VICTORIA C. WOODHULL, “‘AND THE TRUTH SHALL MAKE YOU FREE.’ A SPEECH ON THE PRINCIPLES OF SOCIAL FREEDOM DELIVERED IN STEINWAY HALL” (20 NOVEMBER 1871)
The Principles of Social Freedom.
 It has been said by a very wise person that there is a trinity in all things, the perfect unity of the trinity or a tri-unity being necessary to make a complete objective realization. Thus we have the theological Trinity: The Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost; or Cause, Effect and the Process of Evolution. Also the political Trinity: Freedom, Equality, Justice or Individuality, Unity, Adjustment; the first term of which is also resolvable into these parts, thus: Religious freedom, political freedom and social freedom, while Religion, Politics and Socialism are the Tri-unity of Humanity. There are also the beginning, the end and the intermediate space, time, and motion, to all experiences of space, time and motion, and the diameter, circumference and area, or length, breadth and depth to all form.
 Attention has been called to these scientific facts, for the purpose of showing that for any tri-unity to lack one of its terms is for it to be incomplete; and that in the order of natural evolution, if two terms exist, the third must also exist.
 Religious freedom does, in a measure, exist in this country, but not yet perfectly; that is to say, a person is not entirely independent of public opinion regarding matters of conscience. Though since Political freedom has existed in theory, every person has the right to entertain any religious theory he or she may conceive to be true, and government can take no cognizance thereof—he is only amenable to society—despotism. The necessary corollary to Religious and Political freedom is Social freedom, which is the third term of the trinity; that is to say, if Religious and Political freedom exist, perfected, Social freedom is at that very moment guaranteed, since Social freedom is the fruit of that condition.
 We find the principle of Individual freedom was quite dormant until it began to speak against the right of religious despots, to determine what views should be advocated regarding the relations of the creature to the Creator. Persons began to find ideas creeping into their souls at variance with the teachings of the clergy; which ideas became so strongly fixed that they were compelled to protest against Religious Despotism. Thus, in the sixteenth century, was begun the battle for Individual freedom. The claim that rulers had no right to control the consciences of the people was boldly made, and right nobly did the fight continue until the absolute right to individual opinion was wrung from the despots, and even the common people found themselves entitled to not only entertain but also to promulgate any belief or theory of which they could conceive.
 With yielding the control over the consciences of individuals, the despots had no thought of giving up any right to their persons. But Religious freedom naturally led the people to question the right of this control, and in the eighteenth century a new protest found expression in the French Revolution, and it was baptized by a deluge of blood yielded by thousands of lives. But not until an enlightened people freed themselves from English tyranny was the right to self-government acknowledged in theory, and not yet even is it fully accorded in practice, as a legitimate result of that theory.
 It may seem to be a strange proposition to make, that there is no such thing yet existent in the world as self-government, in its political aspects. But such is the fact. If self-government be the rule, every self must be its subject. If a person govern, not only himself but others, that is despotic government, and it matters not if that control be over one or over a thousand individuals, or over a nation; in each case it, would be the same principle of power exerted outside of self and over others, and this is despotism, whether it is exercised by one person over his subjects, or by twenty persons over a nation, or by one-half the people of a nation over the other half thereof. There is no escaping the fact that the principle by which the male citizens of these United States assume to rule the female citizens is not that of self-government, but that of despotism; and so the fact is that poets have sung songs of freedom, and anthems of liberty have resounded for an empty shadow.
 King George III, and his Parliament denied our forefathers the right to make their own laws; they rebelled, and being successful, inaugurated this government. But men do not seem to comprehend that they are now pursuing toward women the same despotic course that King George pursued toward the American colonies.
 But what is freedom? The press and our male governors are very much exercised about this question, since a certain set of resolutions were launched upon the public by Paulina Wright Davis at Apollo Hall, May 12, 1871. They are as :
-  Resolved, That the basis of order is freedom from bondage; not, indeed, of such “order” as resigned in Warsaw, which grew out of the bondage; but of such order as reigns in Heaven, which grows out of that developed manhood and womanhood in which each becomes “a law unto himself.”
 Resolved, That freedom is a principle, and that as such it may be trusted to ultimate in harmonious social results, as in America, it has resulted in harmonious and beneficent political results; that it has not hitherto been adequately trusted in the social domain, and that the woman’s movement means no less than the complete social as well as the political enfranchisement of mankind.
 Resolved, That the evils, sufferings and disabilities of women, as well as of men, are social still more than they are political, and that a statement of woman’s rights which ignores the rights of self-ownership as the first of all rights is insufficient to meet the demand, and is ceasing to enlist the enthusiasm and even the common interest of the most intelligent portion of the community.
 Resolved, That the principle of freedom is one principle, and not a collection of many different and unrelated principles; that there is not at bottom one principle of freedom of conscience as in Protestantism, and another principle of freedom from slavery as in Abolitionism, another of freedom of locomotion as in our dispensing in America with the passport system of Europe, another of the freedom of the press as in Great Britain and America, and still another of social freedom at large; but that freedom is on and indivisible; and that slavery is so also; that freedom and bondage or restriction is the alternative and the issue, alike, in every case; and that if freedom is good in one case it is good in all; that we in America have builded on freedom, politically, and that we cannot consistently recoil from that expansion of freedom which shall make it the basis of all our institutions; and finally, that so far as we have trusted it, it has proved, in the main, safe and profitable.
 Now, is there anything so terrible in the language of these resolutions as to threaten the foundations of society? They asse[r]t that every individual has a better right to herself or himself than any other person can have. No living soul, who does not desire to have control over, or ownership in, another person, can have any valid objection to anything expressed in these resolutions. Those who are not willing to give up control over others; who desire to own somebody beside themselves; who are constitutionally predisposed against self-government and the giving of the same freedom to others that they demand for themselves, will of course object to them, and such are the people with whom we shall have to contend in this new struggle for a greater liberty.
 Now, the individual is either self-owned and self-possessed or is not so self-possessed. If he be self-owned, he is so because he has an inherent right to self, which right cannot be delegated to any second person; a right—as the American Declaration of Independence has it—which is “inalienable.” The individual must be responsible to self and God for his acts. If he be owned and possessed by some second person, then there is no such thing as individuality: and that for which the world has been striving these thousands of years is the merest myth.
 But against this irrational, illogical, inconsequent and irreverent theory I boldly oppose the spirit of the age—that spirit which will not admit all civilization to be a failure, and all past experience to count for nothing; against that demagogism, I oppose the plain principle of freedom in its fullest, purest, broadest, deepest application and significance—the freedom which we see exemplified in the starry firmament, where whirl innumerable worlds, and never one of which is made to lose its individuality, but each performs its part in the grand economy of the universe, giving and receiving its natural repulsions and attractions; we also see it exemplified in every department of nature about us: in the sunbeam and the dewdrop; in the storm-cloud and the spring shower; in the driving snow and the congealing rain—all of which speak more eloquently than can human tongue of the heavenly beauty, symmetry and purity of the spirit of freedom which in them reigns untrammeled.
 Our government is based upon the proposition that: All men and women are born free and equal and entitled to certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Now what we, who demand social freedom, ask, is simply that the government of this country shall be administered in accordance with the spirit of this proposition. Nothing more, nothing less. If that proposition mean anything, it means just what it says, without qualification, limitation or equivocation. It means that every person who comes into the world of outward existence is of equal right as an individual, and is free as an individual, and that he or she is entitled to pursue happiness in whatever direction he or she may choose. Now this is absolutely true of all men and all women. But just here the wise-acres stop and tell us that everybody must not pursue happiness in his or her own way; since to do so absolutely, would be to have no protection against the action of individual. These good and well-meaning people only see one-half of what is involved in the proposition. They look at a single individual and for the time lose sight of all others. They do not take into their consideration that every other individual beside the one whom they contemplate is equally with him entitled to the same freedom; and that each is free within the area of his or her individual sphere; and not free within the sphere of any other individual whatever. They do not seem to recognize the fact that the moment one person gets out of his sphere into the sphere of another, that other must protect him or herself against such invasion of rights. They do not seem to be able to comprehend that the moment one person encroaches upon another person’s rights he or she ceases to be a free man or woman and becomes a despot. To all such persons we assert: that it is freedom and not despotism which we advocate and demand; and we will as rigorously demand that individuals be restricted to their freedom as any person dare to demand; and as rigorously demand that people who are predisposed to be tyrants instead of free men or women shall, by the government, be so restrained as to make the exercise of their proclivities impossible.
 If life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are inalienable rights in the individual, and government is based upon that inalienability, then it must follow as a legitimate sequence that the functions of that government are to guard and protect the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, to the end that every person may have the most perfect exercise of them. And the most perfect exercise of such rights is only attained when every individual is not only fully protected in his rights, but also strictly restrained to the exercise of them within his own sphere, and positively prevented from proceeding beyond its limits, so as to encroach upon the sphere of another: unless that other first agree thereto.
 From these generalizations certain specializations are deducible, by which all questions of rights must be determined:
- Every living person has certain rights of which no law can rightfully deprive him.
- Aggregates of persons form communities, who erect governments to secure regularity and order.
- Order and harmony can alone be secured in a community where every individual of whom it is composed is fully protected in the exercise of all individual rights.
- Any government which enacts laws to deprive individuals of the free exercise of their right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is despotic, and such laws are not binding upon the people who protest against them, whether they be a majority or a minority.
- When every individual is secure in the possession and exercise of all his rights, then every one is also secure from the interference of all other parties.
- All inharmony and disorder arise from the attempts of individuals to interfere with the rights of other individuals, or from the protests of individuals against governments for depriving them of their inalienable rights.
 These propositions are all self-evident, and must be accepted by every person who subscribes to our theory of government, based upon the sovereignty of the individual; consequently any law in force which conflicts with any of them is not in accord with that theory and is therefore unconstitutional.
 A fatal error into which most people fall, is, that rights are conceded to governments, while they are only possessed of the right to perform duties, as a farther analysis will show.
 In the absence of any arrangement by the members of a community to secure order, each individual is a law unto himself, so far as he is capable of maintaining it against all other individuals; but at the mercy of all such who are bent on conquest. Such a condition is anarchy.
 But if in individual freedom the whole number of individuals unite to secure equality and protection to themselves, they thereby surrender no individual rights to the community, but they simply invest the community with the power to perform certain specified duties, which are set forth in the law of their combination. Hence a government erected by the people is invested, not with the rights of the people, but with the duty of protecting and maintaining their rights intact; and any government is a failure or a success just so far as it fails or succeeds in this duty; and these are the legitimate functions of government.
 I have before said that every person has the right to, and can, determine for himself what he will do, even to taking the life of another. But it is equally true that the attacked person has the right to defend his life against such assault. If the person succeed in taking the life, he thereby demonstrates that he is a tyrant who is at all times liable to invade the right to life, and that every individual of the community is put in jeopardy by the freedom of this person. Hence it is the duty of the government to so restrict the freedom of this person as to make it impossible for him to ever again practice such tyranny. Here the duty of the community ceases. It has no right to take the life of the individual. That is his own, inalienably vested in him, both by God and the Constitution.
 A person may also appropriate the property of another if he so choose, and there is no way to prevent it; but once having thus invaded the rights of another, the whole community is in danger from the propensity of this person. It is therefore the duty of government to so restrain the liberty of the person as to prevent him from invading the spheres of other persons in a manner against which he himself demands, and is entitled to, protection.
 The same rule applies to that class of persons who have a propensity to steal or to destroy the character of others. This class of encroachers upon others’ rights, in some senses, are more reprehensible than any other, save only those who invade the rights of life; since for persons to be made to appear what they are not may, perhaps, be to place them in such relations with third persons as to destroy their means of pursuing happiness. Those who thus invade the pursuit of happiness by others, should be held to be the worst enemies of society; proportionably worse than the common burglar or thief, as what they destroy is more valuable than is that which the burglar or thief can appropriate. For robbery there may be some excuse, since what is stolen may be required to contribute to actual needs; but that which the assassin of character appropriates does neither good to himself nor to any one else, and makes the loser poor indeed. Such persons are the worst enemies of society.
 I have been thus explicit in the analysis of the principles of freedom in their application to the common affairs of life, because I desired, before approaching the main subject, to have it well settled as to what may justly be considered the rights of individuals; or in other words what individual sovereignty implies.
 It would be considered a very unjust and arbitrary, as well as an unwise thing, if the government of the United States were to pass a law compelling persons to adhere during life to everything they should to-day accept as their religion, their politics and their vocations. It would manifestly be a departure from the true functions of government. The apology for what I claim to be an invasion of the rights of the individual is found in the law to enforce contracts. While the enforcement of contracts in which pecuniary considerations are involved is a matter distinct and different from that of the enforcement of contracts involving the happiness of individuals, even in them the governments has no legitimate right to interfere. The logical deduction of the right of two people to make a contract without consulting the government, or any third party, is the right of either or both of the parties to withdraw without consulting any third party, either in reference to its enforcement or as to damages.
 As has been stated, such an arrangement is the result of the exercise of the right of two or more individuals to unite their rights, perfectly independent of every outside party. There is neither right nor duty beyond the uniting—the contracting—individuals. So neither can there be an appeal to a third party to settle any difference which may arise between such parties. All such contracts have their legitimate basis and security in the honor and purposes of the contracting parties. It seems to me that, admitting our theory of government, no proposition can be plainer than is this, notwithstanding the practice is entirely different. But I am now discussing the abstract principles of the rights of freedom, which no practice that may be in vogue must be permitted to deter us from following to legitimate conclusion.
 In all general contracts, people have the protection of government in contracting for an hour, a day, a week, a year, a decade, or a life, and neither the government nor any other third party or persons, or aggregates of persons ever think of making a scale of respectability, graduated by the length of time for which the contracts are made and maintained. Least of all does the government require that any of these contracts shall be entered into for life. Why should the social relations of the sexes be made subject to a different theory? All enacted laws that are for the purpose of perpetuating conditions which are themselves the results of evolution are so many obstructions in the path of progress; since if an effect attained to-day is made the ultimate, progress stops. “Thus far shalt thou go, and no farther,” is not the adage of a progressive age like the present. Besides, there can be no general law made to determine what individual cases demand, since a variety of conditions cannot be subject to one and the same rule of operation. Here we arrive at the most important of all facts relating to human needs and experiences: That while every human being has a distinct individuality, and is entitled to all the rights of a sovereign over it, it is not taken into the consideration that no two of these individualities are made up of the self-same powers and experiences, and therefore cannot be governed by the same law to the same purposes.
 I would recall the attention of all objecting egotists, Pharisees and would-be regulators of society to the true functions of government—to protect the complete exercise of individual rights, and what they are no living soul except the individual has any business to determine or to meddle with, in any way whatever, unless his own rights are first infringed.
 If a person believe that a certain theory is a truth, and consequently the right thing to advocate and practice, but from its being unpopular or against established public opinion does not have the moral courage to advocate or practice it, that person is a moral coward and traitor to his own conscience, which God gave for a guide and guard.
 What I believe to be the truth I endeavor to practice, and, in advocating it, permit me to say I shall speak so plainly that none may complain that I did not make myself understood.
 The world has come up to the present time through the outworking of religious, political, philosophical and scientific principles, and today we stand upon the threshold of greater in more important things than have ever interested the intellect of man. We have arrived where the very foundation of all that has been must be analyzed and understood—and this foundation is the relation of the sexes. These are the bases of society—the very last to secure attention, because the most comprehensive of subjects.
 All other departments of inquiry which have their fountain in society have been formulated into special sciences, and made legitimate and popular subjects for investigation; but the science of society itself has been, and still is, held to be too sacred a thing for science to lay its rude hands upon. But of the relations of science to society we may say the same that has been said of the relations of science to religion: “That religion has always wanted to do good, and now science is going to tell it how to do it.”
 Over the sexual relations, marriages have endeavored to preserve sway and to hold the people in subjection to what has been considered a standard of moral purity. Whether this has been successful or not may be determined from the fact that there are scores of thousands of women who are denominated prostitutes, and who are supported by hundreds of thousands of men who should, for like reasons, also be denominated prostitutes, since what will change a woman into a prostitute must also necessarily change a man into the same.
 This condition, called prostitution, seems to be the great evil at which religion and public morality hurl their special weapons of condemnation, as the sum total of all diabolism; since for a woman to be a prostitute is to deny her not only all Christian, but also all humanitarian rights.
 But let us inquire into this matter, to see just what it is; not in the vulgar or popular, or even legal sense, but in a purely scientific and truly moral sense.
 It must be remembered that we are seeking after such for the sake of the truth, and in utter disregard of everything except the truth; that is to say, we are seeking for the truth, “let it be what it may and lead where it may.” To illustrate, I would say the extremest thing possible. If blank materialism were true, it would be best for the world to know it.
 If there be any who are not in harmony with this desire, then such have nothing to do with what I have to say, for it will be said regardless of antiquate forms or fossilized dogmas, but in the simplest and least offending language that I can choose.
 If there is anything in the whole universe that should enlist the earnest attention of everybody, and their support and advocacy to secure it, it is that upon which the true Welfare and happiness of everybody depends. Now to what more than to anything else do humanity owe their welfare and happiness? Most clearly to being born into earthly existence with a sound and perfect physical, mental and moral beginning of life, with no taint or disease attaching to them, either mentally, morally, or physically. To be so born involves the harmony of conditions which will produce such results. To have such conditions involves the existence of such relations of the sexes as will in themselves produce them.
 Now I will put the question direct. Are not these eminently proper subjects for inquiry and discussion, not in that manner of maudlin sentimentality in which it has been the habit, but in a dignified, open, lowest and fearless way, in which subjects of so great importance should be inquired into and discussed?
 An exhaustive treatment of these subjects would involve the inquiry what should be the chief end to be gained by entering into sexual relations. This I must simply answer by saying, “Good children, who will not need to regenerated,” and pass to the consideration of the relations themselves.
 All the relations between the sexes that are recognized as legitimate are denominated marriage. But of what does marriage consist? This very pertinent question requires settlement before any real progress can be made as to what Social Freedom and Prostitution mean. It is admitted by everybody that marriage is a union of the opposite in sex, but is it a principle of nature outside of all law, or is it a law outside of all nature? Where is the point before reaching which it is not marriage, but having reached which it is marriage? Is it where two meet and realize that the love clements of their nature are harmonious, and that they blend into and make one purpose of life? or is it where a soulless form is pronounced over two who know no commingling of life’s hopes? Or are both these processes required—first, the marriage union without the law, to be afterward solemnized by the law? If both terms are required, does the marriage continue after the first departs? or if the restrictions of the law are removed and the love continues, does marriage continue? or if the law unite two who hate each other, is that marriage? Thus are presented all the possible aspects of the case.
 The courts hold if the law solemnly pronounce two married, that they are married, whether love is present or not. But this really such a marriage as this enlightened age should demand? No! It is a stupidly arbitrary law, which can find no analogies in nature. Nature proclaims in broadest terms, and all her subjects re-echo the same grand truth, that sexual unions, which result in reproduction, are marriage. And sex exists wherever there is reproduction.
 By analogy, the same law ascends into the sphere of and applies among men and women; for are not they a part and parcel of nature in which this law exists as a principle? This law of nature by which men and women are united by love is God’s marriage law, the enactments of men to the contrary notwithstanding. And the precise results of this marriage will be determined by the character of those united; all the experiences evolved from the marriage being the legitimate sequences thereof.
 Marriage must consist either of love or of law, since it may exist in form with either term absent; that is to say, people may be married by law and all love be lacking; and they may also be married by love and lack all sanction of law. True marriage must in reality consist entirely either of law or love, since there can be no compromise between the law of nature and statute law by which the former shall yield to the latter.
 Law cannot change what nature has already determined. Neither will love obey if law command. Law cannot compel two to love. It has nothing to do either with love or with its absence. Love is superior to all law, and so also is hate, indifference, disgust and all other human sentiments which are evoked in the relations of the sexes. It legitimately and logically follows, if love have anything to do with marriage, that law has nothing to do with it. And on the contrary, if law have anything to do with marriage, that love has nothing to do with it. And there is no escaping the deduction.
 If the test of the rights of the individual be applied to determine which of these propositions is the true one, what will be the result?
 Two persons, a male and a female, meet, and are drawn together by a mutual attraction—a natural feeling unconsciously arising within their natures of which neither has any control—which is denominated love. This a matter that concerns these two, and no other living soul has any human right to say aye, yes or no, since it is a matter in which none except the two have any right to be involved, and from which it is the duty of these two to exclude every other person, since no one can love for another or determine why another loves.
 If true, mutual, natural attraction be sufficiently strong to be the dominant power, them it decides marriage; and if it be so decided, no law which may be in force can any more prevent the union than a human law could prevent the transformation of water into vapor, or the confluence of two streams; and for precisely the same reasons: that it is a natural law which is obeyed; which law is as high above human law as perfection is high above imperfection. They marry and obey this higher law than man can make—a law as old as the universe and as immortal as the elements, and for which there is no substitute.
 They are sexually united, to be which is to be married by nature, and to be thus married is to be united by God. This marriage is performed without special mental volition upon the part of either, although the intellect may approve what the affections determine; thus is to say, they marry because they love, and they love because they can neither prevent nor assist it. Suppose after this marriage has continued an indefinite time, the unity between them departs, could they any more prevent it than they can prevent the love? It came without their bidding, may it not also go without their bidding? And if it go, does not the marriage cease, and should any third persons or parties, either as individuals or government, attempt to compel the continuance of a unity wherein none of the elements of the union remain?
 At no point in the process designated has there been any other than an exercise of the right of the two individuals to pursue happiness in their own way, which may has neither crossed nor interfered with any one else’s right to the same pursuit; therefore, there is no call for a law to change, modify, protect or punish this exercise. It must be concluded, then, if individuals have the Constitutional right to pursue happiness in their own way, that all compelling laws of marriage and divorce are despotic, being remnants of the barbaric ages in which they were originated, and utterly unfitted for an age so advanced upon that, and so enlightened in the general principles of freedom and equality, as is this.
 It must be remembered that it is the sphere of government to perform the duties which are required of it by the people, and that it has, in itself, no rights to exercise. These belong exclusively to the people whom it represents. It is one of the rights of a citizen to have a voice in determining what the duties of government shall be, and also provide how that right may be exercised; but government should not prohibit any right.
 To love is a right higher than Constitutions or laws. It is a right which Constitutions and laws can neither give nor take, and with which they have nothing whatever to do, since in its very nature it is forever independent of both Constitutions and laws, and exists—comes and goes—in spite of them. Governments might just as well assume to determine how people shall exercise their right to think or to say that they shall not think at all, as to assume to determine that they shall not love, or how they may love, or that they shall love.
 The proper sphere of government in regard to the relations of the sexes, is to enact such laws as in the present conditions of society are necessary to protect each individual in the free exercise of his or her right to love, and also to protect each individual from the forced interference of every other person, that would compel him or her to submit to any action which is against their wish and will. If the law do this it fulfills its duty. If the law do not afford this protection, and worse still, if it sanction this interference with the rights of an individual, then it is infamous law and worthy only of the old- time despotism; since individual tyranny forms no part of the guarantee of, or the right to, individual freedom.
 It is therefore a strictly legitimate conclusion that where there is no love as a basis of marriage there should be no marriage, and if that which was the basis of a marriage is taken away that the marriage also ceases from the time, statute laws to the contrary notwithstanding.
 Such is the character of the law that permeates nature from simplest organic forms—units of nucleated protoplasm to the most complex aggregation thereof—the human form. Having determined that marriage consists of a union resulting from love, without any regard whatever to the sanction of law, and consequently that the sexual relations resulting therefrom are strictly legitimate and natural, it is a very simple matter to determine what part of the sexual relations which are maintained are prostitutions of the relations.
 It is certain by this Higher Law, that marriages of convenience, and, still more, marriages characterized by mutual or partial repugnance, are adulterous. And it does not matter whether the repugnance arises before or subsequently to the marriage ceremony. Compulsion, whether of the law or of a false public opinion, is detestable, as an element even, in the regulation of the most tender and important of all human relations.
 I do not care where it is that sexual commerce results from the dominant power of one sex over the other, compelling him or her to submission against the instincts of love, and where hate or disgust is present, whether it be in the gilded palaces of Fifth avenue or in the lowest purlieus of Greene street, there is prostitution, and all the law that a thousand State Assemblies may pass cannot make it otherwise.
 I know whereof I speak; I have seen the most damning misery resulting from legalized prostitution. Misery such as the most degraded of those against whom society has shut her doors never know.
 Thousands of poor, weak, unresisting wives are yearly murdered, who stand in spirit-life looking down upon the sickly, half made-up children left behind, imploring humanity for the sake of honor and virtue to look into this matter, to look into it to the very bottom, and bring out into the fair daylight all the blackened, sickening deformities that have so long been hidden by the screen of public opinion and a sham morality.
 It does not matter how much it may still be attempted to gloss these things over and to label them sound and pure; you, each and every one of you, know that what I say is truth, and if you question your own souls you dare not reply: it is not so. If these things to which I refer, but of which I shudder to think, are not abuses of the sexual relations, what are?
 You may or may not think there is help for them, but I say Heaven help us if such barbarism cannot be cured.
 I would not be understood to say that there are no good conditions in the present marriage state. By no means do I say this; on the contrary, a very large proportion of present social relations are commendable—are as good as the present status of society makes possible. But what I do assert, and, that most positively, is, that all which is good and commendable, now existing, would continue to exist if all marriage laws were repealed to-morrow. Do you not perceive that law has nothing to do in continuing the relations which are based upon continuous love? These are not results of the law to which, perhaps, their subjects yielded a willing or unwilling obedience. Such relations exist in spite of the law; would have existed had there been no law, and would continue to exist were the law annulled.
 It is not of the good there is in the present condition of marriage that I complain, but of the ill, nearly the whole of which is the direct result of the law which continues the relations in which it exists. It seems to be the general argument that if the law of marriage were annulled it would follow that everybody must necessarily separate, and that all present family relations would be sundered, and complete anarchy result therefrom. Now, whoever makes that argument either does so thoughtlessly or else he is dishonest; since if he make it after having given any consideration thereto, he must know it to be false. And if he have given it no consideration then is he no proper judge. I give it as my opinion, founded upon an extensive knowledge of, and intimate acquaintance with, married people, if marriage laws were repealed that less than a fourth of those now married would immediately separate, and that one-half of these would return to their allegiance voluntarily within one year; only those who, under every consideration of virtue and good, should be separate, would permanently remain separated. And objectors as well as I know it would be so. I assert that it is false to assume that chaos would result from the abrogation of marriage laws, and on the contrary affirm that from that very hour the chaos was existing would begin to turn into order and harmony. What then creates social disorder? Very clearly, the attempt to exercise powers over human rights which are not warrantable upon the hypothesis of the existence of human rights which are inalienable in, and sacred to, the individual.
 It is true there is no enacted law compelling people to marry, and it is therefore argued that if they do marry they should always be compelled to abide thereby. But there is a law higher than any human enactments which does compel marriage—the law of nature—the law of God. There being this law in the constitution of humanity, which, operating freely, guarantees marriage, why should men enforce arbitrary rules and forms? These, though having no virtue in themselves, if not complied with by men and women, they in the meantime obeying the law of their nature, bring down upon them the condemnations of an interfering community. Should people, then, voluntarily entering legal marriage be held thereby “till death do them part?” Most emphatically no, if the desire to do so do not remain. How can people who enter upon marriage in utter ignorance of that which is to render the union happy or miserable be able to say that they will always “love and live together.” They may take these vows upon them in perfect good faith and repent of them in sackcloth and ashes within a twelve-month.
 I think it will be generally conceded that without love there should be no marriage. In the constitution of things nothing can be more certain. This basic fact is fatal to the theory of marriage for life: since if love is what determines marriage, so, also, should it determine its continuance. If it be primarily a (?) right of men and women to take on the marriage relation of their own free will and accord, so, too, does it remain their right to determine how long it shall continue and when it shall cease. But to be respectable (?) people must comply with the law, and thousands do comply therewith, while in their hearts they protest against it as an unwarrantable interference and proscription of their rights. Marriage laws that would be consistent with the theory of individual rights would be such as would regulate these relations, such as regulate all other associations of people. They should only be obliged to file marriage articles, containing whatever provisions may be agreed upon, as to their personal rights, rights of property, of children, or whatever else they may deem proper for them to agree upon. And whatever these articles might be, they should in all cases be equally entitled to public respect and protection. Should separation afterward come, nothing more should be required than the simple filing of counter articles.
 There are hundreds of lawyers who subsist by inventing schemes by which people may obtain divorces, and the people desiring divorces resort to all sorts of tricks and crimes to get them. And all this exists because there are laws which would compel the oneness of those to whom unity is beyond the realm of possibility. There are another class of persons who, while virtually divorced, endeavor to maintain a respectable position in society, by agreeing to disagree, each following his and her individual ways, behind the cloak of legal marriage. Thus there are hundreds of men and women who to external appearances are husband and wife, but in reality are husband or wife to quite different persons.
 If the conditions of society were completely analyzed, it would be found that all persons whom the law holds married against their wishes find some way to evade the law and to live the life they desire. Of what use, then, is the law except to make hypocrites and pretenders of a sham respectability?
 But, exclaims a very fastidious person, then you would have all women become prostitutes! By no means would I have any woman become a prostitute. But if by nature women are so, all the virtue they possess being of the legal kind, and not that which should exist with or without law, then I say they will not become prostitutes because the law is repealed, since at heart they are already so. If there is no virtue, no honesty, no purity, no trust among women except as created by the law, I say heaven help our morality, for nothing human can help it.
 It seems to me that no grosser insult could be offered to woman than to insinuate that she is honest and virtuous only because the law compels her to be so; and little do men and women realize the obloquy thus cast upon society, and still less do women realize what they admit of their sex by such assertions. I honor and worship that purity which exists in the soul of every noble man or woman, while I pity the woman who is virtuous simply because a law compels her.
 But, says another objector, though the repeal of marriage laws might operate well enough in all those cases where a mutual love or hate would determine continuous marriage or immediate divorce, how can a third class of cases be justified, in which but one of the parties desire the separation, while the other clings to the unity?
 I assume, in the first place, when there is not mutual love there is no union to continue and nothing to justify, and it has already been determined that, as marriage should have love as a basis, if love depart marriage also departs. But laying this aside, see if there can any real good or happiness possibly result from an enforced continuance of marriage upon the part of one party thereto. Let all persons take this question home to their own souls, and there determine if they could find happiness in holding unwilling hearts in bondage. It is against the nature of things that any satisfaction can result from such a state of things except it be the satisfaction of knowing that you have succeeded in virtually imprisoning the person whom you profess to love, and that would be demoniacal.
 Again. It must be remembered that the individual affairs of two persons are not the subject of interference by any third party, and if one of them chose to separate, there is no power outside of the two which can rightly interfere to prevent. Beside[s], who is to determine whether there will be more happiness sacrificed by a continuation or a separation. If a person is fully determined to separate, it is proof positive that another feeling stronger than all his or her sentiments of duty determine it. And here, again, who but the individual is to determine which course will secure the most good? Suppose that a separation is desired because one of the two loves and is loved elsewhere. In this case, if the union be maintained by force, at least two of three, and, probably, all three persons will be made unhappy thereby; whereas if separation come and the other union be consummated, there will be but one, unhappy. So even here, if the greatest good of the greatest number is to rule, separation is not only legitimate, but desirable. In all other things except marriage it is always held to be the right thing to do to break a bad bargain or promise just as soon as possible, and I hold that of all things in which this rule should apply, it should first apply to marriages.
 Now, let me ask, would it not rather be the Christian way, in such cases, to say to the disaffected party: “Since you no longer love me, go your way and be happy, and make those to whom you go happy also.” I know of no higher, holier love than that described, and of no more beautiful expression of it than was given in the columns of the Woman’s Journal, of Boston, whose conductors have felt called upon to endeavor to convince the people that it has no affiliation with those who hold to no more radical doctrine of Free Love than they proclaim as follows:
-  “The love that I cannot command is not mine; let me not disturb myself about it, nor attempt to filch it from its rightful owner. A heart that I supposed mine has drifted and gone. Shall I go in pursuit? Shall I forcibly capture the truant and transfix it with the barb of my selfish affections, pin it to the wall of my chamber? God forbid! Rather let me leave my doors and windows open, intent only on living so nobly that the best cannot fail to be drawn to me by an irresistible attraction.”
 To me it is impossible to frame words into sentences more holy, pure and true than are these. I would ever carry them in my soul as my guide and guard, feeling that in living by them happiness would certainly be mine. To the loving wife who mourns a lost heart, let me recommend them as a panacea. To the loving husband whose soul is desolate, let me offer these as words of healing balm. They will live in history, to make their writer the loved and revered of unborn generations.
 The tenth commandment of the Decalogue says: “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife.” And Jesus, in the beautiful parable of the Samaritan who fell among thieves, asks: “Who is thy neighbor?” and answers his own question in a way to lift the conception wholly out of the category of mere local proximity into a sublime spiritual conception. In other words, he spiritualizes the word and sublimates the morality of the commandment. In the same spirit I ask now, Who is a wife? And I answer, not the woman who, ignorant of her own feelings, or with lying lips, has promised, in hollow ceremonial, and before the law, to love, but she who really loves most, and most truly, the man who commands her affections, and who in turn loves her, with or without the ceremony of marriage; and the man who holds the heart of such a woman in such a relation is “thy neighbor,” and that woman is “thy neighbor’s wife” meant in the commandment; and whosoever, though he should have been a hundred times married to her by the law, shall claim, or covet even, the possession of that woman as against the true lover and husband in the spirit, sins against the commandment.
 We know positively that Jesus would have answered in that way. He has defined for us “the neighbor,” not in the paltry and commonplace sense, but spiritually. He has said. “He that looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” So, therefore, he spiritualized the idea of adultery. In the kingdom of heaven, to be prayed for daily, to come on earth, there is to be no “marrying or giving in marriage,” that is to say, formally and legally; but spiritual marriage must always exist, and had Jesus been called on to define a wife, can anybody doubt that he would, in the same spirit, the spiritualizing tendency and character of all his doctrine, have spiritualized the marriage relation as absolutely as he did the breach of it? that he would, in other words, have said in meaning precisely what I now say? And when Christian ministers are no longer afraid or ashamed to be Christians they will embrace this doctrine. Free Love will be an integral part of the religion of the future.
 It can now be asked: What is the legitimate sequence of Social Freedom? To which I unhesitatingly reply: Free Love, or freedom of the affections. “And are you a Free Lover?” is the almost incredulous query.
 I repeat a frequent reply: “I am; and I can honestly, in the fullness of my soul, raise on my voice to my Marker [sic], and thank Him that I am, and that I have had the strength and the devotion to truth to stand before this traducing and vilifying community in a manner representative of that which shall come with healing on its wings for the bruised hearts and crushed affections of humanity.”
 And to those who denounce me for this I reply: “Yes, I am a Free Lover. I have an inalienable, constitutional and natural right to love whom I may, to love as long or as short a period as I can; to change that love every day if I please, and with that right neither you nor any law you can frame have any right to interfere. And I have the further right to demand a free and unrestricted exercise of that right, and it is your duty not only to accord it, but, as a community, to see that I am protected in it. I trust that I am fully understood, for I mean just that, and nothing less!”