A New Birth of Marriage: Love, Politics, and the Vision of the Founders, by Brandon Dabling. (University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame, Indiana, 2022.) 284 pages.

This book has an introduction, eight chapters, a conclusion, notes, and an index. An end remark notes that the author is an independent researcher who has written many articles on American family law.

The book is of considerable interest in view of the recent US Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage in the nation. Its thesis is that reformers (termed “Progressives” by Dabling) have subverted traditional “courageous marriage” in favor of “liberationist marriage,” terms elaborated on below.

In the introduction, Dabling provides much information on our early founders’ opinions about marriage, noting that “James Wilson and John Witherspoon alone offer complete arguments for marriage’s political importance,” and says that Wilson offers a “compelling defense of the founding’s joining of liberalism’s rights-based vision of the individual with ancient Greek and Christian understandings of marriage as a comprehensive union and community of goods. Wilson’s argument alone makes the era’s thought on marriage impossible to responsibly ignore.” (Wilson was a signatory of the US Declaration of Independence, a member of the Continental Congress, and a major participant in drafting the US Constitution. He served two terms as an associate justice of the US Supreme Court. Witherspoon was president of Princeton.)

Other founders who are quoted in support of marriage, as it was defined in their time, include Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, John Adams, James Madison, and others. Mercy Otis Warren, a leading contemporary female intellectual and historian, wrote that the family tempered materialistic excess and fostered public happiness. Dabling says that statements like these can be found in nearly every prominent founder’s writings: “not one offers sentiments to the contrary…” Even the sober-minded and rarely sentimental George Washington said that life with Martha was “his source of real happiness and felicity.” Virginia governor Henry Lee spoke these words at Washington’s funeral: “First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen, he was second to none in the humble and endearing scenes of private life.” (Emphasis in the text.)

The short summary of the book on the back cover speaks about five vital components of marital unity: the equality and complementarity of the sexes; consent and permanence in marriage; exclusivity in marriage, marital love, and a union oriented toward procreation and childrearing. Then it says, “Devoting a chapter to each of these principles…” Unfortunately, I have been unable to identify principles with chapters; there are six chapters, not five, and the chapter headings do not make the correspondence clear. The writing is dense, and the beginning chapters speak about the views of the founders but are sometimes unclear about who believed what. As I read the book, I found that these principles were treated in many chapters, not just in one each.

Dabling says that two irreconcilable models of love and marriage have evolved in American life. At the heart of these models’ disagreement, and the heart of the book, is the question of how liberalism should shape marriage. The first model, termed courageous love and marriage, sees marital unity as marriage’s heart. Mutual consent and equality between husband and wife are required; the model sees marriage as the “comprehensive and complementary union between a man and a woman for life… in all matters. It is “open to the vulnerabilities of love and life,” and it argues that individual flourishing is more likely to take place within communities that… honor marital unity and… do not erect barriers to its attainment. The second model, called liberationist love and marriage, likewise stresses love, but it is a love “fashioned for the safety of expressive individualism.” It tries to protect the individual from the risk that inevitably comes from joining one’s life to another, and aims to mitigate pain “by hedging commitments and providing easy… exits from marriage.” It argues that individual happiness can only occur where individuals are liberated from marriage’s communal elements.

The courageous love embraced during the American founding was primarily backed by the Christian ethic of comprehensive and enduring marital love, which shared much with Greek and Roman understandings of marriage. It valued individual happiness but stressed that this happiness would likely be obtained by seeking to embody the virtues of courageous love. Happiness in love is earned rather than given, and society erected laws that reinforced marital unity as essential to this path.

Liberationist love is tied to a formulation of the rights of individuals—they should be fully free to direct their lives without consideration for public restraints. Associations are governed by contracts, which can be dissolved if they fail to obtain their desired ends.

The astute reader can already sense there is a third possible position here, which would represent the position taken by the Church: courageous love is the right path, unless abuse is occurring, whereupon the right of the individual to be free from abuse through divorce is justified. Nevertheless, let us proceed with Dabling’s argument, and see where it takes him.

The conflict between courageous love and liberationist love was at the heart of the US Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges (2015,) which embraced liberationist love by saying that marriage’s millennia-old man-woman criterion was inconsistent with the “central meaning of the fundamental right to marry.” Whether same-sex couples can share in marital unity or courageous love is not the point. Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote that “the nature of marriage is that…two persons together can find other freedoms, such as expression, intimacy, and spirituality.” Marriage has evolved and has shed its nonessential features such as procreation and marital permanence. The main thing is the personal and sexual bond between two consenting adults. It mistakenly quotes James Wilson as saying that consent was the sole indispensable element to marriage. Wilson said that there is more to it than that; marriage forms a “community of goods and sacrifices” that amounted to marital unity. (One wonders whether the current, more conservative court may modify some of this.)

Dabling stresses that the founders were more attuned than today’s society to the “necessary link between human flourishing, political health, and marital unity.” Courageous love is the love on which thriving families and societies are built. Political and human happiness and stability depend on the practice of marital norms that support the enduring union of husband and wife. The founders rejected easy divorce in that it tempted individuals to withhold devotion and leave a spouse prematurely.

The author elaborates on this last point. To love is to be vulnerable; its enemies have made an effort to make it “safer”—in other words, to make it easier to dissolve. Liberationists, according to Dabling, are consistent with Machiavelli, whose prince knows that it is best to be loved and feared; but love is fickle and fear is constant, so it is better to choose the latter. The prince is unwilling to establish a politics based on reciprocal love, trust, and virtue. The ruling relationship must depend on fear.

The author notes that real love is always risky. Rational liberationist love is hedged because of fear that complete devotion would jeopardize one’s safety or individualism. In other words, he seems to be saying, courageous love allows for concern for the other person, while liberationist love puts oneself first. Courageous love can never be fully rational because, for example, a young man may marry his girlfriend and move to another city, not knowing whether she will one day break his heart; or a woman may marry a man not knowing whether he will be diagnosed with cancer in a few years. The traditional marriage ceremony speaks of marrying “in sickness or in health.” Fear in relationships is nearly always isolating; it stresses independence and personal strength at the expense of loving unity. When we allow fear to subvert the moral order of things, it becomes corrosive.

Of course, cancer and uncertainty during a move are not the same things as beatings, abuse, and threatened murder. The latter are crimes; the former are not. One does not promise in the marriage vows to tolerate criminal abuse against one’s person. It is later in the book that Dabling acknowledges that abuse should be justified grounds for divorce.

The author uses a metaphor to illustrate the liberationist viewpoint. Suppose someone urges a soldier’s wrongful retreat. He argues that the battle is dangerous, that other soldiers have suffered, that to continue to fight may have terrible cost. He also argues that the soldier may have been deluded and manipulated, that the cause is not just. Honor is illusory. These arguments may leave the soldier confused, and if he leaves he will have submitted to cowardice, with a failure of heart and mind. Dabling asserts that the modern American has been the relentless victim of both these arguments in the realm of love and marriage. The effect has been the “privileging of safety and an erosion of marital norms.” Marital politics based on safety have stressed independence and moral autonomy, at the cost of moral subversion, according to Dabling.

I am reminded of an incident when I was bishop in a BYU campus married ward. A woman came to me wanting me to sanction her divorce because of abuse by her husband. I had a list of typical characteristics of abuse; I read it to her. She said that they all existed in her marriage. Knowing that I could not counsel her to seek divorce, but feeling somewhat helpless, I said, well, she could do what she wanted. She divorced her husband and married another man. But Robert J. Matthews, my stake president, was distressed. He said, “What about the covenants she made in the temple?” I was left feeling that I should have stressed those more forcefully. The case has haunted me ever since. In our modern society divorce is perhaps too easy, but abuse is a justified reason within the Church for divorce.

Thus, I am a bit uneasy when Dabling says, “The courageous person loves their [sic] life, but they also know that it is often necessary to sacrifice one’s safety for the sake of one’s country in times of war. In love, the courageous person knows that marital union requires similar risks. It is this hierarchy of goods that places the love of country and the love of family above other goods and that spurs humanity and society upward.” He continues his argument that liberationists have tried to make marriage “safe,” and notes that marriage comes with risks that should be accepted. Perhaps, but perhaps this is a perspective by a male author who may not understand that the vast majority of spouses killed are wives killed by husbands, and not husbands killed by wives, and the vast majority of spouses beaten are wives beaten by husbands, and not husbands beaten by wives. The average man is able to kill the average woman with nothing but his bare hands in under 15 minutes.

Dabling notes the divorce rate within the poorer class has declined on average, but this is offset by large decreases in the percent of couples married. There are more couples living together outside of wedlock than before. Dabling says that the percentage has declined from 69% in 1970 to 47% in 2020. More than 40% of children are born to unmarried mothers. He says that divorce is not the underlying problem, but rather liberationist love and marriage, in which every spouse has unbounded autonomy, i.e., the vows made in the marriage oath mean nothing. Children suffer under these conditions. The founders created institutions that supported marital unity to allow reason and choice to govern marriage decisions. “Marital law represented… the will of the people to honor... marital love “

Much of the rest of the introduction is devoted to brief descriptions of the contents of the chapters. He notes, by the way, that the country’s “legal response to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’… practice of polygamy” demonstrated its commitment to monogamous marriage. More is said on this later.

The principles of the Declaration of Independence spurred a “rolling revolution” that eventually culminated in the abolition of slavery. Might a similar rolling revolution relate to marriage? Dabling hopes that any revolution regarding marriage will be moderate, and not guided by liberalism alone.

Chapter 1, “Statecraft and the Background of American Marriage,” addresses the history of US marriage as given by the founders, with guiding ideas from Plato, Aristotle, Christianity, English Common Law, and Locke. They included such things as: 1) parents have the responsibility of caring for children arising from their union; 2) consent requires that adults should be sovereign over their own choices; 3) marriage should be confined to two individuals: a man and a woman; 4) equality of the sexes allows for sexual distinction and appreciation of sex roles; 5) marriage and marital love require the full giving of each partner to each other.

As noted above, the author presents two men as important American thinkers on traditional marriage: James Wilson and John Witherspoon. They were products of the Scottish Enlightenment and Greek philosophical tradition. Wilson, in turn, depends substantially on Francis Hutcheson, who thought that humanity’s sexual desire showed a need for enduring intimate union—that sex shows a deep need that can be satisfied only by deep unity. The human longing for sociality signals the need to develop “structures and virtues that allow society to flourish.”

Family and sociality are inseparable. Bonds of affection stretch outward from the family, to friends, the community, the nation, and humankind itself. The family teaches that duty and love exist at least partially outside the realm of consent, thus supportive of good citizenship. Wilson praises Christianity for “restoring the dignity of marriage” that existed in ancient Greece when Solon grounded the institution on unity and affection. Such influence cannot be traced directly to the Greek thinkers, but they had a profound impact on it. Dabling singles out Plato and Aristotle as two major sources, including Plato’s Laws and Symposium. Specific marital laws are given (e.g., adultery is forbidden). Education is essential for controlling people’s passions. The sex drive is moderated by linking it to marriage. Socrates argues in the Symposium that love is not self-sufficient—it is longing, it is imperfect. He also notes that the Symposium lists the forms of love with which we are familiar (other definitions are possible): eros: sexual passion; philo: the love of honor or immortal fame; agape: the love of wisdom. The couple’s growth toward each other occurs as long as they see their love in terms of the good. “The proper coming together of a man and a woman is transcendent in that it takes place in the divine.” (This sounds like it might have come from CofJC values.)

Aristotle’s views are similar. He argues that men and women marry for natural affection, procreation, mutual assistance, and the desire for virtue.This fits the definition of courageous love. Vice and competition have no place in it. Marriage should affect a dynamic equilibrium between male and female virtues within a household and within husband and wife themselves. This affects the city in that the household is prior to the city. The city is dependent on it for material production and moral education. (This also sounds like CofJC views.) The household is dependent on the city for economic support and order and guiding purposes.

The American view of marriage comes largely from the Bible, Christianity, English Common Law, and the colonial experience. English author Mary Astell wrote a 1700 treatise on marriage that anticipated the thinking of American writers James Wilson and others. Marriage was created by a benevolent God for the good of His children. Problems mostly resulted from young people’s poor choices. Writing anonymously, she criticizes men for making unreasonable demands on their wives or treating them cruelly. Marriage is an institution of heaven.

Chapter 1 concludes with a page on how US marriage norms resulted from a combination of the Declaration of Independence ideals with concepts from Christianity and Greek and Roman practice. Questions remain: Does liberty evoke the right to choose one’s spouse and the right of consent within one’s marriage? What does equality of men and women mean within a marriage? Does equality prohibit polygamy? How do the answers to these questions relate to civic stable government?

Chapter 2, The Founding of American Marriage, starts by asserting that Britain treated the colonists as children, and remarks that revolutionaries wrote of political relationships in marital terms—consent, united interest, and love. Authors treated marriage as a reciprocal union between equals. There were guidelines to marriage: marital love should not be treated apart from marital commitment. Love should be channeled by virtue and anchored by a sober consent to fulfill private and public duties.

In a section on consent, the author says that consent springs naturally from the equality of the sexes and affection. It is not clear to me what the author means by consent. Consent in having sexual relations? No, it seems to be more than that. Tocqueville says that mutual consent made marriage more affectionate and enduring. Again the meaning of consent is murky. Americans should place weight on duties of marital unity—"friendship, unitive sacrifice, and practical virtues” so that marriages can be preserved after romantic passion has fled, to help “the union thrive and endure.” George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and John Witherspoon are all quoted to similar effect.

The Declaration of Independence noted the natural right to sever tyrannical unions, so the author says this can be applied to marriage—fault-based divorce can be allowed, a view agreed to by James Wilson. But slight or trivial reasons are inadmissible. Wilson’s aim is to define consent in marriage, with details left to the states.

So, in the late 1700s and early 1800s, most states allowed divorce in cases of adultery, incapacity, and willful abandonment. Some added cruelty or drunkenness. Witherspoon rejected lesser reasons like disagreeableness. He noted that more liberal laws increased the chances of divorce but that strict laws might cause a struggling couple just to walk away. “Consent and love become meaningless without duration.”

There is a section on “coverture,” which is the principle that husband and wife, by law, become one person. But this caused the woman to forfeit her property, her ability to contract, to conduct public business, and ultimately her identity. Her husband becomes her public representative and private ruler. Defenders of coverture argued that it was essential, quoting for example, that “They twain shall be one flesh.” (Polygamy threatens the standard model because it divides one spouse’s love among many.) This idea did not come from Christianity alone, but from the Greeks and Romans. Interestingly, Romulus is quoted that marriage is a “community of goods,” but later Romans emphasized that “the wife fell into the power of the husband,” thus making marriage despotic. James Wilson found this idea “most unwarrantable.”

The state has an interest in marriage because husband and wife bear children, and the state is concerned with their training and welfare. Human children take longer to mature than those of lower animals and the parents take many years in that training. Americans, especially the women, treated children as those who would soon lead the country. Marriage is a school of virtue; in it the highest ends are taught. It teaches people to live without their own concerns. In a good marriage, husband and wife may have similarities, but the marriage’s success depends on how well they manage their complementary differences. An example of this complementarity is the marriage of John and Abigail Adams. She was his political confidante, the soother of his fragile ego. Their marriage was tried by their frequent separation; of their first 14 married years, less than seven were spent together.

The founders had some difficulty squaring the Declaration of Independence with coverture. What were the roles of the two sexes? Thomas Jefferson thought that women belonged in the private sphere but condemned sex inequality in one Native American tribe. Abigail Adams was a stout advocate of women’s equality but was appalled by Parisian women’s abandonment of family life, deemed of little value there. The framers did view women’s primary (and sometimes only) responsibility was in the home. The husband-wife roles diverged during the nineteenth century, the wife’s being confined to the home. There were those who stressed the importance of women’s education. Wilson, in considering whether women were less virtuous than men, said “No!” and gave examples such as Elizabeth of England. But sex roles exist to place the proper emphasis on family life. Similarly, governments were also to preserve family life. This of course echoes the emphasis put on the family in the CofJC.

A significant sermon on the sex roles was preached by William Jay in 1801. His main theme is that man’s authority is limited by the fact that both the man and the woman’s first duty is toward God. They should be one and submit to God together. Yet Jay knew the scripture, from Paul, that wives must submit to their husbands. The solution is not to deny that authority but to convince men that they ought not to use it. Other preachers felt the same. John Adams said in a letter that all men who want to be happy should “willingly give up the harsh title of master for the more tender and endearing one of Friend.” Jay says that women should not be slaves but helpers, companions, and friends. He asks the questions: “Has God ‘acted partially’ in subjecting woman to man? Has [God] sacrificed the happiness of the woman to the dignity of the man? Has he not equally regarded the interest of the wife, the children, and the conne[ctions]?” Mary Astell asked these questions in the previous century and they are asked by feminists today.

So why is the husband the wife’s ruler? The traditional answer is because of Eve’s transgression. (This has been extensively discussed and debunked by CofJC writers. The CofJC believes in a “fortunate fall,” and in the wisdom and courage of Mother Eve in partaking of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.) This is concerning to Jay and previous writers. Why should this be? The answer lies partly in Christian theology, shaped by Eve’s transgression. Paul, in the New Testament, makes the analogy of the husband-wife love to Christ’s love for and union with the Church. Preachers noticed that, also pointing out that married couples would grow in Christian love through caring and sacrificing for each other.

The founders knew that marriage nourished republican liberty, but they also knew of its limitations. Several of them were torn between public and familial responsibilities. For example, Washington and Madison had stepsons who paid a price for having public stepfathers. Jefferson cared for his ailing wife but was forced to be away from her, only present at her deathbed. He preferred domestic life and was disgusted at the jealousies and hatreds of the public scene. (And he had children with a woman of color whom he did not marry, and who was under his control as a slave.) Adams, as noted above, spent much time away from Abigail. She chastised him, saying that his children needed a father.

The author ends the chapter by stating that a new birth of marriage needs a new language. This would allow us to see the founders’ shortcomings (presumably coverture) but also to gain from their wisdom. The author does not supply any more than this concerning what the new language would be, except in his two opposing concepts of courageous and liberationist love. Near the chapter’s close is a statement by Abraham Lincoln that the Declaration of Independence is like an “apple of gold,” protected by a “picture [or frame] of silver,” the Constitution, an allusion to Proverbs 25:11 (“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver”).

At the beginning of the third chapter, “Coverture and Divorce Law through the Progressive Era,” the author revisits Lincoln’s reference to the Proverbs verse. The Declaration promised freedom and hope for all, self-government; the Constitution makes these achievable propositions. The Constitution is the picture of silver that protects the apple of gold articulated in the Declaration.

Then the author applies this picture to marriage—“Marital unity was the apple of gold that shaped marriage law and jurisprudence—that is, the picture of silver.” Laws against polygamy and easy divorce protected marital unity from harmful forces. These laws were generally preserved until the middle of the twentieth century, when intellectual progressives tried to replace marital unity as marriage’s fixture by moral authority and liberationist love. This view was bolstered by the mid-twentieth century sexual revolution. No-fault divorce was now approved. Liberationist advocates argued that moral autonomy always has been American marriage’s central core. But the founders created a republic based on human equality and consent; these applied to marriage. They took great care to preserve marital unity, which remained as the central core until the 1950s. This centrality was seen in four areas: “1) coverture, 2) state marriage licensing schemes, 3) state recognition of informal marriages, and 4) liberalization of divorce law that aligns with marital unity.”

Coverture [American]— the idea that husband and wife are to be regarded as one person—has roots as far back as ancient Roman law, Christianity, and English Common Law. In America the husband’s power was more limited, but he was still his wife’s legal representative in debts, lawsuits, contracts, and other public matters. Despite this, Dabling argues that coverture was intended to elevate the marriage rather than demean the woman. It established a structure that helped the couple free themselves from divisive forces. As one entity, neither party could testify in court for or against the other, for example. They were unified. Couples purchasing real estate were not called joint owners “for they are but one person in law.” However, in practice, it must be admitted that only the husband had full legal rights; while a wife could not sell the real estate purchased without the consent of the husband, the husband could sell it without the consent of his wife.

“Schemes” in number 2 above is not to have any sinister connotation; it is merely the word used by the author. The matter is a statement that the state has an interest in how marriages are conducted, and thus has the right to license marriage and to keep records of marriages performed. The family is the basic unit of communities; it should produce strong, well-educated citizens. The state should not interfere with children’s education; to do so would smack of tyranny.

At this point, the author notes that liberalism calls marriage a contract. But the nineteenth century marriage scholar Joel Prentiss Bishop argues that marriage is not a contract and never was. The terminology proceeds from civil contract law but takes on a higher status. Marriage law recognizes this.

The author then considers polygamy and incest together, stating that eighteenth and nineteenth century lawmakers felt that validating such relationships would radically redefine marriage’s nature. Bigamy was incompatible with marital unity. He then states the canard, often used by lawmakers, that polygamy taught that some men were superior to women. Granted that some men might take advantage of a polygamous union, in its proper form this was not necessarily true, according to certain recollections we have of early Latter-day Saints who practiced polygamy.

Incestuous marriages, on the other hand, were different. Incest harms husband-wife unity and the proper brother-sister relationship, which is historically different from that in a marriage. (Nothing is said about the possibility of genetic problems due to inbreeding.) Then follows a paragraph about the absence of procreation requirements in some states—though there should be economic benefits and social stability in it—a matter different from that of incest.

The last part of Chapter Three is an extensive discussion of divorce. James Kent, chief justice of New York’s Supreme Court, views marriage as a “perpetual obligation,” beyond mere contractual consent. He and Bishop allowed fault-based divorce in cases of sustained abuse, but noted that even these divorces place a burden on the individuals and the community. Bishop proposes a middle ground between the position that marriage is indissoluble and the position that marriage is a mere contract. There are legitimate reasons for divorce: adultery, abandonment, extreme cruelty, imprisonment, and habitual drunkenness—the latter two being derivations of the abandonment and cruelty provisions. Extensive tables are provided, showing the grounds for divorce in the states in the US. Unfortunately, these go only up through the 1850s, although there is a later chapter on divorce. There is a page on divorce in the Western territories and states. This is followed by a brief section on divorce in the Progressive Era, 1880–1920, which gives statistics on increasing divorce rates. A historical summary ends the chapter.

Chapter 4, “Tocqueville’s Democratic Woman in the Early Republic,” begins, interestingly, with a quote from Neal A. Maxwell on the importance of the home. The chapter remarks on the laws early Americans erected that support marital unity and proper child-rearing. James Wilson writes: The human society is upheld by two pillars, the public and the social, the domestic being the essential part of the latter. The importance of women is recognized. Alexis de Tocqueville remarks on their superiority, and on the strengths of New England women. He speaks of their “joining of sadness and resolution,” which, however, is compatible with the happiness and meaning of marriage due to their courage and the high value they place on marriage and family.

His picture leaves us questioning whether American society does not ask too much of its women or reward them insufficiently. (My daughter had a cartoon in her kitchen that showed a professional basketball player, a college professor, and a rather bedraggled housewife, complete with what they were paid for their work: $15 million, $80 thousand, and $0, respectively, while their true worth is just the opposite.) This, of course, is an ongoing matter for discussion in our society.

The chapter continues with Tocqueville’s admiration for American women, the author’s commentary on mid-nineteenth century American politics, material from Aristotle, Simone de Beauvoir, James Wilson, and Hannah Arendt. Tocqueville and Wilson have similar views on the two pillars of society. The author follows this with comments on today’s breakdown of the family and other comments. He closes by saying that Tocqueville’s American woman shows the virtue of Wilson’s domestic pillar and why it is indispensable to the political community.

Chapter 5, “Divorce and Enduring Consent,” begins with a discussion of the Seneca Falls Convention and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Stanton, in her Declaration of Sentiments, argued that weakening of marital unity was vital to the women’s movement—that women should be free to leave a marriage and seek divorce if they wished. She argued that nearly all marriage laws were stacked against women, and that the mutual longing which ought to exist in marriage was slavery. (With Robert Owen; see below) Women should be allowed to leave a husband who had lost his job, health, or the ability to ignite in her that romantic spark… when the feelings fade or the duties of love overwhelm its joys.” This went too far, even for other feminists like Horace Greeley. Stanton’s views were attacked; an attempt to revise New York’s divorce laws was defeated. (Incidentally, I heard somewhere that a woman representative from the CofJC had attended, but I have not found any verification of that rumor.) Greeley and feminist Sarah Grimké—who favored women’s suffrage—defended marital unity; it must remain. The author states, as their position, that “… the lonely freedom of liberationist marriage and easy divorce was worse than the ailments they sought to cure.” He goes on to say that Greeley and Grimké believed that the long-range implications of the divorce bill would change the nature of love and marriage in America and “would bring incalculable chaos to America and the human heart.” Strong words! He ends this little section: “Courageous love provides society the assurance that parents will bring children into the community and raise them in the necessary virtues. Courageous love provides security. Liberationist love breeds chaos.”

One of Stanton’s allies was Robert Dale Owen, US House Representative in Indiana. Greeley and Owen engaged in a series of debates in the New York Tribune. Indiana was known to be the country’s divorce mill, at least in rumor; its divorce rate was the most liberal in the country and even more liberal in practice; it allowed divorce in any cause “for which the court shall deem it proper that this divorce shall be granted.” Greeley’s argument rested on the definition of marriage (from Webster’s dictionary), which included the provision that the man and woman shall live together “for life… till death shall separate them.” Owen attacked the dictionary definition, failing to realize that Greeley’s position was bolstered by more: “This conception of marriage is the chief reason for Europe’s founding, and it was the degradation of marriage in the late Roman Empire which led to its fall.” Owen also thinks that Greeley neglects women trapped in abusive relationships. He contrasts Moses’ statement on divorce with Jesus’ –finding the former more liberal.

Greeley argues that marital permanence is necessary for children and is just as necessary for maintaining love. There is a question husbands should answer: “Do you know this woman so thoroughly, and love her so profoundly, that you can assuredly promise that you will forsake all others and cleave unto her only until death?”

President-elect Lincoln made an analogy, that Southern secessionists saw the Union as a sort of free love arrangement, no regular marriage. Lincoln drew on Americans’ understanding of marital permanence and argued that the Constitution guarantees the same kind of permanence for the Union.

Owen likewise cares about creating a healthy marriage culture but differs on how that is to be done. He is concerned about how to handle unhappy marriages; individuals in such should be allowed to depart in peace. Civilization has moved beyond marital permanence. Greeley admits that there are badly mated persons but feels that is not the fault of the law but of their own poor choices. He would try to help but does not want marriage’s high public role to be demeaned. Greeley proposes two solutions: to change the law to allow women to control their own property, or to allow couples to separate in cases of cruelty, physical abuse, or profligacy; but even in adultery he worries about marriage’s image and society.

Greeley seeks to prevent immoral sexual unions; Owen would alleviate suffering by relieving persons from their marital bonds. Greeley’s approach is long term and child-centered; Owen focuses on adults and their happiness. Greeley would elevate marriage in the public eye and teach that the bond requires sober reflection. The law has an educative function that affects how people think about marriage. Easy divorce laws fail to bind people to their marriage choices. He is unwilling to sacrifice the happiness of still unmarried youth… for the relief of adults who have made poor choices. Owen agrees that divorce is a misfortune but would still leave it to the couples. He feels that enduring consent imposes impossible demands. One can never know whether one’s spouse will stay the same or change or “meet someone better.”

The conflict between Greeley and Owen can be characterized in their view toward children’s role. Greeley sees it as primary, Owen as secondary. In contrast, Greeley sees love as secondary, while Owen sees it as primary.

Speaking in the twentieth century and as one who has dealt with these problems, I come down somewhat on the side of Owen. Society is already aware of abuse in marriage and as a result, marriage doesn’t have the same high status it used to have; this is borne out, e. g., by the number of couples who live together without its benefit. But I say somewhat because I believe in restoring it to that high status.

After the debate, Stanton mocked Greeley. She dismissed his argument too easily, but found an important weakness: “… [H]e never offers a rational account for why adultery should be a permissible ground for divorce while physical abuse, desertion, or any other violation of marital vows should not. Greeley’s position rests upon scripture.” I am reminded of advice a bishop can give to a woman who tells him of severe abuse (which can include verbal as well as physical abuse) and laments that her marriage is failing, blaming herself. The bishop can tell her that her marriage is already failed and that it is okay to seek a divorce. This is slightly different from advising her to seek a divorce.

James Wilson provided another way. He agreed with Greeley that easy divorce would harm marriage, but he shows how marital unity may be adapted to regimes like the US. (I think he is thinking of the independence of the Declaration, a point made by Owen.) Wilson says that we may not precisely know specific instances when divorce is proper, but “we do know what marriage is and therefore that divorce should be limited to rare circumstances.” So Wilson shares Greeley’s view of the importance of marital unity but allows for cases when individuals should separate.

Owen’s weakness is that he fails to provide criteria for limiting divorce. He seeks “reasonable divorce” but argues that individuals in unhappy marriages “should be able to divorce sans government’s hindering hand.” Thus any restrictions are self-imposed. He never answers Greeley’s arguments that marriage policy is about governing society in perpetuity.

The author concludes that both Greeley’s and Owen’s arguments are insufficient, that they “lead men to irrational and even harmful extremes.” Both are dogmatic, unable to respond to unique practical situations. They fail to understand “a conception of marriage that is at once protective of individual rights and facilitative of lasting marital love and public health.” Wilson’s way moderates these two extremes.

Without having the extensive background in marital law that the author has, I tend to agree. Again, I recall the couple in my ward who divorced, yet President Matthews lamented their broken vows. What was right in that case? I do not know, for I do not know what was going on behind closed doors. If there was indeed abuse, then divorce was justified. If not, then perhaps not.

The remainder of the chapter deals with Stanton and Grimké and their differences. I will not go into details of this discussion. The matter of consent is considered; enduring consent is vital to a marriage for two reasons: first, only permanent marriages can provide children with the stability they need for responsible growth; second, enduring consent assures marriage partners that each can secure, for the other, the goods of marriage, which include love and support. This cannot be provided by continuous consent, which does not give the confidence husbands and wives desire for each other.

Stanton won her ultimate victory in August 2010 when New York became the fiftieth state to legalize some form of no-fault divorce. California was the first in 1969. There are reasons for both sides of the Greeley-Owen debate, but the preponderance of evidence indicates that divorce causes individual and public harm. One must agree; think of the divorced couples you know. I speak in the plural; there are many. Yet in some cases, such as that of the Haight family in Enoch, Utah, in January of this year—where the father killed his wife, her mother, and all their five children— great harm can come from staying in a marriage, as well.

Divorces that result from abuse may increase mental health and may reduce suicides. But those that come from other reasons may still result in violence. Children’s suicide rates and child sex abuse increase in cases of divorce, according to studies. That indicates that Owen was myopic in thinking that easy divorce would solve the problem of domestic violence. Indeed, violence often escalates when the spouse who has been abused finally tries to leave, as did Tausha Haight.

The chapter closes with a few relevant statistics. One study found that 94% of couples whose marriage had once been in serious trouble said they were glad they were still together. In another study, 10% of individuals said they were unhappy with their marriage. Five years later, a fifth of these people had divorced but more than half were happily married to the same person. The author sums up: “Political health requires healthy marriages and secure liberties.”

Chapter 6, Polygamy, Despotism, and Marital Unity, begins with a poignant quote from Utah polygamous wife Emma Nielson, writing in 1889 about her missing husband F. G., wishing he were home to father their four children. The author then says, “Polygamy threatens the goods of marriage by threatening the goods of marital unity,” and the rest of the paragraph sounds the same. But the following text is interesting. The author has done his homework. He describes polygamy among the Utah saints, asking, was it akin to despotism? But then he remarks, rather wonderingly I think, that Salt Lake City had no brothels or gambling houses. If a woman wanted a divorce it was immediately granted. There were accusations of despotism by wives against husbands, but they were far from the norm. In public, LDS women defended polygamy at rallies and at the ballot box. But in private they mourned not despotism, but the assault they felt that polygamy made on marital unity and closeness. This is the critical point.

A personal remark: My grandmother, Juliaetta Bateman Jensen, wrote a biography of her mother, Marinda Allen Bateman, titled Little Gold Pieces. Marinda was the first of two wives of Samuel Bateman, Harriet Egbert Bateman being the second (and 16 years younger). Juliaetta describes the home they had, with 21 children in all, and it appears that relations amongst Samuel, Marinda, Harriet, and the children were positive and loving. (At one point Marinda went to Salt Lake City for obstetrics training for six months, while Harriet took care of the children. When Marinda returned, she became a midwife and delivered over 700 babies over nearly 20 years. She charged a five dollar gold piece per case—thus the book’s title. That helped pay the family expenses while Samuel was in hiding.)

Reading the author’s comments makes me wonder. How happy were they really? Juliaetta says that as a child she didn’t understand it, and the book tells of a separation of a few years between Samuel and Marinda—possibly associated with competing attentions he bestowed on the two women. So maybe Dabling has a point.

Dabling summarizes the conflict the US government (representing the country’s citizens) had with the Church. America had for many years waged a fight against its “twin relics of barbarism,” slavery and polygamy, and after the slavery question was settled by the Civil War, the country turned its attention to Utah and polygamy. Officials sent from Washington to lead the Territory were almost universally opposed by the Saints, since they were hostile to them and their leaders. Polygamous men hid from US marshals.

Several US Supreme Court decisions adverse to the Church were fought by Church legal means. The first of these was the Morrill Act (1862), which outlawed polygamy and divested the Church of its landholdings. But it was not enforced, especially by President Lincoln, who was mainly concerned with the Civil War. However, it was later followed by the Poland Act, which strengthened Morrill. Church leaders decided to test the constitutionality of the law and recruited George Reynolds to marry a second wife. He was convicted but the decision was overturned. It then reached the Supreme Court as the case Reynolds v. United States (1879).

The author presents details of the arguments in the case. I will not list them all but will mention only the critical points. Religious freedom, which played an important role, “is not unbounded for the same reason that treasonous speech is not protected by the First Amendment.” (I can imagine President Dallin H. Oaks’ reaction to that!) “Understanding the justness of laws always requires understanding the goods they try to protect and the relation between these goods and the law. So it is with polygamy… Waite [the chief justice] argued that Congress was free to legislate against ‘actions which were in violation of social duties or subversive of good order…’ the free exercise of religion is compatible with liberal government to the degree it does not harm liberal government’s legitimate purposes… polygamy was harmful to individuals and the social order. Polygamy ‘has always been odious among the... nations of Europe’… it was outlawed by English Common Law… It is in the family that human beings learn sociality, society’s order, and the responsibilities they bear to it. For this reason, polygamy is especially harmful to the children it raises and the women it coerces and subjects in marriage.” The author notes Waite’s feelings on the subject: “Monogamous marriage was built upon equality and liberty in contract. Polygamous marriage was built upon the principles of male superiority, despotism, and coercion.”

The author then presents arguments against polygamy by the German American political theorist Francis Lieber, the French philosopher Montesquieu, who played an important role in American political thought, and Horace Greeley. I mention only a couple: “The Saints were the destroyers of feminine virtue and the corrupters of children; [Joseph] Smith was America’s Muhammed, a prophet-general gathering converts and raising an army.” But then the author gives an example of one man who did not share this view. He became ill in the Territory and was nursed to health in a small Utah town. He never “saw a man drunk, heard obscene or improper language and observed no gambling houses, grog shops, or buildings of ill fame.” Though troubled by polygamy, he admits that the two polygamous families he became acquainted with were happy.

After a discussion of rates of marriage in Utah, the author tells of Ann Eliza Webb Young—who divorced Brigham—Fanny Stenhouse, and Harriet Beecher Stowe, all of whom publicly denounced Utah polygamy. But Brigham’s biographer John Turner encouraged people to see for themselves that Utah women were not oppressed. A New York Herald article of 1870 expressed a similar view. Polygamous wife Emmeline Wells helped create the Woman’s Exponent, a Latter-day Saint magazine advocating for women.

Overt oppression of Utah women was not proved and did not necessarily exist. But the important part to point out here is their feelings, and in this regard, the picture is more complicated. Historian Paula Harline made a study of LDS women’s diaries of the time and found, consistent with material above, that while they might have defended polygamy publicly, privately they thought it destroyed the marital unity they desired. This was especially true for the first wife. (I read once of a Utah wife who helped her husband get dressed to go marry another wife, sat on his lap to kiss him goodbye, and urinated all over him.) These wives felt there was something adulterous about the practice. They did not feel enslaved so much as deprived of their husband’s devotion. Even Emmeline Wells felt this way. Jealousy was widespread among the wives, even though they tried to resist it. “Relations among polygamous wives were often cold, though there were some examples of affectionate sisterly bonds between older and younger wives.” (Such bonds appear to have existed between my grandmother’s two mothers, Marinda and Harriet, judging from what she wrote in her book. My grandmother was fairly frank with me, but I know she didn’t tell me everything — so I wonder.)

The author does not go into the subsequent court cases that ultimately led to the disenfranchisement of the Church, the closing of the temples, and such measures—followed by the Church’s abandonment of polygamy in 1890. That is not his concern; rather, it is the feelings among the LDS women about the practice. He sums it up by saying that polygamy fractured marital love. Although I have consistently defended polygamy to others throughout my life, after reading the author’s arguments, I tend to agree.

Chapter 7, “Free Love and Marital Love,” begins with the remark that Progressives dislike and fear the family and marital unity because “they draw individuals inward and prevent the full giving of the individual to a political project.” In other words, Progressives are selfish; they want other people for themselves.

Then follows a section on the American founding fathers, who created a republic in which both “pillars of human flourishing”—i.e., the public and the social/domestic—are recognized. It emphasized civil liberties (á la the Bill of Rights) but also elevated the goods found in healthy marriages, families, and general society. “Political liberty is best preserved when people find significant meaning in [both] family and society. “A strong government of liberty is only preserved when robust meaning is found outside its walls…”

Some early groups, apparently feeling that sex was evil, tried to proscribe it. The most famous of these were the eighteenth century Shakers. Founder Ann Lee said that sex created special bonds between husband and wife and turned them away from God. They were universally admired. They lasted about 200 years, a fact that leads me to ask how this was possible if they abstained from sex!

John Edward Noyes “was the most important American free-love thinker in the mid-nineteenth century. (So there must have been others.) Noyes wanted a fully united society, thinking that such a thing required abandoning monogamous marriages, communal property, and cooperative production. He founded the Oneida community in 1848. He sought perfection for himself and others through the Christian gospel, teaching that perfection came through the grace of Christ. By the mid-1840s, he was teaching that all things were permissible sexually; marriages were impediments to holiness and individuals should “pursue the object of their affection.” Marriage, for him, was a perverted kind of love because it violated Jesus’ commandment to “love one another.”

Noyes’ wife had five difficult childbirths; four resulted in the death of the child. This led Noyes to practice coitus reservatus, the withdrawal of the male before ejaculation. That practice became common in the Oneida community. Male continence led men to “liberate the spiritual from the physical.” Women thus had greater control over reproduction. Sex was no longer tied to parentage and so, sex was freer. Men and women did not lay claim to any one partner or on the children. Any parent who became too close to a child was soon separated from the child. The love of Christ and of community were paramount.

Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote fiction about such utopian groups. One notable story is The Blithedale Romance, which is based on the historical Brook Farm, where Hawthorne lived for six months in 1841. The author spends the rest of the chapter about Blithedale, Hawthorne’s views, and sums it up with some remarks about Noyes and some general observations. I will not go into detail on these.

The title of Chapter 8, “As Long as you Both Shall Choose,” p. 191–217, says it all. For the Progressives, a marriage was not until death, but until the partners decide to split up. Men and women could fashion their marriage however they liked and then leave when it no longer pleased them. The public should secure individuated sexual rights.

“The country’s sexual progressives of the early twentieth century… chose this vision.” For the first time in history, people began advocating for no-fault divorce, loosening sexual mores, and abandoning marital unity. Stanton favored no-fault divorce but had never proposed it as policy. She claimed that marital unity was a relic of “barbarism” (i. e., it favored the family) and that it should give way to “the loving companionship of man and woman.”

The Progressives could not have had a better rallying cry. Stanton was followed by birth control advocate Margaret Sanger. (I remark that these people had very believable arguments: Sanger spoke of a woman for whom another baby would endanger her health—and maybe her life. Her doctor’s advice: tell Jake to go sleep on the roof. Of course, she could not enforce that recommendation, and could not refuse her husband sex under the law at the time.) Stanton and Sanger’s followers now spoke of divorce any time the marriage had become unpleasant, not just abusive.

Progressives also spoke of freeing individuals from the tyranny of the church, public good, and outdated morals that lied about human sexuality…"from the past’s dead hand… from a rigid marriage institution that cared more about property and duty than it did about human happiness.” It occurs to me that this attitude is setting up a straw man; that it encourages couples to consider divorce when they wouldn’t otherwise. Many couples have happy marriages and never consider separation; many have ups and downs but stay together and grow closer than would have thought possible over time.

“Liberation from traditional marital norms required that sex become at once more and less of a public concern.” Supposedly, it was no longer connected to having and rearing children. “While sex was a private concern… social and government authority [should] be harnessed to liberate sex and advance liberationist love.” This new sexual freedom was not simply laissez-faire; government and society would actively have to sponsor this freedom. The founders’ high view of marriage and family would therefore have to be rejected.

Many arguments used by the Progressives are presented by Dabling. I will give only a few of these. “… [B]inding individuals by contract… replaced marital affections with institutionalized duty.” Marital unity was still attainable, but only when it was “spiritualized and freed from coercive forms.” He continues, “Unregulated love became the gold standard…” ACLU founder Arthur Garfield Hays opined that “it was contrary to human nature to contract anything pertaining to human emotions.” He said, “Unions require time to see if they will last … A twentieth-century spouse knew better than the law when his or her marriage was irreparable.” Charges of patriarchy and despotism abound. My reaction to these is that they argue against the good things in marriage; they ignore its history. I speak as one who had a happy marriage of nearly 66 years before my wife passed away. If you teach people that marriage is flimsy, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Prominent American feminist Charlotte Perkins Gilman charged that man had created the modern family to serve him rather than the wife or the children—a view also held by other feminists. She wanted to break the distinction between men’s work and women’s work. Dabling remarks that society’s endorsement of the home was seen by many at the turn of the last century to have stunted the growth of the woman. Several cases from the Supreme Court suggested that the wife was only the property of the husband. I will not give details.

The author comes back to Margaret Sanger, crediting her with founding America’s first sexual revolution after citing remarks by Progressives H. L. Mencken, Bertrand Russell, and Sigmund Freud. Gilman sought to free women from societal restraints; Sanger, in her birth control campaign, wanted to free her from biological ones. Woman could not deny her sexual appetites [which Victorians denied] but could not pursue them without risking children. Sanger wrote a book in 1922 arguing that birth control would impose order on a world of chaos. “Sexual instincts were too strong to be bound by…religious doctrine.” Much of her work depended on the sex psychologist Havelock Ellis, who saw sex as moving beyond procreation to a spiritual plane.

Sanger goes on to speak of economic considerations, claiming that the overproduction of children led to “child labor, market surplus, and falling wages. It created imbeciles and poverty and destroyed the sanctity of life.” While this goes too far, it is true that women could not deny husbands sexual access to their bodies, even if they did not wish to be pregnant—hence the advice that women should have their husbands sleep on the roof. And marital rape was not criminalized in all 50 states of the US until 1993.

The author presents a section on Aldous Huxley, who thought the sexual revolution had gone too far. However, the author says that Huxley was unclear about what should replace it and leaves much to be desired. He follows this with a section on Walter Lippmann, who wrote that the “sexual revolution was more dangerous than any philosophical revolution heretofore experienced.” Birth control was the “most revolutionary practice in the history of sexual morals.” He laments that parents could no longer tell their children to save sex for marriage. “Saying that birth control liberated human beings to fulfill nearly every sexual passion was no more enlightening than saying that advancements in automobile technology liberated people to travel 120 miles per hour on a winding canyon road.” Lippman charges Sanger, Ellis, and others with creating schools of hedonism, which he rejects because they leave humanity with a devalued world “where nothing connects itself very much with anything else.”

In a section entitled “The Meaning of Progressive Freedom” the author sums up the Progressive approach to society. Progressives would have society and government shape individual choices… to be sure that people were freed from “regressive social influences.” The author goes on to say that in the view of progressives, the home must be demoted; Gilman is quoted again. Household chores should be outsourced to those capable of doing them well (which seems not to include the mother or the father.) “Expertise, efficiency, and women’s liberation” constituted true freedom.

These and similar comments define the Progressive position, according to Dabling. One idea they favored—not favored by liberals today—was eugenics. Among other things, Sanger advocated sterilizing parents she deemed unfit for mating. The “feeble-minded” must be prevented from reproducing. Others beside Sanger held this view, and forced sterilization did occur in the US. And in a summary sentence I found compelling, “Individuals must be made free to progress…” (italics by the author.)

In the next section, the author asserts, “The Progressives’ new vision of sex and marriage was the wholesale rejection of the founders’ vision of marital unity. The founders’ vision of sex equality and complementarity, which supported the high purpose of the home, was replaced with a vision that demoted the home and made men’s and women’s purposes much the same.”

The author comments that America has continued along the Progressive line and that Huxley and Lippmann “correctly foresaw its hollowing effects.” He gives an example of a female student at Syracuse who said she had tried all sorts of relationships without success. How grim! The Progressives have created a world of chaos: “Sex is aplenty but love is scarce ...The US Supreme Court has largely embraced the Progressives’ idea that marriage is solely private and that it bears no necessary relation to procreation or child-rearing.”

The author finishes the chapter by saying, “The erosion of the family is a precursor to social and political disintegration.” Well said.

In the last chapter, titled “Conclusion,” the author observes that to love or to rely on love is to be vulnerable—yet the Progressives, led by Stanton and Noyes, would have it be less vulnerable—and in so doing, they have pushed the country toward liberationist love. And liberationist love, the author says, is “not love in any meaningful sense of the word.” Efforts to equate it to courageous love have deluded Americans “who drink from its wells and thirst even more.” (An example is the young Syracuse student mentioned above who was trying to find herself.)

Stanton had an admirable goal—to reduce abuse in marriages. But her ambition led to major changes. At the core of her thought was the idea of continuous consent—which meant that all bonds in marriage “must be severable by either party at any time and for any reason.” This idea was championed by later reformers. The aim is marital unity without tears.

There are marriages that may be irreparable, and in those cases of abuse, divorce must be an option—but abuse is not the issue in many divorce cases. This is the critical point: “The problem with this philosophical overhaul of consent is that it replaces the reflective judgment of the law (natural, religious, or civil) with the unbounded and often reflexive judgment of the individual … the law did serve as a sober interlocutor, prodding couples to patiently bridle passions and to work out their problems while still possible.”

Dabling turns his attention back to Noyes and free love. In normal marriages, there is trust, commitment, and intimate feeling that is impossible with free love. The Progressives’ reforms have had similar effects—granting women and men greater control over sexual reproduction and severing the natural ties. Arguing that no sexual desire should be denied leads to shallowness in sexual relations. Gilman and later feminists like Simone de Beauvoir and Betty Friedan sought to have women in the workforce, thus also devaluing the home. The effect of liberationist love is to lead to the independence of women from men or men from women, and so it demeans sex, marriage, and child-rearing. This is the price of independence. These feminists claim that “full independence and security requires overturning the marital order.”

But there is hope. “Nearly 75 percent of American high-schoolers in 2017 said that ‘having a good marriage and family life’ is ‘extremely important.’’’ This number has been stable for 40 years. Despite this, Americans are marrying at the lowest rates on record. They see marriage as risky. But, Dabling says, when has it not been? It was risky during the Great Depression, yet marriage rates increased. Similar rates existed during World War II. The conclusion seems to be that the Progressives have had an effect upon marriage by devaluing it and the home.

Dabling argues that the country needs a rebirth of marriage—anchored in the wisdom of the founders’ vision. However, in the modern era, it should have the five central components of… marital unity: equality and complementarity of the sexes, enduring consent, sexual exclusivity, marital love, and procreation. The first of these would lead to women’s equal rights and would honor women for their accomplishments. The home would be honored for its role in preparing children for public life.

This rebirth of marriage would honor enduring consent as being necessary for marital love … It is necessary for the sacrifices that must be made. This rebirth requires that sexual exclusivity be the norm. A rededication to love requires a recommitment to courageous love in dating.

“Courageous love should be honored as the only love capable of creating unitive relationships… all meaningful relationships must conquer the cultural poison that says, ‘You don’t need anyone to be happy.’” Finally, a new birth of marriage would value procreation and child rearing.

“American law and culture cannot be neutral on the question of marriage. We must make a choice … Those who wish to save marriage and keep it worthy of saving must do the same by returning to marital unity.”

Dabling ends his book with a call to arms. It is not clear how this is to be done. After all, the Supreme Court has pronounced decisions that seem in opposition to the courageous love that Dabling defends. And the vast majority of American men, married or not, consume pornography on a regular basis, which is no foundation for marriage and marital unity. But Dabling feels we can still ask Congress to pass laws that defend it. I imagine that means making divorce harder to obtain?

Dabling’s thesis is that the proponents of liberationist love have undermined the foundations of courageous love as envisioned by the founders. He seems to have stated that position thoughtfully throughout the book. At the same time, I found the book rather long and repetitive, and in some places insensitive to the different circumstances of women in marriage. He tries to be comprehensive; it might have been good to eliminate the treatment of some of the reformers. But it is an excellent starting point for discussing marriage at this point in our country’s history; I recommend it to the serious reader.

Full Citation for this Article: Harrison, B. Kent (2023) "Book Review: A New Birth of Marriage: Love, Politics, and the Vision of the Founders, by Brandon Dabling," SquareTwo, Vol. 16 No. 1 (Spring 2023),, accessed <give access date>.

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