Download Public Vows: A History of Marriage and the Nation by Nancy F. Cott PDF

By Nancy F. Cott

We ordinarily contemplate marriage as a personal topic among humans, a private expression of affection and dedication. during this pioneering background, Nancy F. Cott demonstrates that marriage is and regularly has been a public establishment.

From the founding of the us to the current day, imperatives concerning the necessity of marriage and its right shape were deeply embedded in nationwide coverage, legislations, and political rhetoric. Legislators and judges have expected and enforced their most popular version of consensual, lifelong monogamy--a version derived from Christian tenets and the English universal legislations that posits the husband as supplier and the spouse as established. In early confrontations with local americans, emancipated slaves, Mormon polygamists, and immigrant spouses, during the invention of the hot Deal, federal source of revenue tax, and welfare courses, the government always prompted the form of marriages. or even the giant social and felony adjustments of the final 3rd of the 20th century haven't unraveled respectable reliance on marriage as a "pillar of the state."

by way of with the exception of a few different types of marriages and inspiring others, marital guidelines have helped to sculpt the nation's citizenry, in addition to its ethical and social criteria, and feature without delay affected nationwide understandings of gender roles and racial distinction. Public Vows is a wide ranging view of marriage's political historical past, revealing the nationwide government's profound function in our so much inner most of decisions. nobody who reads this e-book will reflect on marriage within the related manner back.


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Extra resources for Public Vows: A History of Marriage and the Nation

Example text

7 The United States has shown through its national history a commitment to exclusive and faithful monogamy, preferably intraracial. In the name of the public interest and public order, it has furthered this model as a unifying moral standard. Secular rather than religious authorization of marriage has been a consistent tradition in the United States. This was not inevitable, but rather a latter-day outcome of a specific history of church-state conflict in Christian Europe. 8 Kings of would-be nations in England and Europe sparred with the Church for three centuries for control over marriage because they saw this power as decisive for the social order.

Even in a religious solemnization the assembled guests know to expect the officiating cleric’s words, “By the authority vested in me by the state of. . ” In the marriage ceremony the public recognizes and supports the couple’s reciprocal bond, and guarantees that this commitment (made in accord with the public’s requirements) will be honored as something valuable not only to the pair but to the community at large. Their bond will be honored even by public force. This is what the public vows, when the couple take their own vows before public witnesses.

This legal doctrine of marital unity was called coverture and the wife was called a feme covert (both terms rendered in the old French still used in parts of English law). Coverture in its strictest sense meant that a wife could not use legal avenues such as suits or contracts, own assets, or execute legal documents without her husband’s collaboration. Nor was she legally responsible for herself in criminal or civil law—he was. And the husband became the political as well as the legal representative of his wife, disenfranchising her.

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