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Table of contents
THE CONQUEST OF THE VENEREAL DISEASES-8.1
THE CONQUEST OF THE VENEREAL DISEASES-8.2
THE CONQUEST OF THE VENEREAL DISEASES-8.3
THE CONQUEST OF THE VENEREAL DISEASES-8.4
THE CONQUEST OF THE VENEREAL DISEASES-8.5
THE CONQUEST OF THE VENEREAL DISEASES-8.6
FOOTNOTES
SEXUAL MORALITY-9.1
SEXUAL MORALITY-9.2
SEXUAL MORALITY-9.3
SEXUAL MORALITY-9.4
SEXUAL MORALITY-9.5
SEXUAL MORALITY-9.6
SEXUAL MORALITY-9.7
SEXUAL MORALITY-9.8
SEXUAL MORALITY-9.9
MARRIAGE-10.1
MARRIAGE-10.2
MARRIAGE-10.3
MARRIAGE-10.4
MARRIAGE-10.5
MARRIAGE-10.6
MARRIAGE-10.7
MARRIAGE-10.8
MARRIAGE-10.9
MARRIAGE-10.10
MARRIAGE-10.11
MARRIAGE-10.12
FOOTNOTES
THE ART OF LOVE-11.1
THE ART OF LOVE-11.2
THE ART OF LOVE-11.3
THE ART OF LOVE-11.4
THE ART OF LOVE-11.5
THE ART OF LOVE-11.6
THE ART OF LOVE-11.7
THE ART OF LOVE-11.8
THE ART OF LOVE-11.9
THE ART OF LOVE-11.10
THE ART OF LOVE-11.11
FOOTNOTES
THE SCIENCE OF PROCREATION-12.1
THE SCIENCE OF PROCREATION-12.2
THE SCIENCE OF PROCREATION-12.3
THE SCIENCE OF PROCREATION-12.4
THE SCIENCE OF PROCREATION-12.5
THE SCIENCE OF PROCREATION-12.6
THE SCIENCE OF PROCREATION-12.7
THE SCIENCE OF PROCREATION-12.8
THE SCIENCE OF PROCREATION-12.9
FOOTNOTES
INDEX OF AUTHORS

 

The English Reformers under Edward VI and his enlightened 

advisers, including Archbishop Cranmer, took liberal views of 

marriage, and were prepared to carry through many admirable 

reforms. The early death of that King exerted a profound 

influence on the legal history of English marriage. The Catholic 

reaction under Queen Mary killed off the more radical Reformers, 

while the subsequent accession of Queen Elizabeth, whose attitude 

towards marriage was grudging, illiberal, and old-fashioned, 

approximating to that of her father, Henry VIII (as witnessed, 

for instance, in her decided opposition to the marriage of the 

clergy), permanently affected English marriage law. It became 

less liberal than that of other Protestant countries, and closer 

to that of Catholic countries. 

 

The reform of marriage attempted by the Puritans began in England 

in 1644, when an Act was passed asserting "marriage to be no 

sacrament, nor peculiar to the Church of God, but common to 

mankind and of public interest to every Commonwealth." The Act 

added, notwithstanding, that it was expedient marriage should be 

solemnized by "a lawful minister of the Word." The more radical 

Act of 1653 swept away this provision, and made marriage purely 

secular. The banns were to be published (by registrars specially 

appointed) in the Church, or (if the parties desired) the 

market-place. The marriage was to be performed by a Justice of 

the Peace; the age of consent to marriage for a man was made 

sixteen, for a woman fourteen (Scobell's _Acts and Ordinances_, 

pp. 86, 236). The Restoration abolished this sensible Act, and 

reintroduced Canon-law traditions, but the Puritan conception of 

marriage was carried over to America, where it took root and 

flourished. 

 

It was out of Puritanism, moreover, as represented by Milton, that the 

first genuinely modern though as yet still imperfect conception of the 

marriage relationship was destined to emerge. The early Reformers in this 

matter acted mainly from an obscure instinct of natural revolt in an 

environment of plebeian materialism. The Puritans were moved by their 

feeling for simplicity and civil order as the conditions for religious 

freedom. Milton, in his _Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce_, published in 

1643, when he was thirty-five years of age, proclaimed the supremacy of 

the substance of marriage over the form of it, and the spiritual autonomy 

of the individual in the regulation of that form. He had grasped the 

meaning of that conception of personal responsibility which is the 

foundation of sexual relationships as they are beginning to appear to men 

to-day. If Milton had left behind him only his writings on marriage and 

divorce they would have sufficed to stamp him with the seal of genius. 

Christendom had to wait a century and a half before another man of genius 

of the first rank, Wilhelm von Humboldt, spoke out with equal authority 

and clearness in favor of free marriage and free divorce. 

 

It is to the honor of Milton, and one of his chief claims on our 

gratitude, that he is the first great protagonist in Christendom 

of the doctrine that marriage is a private matter, and that, 

therefore, it should be freely dissoluble by mutual consent, or 

even at the desire of one of the parties. We owe to him, says 

Howard, "the boldest defence of the liberty of divorce which had 

yet appeared. If taken in the abstract, and applied to both sexes 

alike, it is perhaps the strongest defence which can be made 

through an appeal to mere authority;" though his arguments, being 


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