Chesterton On Marriage and Family – Part 2

More choice quotes from Chesterton:

As I mentioned in Part 1 of this article, the key 1920 work by G. K. Chesterton – The Superstition of Divorce – contains so many gems, that one short article just could not do them all justice. So I have spread them out over two articles. Here then are some more great quotes from this book, along with the page numbers where they are found (in the edition I have, which I describe in Part 1):

“If we could find a perfect machine, and a perfect man to work it, it might be a good argument for State Socialism, though an equally good argument for personal despotism. But most of us, I fancy, are now agreed that something of that social pressure from below which we call freedom is vital to the health of the State; and this it is which cannot be fully exercised by individuals, but only by groups and traditions. Such groups have been many; there have been monasteries; there may be guilds; but there is only one type among them which all human beings have a spontaneous and omnipresent inspiration to build for themselves; and this type is the family.” 246-247

“The child is an explanation of the father and mother and the fact that it is a human child is the explanation of the ancient human ties connecting the father and mother. The more human, that is the less bestial, is the child, the more lawful and lasting are the ties.” 253

“If people cannot mind their own business, it cannot possibly be made economical to pay them to mind each other’s business; and still less to mind each other’s babies. It is simply throwing away a natural force and then paying for an artificial force; as if a man were to water a plant with a hose while holding up an umbrella to protect it from the rain. The whole really rests on a plutocratic illusion of an infinite supply of servants. When we offer any other system as a ‘career for women,’ we are really proposing that an infinite number of them should become servants, of a plutocratic or bureaucratic sort. Ultimately, we are arguing that a woman should not be a mother to her own baby, but a nursemaid to somebody else’s baby. But it will not work, even on paper. We cannot all live by taking in each other’s washing, especially in the form of pinafores. In the last resort, the only people who either can or will give individual care, to each of the individual children, are their individual parents. The expression as applied to those dealing with changing crowds of children is a graceful and legitimate flourish of speech. This triangle of truisms, of father, mother and child, cannot be destroyed; it can only destroy those civilisations which disregard it.” 254

“It is enough to note here that everybody does know by intuition and admit by implication that a family is a solid fact, having a character and colour like a nation.” 255

Image of The Collected Works of G. K. Chesterton, Vol. 4: What's Wrong with the World / The Superstition of Divorce / Eugenics and Other Evils / Divorce versus Democracy / Social Reform versus Birth Control
The Collected Works of G. K. Chesterton, Vol. 4: What's Wrong with the World / The Superstition of Divorce / Eugenics and Other Evils / Divorce versus Democracy / Social Reform versus Birth Control by Gilbert Keith (G.K.) Chesterton (Author), James V. Schall (Author) Amazon logo

“Every marriage is a sort of wild balance; and in every case the compromise is as unique as an eccentricity. Philanthropists walking in the slums often see the compromise in the street, and mistake it for a fight. When they interfere, they are thoroughly thumped by both parties; and serve them right, for not respecting the very institution that brought them into the world.” 256

The ideal for which it stands in the state is liberty. It stands for liberty for the very simple reason with which this rough analysis started. It is the only one of these institutions that is at once necessary and voluntary. It is the only check on the state that is bound to renew itself as eternally as the state, and more naturally than the state. Every sane man recognises that unlimited liberty is, anarchy, or rather is nonentity. The civic idea of liberty is to give the citizen a province of liberty; a limitation within which a citizen is a king. This is the only way in which truth can ever find refuge from public persecution, and the good man survive the bad government. But the good man by himself is no match for the city. There must be balanced against it another ideal institution, and in that sense an immortal institution. So long as the state is the only ideal institution the state will call on the citizen to sacrifice himself, and therefore will not have the smallest scruple in sacrificing the citizen. The state consists of coercion; and must always be justified from its own point of view in extending the bounds of coercion; as, for instance, in the case of conscription. The only thing that can be set up to check or challenge this authority is a voluntary law and a voluntary loyalty. That loyalty is the protection of liberty, in the only sphere where liberty can fully dwell. It is a principle of the constitution that the King never dies. It is the whole principle of the family that the citizen never dies. There must be a heraldry and heredity of freedom; a tradition of resistance to tyranny. A man must be not only free, but free-born. Indeed, there is something in the family that might loosely be called anarchist; and more correctly called amateur.” 256-257

“Whereas feudalism received the loyalty of families, the lords of the new servile state will receive only the loyalty of individuals; that is, of lonely men and even of lost children.” 260

“From its first days in the forest this human group had to fight against wild monsters; and so it is now fighting against these wild machines. It only managed to survive then, and it will only manage to survive now, by a strong internal sanctity; a tacit oath or dedication deeper than that of the city or the tribe. But though this silent promise was always present, it took at a certain turning point of our history a special form which I shall try to sketch in the next chapter. That turning point was the creation of Christendom by the religion which created it. Nothing will destroy the sacred triangle; and even the Christian faith, the most amazing revolution that ever took place in the mind, served only in a sense to turn that triangle upside down. It held up a mystical mirror in which the order of the three things was reversed; and added a holy family of child, mother and father to the human family of father, mother and child.” 260-261

Marriage makes a small state within the state, which resists all such regimentation. That bond breaks all other bonds; that law is found stronger than all later and lesser laws.” 270

“The soldier is not respected because he is doomed to death, but because he is ready for death; and even ready for defeat. The married man or woman is not doomed to evil, sickness or poverty; but is respected for taking a certain step for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness or in health.” 274

“While I do not dream of suggesting that there are only happy marriages, there will quite certainly, as things work nowadays, be a very large number of unhappy and unjust divorces.” 278

“The obvious effect of frivolous divorce will be frivolous marriage. If people can be separated for no reason they will feel it all the easier to be united for no reason.” 284

“The primary laws of man are to be found in the permanent life of man; in those things that have been common to it in every time and land, though in the highest civilisation they have reached an enrichment like that of the divine romance of Cana in Galilee. We know that many critics of such a story say that its elements are not permanent; but indeed it is the critics who are not permanent. A hundred mad dogs of heresy have worried man from the beginning; but it was always the dog that died. We know there is a school of prigs who disapprove of the wine; and there may now be a school of prigs who disapprove of the wedding.” 288

There have been at least three main reasons why I have posted all these terrific quotes:
-To further encourage and strengthen those of you who are deeply concerned about the institutions of marriage and family and the steady stream of attacks and assaults upon them.
-To make you aware of The Superstition of Divorce – to either read it for the first time or to read it again.
-To make you aware of G. K. Chesterton – to either read him for the first time or to read him again.

Part 1 of this article is found here: billmuehlenberg.com/2022/11/21/chesterton-on-marriage-and-family-part-1/

[1460 words]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

%d bloggers like this: