The influence of the Christian religion on daily life has decayed very
rapidly throughout Europe during the last hundred years. Not only has
the proportion of nominal believers declined, but even among those who
believe the intensity and dogmatism of belief is enormously diminished.
But there is one social institution which is still profoundly affected
by the Christian tradition—I mean the institution of marriage. The
law and public opinion as regards marriage are dominated even now to
a very great extent by the teachings of the Church, which continue to
influence in this way the lives of men, women, and children in their
most intimate concerns.

It is marriage as a political institution that I wish to consider,
not marriage as a matter for the private morality of each individual.
Marriage is regulated by law, and is regarded as a matter in which
the community has a right to interfere. It is only the action of the
community in regard to marriage that I am concerned to discuss: whether
the present action furthers the life of the community, and if not, in
what ways it ought to be changed.

There are two questions to be asked in regard to any marriage system:
first, how it affects the development and character of the men and
women concerned; secondly, what is its influence on the propagation and
education of children. These two questions are entirely distinct, and
a system may well be desirable from one of these two points of view
when it is very undesirable from the other. I propose first to describe
the present English law and public opinion and practice in regard to
the relations of the sexes, then to consider their effects as regards
children, and finally to consider how these effects, which are bad,
could be obviated by a system which would also have a better influence
on the character and development of men and women.

The law in England is based upon the expectation that the great
majority of marriages will be lifelong. A marriage can only be
dissolved if either the wife or the husband, but not both, can be
proved to have committed adultery. In case the husband is the “guilty
party,” he must also be guilty of cruelty or desertion. Even when
these conditions are fulfilled, in practice only the well-to-do can be
divorced, because the expense is very great.[17] A marriage cannot be
dissolved for insanity or crime, or for cruelty, however abominable,
or for desertion, or for adultery by both parties; and it cannot be
dissolved for any cause whatever if both husband and wife have agreed
that they wish it dissolved. In all these cases the law regards the man
and woman as bound together for life. A special official, the King’s
Proctor, is employed to prevent divorce when there is collusion and
when both parties have committed adultery.[18]

This interesting system embodies the opinions held by the Church of
England some fifty years ago, and by most Nonconformists then and now.
It rests upon the assumption that adultery is sin, and that when this
sin has been committed by one party to the marriage, the other is
entitled to revenge if he is rich. But when both have committed the
same sin, or when the one who has not committed it feels no righteous
anger, the right to revenge does not exist. As soon as this point of
view is understood, the law, which at first seems somewhat strange, is
seen to be perfectly consistent. It rests, broadly speaking, upon four
propositions: (1) that sexual intercourse outside marriage is sin; (2)
that resentment of adultery by the “innocent” party is a righteous
horror of wrong-doing; (3) that his resentment, but nothing else, may
be rightly regarded as making a common life impossible; (4) that the
poor have no right to fine feelings. The Church of England, under the
influence of the High Church, has ceased to believe the third of these
propositions, but it still believes the first and second, and does
nothing actively to show that it disbelieves the fourth.

The penalty for infringing the marriage law is partly financial, but
depends mainly upon public opinion. A rather small section of the
public genuinely believes that sexual relations outside marriage are
wicked; those who believe this are naturally kept in ignorance of the
conduct of friends who feel otherwise, and are able to go through life
not knowing how others live or what others think. This small section of
the public regards as depraved not only actions, but opinions, which
are contrary to its principles. It is able to control the professions
of politicians through its influence on elections, and the votes of
the House of Lords through the presence of the Bishops. By these
means it governs legislation, and makes any change in the marriage
law almost impossible. It is able, also, to secure in most cases that
a man who openly infringes the marriage law shall be dismissed from
his employment or ruined by the defection of his customers or clients.
A doctor or lawyer, or a tradesman in a country town, cannot make a
living, nor can a politician be in Parliament, if he is publicly known
to be “immoral.” Whatever a man’s own conduct may be, he is not likely
to defend publicly those who have been branded, lest some of the odium
should fall on him. Yet so long as a man has not been branded, few men
will object to him, whatever they may know privately of his behavior in
these respects.

Owing to the nature of the penalty, it falls very unequally upon
different professions. An actor or journalist usually escapes all
punishment. An urban workingman can almost always do as he likes. A man
of private means, unless he wishes to take part in public life, need
not suffer at all if he has chosen his friends suitably. Women, who
formerly suffered more than men, now suffer less, since there are large
circles in which no social penalty is inflicted, and a very rapidly
increasing number of women who do not believe the conventional code.
But for the majority of men outside the working classes the penalty is
still sufficiently severe to be prohibitive.

The result of this state of things is a widespread but very flimsy
hypocrisy, which allows many infractions of the code, and forbids
only those which must become public. A man may not live openly with a
woman who is not his wife, an unmarried woman may not have a child,
and neither man nor woman may get into the divorce court. Subject to
these restrictions, there is in practice very great freedom. It is this
practical freedom which makes the state of the law seem tolerable to
those who do not accept the principles upon which it is based. What
has to be sacrificed to propitiate the holders of strict views is not
pleasure, but only children and a common life and truth and honesty.
It cannot be supposed that this is the result desired by those who
maintain the code, but equally it cannot be denied that this is the
result which they do in fact achieve. Extra-matrimonial relations which
do not lead to children and are accompanied by a certain amount of
deceit remain unpunished, but severe penalties fall on those which are
honest or lead to children.

Within marriage, the expense of children leads to continually greater
limitation of families. The limitation is greatest among those who
have most sense of parental responsibility and most wish to educate
their children well, since it is to them that the expense of children
is most severe. But although the economic motive for limiting families
has hitherto probably been the strongest, it is being continually
reinforced by another. Women are acquiring freedom—not merely outward
and formal freedom, but inward freedom, enabling them to think and
feel genuinely, not according to received maxims. To the men who have
prated confidently of women’s natural instincts, the result would be
surprising if they were aware of it. Very large numbers of women, when
they are sufficiently free to think for themselves, do not desire to
have children, or at most desire one child in order not to miss the
experience which a child brings. There are women who are intelligent
and active-minded who resent the slavery to the body which is involved
in having children. There are ambitious women, who desire a career
which leaves no time for children. There are women who love pleasure
and gaiety, and women who love the admiration of men; such women will
at least postpone child-bearing until their youth is past. All these
classes of women are rapidly becoming more numerous, and it may be
safely assumed that their numbers will continue to increase for many
years to come.

It is too soon to judge with any confidence as to the effects of
women’s freedom upon private life and upon the life of the nation.
But I think it is not too soon to see that it will be profoundly
different from the effect expected by the pioneers of the women’s
movement. Men have invented, and women in the past have often accepted,
a theory that women are the guardians of the race, that their life
centers in motherhood, that all their instincts and desires are
directed, consciously or unconsciously, to this end. Tolstoy’s Natacha
illustrates this theory: she is charming, gay, liable to passion, until
she is married; then she becomes merely a virtuous mother, without
any mental life. This result has Tolstoy’s entire approval. It must
be admitted that it is very desirable from the point of view of the
nation, whatever we may think of it in relation to private life. It
must also be admitted that it is probably common among women who are
physically vigorous and not highly civilized. But in countries like
France and England it is becoming increasingly rare. More and more
women find motherhood unsatisfying, not what their needs demand. And
more and more there comes to be a conflict between their personal
development and the future of the community. It is difficult to know
what ought to be done to mitigate this conflict, but I think it is
worth while to see what are likely to be its effects if it is not

Owing to the combination of economic prudence with the increasing
freedom of women, there is at present a selective birth-rate of a
very singular kind.[19] In France the population is practically
stationary, and in England it is rapidly becoming so; this means
that some sections are dwindling while others are increasing. Unless
some change occurs, the sections that are dwindling will practically
become extinct, and the population will be almost wholly replenished
from the sections that are now increasing.[20] The sections that are
dwindling include the whole middle-class and the skilled artisans.
The sections that are increasing are the very poor, the shiftless and
drunken, the feeble-minded—feeble-minded women, especially, are apt
to be very prolific. There is an increase in those sections of the
population which still actively believe the Catholic religion, such
as the Irish and the Bretons, because the Catholic religion forbids
limitation of families. Within the classes that are dwindling, it
is the best elements that are dwindling most rapidly. Working-class
boys of exceptional ability rise, by means of scholarships, into the
professional class; they naturally desire to marry into the class to
which they belong by education, not into the class from which they
spring; but as they have no money beyond what they earn, they cannot
marry young, or afford a large family. The result is that in each
generation the best elements are extracted from the working classes
and artificially sterilized, at least in comparison with those who are
left. In the professional classes the young women who have initiative,
energy, or intelligence are as a rule not inclined to marry young, or
to have more than one or two children when they do marry. Marriage
has been in the past the only obvious means of livelihood for women;
pressure from parents and fear of becoming an old maid combined
to force many women to marry in spite of a complete absence of
inclination for the duties of a wife. But now a young woman of ordinary
intelligence can easily earn her own living, and can acquire freedom
and experience without the permanent ties of a husband and a family of
children. The result is that if she marries she marries late.

For these reasons, if an average sample of children were taken out of
the population of England, and their parents were examined, it would
be found that prudence, energy, intellect, and enlightenment were less
common among the parents than in the population in general; while
shiftlessness, feeble-mindedness, stupidity, and superstition were more
common than in the population in general. It would be found that those
who are prudent or energetic or intelligent or enlightened actually
fail to reproduce their own numbers; that is to say, they do not on the
average have as many as two children each who survive infancy. On the
other hand, those who have the opposite qualities have, on the average,
more than two children each, and more than reproduce their own numbers.

It is impossible to estimate the effect which this will have upon
the character of the population without a much greater knowledge of
heredity than exists at present. But so long as children continue to
live with their parents, parental example and early education must
have a great influence in developing their character, even if we leave
heredity entirely out of account. Whatever may be thought of genius,
there can be no doubt that intelligence, whether through heredity or
through education, tends to run in families, and that the decay of the
families in which it is common must lower the mental standard of the
population. It seems unquestionable that if our economic system and
our moral standards remain unchanged, there will be, in the next two
or three generations, a rapid change for the worse in the character of
the population in all civilized countries, and an actual diminution of
numbers in the most civilized.

The diminution of numbers, in all likelihood, will rectify itself in
time through the elimination of those characteristics which at present
lead to a small birth-rate. Men and women who can still believe the
Catholic faith will have a biological advantage; gradually a race
will grow up which will be impervious to all the assaults of reason,
and will believe imperturbably that limitation of families leads to
hell-fire. Women who have mental interests, who care about art or
literature or politics, who desire a career or who value their liberty,
will gradually grow rarer, and be more and more replaced by a placid
maternal type which has no interests outside the home and no dislike
of the burden of motherhood. This result, which ages of masculine
domination have vainly striven to achieve, is likely to be the final
outcome of women’s emancipation and of their attempt to enter upon a
wider sphere than that to which the jealousy of men confined them in
the past.

Perhaps, if the facts could be ascertained, it would be found that
something of the same kind occurred in the Roman Empire. The decay of
energy and intelligence during the second, third, and fourth centuries
of our era has always remained more or less mysterious. But there is
reason to think that then, as now, the best elements of the population
in each generation failed to reproduce themselves, and that the least
vigorous were, as a rule, those to whom the continuance of the race was
due. One might be tempted to suppose that civilization, when it has
reached a certain height, becomes unstable, and tends to decay through
some inherent weakness, some failure to adapt the life of instinct to
the intense mental life of a period of high culture. But such vague
theories have always something glib and superstitious which makes them
worthless as scientific explanations or as guides to action. It is not
by a literary formula, but by detailed and complex thought, that a true
solution is to be found.

Let us first be clear as to what we desire. There is no importance in
an increasing population; on the contrary, if the population of Europe
were stationary, it would be much easier to promote economic reform
and to avoid war. What is regrettable _at present_ is not the decline
of the birth-rate in itself, but the fact that the decline is greatest
in the best elements of the population. There is reason, however, to
fear in the future three bad results: first, an absolute decline in the
numbers of English, French, and Germans; secondly, as a consequence
of this decline, their subjugation by less civilized races and the
extinction of their tradition; thirdly, a revival of their numbers on
a much lower plane of civilization, after generations of selection of
those who have neither intelligence nor foresight. If this result is
to be avoided, the present unfortunate selectiveness of the birth-rate
must be somehow stopped.

The problem is one which applies to the whole of Western civilization.
There is no difficulty in discovering a theoretical solution, but
there is great difficulty in persuading men to adopt a solution in
practice, because the effects to be feared are not immediate and
the subject is one upon which people are not in the habit of using
their reason. If a rational solution is ever adopted, the cause will
probably be international rivalry. It is obvious that if one State—say
Germany—adopted a rational means of dealing with the matter, it would
acquire an enormous advantage over other States unless they did
likewise. After the war, it is possible that population questions will
attract more attention than they did before, and it is likely that
they will be studied from the point of view of international rivalry.
This motive, unlike reason and humanity, is perhaps strong enough to
overcome men’s objections to a scientific treatment of the birth-rate.

In the past, at most periods and in most societies, the instincts of
men and women led of themselves to a more than sufficient birth-rate;
Malthus’s statement of the population question had been true enough
up to the time when he wrote. It is still true of barbarous and
semi-civilized races, and of the worst elements among civilized races.
But it has become false as regards the more civilized half of the
population in Western Europe and America. Among them, instinct no
longer suffices to keep numbers even stationary.

We may sum up the reasons for this in order of importance, as follows:—

1. The expense of children is very great if parents are conscientious.

2. An increasing number of women desire to have no children, or only
one or two, in order not to be hampered in their own careers.

3. Owing to the excess of women, a large number of women remain
unmarried. These women, though not debarred in practice from relations
with men, are debarred by the code from having children. In this class
are to be found an enormous and increasing number of women who earn
their own living as typists, in shops, or otherwise. The war has opened
many employments to women from which they were formerly excluded, and
this change is probably only in part temporary.

If the sterilizing of the best parts of the population is to be
arrested, the first and most pressing necessity is the removal of
the economic motives for limiting families. The expense of children
ought to be borne wholly by the community. Their food and clothing
and education ought to be provided, not only to the very poor as a
matter of charity, but to all classes as a matter of public interest.
In addition to this, a woman who is capable of earning money, and who
abandons wage-earning for motherhood, ought to receive from the State
as nearly as possible what she would have received if she had not had
children. The only condition attached to State maintenance of the
mother and the children should be that both parents are physically and
mentally sound in all ways likely to affect the children. Those who
are not sound should not be debarred from having children, but should
continue, as at present, to bear the expense of children themselves.

It ought to be recognized that the law is only concerned with marriage
through the question of children, and should be indifferent to what
is called “morality,” which is based upon custom and texts of the
Bible, not upon any real consideration of the needs of the community.
The excess women, who at present are in every way discouraged from
having children, ought no longer to be discouraged. If the State is
to undertake the expense of children, it has the right, on eugenic
grounds, to know who the father is, and to demand a certain stability
in a union. But there is no reason to demand or expect a lifelong
stability, or to exact any ground for divorce beyond mutual consent.
This would make it possible for the women who must at present remain
unmarried to have children if they wished it. In this way an enormous
and unnecessary waste would be prevented, and a great deal of needless
unhappiness would be avoided.

There is no necessity to begin such a system all at once. It might be
begun tentatively with certain exceptionally desirable sections of the
community. It might then be extended gradually, with the experience of
its working which had been derived from the first experiment. If the
birth-rate were very much increased, the eugenic conditions exacted
might be made more strict.

There are of course various practical difficulties in the way of such a
scheme: the opposition of the Church and the upholders of traditional
morality, the fear of weakening parental responsibility, and the
expense. All these, however, might be overcome. But there remains one
difficulty which it seems impossible to overcome completely in England,
and that is, that the whole conception is anti-democratic, since it
regards some men as better than others, and would demand that the State
should bestow a better education upon the children of some men than
upon the children of others. This is contrary to all the principles
of progressive politics in England. For this reason it can hardly be
expected that any such method of dealing with the population question
will ever be adopted in its entirety in this country. Something of the
sort may well be done in Germany, and if so, it will assure German
hegemony as no merely military victory could do. But among ourselves
we can only hope to see it adopted in some partial, piecemeal fashion,
and probably only after a change in the economic structure of society
which will remove most of the artificial inequalities that progressive
parties are rightly trying to diminish.

So far we have been considering the question of the reproduction of the
race, rather than the effect of sex relations in fostering or hindering
the development of men and women. From the point of view of the race,
what seems needed is a complete removal of the economic burdens due to
children from all parents who are not physically or mentally unfit, and
as much freedom in the law as is compatible with public knowledge of
paternity. Exactly the same changes seem called for when the question
is considered from the point of view of the men and women concerned.

In regard to marriage, as with all the other traditional bonds between
human beings, a very extraordinary change is taking place, wholly
inevitable, wholly necessary as a stage in the development of a new
life, but by no means wholly satisfactory until it is completed. All
the traditional bonds were based on _authority_—of the king, the
feudal baron, the priest, the father, the husband. All these bonds,
just because they were based on authority, are dissolving or already
dissolved, and the creation of other bonds to take their place is as
yet very incomplete. For this reason human relations have at present
an unusual triviality, and do less than they did formerly to break down
the hard walls of the Ego.

The ideal of marriage in the past depended upon the authority of the
husband, which was admitted as a right by the wife. The husband was
free, the wife was a willing slave. In all matters which concerned
husband and wife jointly, it was taken for granted that the husband’s
fiat should be final. The wife was expected to be faithful, while the
husband, except in very religious societies, was only expected to throw
a decent veil over his infidelities. Families could not be limited
except by continence, and a wife had no recognized right to demand
continence, however she might suffer from frequent children.

So long as the husband’s right to authority was unquestioningly
believed by both men and women, this system was fairly satisfactory,
and afforded to both a certain instinctive fulfilment which is rarely
achieved among educated people now. Only one will, the husband’s,
had to be taken into account, and there was no need of the difficult
adjustments required when common decisions have to be reached by two
equal wills. The wife’s desires were not treated seriously enough to
enable them to thwart the husband’s needs, and the wife herself, unless
she was exceptionally selfish, did not seek self-development, or see in
marriage anything but an opportunity for duties. Since she did not seek
or expect much happiness, she suffered less, when happiness was not
attained, than a woman does now: her suffering contained no element of
indignation or surprise, and did not readily turn into bitterness and
sense of injury.

The saintly, self-sacrificing woman whom our ancestors praised had her
place in a certain organic conception of society, the conception of the
ordered hierarchy of authorities which dominated the Middle Ages. She
belongs to the same order of ideas as the faithful servant, the loyal
subject, and the orthodox son of the Church. This whole order of ideas
has vanished from the civilized world, and it is to be hoped that it
has vanished for ever, in spite of the fact that the society which it
produced was vital and in some ways full of nobility. The old order
has been destroyed by the new ideals of justice and liberty, beginning
with religion, passing on to politics, and reaching at last the private
relations of marriage and the family. When once the question has been
asked, “Why should a woman submit to a man?” when once the answers
derived from tradition and the Bible have ceased to satisfy, there
is no longer any possibility of maintaining the old subordination.
To every man who has the power of thinking impersonally and freely,
it is obvious, as soon as the question is asked, that the rights of
women are precisely the same as the rights of men. Whatever dangers
and difficulties, whatever temporary chaos, may be incurred in the
transition to equality, the claims of reason are so insistent and so
clear that no opposition to them can hope to be long successful.

Mutual liberty, which is now demanded, is making the old form of
marriage impossible. But a new form, which shall be an equally good
vehicle for instinct, and an equal help to spiritual growth, has not
yet been developed. For the present, women who are conscious of liberty
as something to be preserved are also conscious of the difficulty of
preserving it. The wish for mastery is an ingredient in most men’s
sexual passions, especially in those which are strong and serious. It
survives in many men whose theories are entirely opposed to despotism.
The result is a fight for liberty on the one side and for life on the
other. Women feel that they must protect their individuality; men feel,
often very dumbly, that the repression of instinct which is demanded
of them is incompatible with vigor and initiative. The clash of these
opposing moods makes all real mingling of personalities impossible;
the man and woman remain hard, separate units, continually asking
themselves whether anything of value to themselves is resulting from
the union. The effect is that relations tend to become trivial and
temporary, a pleasure rather than the satisfaction of a profound need,
an excitement, not an attainment. The fundamental loneliness into which
we are born remains untouched, and the hunger for inner companionship
remains unappeased.

No cheap and easy solution of this trouble is possible. It is a trouble
which affects most the most civilized men and women, and is an outcome
of the increasing sense of individuality which springs inevitably from
mental progress. I doubt if there is any radical cure except in some
form of religion, so firmly and sincerely believed as to dominate
even the life of instinct. The individual is not the end and aim of
his own being: outside the individual, there is the community, the
future of mankind, the immensity of the universe in which all our
hopes and fears are a mere pin-point. A man and woman with reverence
for the spirit of life in each other, with an equal sense of their own
unimportance beside the whole life of man, may become comrades without
interference with liberty, and may achieve the union of instinct
without doing violence to the life of mind and spirit. As religion
dominated the old form of marriage, so religion must dominate the new.
But it must be a new religion, based upon liberty, justice, and love,
not upon authority and law and hell-fire.

A bad effect upon the relations of men and women has been produced by
the romantic movement, through directing attention to what ought to be
an incidental good, not the purpose for which relations exist. Love is
what gives intrinsic value to a marriage, and, like art and thought, it
is one of the supreme things which make human life worth preserving.
But though there is no good marriage without love, the best marriages
have a purpose which goes beyond love. The love of two people for
each other is too circumscribed, too separate from the community, to
be by itself the main purpose of a good life. It is not in itself a
sufficient source of activities, it is not sufficiently prospective,
to make an existence in which ultimate satisfaction can be found. It
brings its great moments, and then its times which are less great,
which are unsatisfying because they are less great. It becomes, sooner
or later, retrospective, a tomb of dead joys, not a well-spring of new
life. This evil is inseparable from any purpose which is to be achieved
in a single supreme emotion. The only adequate purposes are those which
stretch out into the future, which can never be fully achieved, but are
always growing, and infinite with the infinity of human endeavor. And
it is only when love is linked to some infinite purpose of this kind
that it can have the seriousness and depth of which it is capable.

For the great majority of men and women seriousness in sex relations
is most likely to be achieved through children. Children are to
most people rather a need than a desire: instinct is as a rule only
consciously directed towards what used to lead to children. The desire
for children is apt to develop in middle life, when the adventure of
one’s own existence is past, when the friendships of youth seem less
important than they once did, when the prospect of a lonely old age
begins to terrify, and the feeling of having no share in the future
becomes oppressive. Then those who, while they were young, have had
no sense that children would be a fulfilment of their needs, begin to
regret their former contempt for the normal, and to envy acquaintances
whom before they had thought humdrum. But owing to economic causes it
is often impossible for the young, and especially for the best of the
young, to have children without sacrificing things of vital importance
to their own lives. And so youth passes, and the need is felt too late.

Needs without corresponding desires have grown increasingly common as
life has grown more different from that primitive existence from which
our instincts are derived, and to which, rather than to that of the
present day, they are still very largely adapted. An unsatisfied need
produces, in the end, as much pain and as much distortion of character
as if it had been associated with a conscious desire. For this reason,
as well as for the sake of the race, it is important to remove the
present economic inducements to childlessness. There is no necessity
whatever to urge parenthood upon those who feel disinclined to it, but
there is necessity not to place obstacles in the way of those who have
no such disinclination.

In speaking of the importance of preserving seriousness in the
relations of men and women, I do not mean to suggest that relations
which are not serious are always harmful. Traditional morality has
erred by laying stress on what ought not to happen, rather than on
what ought to happen. What is important is that men and women should
find, sooner or later, the best relation of which their natures are
capable. It is not always possible to know in advance what will be the
best, or to be sure of not missing the best if everything that can be
doubted is rejected. Among primitive races, a man wants a female, a
woman wants a male, and there is no such differentiation as makes one
a much more suitable companion than another. But with the increasing
complexity of disposition that civilized life brings, it becomes more
and more difficult to find the man or woman who will bring happiness,
and more and more necessary to make it not too difficult to acknowledge
a mistake.

The present marriage law is an inheritance from a simpler age, and
is supported, in the main, by unreasoning fears and by contempt for
all that is delicate and difficult in the life of the mind. Owing
to the law, large numbers of men and women are condemned, so far
as their ostensible relations are concerned, to the society of an
utterly uncongenial companion, with all the embittering consciousness
that escape is practically impossible. In these circumstances,
happier relations with others are often sought, but they have to be
clandestine, without a common life, and without children. Apart from
the great evil of being clandestine, such relations have some almost
inevitable drawbacks. They are liable to emphasize sex unduly, to be
exciting and disturbing; and it is hardly possible that they should
bring a real satisfaction of instinct. It is the combination of love,
children, and a common life that makes the best relation between a man
and a woman. The law at present confines children and a common life
within the bonds of monogamy, but it cannot confine love. By forcing
many to separate love from children and a common life, the law cramps
their lives, prevents them from reaching the full measure of their
possible development, and inflicts a wholly unnecessary torture upon
those who are not content to become frivolous.

To sum up: The present state of the law, of public opinion, and of
our economic system is tending to degrade the quality of the race, by
making the worst half of the population the parents of more than half
of the next generation. At the same time, women’s claim to liberty
is making the old form of marriage a hindrance to the development of
both men and women. A new system is required, if the European nations
are not to degenerate, and if the relations of men and women are to
have the strong happiness and organic seriousness which belonged to
the best marriages in the past. The new system must be based upon the
fact that to produce children is a service to the State, and ought
not to expose parents to heavy pecuniary penalties. It will have to
recognize that neither the law nor public opinion should concern itself
with the private relations of men and women, except where children
are concerned. It ought to remove the inducements to make relations
clandestine and childless. It ought to admit that, although lifelong
monogamy is best when it is successful, the increasing complexity of
our needs makes it increasingly often a failure for which divorce
is the best preventive. Here, as elsewhere, liberty is the basis of
political wisdom. And when liberty has been won, what remains to be
desired must be left to the conscience and religion of individual men
and women.