[Editorial Note: This collection of moralizing pieces, somewhat after the style of Emerson, treated a range of topics from the New England Sabbath (a defense against Michel Chevalier's characterization of it as unutterably boring) to "Truth," "Faith," "Personal Influence," to "The Vision of God." Chapter VIII, "Thy Sister," deals wth prostitution.]

Caroline W. Healey Dall, Essays and Sketches (Boston: Samuel G. Simkins, 1849).

P. 62: 'touch her not scornfully,' oh daughter of rank and wealth . . . . Perhaps--and God forgive us that we must so write it--perhaps it was your selfishness or ours that made her what she is. Is [p. 63] she not the tender child whom we sent coldly from our door, when with a confiding heart, she begged in the Master's name for a crust of bread and a cup of cold water? Is she not the washer woman whom we left unpaid for weeks, or the seamstress whom we underpaid? Perhaps--and this is the saddest thought of all--perhaps she is the repentant Magdalen, whom in the pride of indignant virtue we sent from our roof, when after a week of faithful service we discovered that tale of agony, which, shameless as she once was, she could not bring her desecrated lips to speak. . . . the time has passed by, if it ever existed, when the flush upon a woman's cheek, as she looks upon a fallen sister, can rightly excuse her from an immediate effort in her behalf. It is no longer fitting that for modesty's sake she should seem to be ignorant of the evil that lies all about her, and keep herself free from taint at the expense of a ruined band of her sex. The revelations but recently made in regard to the state of licentious crime in the city of Boston, have roused a few interested individuals to warmer exertion, but the assembled [p. 64] wisdom of the Christian churches has thought it fit to suppress a majority of the facts of the case, fearing to expose this accumulated mass of fearful sin to the naked gaze of a young community. We blame them not; they have done the best they knew. . . . Ye we cannot but think that a knowledge of individual cases, no matter how revolting, is needed to thrill the soul and wake the energies of woman. As the great mass of women are situated, surrounded by vigilant friends, guarded not more by the careful bias of sedulous education than by a natural or acquired coldness of temperament and a utter ignorance of opportunity, they know little of the trials of those who, without friends, without education, without any object of love for a yearning heart, in the midst of opportunity, are the all but necessary victims of the indifference or ignorance of society. The gossip of private circles will not enlighten them; they need a body of terrible facts, presented in a religious and kindling spirit to their timid hearts. The ignorance which prevails is to us hardly less fright[p.65]ful than the sin itself. . . . Not yet escaped from school, we had seen enough of the volcanic elements at work in society. We had seen an infant of six years, born in the house of sin, systematically trained by its chief mistress to the life of one of its votaries, and lured on, by such inducements as it could understand, to acts of disgusting profanation. We had seen a faithful domestic leave a family who had loved her for years for the arms of one who, by a pretended marriage, mocked her affectionate heart. Then, flying from the rebuking smile of his new-born infant, we saw him leave her on a bed of straw in a damp cellar, thankful for such charity as the frail but needy mother of eight starvelings could bestow. . . . From the number of a religious class of which we were a happy member, we had seen a young companion, loving her teacher and evidently [P. 66] feeling the refining influence she shared with us, lured on by the love of ease to a position fuller than the rack of straining agony. A year or two later, and more than one who had listened to the dispensation of mercy, as it fell from the lips of a tenderly beloved pastor, in common with ourselves, forfeited for ever, without any ostensible motive, her own self respect. And later still, some five years since, the spoiler came among our own flock, and the child whom we had gathered from the crowded alley and watched over with the tenderness of an 'elder, not a better,' whose growing indications of talent and quickness had gratified our pride, was won over to the evil one by the glittering lights and gay decorations of an evening ball.

 

P. 69: Try to . . . remember that your own virtue is not so much your own merit as the effect of circumstances over which you had no control. There are exceptions to this statement, but it is ordinarily so. Above all, consider that there are states of mind more guilty than some single deeds. We know of many young and in intention pure, whose minds are ripe for the sophistries which at first delude, were they left unprotected by circumstances or friends. They have become so by devout reading of French and German romances, which leave them destitute of distinct ideas of right and wrong. The coarse vulgarity of the French is perhaps less dangerous that the mystic grace of the German, and might act as an antidote on a very strong mind. But the latter is rapidly pervading even French literature, and you may be sure that no knowledge of real life can be half so dangerous to young persons as the reading they find for themselves.

 

P. 70: Next to this culture of self comes your influence upon the minds of men. Very few of you know how great this is; still less how great it might be. Shame has little restraining influence on the profligacy of men, in the present condition of society. And what wonder? Women have universally considered it due to their own delicacy to ignore the private delinquencies of those whom they meet in society, to treat all agreeable and well-bred persons as if they stood on the same platform of moral excellence.

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Chapter IX. REFORMS

P. 76: And the strength of the impulses which have led to recent philanthropic action cannot be estimated from a better premise than the fact that they have swollen and burst forth rather in despite of those to whom they looked for aid, than from any encouragement thence received. Slaves groan in their chains, drunkards quarrel in their cups, the strong men of rival nations go forth to rob one another, the miserable women of the crowded city, cheated out of the just worth of her womanly craft, sells her virtue to buy bread for her children; society pets and honors him who buys its, and crushes her like a worm beneath its foot; and still the mass of men look on and say, 'We cannot free the slave, we dare not close the grog-shop, we will vote for the defenders of the war, we will buy cheap clothing, and hold out no hand to help the sinking seamstress, -- nay we will keep ourselves in good fellowship with the seducer; for all you who have interested yourselves in these matters of reform, have gone too far. You are fanatics, all of you, as pestilential as the very curses you undertake to remove. Beside, abolition is not a gospel; peace is not a gospel; temperance is not a gospel; but these 'three are one' in the Gospel of Christ. We believe that; we teach that; it includes all these. Have but a little patience, and moral reform itself will be the natural and beautiful fruit of its wide diffusion.'

 

Patience, indeed! we have listened long enough to this . . . .

 

P. 82: A false reproach has been many times thrown upon the advocates of modern reform. it has been said that in their fanaticism they have become men of one idea, devoured by their own zeal in behalf of a hobby [horse] well-nigh ridden to death, and that such is not the true spirit in which to undertake a reform. . . .

 

P. 83: there is no modern reform that we take so little interest in as the movement in regard to the rights of women. It is true that there have been moments in ur life when we would have given worlds to have sat for an instant on the bench, to have thrown one vote in the national assembly, to have spoken one hour at a caucus, or have held a governor's commission just long enough to freely resign it. But while the hot torrent of our blod asked for this, we never for a moment supposed that the court-room, the council-hall, or the caucus was a proper place for us. We only felt that if the men of our country had dwindled into caitiffs [despicable cowards], it had the more need of her women. The business of our country and our age, it has been most truly said, is to organize the rights of man. One of the holiest of his rights is to find woman her proper place. It is he who is robbed by a wrong condition of things. We doubt very much whether Providence ever intended that women should personally share the duties of the commonwealth. We feel that this is utterly incompatible with the more precious and positive duties [p. 84] of the nursery and the fireside. But we long for the time to come when a finished education shall be every woman's birthright; when the respect of the other sex shall be her legitimate inheritance; when the woman of any rank will be able to obtain a livelihood for herself or her children without overtasking the generosity of man; when she shall no longer find herself, even for a moment, a tool or a plaything. We would willingly listen to her voice in the religious assembly.; we teach that; it includes all these. Have but a little patience, and moral reform itself will be the natural and beautiful fruit of its wide diffusion.