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ily ; in the north are the several state churches
of the Protestant nations, and France in the west
has already taken the final step in separating
church from state, thereby securing control over
the family to the latter. Throughout all Europe,
nevertheless, the trend of the times is steadily in
the direction of democracy, even though mon-
archal forms be retained through inertia, and
such a movement implies of necessity, under
present conditions, that the family will become
free from ecclesiastical authority as state and
church become separate, for the interests of the
state in the family are more fundamental than
those of the church, and it can allow no interfer-
ence on the part of a rival institution.

But these transitional stages in the relation-
ship of state, church, and family of Europe have
already quite fully matured in the United States.
It is the pioneer among the nations in democracy



THE AMERICAN FAMILY 75

and in the separation of church and state. In
this nation on a large scale are working out, in
politics, religion, and familial life, problems that
the other nations must sooner or later face. It is
a leader among the nations, in the sense that it is
in the van of the struggle for human progress
and is experimenting in a large way with world-
problems. For such a social laboratory conditions
in the United States are altogether favorable.
There is a boundless national domain of immense
natural resources, situated in the temperate
zone, and freed from the proximity of dangerous
neighbors. Its territory already supports a hun-
dred million of people; and its population, though
fundamentally Teutonic, is mingled with the
blood of nearly all the races of the earth. Here
are being worked out on a colossal scale as in no
other part of the earth, under the conditions of
civil, religious, and intellectual freedom, the pro-
blems of a newer democracy, hampered by no
state church or legal class distinctions and aided
by a free and generous system of public educa-
tion. Here flourishes as a guide to public opinion
the most powerful popular press in the world,
under no restraints of censorship except the libel
law, and voicing freely the extremes of social
opinion from anarchism to an ultra-conservatism
savoring of medieval days. Its social institutions
are flexible, and readjust themselves readily to



76 THE FAMILY

changing conditions brought about by the min-
gling of diverse civilizations within its borders,
over which for the last fifty years have passed
the greatest migratory movements of all history.
These social experimentations and this process
of social assimilation of varying civilizations are
not of recent date, but trace back to the begin-
nings of settlement some three hundred years
ago. The conditions of to-day were then in germ,
and they merely reproduce on a larger scale and
with an accelerated movement what was existent
in the colonial period of national history. For
that reason the United States is in modern social
experience older than its contemporaries of West-
ern civilization, and will furnish them for many
a future generation through its experiments
object lessons for imitation or avoidance. It is
possible, therefore, to get a much clearer idea of
the modern family, in its later aspects at least,
from a study of the American family than from a
study of the varying types prevalent throughout
Western civilization as a whole. Modern demo-
cratic movements have affected it profoundly,
and there is evolving in consequence a type of
family which itself reacts on democracy and aids
in its development. It is probable that the Amer-
ican family represents, notwithstanding its trans-
itional crudities, a movement toward a higher
type of family than any now existing and will



THE AMERICAN FAMILY 77

furnish the basis on which will rest the better
civilization of coming centuries.

It would be hard to find much uniformity in
the early practices of the American colonies and
their inhabitants. In the North were the Puri-
tans and the Separatists or Pilgrims; westward
from these were the more radical religious ele-
ments of the time; in New York were the Dutch
colonies of New Netherland, and to the South
were the Friends of Pennsylvania, the Catholics
of Maryland, and the Episcopalians and Presby-
terians on the other side of the Potomac. British
plebeian and patrician, Dutch, Scandinavian,
and the Huguenots of France, combined with a
touch of Indian and Negro blood, formed the
racial admixture of the future nation. The town-
centered life of New England contrasted with the
expansive life of the Southern plantation and its
county. The humanistic thought of the South
was in contrast to the theological dogmatism of
the North. The real uniformity in the situation
consisted in the dominating physical and eco-
nomic environment. All had to toil in the strug-
gle for existence; forests had to be leveled, virgin
land plowed and cultivated, Indians fought or
placated, new diseases and famine were at their
doors, and their chief reliance lay in their own
unaided exertions. The settlements were for a
long time poor and petty, and England paid



78 THE FAMILY

small attention to its insignificant offspring.
Each center of population, though nominally
under control by the mother country, soon de-
veloped the habit of doing quite what it pleased.
If local control proved burdensome to any man,
it was always possible for him to move farther
west and live a life of freedom on free land.
Therefore, even though the early settlers came
with somewhat definite beliefs about many
things, these became subject to modification so
as to suit an altogether different environment
from that in which they had developed. Stern
laws and fixed standards were numerous enough
at first, but their inadaptability to existing con-
ditions prevented a too rigid enforcement except
against the stranger, the alien, or the poor. Un-
der such conditions all kinds of theories, whether
political, religious, or familial, tended to approxi-
mate toward a common type, and this tendency
was powerfully hastened by the necessity of joint
action when England began to place regulations
on colonies so rapidly increasing in wealth and
population. In the time of the Revolution the
colonists became more and more unified in spirit
and thereby tended to assimilate more rapidly
their social institutions through comparison and
imitation. In line with this general develop-
ment, the early colonists, who had brought with
them many conflicting familial standards inher-



THE AMERICAN FAMILY 79

ited from varying social environments, slowly-
fused their varying theories of domestic organi-
zation into a common American type. This may
be seen by noting the original variations in
familial standards and the trend toward common
standards.

The settlers of New England, strongly Protes-
tant in religion and politics, stoutly maintained
the more radical views of the Reformers. Mar-
riage was considered a holy state, though not
sacramental in nature. The father in his house-
hold was at once its master and its spiritual
leader after the fashion of patriarchal times.
Education for the family was a sort of necessity
in order that its members might read the Bible
as Protestantism demands. With a whole con-
tinent before them inviting settlement, there was
a premium on population, so that early mar-
riages and large families were the rule. There
were few bachelors, still fewer spinsters, and the
widowed of either sex seldom spent many months
in mourning. In some colonies special taxation
and severe regulation discouraged bachelors from
"the selfish luxury of solitary living."^ Civil
marriage was favored with due publication,
registration, and a ceremony usually performed
at the home of the bride by some civil magistrate.
A formal betrothal preceded the nuptials, and
* Howard, vol. 11, p. 153.



8o THE FAMILY

this was so emphasized as to result often in the
illegal omission of the marriage ceremony as a
useless form.

This preference for a civil as against a religious
ceremony traces to the radical teachings of the
English and Dutch Reformers. The Jewish type
of family contained in the Old Testament was
also a distinct influence, emphasizing, as it does,
a marriage in the presence of interested witnesses
without the necessity of the services of a rabbi
either at the betrothal or the nuptials. These
three centers of influence indicated a return to
a form of marriage largely controlled by the
families concerned, under the regulation of the
civil authority, with ministers present, if at all,
as honored guests to offer prayer or to bestow a
benediction on the newly wedded couple. Under
the exigencies of a frontier life, legal forms and
an officiating magistrate were often dispensed
with, and the contractual common-law marriage
was deemed sufficient. This form of marriage
was legal, though its use might involve censure or
fine. The church had a certain amount of control
over families in respect to religious duties, illus-
trated by the requirement of compulsory attend-
ance on services, though in Rhode Island the
doctrine of the separation of civil and religious
things nuUified any such tendency in that colony.
But this control grew less rather than more, for



THE AMERICAN FAMILY 8i

as population increased, religion became personal
and familial in its standards, and control by the
church was both less needed and less favored.

In the Southern colonies by contrast, where
Episcopacy was strongly entrenched, the church
retained its hold on the family through its close
connection with the civil authorities. The law,
for instance, required that the marriage cere-
mony be performed through the clergy of that
church, after compliance with the usual civil
requirements of license and registration. But in
these colonies dissenting religious bodies rapidly
grew in numbers and importance, and they
strongly objected to a ceremony not performed
through their own ministers, so that marriages
through the clergy of the dissenting bodies and
the familiar common-law marriage were custom-
ary outside of the influential centers of popula-
tion where Episcopacy was strong. In the Middle
colonies existed two variants from the types prev-
alent in the other colonies, namely, the contract
marriage of the Friends or Quakers, which is
still in use among them, and the Dutch civil
marriage of New Amsterdam (New York). This
latter, however, after conquest by the English,
included the religious ceremony and became as-
similated to the prevailing type. Throughout
all the colonies by the time of the Revolution
marriage had become predominantly civil in its



82 THE FAMILY

basis, in the sense that whatever regulation there
was, in respect to prohibited degrees, licenses,
publication, and registration, came from the
civil authorities, not from the church. The kind
of ceremony, however, had become optional since
it might be performed (i) by civil magistrates, or
(2) by the ministers of any one of the recognized
religious bodies so rapidly developing throughout
the country, or (3) by the parties themselves
after the fashion of the Friends. Moreover, the
English common-law marriage under the condi-
tions of frontier life was everywhere in vogue of
necessity, since marriages must take place, and
if ministers or magistrates are few and far be-
tween, a contract marriage in the presence of
mutual friends is natural and proper. Among
the poor, also, this form was common so as to
avoid the payment of fees to magistrate or min-
ister; and since it was legal there were no compli-
cations in respect to property rights, though in
some colonies there might by chance be assessed
a fine for failure to take out license or to make
returns for registration. Miscegenation between
whites and negroes or Indians was regularly for-
bidden. Marriages among slaves had the usual
contract form; but the regulation, ceremony,
and duration of the marriage depended largely
on the wish of their masters. Being slaves, they
were not able to contract legal marriages, could



THE AMERICAN FAMILY 83

claim no familial rights in the eyes of the law,
nor claim ownership in their children as against
their masters. Yet in the nineteenth century
slavery as an institution disappeared from the
United States and with it the compulsory ille-
gality of its marriage.

In respect to divorce, the policy of New Eng-
land differed widely from that of the other col-
onies. These being largely under the influence of
the Episcopal Church tended to follow English
precedents and allowed no divorces. Yet separa-
tion by mutual consent was apparently not un-
common and seemed to be sanctioned by public
opinion even though not strictly in accordance
with law. In New York under Dutch administra-
tion, divorces were granted by the civil author-
ities, but this ended also after its capture by the
English. In the eighteenth century there was a
slight tendency here and there to secure divorces
through special legislation, but this movement
did not gain much headway until after the Re-
volution. In New England, however, the more
radical principles of the Reformation prevailed,
and hence the colonists were in opposition to the
indissolubility theory of the Roman Church.
Power over divorce was vested in the civil courts;
and in addition to adultery as a cause of divorce,
cruelty and desertion were accepted as valid
reasons. Petitions for divorce were received from



84 THE FAMILY

either husband or wife, though her petition was
less likely to be granted than his. The limited
divorce from bed and board passed out of use;
and divorce, if granted at all, was made absolute.
Under unusual circumstances the legislatures
themselves did not hesitate to grant divorces by
special legislation, and for a long time exercised
a jurisdiction concurrent with that of the courts.
Divorce through legislatures is now regularly
forbidden by state constitutions.



CHAPTER VIII

THE FAMILY INFLUENCED BY URBAN CON-
DITIONS

Democracy as a social standard may arise (i)
when economic conditions, fundamentally alike,
compel a sort of equality among those subjected
to a common environment. (2) Philosophic
study may result in the teaching of democratic
ideals, and these attract humanitarian enthusi-
asts the world over and become the basis for
a propaganda. (3) A civilization dependent
on commerce and manufactures assists in the
growth of democracy, since it creates a steady
demand for trained intelligence irrespective of
birth or race or sex. The heart of this last type of
democracy is the urban center, which throws
wide open the doors of opportunity, inviting all to
compete for wealth through achievement. Natur-
ally the world's population is composed of both
strong and weak, so that, even though there be
an equality of opportunity for all who compete,
the end of the contest shows the survival of the
few and the defeat of the many. In other words,
class distinctions are natural in social struggle,
so that if society desires to maintain democratic



86 THE FAMILY

conditions it must (4) deliberately, as a perman-
ent policy, promote general intelligence through
education and must regulate the tendency toward
economic extremes in society, by guarding against
the concentration of wealth into the hands of a
few, and the impoverishment of the defeated
fraction of humanity.

The United States in its colonial period experi-
enced democratic influences arising from the
pressure of uniform economic environment; in
the Revolution and in the first third of the nine-
teenth century democratic ideals were prominent,
based on the theory of the "social contract";
during the last hundred years there has been a
steady growth in urban population through in-
creasing industries ; and since the opening of the
twentieth century great movements have arisen
aiming to free the nation through social and legal
regulation from the vicious conditions induced
by the intense competition of urban civilization.
This urban development of the United States
has produced so many modifications in the Amer-
ican family that a statement of this influence
and an explanation of counteracting constructive
movements become necessary.

In the year 1790 only 3.35 per cent of the pop-
ulation of the States lived in urban centers as
against 46.3 per cent in 1910.^ So radical a
* Census of 19 10.



THE URBAN FAMILY 87

change in the conditions of life for so large a part
of the population has had its influence on the
family, since the individualized open-air life of
the farm is in marked contrast to the socialized
indoor life of the city. A city's population grows
not only through natural increase, but through
migration from the country and the influx of
foreign immigrants, who themselves come chiefly
from rural communities. The reasons for this
exodus from country to city have been carefully
studied, and the conclusions published in many
forms.^ From the social standpoint there is a
fascination about city life through the possibili-
ties of many forms of social amusements unknown
to the sparsely inhabited country. Well-stocked
markets, facilities in shopping, and modern con-
veniences in the home add to the allurement of
the city, while literary, esthetic, and religious
opportunities attract the more thoughtful. As
economic causes, may be mentioned the expansion
of industries through the utilization of inven-
tions, and machinery applying new forms of power
to production and transportation. These demand
masses of population so as to keep up a supply of
skilled and unskilled laborers and they furnish
relatively greater opportunities for wages than
may ordinarily be obtained in rural occupations.
This enormous economic expansion in produc-
¬ї See for example, Weber, The Growth oj Cities.



88 THE FAMILY

tion and in the demand for workers in industries
and on the free lands of the West placed so great
a premium on population that the native stock
by natural increase could not satisfy the demand,
and immigration from foreign countries was
accordingly encouraged by the nation. The pro-
duction of population was, as it were, "speeded
up," so that large families, alien immigration,
and an exodus from the less fertile lands of the
country characterized the larger part of the nine-
teenth century. From the year 1840 one race
after another sent its surplus population to swell
the ranks of those seeking to satisfy the American
demand for labor; in rapid succession came the
Irish, German, English, Scotch, Scandinavian,
and then the French Canadian, the Italian, the
Jew of East Europe, and the miscellaneous pop-
ulation of Southeast Europe and Asia Minor. The
flood from the Orient, also threatening to enter
into the competitive markets of labor, was fortun-
ately stopped by Congressional legislation and
now leaks in only by driblets, largely over the
Canadian and Mexican borders. At the present
time the free national lands are practically all
preempted, but industries are still expanding
enormously, so that a tide of immigration flows
steadily into urban centers so as to enter into
competition for the positions constantly opening
for workers.



THE URBAN FAMILY 89

The change in so many cases from rural to
urban life had its disadvantages. Cities and
growing villages, not anticipating such rapid
expansions of industries and population within
their borders, did not foresee the dangers of con-
gestion, and passively allowed the incoming
throngs to mass into dwellings as best they could.
The existing housing capacity was entirely in-
adequate for the demand, building laws were
woefully defective, and the powers of health
officers weak and ill defined. In natural order
followed overcrowding, the hasty erection of
vicious tenements, and a rapacious landlordism
that exploited the workers by supplying in slums
wretched and insanitary shelters at exorbitant
rentals. Many immigrants also could secure only
a precarious livelihood because of their ignorance
of the language and customs of Americans, and
hence suffered the ills of malnutrition in addition
to overcrowding in tenements. Again in many
cases the supply of workers is in excess of the
demand through financial crises or through a
failure to distribute properly incoming immi-
grants to sections where their labor would be in
demand. But a glut in the labor market results
in intense competition for what work there is,
drives down the wage, and lowers the standard of
living. As a rule also the immigrant easily under-
bids the native worker in unskilled or partly



90 THE FAMILY

skilled employment, so that the latter too often
sinks into the ranks of superfluous or occasionally
employed hands. !

Such conditions compel rapid modifications in
home and family. The former stability and unity
of familial life become weakened. The younger
generation, trained in American schools and in
the midst of an urban environment, become more
versatile and even more competent than their
parents in earning capacity. Too often in conse-
quence they lose the old-time respect and rever-
ence for parental authority, which in fact often
changes to a sort of dependence on the superior
practical capacity of the children. These as
they mature drift away from home and parents
under the attractions of enlarging economic op-
portunities, and because the training of the
home is superseded by the drill of the shop or the
mill, or by the influence of school or other agen-
cies interested in social, religious, or intellectual
instruction. Women also become wage-earners
and gain importance in the household thereby.
The unmarried, as they attain economic inde-
pendence, become less eager for marriage; and
the married, conscious of their capacity for self-
support, become less willing to be subordinated
to the male in the family or to become mothers
of many children. Under economic stress the
home becomes merely a temporary meeting-



THE URBAN FAMILY 91

place for board and lodging, the privilege of
which is often shared with strangers. The at-
tractiveness of home disappears; it is no longer
a center for amusement and recreation, since
these are sought on the streets or in theaters or
social organizations. For the same or similar
reasons conjugal ties easily become loosened,
resulting in the problem of the homeless man and
the deserted wife.

The keenness of economic competition is felt
also in middle-class circles, whose standards of
living are steadily rising and upon whom in-
creasingly larger demands are made for mental
preparation and equipment for their special
occupations. In order to meet these demands
young men must postpone marriage, have few
or no children when married, and must substitute
for the cottage home an apartment flat or the
hotel with their lack of privacy and their pro-
hibitions against childien. Urban life also pro-
duces modifications in the family of the socially
higher classes. These often become enamored
with a fondness for ease and luxury and desirous
of social prestige. The cares and responsibilities
of children become onerous. Parenthood ceases
to be either a pleasure or a duty and is shunned
whenever possible. The birth of a child is an un-
welcome event, and the care of it is promptly
transferred to hired servants, who often lack



92 THE FAMILY

both the knowledge and s^^mpathy needed in
eflfective child-training. Emphasis on social
pleasures, on the one hand, and absorption in
business cares and club life, on the other, tend
readily to make the marriage tie largely a con-
ventional one, with not infrequent unhappy con-
sequences. In all walks of life, from the highest
to the lowest, may thus be observed changes in-
duced through urban environment, radically af-
fecting home and kinship ties.

As a result of such conditions many evils be-
come common. Industries in their eagerness to
produce results often lose sight of the human ele-
ment and fail to safeguard the life, health, and
morality of their employees. Insanitary condi-
tions develop along with a disregard for comfort
and decency, and a general indifTerence to the
prevalence of accidents, so often preventable.
Congested housing produces sickness and dis-
ease, especially tuberculosis, the curse of poverty.
From the lack of a living wage and proper stand-
ards of living develop spontaneously pauperism,
crime, sexualism, and intemperance, and these
once established drag down into the "submerged
tenth" many of those who heretofore had been


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Online LibraryJames Quayle DealeyThe family in its sociological aspects → online text (page 5 of 8)