Are Marriage and the Family in Danger?

Are Marriage and the Family in Danger?  (1882) 

Are Marriage and the Family in Danger?—Certain magazinists, croaking preachers, and foreigners who look at American society through telescopes leveled at Utah and Chicago, have sounded a cry of alarm that the marriage institution and the purity of the family are decaying in the United States. Their assertions are founded on the frequency with which divorces are sought in some places where the process is made particularly easy. Granting that divorces are too freely given, and that the appetency for divorce indicates that something is wrong in the morals of the parties: have the alarmists ever stopped to inquire what are the moral characters of the parties aside from the fact of the divorce suit, or whether their morals would probably be any better if there were no possibility of divorce? And have they ever reflected upon the preponderating numbers of American married people who never think of applying for divorce, but are striving with all their might to build up and maintain a pure and healthful family life, and would continue to do so even if it were as easy to get a divorce as to buy a pair of boots? The very facts the alarmists cite show that there is no relation whatever between facility of divorce and moral laxity. In Maine, divorce is of the easiest the court grants it at its discretion yet no man in his senses will say that society in Maine is a whit less pure than in New York, where divorce is of the hardest to get. South Carolina allows no divorces, while North Carolina has a divorce law that is singularly lax, yet no difference can be perceived in the morality of the two States. Boston, where divorces are quite numerous, is quite as moral, to say the least, as Paris, where no divorce is allowed. An increase in the number of divorces is not observed in the United States only, but is receiving attention in countries where laxity can not be predicated of the laws. It is the case "enormously," according to the confession of the "Pall Mall Gazette," in England. In France, legal separations have gone up from 1 to 370 marriages in 1840-'50, to 1 in 152 in 1860-'70. In Belgium the ratio of divorces has risen from 1 in 576 couples in 1840, to 1 in 200 in 1874.