Page:Earth-Hunger and Other Essays.djvu/281

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Speaking from the standpoint of social science, I hold monogamy to be the greatest step in the history of civilization. This opinion is, it is true, treated by some sociologists with ridicule; I, however, make bold to hold it and to believe that the present generation is not more false to its interests in any other respect than in its inadequate and distorted conception of what the monogamic family yet needs in the way of perfection and sanctity. I use the last term also with distinct intention, meaning thereby that religion has no higher function, in modern society, than to maintain all its institutional effect on marriage and the family.

The specific influence of the family is exerted on women and on children. The monogamic wife is the only wife who shares the life of her husband. Some other kinds of wives are greater than their husbands, and some are lower; the monogamic wife alone can have an independent and co-ordinate sphere, on an equal footing with her husband, yet different from his sphere. The children of a monogamic marriage alone have that home life, that atmosphere of affection and care, which produces the best human beings. They alone get true education; for it does not come from books and schools, it comes from tireless watching, patient training, persistent restraint and encouragement, at the fire-side and at all moments of life, weaving a tissue of unconscious habit into the fiber of the life of the future men and women.

This is, undoubtedly, an ideal, but it is not an ideal which floats in the air as a poetic vision alone. It is realized often enough and sufficiently in our observation for us to know that it can be, and is.

Monogamic marriage, however, is a great monopoly. It is grand and noble for those who get into it, but like