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The prison mirror. [volume] (Stillwater, Minn.) 1887-1894, March 09, 1893, Image 1

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Persistent link: https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86063465/1893-03-09/ed-1/seq-1/

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Vol. VI.—No. 31
Behold the tall and lambent spire
Irradiate with sunset fire.
Those windows smit with twilight beams,
With evening's iridescent gleams;
How they reflect the early night,
Its mingling gold and lazulite.
And how those tall transfigured towers
Bloom ’gainst the night like granite flowers;
How grandly lifts yon burnished dome
A skyey shape of lire and foam!
•• What are the buildings, friend?” said I,
"That loom against the eastern sky,
And dashed with many a sunset gleam
lx>ok like the palace of a dream?”
• Them buildings, boss,” the man replied—
A sly smile in his features pale—
•• You just lookout you keep outside;
Them buildings is the county jail.”
I’ained at this ending of my dream,
This anticlimax to my theme,
1 found a poultice for my pain
in this wise moralizing strain.
We all live in a county jail
Whose towering walls we cannot scale.
Though firmly, all in vain, we press
Against its granite stubbornness.
Dull, cold as fate, its walls arise
And shut our vision from the skies.
But when hope's sunlight falls upon
Its thick and heavy walls of stone.
They loom against the coming night,
Transfigured in a mystic light.
And, bathed in gold and amethyst.
The granite grows as soft as mist—
Transformed becomes the culprit’s jail.
And fromjits towers cloud banners fling
Their gorgeous windings to the gale—
It is a palace of a king!
—B. TT\ Foss, in Yankee Blade
How many of those who utilize a
part of their wealth for benevolent pur
poses are actuated from motives that
are purely philanthropistical, or from'
a sense of duty? They are no doubt
numerous. There are at least many in
- whom it is difficult to reconcile their so
called philanthropy to any such mo
tives -men who have through a long
career become irrevoeally identified
with oppression, whose lives are chap
ters of deeds that would outrage the
moral constitution of a true philanthro
pist and do violence to the sensibilities
of a passably just man. To assume
that a man can indict an unjust act be
fore dinner, and one of benevolence aft
er dinner, and remain true to his nature
in both instances, is folly and unreason
able. To be a philanthropist one must
be just. They may not deem it unjust.
They may he so constituted that, as long
as the unjustness is traceable to the
workings of business, or due to the laws
of political economy, they are free from
all responsibility. The position may be
tenable for the ordinary man. but not so
for a philanthropist. And their will
ingness to assume that plea as an exten
uation for their position, stamps their
philanthropy with the ear-marks of os
tentation and hypocrisy. There is one
thing noticeable about the adherents of
the doctrine, that an injury resultant
from a strict construction of the laws
of political economy cannot be a moral
wrong. If they seek monetary assist
ance of an individual who charges them
an usurious interest, they lose sight of
the beauties of business and denounce
him as a Shy lock. It is the old story
of whose ox is gored. The working's
of conscience is frequently co-ordinate
with that of the purse. If we are pecun
iarily benefited it partakes of the elas
ticity of our purse. If otherwise, it
stands a rigid sentinel and remains im
mutable for the same reason that people
who are indifferent to our welfare are
so free with their advice because it
costs nothing. It seems to be a part
of the creed of the world, that if a
man contributes a part of his wealth to
benevolent enterprises it will, in return,
suspend judgment on the manner in
which that wealth was acquired. If the
millionaire lately diseased was one part
as great a diplomat as he was a finan
cier, we would never have witnessed
that virtuous wave that existed at the
close of his career. One fraction of that
wealth judiciously bestowed on this
church or that institution would have
changed many of his denunciators into
warm euologists, or at least ardent apol
ogists. We could admire the unruffled
assurance of those so-called philanthro-
pists, in the face of adverse criticism,
and, what is worse, their own actions,
if we could but forget their hypocrisy.
And they interpret'the adulation which
they are the recipients of, as a recogni
tion of qualities,—which they do not
possess, that they only profess, while
in reality it is only evidence of the
prevalence of snobs. We are all snobs;
and that composite creation, public
opinion, the greatest snob of all.
Necessity for Revision and Uniformity of
the Divorce Laws.
In this world of imperfection and
error of which we form a part, there ex
ist certain necessary and indispensable
evils—that is, certain institutions or
organized agencies for the diminution,
mitigation or eradication of such ele
ments in human nature or character
which bring suffering, disease or death
on the community at large. Where
such evils exist, and there is but one al
ternative offered us which is also to a cer
tain extent defective, and productive of
suffering to innocent parties, common
sense demands that we choose the least
injurious of the two—or that which is
the most capable of improvement or
development in the right direction.
Chief among the necessary evils existing
in the present age we find poor farms,
prisons, insane asylums and divorce
laws. Some persons may object to this
enumeration as irrelevant and inappro
priaterbut experience teaches us that,
so far as cause and effect is concerned,
they are more or less co-related and con
tingent the one upon the other, and that
they are the natural and inevitable prod
uct of our daily modern life, as portray
ed in all large cities and towns in civil
ized communities.
Before we take up the question refer
red to in the caption above, the writer
would remark that in putting forth bis
view on Marriage and Divorce, lie is by
no means referring to bis own personal
experience, as the basis of his argument,
but simply recording his observations
and investigations during half a century
of public life. Having himself partici
pated, for more than forty years, in the
responsibilities and vicissitudes, the
joys and sorrows of married life, he may
be presumed to have somewhat of a
practical experience of the matter of
which he speaks. So far as his own ex
perience is concerned, they were the
happiest and most prosperous years of
his life, and his most ardent wish for his
Benedict readers is that they might
have been equally fortunate in the
choice of their life partners.
The present anomalous and chaotic
condition of the laws regulating mar
riage and divorce in the American Re
public are especially calamitous in their
results and demoralizing in their influ
ence as regards the domestic happiness,
social purity, moral status and intellect
ual and general advancement of the
community at large. There are no two
out of the fourty-four States in which
the marriage and divorce laws are ex
actly alike. Each State makes its own
regulations, and they differ so widely in
scope and interpretation, that what is
considered equivalent to marriage in
one State is simply concubinage or un
licensed cohabitation in another; and,
while the seeker after divorce is, in one
State, limited to adultery as the only ef
fective plea—in other States, he may have
the choice of some twelve or fourteen
causes on which to plead for divorce —
and, in some few States, he need not as
sign any cause whatever, the decree be
ing granted and the case adjudged by
proxy, and the presence or evidence of
the parties to the suit not being consid
ered an absolute necessity. Thus, vir
tually, the marriage-tie is made a mis
• erable farce, and the divorce court a
means for legalized prostitution. The
most imperative need of the age, there-
fore, is a thorough revision and readjust
ment of the Jaws governing divorce and
regulating the procedure of the court:
uniformity of legislation and action in
every State, and a rigid, vigilent enforce
ment of the law, when so revised and
We maintain, most emphatically, that,
iu view of the maintenance of the public
inorals, of social purity and of domestic
happiness, adultery, had and iniquitous
as it is, is far from being the worst, or
the most disastrous both to parents and
off spring, of the various crimes against
marital happiness and public morality.
Let us take the various breaches of the
law controlling the marital relation in
their proper order.
1. Habitual Drunkenness. Dissipa
tion and Dissolute Conduct. We know
by observation and experience the bane
ful influence and disastrous results at
tendant on that agricultural operation
popularly known as "sowing his wild
oats!”--an operation insanely gloried
in and boasted of by our “gilded youth”
and would-be “ toughs ” in every clime
and age. There is no reason whatever
for permitting or encouraging the
growth of wild oats or any such vicious
vegetation, as the product is both worth
less and injurious to the community at
large as well as to the individual him
self. If this be so while the individual
remains a bachelor, common sense and
common decency demonstrates most
forcibly, that the “wild oats farmer”
should be absolutely prohibited from
assuming the marriage relation; or
when married, from continuing that
relation, and so spreading indefinitely
the baneful influences of his reckless
disregard of all laws human and di
wine. The offspring -nil, any marriage
in which either or both of the parents
are addicted to vicious indulgencies of
any kind cannot fail to become exag
gerated examples and intensified in
stances of the vices, irregularities and
diseased conditions produced and de
veloped by those who brought them into
existence. It is the direct and inevita
ble product of such marriages that pop
ulate our hospitals, poor farms, prisons
and insane asylums, and establish that
under strata of pauperism, crime and
national disaster by which all large
communities are more or less afflicted.
Another cause for divorce should be
inherited or acquired insanity, mono
mania or mental aberration. Mental
disturbance, like physical disease, is in
creased in force and power by trans
mission. and, as it progresses from gen
eration to generation, it increases in in
tensity and virulence, until it becomes
irresistible and unconquerable. There
are mental and moral, as well as phys
ical epidemics. Yellow fever, cholera
and typhus commence with an isolated
or obscure case, in a remote section of
the city, but the mephitic influence
spreads' like wild fire and speedily
slaughters its thousands and tens of
thousands as it winds its desolating,
death-dealing course through street and
avenue. So with the incipient germ of
mental aberration or deficiency, from
whatever cause it may arise—whether
it be mania a potu, exhausted vitality,
or a generally vitiated condition of the
mental and moral forces —as it is trans
mitted from parent to child, and so on
through successive generations, it is in
creased in power and disastrous results,
until a race of criminals, idiots, and de
crepit, pauperized individuals is perma
nently established in the community.
In ancient times, among the Spartans
and other tribes of ancient Greece, the
parents who transmitted to their off
spring their domestic virtues, their pa
triotism. valor, and stalwart physical
strength were honored and worshipped
as demi-gods, just in proportion as they
transmitted those virtues in their orig
inal force and purity. In the last cent
ury our Puritan ancestors were held in
reverence for the solid moral, mental
and physical virtues and qualities they
bequeathed in like manner to their off
spring. And so, but in much more for
cible degree, later generations of “wild
oat” sinners have foisted on the com
munities of which they are members
an offspring distinguished by vicious
ness, imbecility, disregard of all moral
Tcdmc. ' per year, in advance,
i fcKMo. six Months 50 Cents.
or physical laws, and abuse of the priv
ileges granted them as reasoning beings
—and who. therefore, should be repu
diated. disowned, and deprived of all
possible means of transmitting their
vices and the accompanying suffering
and sorrow to innocent, helpless, unof
fending offspring.
But there are still other causes which
should be held as legitimate reasons
for divorce—viz., desertion, failure to
provide for family, and cruelty from
all which sources the large and con
stantly-increasing army of paupers, de
pendents on charity and wrong-doers
(driven to crime by starvation, want of
employment and ignorance), are con
tinually reinforced in all our cities and
towns. The only tangible means by
which this source of supply can be ar
rested is by the strict enforcement of
the divorce law (in its spirit as in its
.letter ) to those who thus contribute to
the national pauperization.
The line must be drawn somewhere—
and there is no better or more effective
line of demarcation than that provided
by a common-sense adjustment of the
law of divorce. In order to prevent
collusion, evasion or fraud on the part
of suitors, and to ensure an honest in
vestigation into the bona fides of every
case, the evidence of both plaintiff and
defendant should be submitted to an
official commission of three persons,
eminent in the medical and legal pro
fessions, who should make their report
to the judge; and the judge, having
carefully considered the sworn evidence
and the referee's report, should give his
judgment accordingly. We need a
moral quarantine quite as urgently as
we need sanitary regulations for the
preservation of the public health.
AVhen an invasion of cholera or other
infectious disease is threatened or has
shown itself, we organize a cordon of
medical police to arrest its progress,
and take prompt measures to disinfect
and purify those dwellings already vis
ited by the deadly foe. So must it be
in relation to all matters of moral and
social purity. There are thousands
upon thousands of families now in ex
istence which have been deteriorated,
decimated and almost destroyed by the
vices and irregularities of the parents,
where the offspring have become so im
pregnated with the virus of physical,
mental and moral contagion that ab
solute cure is almost impossible. All
that can be done in such cases is to mit
igate the evil which exists, and prevent
its further spread. One chief object as
regards the rising and future genera
tions is to organize and strictly enforce
such regulations as shall prevent the
marriage (or, if already married, dis
solve the marriage) of such persons as,
by reason of mental deficiency, physical
condition, 01; moral obliquity, are inca
pable of fulfilling the duties, and carry
ing out in all their purity the respon
sibilities of parents and guardians.
Make the proof of the existence of these
vices and irregularities on the part of
either of the parties to the marriage
contract prima fade evidence for a de
cree of divorce. Thus, the further
spread of disease (mental, moral or
phvsical) will be effectually checked;
anil, if we go a step farther, and abso
lutely prohibit the marriage of all un
married persons exhibiting by their
conduct or condition such disqualify
ing characteristics as those we have de
scribed, we shall ensure to future gen
erations and future ages a period of
national prosperity, personal happiness,
moral excellence and intellectual at
tainment greater than the world has
yet known —and realize as a fact and
priceless blessing that which has hith
efto been only a “pleasant fiction”—“a
sound mind in a sound body ” as the
proud possession of the future Amer
ican citizen. Divorce for adultery only
means a depraved and nation;
divorce for the causes we have men
tioned, subject to a reconstructed law,
means a new and powerful nation, the
pride of the world. F. J. G.
Charlestown, Mass.
Eternal vigilance very often brings
on the price of spectacles.— Pvcli.

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