Women, Law, and the Enlightenment

We will go into what happens in polygamous societies on another occasion where the men wind up as the total losers, but that is another subject, we will come to it later. But anyone who knows women knows that the idea that they can be reduced to slavery and they will just cringe in the corner and come hopping when their husband snaps his fingers; well, they are living in a dream world. Women have never been like that. So the idea of women as nothing more than playthings and slaves is ridiculous. Women have been women in every age and every society.

A few years ago, a woman, an anthropologist, made a study of the natives of Australia, in particular of the function of women in Australian society. And the natives, about as primitive a people as any in the world, reveal some very interesting things as to the high and important status of women among them. The men would die very quickly without the women. Their knowledge and their wisdom is so important, even in that society.

Seventh Commandment: Marriage and Woman by R. J. Rushdoony

Words worthy of marking.

Now, we must say, having said all of this, that the role of women has not always been enviable, and the somewhat depressed role of women outside of Moslem society, is a fairly modern thing. It has come about primarily as a result of the enlightenment. The so-called age of reason. The enlightenment treated women as an ornament, that is, upper-class women. The age of reason said that man was the rational creature, and women were emotional. And since reason was to rule the world, then women had better bow out.

And it was the function of women to be pretty, and to be charming, and to be ornamental. To be on a pedestal as it were, and no more. This very quickly with the enlightenment took over in Europe. This had not been true previously, if you go back to 17th century England for example what you find is that women were normally partners with their husbands in business. They were very highly competent managers. If their husbands were ill, or if their husbands were abroad, or if their husbands died, women took over and ran the business, and you find in 17th century England, women prominent in the shipping trade, as insurance brokers, as manufacturers, in every branch of life. This was brought over to America by the Puritan women, this same tradition, and this is one reason why the Yankee shipping vessels were so successful. The Yankee shipping traders could go to China and be gone a year or two years, or three years, and come back in the confidence that their wives were managing the business successfully and competently.

Up to the 18th century therefore, this older tradition which was thoroughly Biblical, of women as a help meet, prevailed throughout western Europe. A legal revolution, brought about by the age of Reason, the enlightenment, changed the status of women. Because the Age of Reason saw men as reason incarnate, and women as pure emotion and will and therefore inferior, the age of reason therefore progressively destroyed the legal status of women.

Seventh Commandment: Marriage and Woman by R. J. Rushdoony

Men do love themselves, and they love their machines.

They also have a fondness for power over others.

And for simplifying reality, in order to get rid of the annoying bits that are hard to understand and can’t control very well.

(I would consider the artificial reduction of complexity as a form of lying, at least when it becomes a useful tool to get the Inferiors to Just Shut Up and Obey.)

Christians are to be better – morally, and in their connection to reality – than the Enlightened Ones.

Incidentally, it also contrasted the age of reason to the age of faith as though reason and faith were contradictory. And therefore since faith was a thing of emotions, women therefore were to be concerned with religion, and religion, church work and all that was of the 18th century relegated to the women’s realm.

Thus the more pronounced the triumph of the Age of Reason, the more pronounced the reduction of women to ornaments. The man who almost single handedly wrote this into the law of England, it happened through other men elsewhere in the continent, was Chief Justice Edward Coke of England, who as some recent judges, rewrote the law when he was chief Justice of England.

Now, Sir William Blackstone codified Cokes legal revolution, and after about 1800 between 1800 and 1815, Blackstone’s works on law became the text book for lawyers in this country, and the legal revolution was written into American Law. And the result was a radical change from the 1700’s to 1800’s, from the colonial and the early constitutional period, to the period that followed.

Let me read to you from some law manuals of about 1815, here in America as they speak of women’s status. From Walks introduction to American law: “The legal theory is, Marriage makes the husband and wife one person, and that person is the husband. There is scarcely a legal act of any description that she is competent to perform. In Ohio but hardly anywhere else is she allowed to make a will, if haply she has anything to dispose of.”

Then from Roker’s Law of Husband and Wife from the same period: “It is not generally known that whenever a woman has accepted an offer of marriage, all she has or expects to have, that is by inheritance, becomes virtually the property of the man thus accepted as a husband. And no gift or deed executed by her between the period of acceptance and the marriage is held to be valid. For were she permitted to give away or otherwise settle her property, he might be disappointed in the wealth he looked to in making the marriage offer.”

Then from the same period also, Wortons Law: “The wife is only the servant of her husband.” Now there is one phrase that is significant in all these quotes from law books of the period, from Roker’s Law of Husband and Wife he begins: “It is not generally known.” You see, this was new. It had just been read into American law by lawyers who had been brought up on Blackstone. It was the educational revolution of the day that was affected in legal training. Now, the full implications of this therefore were not known around 1815, but they came to be known very soon, and unfortunately were supported by men and by the churches, as this legal revolution was gradually known and accepted.

Seventh Commandment: Marriage and Woman by R. J. Rushdoony

Ah.

So I see that rewriting the law from the bench is not only an artifact of Darwinism.

So it is, whenever men decide to get God to Just Shut Up. The law then swiftly becomes an arbitrary instrument of whoever is in power.

That’s great if you are a Secularist, or a Marxist, or a National Socialist.

But this makes the law worthless if you are a Christian.

But rather than fight this travesty and immoral nonsense, Christians – then and now – prefer to kneel and obey the Word of Powerful Men.

Back then, it was because it flattered Christian men — especially the pastors — who loved the power it gave them over their wives and daughters. The fact that this power could not be found in the Mosaic Code meant nothing: the fact that the (secretly at the time) pagan judges gave Christian men what they wanted right now meant everything.

Now, the State is powerful enough to simply take whatever power it wants, when it wants, so long as it flings some welfare checks and free goodies about to keep the craven, broken dogs quiet.

Now this is important. Women have acquired a reputation as being flannel mouthed and gossipy. Now where does this come from? You do not find it in Biblical literature, which is an interesting fact. There is nothing in the Bible that indicates that women have a monopoly on loose talk or in gossip. It is spoken of as a common evil in some men and in some women. Where does this come in? Well, again, in the Age of Reason. When women were rendered ornaments, upper class women, in the highest society of Versailles and of London, and later of Boston and New York and in the South in southern society, the woman having been rendered an ornament, talked about trifles. And talk became her realm. And so it is that it was the useless woman who was given to loose talk, and you find to this day that it is, say, the old fashioned southern belle who talks and talks. And the socialite and the Jet-set women, as well as men. Because they are basically useless creatures. They don’t worry about consequences, and so they can run at the mouth.

But, the godly woman because she is a working person and responsible, openeth her mouth with wisdom, and in her tongue, is the law of kindness. When women are trifles, they can then be triflers in word and deed. Loose talk is the luxury of the irresponsible.

Then we are told: “She does not eat the bread of idleness.” That is, she is not a mere luxury, she more than earns her keep. Her children arise up and call her blessed. Her husband also, and he praiseth her. Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman who reveres the Lord will be praised. Scripture does not say anything about physical beauty as though it were not a wonderful thing, but states that above all else, a woman who reveres the Lord, who is Godly, is the one to be praised.

Seventh Commandment: Marriage and Woman by R. J. Rushdoony

So, both sexes love to gossip?

Hmm. A fact, sitting in front of my nose, that I didn’t see until it was pointed out.

I should keep it in my aging brain: the more you understand people as they really are, the wiser you are in interacting with them.

Now, as we have analyzed these passages that deal with women, there is an important point that appears by absence. When the Bible speaks directly of woman and her significance, it says next to nothing about her as mother. Now this goes completely contrary to the modern description of a woman wherein she is primarily a mother. But the Bible presents her essentially as a wife, as a help meet. Whenever her role as a mother is referred to it is never in isolation, it is the man and women together as parents, as father and mother. But today the woman is seen primarily not in reference to her husband, but in reference to her children, and this is a mistake many women make. They often have a greater loyalty to their children than to their husband. And this is wrong, because God defines her as a helpmeet, primarily thus in reference to her husband and his calling in terms of the kingdom of God, to subdue the earth and to exercise dominion over it.

Seventh Commandment: Marriage and Woman by R. J. Rushdoony

Motherhood, while obviously important, is not the defining characteristic of women. Their assistance, their help and support and wisdom and insight, is what men desperately need.

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