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indeed, surprising that the American people, usually intolerant of State
interference, should in this matter so long have tolerated such
interference in so private a matter.
The movement of divorce is not confined to Christendom; it is a mark of
modern civilization. In Japan the proportion of divorces is higher than in
any other country, not excluding the United States. The most vigorous
and progressive countries are those that insist most firmly on the purity
of sexual unions. In the United States it was pointed out many years ago
that divorce is most prevalent where the standard of education and
morality is highest. It was the New England States, with strong Puritanic
traditions of moral freedom, which took the lead in granting facility to
divorce. The divorce movement is not, as some have foolishly supposed, a
movement making for immorality. Immorality is the inevitable
accompaniment of indissoluble marriage; the emphasis on the sanctity of a
merely formal union discourages the growth of moral responsibility as
regards the hypothetically unholy unions which grow up beneath its shadow.
To insist, on the other hand, by establishing facility of divorce, that
sexual unions shall be real, is to work in the cause of morality. The
lands in which divorce by mutual consent has prevailed longest are
probably among the most, and not the least, moral of lands.
Surprise has been expressed that although divorce by mutual consent
commended itself as an obviously just and reasonable measure two thousand
years ago to the legally-minded Romans that solution has even yet been so
rarely attained by modern states. Wherever society is established on
a solidly organized basis and the claims of reason and humanity receive
due consideration--even when the general level of civilization is not in
every respect high--there we find a tendency to divorce by mutual consent.
In Japan, according to the new Civil Code, much as in ancient
Rome, marriage is effected by giving notice of the fact to the
registrar in the presence of two witnesses, and with the consent
(in the case of young couples) of the heads of their families.
There may be a ceremony, but it is not demanded by the law.
Divorce is effected in exactly the same way, by simply having the
registration cancelled, provided both husband and wife are over
twenty-five years of age. For younger couples unhappily married,
and for cases in which mutual consent cannot be obtained,
judicial divorce exists. This is granted for various specific
causes, of which the most important is "grave insult, such as to
render living together unbearable" (Ernest W. Clement, "The New
Woman in Japan," _American Journal Sociology_, March, 1903). Such
a system, like so much else achieved by Japanese organization,
seems reasonable, guarded, and effective.
In the very different and far more ancient marriage system of
China, divorce by mutual consent is equally well-established.
Such divorce by mutual consent takes place for incompatibility of
temperament, or when both husband and wife desire it. There are,
however, various antiquated and peculiar provisions in the
Chinese marriage laws, and divorce is compulsory for the wife's
adultery or serious physical injuries inflicted by either party
on the other. (The marriage laws of China are fully set forth by
Paul d'Enjoy, _La Revue_, Sept. 1, 1905.)
Among the Eskimo (who, as readers of Nansen's fascinating books
on their morals will know, are in some respects a highly
socialized people) the sexes are absolutely equal, marriages are
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