Is Divorce a Remedy?
In the last number of the ‘ Westminster Review’ there is an article by Mr Lc: Meriwether under the above title, which is interesting as giving the reasons why a number of divorces were granted in America, Wo quote;
During a year’s investigation into the subjects of divorces in the United States I cams across many cases well calculated to raise the query whether society does rightly or wisely in making it impossible, or even difficult, to obtain divorce. Subjoined are tiie notes of a few eases which will show three things -first, that in many instances marriage is a miserable and total failure; second, that divorce is a partial and temporary relief; and third, that in the United States that relief isoften sought and easily obtained. A French journal recently deplored the fact that in France there are four divorces to every thousand marriages. In the United States, in some cities, the proportion of divorces to marriages rises to one in six, and, as some of the following cases show, the divorce ia granted on grounds that are almost not grounds at all. The following twenty-two cases in which divorces were granted are those in which the plaintiff was the husband seeking divorce because of the wife’s misdoings. The language used is verbatim from the official papers, either from the complaint, the Judge’s decree, or from testimony of witnesses.
1. “ Defendant (wife) has beaten this plaintiff until he was bruised and sore. She has also smashed the household wares.”
2. “ Defendant and plaintiff were married in Ghataiu’ina, New York ; both belong to a sect called the ‘ Brotherhood of the New Life,’ with strange tenets, one of which is that a man shall not hold marital relations with his wife unless given a permit by the chief of the sect. The plaintiff alleges that he has been unable to obtain a permit from Harris, the chief of the sect ; that, on the contrary, the said Harris has commanded the defendant not to stay with the plaintiff for three years,” (Laurence Oliphant, the deceased writer, succeeded Harris as chief of this peculiar sect.) 3. “The defendant pulled this plaintiff out of bed by his whiskers.”
4. “The defendant took all the covering off the bed, leaving plaintiff to shiver until morning. On one occasion she jumped on him with her knees, and ran a knitting needle four inches into liis arm.” fi. “ The defendant threw scalding train plaintiff’s face, permanently blinding him in one eye.” (J. From testimony of husband: “My wife would not walk with me on Sundays. Once, in a tantrum, she heaved a teapot at; me. She hit me on the side of the jaw because I refused to be worked into a passion. Once she pulled quite a quantity of hair out of my head.” (Among the papers was a tuft of sandy hair marked “Exhibit A.”) 7. “The morning after their marriage the defendant came into the room where this plaintiff was lying and beat him with a shoo heel, badly blacking both his eyes.” (Rut for divorce was begun morning after tlm marriage.) 5. “ The defendant is a powerful woman, weighing 1901b. She struck plaintiff with a stove lid, and broke one of his ribs. On another occasion she knocked the plaintiff down with a chair. On still another occasion she aimed a red-hot poker at plaintiff’s head.”
9. “During the past year the defendant has frequently struck this plaintiff with pokers, flat - irons, and other hard substances.”
10. “The defendant took a buggy, drove six miles, got a Mr Holmes, au old sweetheart of hers, drove him out into the country, and then and there, in cold blood, shot the said Mr Holmes with a revolver. This action caused plaintiff unspeakable suffering, wherefore he sues for divorce.” Doubtless no one will deny that there should be relief of some kind for a husband afflicted with a 1901b wife addicted to break - in" his ribs with stove lids. It is not so probable, however, that much sympathy will be expended upon the husbands who obtained divorces on the frivolous grounds mentioned in the next batch of cases : 11. “ The defendant (wife) goes gadding about town, leaving the children to go supperless to bod. The plaintiff, w'hen he comes home, has to cook his own supper. The defendant, knowing the love plaintiff hears for the little girl, once wrote him when absent that the child was dying, and that it could not possibly have a better time to ‘peg out,’ Plaintiff alleges that defendant did this solely for the purpose of harassing said plaintiff—that the child was only slightly ill. The defendant further causes plaintiff mental anguish by declaring that she will drown herself rather than have another child.” 12. “ Defendant took a dose of laudanum solely to vex and harass plaintiff, causing him to expend much money in medical treatment, and often to vox plaintiff defendant goes to bed and remains there days at a time. One day, when plaintiff asked his wife to cook breakfast, she took all the dishes and smashed them on the ground. The defendant would refuse to eat and pretend to be sick. Once she threw dishes out of the window because he sowed grass in August.” 13. “ Defendant struck plaintiff a violent blow with her bustle.” 1-1. “ The defendant has frequently evinced towards the plaintiff' a hasty temper.” 15. “ Defendant has been guilty of cruel and inhuman treatment in this: she has persistently neglected and refused to cook for this plaintiff, and has twiee spat in his face.”
16. “The defendant violently upbraided this plaintiff, and said to him that he was no man at all, causing him mental suffering and anguish.” 17. From husband’s testimony: “My wife refuses to keep my clothes in repair ; she even refuses to cook, and never sews my buttons on.” “ A witness testified that he had seen the plaintiff with but one button on bis (plaintiff’s) vest, and that he had heard defendant say that she would not allow the plaintiff (her husband) to go to fires at night. The Court decided that the wife was guilty of cruel and inhuman treatment, aud granted a decree of divorce.” 18. “ Defendant called her husband a good-for-nothing vagabond, and said she ‘ wished to God he would go away.’ This remark caused plaintiff mental anguish, and divorce was granted.” 19. “The plaintiff, at dinner, did not cat; thereupon the defendant said to him ; ‘lf you don’t eat I’ll cut your bead off.’ This throat caused plaintiff mental anguish, and he prays for divorce on the ground of cruel and inhuman treatment.” 20. “ Plaintiff alleges that there is no offspring of their marriage, thus rendering life burdensome and home dreary.” 21. “The defendant keeps the plaintiff awake most of the night, quarrelling and trying to get him to convey his property to her.”
22. From testimony of the husband: “ My wife would not get up in the morning, nor would she call me in the morning ; she would not do anything I requested her to do. All this has caused me mental suffering and anguish.” Some sympathy may bo extended to the husbands even in these cases. For instance, in case of No. 14, although no other fault is found with the wife except that she has a
hasty temper, it is Well known that a continual exhibition of “hasty temper "may sometimes become quite as unendurable as stove lids and broken ribs. But it is not until we come to examine divorces obtained by wives from wicked husbands 1 that the merits of this interesting subject ' can be fully understood. The investigation in the United States showed that nearly three times as many wives as hus- ; bands get divorces. The following twcnfcy- : live cases show, also, that not only are . there more wicked husbands than wicked j wives, but that when a husband is wicked i he is awfully wicked, far more so than the i most wicked wife. These instances of cruel ; husbands are bad, but they are by no means the worst—the worst cases are too vile and horrible for print. The language given below is quoted verbatim from the official records, without change or exaggeration, and in each instance is given as showing the main, and sometimes solo ground upon which the divorce was granted. TWENTY-FIVE CASES IN WHICH WIVES OBTAINED DIVORCES FROM HUSBANDS. 1. “ Defendant (husband) sleeps with a razor under his pillow, solely to frighten and distress plaintiff.” 2. “ Defendant has contracted the opium habit, causing him to wake up in the night and attempt to kill plaintiff.” 3. “ Defendant does not speak to plaintiff for months at a time, thereby rendering her life a burden.” 4. “ Defendant during the past three years lias fallen into frequent and causeless rages, and smashed up all the cups and saucers and other crockery and household wares in the house.” 5. “ The defendant is not only this plaintiff’s husband, but he is also her uncle. Plaintiff was but fourteen years of age at time of marriage with defendant; all of which preys on plaintiff’s mind and causes her groat mental anguish.” (J. “Defendant made plaintiff climb a ladder to drive a nail in the door. Not liking the way she drove the nail, he lassoed her on her coming down the ladder, tied her fast to the bedpost, stuck sticks and straws in her eyes and ears, and said ho wanted to see if she was Dutch. On untying her he threw her into a nest of bees ; all of which conduct sorely grieved the plaintiff in her body and mind.” 7. “ The defendant does not come home until ten o’clock at night, and when he dees return he keeps plaintiff (wife) awake, talking sometimes until midnight.”
8. “The defendant does not wash himself, thereby causing this plaintiff great mental anguish.” 9. “ The defendant has accused plaintiff’s sister of stealing, thereby sorely wounding plaintiffs feelings, and causing her mental anguish.” 10. ‘ 1 Defendant treats plaintiff with great and unmerited contempt and contumely, having said to her that he did not care whether she left him or not.” (The foregoing remark was adjudged to be cruel and inhuman treatment, as it caused meutal anguish, and a divorce was accordingly granted.) 11. “ The defendant, after being married twenty-seven years to this plaintiff, said to her; ‘You are old and worn out; I don’t want you any longer ’ ; which remark has caused plaintiff great mental anguish.” 12. “Tiie defendant has been guilty of cruel and inhuman treatment in this; he has not permitted this plaintiff to walk on the streets with her relations ; and on one occasion he, the defendant, called this plaintiff' a ‘ rip,’ causing her mental anguish.”
13. “Defendant has become a sloven, slouchy loafer, causing plaintiff mental anguish.” 14, “The defendant is guilty of cruel and inhuman treatment in this : when he suffers financial loss he lays it to this plaintiff', and censures her in bitter terms.”
15. “As an instance of defendant’s cruelty, plaintiff alleged that shortly after their marriage the defendant began to importune her to deed him her property, which said importuning caused plaintiff mental anguish,” 16. “ Plaintiff alleges that the defendant rushed towards her in a threatening manner with an uplifted chair, which he smashed to pieces at her feet,” 17. “ The defendant has forced this plaintiff to open her mouth for the purpose of spitting tobacco juice down her, the plaintiff’s, throat.”
18. “ Defendant compels plaintiff and daughter to sit up all night without a fire.”
19, Verbatim from the judgment roll: “ The defendant was guilty of cruelty in not providing a supply of water at his house, and iu not repairing said house so as to make it comfortable. Let the decree of divorce be entered on the ground of cruel and inhuman treatment.”
20. “ When the defendant and plaintiff were at supper, some chickens came into the room. The defendant said to this plaintiff ‘ Why don’t you keep them out?’ To which the plaintiff replied ‘ I cannot.’ Whereupon the defendant said ‘ You can ; if you don’t I’ll knock your head off.’ ” (Upon this testimony the Court granted a divorce on ground of cruel and inhuman treatment.) 21. “ The defendant has refused to supply this plaintiff with the necessities of life, declaring that ho * will not work hi? toenails off for any woman.’ This declaration has caused plaintiff sore mental suffering.” 22. “ The defendant threatened to mark this plaintiff with a piece of stove wood: and he did lay violent hands upon her, and then and there bit her in and upon her person.” 23. “ In this case the wife shows exhibit ‘ A,’ a letter from her husband, the defendant, in which is the following ‘ There is a woman here, Mary, whom I love, and with whom I think I could bo happy. If you love me, Mary, or if you ever loved me, yon will do me the kindness to sue for a divorce aa soon as possible.’ The Court decided that this letter caused the wife sufficient mental suffering to warrant a divorce, upon the usual ground of cruel and inhuman treatment.”
24. “Defendant is cruel to plaintiff in this: he never cuts his toenails, and scratches her severely every night, especially as defendant is restless in his sleep.” 25. From plaintiff’s testimony : “ During our whole married life my husband has never offered to take me out riding. This has been a source of great mental suffering and injury.” One significant fact deserves mention. Not only is the proportion of divorces to marriages growing rapidly greater in the United States, but the average duration of the married life of couples obtaining divorces is rapidly decreasing. This does not necessarily indicate that nowadays husbands are worse and wives more fickle than the husbands and wives of former days. It is more probable that both the frequency of divorces, and the reduction in the average time that married couples live together before suing for divorce, are due to the fact that modern women are educated to be more self-dependent, more selfrespecting than women of the past. Women will not now endure what the women of fifty years ag-> endured.
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Is Divorce a Remedy?, Evening Star, Issue 8012, 14 September 1889, Supplement
Is Divorce a Remedy? Evening Star, Issue 8012, 14 September 1889, Supplement
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