Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/683

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
665
"OUR MARRIAGE AND DIVORCE LAWS."

shall say that such grounds ought not to be considered? "When we bear in mind how difficult it is to pass laws through Congress, and how difficult it is to adopt uniform laws which do not operate harshly on some portion of our immense country, we may well question the advisability of amending the Constitution of the United States in order to put the subject of the marriage relation under the control of Congress. How many years has the Parliament of England been wrestling with the deceased-wife's-sister question!

So large a nation as ours, whether the laws are promulgated from Washington or the capitals of the several States, will always furnish the philanthropist with worry enough on a great variety of questions to make him comfortable, if not happy.

It is not probable that any laws which Congress could pass on the subject of marriage would be satisfactory to the advanced minority, and their passage would occasion the greater anxiety because such minority would suppose themselves in some manner directly responsible for the laws. It is, therefore, not at all strange that many of the State laws—such as those of Ohio, or Virginia, or Alabama, which prohibit marriage between the negro and white races—are supposed by people of other beliefs to contravene the fourteenth amendment of the Constitution of the United States. Hence, the writer of the article under consideration criticises the decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States for refusing to declare such laws null and void. He says the decision "abridges the privileges of a citizen on account of color; it denies the colored male citizen the equal privilege and protection of the law extended to the white male citizen—the right to marry a white woman. It denies the white female citizen the privilege and protection of the law granted the colored female citizen—the right to marry a colored man."

Perhaps the easiest way to set the matter right with those who might be inclined to think, from the adverse criticism, that the Supreme Court of the United States had erred, will be to state the facts of the case, and repeat what that high tribunal has said on the subject in the case of Tony Pace vs. Alabama, 106 United States Reports, pages 584, 585. Adultery and fornication, by section 4,184 of the Alabama code, are prohibited by a fine of one hundred dollars and imprisonment, with or without hard labor, in the county jail, for six months. Section 4,189 of the same code declares that, "if any white person and any negro, or the descendant of any negro to the third generation inclusive, though one ancestor of each generation was a white person, intermarry or live in adultery or fornication with each other, each of them must, on conviction, be imprisoned in the penitentiary, or sentenced to hard labor for the county for not less than two nor more than seven years."

The provisions of the fourteenth amendment to the Constitution of the United States prohibit any State from making or enforcing