Republicanism, Americanism, and the Demise of Traditional Marriage

The following excerpt comes from Stephanie Coontz’s book, Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage:

“During the eighteenth century the spread of the market economy and the advent of the Enlightenment wrought profound changes in record time. By the end of the 1700s personal choice of partners had replaced arranged marriage as a social ideal, and individuals were encouraged to marry for love. For the first time in five thousand years, marriage came to be seen as a private relationship between two individuals rather than one link in a larger system of political and economic alliances …

Especially momentous for relations between husband and wife was the weakening of the political model upon which marriage had long been based. Until the late seventeenth century the family was thought of as a miniature monarchy, with the husband king over his dependents. As long as political absolutism remained unchallenged in society as a whole, so did the hierarchy of traditional marriage. But the new political ideas fostered by the Glorious Revolution in England in 1688 and the even more far-reaching revolutions in America and France in the last quarter of the eighteenth century dealt a series of cataclysmic blows to the traditional justification for patriarchal authority …

The people who pioneered the new ideas about love and marriage were not, by and large, trying to create anything like the egalitarian partnerships that modern Westerners associate with companionship, intimacy, and “true love.” Their aim was to make marriage more secure by getting rid of the cynicism that accompanied mercenary marriage and encouraging couples to place each other first in their affections and loyalties.

But basing marriage on love and companionship represented a break with thousands of years of tradition. Many contemporaries immediately recognized the danger this entailed. They worried that the unprecedented idea of basing marriage on love would produce rampant individualism.

Critics of the love match argued – prematurely, as it turned out, but correctly – that the values of free choice and egalitarianism could easily spin out of control. If the choice of a marriage partner was a personal decision, conservatives asked, what would prevent young people, especially women, from choosing unwisely? If people were encouraged to expect marriage to be the bet and happiest experience of their lives, what would hold a marriage together if things went “for worse” rather than “for better”?

If wives and husbands were intimates, wouldn’t women demand to share decisions equally? If women possessed the same faculties of reason as men, why would they confine themselves to domesticity? Would men still financially support women and children if they lost control over their wives’ and children’s labor and could not even discipline them properly? If parents, church, and state no longer dictated people’s private lives, how could society make sure the right people married and had children or stop the wrong ones from doing so?

Conservatives warned that “the pursuit of happiness,” claimed as a right in the American Declaration of Independence, would undermine the social and moral order …”

Note: This is getting really good.

3 Comments

  1. Where the Declaration of Independence goes wrong, is not in the document itself. It’s in the interpretation. It was nothing more than a diplomatic address to the powers and potentates of Europe. No different than a letter by the currant President to some foreign head of state. It carries no legal or legislative weight whatever. But, unfortunately, it’s taken to be a preamble to the Constitution, or a Constitution in its own right. Which it most certainly is not. Better it should have been destroyed once it had served its political purpose of legitimising the separation from the Crown. Unfortunately, too many “Progressive” types also take the private conversations and table talk of Jefferson, Washington, et al., the same way. Even though such notions as were discussed, never found their way into the Constitution and have no weight of law. Now I think that “pursuit of happiness” may have meant acquisition of land in Jefferson’s time. Since that was restricted by the Crown. Washington was a surveyor and land speculator, incidentally.

  2. Republicans are Kosher Kons
    They have long sought to out Gay the Dems
    Out Mexican the Libs
    Out Black the Dems
    Out immigration the Democrats, the 65 Act would not have passed without the Republicans and Reagan signed amnesty, Poppy Bush, Bush the Lessor and Jeb the Hispanic all support more browning of America.
    Out Race-mix the Cultural Marxists, in fact more Republicans race-mix than Democrats, McCain’s son married a Black as did Boehner’s kid. Romney showed off his Black fashion accessory he calls a grandchild.
    and when it came down to it, GW Bush expanded the size and scope of Government on a scale far larger than FDR and LBJ combined.
    I laugh like hell now as Fox News main rant against Islam is its opposition to “Gay people”.
    GOP = Gay Ole Party
    White People who think the Republican Party is looking out for their interests might as well take a pistol, put in their mouth and pull the trigger now and get it over with quick, because the Republicans are killing White people by way of 1000 paper cuts.

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