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He holds his rein, he drives his steed,
And bares his shining blade ; • And herds are thinn'd, and fields are strewn,
But not with ruin laid.
What ho! in court and castle hall
Where kings in revel shout,
Right royally ring out!
That shakes the giant rocks,
That threat his field and flocks.
No sound of trump or horn,
Or hurl them back with scorn!
His freedom, and a rod,
His altar and his God.
WOMAN'S RIGHTS AND WOMAN'S PLACE.
BY CORA MONTGOMERY.
Man writes his own character in fixing the position of woman. Whether in base and selfish tyranny he keeps her, a trembling slave, at his feet, or in the nobler wisdom of an enlarged cultivation, he places her at his side, an honored and trusted mate, she will be the true reflex of himself. If he is noble and free, she cannot remain in abasement, for only the savage and the slave can fitly and freely wive with bondswomen. We can trace the social and political advancement of man in the progress of female elevation, with more accuracy than in all the records of kingdoms lost and won. Glance at the situation of its wives and mothers, and you have an unerring chart of the moral and intellectual grade of a nation.
Al] rude nations are disposed to regard women as property, and the most authentic history vouchsafed to man, the Sacred Scriptures, portrays with interesting distinctness, that such was her exact position in the days of the patriarchs. When Isaac, the beloved son of Abraham's old
age, had attained manhood, and a wife was to be chosen for him, it was not the bridegroom who assumed the charge of the selection. Though the darling of his father's heart, he was hardly consulted in the matter. But two conditions were requisite in the most fastidious range of choice, comeliness and obedience; and a discreet servant was dispatched by Abraham to choose among the daughters of his own people a companion for his son. With a train of ten camels laden with rich presents, the messenger departed for the distant city of Nahor. Wayworn and overcome with thirst, he paused outside of the walls, and as he sat down at eventide by the wells to which the women of the city came to draw water for man and beast, pondering on his mission, Rebecca, the near kinswoman of his master, presented herself in answer to his prayers. The beautiful maiden was of a rich and powerful family, yet the fatiguing and menial duty of bringing water for the use of the family, was, by the custom of the country, perfectly compatible with her rank-for she was only a woman. With frank courtesy she gave the servant of Abraham water to drink from her pitcher, and then “hastened and emptied her pitcher into the trough and drew water for all his camels." Her cheerful promptitude won the heart of the messenger, and he demanded, “whose daughter art thou? tell me, I
pray thee, and is there room for us to lodge in thy father's house?” The reply of the fair Rebecca was replete with oriental hospitality. She proffered it. At the house of Bethuel his camels are ungirded, and the water of ablution set before him and his attendants, but he declines
meat until he shall have told his errand. It is briefly declared, “Abraham his master is rich, and seeks among the daughters of his people a wife for Isaac,” the child of his old age, and in his name he demands Rebecca, of whose existence he had learned but an hour before at the well, for his master's son. There was no delay-no question of the inclination of the fair young girl to go to a far country and accept an unseen lord.
“Behold, Rebecca is before thee, let her go and be the wife of thy master's son.” With these words the father and brother dispose of a high-born and beautiful maiden at a single interview, and before they break bread with the stranger. They lost no time in discussing “woman's rights.'
The same gentle and obedient Rebecca, however, does not, in aftertimes, hesitate to lend herself to the deception practised on her husband by her favorite son, when he defrauded Esau of his destined blessing. Is this recorded in sacred history to imply that the doctrine and practice of unlimited obedience supersedes all other moral responsibilities ?
Sarah the mother of Isaac, in blind obedience to her husband, enacted a falsehood toward the Prince of Gerar; and Rachel, his niece and daughter-in-law, stole the idols of her father Laban, though without her husband's knowledge; and the whole context of Scripture tends to acquit them of serious moral responsibility. She was a slave, a possession-a valuable possession, since she was so necessary to the pleasure and convenience of her lord, but still property, to be bought and sold unconsulted, like any other merchandise.
Isaac saw his wife and loved her; he received her as a gift from Heaven, and cherished her to the end of his days, but it is nowhere mentioned, as an essential fact, that Rebecca loved her husband. It is important that the master should be pleased with his slave, but for the slave it is sufficient that she know how to please, honor, and obey her lord. Enforced devotion stands acceptably
in the stead of the free-will offerings of love. Jacob, the darling son of Rebecca, served her brother Laban seven years as the price of Rachel, yet when Leah was falsely substituted in her place on the bridal night, he does not complain of outraged feelings—of disappointed affection. He confined his remonstrance to the broken bargain, he demands the particular property for which he had paid. Laban insists that in Leah he has received an equivalent, that a literal fulfilment is inexpedient-out of the question. He has given him a wife and repudiates a more exact compliance with his bond. If Jacob persists in claiming Rachel, he must pay the price, and Jacob agrees to purchase the second sister. When Jacob finally left the country of Laban, and took with him his flocks and herds, his wives and children, he speaks of them all in the same sentence as the profits of his twenty years' service. “I served you,” he says reproachfully to Laban, “fourteen years for thy two daughters, and six years for thy cattle, and thou hast changed my wages six times.”
On the return of the Israelites from their long sojourn in Egypt, there was an evident improvement in the condition of the feebler sex. The children of Abraham had ascended many steps in wisdom and science, and the rank and influence of woman ascended with them. In honorable position, the first rays of confidence and responsibility were dawning upon VOL. II.-9
the Helots of our kind. When the chosen people had passed the line of slavery and stood upon the farther shore of the Red Sea, Miriam the prophetess, attended by the daughters of Israel, answered with song and with dance, the hymn of triumph raised to the Most High, by her emancipated people.
Sing ye a song to the Lord for he hath triumphed gloriously, the horse and the rider hath he thrown into the sea.
In that enthusiastic burst of thanksgiving, in that strain of patriotic joy, we see the first indication of an enlarged and noble sentiment in a Hebrew woman. Before, all her aims, aspirations and virtues, are narrow or intensely selfish. The welfare of a whole people, the general interests, was too high a thought, too wide a circle for her enslaved mind to compass. Sarah was obedient, but it was the obedience of the slave; ready alike for good and evil, and her treatment of poor, unhappy Hagar was but the ignoble tyranny of a petted servant over one less favored.
Rebecca was gentle and trusting, but the ease with which she prepares for an instant and final departure from her family, for a home among utter strangers, shows how lightly her heart was bound by the dear domestic ties of kindred. So, too, the sister wives, Rachel and Leah, evince none but slave virtues. They are submissive and affectionate, but nothing more. Rachel abstracts the household gods of her father as coolly, and secretes them in her tent with as little emotion, as she bids her family and birth-place an eternal farewell.
Moses, in regulating the laws of servitude, commands a distinction to be made between bondwomen, whose fathers have sold them into that state, and others; but while he defines individual rights and ameliorates the conditions of the sex, he does not cease to consider woman as the property of man. There was for her no glimmering of personal independence until the Hebrew people had outstripped by far the rude habits of their days of poverty and servitude. The transition from chattels to citizens was so gradual that the change is not marked until the era of Deborah, the teacher and judge of Israel.
Her country was groaning under the oppressive yoke of Canaan, when in the words of Scripture her people came up to her to be judged.” ” She was a mother and princess in Israel, and her courage and decision broke the power of the oppressor, and set the nation free. She arose like a star of hope on its night of bondage, and summoned Israel to awake and cast off its chains. The people answered to her call, and stood ready to take the field against Canaan at her bidding, but only under her guidance. “If thou wilt not go with me, then will not I go,” said Barak their general, to the prophetess. Deborah was a fearless and high-hearted leader. The banners of Israel were unfurled, and in the midst of her people the mother of her country, went forth to meet the hosts of Sisera. His nine hundred chariots of iron were overthrown, and of all the mighty host of Sisera not a man was left. With eloquent and grateful patriotism did Deborah celebrate the praises of those who “offered themselves willingly among the people," and "jeoparded their lives unto death in the high places of the field.” She rejoices with the pure joy of a careful prince, that their fountains are
delivered from the noise of archers, and that they may go down to their gates in peace. Twenty years of grinding oppression was broken by the hand of a woman. Most astonishing must have been her wisdom, firmness, and eloquence, thus to have forced her way through such an environment of prejudice and custom, and that it was possible to do so at all is a witness in favor of the intellectual advancement of her nation. Thus does woman's place and woman's mission stand recorded in Jewish chronicles, from Sarah the obedient to Deborah the patriotic. They are handed down to us as historic facts rather than moral lessons, but they are significant nevertheless, for we are taught how inevitably the social elevation or national rank of the husbands and sons brightens or tarnishes with the improvement or degradation of the wives and daughters of each generation.
Sparta, Rome, and Athens-every page of profane history, confirms the teachings of Holy Writ. Woman was ordained to be the help-meet of man. Nobly and freely the help-meet of the noble and free, basely the slave of the bound. By a nice retribution man becomes that to which he reduces woman. Of all rude nations, only the Goths, and the tribes cradled in the ancient forests of northern Europe, recognised the personal independence of women among them. They were admitted to the priesthood, and had a voice in the councils of government. In their untaught but generous chivalry, the sex was honored and cherished as the partners of every dignity and franchise, compatible with the delicacy of woman. And what has been the story of that race? The conquerors of the earth, they have won and worn the diadem of power over all competitors. Wise, fearless, and all-subduing, they have laid the earth, and the waters that surround the earth, under tribute; and it is only when they come in contact with the sons of slavemothers, and are corrupted by their effeminate servility, that they recede and are dimmed in their onward course. With half the nation in abasement, with one entire sex useless and enfeebled, no people can put forth the whole of their energies. How much of life is lost, if all the teachings of childhood come from perverted, cowardly, and ignorant, yet loving and beloved lips? Let the wars of religion, the crippled energy of the orientals, the stagnant barbarism and undeveloped resources of nations, where mothers are ignorant, prejudiced, and servile, answer the question. History has embalmed no nation in honor in which woman is systematically debased. Rome had her Lucretias and Cornelias in the glorious days of her youth, as every later and earlier nation has its greatest hour and its brightest page illumined by some gem of female honor and patriotism.
The women of America are, like the dames of Sparta, the conservators of its liberty ; like them they say to their sons, “ Return from the battle with your shield, or on it.—Protect your principles, or die for them.” Does any one believe that our institutions could be preserved for two generations, if the women of America were deprived of their intelligence and honorable independence, and reduced to the Asiatic level? If not, it becomes the first duty of legislators to secure amplest nurture for this intelligence; and to protect, with all the safeguards of the law, their citizen rights. Not to make laws nor to execute them,