Justice. 2 November 1895

Critical Chronicle —
Socialism and “Free Love”

Source: “Critical Chronicle – Socialism and ‘Free Love’”, Justice, p.1., 2 November 1895, anon.;
A front page article on the Lanchester affair;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.

Edith Lanchester having been released from her short confinement as a lunatic, owing to the laudable activity and zeal of Sullivan, Mrs. Gray, Lansbury, Burrows, and others, backed up by the publicity given to the matter by the press, we can heartily congratulate her upon her escape from the hand of the keeper of a private asylum. Nobody seriously pretended that she was mad, in the ordinary sense of that word, and it is strange that a respectable physician like Dr. Blandford should have lent himself to what was in effect a family conspiracy to prevent our comrade from taking a course which a father and mother and brothers and sisters would naturally disapprove of under existing conditions. She is lucky to have got out so soon and so easily, and probably what has happened will lead to some further reform in our lunacy laws. That, at any rate, will be one good result arising from a very high-handed proceeding on the part of the Lanchester family. If everybody who holds that our present marriage laws are harmful, or who enters into connection with the other sex on terms not recognised by those laws, is to be haled into custody as mad, manifestly a very large part of the community would be liable to be adjudicated insane and locked up to-morrow. It is quite possible, indeed, that if Miss Lanchester had not been well-known in Battersea, and possessed of a number of vigorous friends, she might have remained in custody for a considerable time. However, she is now at large, and at liberty once more to do what she pleases, and we are very glad indeed that she is – glad also that her case will render it difficult for similar action to be taken in the future.

But now we think a few remarks are called for in regard to the main question. We hold and we always have held that the present system of marriage, which is in the main property marriage, is good neither for men nor women and that until the relations of the sexes are placed upon a sounder basis we shall be continuously confronted by the numerous recognised, but more or less temporary, illicit connections that have always accompanied this property-marriage in all its forms. The cause of the mischief is, as also we have frequently contended, chiefly economic. Give women an independent economic status at the same time that men have an independent economic status – which the majority of men certainly have not to-day – and there will be no further need for formalities and restrictions which are considered necessary to maintain a permanent connection between a man and a woman now. Both sides being then perfectly free and with no fear as to the livelihood of themselves or the maintenance and education of their children in the future will be able to fully protect their own personalities without harm to anybody else.

We are very far from this point as yet; and though we are as much opposed to the present marriage laws as a final solution of the relation between the sexes as the most vehement “new woman” can be, we have the right to ask that the question shall not be publicly raised in an acute form by an official member of the Social-Democratic Federation without any conference whatever with , other comrades. Miss Lanchester may be perfectly right in her contentions in the abstract. So far as that goes we do not differ from her. But we are living, in the world as it is; and just as we Socialists cannot effectively enter our protest against capitalism by individual anarchistic solution or personal revolt, so neither can we usefully determine that each of us shall go his or her own way in business, in pleasure, and particularly in sexual intercourse, regardless of the harm which our behaviour may do to others. We ought not to take a serious step of this kind, we say, without considering the injury we may do to our own comrades; to our immediate family connections; or which is perhaps the most important point of all – to the children we may bring into the world, who have no say as to the terms on which they shall begotten; yet these children will probably have to put up with unjust insult and contumely in consequence of the decision two individuals arrive at as to their coming together. It is noteworthy, also, that those who claim the utmost latitude for women at large in these matters have so far been very careful that their own children should be duly and legally married.

Although, however, we hold that it is better in present conditions that the marriage law should be complied with, no one has the right to interfere with any arrangement that two people of full age choose to make in regard to their own persons.