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Every observant man must have noticed the intimate connection existing between the laws and the morals of a people. Where religion and a pure morality are seen to exert their distinctive influence, we may look for a corresponding religious and moral character in the constitution and laws of the State. This we see in every nation. The laws of England are a true index to the religion and morality of the realm-so of France—and so of this country. Who that has ever made himself familiar with the institutions and laws of the early settlers of this country, has failed to discover in them the features of their religion and morality. The Puritan fathers were distinguished for their firmness in the support of a high-toned morality, and for their conscientiousness in the discharge of the duties of religion in its purity and simplicity; and hence their rigorous enactments for the preservation of the public morals, and punishment of offenders against their provisions. Without exception, it is believed to be true, that the constitution and laws of a State, the world over, reflect more or less the moral and religious character of the people. Bad morals beget bad laws, and bad laws produce bad morals; and why should it be otherwise? Who make the laws of the State and give shape and direction to its institutions? In this country, at least
, the people through their representatives in legislature. It is, therefore, in accordance with the laws of the human mind, that the impress of a people's moral and religious character should be manifest in the policy of their laws, and the features of their government.
No system of laws can be valuable, which in its operation fails to secure a healtful action in the body politic. Much depends' on a prompt and judicious administration of the laws. However just and equitable these may be, and however conformable in their requisitions to strict morality they may be, if they are suffered to remain in the statute book, a dead letter, it cannot be that evil will not be the consequence. Penalties to punish violations of the law, never executed, always invite transgression.
The administration of the laws will always be easy or difficult, just in proportion to the degree of strictness or looseness of the public morals; and hence it is easy to see, that when the laws that are made
The Domestic Constitution.--Crim. Con. to preserve the public morals are never enforced, the true cause lies in the laxity of that upright feeling which is the foundation of all good laws, and the principal agent of their enforcement.
At the present day, of one thing there can be no question—that for some reason, those laws which bear most directly on the preservation of the good order and morals of the people, are enforced, if at all, with little energy and great reluctance. There are laws in our statute book against a multitude of things declared to be offences, and which are universally acknowledged by the virtuous to be contra bonos mores-and it is well known how far these statutes are obeyed. How far they can subserve their object—the good manners and morals of the people--while left to slumber on in the midnight darkness of the times, and whilst violators of their most salutary provisions are permitted to stalk boldly throughout all the varied circles of societywe leave the enlightened and virtuous part of the community to judge. Besides, should it happen that, notwithstanding the pulse of the public morals beats so feebly, a spasmodic action of the constituted authority should for a moment embolden a judge, and nerve him up to sentence an offender, yet it is a historical fact that such offenders cannot be punished in the manner prescribed by the laws, because the arm of Executive clemency interposes, and palsies at a blow the whole strength of the Law! Old Roman, lend us thy language-our vernacular is too tame for the occasion-0 tempora! 0 mores!
The family constitution and the domestic relations, are the foundations on which rest our social and civil institutions. This constitution is ordained and established by our Creator to be of perpetual obligation. It is in harmony with all his other laws, and the diversified obligations and duties which have their origin in the relations of husband and wife, and parent and child. For the support of this fundamental law and the integrity of these relations, are added the high sanctions of religion. The voice of nature and of God, alike utter the language of the seventh commandment.
Elementary writers on law have not failed to perceive and acknowledge the paramount importance of the domestic relations, and that the primary and most important of these, is that of husband and wife. It has its foundation in nature, and is the only lawful relation by which Providence has permitted the continuance of the human race. In every age it has a propitious influence on the moral improvement and happiness of mankind. It is one of the chief foundations of social order. We may justly place to the credit of the institution of marriage, a great share of the blessings which flow from refinement of manners, the education of children, the sense of justice, and the cultivation of the liberal arts. [Kent's Com., Lec. 26.] Scarcely less important and interesting is the relation of parent and child, than that of husband and wife. Here is the fountain whence flow the feelings of parental love : and filial affection. According to the language of Lord Coke, it is "nature's profession to assist, maintain, and console the child." A father's house is always open to his children. The best feelings of
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our nature establish and consecrate this asylum. Under the thousand pains and perils of human life, the home of the parents is to the children a sure refuge from evil, and a consolation in distress. In the intenseness, the lively touches, and unsubdued nature of parental affection, we discern the wisdom and goodness of the great author of our being, and Father of Mercies. (Kent's Com., Lec. 29.]
It is to the sacredness of these relations of husband and wife, and parent and child, that we wish to direct attention, and to enlist, if possible, the activities of all good citizens and people in behalf of the enactment of laws that shall be a wall of defence around the hallowed shrines of home, and a flaming sword that shall guard the paradise of pure affections. Happy homes have been invaded, and the altars on which were offered the pure incense of love, have been cast down, and desolation of heart hath brooded over fallen hopes and happiness ruined. We wish to prevail on the legislators of the land to suffer no longer the destroyer of domestic happiness to go forth with unbridled passions, unchecked by legal restraints. And how shall this be done, unless the friends of good morals and virtuous companionship shall send up their petitions to the halls of legislation ! shall go forth bearing their memorials to the Throne of Power?
And is there not, in the reason and philosophy of things, a necessity for such a law ? God has enstamped on all the works of his hands, in letters of light, the great truth that the family relations are sacred. He uttered it before the tribes of Israel, and wrote it on tables of adamant, as a rule of action for all nations to the end of the world. All the precepts of the so called Ten Commandments, are founded upon reasons good and wise in themselves considered, and in the nature of things right and proper. There is the same necessity and moral fitness in enacting laws against the violation of one commandment, as there is against the violation of another. Human legislation has been under the necessity of acknowledging its dependence upon that of the divine, in providing for the well-being of man in a state of society, and as owing allegiance to his Creator. Hear the divine law on which rests the superstructure of all good government, and which is the foundation of all true religion : Thou shalt have no other Gods before me; thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; thou shalt not bow down thyself to them nor serve them : for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me: and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain : for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain. Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy : six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God : in it thou shalt not do any work, thou nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy man servant, nor thy maid servant, nor thy cattle, nor the stranger that is within thy gates: for in six days the The Domestic Constitution.-Crim. Con. Lord made heaven and earth, the sea and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it. Honor thy father and thy mother ; that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee. Thou shalt not kill. THOU SHALT NOT COMMIT ADULTERY. Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife; nor his man servant, nor his maid servant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor's. [Pent., Book 2, Chap. 20.] Examination will show that all the precepts of the foregoing statute of the Almighty, are made the basis of those laws of the land which protect the rights of property, of person, and of conscience ; and which preserve the integrity of all the relations in social and civil life. It will be seen that saving so much thereof as declares thou shalt not commit adultery, this law has been incorporated with the statutes of the State of New-York, in so many words or in its spirit. Observe a few of the parallelisms: Thou shalt not kill-see in the statute of the State the high penalty of death which awaits him that feloniously kills another. Thou shalt not steal—see imprisonment and hard labor decreed against him who is guilty of larceny. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor—see him who perjures his soul doomed to the felon's home. Belief in the existence of a Supreme Being is a necessary qualification for a witness—he shall have before him no other God than that of the Bible—the Sabbath-day is guarded with penal enactments—the books are full of provisions for the support, &c., of parents—and lastly, he whose covetousness gains the ascendency, and breaks out into overt acts, may unexpectedly find himself in the category of misdemeanors.
What citizen will withhold his signature to a petition to the legislature, for the passage of a law which shall be a transcript of the law of God? This is all that is required of that body, and it would seem that no member thereof could object to so reasonable a requirement. What good reason can be assigned by honorable legislators of the State of New-York against providing a law for the preservation of public morals—for the punishment of the adulterer and the seducer -yet remains to be seen. Such a thing has been done in other States, and it is our impression, without reference to the statutes themselves of those States, that in all New-England, it is made a crime, and as such, highly penal, to violate the seventh section of the Divine law above quoted :—there adultery and its kindred deeds are made crimes; and the guilty violator of law, human and divine, may not defy with impunity the restraints cast about the domestic constitution, as he may do in this State. Here, neither adultery nor seduction are regarded as criminal acts, nor do the perpetrators subject themselves to the infliction of any penalties, as violators of the peace of society. The injured husband or parent can obtain no redress but a verdict of damages, to be paid as other damages are paid. To say nothing more of the laws already enacted in support of the public morals, nor of the difficulty of enforcing them, it would seem that