
children listened. Tlu' Soutlurn (Uiltirator of June, 
1855, contained tlie following: 

Children are fond of the company of negroes, not only because 
the deference shown makes them feel perfectly at case, but tin- 
subjects of conversation are on a level with their capacity; while 
the simple tales, and the witch and ghost stories, so common 
among negroes, excite the young imagination and enlist the 

288 riif AnuriidH Family 

fctlinRS. If, in the association, the child becomes familiar with 
indelicate, vulvar, and lascivious maniurs and conversation an 
iniprcvsiun is made upon the mind anil heart, which lasts for 
years - perhaps for life. Could we, in all cases, trace effects to 
their real causes, I doubt not but many youn^ men and women, 
of respectable parrnta^je and bri^ht prospects, who have made 
shipwreck of all their earthly hopes, have been led to the fatal 
step by the seeds of corruption which, in the days of childhood 
and youth, were sown in their hearts by the indelicate and 
Lascivious manners and conversation of their father's negroes. 

Chancellor Marpcr saici: "A greater severity of (Ic- 
coriiin than is rcijiiircd elsewhere, is nccessarv aiiiDM^ 

An Alabaman opposed to slavery, amoni; other rea- 
sons gave this: "I've got a family of children antl I 
don't like to have such degraded beings round mv home 
while they are growing up. I know the 

conseijuences." A southern merchant on his annual 
visit to New York said: 

When on my brother's plantation just beftjrc I came North, I 
was informed that each of his family servants were sufiFcring 
from [a venereal disease], and I ascertained that each of my 
brother's children, girls and boys, had been informed of it, and 
knew how and from whom it had been acquired. The negroes 
being their familiar companions, I tried to get my brother to 
send them North with me to school. I told him he might as 
well have them educated in a brothel at once. 

Olmsted says: 

I never conversed with a cultivated Southerner on the eflPects of 
slavery, that he did not express a wish or intention to have his 
own children educated where they should be free from demoral- 
izing assfxriation with slaves. 'Iliat the association is almost 
inevitably corrupting and dangerous, is very generally (I may 
say, excepting by the extremest fanatics of South Carolina, uni- 
versally) admitted. The children of a few wealthy men may, 
for a limited period, be preserved from this danger, [but] the 
children of the million can not be. 

Racial Association in tlie Old South 289 

A southern college president says that "contaminat- 
ing and degrading contact" of white children "with 
negro associates . . . was universal in the best 
families in ante-bellum times." Vet some attempt was 
occasionally made to segregate the two races in chiKi- 
hood. On one plantation, white and black children 
were both punished if found playing together. 15ut 
until emancipation, white and black children could 
hardly be kept apart. Nor were the black children 
lacking in initiative and capacity for leadership. 

Personal relations had. too, their saving features. A 
nurse girl that struck a child that would not go to sleep 
was told by her mistress that she could never touch the 
child again -she was free. After pining for weeks, she 
was allowed to nurse the child again and always resent- 
ed any reproof or criticism of the chihi .McOonald's 
Life in Old Virginia draws this picture: 

The slaves are generally affectionate particularly to 

the children of the family, which lays the foundation of . . . 
attachments . . . continuing through life. The white 
children - if they had the desire - are not permitted to tyranni/c 
over the slaves young or old. The children play together on 
terms of great equalit\, and it the white child givi-s a blow, he 
is apt to have it returned with interest. At the tables you will 
find the white children rising from them, with their little hands 
full of the best of everything to carry to their nurses or play- 
mates, and I have often known them to deny themselves for 
the sake of their favoriti-s. When the young mxster (or 

mistress) is installed into his full rights of pr()p<Tty, he finds 
around him no alien hirelings, ready to quit his s<'rvice upon 
the slightest provocation, but attached and faithful friends, 
known to him from his infancy, and willing to share his for- 

There is some tcstinmnv, also, in (]ualilication of the 
deleterious influence allegeil of the associati«)n with 
slaves. A minister who came from Libertv Countv, 

290 The American Family 

Georgia, says that he pla\cd with negroes ami that liis 
phiymates were never prDtane aiul rarelv vulgar. A 
Tennessee hidy says: "1 do not tliink. as some do, that 
white chihiren were contaminated by association with 
negroes." A minister writing on "Ohi Kentucky" 
says: "After long experience and careful thought on 
the matter, 1 am satisrieil that the intluences of oKl-time 
Kentucky negroes upon the white chikiren were gooil." 
The riiost serious risk in the rearing of children 
among the happenings of chatteld(jm befell the boys. 
An e\-mayor of Iluntsville, Alabama, once said that 
"as a general rule, every young man in his state became 
addicted to fornication at an early age." A distin- 
guished lawyer, ekler in a church in a southern city, 
remarked: "It is impossible to bring up a family of 
children virtuous! v in a slaveholding community." A 
Tennessee slaveholder ventured 

To say, tli.nt in thr slavi-lioldinn settlements of Middle and 
Southern Missi.>;sippi, where I have lived for several years, there 
is not a virtuous younjj male of twenty years of ajje. . . To 
send a lad to a male academy in Mississippi is moral murder. 
.Now I have four children, three of them boys. I confess I 
shall never raise them in a slave state willinKly.*'* 

No system of exploitation ever respects the virtue of 

'*'On miscegenation sec: American Ami-Slavery Society, First .Innual 
Rff>ort, 27-28, 63; American and Fr>rei>;n .Anti-Slavery Society, Thirlfenth 
■tnnual Rrf-ort, i ;o ; Schoepf. Travrli in ihr Conff deration, vol. ii, 92-93; 
I.imbert. Travelt through Canada and the I'nitrd States, vol. ii, 173; Janiton. 
Stran^fr in .-Imrrica, 383-384; Candler. Summary I'inu of .Imerica, 284, 
299-300; AIhIv. Journal of a Residence and Tour in the United Stales, vol. i, 
J$'-JSi: Martineau. Society in America, vol. ii, 320-329, 335, 339; Martineau. 
Retrospect of H'estern Travel, vol. i, 268-270; Marryat. Diary in America, 
vol. ii, 107-109; Kembie. Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation, 
14, 1$, 141, 162. 194, 199; Lyell. Second f'isit to the I'nitrd States, vol. i, 271- 
273. vol. ii, 94-9S, 215-216; Elliott. Sinfulness of American Slavery, vol. i, 
I5i-i$8, vol. ii, 60-66; Pickett. History of Alabama, 213, 299-303; Tower. 
SloK-rry unmasked, 316-330; I-onjj. Pictures of Slavery, 231, 261-263; Olrrwted. 
Cotton Kingdom, vol. i, 83, 306, vol. ii, 94, 227, 230; Noel. Freedom and 
Slavery in the I'nifed States, 87-90. 

Racial Association in the Old South 291 

women of the subject class. American slavery almost 
universally debauched slave-women. A minister in 
the convention held at Danville for the forming of a 
constitution for Kentucky said that a number of female 
slaves "have been remarkable for their chastitv and 
modesty. If their master attempts their chastitv they 
dare neither resist nor complain. I f another man should 
make the attempt, though resistance may not be so dan- 
gerous, complaints are equally vain." An Englishman 
who visited the United States prior to 1824 noted that 

At present the seduction of a colored ^\x\ is rcjjarded as a venial 
offence. . . [The colored girls of the South] are not tauj^ht 
to respect themselves and value modesty. [White women seem 
regardless of their Auty to influence them.] A tradesman at 
Fredericksburg told me, that the seduction of a colored girl was 
the almost invariable result of her settling in that town. 

Early in the nineteenth century, the North Carolina 
Supreme Court decided that a white man could not be 
convicted of fornication and adultery with a slave- 
woman, because she had no standing in court. A speak- 
er in the North Carolina constitutional convention of 
1835 said: "A white man may go to the house of a 
free black, maltreat and abuse him, and commit any 
outrage upon his family, for all of which the law can- 
not reach him, unless some white person saw the act." 
A traveler of 1832- 1834, said of New Orleans: 

The unfortunate quarteroon girls, many of whom have received 
an education which would he an ornament to any lady, imbibe 
a belief from infancy, that the Creator has made them subordi- 
nate beings, belonging to a race inferior to the whites, and that 
therefore they are not fit to go through the crrrm«)ny of mar- 

At the same period it was reported that it there were 
any good-looking mulatto girls in a slave gang on its 
way South the drivers wf)uld grant a rebate on their 
charge. In the business of prostituting mulatto girls, 

292 V//'' .1 uitrii (in iiiifiily 

threats and the lash were used where blandishments 
and gifts tailed. In tuikr to secure inulaiio youui;, 
masters eoinpellcd colored women to submit to im- 
prei;naiion bv whites and punished barbarously any 
that resented the liuly. Slaves eould not bear testi- 
mony ai^ainst whites, hence the way was open for vio- 
lence and seduction b\ anv white. Women of color 
were compelled to endure every sort of insult. 

Negro men were exasperated by being depriveil of 
their wives supplanteil by their masters. A man in 
New Orleans was stabbed by a slave under such cir- 
cumstance. Negroes cherishing revenge were danger- 
ous persons liable to a cruel fate. An overseer took a 
negro's wife from him and had a child by her. Later 
she was allowed to return to her husband. A planter 
had a female slave witii whom he desired intercourse. 
On refusing, she was tlogged. Refusing again, she was 
whipped once more. Finally she yielded. A master 
tried to seduce a (]uadroon of irreproachable character 
and threatened to send her to the rice swamps if she 
refused. I'inallv he managed to make her his mistress. 
Such episodes are but samples of the working of the 
"peculiar institution." 

\\'hen the persistence of African mores is coupled 
with the pressure imposed by slavery, it is not to be 
wondered at that a large proportion of women of color 
were of easy virtue. Lambert, who travelled thrf)ugh 
America in 1806-1808, remarked that "Many of the 
mulatto girls are handsome and good figures. They 
are fond of dress, full of vanity, and generally dispense 
their favors verv liberally to the whites." A traveller 
of a few years later writes: 

A mulatro at Prtcrsbu^^: . . . rrplird to my rnquiry u hy 
he did not marry, that no white woman woiihl ... re- 
ceive his addresses, and that amongst those of his own color, 

Racial ylss^jiuiti'Jti in tlu- Old South 293 

there were only three in the town whose chastity was unim- 
j>eached. Wlan making enquiry respectinj^ the state of morals 
at Norfolk, I receive an account nearly as bad. 

A slavc-girl detected in infamous practices put on a 
prudish air and declared that she was greatly pained to 
be considered immodest- that she had no desire to 
have any lover save her master. An Alabama lady had 
carefully brought up a colored girl, who grew up moii- 
est and well-behaved but finally bore a mulatto child. 
The mistress reproached her severely and the girl to(jk 
the matter much to heart. Later, however, she said 
that her mother, a native African, had assured her that 
she had done no wrong and need not be ashamed. 
Hildreth wrote in 1854 ^^^^ 

Amonj^ the slaves, a woman, apart from mere natural bashful- 
ness, has no inducement to be chaste; she has many inilucements 
the other way. Her person is her only means of purchasioR 
favors, indulgences, presents. To be the favorite of the master 
or one of his sons, of the overseer, or even of a driver, is an ob- 
ject of desire, and a situation of dignity. It is as much esteemed 
among the slaves :is an advantageous marriage would be among 
the free. . , Among slaves, every carnal union, tho but for 
a day, is a marriage. To persons so situated, we cannot justly 
apply ideas founded upon totally different circumstance's. 

A light colored Louisiana barber w'ho had lived North 
said : 

I'd never marry in Louisiana . . there are no virtuous 

women among the colored people here! 

What do you mean ? 

There are very few, sir. 

What, among the free? 

Very few, sir. There are some very rich colored iH*ople, 
planters, some of them worth four or five hun<lred thou«>and 
tiollars. Among them I suppose there are virtuous wonien : 
but they are very few. ^ Ou see, sir, it's no disgrace to a col- 
ored girl to placer. It's considered hardly anything different 
from marr>ing. 

294 T^^ American Family 

1 he master's rii^ht ol rape wipcil out female honor. 
Slave-women were taught that it was their duly to 
have a child once a year, and it mattered little who 
was the father. Probably few negresses were like one 
quadroon girl who maintained her virtue in face of 
brutal whippings and other urgings. Long wrote: 
"Many of the female servants are brought up virtuous- 
ly, sleeping in the same room with their young mis- 
tresses. The females bring the highest prices in 
the South. I'or them there is no virtue after a certain 
age, unless they die the martyr's death." 

It is amusing to find "the white man's burden" shift- 
ed to the shoulders of the subject race. Thus in a book 
on Dixit- we are informed that "The heaviest part of 
the white racial burden [in slavery] was the African 
woman, of strong sex instincts and devoid of a sexual 
conscience at the white man's door, in the white man's 
dwelling." A historian of Alabama writes: 

Under the institution of slaver}', the attack against the intejjrity 
of u hitc civilization was made by the insidious influence of the 
lascivious hybrid uonian at the jM)int of weakest resistance. In 
the uncompromisinj^ opp>osition of the white mother and wife of 
the upper classes lay the one assurance of the future purity of 
the race. 

The indecent remarks and jests that attended the sale 
of female slaves constitute a sidelight on southern man- 
hood quite in keeping with the wholesale profligacy 
already more than hinted. Small wonder that boys 
were carried away by the lasciviousness of the times! 
Respectable young men lived in constant intercourse 
with colored females. A clergyman who left the South 
in consequence of slavery "believed there was scarcely 
a young man in the South but what was more or less 
contaminated with this sin." A large planter sent his 
boys Nortli to be educated on the ground that they 

Racial dissociation in the Old South 295 

could not be brought up in decency at home; the evil 
practice was universal. A traveller said: "Twice it 
happened to come to my knowledge that the sons of a 
planter, by whom I was lodged on this journey, lads of 
fourteen or sixteen, who were supposed to have slept 
in the same room with me, spent the night in the negro 
cabins." A southern merchant visiting New ^'ork 
said: "I have personal knowledge that there are but 
two lads sixteen years old in our town (a small market 
town of Alabama) who have not already had occasion 
to resort to remedies for the penalty of licentiousness." 
Space fails for the comprehensive citation of the 
distressing record of the universal debauchery of 
southern manhood. Such southern men as remained 
pure must have been paragons of conscience and 
strength. Often the greater number of the master's 
children were born of the wives and daughters of his 
slaves. "In slave states where the colored people are 
few and the whites numerous, very few slave children 
can claim persons of color for their fathers." The 
reverend J. D. Long, a Maryland man, wrote in 1857: 
If Joe Smith had been born and brouKht up in the Slave States, 
he would never have thouj^ht of beinj; the founder of a sect. 
Among the million of female chattels in the South, the supply 
would have been equal to the demand. \'ou never hear of free- 
love associations in the South. P'rom the very structure of 
slave society there is no necessity for them. . Amalpama- 

tion is increasing at a horrible rate throughout the slave state> ; 
and will continue to increase while wealth and luxury prevail 
in one class of the community, and degradation in the other. 
There are many pure and virtuous men in the South, who are, 
and who have been so, even from their childhood ; but 
they labor under a temptation twofold greater than pi-rsons w ho 
occupy the same s<K-ial position in the free states. It is admit- 
ted, by truthful men in the South, that slavery is a .source of 
unbounded licentiousness. It is with pain that I express 

296 The Aniiruan Family 

the conviction that one of the reasons why wicked men in the 
South uphold slavery is the facility which it affords for a licen- 
tious lite. Netjroes tell no tales in courts of law of the viola- 
tion hy white men of colored females. 

Olnistcii incntioiicil a sinall tarnur who had broken 
up all vices aiiii had piactues anioiii!; Iiis slaves save 
that "hahits ot ainalganiation I cannot stop." A Vir- 
ginia planter using tree labor because of dislike for 
slavery "did not think more than half [the slaves] were 
tull-bloodeii .Africans. . The owners 

felt a family attachment to their slaves. . ." A 
South Carolina planter was asked why he stayed on 
his plantation liuring the unhealthy season. Me re- 
plied that half a dozen girls could no longer be trusted 
without a husband and that lie thought it to liis in- 
terest and that of the plantation that he should be the 
first husband. A large planter said: "There is not a 
likely-looking black girl in the state that is not the con- 
cubine of a white man. There is not an old plantation 
in which the grandchildren of the owner are not 
whipped in the Held by the overseer." A Sabbath 
school in Jackson after the war had in it many unrec- 
ognizeil children of ''first citizens of Mississippi"- 
children of governors, United States senators, congress- 
men, members of the High Court of Errors and Ap- 
peals, legislators, sheriffs, justices of the peace, doctors, 
lawyers, ministers, merchants, planters, teachers, black- 
smiths, carpenters, and general laborers attending to- 
gether. .\ post-belluFTi legislature legitimized on the 
father's petition six children bv various mothers, some 
of them negro. 

Kspccially notable was the situation, already men- 
tioned, among the (]uadroons, particularly in Louis- 
iana. Some of the boys were sent abroad, others were 
placed on farms, «till others sold into slavery. The 

Racial Association in the Old South 297 

girls were brought up by their mothers for the career 
of concubine. Free quadroons "elevated" themselves 
by such prostitution to whites, especially if the men 
had wealth or standing, whereas marriage to a colored 
man would not even protect a woman. The transac- 
tions preliminary to the matings were facilitated by 
formal balls where white men met colored women; 
when a man was smitten he could bargain with the 
mother or with the girl. One traveller said of New 
Orleans: "In some instances I was informed that 
various families of daughters by the same father appear 
at the quadroon ball on the very evenings when their 
legitimate brother is present for the purpose of follow- 
ing the example of his worthy papa." Quadroon con- 
cubinage seems to have been normal usage in the cres- 
cent city. Numerous men coming to New Orleans on 
business adopted it as cheaper than boarding. 

The quadroon girls entered upon their anomalous 
function with a high degree of education in externals 
and with a capacity for the performance of the duties 
of wifehood, to which they attended "as becomes re- 
spectable females;" for success in the role of mistress 
was the only hold that women of this blood could lay 
upon the means to the gratification of ambitious in- 
terests. Even thus, their tenure was precarious. Ev- 
ery woman believed that her partner would prove an 
exception to the rule of abandonment (just as every 
white lady liked to believe that her husband was im- 
mune to quadroon allurements) but often the mistress 
heard of her partner's marriage from the newspapers 
or from a letter bestowing upon her the house and prop- 
erty. Miss Martineau reported that "the quadroon la- 
dies . rarelv or ever form a second 
connexion. Many commit suicide; more die broken- 
hearted." Of course a man's marriage did not neccs- 

298 I III .1 nil til (in Fdtnily 

sarily mean separation from his paramour. Some con- 
nections grew into real marital attachment. Often af- 
ter breaking with his wDinan in order to marry, the 
man's attachment to her ct)ntinueii; sometimes on ac- 
count of their nuiiiial affection he had to have her sold 

One can with ditllcultN appraise a civilization in 
which such an institution was accepted, in which count- 
less "respectable" men lived thus in stamlardized illicit 
love to which societv was too supercilious to accord 
legal recognition, and in which all the virtues of wo- 
manhood were not sufficient to procure a career of re- 
spectabilitv. It was a common boast of the South that 
there was less vice in their cities than in those of the 
North; New Orleans could even plume herself on su- 
perior morality by reason "of the decent quietness of 
the streets and theatres." There was room for the 
ostrich policv M.uiy children of the shadowy unions 
were sent to 1 ranee or the Xorth, were educated, and 
won social standing where their lineage was unknown. 
Many assumed the names of their white fathers. Such 
ijuadroon men as remained in the South were likelv 
to have to marry darker women. 

There was in the South a considerable traffic in 
women for prostitution. When asked the price of a 
beautiful (]ua<iroon on sale at Alexandria, the dealers 
said: "We ean't afford to sell the girl Emily for less 
than eighteen hundrecl dollars. Wc have two or 

three offers for luiiily from gentlemen from the South. 
She is said to be the finest looking Wf)man in this coun- 
try." (.\ woman of thirtv who had borne five chil- 
dren was selling for si.\ huntlred and fiftv dollars.) 
Large numbers of mulatto girls were carried to the 
cities and <;nl(| nf ermrmou': prices into private prostitu- 

Racial Association in the Old South 299 

tion. A New Hampshire gentleman in Louisiana took 
a quadroon mistress, amiable and well educated, and 
lived happily with her for twenty years. Tho she 
warned him that she was not free, he neglected to see 
to her manumission. When he died insolvent the cred- 
itor reckoned his three daughters (pure white) among 
the assets, and in spite of their uncle's willingness to 
redeem them at the price of all his property (an e.\- 
cessive valuation from the standpoint of their labor) 
they were sold as prostitutes. "A Southern lady of 
fair reputation for refinement and cultivation'' told 
with naivete that "she had ... a very pretty mu- 
latto girl, of whom she declared herself fond." A 
young man fell in love with the girl. "She came to me 
for protection," said the lady, "which I gave her." 
The young man left but returned later saying that his 
love for the girl was such that he could not live without 
her. "I pitied the young man, so I sold the girl to 
him for fifteen hundred dollars." 

A planter had two beautiful daughters by a slave. 
They were educated in P>ngland and introduced as his 
daughters but he failed to emancipate them; so that on 
his death they were snatched away by the creditors and 
sold to a purchaser who was to reap his gain from their 

The charms of concubinage accounted in large meas- 
ure for the prevalence of bachelors in the South. A 
book of Letters from the South and If^est (1824) noted 
that it was very common for rich planters in Virginia to 
remain bachelors. A work of iSqo referred to the sale 
of mulatto girls "in the far South to the abandoned 
white bachelors who abound in this country." 

A Virginia slaveholder remarked that "the best blood 
in Virginia flows in the veins of slaves. "W'S. even the 

300 The .1 nuriidti I'dmilx 

blood of a Jefferson." It was well known that a con- 
siderable proportion ot jdlerson's slaves were his own 
childrcMi. It ;inv dI ihciii made oil he would smile as 
if to imply that he would not he very urgent in pursuit. 
He beiiueathed freedom to five of his children and the 
Assembly passed a law allowing them to remain in the 

So ingrained heeame the usage of miscegenation 
that shame dwindled. .Men "of worth, politeness and 
humanity" could listen with composure to their dinner 
guests facetiously tracing the paternal features in the 
faces of slave sons waiting at table. Mulatto offspring 
constituted no harrier to high position in affairs or to 
the societv of "virtuous women of the Hrst rank;" illicit 
relations with black women were a part of the order of 
the day and constituted a distinction for the women, 
who might therehv improve their own position and in 
negro eves elevate the social level of their ollspring. 
Vet all over the slave states might be found outcast 
mistresses working as field hands or domestics having 
been sold by their fickle paramours. Ministers had not 
much to sav about the regime of adultery; indeed Xoel 
says: "If a pastor has offspring by a woman not his 
wife, the church liismisses him if she is a white woman, 
but if she is colored, it does not hinder his continuing 
to be their shepherd." It was often asserted as an 
advantage of slavery (for instance, by Chancellor Har- 
per) that its facilities protected the chastity of white 

I-"anny Kemble cited a lady as saying "that, as far 
as her observation went, the lower class of white men in 
the South lived with colored women preciselv as they 

'** Grimkc. Lettrrs to Catherine E. lieerher, lo; Marryat. Dinry in .Amer- 
ica, vol. ii, io8; Abdy. Journal ni n Residence and Tour in the United Slates, 
vol. iii, 232. 

Racial Association in tlw OIJ South 301 

would at the North with women of their own race.'' 
Ohnsted heard that poor whites associated constantly 
in a licentious way with negroes. 

Under the reign of degeneracy so far detailed it was 
perfectly natural for men to sell their own flesh and 
blood, or indeed to beget offspring for profit. A Geor- 
gia congressman reared a fine family by a slave woman, 
for years acknowledged them as his children, and per- 
mitted them to call him "papa." Eventually they 
were all sold at auction during his life. Parents placed 
their own children under the whip of the overseer; men 
were masters of their own brothers and sisters. Some 
of the mixed offspring were well treated during the life 
time of their fathers, but such leniency might only in- 
crease the tragedy, as when girls tenderly reared, well 
educated, and in ignorance of their servile status were 
claimed by their father's heirs. Many slaveholders 
abhorred the practices associated with race mixture. 
Legislation had, indeed, to be passed in order to fore- 
stall the normal operation of human feeling. In 
North Carolina, most of the prosperous free negroes 
were mulattoes, often liberated by their fathers. In 
that state there also were frequent emancipations of 
slave mistresses till the law of 1831 interposed a check. 
Miss Martineau wrote: 

A gentleman of the hitiliest character, a southern planter, ob- 
served . . . that httle was known out of bounds, of the 
reasons . . . emancipation was made so difficult. 
The very general connexion of white gentlemen with their fe- 
male slaves introduced a mulatto race whose numbers would 
become dangerous, if the affections of their white parents were 
permitted to render them free. . . There are persons who 
weakly trust to the force of parental affection for putting an 
end to slavery, when the amalgamation of the races shall have 
gone so far as to involve a sufficient number! I actually heard 
this from the lips of a clergyman in the South. 

302 rill Anurican i'atmly 

At Baton Rouge a man that wished to free his children 
bv a mulatto woman complained of the hardship of 
the law that prevented such emancipation unless the 
freed persons were sent out of the state. If it had not 
been for such legislation, many parents would doubtless 
have provided for their children "from a sense of moral 
duty" which Grund found operative even in cases 
where "there was no tilial or parental affection visible." 

Cases of tragedy occurred in marriages that unwit- 
tingly crossed the race line. One man on discovering 
that a beautiful Cuban girl, his father's ward whom he 
had treated as an eijual, was a slave, managed to marry 
her to a friend on whom he tlesired revenge. When 
the husband leariied the truth he sold his wife to a 
slave-dealer. In another instance, a wife was unable 
to prove, when claimed by a slave-dealer, that she had 
not negro blood; so in spite of her pleas her husband 
abandoned her; she died heartbroken. A young man 
happilv married to his mother's seamstress found pres- 
ently that she was a slave. "Separation was thought so 
much a matter of course that [the young man's gener- 
osity was commended] because he had purchased her 
freedom after the discovery and given her the means 
of setting up as a dressmaker." 

\N'hen a master left property to his children of color 
their economic charm sometimes won them white 
mates; thus the strain of African blood was ultimately 
diluted and many white families in the South have to- 
day traces of negro blood. One Louisiana vouth who 
fell in love with a beautiful (and wealthy) quadroon so 
light as to be scarcely distinguishable let some of her 
blood into his veins in order to swear that he had negro 
blood so that he could marry her legally. How po- 
tent property is in spite of sentiment is illustrated in the 

Racial Association in the Old South 303 

case of a mulatto woman who died in South Carolina 
in 1820. She had associated on terms of social equality 
with her neighbors, though many people refused to as- 
sociate with her. This was a case of "compromise of 
feeling for interest," for her moral character was not 
above suspicion, but she had property to dispose of by 
will. Her brother was excluded from the white so- 
ciety of his sister. One man hired a young Northern- 
er to marry his beautiful quadroon daughter, well edu- 
cated and accomplishcd-gave him a large sum. 
Money would not always serve, however. A Scotch 
resident of Virginia married a mulatto and reared a 
family of children whom strangers would have taken 
for white. Yet tho he gave them a liberal education 
and left them large property no white families would 
associate with them. 

Southern sentiment could wink at miscegenation 
but would not legitimize it. A heavy penalty was im- 
posed on mixed marriages. Great resentment was 
aroused by the appearance of tracts advocating mis- 
cegenation as a solution of the race problem. Croly's 
Miscegenation which appeared during the War was 
endorsed by prominent Northerners. It predicted that 
the physically superior black would absorb the physi- 
cally and morally inferior white and hailed this as a 
consummation to be desired, and "committed [in 
southern eyes] the one unforgivable blasphemy, that 
against the purity of the southern women.'' A planter 
who sold all his property and moved to Maine taking 
a young quadroon woman whom he intended to marry 
was thought by a crowd discussing the matter to de- 
serve lynching. 

Loyal Southerners were prone to compare their sys- 
tem with that of the North to the disadvantage of the 

304 Till' .Imiruciti Idtmly 

latter. One rtntls a recurrent debate. Candler's Sum- 
itiar\ ricu of Anurua niaiiitains that "in the nortliern 
states . . tlic seduction ot a colored girl is as rare 

as that of a wliite, ami prostitution in general is less 
conspicuous tiuui in sonic parts ot Maryland and Vir- 
ginia." Chancellor Walworth of New York said he 
believeel there were not nortli of the Potomac half a 
dozen virtuous uonien who would willingly allow their 
children tt) niarry colored persons. A New York news- 
paper bitterly attacked a Mr. May of Connecticut for 
saying that he saw no impropriety in intermarriage. A 
negro of Boston wrote a pamphlet speaking in scorn 
and contempt of the negro that would marry a white 
woman; but an Ohio justice married four white men 
to colored women one winter; a physician in Cincinnati 
marrieil a negress. Elliott wrote in 1850: "In the 
free states there is very little mixture of color. The 
colored people principally marry among themselves." 
The reverend j. D. Long speaking of the contention 
that the white women of the S(juth were more chaste 
than the same class in the North said: 

This I deny. TIk- poor white \i\r\ at the South h.xs no more 
protection against the rich seducer than the poor ^\r\ at the 
North. She has not the same chance, enjoyed by the latter, of 
Rcttinjj an honest living. The licentiousness produced by slavery 
is a clear addition to be set down to a sum-total of wickedness 
in the slave States which of itself fully equals that e.xisting in 
the free States. 

()lnisied found it asserted bv people who had lived 
both North and South 

That although the facilities for licentiousness are much greater 
at the South, the evil of licentiousness is much greater at the 
North. Not because the average standard of "respectable posi- 
tion" requires a less expenditure at the South, for the contrary 
is the case. But it is said licentiousness at the North is far 

Racial Association in the Old South 305 

more captivating, irresistible and ruinous. . . Its very in- 
trigues, cloaks, hazards, and exp>enses, instead of repressing the 
passions of young men, exasperate them, and increase its degrad- 
ing efifect upon their character, producing hypocrisy, interfering 
with high ambitions, destroying selt-respcct, causing the worst 
possible results to their health, and giving them habits . 
inimical to future domestic contentment and virtue. Possibly 
there is some ground for this assertion with regard to young 
men in towns, though in rural lite the advantage of the North, 
I believe, is incomparable. 

On the other hand we find in Dabncy's Defence of Vir- 
ginia the amusing assertion that southern society "has 
never engendered any of those loathsome issues, which 
northern soil breeds, as rankly as the slime of Egypt 
its spawn of frogs" -the Mormons, communists, free 
lovers, etc. 

Southerners maintained heatedly that at all events 
the virtue of southern women was unspotted. Doubt- 
less their contention was largely warranted but it could 
not be maintained absolutely. Neilson, who spent six 
years in the United States prior to 1830, wrote: 

Although many white men evince a wonderful inclination for 
black women, I never could . . learn of but one instance, 

wherein a white woman was captivated by a Negro, and this 
was said to have taken place in Virginia ; a planter's daughter 
having fallen in love with one of her father's slaves, had actually 
seduced him ; the result . . . was the sudden mysterious 
disappearance of the young lady. 

In North Carolina there was a pretty well authenti- 
cated story of a white woman who drank some of her 
negro's blood in order to swear she had negro blood 
in her and marry him. They reared a family. The 
reverend Mr. Rankin who was in Kentucky prior to 
1835 said: "I could refer you to several instances of 
slaves actually seducing the daughters of their masters! 
Such seductions sometimes happen even in the most 

306 riw .Ifucrii an bamily 

respectable slave-holdinji; families." Pickett's His- 
tory of Alahinna is, however, probably warranted in its 
generalization that the white women even to the low- 
est in social position inaintaineil racial purity. Ben- 
well's insinuation that perhaps the ladies are not im- 
maculate "as may be interred from the occasional quad- 
roon aspect of their progeny" may be a mistaken infer- 
ence reallv due to strains of ne^ro blood in white fam- 
ilies. A Southerner remarked, however: "It is im- 
possible that we should not always have a class of free 
colored people, because of the fundamental law, par- 
tus sequitur I'rntrtin. There must always be women 
among the lower class of whites, so poor that their 
favors can be purchased by slaves." The Richmond 
Enquirer of iHqq contains the news of a woman's win- 
ninu[ freedom for herself and five children by proving 
that her mother was a white woman. '■^* Lyell said: 
"I here are scarcely any instances of mulattoes born of 
a black father and a white mother." One of Olmsted's 
informants said that while white men sometimes marry 
a rich colored girl he never knew a colored man to 
marry a white girl. Olmsted subsequently heard of 
one such case. 

It is pretty clear that the crime of rape of white 
women by negroes was not, as some assert, initiated by 
the suggestions of ^'ankee soldiers. As early as 18 13 
occurs the news that a woman near Richmond has 
killed a negro that wanted to ravish her while her hus- 
band was away in the army. Even earlier a negro in 
North Carolina was burned for rape of his master's 
daughter. She had previously received improper lan- 

>*♦ NciUun. Rffollrctions of a Six Yrars' Residencr in the United Slates of 
America, 297; B.i<i>(ctf. Slavery in the State of North Carolina, 43; Abdy. 
Journal of a Residence and Tour in the United States, vol. iii, 29; Olmsted. 
Journey in the Seahoard Slave States, 509. 

Racial Association in the Old South 307 

guage from him but had not reported him for fear of 
the dreadful punishment her father would give him. 
One slave made attempts on the chastity of white wo- 
men and had been heard to boast "that he never would 
cohabit with those of his own color, if he could, by any 
means, possess a white woman." The owner had him 
castrated and informed as to the reason. Three months 
later the negro said: "Tank ye, massa doctor, you did 
me much great good; white or blackie woman, 1 care 
not for." In 1822 negroes at Charleston had a plot 
to kill all white men and black women, reserving the 
choice young w^hite ladies for themselves. They had 
lists containing names of many of the most accom- 
plished young ladies. A coachman had his master's 
daughter designed as his wife. The New Orleans Bee 
of 1842 mentions a horrible outrage "by a negro on the 
person of a young orphan girl, fourteen years old. She 
was seized by the [negro] while paying a visit to one 
of her relations, dragged into the woods, beaten most 
unmercifully, and then treated -in the most infamous 
manner." In 1854 ^^ Missouri a slave condemned for 
raping a white girl was pardoned."^ 

Rape was practically unknown in war days when 
negroes were left as guardians of white women and 
children. If early laws against it indicate anything 
more than the white man's fear, the evil tendency must 
have been largely eliminated. It probably was a 
source of less distress to white women than was their 
male relatives' proclivity for miscegenation.^" Mixed 

^'•^•' Nilfs' H'erkly Retrister, vol. v, 279; Janson. Slrangrr in Amrrica, 379- 
380; Neilson. Recollections of a six years Resilience in the United States of 
America, 295; Documentary History of American Industrial Society, vol. ii, 
121; Trexler. Slavery in Missouri, 89. 

'^"Abdy. Journal of a Residence and Tour in the United States, vol. ii, 
93-94; American Anti-Slavrry Society. American Sla<i'ery as it is, i6; Elliott. 
Sinfulness of American Slavery, vol. i, 152, 154, vol. ii, 69; Lycll. Second 

3o8 The A nut ic (in lunnily 

offspring: of white lust became a "source of jealousy to 
the lawtul wile, ami ot shame ami vexation to legiti- 
;iiate children." Southern women felt intensely on 
the subject. A sister of President Madison said: "We 
southern ladies are complimented with the name of 
wives; but we are only tiie mistresses of seraglios." A 
Virginia woman wrote deploring amalgamation as the 
one great evil in the South: 

The white niuthiTs ami dau^ihters of the South have suffered 
under it tor years - have seen their dearest affections trampled 
upon - their hopes of domestic happiness destroyed, and their 
future lives embittered, even to agony, by those who should be 
all in all to them, as husband, sons, and brothers. 1 cannot use 
too stron^J lanpuage in reference to this subject. 

One planter's wife declared in the bitterness of her 
heart that a planter's wife was only "the chief slave of 
the harem" 

Lyell's Travels in the United States records that "the 
anxiety of parents for their sons, and a constant fear of 
their lieentious intercourse with slaves is painfully 
great. Here it is accompanied with a publicity 

which is keenly felt as a disgrace by the more refined 
t)f the white women." A Methodist clergyman long a 
pastor in Kentucky and Tennessee talked with a lady 
in low a formerly of Kentucky. She lamented the 
lack of domestics in Iowa. 

The preacher remarked to her that times had very much 
chanjjed in Kentucky since they left there - now over twenty 
years ago -that in consequence of "illicit" connections of white 
husbands with the slaves, the lives of the slaveholders' wives 
were embittered; and confusion reij^ned in the families. 

yiiit to the I'nxtfA States, vol. i, 271; Tower. Slavery unmasked, 322-323; 
Brnwell.^lishman's Travels in America, 95, 204-205; Olmsted. Cotton 
KinifJom, vol. i, 307-308; American Anti-Slavery Society. T<ujrnty-srventh 
.Iniual Report, 31, 34-35; Suhiiued Southern Nobility, 16; Noel. Freedom and 
Slavery in the United States, 88; MorRan. Yazoo, 320; Dubois. Negro Amer- 
ican Family, 25. 

Racial Association in the Old South 309 

The lady could hardly credit the narrative. [On a visit to 
Kentucky she made inquiry and found it true.] She joyously 
thanked God for her deliverance from the domestic evils of 
slavery, and very contentedly bore the inconveniences of her 
situation in a new free state. 

The jealousy of white women was sometimes visited 
on their dusky rivals. One mistress, out of unground- 
ed jealousy, had slaves hold a negro girl down while 
she cut off the forepart of the victim's feet. The girl 
was then thrown into the woods to perish. A man 
saved her and her master freed her in order to get her 
away from the resentment of his wife who did her best 
to get the poor creature into her power again. An 
English traveller reported that it was by no means un- 
common for men 

To inflict chastisement on negresses with whom they are in 
habitual illicit intercourse, and I was credibly informed that 
this cruelty was often resorted to, to disabuse the mind of a de- 
ceived and injured wife who suspects [her husband]. I appre- 
hend . . . that they are [influenced to cruelty by their 
wives] who are notoriously jealous of their sable rivals. 

A negress condemned to death in Alabama for the 
murder of her child said that her owner was the father 
and that her mistress, aware of the fact, treated the 
little one so cruelly that she had killed it in order to 
save it from further suffering and also in order to re- 
move a provocation to ill treatment of herself. A con- 
gressman who had a child by a mulatto woman not be- 
longing to him would have bought the chiUl, he said, 
were it not for his wife. The little girl ''is the innocent 
proof of his own faithlessness to solemn vows, and must 
be removed to a safe distance." In one instance a 
planter came home and patted a beautiful mulatto wo- 
man under the chin. His wife rushed down, caught 
the woman by the hair, anci punimeleci her face. Then 

3IO The Amcriiati Family 

the slave-holder was summoned and the husband had 
to sell the \vt)man. 

A New ( )rleans hnwer, a native of New York, had 
as mistress tor seven years a beautiful mulatto girl 
while courting an accomplished young lady. When 
he married, his new mistress required him to discard 
her black colleague and the girl became a maniac. A 
man wlio by many years' slave-trading from Virginia 
to Mississippi and Louisiana had made enough money 
for good social staniling decided to marry. He had 
for years kept a beautiful mulatto woman in a richly 
furnished house with servants to wait on her and her 
babies rocked in a mahogany craille; she believing that 
they were all free and would inherit their father's 
wealth. One dark night they were surprised in their 
slumbers, gagged, put aboard a steamboat, carried to 
New Orleans and sold. The bride knew all this. 

The fact that Southern women endured the personal 
affront thrust upon them by the slave system and did 
not rise in mass opposition is perhaps the best con- 
demnation of the institution. Thus an English gentle- 
man at Charleston said: "Few girls would refuse a 
man who possessed a goodly number of slaves, though 
they were sure his affections would be shared by the 
best-looking of the females . . and his conduct 

towards the remainder that of a very demon." A trav- 
eller remarked: 

These .';cntimcnrs I vcr>' soon ascertained to be in no way libel- 
lous. A Southern wife, if she is pro<lip:ally furnished with dol- 
lars to "fjo shopping." apparently considers it no drawback to 
her happiness if some brilliant mulatto or quadroon woman en- 
snares her husband. Of course there are exceptions, but the 
patriarchal usage is so engrafted in society there, that it elicits 
little or no comment. 

But how could women raise effective opposition in view 
of their utter economic dependence? 



Courtship, among the southern aristocrats was remi- 
niscent of the age of chivalric gallantry. Schoepf said 
of the Virginia youth: 

At fifteen, his father j2;ives him a horse and a neg;ro, with which 
he riots about the country, attending every fox hunt, horse- 
race, and cock-fight, and does nothing else whatever; a wife is 
his next and only care. 

Thomas Nelson Page says that white "men were lovers 
almost from their boyhood." 

The maidens in whom their interest centered were 
exquisite products of the class-system-"languid, deli- 
cate, saucy; now imperious, now willing; always be- 
witching," says Page of the girls of ante-bellum Vir- 
ginia. The girl of his idealizations grew up apart 
from the great world yet was not provincial. As a 
child she was self-possessed and able to entertain her 
mother's callers in proper fashion. She began to have 
beaux in girlhood and exacted a protracted devotion of 
her lovers. Her chief attraction was not her beauty, 
though that was often dazzling, but an indefinable com- 
posite of many attractions. Living in an atmosphere 
created for her, "she was indeed a strange creature, 
that delicate, dainty, mischievous, tender. God-fearing, 
inexplicable southern girl" with her deep foundation 
of "innate virtue, piety and womanliness." Hodgson 
wrote from Charleston, 1820, of the patrician damsels 
as "delicate, refined, and intelligent, rather distant and 
reserved to strangers, but frank and affable to those 

The Amtrican Family 

who are familiarly introduced to them by their fathers 
and brothers." 

Girls ucrc kept and cherished in ri^ht romantic fash- 
ion. Ivxirerne rnodcstv was assiiluously cultivated; self- 
hel[i was not expected. John I'\ Watson, who arrived 
in \ew Orleans in 1804. said of that region: 

(fcntlrmcn cannot visit vouhk ladies often unlrss they declare 
themselves as intended suitors. . ^'oun^J ladies do not dare 

to ride out or appear abroad with younj; jientlenien. 
(jirU are never forward or j^rrulous in conversation ; they are 
all retired and mcnlest in their deportment, and very mild and 
amiable. I have never seen a presumptuous, talkative rattle- 
cap or ho>den here. The ladies seldom appear abroad before 
the evening; then they sit at their dix>rs or walk on the levee. 

A woman recalling her girlhood of 1840 in New Or- 
leans says: 

It wxs not cornmr il faut tor a young lady to be seen too fre- 
quently on the street or to make calls alone. . . The miscel- 
laneous education we ),Mrls of seventy years aj;o in New Orleans 
had access to culminated by fittinjj us for housewives and 
motlKTs, instead of writers and platform speakers, dcxrtors and 
lawyers - sufiFragettes. 

Another writer says: 

No set (»f ixirls in Christendom w ere watched w ith more vij^ilant 
eyes ... in all ways more surely girdled about, as W'ith 
a wall »»t hre, from the sensual temptations of society, at home 
and elsewhere, than the Southern young women of the more fa- 
vored sort in these early days. 

\N'e of to-day shouKl consider that surveillance and 
custody went to extremes. In ante-bellum Washing- 
ton the chaperon was omnipresent. Gifts from young 
men were restricted. 

As for a bugg>' alone, perish tlu* thouulit! Nor was it consid- 
ered at all the thing for the escort to furnish the conveyance to 
a ball. If the family coach wxs non-existent, the harmless, 
necessary hack was provided by the mother of his belle, while 
he sought her shrine on foot, or in the horse-car. 

The IF /lite Family in the Old South 313 

A northern governess remarked on the fact that 

In the North the young lady is left alone with her beaux and 
pa and ma retire. In the South it is deemed indecorous for 
them to be left alone . . . and the mother or some mem- 
ber of the family is always in the room ; and if none of these, 
a female slave is seated on the rug at the door. . . "^'oung 
girls are^kept in very strict bounds by mammas in this respect ; 
and I was told by a married gentleman, a few days since, that 
his wife never took his arm till she took it to be led to church 
on her wedding day; and that he never had an opportunity of 
kissing her but twice while he was addressing her (they were 
si.x months engaged!) and in both cases by means of a strata- 
gem he resorted to of drugging a peach with laudanum which 
he gave to the attending servant, and thereby put her into a 
sound sleep. ^^^ 

Flirtation was in order. The Letters from rinrinin 
refer to a Virginia coquette who drove poor wit^hts 
crazy. Page says that the Virginia girl was generally 
a coquette, often an (jutrageous flirt, not from heartless- 
ness but as a normal expression of her life. "She 
played upon every chord of the heart. Perhaps it was 
because, when she grew up, the surrender was to be 
absolute." It was said that the worst flirts made the 
most devoted wives. We find, moreover, an early com- 
plaint from the Alabaman that woman is often doomed 
by man's inconstancy to a desohate life. 

There were runaway matches. Greensboro, North 
Carolina, served as a Gretna Green for Virginians. 
Excessive restriction upon sex acquaintance furthered 
such clandestine matches. "The lover is piqued and 
begins to regard the whole matter as a fair field tor 
strategy." The girl's mother is an enemy to be circum- 
vented. Thinking the same, the daughter flees with 
her sweetheart. 

"'' Mayo. Soutlifrn H'omrn in the rrrent F.Jurdlionnl Movrmertt in tftf 
South, 46; Dc Leon. BrlUs, llniux, and Hrains of the Sixties, 136-137; In- 
graham. Sunny South, 224-225. 

314 Tilt' .1 nitttnin Fininl\ 

In other cases, circumstances resulted in diffidence 
or relative coolness in the ways of love. Buckingham 
in his Slave Stati-s of .Itticrica said: 

We never knew or even heard, thus far at least of any romantic 
attachment, accompanieil by acts of such self-devotion as is 
often seen in England : and neither in the social intercourse 
which we have enjoyed anionic; the young, nor in the domestic 
conversations of the middle-aged, have we ever witnessed that 
ardent attachment, and reciprocal sacrifice of all selfish consider- 
ations, which characterize the communion of passionate lovers 
everywhere else. All is decorous, orderly, and irreproachable : 
but everything is also formal, indifferent, and cold. . Hoth 

physical and mental causes may contribute. . The youth 

of America have not that vigorous and robust health, and that 
full How of blood, which characterize the youth of England, 
and which forms a large element in the capacity to feel intense 
and passionate love. [They have less leisure for courtsliip.] 
When they meet the other sex it is either at a public dinner 
table, w ith fifty or a hundred other guests, where none remain 
more than a quarter of an hour, and where there is no time for 
conversation; or at balls and crowded parties, where the oppor- 
tunities of indulging an interchange of sentiment and feeling 
are too broken and interrupted, to feed the passions of fervent 
feeling, or to suit the gravity of sentimental love. Social even- 
ing visits, without invitation or preparation, are rare indeed in 
any part of America; and to morning visits to ladies, gentlemen 
are rarely admitted. [They rarely sing together.] 

In South Carolina about 1815 a young lawyer pro- 
posed at a wedding a marriage scheme. He asked each 
young man and woman to write his or her name on a 
slip of paper with the name of the person preferred as 
spouse, reciprocal choices to be made known to the pair, 
other preferences to be kept secret. There were twelve 
reciprocal choices and eleven weddings followed soon. 
Eight of the eleven men said they were so diffident that 
"they certainly would not have addressed their respec- 
tive wives if the above scheme had not been intro- 

The White Family in the Old South 315 

The reverend J. D. Long wrote that courtship and 
marriage were especially important and exciting ques- 
tions in the slave states. 

Among a sparse population, where there are comparatively few- 
social topics to enlist attention, many long winter eveninjjs and 
summer days are spent in discussing the minutest incidents of a 
courtship. If a marriage is to come off, the bride's lace or her 
nightcap is a subject of criticism. Colored people take a deep 
interest in the marriage of their owners. Courtships are fre- 
quently conducted through them. They carry the mail and the 
letters are not always sealed. Many a young man has borne 
ofT a beautiful and wealthy bride, in spite of opposition from rel- 
atives, through the good offices of Uncle Toby and Aunt Dinah. 
Many a man has lost a fair lady by incurring the displeasure of 
servants. Reader, did you ever hear the servants in the kitchen 
criticizing Miss Julia's beau? One mimics his voice; another 
his language. Bill shows how he walks. Aunt Sucky, in 
tracing his genealogy, relates how his grandfather killed a ne- 
gro, and how his father sold one to Georgia, If Miss Julia gets 
him, Tom expects to be sold to the Georgia trader. 
Uncle Lester says that Mr. Willard's slave girl, Nell, is his 
half-sister and that he is too intimate with Mr. Sturgeon's yel- 
low girl, and hopes Miss Julia won't have him. 

Especially was the old mammy often a great aid to the 
young folks during courtship.'''^ 

It might have been supposed that southern girls edu- 
cated in the North would have a great influence over 
their young men but, said an observer at Charleston in 
the thirties, 

They are brought out before either their judgment or knowl- 
edge of the world arc sufficiently matured to make them aware 
of the existence of certain abuses or of their own power of re- 
forming them. Then again, marrying very young, they com- 
monly quit society, in a great measure, at the moment the influ- 
ence of their example might Ix* of the greatest service to it. 

Marriage occurred at a suflicicntly early age. ^^''hcn 
the daughter of the old southern household came home 

^''''LonK. Picfures of Slavery, 269; McDon.iId. I.ifr in Ohi I'irginla, 93. 

i}i6 riw .hiiiruiiti htumly 

from school, after a short run in society she ahiiost al- 
ways "succunihcd to the coininon fate of an early mar- 
riage and joiiieii the procession ot haril-working, heavy- 
laden wives aiui mothers who were the heart and soul 
of her dear Southland." Old maids were rare. Kv- 
cry girl, so to speak, married. Strange combinations 
occurred. TIr- Savannah</iis' Magazine of iSig, 
for instance, reported the marriage of a man of seventy- 
five to a girl of twelve, the liaughter of his former wife. 
At the same time the girl's brother married the old 
mans ilaughter. Also a man of seventv-four had mar- 
ried a girl of eighteen. In a lami where marriage was 
woman's one career, no wonder that women sometimes 
sought to make the most of it. 

in New Orleans in the fifties "onlv Catholics went 
to the sanctuarv for a wedding ceremonv. Protestant 
weddings were . . . confincil to familv and near- 
est friends." Wdgar notorietv was not sought nor were 
wedding presents made. Page says of Old Virginia: 
"There were no long journeys for the young married 
folks in those times; the travelling was usually done 
before marriage. \\'hen a wedding took place, how- 
ever, the entire neighborhood entertaineil the young 

Southerners have alwavs been proud of the status of 
women under the old system. She Hgures as the soul 
and grace of old southern life. Ihe reverend Dr. 
Ross of Alabama spoke before the Presbyterian (jcn- 
eral Assembly at lUiftalo in iH:;^ congratulating the 
South on its freedom from bloomer girls, women's 
rights conventions, and tlie like. "Oh. sir," he de- 
claimed, "if slavery tends in any way to give the honor 
of chivalrv to southern young gentlemen toward ladies, 
and the e.\(]uisite delicacy and heavenly integrity and 
love to southern maid and matron, it has then a gh)ri- 

The White Family in the Old South 317 

ous blessing with its curse." Chancellor Harper said: 
"It is related as a matter of tradition, not unmingled 
with wonder, that a Carolinian woman of education 
and family proved false to her conjugal faith." 

But it is particularly in the romanticism of the new 
southern literature that the woman of the old South 
shines as queen and saint, a being of rare social gifts 
and sensibility to exalted sentiments and embodying in 
her person the quintessence of all that was lovely in the 
civilization of an effulgent people. Modesty, refine- 
ment, and sweet gentility grace the memories of her 
that linger in the thoughts of her children. Her 
"highest ambition was to be president of home." 

To some extent the status and functions of the middle 
and upper class women of the old South merited the 
encomiums that are bestowed. The southern women 
of the middle class were modest, virtuous, industrious 
housekeepers, devoted wives and mothers. They were 
frequently gullible, knowing little of the world, and 
aloof from public diversions. Having to look after 
the wants of the few slaves -the making of their gar- 
ments and the like -the labors of these ladies were 
onerous. They lived "only to make home happy." 

In general there could be no complaint of lack of 
domesticity in southern wives. Marriages prefaced a 
life-time of self-devotion; sprightly girls became so- 
ber, retired wives, bent on making home a man's de- 
light, and devoted to family welfare; their husbands' 
relatives and connections became their own. The mar- 
ried woman was not a figure in societv; romance is built 
about the young girl; the social functions of the little 
cities consisted chiefly of balls and dances that brought 
the young of the two sexes together. After marriage 
women lived in plantation isolation; onlv the few that 
maintained town houses and spent part of the year in 

3l8 Thi- .Inurudti ianiily 

Richmond. Charleston, or New Orleans retained their 
social connections "anil tor them a staid and modified 
social lite was deemed littin^;. I'Or them the dance 
was over." De Leon says that in Richmond 

The male clement at all functions ranj,'ecl from the passe hcau 
to the boy with the down still on his cheek; ancient husbands 
and young bachelors alike had the open sesame! But if a mar- 
ried woman, however youn^ in years of wifehood, passed the 
forbidden limits by intent or chance . . . she was prompt- 
ly and severely maile to feel that the sphere of the mated was 
pantry or nursery, not the ballroom. 

The matron of old Virginia became timid and depend- 
ent as her daughters came on and found new ways; 
yet wheFi need was she could assert her deeper wisdom 
and ovcrtower them all. 

Dr. (k'orge Bagby who visited in Virginia families 
before the War said of the Virginia mother: 

Her delicacy, tenderness, freshness, gentleness; the absolute 
purity of her life and th()u;,'ht, typeficd in the spotless neatness 
of her apparel and her every surrounding, it is quite impossible 
to convey. Withal, there was about her a naivete mingled 
• with sadness, that gave her a surpassing charm. 

It is easy to fancy the women of the southern aris- 
tocracy as pampered idlers; hut this conception is in 
need of grave (jualification. A northern governess of 
ante-bellum days wrote: "The southern girls . . 

never do anything themselves, being always attended by 
a shadow of a little negress or an ancient mammy;" 
and it is true that girls "were, generally in the towns 
and invariably in the slave crowded plantations, scarce- 
ly permitted to lace their own slippers or stays." But 
Mrs. Ravenel in her work on Charleston says of the old 

(lirls were carefully brought up. .Mothers studied Mrs. 
Montague's and Mrs. Morc's books on female training. So 


The White Family in the Old South 319 

the girls became good housekeepers and good managers - mis- 
tresses of many servants; generally mothers of many children. 

In Ramsay's ///j/or;' of South CaroHiui occurs the state- 

The women are generally well educated. . . The name of 
the family always depends on the sons; but its respectability, 
comfort, and domestic happiness, often on the daughters, 
[Their youthful] vivacity is in general so well tempered by 
sweetness of disposition, and discretion, as leaves little room 
for anxiety to parents. . . No pursuit of pleasure interferes 
with duty to a father, or affectionate attention to a brother ; so 
that the happiness as well as cheerfulness of a family is in- 
creased in proportion to the number of daughters. . . Nor 
are there wanting examples of those who, remaining single, 
perform admirably well the duties of daughters, sisters and 
friends, and have been eminently useful in assisting to train up 
and educate their younger connexions. 

The Letters from the South and JVest reported that 
"the matrons, in the upper classes, are industrious, affa- 
ble, and accomplished in a high degree." Perhaps the 
southern lady contributed less in labor (at least in 
manual labor) to the maintenance of the household 
than women of like rank elsewhere; but the mistress 
of many slaves needed to be competent in strenuous 
supervision and the crudities of servile labor left many 
a burden for the lady. 

Mrs. Ripley's recollections of New Orleans in the 
forties record : 

Though we had ever so many servants, our family being a large 
one, my semi-invalid mother, who rarely left her home ant! 
never made visits, did a thousand little household duties that 
are now, even in families where only one or two servants are 
kept, entirely ignored by the ladies of the house. . . Ever)- 
woman had to sew. 

The duties of a plantation mistress were often truly 
formidable. Many a plantation was a crude indus- 

'?20 7 //«■ .hriit'iidn taniily 

trial plant comparable as to household comfort with a 
mining canip. On sucli estates many a lady lived. It 
slavery released ilic Iad\ lioin nuiiuial ilrudi^ciy. it 
overworked her in other ways; she was typically de- 
ficient in viialilv. otten nervous and sensitive, yet she 
often had to contend with an aggravated form of the 
servant problem, for slaveholders did not always man- 
age to get rid of trving ami unprofitable servants. Ex- 
cept perhaps a butler and a head housemaid the help 
was often idle, incompetent, and in need of constant 
supervision. Olmsted wrote of Virginia: 

Really well-trained, accompiislu-d. and docile house servants 
arc seldom to be purchased or hired at the South, though they 
are found in old wealthy families rather oftener than first rate 
Knu'lish or French servants are at the North. [One must 
pay] to get a certain amount of work done, three or four times 
as much, to the owner of the best sort of hired slaves, as they 
do to the commonest, stupidest Irish domestic drudges at the 
North, though the nominal wages . . . are but little more 
than in New ^'ork. The number of servants 

in a Southern family of ;iny pretension, always amazes a North- 
ern lady. Id one that I have visited, tiuTf are exactly three 
[house] negroes to each white. 
A southern ladv of an old and wealthy family visit- 
ing in New '^'ork said: "Your two servants accom- 
plish a great deal more, and do their work a great deal 
better than our twelve." 

Kvery household operation had to be under scrutiny. 
Hvery consumable thing had to be kept locked up, 
hence the mistress carried a huge bunch of keys and 
doled out "on incessant requests" whatever was wanted 
for the household. Continuallv she was being called 
upon to attend to some want of one of her many de- 
pendents. The plantation nurse brought a list of the 
sick and the serious cases had to be visited. The wagons 
came with the carcass of a beef or sheep and the mis- 

The ir/iite Family in t/w OU South 321 

tress saw to the cutting up. The makers of garments 
had to receive attention and "it often fell to her lot to 
go down on her knees on the floor and cut out garments 
for hours at a time." A scared motlicr would ask her 
to "just run up to de cjuarter to sec little \ancy who 
is fall into a ht;" or perhaps a man and wife had de- 
cided to part and a lesson in ethics had to be instilled. 

The sovereignty alhnted to the matron by the divi- 
sion of jurisdiction between her and the master was 
real enough, but it was a realm of contrasts. Wailed 
on at everv turn, "unhabituated often even to putting 
on her dainty slippers or combing her soft hair she 
possessed a reserve force which was astounding." Miss 
Martineau declared: 

Some few of these ladies are among the strongcst-mindcd and 
most remarkable women I have ever known. [The barbarous 
society over which they rule demands strength. At the other 
extreme are] perhaps the weakest women I have anywhere 
seen - selfishly timid, humbly dependent, languid in body and 
with minds of no reach at all. 

Underwood says in his IVouun of the Conftilcracy that 

The busiest women the world has ever seen were the wives 
and daughters of the Southern planters during the days of 
slavery. . : It is no wonder that a Cieorgia woman, when 
she heard the negroes were really free, gave a sigh of relief and 
exclaimed: "Thank heaven! I shall have to work for them 
no more!" 

She was but one of the southern ladies that exultcil in 
their own emancipation. 

The sterling quality of the women of the South was 
manifested in times of emergency and stress (as will be 
evidenced further in a stuily of war days). Revolu- 
tionary women had borne like privation. Ramsay 
said in his History of South ClnrolitKi ( i8()(^) : 

When the war was ended and their husbantls and fathers were 
by its ravages reduced in their circumstances, they aided b\ 


1 hi' .1 tutrtiiin Fiitmh' 

their economy and retirement from the world to repair the 
losses. . In Carolina, where sickness and health, poverty 

and riches, frequently alternate in rapid succession, wives and 
daughters hear incrrdihie fati^;ut*s and privations with exem- 
plary tortitudr. 

He tcstiticil ti) the cllkiciuv ot widows left with insol- 
vent estates: 

in such evtrcniitics the female character in Carolina has shone 
with ptviiliar luster. Two ohvious and common resources are 
open ... to kct-p a lodging- or open a school. In 
these or .some other modi's of making a "living" widows en- 
gage, and often with surprising success. . . By their ju- 
dicious management, estates have been retrieved - families 
reared - sons and daughters, know ing that their prospects of 
paternal fortune are cut ofiP, arc educated strictly and early 
taught to depend on their own exertions, . . Speculating, 
intemperate, mismanaging husbands advance their families by 
dying and leaving to their widows the sole management of their 
embarrassed fortunes. In the lower grades of life, where there 
are no fortunes to repair, the industry and economy of the wife 
proiluces similar results eminently conducive to the advancement 
of the common interest. 

A chief indictment against the system of the South 
is that it afTordcd no proper sphere for the largest use- 
fulness of the potentialities of woman; in fact it is 
probable that her opportunities progressively dietl 
away as the chattel system plunged toward its fall. 
There was no saving grace in serving as a pinnacle to 
the precarious structure of slavery. Mrs. 1 loustoun in 
lltspcrns remarks of New Orleans: 

'Hie Frcfich Creole ladies arc remarkably indolent and arc apt 
to grow extremely corpulent, when early youth is past: they 
are ver>' slightly educated, and beyond the subject of dress, I 
doubt their ideas extending with anything like distinctness. 
Love-making sometimes occupies them violently for. a time, but 
it requires tfx) much thought and exertion to b(? a very popular 
amusement with them - "II parlc si bien toilette," seems to be 
the highest praise they can bestow on a male acquaintance. 

The White Family in the Old South 323 

Benvvell noted that the Charleston ladies were inert. 
Active women, he said, were seldom to he met with, the 
wives of affluent men being in general like pampered 
children and suffering dreadfully from ennui. Kspc- 
cially astonishing is the news item from Fairfax Coun- 
ty, Virginia, in 1834, where a young lady was lawfully 
qualified as a selectman; a situation held hv her moth- 
er for many years before her.'^" 

The necessity of self-support rarely if ever befell the 
woman of "good family." Brothers and other male 
relatives never allowed such women to toil. A young 
woman writes: 

Before the war, self-support was the last resort with respectable 
women in the South, and such a thou^^ht was never entertained 
so lonK as there was any male relative to look to for support, 
and men felt responsible for the support of even remote female 
relatives. . . I have heard of instances where refined and 
able-bodied women would allow themselves to be supported by 
the charity of their friends rather than resort to work for self- 
support - and this not because they had any reluctance to work, 
but because charity seemed to them the more respectable. 

The other course would compromise self and family.*" 
Gallantry to w^oman was the gallantry of the harem. 
Nowhere in the world were women shown more sur- 
face respect than in the South, yet degradation of the 
sex was obvious. Women of the oligarchy were ex- 
empt from menial cares but licentious secrets (or dis- 
closures) smothered wholesome comradeship and wo- 
man became the chief ornament of the house or merely 
its keeper. Miss Martincau wrote: 

I have seen, with heart sorrow, the kind p<ilitencss, the gal- 
lantry, so insufficient to the loving heart, with which the wives 
of the South are treated by their husbands. I have seen the 
horror of a woman's having to work the eagerness to 

•s^A/an, March 8, 1834. 

'♦"Tillett. Southern H'omanhood as affectrd by the H'nr, 13. 

324 ^^''' Atncruiin lamily 

ensure her unearned ease and rest; the deepest insult which can 
be offered to an intellit^ent and conscientious woman. 
One i;entleman who declares himself interested in the whole 
subject, expresses his horror of the employment of women in 
the northern states, for useful purpt>ses. He tolil me that the 
same force of circumstances which, in the ret^ion he inhabits, 
makes men independent, increases the deprtulence of women, 
and will j^o on to increase it. ScxMety is there, he declared "al- 
wa)"s advancing towards orientalism." 

Softness, gentleness, and i;race disguised a chattel. 
Ladies of the old South nii^ht stitch and make nuisic, 
but even to teach sch(jol was to risk social standing. 

An Hnglish farmer who visited America a little be- 
fore Miss .Martincaus coniini; comments pointedly on 
the appearance of divinity that sat upon woman in the 
South. As alwavs under Parasitism, woman was cruel 
to woman and ignorance aboundeil. Mxtreme proprie- 
t\ in the presence of ladies was sufficient compensation 
for infidelities. Here, if ever, the sable sisterhood of 
shame were the vicarious guardians of the forma! pur- 
ity of their more favorcii rivals. 

It is scarcely necessary to say that southern chivalry 
did nnt include within its purview the wretched women 
of the "poor whites." Men that would almost jump 
out of their boots to wait on a wealthy dame would 
treat with contempt a poor woman. "These are the 
men generally," says Long, "who contend that there 
are no virtuous women in the world."'*' 

It nui-^t not be supposed that the southern theory on 
woman's sphere was essentially different from the phil- 
osophy of the North. The following citation from the 
North Carolina University Ma^^azinc of 1859- 1860 
might well have appeared in the North: 

[Woman's sphere is the household.] Wherever she is found 

to have placed the bf)undaries of her position at defiance, and to 

'♦• Pictures of Slavery, 272. 

The IVliite Family in t/w Old South 325 

have made innovations upon the {^rounds of lordly man's estate, 
she is divested of that halo of female beauty and conlidin^j love 
that is the natural accompaniment to her proper sphere, and 
presents a spectacle of horrid deformity and misshapen beau- 
ty. . . She seems to have been created as a repository of 
man's troubles, in w horn he is sure to find a sympathizing and 
noble friend, who S(K)thes his harassed and weary mind, and in 
turn leans upon his strong arm for protection, to be j^uarded 
from the rude breath of adversity, and shielded from the demor- 
alizing influence that a contact with the world is apt to gen- 
erate. . . She should always be found occupying a position 
of equality. . . Wherever she is found occupying a menial 
position, and regarded as an inferior, barbarism and ignorance, 
superstition and irreligion, is an invariable concomitant. 

Unfortunately, fine words were of small advantage to 
the essentially degraded womanhood that so universally 
characterized the South."' 

Angelina Grimke nobly assailed the perverted con- 
ception of womanhood regnant in her day. She denied 
the need of romantic chivalry and contended that hu- 
man rights arc not founded on sex; what is right for 
man to do is right for woman. 

This regulation of duty by the mere circumstance of sex 
has led to [a] multifarious train of evils. . . Man has been 
converted into the warrior, and clothed with sternness, and 
those other kindred qualities, which in common estimation be- 
long to his character as a man; whilst woman has been taught 
to lean upon an arm of flesh, to sit as a doll arrayed in "g»'J 
and pearls and costly array," to be admired for her personal 
charms, caressed and humored like a spoiled child, or converted 
into a mere drudge to suit the convenience of her lord and 
master. Thus have all the diversified relations of life been 
filled with "confusions and every evil work." [Man is free to 
he despotic, selfish, proud, arrogant, lustful, brutal. Woman 
is reduced to the status of tool.]'*^ 

'*- An excellent treatment of "Tlie I..icly of i\\e Slave States" i* foiinJ io 
Putnam, Thf LaJy, 282-323. 

'*'* Grimke. Lrttrrs to ('iitfifrinr E. liffchrr, 107, 115-116. 

326 The Anurii an Fatnily 

Unfortunately there was not much chance for a pro- 
gressive movement among southern women. A very 
interesting Lad its' Magazine begun at Savannah in 
1 8 19 was forced to suspend at the end of six months 
for hick of patronage. The huiy of the archaic South 
left little written record. As in the North, woman rc- 
ceivetl no worthy education. An actor remarked in 
1842 upon the rarity of daughters of the far South 
among the vast number of women magazine writers. 
Gentlemen of the old regime in the South would say, 
"A woman's name should appear in print but twice - 
when she marries and whtii she ilies.""* There was 
no economic opportunity for women outsiile the home. 
If there hail been, social status would have debarred 
woman from acceptance of it. Miss Martineau found 
that mantua-making was "almost the only employment 
in which a uliite southern woman can earn a subsist- 
ence." Abdy remarked upon the dishonor shown to 
industry in Washington and the consequent danger to 
female virtue in that center of gay idleness and prof- 

In a blind way, southern ladies were intense in their 
political sentiments. Politicians could count on un- 
studied backing. A northern woman who spent hve 
years in the South wrote: "The Tennessee ladies are 
all politicians, I believe the most zealous to be found 
anywhere, ami I have caught their spirit." The at- 
mosphere that surrounded southern ladies adapted them 
admirably to the blind loyalty so much in demand 
among the followers of the standard-bearers of exploita- 

The snuff-dipping propensities of ante-bellum ladies 
seem incongruous with the famed gentility. The 
practice was supposed to brighten the eyes and im- 

'♦* Aviry. Dixie after the H'ar, 23 footnote. 

The White Family in the Old South 327 

prove the complexion of the young, hence rose (in 
theory) above the level of mere self-indulgence. But 
it was detrimental to health and character. Long said : 
"It is blasting the health of many a young mother, while 
a broken hearted husband stands by and can render no 
relief. No wonder that Southern men are irritable, 
passionate, and headstrong, if born of such mothers." 
Other causes contributed to ill health. Long further 
remarked : 

I have no doubt that the white ladii's of the South have worse 
health than any class of females in any enlij^htened nation. 
It is the result of slavery, which exempts them from all labor 
of a domestic character. . . It is considered a mark of Kd" 
tility to be feeble, effeminate, dyspeptic, and nervous. 
Some resort to acids to reduce their bulk, and thus ruin their 
teeth, their breath, and their health. . . We . . . fear 
that many bosoms that appear natural, are but cotton after 
all. Southern ladies die early, and bequeath multitudes 

of motherless children to step-mothers. It is no uncommon 
thing to find men w ho have been married two, three, and four 

Even the chastity of the southern women (a monop- 
olized excellence) was scarcely a virtue, but rather a 
matter of course. Men sedulously shielded their fe- 
male perquisites of white blood. A young lady of 
South Carolina got a verdict of one thousand dollars 
against a man (of moderate means) for imputation of 
unchastity. Education and public opinion were strain- 
ed to the preservation of the purity of free women, 
or rather of such as belonged to the master race. 
Somewhat of the spirit of the regnant male may be 
glimpsed in the remark of a Natchez gentleman about 
1808: "The ladies in general are extremely delicate, 
which never fails to please, and excite the warmest sen- 
sations in the beholder. . . Tho chaste as the virgin 

328 1 he- ^hturu (in I'd mil \ 

cjucen before the Gordian knot is tied, yet indulgent as 
tlu- C'vprian goddess for ever after." 

\\ c iRcd not he surprised at unworthy traits in some 
of the women of the South. They were the product 
of six or seven generations ot an execrable economic 
system and could not altogether escape its taint. If 
women attended negro sales and were not always en- 
tirely refined in their manipulations; if, as Miss Grimkc 
reported, a woman that conducted daily family wor- 
ship showed extreme brutality to slaves; if a Baltimore 
lady "richly and fashionably dressed, and apparently 
moving in the best society" derived her income from 
the sale of children of negro women whose husbands 
belonged to other masters there is no occasion for won- 
derment. .Miss Martineau mentioned the case of a 
young man full of the southern pride who married a 
young lady who 

Soon after her marriapc showed an imperious and cruel temper 
towards her slaves. Her hushand gently remonstrated. She 
did not mend. He warned her . . that, if she compelled 

him to it, lie would deprive her of the power she misused. 
Still she did not mend. He one day came and told her that he 
had sold all his domestic slaves for their own sakes. It 

rarely happens that free service can be hired ; and this proud 
gentleman assists his wife's labors with his own hands. 

A Virginian was quoted in 1853 as saying: 

I must remark . . . that Southern ladies are not always 
"amiable and domestic." Some . . . arc real viragos, and 
make no more of giving a negro man nine-and-thirty with a 
cowhide than they do of taking a chew of tobacco. Some of 
them are indolent, fashionable, and fond of pleasure, and care- 
less alike of husbands, children, or slaves.'*' 

Almira Lincoln Phelps, a southern woman, after 

'♦* NciUon. Recoltfctions of a six Yrars Res'uiencf in thr Vnitrd States, 
aSj; American An»i-SIavePk- Societ>'. .Imrriran Sla^'fry as it is, 22; Mar- 
tinrau. Sotirty in /Imrrira, vol. ii, 315; American and foreign Anti-Slavery 
Society. Thirlrmth Annual Rr/>orl, 152. 

The White Family in the Old South 329 

telling of good housekeeping by New England ladies, 
said : 

Most of you young ladies from the Southern States are not 
under the necessity of performing household labors. It would 
be a mistaken kindness in you to do the labor and let the menials 
live in idleness. But yet it is well for you to know what labor 
is. . . No family can be well ordered or even comfortable, 
where the care, as well as the labor, is thrown upon servants. 

Housekeeping is more important, she said, than merely 
ornamental living; accomplishments should be valued 
chiefly as an aid to refinement and cheer of the domestic 
circle, whereas most young ladies thought they were 
means to gain admiration in society, that it is a waste 
of time to practise them on their families. 

In a young man's letter from Richmond a few vears 
before the middle of the century was the assertion that 
an alarming deterioration was affecting woman's ways. 

I look upon these changes that are now occurring among the 
young women of our cities in their language, habits, and man- 
ners, as more important than cjuestions in government; for they 
exist among those who rule and direct the men who carry out 
the government. . . Woman can alter the dialect, change 
the manners, dictate the dress and habits of life, anil control the 
morals of every communits. . . \'oung ladies who have re- 
ceived education in northern schools, or who have gone to 
northern cities for the purpose of obtaining "an air" (airs, not 
graces, are thus received) [have adopted plebeian prounciation.] 

A mid-century writer on Richmond lamented that such 
works as the Lady's Book are more popular than the 
Southern Literary Mcsscn^rcr though thcv arc full of 
garbage, sickly sentimentality, ami "romantic tales 
adapted to the capacity and the unripe minds of boanl- 
ing-school young ladies."'^" 

Death and widowhood in the olil South complicated 
the problem of keeping intact the family name ami 

'*" Little. Rlilimond, 73-74, 84. 

330 I he Atucru tin Idniily 

dignin,'. Schocpf reported of Confederation days in 

South Carolina that 

Under this zone, the male sex is exposed to more and more 
dan^jerous diseases than the female, or rather the men expose 
theniselves to disease, because they permit themselves vastly 
more extravagances of all sorts and j^ive a freer rein to their 
passions. Men therefore die frequently in the bl(M)m of their 
years and lea\e hehiml for others youn^' and rich widows. 

In the tirst halt of tlie nineteenth century Tennessee 
e.xpcrienccil. like \'irginia in colonial days, a belleship 
of widows. In old eastern V^irginia it was not expected 
that a widow would remarry and usually she did not. 
It was almost a matter of course for a husband to make 
enjoyment of the estate conditional on non-marriage; 
the chief gospel was the preservation of family name 
and these restrictions were not considered cruel.'*' 

Conservatism retarded the introduction of divorce. 
In New Orleans of the forties divorces were practically 
unknown in polite circles. In some cases men sent err- 
ing wives abroad and made them stay there. There 
was no need of divorce in such a case, or of open scan- 
dal.'*' South Carolina was already wedded to her 
present conservatism. Hecke heard, indeed, in Mary- 
land anil \'irginia that various men had deserted as 
manv as four wives, many with four or five children, 

I'^imily affection was a stront^ asset in the prosperous 
circles of the South. The isolation of families con- 
stituted each into a community bound together by clos- 
est ties of affection, dependence, and interest. Every 
economic and social force contributed to family soli- 
darity. Joel C. Harris says: 

The home life of the plantation was larger, ampler, 

and more perfect than that which exists in the republic today, 

'♦^ Wirntr. StuJifs in t/ir South and H'est, 23. 
'♦•Ripley. Social Lift in old Srw OrUans, 91. 

The White Family in the Old South 331 

not because it was more leisurely and freer from care, but be- 
cause the aims and purposes of the various members of the fam- 
ily were more concentrated. 

Home was the center of all life. In the sparsely peo- 
pled rural districts public diversions of a commercial 
sort did not exist to lure young folks away from paren- 
tal supervision. Relations between parents and chil- 
dren were ordinarily spontaneous and affectionate. 
Dyer asserts that 

It was this rural home of? to itself, fixing its own policies, and 
directing its own activities, more than any other institution, 
more than all other institutions, that gave to the South its dis- 
tinctive type of civilization. . . Such life and influence can 
never come from a city home. 

Cook remarks that **the Kentucky children were taught 
that character was everything . . . that home was 
a sacred retreat, and that he who invaded its sacred 
purity might expect death." Hale and Merritt in 
their History of Tennessee recall that "the home was 
a home in the best sense -a domestic center of absolute 
family order and discipline, rather free from distract- 
ing cares, and refined. The women were ladies in the 
old high sense of the word." Aged Southerners still 

Remember the genteclness, the industry, the kindness of rule 
and deportment, that were general in planters' families before 
the War; how they often breakfasted with the sun-rise, and 
how they and their sons, in the day, laid out and superintended 
work in the fields, and their wives and daughters did the like in 
the house and the cabinyard, how the early evening was given 
to reading and family discussion. 

Religion had a profounil influence on southern fam- 
ily life. The Scotch-Irish reared tlie family altar. The 
house of worship, whether high church or low, was a 
family institution in the South. Among the earlv set- 
tlers of Kentucky, "whatever cnher books were wanting, 

-^^2 The .huirii an Itnni/y 

each faniilv had its Hihle. ami this being ahiiost tlie 
onlv book in the hDUSchohl, it was highly prized, and 
its lessons instilled iiitn the minds of the little ones," 
Michaux. however, who tia\elled in the West in 1S02, 
sail! ot Kentucky : 

Whenever tlu-rc is an alliaiuc In-twiH-n families, the ihffcreiKe 
of reliRion is never considered as an obstacle; the hushaiui ami 
wife pursue whatever kind of worship they like Ix-st, and their 
children, when they urow up, do just the same, without the 
interference of their parents. 

In SO far as city life developed, the simplicity of the 
familv life tended to disappear. At Richmond in i8(x:) 
"the higher circle consisted of the families of the neigh- 
boring planters, who left their estates to the manage- 
ment of overseers, and spent the larger part of the year 
in Riehnioiul because of its social advantages." At 
New Orleans the perpetual shifting on account of fever 
was a serious evil to sober families and very injurious 
to the minils and habits of children. King says how- 
ever of I'reneh New Orleans in ante-helluni days: 
"There were no suninier trips then beyond the atmos- 
phere of Louisiana, none of the periodical separations, 
which, year after year . . . break through the 
union of families and friends." But in New Orleans 
even as earlv as iS;^i; there were bachelor apartments. 
The first tendency of the spirit of Revolutionary 
ilavs was to do away with artificial social distinctions. 
Primogeniture was abolished in Virginia and Mary- 
land; so that only by will could estates be maintained 
intact (as was in fact done in some notable cases for the 
sake of prestige). In Maryland, following the Revo- 
lution there was an open contempt for anything savor- 
ing of caste and nobilitv. "Coats of arms were de- 
stroyed and even erased from family silver in some 
cases, antl all evidences of pride of lineage frr)wned 

The IV kite Family in tlw Old South 333 

down by the American patriots and their descendants, 
so that not to know one's grandmother was not rare." '*"' 
After the Revolution, soil exhaustion in the older 
states and competition in tobacco reduced (jld families 
to poverty and oblivion. Jefferson made a pathetic 
attempt to keep up the old hospitality; Mrs. Madison 
received charily. As early as 1820 "the absence of the 
privilege of primogeniture, and the consequent repeat- 
ed subdivision of property are gradually effecting a 
change in the structure of society in South Carolina, 
and will shortly efface its most interesting and charac- 
teristic features." By the early thirties at Charleston 
abolition of primogeniture had undermined old fam- 
ilies. "Comparatively few of the (jld families now re- 
main who are wealthy. . . Therefore, the sons of 
the best men of the South are wisely placed in counting- 
houses in the great trading cities, or . . . bred U) 
some useful calling." (But there were many showy 
idlers.) The South Carolina planter no longer inher- 
ited enough to send his sons to English universities. 
Division of propertv was killing patrician notions. At 
the same period Abdy 

Asked a very shrewd man, ulio looked like a farmer, how lonj; 
estates remained in the same family in Virginia. "The longest 
period," he replied, "may he three or four generations. I do 
not think I could point out one in possession of an estate that 
belonged to it at the revolution. The poor and industrious 
soon succeed to the rich and extravagant; and a perpetual inter- 
change is going on hetween them." 

By 1845, the once numerous large estates had in many 
instances gradually clwindled, the descendants retain- 
ing the pride without the means. Many preferred to 
subsist on the bounty of friends rather than work. 
Olmsted remarked in iS^i that a large percentage of 

1** Richardson. SiJeti^hlt on MurylunJ History, vol. i, 178-179. 

334 riw Anwrn an Family 

families composini^ the Virs^inia and South Carolina 
gentry before the RevDJution iiad passed througli dis- 
mantling poverty very dissipating; to hereditary breed- 
ing. \'ery lew were the real "old families" that re- 
mained at all "well-bred." 

The Revolution itself luul divided families and the 
political divisions that followed had somewhat of a 
similar effect. I'edcralist fathers had Republican sons. 
A young man objectionable on account of his party 
eloped with a young huly and had to fight a duel with 
an irate brother-in-law before he could get into the 
family affections. \\\ another case months of interces- 
sion were recjuired. 

The democratic disposition to deal with individuals, 
not families, bore fruit in a Maryland statute of 1818 
to the effect that 

No children shall be answerable for the passage money of their 
parents, dead or alive, nor parents for their deceased children, 
nor a husband for his deceased wife, nor a wife for her deceased 
husband, any pretence of custom in contract, promise or ajjree- 
ment made beyond sea, to the contrary notwithstanding. 

In spite, however, of all contrary tendencies, the 
family in the Stjuth was a much more potent institu- 
tion than elsewhere in the republic. Old families held 
the day. In Kentucky, family feuds cost sundry lives. 
The eldest son of the old \''irginia families was regard- 
ed as representative of the kin. In old east Virginia, 
family was a fetich. Instates were entailed to the limit 
of the law -one generation, and the heir commonly re- 
newed religiously the entail. The tidewater owner of 
large estates would have been insulted by the idea of 
selling his home. The ancestral abode was the one 
spot on earth. A writer (jf 1837 protesting against soil 
wastage and abandonment too common (in Florida) 

The White Family in the Old South 335 

said: "It is something to preserve the fruits that we 
have planted, and the improvements that we have made 
in early life, or those which we have received from our 

Relationship was traced by Southerners to a remote 
degree. The bond of fellowship stretched to include 
all that were worthy, even tho they had removed to 
distant places. A post-bellum writer on North Carolina 
said: "In the many political canvasses which I have 
made, from East to West, I have never, to my best rec- 
ollection, visited a county however distant, without 
being asked by some one about his kinsmen living in 
my county." It would be hard to overestimate the 
power of a great and strongly entrenched southern fam- 
ily connected with a dozen like families all holding a 
common point of view and action. Marriage and in- 
termarriage and the tangle of consanguinity welded the 
slave power. Intercourse consequent to intermarriage 
made Virginians clannish. A traveller prior to 1825 
found an old couple in Mississippi "who had settled 
nine children in their neighborhood . . . giving 
each . about one thousand acres . . . and 

a stock of negroes, and retaining for themselves only 
just sufficient for their wants and to supply a little oc- 
cupation." By 184^ the rich lands bordering the Alta- 
maha (in Georgia), with adjacent islands had been 
acquired by a few families. 

Christmas was the time for reunions. "It was not 
uncommon to see from twenty-five to si.xty relatives 
seated at the bounteous board." In Old Virginia some 
relations were always present on a visit. There was a 
great deal of visiting between Kentucky families. A 
historian of Mississippi recalls the early custom of 
going "with one's familv to the home of a 'neighbor' a 

336 rill .1 niitii an Fiittiily 

few miles distant to remain from Saturday until Mon- 
day or even longer. " A writer on CJeorgia says: 

Am iiunt of mine h;i5 said to iiu- that, u lu-n a younj: lad\ in lu-r 
father's house, she scarcely rtnuiubereil sittin^: liown to tlic 
dinner table with less than twenty-four. And I have often 
been told of the gentleman and his wife, who, bein^ asked to 
dine at a residence on St. Simon, found that during the meal a 
bt)at had been sent to Darien. fifteen miles distant for their luy;- 
tpiKe, and that so much pleased were host, hostess, and guests 
with one another, that the stay was prolonged until two chil- 
dren had been born to the visiting couple. 

Hospitality in the old South prevented the estab- 
lishment of good hotels, yet one finds many instances 
showing lack of hospitality. Hence we are inclined 
to doubt the universal receptivity of the southern home. 
It seems probable that kindred or other social ties or 
interests drew rather narrow lines. 

Outbreeding in so far as it occurred had significant 
social results. Mixture with the l-'rench tended to a 
lessening of austerity. .Marriage of Creoles with law- 
yers and merchants from the North helped to cement 
the sections. The children of many southern families 
even prior to i K2;; were 

Educated, the young men at colleges in the northern and eastern 
States, and the young ladies at hoarding-schools in Philadel- 
phia ; and some of them have formeil matrimonial connections 
with northern families. . . One happy consequence is a de- 
gree of repugnance to the slave-system on the part of some of 
the younger members of the community. 

A northern governess remarket! that ninety-nine per 
cent of the governesses, tutors, professional men, and 
others who Hock to the South (ten thousand yearly) 
in order to improve their fortunes remain (the voung 
ladies, if they can find southern husbands). 

On the whole, the South was probably more con- 
servative the Xorth in its treatment of the young. 

The IV kite Family in the Old South 337 

In New Orleans of 1840 "children were neither seen 
nor heard. . They led the simple life, ^oin^ and 

coming in their own unobstrusive way." In Old Ken- 
tucky, "children were taught to love and venerate their 
parents, and were always ready to help them an.l vin- 
dicate them, and a boy would fight quicker for his 
father's or his mother's honor than for his own." A 
southern man that had lived north wrote in i860: 

The parental discipline is more rip^d [in the South] and Youn^ 
America is rarely mt-t with, save in tlu- lart^e towns and vil- 
lages. • . The better portion of southern boys arc tauj^ht to 
consider themselves boys so \on\^ as they remain in their teens, 
and the valuable advice of Hebrew Solomon is followed to the 
letter, in case they seek to imitate the vices or to ape the man- 
ners of their elders before the down has ripened on their boyish 

Page says of old Virginia: 

There was somcthinji in seeinj:; the master and mistress obeyed 
by the plantation and looked up to by the neij^hborhood which 
inspired the children with a reverence akin to awe which is not 
known at this present time. It was not till the younjx people 
were grown that the reverence lost the awe and became based 
only upon affection and admiration. 

The customary subduction of girlhood was not sutli- . 
cient to quench normal exuberance. Letters frotti t he- 
South and It'est noted that "when out on the green ter- 
races, or in the parterres, and orchards, the young girls 
run wild as the boys." Page says of Virginia: 

^^herc were the little girls in their great sun-bonnets, often 
sewed on to preserve the wonderful peach-blossom complexions, 
with their small female companions playing about the yard or 
garden, running with and wishing they were boys, and getting 
half scoldings from mammy for being tomboys and tearing 
their aprons and dresses. 

The South had certain pathologies of child behavior 
and child control. In iS:;^ a manual school was urged 

338 Tilt' Anwrican Family 

for Norfolk orphan boys. "A number of subjects are 
daily runninq; wild throiii;h our streets, exempt from 
all control or protection, engaging in every kind of 
mischief and vice, ami treading that path which must 
inevitably lead them to crime and infamy." There 
was also in the ante-bellum South a type of man with 
"^'ankee" characteristics cold and repellant to wile 
and children, anxious to keep them from fee simple in- 
heritance. While he buried himself in sordid ac(]uisi- 
tion his children were free to give themselves to liis- 
sipation and senseless love of pleasure or else, unrea- 
sonably stinted anil curbed during his life and on his 
death coming into possession of wealth which they did 
not know how to use wiselv, thev fell into unwise ex- 
penditure. I-'rom these southern mammonists, it was 
allegeil, sprang "in the main our cotton snobs and rich 
southern bullies." The cotton snob went off to col- 
lege and bought harlots. When he married, the fam- 
ily vaunted its wealth in gaudy display. 

Child care was far from scientific. For instance, the 
New Orleans Creole beauties were said to be excessive- 
ly indulgent mothers. Fanny Remble noted, too, that 
their overseer's wife was suckling a baby two and a 
half years old an<i remarked that American women 
injure themselves thus. 

As in colonial days, education in the rural South was 
a serious problem. Schoepf remarked of Charleston 
in Confederation days: "It has long been nothing ex- 
traordinary for the richer inhabitants to send their 
children of both sexes to luirope for their education." 
People of other states did likewise, at least for the boys. 
Northern colleges received many southern boys before 
the War in sj^ite of the danger of heretical infection as 
to sacred institutions. In the early days free thought 

The White Family in the Old South 339 

touched the South. It is learned that prior to 1816 
"Liberty" and "Infidelity" crept into William and 
Mary. "Dissipation followed. Relleciiiii^ par- 

ents at last took the alarm, ami silently withdrew their 
children from an institution where they couKi no longer 
trust them with safety to their morals, and hardly to 
their lives." ^^° 

The system of tutors and governesses was also em- 
ployed. iMany of these pedagogs came from the North. 
One recorded that usually the governess holds a place 
midway between the lady and the overseer's wife. She 
can't get a husband inasmuch as a gentleman will not 
court a teacher. 

This line of distinction bctwern the j^ovcrncss and the mother 
of the young children she teaches is more strongly defined in the 
older and more aristocratic families. [The higher the fashion 
of the family, the lower the station of the governess.] In j^en- 
craJ the planters keep their daughters under governesses till 
they are fourteen, and then send them to some celebrated school, 
North or South, to remain a year or two to graduate. . . 
Since the recent agitation of the slavery question, the Missis- 
sippians are disposed to be shy of northern teachers. 

Preparatory training at home was likely to be deficient 
and to subject the lads to sharp transition when they 
went to college. 

The public school system of the South was crude. 1 1 . 
grew under difficulties, in the face of the individualistic 
or aristocratic propensities of the people. 

In the latter part of the eighteenth century at h>lli- 
cott's Mills, Maryland, the company built a school- 
house for the chihlren of the village and of the adjacetit 
neighborhood. All of suitable age were admitted ir- 
respective of their parents' means. In Rockingham 
County, Virginia, the .Methodists started a school in 

^^'^ Letters from I'irginia, 130. 

340 Tht' Aiuirican Family 

1794. "The scholars shall attend at eight oclock in the 
summer ami half past eight in the winter, and the 
teacher shall regulate the time of attendance in spring 
and autumn accoriling to the length ot the ilay." An 
hour was allowetl for recreation in winter and two in 
summer. Dismissal was at six in summer, four in 
winter. "No gaming of any kind, nor instruments of 
play shall be tolerated. The scholars shall be e.xamin- 
cd in the 'Instructions for Children' once a week except 
the children of such parents as disapprove the same." 

In 181 I the South Carolina legislature "on petition 
of several counties, established what was meant to be a 
working svstem of free common schools open to all the 
white children of school age," preference to be given 
to destitute orphans and children of the poor in case 
of shortage of funds. One hundred thirty-three schools 
were established at once. This was the first free school 
system foundeil in America, and continued with vari- 
ous degrees of success down to the Civil War. On the 
proposed repeal of the act in 1813 one legislator sjioke 
effectively in its defense, showing that the country peo- 
ple have no means to educate their children, that genius 
may be found buried in lowly cottages, and that the 
free schools had been a godsend. "It is contended that 
the children should be boarded, as well as educated, 
at public expense because" the schools are remote from 
their homes! "One gentleman has said that his con- 
stituents disdain to be enlightened at public expense."'*' 

In 1820 Virginia inaugurated a state system of free 
schools for the poor. Marvland established a state 
school system in 182-;. In 1839 North Carolina put a 
state system in operation. The modern system of free 
schools began in New Orleans in 1841. Louisiana es- 

'" Dyer. Drmorroi y in the South hrfore the Civil ff'ar, 71-72; Courfenay. 
Education in Charlriton, 5. 

The White Family in the' 01 J South 341 

tablished her public schuol system in 1845. Dyer 
maintains that "the idea of a Slate Fund for the edu- 
cation of those who were not able to pay their tuition 
originated in the South. The idea of the education of 
the poor children by the state came from the South." 
The school system of the South, however, scarcely could 
be called a success. Abdy observed of Virginia in the 
early thirties that there were no public schools as in the 
North. Commissioners of the poor sent children to 
private schools along with those able to pay. "Rather 
than expose them to humiliation, many parents keep 
their children at home, where they receive little or no 
education." He added that there was little provision 
for popular education in the South. Page in the "Old 
Dominion" mentioned a small free school in his neigh- 
borhood established by a bequest of 1844- a farmer left 
his estate for the education of children of his poor 
neighbors. A physician writing in 1S51 on Richmond 
said : 

The mass of children are taught in private or in denominational 
schools. . . It is better to place education under church in- 
fluence than under that of the state. . The government 
cannot, itself, educate the community, it can only act by a cloud 
of irresponsible and ignorant sch(x)l masters; nor would it be 
right for it to exercise the power if it possessed the ability- of im- 
parting a good education. It is no more a part of government 
to provide education to the people, than it is to provide labor 
and wages; nor is it right to tax one section of a community to 
educate the other. 

In Georgia fear of paternalism retarded adoptinn of a 
common school system. There was also lack n\ inter- 
est in education.'" 

*"* On this paragraph sec: Hycr, Demoiracy in thf South before the Civil 
H'ar, 71-77; /\h(ly. Journal of a Rfsidftiie and Tour in the I'nitrJ Slatei, 
vol. ii, 238, 254-257; Papc, Olil Dominion, J42-344; Little, Richmond, 81; 
Smith, Story of Gforsiia and the C.eors^ia People, 488-489. 

342 The Anur'uiin Family 

In iSs;! William Grei^^ speaking on manufactures 
before the South Carolina Institute saiil : 

While ur arc a\\arr that the iiortht-rn aiul i-astcrn states find iii> 
difficulty in educating their pt)or, \\c are ready to di"spair of suc- 
cess in the matter, for even penal laws aj^ainst the neglect of 
education would fail to brin^ many of our country people to 
send their children to school. We have collected at 

[Graniteville] about ei^jht hundred peuple, and as likely looking]; 
a set of country ^irls as may be found - industrious and orderly 
people, but deplorably ignorant, three-fourths of the adults not 
hc'\i\^ able to read or write their names. . . With the aid 
of ministers of the CjosfK'l on the spot, to preach to them and 
lecture them on the subject, we have obtained but about si\t\ 
children for our school, of about a hundred which are in the 
place. . . The only means of educating:; and Christiani/inj: 
our pt)or whites, will be to bring them into such villages, where 
they will not only become Intelligent, but a thrifty and useful 
class. . . Notwithstanding our rule, that no one can be per- 
mitted to occupy our houses who d(K's not send all his children 
to school that are between the ages of six and twelve, It was 
with some difliciiltv. at first, that we could make up even a sin.ill 

*'The Child That 'lOileth Not" was not a twentieth cen- 
tury discovery. Charles V. James in De Bow's In- 
dustrial Resources of the Soutliuest said that "Boys and 
girls, by thousands, destitute both of employment and 
the means of education, grow up to ignorance and pov- 
erty, and, too many of them to vice and crime. [Man- 
ufacturing is the cure.]'"'"' 

A writer on Tazewell County, Virginia in 1852 said 
that schools were poor and that there was need of con- 
veying children to school. In iH;;:; we find at Xorfolk 
a free school for the benefit of indigent children. "It 
is hoped that this school will become a useful institu- 
tion to the community in rescuing many friendless 
children from ignorance and vice." 

"* Tower. Slavery unmaskfJ, 351-356. 

The JVhite Family in the Old South 343 

In the country schools and academies of the old 
South coeducation was the rule and much benefit came 
from this companionship.''^* The South was conserva- 
tive in respect to education of women. Some of them 
gained intellectual charm from contact with cultured 
men or by effective general reading. Fiction did not 
have right of way everywhere. It is rather amusing 
to think of ladies secretly reading the Vicar of Jfake- 
field or Paul and riririnia.^''' From (Georgia came a 
plea for more attention to the education of women that 
they might be better fitted to train their children. The 
Ladies' Magazine of Boston quoted, in 1833, a Georgia 
educator as saying that "too much show and too little 
solidity has marked the course of girls' education, and 
woman has been looked upon rather as a creature to 
please, than as a being designed for the exercise of 
thought." One could wish that more men had shared 
the view of the University of Virginia student who 
wrote home in 184Q urging the education of his sister 
and alleging that ''if an educated woman does not make 
a good wife, it is because the man who received her 
hand was unworthy of it, and because it was the harnl 
of a slave, and not of a wife and an e(]ual that was the 
object of his desire.'"'" Yet Georgia had the first col- 
lege in the world to bestow diplomas on women -Wes- 
leyan at Macon.'" 

Hundley indicated in his Social Relations in our 
Southern States that 

In most instanct"s the daughters of [a middlc-dajis, modest] 
southern matron rcsrmblt* their mother, save that they possess 
a little more modern polish and culture, and hanker more ea^jer- 
ly after the vanities of the world ; hut even the (Iau^:hters are 

*** Curry. Tfir South in the olden Timr, 41. 

1*5 Hale and Mcrritt. History of Ttnnrsift and T enntsstfixni, vol ii, 409. 

'•'•"Smedes. Southern Planter, 136. 

>''^ Rutherford. Georgia Day Programme, 1910, 19, ji. 

344 T^^^ American Family 

often quite uneducated in the current literature of the times, 
and in all thinj^s else evince a simplicity of mind and character 
altot;ether refreshing:. Sometimes, 'tis true, they are sent to 
boarding schools (which are becoming: more common in the 
South of late years), are there exposed to a false and shallow 
system of hot-bed culture for a few sessions; and emerj^in^ 
therefrom in due lime make their debut in life, possessed of 
full as much pride and affectation, as well as conceit and van- 
ity, as of artificial ^jraces of person and manner ; and boastinj; 
a superficial knowledge of twenty different branches of learn- 
ing, but in reality having a perfect mastery and comprehension 
of none. Southern young ladies of this character, however, 
are usually the daughters of tradesmen, village store-keepers, 
and the like, who constitute a pretty fair proportion of the 
southern middle classes. . [These men frequently educate 

their children so senselessly] that they almost invariably grow 
up to be nothing better th:in doddling fops and parvenucs.*" 

The lot of the girl of the humbler classes of southern 
uhites just before the war did not include even the 
minimum of schooling allotted to the boy. The only 
exception was in the new public schools in a few cities, 
in some of which excellent high schools for girls were 
established. Fr(jm these sources was developing a large 
class of enthusiastic girls, precursors of woman's free 
education in the South. Ante-bellum southern girls 
were largely dependent on female colleges established 
chiefly by churches. Isolation and lack of good local 
facilities hindered women's enlightenment. **No- 
where was the opportunity for educational and social 
development more persistently withholden from the 
majority of women of tlic lower orders than in the older 
Southern States previous to i860.'""' 

\\arious arrangements were made in the old South 
for the care of dependent children. A Maryland act 

'*• Hundley. Social Relations in our Southern States, loo, iii. 
'*• Mayo. Southern If'omen in the recent Educational Movement in the 
South i« 41. 

The White Family in the Old South 345 

of 1818 empowering orphans' courts to bind out free 
black children neglected or ncjt usefully employed by 
parents provided that courts might require the child to 
be taught to read or write, or in lieu thereof that thirty 
dollars be given in addition to the ordinarv dues at 
freedom. (As with whites, the wishes of parents were 
to be consulted in the choice of master.) The code of 
i860 stated that it was not necessary, in binding out col- 
ored children, to require education. 
In Virginia 

Prior to 1805 [it was] customary ... to provide in- 
struction for slaves . . . servants . . . free negroes. 
Church wardens and overseers of the poor upon binding out a 
bastard or a pauper child, black or white, specifically required 
that he should be taught to "read" and "write" and "calcu- 
late," as well as to follow some profitable form of labor.'*" 

Various orphan asylums were in operation. In 1797 
Dr. De La Howe of South Carolina left his estate to 
be used in the education and training in manual and 
domestic labor of twelve boys and twelve girls- a per- 
manent blessing to homeless, needv orphans. The 
South Carolina Huguenot Society looked after many 
children. A movement started in Savannah in 1801 
for the foundation of a female asylum shows good sense 
views on the treatment of orphans: 

It is a matter of certainty, that notwithstanding the attentions 
paid to the poor in this city, many female orphans suffer for 
want of early patronage. . , We are most deeply penetrated 
with the sufferings of our own sex. ( )ur design is to 

raise funds for the benefit of female orphans and other p<K)r 
children, from three to ten years of age, and to board them with 
some capable discreet woman, who shall teach them to read, 
write, sew, and do all kinds of domestic business, until they are 
old enough to be placed in virtuous families. At a suit- 

able time they shall be placed in good families, imtil the age of 

'"^ Ballagh. History of Slavery in I'irffinia, 109. 

eighteen years, except such ... as may be tau^jht mil- 
liner^', mantua-making, or some business of a similar kiml. 
They have since had the happiness of placing [six persons] all 
lately under thr chilling inHurnce of adversity; but now, neatly 
attired, well frd, arid xssiduously instructed, [they] inspire 
in every benevolent beholder, the most pleasing reflections. 

Captain Hall of the British navy, who travelled in 
America in the later twenties, considered the orphanage 
at Charleston 

A most interesting sight, however questionable the policy may 
be. which, by holding out artificial means of subsistence to fam- 
ilies, gives a hurtful degree of stimulus to the increase of pop- 
ulation, already but too apt to run into excess. [His own re- 
marks seem to emphasize, however, the need of such an institu- 
tion. After speaking of the way in which American families 
scatter and members lose sight of one another he said:] It 
often happens, that the heads of a househoUl die of?, or wander 
away, no one knows where, and leave children, if not quite des- 
titute, at least dependent on persons whose connexion and in- 
terest in them are so small, that the public eventually is obliged 
to take care of them. . At Charleston, Savannah, and 

other parts of the country u liere . . yellow fever (Kcurs, 

and where that still more dreadful curse of America - spirit- 
drinking - prevails, to at least as great an excess as in the other 
states, it very often happens that children arc left, at the end 
of the sickly season, without any relations or natural protectors 
at all. Of course, I speak now of the poorer inhabitants, part 
of whom arc made up of emigrants, either from foreign coun- 
tries or from other parts of America. 

Ab(iy pointed out in 1835 that in New Orleans "a gam- 
bler can provi(]e for his family, while he is pursuing 
his amusements: the Orphan Asylum in that city being 
supported out of the licenses [of gambling dens]." 

Poverty abounded in the ante-bcllur7i South and 
class cleavage was clear-cut. I'hc slave-holding oli- 
garchy was a meager fraction of the population. Many 
of the whites were in a position to envy the slave. Mis- 
erable housing, scanty subsistence, absence of cduca- 

The White Family in the Old South 347 

tion, lack of opportunity on account of the degradation 
of labor resulting from the slave system, conspired to 
depress the moral ttjne and to lower the tjualitv of fam- 
ily institutions. Sometimes a very poor family owned 
a slave or two and these miserable chattels shared in the 
extremities of fortune that fell upon their masters. At 
the beginning of the century an observer expresses the 

That in nine cases in ten. the hardships and sufferings of the 
colored population of lower V'ir^inia is attributable to the pov- 
erty and distress of its owners. In many instances, an estate 
scarcely yields enough to feed and clothe the slaves in a com- 
fortable manner, without allowing anything for the support of 
the master and the family ; but it is obvious that the family 
must first be supported, and the slaves must be content with the 
surplus; and this on a poor, old, worn out tobacco plantation, 
is often very small and wholly inadequate to the comfortable 
sustenance of the hands."" 

A dealer gave the ifitormatiori that in some instances 
masters were obliged to sell slaves in order to save their 
families from ruin.'"" 

The Augusta ChronicU' in 18 19 gave a glimpse of the 
depths of poverty that were possible even for whites. 
"Passed through from Greenville District 

bound for Chatahouchee, a man and his wife, his son 
and his wife, with a cart but no horse. [The men were 
harnessed to the vehicle], the son's wife rotle 
and the old woman was walking, carrying a ritle ami 
driving a cow.""" 

Candler observed of Virginia (in his work published 
in 1824) that 

The log houses of the pfK)r whites atnl free colcjurrd people 
were little adapted to exclude cold and wet. .All seemed dor- 

'•" Documrnttiry History of .t mrrittin In./uftrijl Soriety, vol. ii, 63-64. 
xm — Idetn, 67. 
^^^ — Idftn, 196. 

348 Tilt' .lull III (in J-tiniily 

manr. . . The small occupier of land in the free states is 
an independent, industrious man with children industrious as 
himself. In the slave states, he is pixjr and lazy, and his chil- 
dren are brou^jht up without havinjj their powers either mental 
or corpjoreal properly develoj>ed. The house of the former is 
comfortable, that of the latter miserable. 

A writer in \ilts' R,-}risttr prior to 1835 said of Mary- 
land : 

The character of the white laboring population in Maryland, 
as well as their numbers, and efficiency, is declining in all the 
chief slave holdinjj counties. . Hundreds of landholders 

whose fathers lived in affluence are reduced almost to poverty, 
without any personal act of indiscretion to cause it.'"* 

Buckingham's book of 1842 calls attention to the fact 
that in Cicorgia back country clearings all, voung and 
old, must work. 

We saw many boys and ktIs, of not more than six or seven 
years of ane, some using small axes, others carrying wood, and 
others assisting in domestic duties. In general they were very 
dirty , . . the mother being too weary to wash them. 
[Parents and childreti looked pale, haggard, overworked.] 

V Smith says that in ante-bclluni (ieorgia "the toilers did 
not often mate with the aristocrats nor intrude upon 
them socially." In the mountains and pines common 
folks had settled in advance of the schoolmaster; so the 
children's only chance for learning was from mothers' 
love. The women would teach all that they remem- 
bered. The father was too busy or tired. "Before 
the war there were in north Georgia at least two gen- 
erations that had grown up with but a limited educa- 
tion -in fact, with none to speak of, for it was rare to 
find a man among them who could read or write."""' 
Buckingham said of North Carolina that at every 

'•♦Candler. Summary Vinu of America, 251, 254.; Abdy. Journal of a 
ReiiJence and Tour in the Vnited States, vol. i, 383. 

'"* Buckingham. Slave States of America, vol. i, 231-232; Smith. School 
History of Georgia, 136. 

The IFIiite Family in the Old South 349 

farmhouse they saw eight or ten lazy men and boys 
hanging around. The women seemed equally lazy; 
niggers did the work. A southern-born gentleman, long 
a resident of South Canjlina, said of poor whites on the 
banks of the Congaree in that state that thev 

Are the (Jcsccndants of the former proprietors ot nearly all the 
land of the region ; but for generations, their fathers have Ix-cn 
gradually selling off to t!ie richer planters moving in among 
them, and living on the purchase money of their lands, and 
their children have been brought up in listless, aimless, and 
idle independence. 

This remark is but one evidence of the deterioration 
that befell the po(3r whites. IVIr. Tarver of Missouri 
in 1847 published a paper containing the following 
observation : 

I lament to say that I have observed of late years that an evi- 
dent deterioration is taking place in this part of the population, 
the younger portion of it being less educated, less industrious, 
and in every point of view less respectable than their ancestors. 

Soil exhaustion was in part to blame but doubtless the 
hookworm played his usual role. Stirling's Letters 
from the Slave States mention "hamisome dwellings 
here and there" and also "p(jor, mean-looking h(jme- 
steads" but note the lack of "the neat farm-houses that 
dot the landscape of New England, and speak of com- 
fort, equality, and intelligence.'"" 

Slavery was in part responsible for racial decay 
among the whites. The slavery of whites with all its 
atrocities had gradually come to an end but negro slav- 
ery reacted on the white race. Olmsted was told in 
Virginia that 

Poor white girls never hired out to do s<*rvant's work, but thry 

'""On this paragraph sec: Buckingham. .V/atv States of .Imericn, vol. ii, 
198-199; Olmsted, Journey in the Seaboard Slaxe States, 505-$o6; Tower, 
Slavery unmasked, 346; Stirlinfj, Letters from the Slave States, 4$. 

350 77/ c' .1 nil rii tin iiitnily 

would come and help another white woman about her sewinj^ 
and quilting and take wages for it. Hut these girls wen- not 
very respectable generally, and it was not agreeable to have 
them in your house, though then* were some very respectable 
ladies that would go out to sew. 

He found iIku iIr- puor whites of Xorih Carolina iivcil 
wrctchcilly. A ^cnllcnian said that he had several 
times appraised on oath the whole household property 
of such people at less than twenty dollars. The travel- 
ling agent of a relii^ious tract society read in a church 
in Charleston trorn his diarv: 

Visited families, numbering two hundred twenty-one souls over 
ten years of age; only twenty-three could read, and seventeen 
write. Forty-one families destitute of the Bible. . . All of 
one family rushed away when I knelt to pray, to a neighbor's, 
begging them to tell what I meant by it. Other families fell 
on their faces instead of kneeling. 

Hundreds of southern families lived ifi loi; cahins 
ten or twelve feet square "where the cliildren run 
around nakeii and a hecisteatl or 

chair was not in the house, and never will be" said a 
farmer living in Illinois."'^ 

Hundley (a southern man who had lived North) 
said that the sand-hillers were quite prolific, every 
house haviiiL^ half-a-dozen children. In the main, the 
entire family occupied one room; "but it is a rare cir- 
cumstance to find several families huddletl into one 
poor shanty, as is more ofleti the case than otherwise 
with those unfortunates in cities, who arc constrained 
to herd together promiscuouslv in tenant houses and in 
underground cellars." ""'' 

Poor white folks were unwilling to have their cliil- 
dren taught manual trades inasmuch as ncgrf)es gave to 

'"^ On ihi» paraKrapli set: Olmsted, Cotton Kint/Jom, vf>I. i, 82, 188, vol. 
ii, 285, 293, 308-309. 

••• Hundley. Serial Rflations in our Soiit/irrn Stairs, 265. 


The IFliitt: Family in the Old South 35 1 

such occupation the servile taint. Charles T. James, 
in De Bow's Industrial Resources of the South and 
IVest, said that the southern "poor white man will en- 
dure . pinching poverty, rather than cnj^agc in 
servile labor under the existing state of things, even 
were employment offered him, which is not general." 
The white girl was not wanted at service and if she 
were she could not condescend to such degradation; 
hence she was subjected to want and misery. 

So long as the newness of pioneer country lasteil, the 
class lines were indistinct. In Mississippi prior to 
1830 there was little contrast between rich and poor; 
the wealthy often preferrcil to live on a level with their 
less fortunate neighbors. "A failure to ask a neighbor 
to a house-raising, a clearing, or chopping frolic, or 
his family to a quilting was considered a great insult- 
such a one too as had to be answered for at the next 
muster or county court." But prcsentlv the chattel 
system developed a class of wealthy planters who be- 
came sharply distinguished from the lower class of poor 
white laborers. Exhaustion of the fertility of the 
southern soil by ''mining methods" of plantation agri- 
culture made it hard for the small farmer to compete 
save by the same methods that ended in ruin. 
In 1850 De Bow said that poor whites 
Are fast IcarniriK that there is ahnost an indiiitc world of in- 
dustry opening before them, by which they can elevate them- 
selves and their familii's from wretchedness and ii^orance to 
competence and intelligence. It is this j;reat upbearing of our 
masses that we are to fear so far as our institutions are con- 

The Southern Banner of Athens, (Georgia, voiced in 
1859 the aspirations of the working class: "\N*e want 
to see labor high. In every country the honest 

faithful laborer ought to be able to supply himself aiui 

j^2 The A till ru nil iiiniily 

family bv his labor, not only with the necessaries, but 

the comforts of life." Ohiistcd reported"'" tliat at 
Columbus, Geori^ia, a j;reat inaiuitacturiiiLi; town, "I'he 
operatives in the cotton-mills are said to be mainly 
'cracker girls' (poor uliites from the country), who 
earn, in ^nod times, by piece work, from eight to twelve 
dollars a month." Cireat numbers of the laborers in 
industries there were on the boniers of destitution. 

Some persons objected to the industrial movement 
of the South on the ground that manufacturing estab- 
lishments would be hotbeds of crime; the retort was to 
point to existing conditions and the beauties of the sys- 
tem that was to supplant the old order. I'>ven before 
the Civil War the class struggle among the whites was 
gathering bitterness. After 1H50 opposition to slavery 
in \orth Carolina was augmenting, in main due to the 
small farmer and workingman who saw in slavery a 
bar to progress for self and children.'"" It was possible 
to combine this resentment with the propaganda for 
capitalism, as is done in Helper's book of bitterness, 
Thf Ittipirii/iriir (Crisis. He points out that slavery ex- 
hausts the soil; small planters move awav; large plant- 
ers who can live on smaller profits spread. He quotes 
the honorable C. C. Clay as writing of Madison Coun- 
ty. Alabama: "One will discover numerous farm- 
houses, once the abotle of industrious and intelligent 
freeman. Flow occupied by slaves, or tenantless, deserted 
and dilapidated. 'one only master grasps the 

whole ilomain' that once furnished happy homes for a 
dozen white families." Speaking to the slaveholders 
Helper said: ""\'ou have absorbed the wealth of our 

■"Olmsted. Cotton Kinf(dom, vol. i, 273-274. 
'■".N'orth Carolina t'nivcrtiiy, James Spruiit Historical Publications, vol. 
X, no. I. Benjamin ShrriLood HeJrick, 5. 

The White Family in the Old South 353 

communities in sending your own children t<j northern 
seminaries and colleges, or in employing Yankee teach- 
ers to officiate exclusively in your own families, and 
have refused to us the limited privilege of common 
schools." He added that the proportion of free white 
children from five to twenty who are in school is over 
three times as great in the free states as in the slave 

To the argument that the South is too hot for white 
men, Helper rejoined: 

It is not too hot for white women. Time and attain, in differ- 
ent counties in North Carolina, \vc have seen the poor white 
wife of the poor white husband, following him in the harvest 
field from morninp: till nip;ht, binding up the ^rain as it fell 
from his cradle. In the immediate neighborhood from which 
we hail, there are not less than thirty youni; women, riun- 
slaveholdin^j whites, between the a^es of fifteen and rwcnty- 
five . . who labor in the fields every summer ; two of 

them in particular, near neighbors to our mother, are in the 
habit of hiring themselves out durin}^ harvest time, the very 
hottest season of the year, to bind wheat and oats - each of them 
keepinji up with the reaper; and this for the paltry considera- 
tion of twent>'-five cents per day. [Slavery, he says, has en- 
tailed on them poverty, ignorance, and liegradation.] We want 
to see no more plowing, or hoeing, or raking, or grain-binding, 
by white women in the Southern States; employment in cotton- 
mills and other factories would be far more profitable and con- 
genial to tiiem, and this they shall have within a short period 
after slavery shall have been abolished. [He appeals to 

non-slaveholders to wipe out slavery.] ^ Our children, now de- 
prived of even the meager advantage of common sclux>ls, will 
then reap the benefits of a collegiate education. 

In answer to a gentleman solicitous for the widows 
and orphans that would suffer hy aholition, Helper 
says that slavery has "reduced thousands and tens (A 
thousands of non-slaveholding widows and orphans to 

354 I Iw Auii'tudti Family 

the lowest depths of poverty and ignorance." He quotes 
W'illiani Cire^^ as savini^ before tlie Soutli Carolina 
Institute: "Many a mother . will tell you 

that lici chililren are but seaniilv provided with bread, 
and much more scantily with meat; and, if they be clad 
with comfortable raiment, it is at the expense of these 
scaniv allowances of food." 

A citi/en of New Orleans, writing in /)»• H(ju's Rr- 
view, deplores the scantiness of opportunity for em- 
ployment of women and afTirms the danger of demoral- 
ization; in a slave state menial female labor is "in the 
lowest depths, a lower deep" owin^ to the fact that "by 
association it is a reduction of the white servants to the 
level of their colored fellow-menials." Helper asserts 
that in North Carolina 

Industrious, tiily white j^irls, from sixtrcn to t\vcnt>' years of 
age, had (Last spring] much difficulty in hiring themselves out 
as domestics in private families for forty dollars per annum - 
Iward only included; negro wenches, slaves, of corresponding 
ages, so ungraceful, stupid and filthy that no decent man would 
ever permit one of them to cross the threshold of his dwelling, 
were in brisk demand at from sixty-five to seventy dollars per 
annum, including victuals, clothes, and medical attendance. 

E.xploitation was a severe strain on iTiorals of the 
poor whites. Olmsted said that the Sand-Hillers of 
South Carolina put very slight value on female virtue. 

A Southern physician expressed the opinion to me that if an ac- 
curate record could be had of the births of illegitimate chil- 
dren ... it would be found to be as great, among the 
p<x}r people in the part of the country in which he practised, as 
of those born in wedltxk. A planter told me that any white 
girl who could be hired to work for wages would certainly he a 
girl of easy virtue. [A northern gentleman who had bet-n 
.spending a year in South Carolina expressed his conviction 
that] real chastity among the young women of the non-slave- 
holding class in Sf)uth Carolina was as rare as the want of it 

The White Family in the Old South 355 

among farmers' daughters at the north. [Olmsted go« on to 
say:] It is often asserted as an advantage of slavery 
that the ease with which the passions of men of the 8U|k-ii>>i 
caste are gratified ... is a security of the chastity of 
white women. I can only explain this, consistently with my 
impression of the actual state of things, by supposing that these 
wTiters ignore entirely, as it is a constant custom for S«)uthern 
writers to do, the condition of the poorer class of the white 

"> Olmsted. Journt-y in thr SfttloarJ Staff Stain, (o3-t09. 


The Civil War had a great disturbing influence on 
the traditional functions of the sexes. The men were 
called to the front leaving even the farm work in some 
regions to be done by new machinery ami women. A 
missionary writing fri)m Iowa said: 

I will mention that I met more women drivinR teams on the 
road and saw more at work in the fields than men. They seem 
to have said to their husbands in the lanp^age of a favorite son^. 

Just take your Run and go; 

For Ruth can drive the oxen, John, 
And I can use the hoe! 

In one township beyond, where I formerly preached, 
there are but seven men left, and at Quincy, the county seat of 
Adams Co., but five. 

I rom Kansas one wrote: "In manv cases the women 
must harvest the corn and take care of the stock, in atl- 
dition to their ordinary work." Another wrote: 

Yesterday I saw the wife of one of our parishioners driving the 
team in a reaper; her husband is at Vicksburfj. With what 
help she can secure and the assistance of her little children, she 
is carrying on the farm. In another field was a little boy of 
ten years, similarly employed ; and in another a girl of about 
twelve, doing the same. Men cannot be found in sufficient 
numbers to secure the harvest; the wives and children, there- 
fore, are compelled to go into the fields. 

The same conditions were observed in Ohio. New- 
York, and other states."" Home life was transformed. 

'"'- Fitc. Social unJ injuslrial ConJilioit in the Sorth Jurimg the 
ff'ar, 8-9. 

35^ The .1 nurii (in Fiimil\ 

Women were keyed above ordinary domestic cares to 
the national emergency. 

They had to he; inasimuh as the oiilinarv spirit of 
profit-seeking and accumuhition did not yield to the 
call of patriotism. The promises of \yealthy men in 
many communities that wives and families of ahsent 
soldiers shouKl he cared for were not always fuUilled. 
The followinj^ appeal is extremely significant: 

Friends, picasr do not stand idle with your unsoilcd hands 
folded and witness these ladies cut and haul their own wood, 
day after day and week after week, as you have already done, 
after urKinK their husbands to leave them in a state of utter 
helplessness, proniising, and that surely, to care for their wants: 
and also that you would furnish them with comfortable homes 
and wearinjj apparel. Please do your duty at home, if you are 
not on the bloj)dy battlefield. 

The Milwaukee Chamber of Commerce had to be 
browbeaten by a woman into liberality toward war re- 

A writer on JJ^ovum's Work in ///<• Civil JJ^ar saici: 
'I he Aid SiKTieties and the direct oversight the women sou^^lit to 
{jive the men in tiie field very much increased the reason for 
correspondence between the homes and the tents. The women 
were proud to write what those at the hearthstones were doinfj 
for those who tended the campfires, and tlie men were happy 
and cheery to acknowledge the support they received for this 
home sympathy. The immense correspomience between the 
army and the homes, prodigious beyond beh'ef as it was, some 
regiments sending home a thousand letters a week, and rcceiv- 
ing as many more back ; the constant transmission to the men 
of newspapers, full of the records of home work and army news, 
produced a homogeneousness of feeling between the soldiers and 
the citizens, which kept the men in the field civilians, and made 
the people at home, of both sexes, half soldiers. 

Frederick Law Olmsted expressed the opinion 

Formed through his long and effective service with the Sanitary 
Commi-ssion during the Civil War, that the tAVo things that did 

'"'Wallach. Patriots of Pioprrty. 

Effects of the Civil liar 359 

most to keep the soldiers well were music and letters from 

The significance of such phenomena as the above is 
marked. The conditions in the agricultural section 
indicate that in spite of their individualism the Amer- 
icans were ready to subordinate the family to what they 
conceived to be the social need. The readiness with 
which woman did the man's work and kept the family 
together would place her in a new liglit, or at least 
entitle her to greater esteem and prominence in family 
circles. In many cases, the prolonged absence of the 
father followed by his return, must have softened and 
endeared domestic relations to a notable degree; while 
in cases where he did not return the family had ac- 
quired a new center of union -a family hero -whose 
memory would hallow the family bond. No doubt 
many a family received permanent uplift from the 
idealization of a lost member who would have been 
only a liability had he remained at home. 

Females of the si.xties could scarcely have been oth- 
erwise than delicate by reason of high heels, long heavy 
skirts, crinoline, and diabolical corsets. The shock of 
war seems to have awakened American women from 
ladylike futility. 

Listless youn^ ^jirls and fancied invalids rose from their sofas, 
at first to wind handaj^es and pack siipplii's . . . later to 
do the household work, which there were no servants to per- 
form, or to earn their living in unaccustomed occ\ipations that 
there were no men to undertake.'"'' 

Having yielded their men to the ranks, women proceed- 
ed to organize co(")perati()n uith them, not in a spas- 
modic and sentimental way 

But with a self-controUeil and rational consideration of the 

>T*Brockctt and VauRhan. Woman's Work in Ihf ('ivil U'sr, 64; .^i»rtv/, 
vol. 39, Oct 6, 1917. P- 3- 

•'"Rccit. Ffinalf Delicacy in thr Sixtirs, 857-858. 86j. 

360 The .1 nuriiitn luimilx 

wisest and best means of accomplishing their purpose, which 
showed them to hr in some decree the products and representa- 
tives of a new MK-ial era. and a new jH)litical development. 

1 he distinctive features in woman's work in the war, were 
magnitude, system, thorough cooperativencss w ith the other sex, 
distinctness of purixxsr, husiness-like tht)roughness in tietail, 
sturdy j>ersistency to the chKe. 

M.iii. caui^ht ill the press of urgency, could not alTord 
to ni.initest his custoinarv jealousy of expanding; wo- 
manhood. rhi)usands of women learned contempt for 
frivolity, gossip, fashion, and idleness; iearneil to con- 
sider seriously and fairly the capacities of their se.x ; 
and thus laid a strong and practical basis for the ad- 
vancement of the rights of woman. Women went as 
nurses ; many "scandalized their friends at home . . 

or they left their families under circumstances which 
involve*.! a romantic oblivion of the recognized and 
usual duties of domestic life; they forsook tiieir own 
chiKlren, to make chiiiiren of a whole army corps; 
thev risked their lives.""" It is said, indeed, that the 
plan of the stratejj^ic campaiu^n of the Tennessee was 
made by a woman Anna Kila Carroll.'"' 

The opening of remunerative occupations to women 
was another positive advance occasioned partly by the 
exigencies of the War. It is estimated that at the 
opening of the war women performed one-fourth of 
the manufacturing of the country. War times natural- 
ly advanced wages; ami in order to resist iticrease, more 
employment was given to women. .Men were super- 
seded by women; "thus to many men, whose pf)siiions 
they usurped, the low wages of women were far from 
being a matter of commiseration." Women were do- 
ing more work in industrial lines, in teaching, and in 

>»• Brockctt and Vaiiphan. H'nman's H'ork in the Civil H'ar, 56-61. 
'^T Harper. I.iff and H'ork of Susan li. .Inlhnny, vol. i, 239. 

Effects of the Civil War 36 1 

clerical work; in the sphere of charity and religion 
"their opportunities and achievements seemed bound- 
less;" they were forging ahead in the professions, par- 
ticularly in medicine; and their educaii<jn advanced. 
Ultra-radicals were agitating for woman's rights and 
some had adopted short skirts. In 1H64 it was estimat- 
ed that there were in the North between two hundred 
fifty and three hundred women physicians, regularly 
graduated from medical schools. At least five medical 
institutions admitted women, tho there was great preju- 
dice against such schools and their graduates. Women 
supplanted men as teachers to the extent almost of a 
revolution. In Illinois the luiiiiber of women teachers 
increased by four thousaml and in one year one thou- 
sand men quit their positions.'"' By 1864 women bail 
come to be employed in the government departments 
at Washington; the chief reason assigned was that they 
worked better and more cheaply. This circumstance 
was assailed as shameful on the score that they could 
not live more cheaplv. Consiiicration was in order for 
"delicate women and girls K^'ifi^ "'J^ ''"'^'^ ^'^^" 

world to do their labor there, and for that very reason 
losing often social caste.""" 

It must not be supposed that the war was the sole 
cause of the invasion bv woman oi the irukistries and 
professions. The movement was not a new one; aiul 
other causes contributed, as for example the ordinary 
desire of the capitalists for cheap labor. Moreover the 
higher education of woman was bearing fruit. The 
whole movement signifies an extension of woman's 
economic independence of man. ami the breaking down 
of that barrier of inequality that had so long served to 

'^* Fite. Social and industrial Conditions in thr Sorth Jurimf the I'lVtl 
ff^ar, 188, 244-246. 

^'^ Arthur's Home Mai^atinf, vol. xxiii, 314. 

362 Tlw .1 nurtiiin I'liniily 

keep woman in a subordinate place in the household. 
While the Civil War did not start the movement, it did 
greatly stimulate it. and thus, together with the other 
iiitluences mentioned, helpeii to unsettle the founda- 
tions of the "mediaeval" family which was now pass- 
im^ out and throui^h a transition of storm and stress 
yieldini^ to the new family of equality and comrade- 

It may be observed, also, that woman's experience on 
ilie Sanitary Commission, etc., during; the war, seemed 
to ^ive an impetus to woman's organizations, clubs, etc., 
in which woman since then so largely functions.'"" It 
wniild seem that these are in cases, tho not necessarily 
so, rivals of the home, and indicative, if not causes, of 
weakened family devotion. 

The turbulent times of war gave rise to immoralities 
that shocked the people of that day. Thus the Spring- 
field Ri-puhlican commented: 

It is a sad, a shocking picture of life in Washirif^ton which our 
correspondents are givini; us. A bureau of the Treasury De- 
partment made a house of seduction and prostitution. The 
nixessities of poor and pretty women made the means of their 
debauchery by high Kovernment officials. Members of Con- 
Rrcss putting their mistresses into clerkships in the departments. 
An honorable senator knocked down in the streets by a woman 
whom he has outraged. . . "Washington was never quite so 
villainously corrupt" [writes our most careful correspondent, a 
lun^ resident at the capital].""' 

Burn knew of many women that "unwived themselves" 
in their husbands' absence, "and profligacv and prod- 
igality were the order of the day," How could women 
of the industrial classes continue to obtain expensive 

>"Hilli». Srriout Solr in the Education of It'omrn, 853; Wells. Womm 
in Organizations, 360; Warficld. Moral Inftufmr of It'omrn in American 
Society, 112. 

"' Rhodcu. History of the I'nitrJ Stales, vol. v, 212. 

Effects of the Civil War 363 

dresses ''when every article of wearini^ apparel had in- 
creased to at least four times the old price?" How 
could a young working girl give eighteen shillings 
(nine shillings English) for bonnet strings? 

The bonnets themselves, such as worn by the working clasiio., 
vary from six to twenty dollars, and mantles or cloaks ca/) not 
be had for less than twenty dollars. It is seemingly . . . 
of no consequence what people do for a living; they will have 
dress, and that too in the first stjlc of fashion.""' 

We must make allowance, also, for the profligacy, 
sex vice, and venereal disease to which the soldiers in 
the field were introduced. Dabney in his Defence of 
Fir^iriia, published shortly after the War, said: 

1 he mass of letters found upon [the ^ anker J slain, and alxjut 
their captured camps, disclosed a shocking prevalence of pruri- 
ent and licentious thou^^ht, both \n their armies and at home. 
And our unfortunate servants seduced away by their armies, 
usually found . . that lust for the African women was 

a far more prevalent motive, than their pretended humanity, 
for their liberating zeal. Such was the monstrous abuse to 
which these poor creatures were subjected, that decent slave 
fathers often hid their daughters in the woods, from their pre- 
tended liberators, as from beasts of prey.'*' 

An immediate effect of the Civil War was to check 
the natural increase of population. There was a tem- 
porary reduction of the birthrate in consequence of the 
withdrawal of hundreds of thousands of men from do- 
mestic life. 1 he indirect effect, in increaseof town life in 
tall houses without vards, followed bv imitation of for- 
eign fashions, was also followed hv decline in natural in- 
crease. Moreover the death i>i luuulreds of thousands 
of men tended to leave manv women unmarricil. This 

''*•' Burn. Threr Years n-nnng the H' orking-Clasttt in the I'niteJ Stttei 
during the H'ar, 85. 

J*^ Dabney. Defence of lirginia nnj the South, 186-387. 

364 riic .Ifiuru an l\nuil\ 

tendency is less significant as to mere number than would 
seem at first sight, Inr in i S^o there was a larger excess 
i)t seven luiiulred htt\ thousaihl males. Moreover 
between eighteen hundreii and sixty and eighteen hun- 
dred and seventy, lour hundred and fifty thousand more 
males than females entered the ports oi Boston and New 
York; so that in 1870 the excess of males was still some 
four hundred and tiftv tliDUsaiul. Kugenics would not 
overlook qualitative distinctions, however. It may be 
that the loss of the boys of the nation (for the war was 
fought largely by boys) meant a loss of germ plasm 
that can not be replaceil. It would be worth while, 
however. Id be able to extend Crum's Study of the 
liirth-ratc in Massachusetts, I S ^O-I SqO, in which he 
points out that the excess of males born in that state 
was greater liuring the Civil War than in any other of 
several (iuiiu]uennial periods."** 

Besides the children that were not born owing to the 
premature death of possible fathers, thought must be 
given to those that were not fathered as they should 
have been or when thev needed attention. The C^ivil 
War lasted loiig enough to yield a sufficiency of in- 
stances. E. S. Martin says: 

Of half a dozen boys that I rciiicnibcr in one Civil War fam- 
ily when the father was for thrif or four years in the field and 
for years before and after in intense political life, only two 
came to satisfactory maturity, and they were the older ones 
whose boyhood was passed under their father's eye. . . Dis- 
aster, moral or mental, befell the others, first or last, thouszh 
not until several of them had demonstrated the exceptional 
quality of their natural abilities. It has always seemed to ob- 
sri^crs who knew that family. :ind the father's extremely valu- 
able public services, and how they tore him out of his family 
life and monopolized him for fifteen years, that his younger 

>*♦ Walker. Our Population in IQOO, 493; Dixon. White Conquest, vol. ii, 
311; Crum, Ilirth-ratf in Massm husfUs, 1S50-18QO, 252. 

Effects of the Civil II' ar 365 

boys were as much sacrificed to their country as though they 
had been killed in war.'" 

The reader may speculate at will as to the extent <<f 
feminization and demoralization liue to this factor. 

The negro family suffered in a peculiar way from 
the circumstances of war. In the Senate. Wilson said: 

The enlistment of colored men causes a vxst deal of suffering; 
for a preat wronj2[ is done to their families, and especially is that 
so in the state of Missouri. Those wives and children who arc 
left behind, may be sold, may be abused; and how can a M)ldier 
fight the battles of our country when he receives the intelligence 
that the wife he left at home, and the little ones he left around 
his hearth, were sold into perpetual slavery - sold where he 
would never see them more? Sir, if there be a crime on earth 
that should be promptly punished, it is the crime of selling into 
slavery, in a distant section of the country, the wives and chil- 
dren of the soldiers who are fighting the battles of our bleeding 
country. Now wife and children plead to the husband and 
father not to enlist -to remain at home for their protection. 
Pass this bill [to free wives and children ot soldiers], and the 
wife and children will beseech that husband and father to fight 
for the country, for his liberty, and for their freedom. 

Brown said: 

You have the fact before you, that these colored soldiers are go- 
ing into the army. . ^'ou have the further fact before 
you, that slave-owners are hounding on a persecution in the 
Border States, and selling the wives and children of these sol- 
diers, making merchandise of their flesh and blotnl, and doing it 
as a punishment for their entr>- into our army as volunteers for 
our defense. Shall we tolerate that scene? Shall we legislate 
here, sending men day after day to sacrifice their lives for our 
protection, and >et sit quietly by, with no legislation to pre- 
vent, and see others sending the wives and children of tho*e 
men day after day into further and harsher bondage bcv'au&e 
they have done so? 

Clark spoke likewise: 

Everywhere in these loyal States are men . . 

i«5 Martin. "Use of Fathcrfi," in Harpe->'ii Mttgatint, v-i -f^- " • -^4. 

366 The Atturican tatnily 

in sympathy with thr rebellion. We know that men in the 
loyal states are opposed to the nejjroes ^oinjj into the service. 
Many of these men - I will not say all - would be willing to 
punish the nejjro if he went in, if they are in sympathy with 
the rebellion, by the abuse of his wife and children. They 
wish to deter him from ijoin^: into the service if they can; and 
they say to him, "Not only shall your wife and children have 
no care, no f(Kxl, no protection, but they shall be sold into 
slavery; ant! when you return from tinhtinji the battli"s of the 
I'nion you shall find your home desolate, your wife ^ont no 
<»ne knows where in slavery, and your children all sent away." 

One man said tliat the sales in Missouri were more in 
view of impending emancipation. The bill in (|uesti()n 
did not come to vote in the Senate at that session. *"" 

The Civil War helped to usher in the new era of 
city industrialism so pregnant with menace to the in- 
tegrity of the family. By practically cutting off for- 
eign intercourse it accelerated immensely the growth 
of American industries and thus proved a turning point 
in economic development and social life. The trend 
was magnified by the increased demand for standard- 
ized manufactured products as army supplies. The 
rise of prices occasioneci bv excessive issues of legal 
tender paper joined with the war tariff to stimulate 
business. While the purchasing power of the West 
was increased by its development and improved trans- 
portation, the long-run outcome favored the cities and 
manufacturing at the expense of rural life.'" 

I'he southern family had its peculiar trials by reason 
of the war. In the border states the struggle some- 
times set father against son. brother against brother, 
wife against husband. In any case, the demands of the 

""• WiI»on. Il'tsfory of the /tnti-jlavrry Measurrs of thr Thirty-sevrnth and 
Thirly-righth i'nitrJ States Congresjrj, chapter xvi. 

'•'Walker. Great Count of iSqo, 416; Bookwaltcr. Rural vs. Urban, 245- 
246, 367-268. 

Effects of the Civil ff'ar 367 

Confederacy broke up, at least temporarily, well-nij^h 
every southern family. In the Union there were many 
families that had no near relative uniier arms; in the 
Confederacy it was a rare family that had neither hus- 
band, father, son, nor brother in service: hardlv a 
household escaped bereavement. Many an expectant 
bride sadly postponed marriage and sent her lover to 
join the colors. 

The common notion, however, that the aristocracy 
waived its prerogatives is untenable. The sons and 
brothers of influential families were to some e.xtent kept 
out of danger by an ingenious system of details. The 
favored aristocrat would get "detailed" to some "bomb- 
proof" position, as the saying went. Men were slipped 
into every comfortable berth that the government could 
reach; and as the government assumed various kinds 
of business, it soon became hard for an old or infirm 
person to get light employment. Young men were 
detailed from the army to oil car-wheels; others to 
carry lanterns for them. After the fall of Fort Donel- 
son the Confederate Congress, made up of slave-owners 
and their lawyers, passed a series of acts exempting 
all owners of over twenty slaves from military service. 
The number was later reduced to ten. It was not un- 
common for big slave owners to divide their chattels 
among their sons in order to exempt them from the war. 
Nearly every landed proprietor has piven bonds to furnisli 
meal to obtain e.xemption. Over one hundred thousand land- 
ed proprietors, and most of the slave-owners, are now out of 
the ranks, and soon, I fear, we shall have an army that will not 
fight, having nothing to fight for. The higher cla.M is staying 
at home making money, the lower is thrust into the trrmhes. 
Lee complains that the rich young men are elected magi»fr ifr\ 
to avoid service in the field. 

Old Confederate soldiers who were prisoners at Camp 

368 The Anurican Family 

Chase in Ohio have said that "thev never saw one 
single commissioned eonleilerate otlicer call the roll in 
the morning to ascertain the names of the boys that had 
died during the night." It is not to be wondered that 
the soldiers tlitl not appreciate mere cheers. **Many 
a time," said one woman, "1 have heard tliem veil back 
at the ladies who cheered them, 'Go to hell! If you care 
for us, come out of your line clothes and help us!""*"' 

WDmen bore a large part of the burden of the War. 
They brought into use oKl spinning-wheels and looms 
and thus supplied the scarcity of clothing for family, 
slaves, and soldiers; they labored gallantly to cheer, 
comfort, and sustain the men at the front. Girls be- 
came women in a dav. The intensitv ami heroism of 
female loyalty inspired and prolonged the struggle; 
they outdid the men, if anything, in the blindness of 
patriotism. It was rare to find a disloval woman. 
Many reared in ease and luxury had to engage in all 
the drudgery of farm and shop. Many toiled in the 
tiehis in (jrdcr to raise food for their households. Fe- 
male clerks were employed in the government depart- 
ments and proved efficient and useful. "By this 
means many young men could be sent into the ranks, 
and . . . the work . . . was better done." "" 
vSchool-teaching now fell to women. At Richmond in- 
dustries employed women and girls as well as men and 
boys. An English merchant who spent two months in 
the Confederacy said: 

Southern women have taken to work. At the dinner-hour many 
of the streets of Richmond and other cities arc thronged with 
thousands of youn^j women hastening to or from the large 
clothes, cartridge, or cotton factories.'"" 

"** Trov%bridef. The South, 190; AmtrinRcr. I.tfr and Drrds of Uncle 
Sam, 46, 48 ; Diary of a Rrhrl War Clerk, 290. 

'** Underwood. H'omrn of the Confrdrracy, 117. 

*•** Engli»h Merchant. T'v.'o months in the Confederate States, 176, 278. 

Effects of the Civil War 369 

The war demonstrated that the women of the South 
were capable of better things than the delicacy in which 
so many had been reared. 

They proved able to do man's work. [Tho] descended, as 
one woman, from the pedestals upon which the Quixotic chiv- 
alry had elevated them, and wrought to the hitter ending, and 
after it, in wholly unused methods anu places, as though born 
to effort and to success. They sewed rough fabrics for rough 
men with their delicate hands, cooked wonderful messes for 
camp and hospital out of slenderly stocked pantries; Hicy 
dressed wounds with never a tremor or a flush of false modes- 

Women at home starved in order to send everything 
to the front. Their activity as substitutes for husbands 
and fathers opened new channels, taught theni new les- 
sons, and won them new consideration. Confeileratc 
writings are full of gratitude to the women. A com- 
pany of girls in Tennessee even formed a cavalry com- 
pany and scoured arountl taking help to friends in the 
army. They were captured by Unionists.'" 

Men in the field denied themselves for the sake of 
dear ones at home. The strain on the soldiers at the 
front was augmented by their fears for the safety of the 
women. Mistrust of the negroes turned out to be un- 
founded; but there were ruffians prowling about the 
country shirking duty, and the men of the aristocracy 
who shirked service were in a position to put pressure 
on the unprotected wives and daugiiters of the sol- 
diers. Some soldiers early in the war sent home their 
revolvers to be used by the women and children. It 
was hard for men to remain faithful to discipline under 
the terrible pressure of letters and messages disclosing 
suffering, starvation, and despair at home. The strain 

'»' De Leon. BelUs, Hraux. and Brains of thr Sixliet, 1J6-IJ7. 

'"^Mnlc and Mcrritf. History of Trnnrfsff and Temnrsttfrnms, vol. iii. 6<J- 


■270 The AiUiruaii Idtnily 

¥ — '- ; 

was most felt by the husbands of young wives and the 

fathers of voung children, whom they had supiportcd 
bv hihor. Most of the tlcscrtions from the Confeder- 
ate army occurred liuriiii; the hitter part of the war, 
many of them by reason of tiie most pitiful letters from 
home. I'or instance, a gallant soldier from the lower 
South hail enlisted on the assurance of a rich planter 
that he wouKi guarantee the support of the young wife 
and child. One day a letter came saying that tbe 
wealthy neighbor now refused to give or sell her food 
unless she would submit to his lust and that unless be 
came home she saw only starvation ahead. Unable 
to obtain a furlough, he told the general he would go 
home even if the result should be death. The officer 
said he did not blame him. On reaching home, the 
man moved his wife and child to a place of safety and 
made provision for their support; then he caught his 
treacherous neighbor, tied him to a tree, and admin- 
istered a memorable flogging. Returning to the army 
on the eve of action he behaved so gallantly as to con- 
sign his ofTense to oblivion. In another case the wife 
of a soldier who had deserted on account of his family's 
dire need sent him back when she found he had no fur- 
lough. On trial he said: "I was no longer the Con- 
federate soldier, but the father of Lucy and 
the husband of Mary, and I would have passed these 
lines if every gun in the battery had firetl upon me."'" 
Major Robert Stiles tells of a young woman who in 
presence of his men sent word to her husband to desert 
On being challenged she said : 

'ITiLs thin^ is over, and has been for some time. The Kovcrn- 
mcnt has now actually run off, ba;; anil baf^tjacc - the Ivord 
knows where - and there is no longer any government or any 

ivi [-iwUrwrHxl. Women of the Confederacy, i68, 170, 171. 

Effects of the Civil H'ar jji 

country for my husband to owe allrfjiancc to. He docs owe 
allegiance to me and his starving children, and if he doesn't 
observe this allegiance now, when I need him, he need not 
attempt it hereafter when he wants me. 

She was won, however, by an appeal to her husband's 
record, her pride in which led her to accjuiesce, and she 
said, "Tell him not to come.'""* 

In the last days of xhz strugj^le things became desper- 
ate. The Federals sent in circulars offering indefinite 
paroles and free transportation home - a terrible test 
of loyalty. 

The conflict of the classes was more in eviiience in 
the confines of the Confederacy than is commonly sup- 
posed. The diary of a "rebel" war clerk spoke of a 

Frightful list of deserters - sixty thousand Virginians. . . 
The poor men in the army can get nothing for their families, 
and there is prospect of their starving. . . Gen. Early's 
cavalry, being mostly men of propcrt>-, were two-thirds of them 
on furlough or detail, \\ hen the rnenn ailvanced on Charlottes- 
ville, and the infantry, being ix)or. with no means cither to 
bribe the authorities, to fee nienibers of congress, or to aid 
their suffering families, declined to fight in defence of the 
property of the rich and absent neighbors. . . I saw a cap- 
tain, a commissary, give his dog a piece of beef for which I 
would have paid a dollar. Many little children of soldiers 
were standing by with empty baskets. A poor woman yester- 
day applied to a merchant in Carey St. to purchase a barrel of 
flour. The price he deniantled w:ls seventy dollars. ".My 
God!" exclaimed she, "how can I pay such prices? I ha\T 
seven children. What shall I do?" "I don't know madam," 
said he, coolly, "unless you eat your children!""" 

Many of the poorer white women of the South 
worked for others and were paid, frecjuently in provi- 
sions. Doubtless charity was bestowed in certain cases. 
Thus a poor North Carolina woman told after the war 

'"* Underwood. H'omrn of ihf ('oitfrJrnuy, 198-301. 
^^^ Diary of a Rebel IVar Clerk, 391-19). 

372 The Auurican Family 

how a South Carolina planter hail refused to take pay 
for corn that she got. 

The wonien of the South were to some extent suhject 
to indignities at the hands of the invaders. OfHcers in 
Shernian's aniu turned rohhers stealing even dai^uerre- 
otypes of dear ones. ( )ne huiv of delicacv and refine- 
ment was compelleii to strip hefore them that they 
might find concealed valuahles under her dress. In 
North Carolina Sherman onlered a venerable citizen 
with a family of nearly twenty children ami grand- 
children, mostly females, to vacate his house on a few 
hours' notice. At New Orleans Butler ordered that 
when a woman insulted or showed contempt for a sol- 
dier she should be liable to the treatment of a prosti- 
tute; but none of the soldiers took advantage of this 
order. In Kentucky in 1H64 provost marshals began 
to arrest and confine women on charge of sympathy 
with the rebellion, etc. Women with children were 
banished from the state to Canada, under a guard of 
negro soldiers, or sent to prison. "Women whose chil- 
dren, brothers, and husbands were in the Confederate 
army, or dead on its battle-fields, were naturally given 
to uttering much treason. ."""' 

Many were the homes desolated by the march of the 
invader. Of Sherman's march through South Caro- 
lina a private wrote: 

Thr prrat evil of all is the dt'stitution in which we leave the 
p<x>rcr classes of these people. I have often seen them sitting 
with rueful faces xs we passed, sometimes weeping. Not a 
thinjj has heen left to eat in many cases; not a horse, or an ox, 
or a mule to work with. . A woman told me, with her 

checks wet with tears, that she drew the plough herself, while 
her hushand, old and quite decrepit, held it, to prepare the soil 
for the corn thc^- raised last year. 

"* Under wocmJ. U'omrn of Ihr Confrderary, 140-141, 172, 175-176; Shailer. 
Kentucky, 348. 

Effects fjf the Civil liar 373 

A private wrote thus of a Virginia incident: 

Most of the defiant furniture was It-ft in the house. The rich 
carpets remained upon the floor. In three hours time they 
were completely covered with mud. . . It made my heart 
ache to see [the soldiers] break mahotiaiiy chairs for t*'- f^'- 
and split up a rosewood piano for kindling. 

Thus the rich could not escape the costs of their war. 
A sand-hiller said of one of his rich neighbors: 

He swore he could drink all the blood as would be spilled in 
the war ; but lon^; b<"fo' Sharman come his oldest ^^l was a 
ploughin* corn with the bull, and his wife a bobbin' fur cat- 
fish in a cypress swamp. 

The war made the soldier an object of worship 
Families of soldiers came in tro(jps to see their relatives 
in hospital. Their devotion complicated administra- 
tion and made trouble; one wife even gave birth to a 
baby in the army hospital. Of two Randolph weddings 
in war times we are told that at the first the feminine 
interest was largely overshadowed by the men; the war 
and its heroes were fresh and the uniforms were new. 
At the time of the second suitable men were lacking; 
attendants at the church were girls; and priest, groom, 
and the aged father of the bride were the only males 
present. Small wonder if in both cases the masculine 
element possessed unwonted importance. 

It should not seem strange that in the midst of batik- 
men thought of love. When the blood of the race is 
seeping awav. procreation is in order. It seems strange 
that there were not nmrc war brides that "for four 
years the daughters of the South waited for their lovers, 
and alas! manv waited in a life wiilowhood of unutter- 
able sorrow." At one time there seemed to be "a per- 
fect mania for marriage." "Some of the churches may 
be seen open and lighted almost every night for bridals. 
and wherever 1 turn I hear of marriages in pros- 

374 The Auurudii Fiiinih' 

pcct. . . My only wonder is that they find time for 

lovc-niakiiiL; amid the storms of warfare."'"^ 

riic attiluilc ot the victors towaril tlic marriage of 
"rchcls" was unbclicvahlc. In April of 1865 General 
Halleck wrote to Cicncral Stanton: "I forward Gen- 
eral Orders No. 4. ^'ou will perceive from par- 
agraph \'. that measures have been taken to prevent, 
as far as possible, the propagation of legitimate rebels/' 
The paragraph read: 

No marriajje lici-nst' will Ix' issuril until the parties 
take the oath of allt'Kiance to the I'nitfil States; and no clcrg:>- 
man, ma^jistrate, or other party authorized by state laws to 
perform the marria^;e ceremony will officiate . . . until 
himself and the parties . . shall have taken the pre- 

scribed oath. 

On a personal appeal of a would-be bridegroom the 
order was suspended a few days; the news was dis- 
seminated as widely as possible and three weddings 
took place in Richmond on Sunday. The Tennessee 
Senate passed a hill forbidding women to marry till 
they took the test oath but the House had sufficient 
sense to reject it.'"" 

Kmancipation, coming bv catastrophe and prema- 
turely, effected in the South a revolution in family 
life that would ultimately have come about by the grad- 
ual weakening of the slave system. The slaves did 
not always leave immediately the white family; but the 
days of the old association were numbered. The great 
estates could not be held together; for the collapse of 
the old system gave to the younger generation an im- 
petus towartl the city or in some cases toward North 
or West and in any case provision had to be made for 
cultivation on a new plan. Ancestral estates continued 

*"' Underwood. H'omrn of thr Confrdrracy, ii6. 
'»*Avar>-. Dixtf after ihr It'ar, 125-126, 128. 

Effects fjf the Civil liar 375 

to vanish. The housekeepers of the New South were 
destined to a new and trying servant problem. Wo- 
men were to Hnd a new place in the economic and S(Kial 
world, a less protected place; for even chaperonagc wai 
weakened by the war, and the old pseutlo-chivalry 
would ultimately give way and open personal opportun- 
ity to womanhood. The negro family, also, was thrown 
on its own resources arul subjected to the strains of 
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