The Ten Commandments
A book by Joseph Lewis
The Seventh Commandment


Page 395The Seventh Commandment Page 396

"Thou shalt not commit adultery."Page 397

 
The Sin of Sex and Some Aspects of Adultery

"This is the Commandment we rarely mention," say the clergy. [*1] Why? Because it deals with the forbidden subject of sex. Sex was made a taboo subject by the perverted views of religion. In addition to the passions associated with sexual activity, the mysterious mechanism for the reproduction of life has awed the ignorant and been responsible for the weirdest superstitions.

The suppression of any form of happiness and the mortification of the flesh have been the two basic requirements of nearly all religious systems. The earth is the place to suffer the pangs of hell in order to experience the joys of heaven. Merely to be familiar with the manifestations of the sexual impulse means being tainted with the knowledge of sex. The individual who has once experienced sexual gratification of any kind, no matter how remote from the intention of this Commandment, is, according to the clergy, placed forever beyond the pale of the holy, the sanctified and the blessed.

I am constrained to continue to quote the "inspired" words of this same clergyman who says, "The time for the discussion of this Commandment should be carefully chosen," but "if anything is a sin, it must be so named and declared."

That is why for centuries the discussion of sex and sexual conduct has been virtually prohibited and the most severe penalties inflicted on those striving to throw some light on this subject, ignorance of which has caused so much misery among mankind.

Sex was under such a taboo in Puritan America that, in order to avoid mentioning the parts of the animals used for food, new Page 398 words were invented, such as "white meat" instead of "breast of chicken," and "drum stick" and "second joint" for the leg. [*2]

For inadvertently omitting the word "not" from this Commandment, a London publisher by the name of Moore was imprisoned for two years. [*3] This is indicative of what severe punishment has been imposed on men and women whose only crime was to discuss some phase of sex. With such restrictions, is it any wonder that sex has been so clouded in mystery and ignorance? As an illustration: "The person who was willing to break the Seventh Commandment but never on Sunday, because of early having been taught by the Fourth Commandment to keep the Sabbath day holy." [*4]

It was an old superstition that a child born on a Sunday had been conceived on a Sunday, and as sexual indulgence on the Sabbath was prohibited by Christian law, such indulgence was considered an offense to God. As a rule, children born on a Sunday were considered omens of sin and denied baptism, as in the case of Benjamin Franklin, mentioned in a previous chapter.

The Rev. Frederick David Niedermeyer expresses the inhibitions regarding sex in the following statement:

"...that our bodies, though ours, are also God's, and that they are to be the dwelling places of the Holy Spirit when we become believers in Christ Jesus." To that extent, our bodies should not be touched by another person "except for the conventional contacts approved by society and which can be made without embarrassment in the presence of witnesses, such as the shaking of hands which is vastly different from a lingering handclasp.... This Commandment forbids immodesty in dress. It also forbids insinuating words and gestures, and actions that have a questionable or undesirable meaning." He speaks of the danger of "petting parties," and declares that "many violations of this Commandment are traceable to unsanctioned familiarities in parked automobiles." Yet he confesses that "it is difficult to be pure in mind and thought when so many enticements assail us.... The stage, too, Page 399 offers many things that make it hard for men to keep their minds free from thoughts and imaginings that defile." [*5]

No wonder this clergyman said that "Christ's interpretation of the Seventh Commandment is staggering"! Jesus said, "Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart." [**6]

The Rev. J. A. Hayes, in discussing this Commandment, states that "promiscuous fondling is dangerous." [*7] The Rev. J. C. Masse says: [*8]

"The intimacies of life are no longer regarded as reason for blush and embarrassment, and the young men and women discuss with perfect freedom things which their mothers did not breathe aloud. Added to this familiarity of conversation is the familiarity of contact. Young women are crowded into stores where behind counters they are man-handled in narrow passages till they lose the sense of personal purity in such contact. Our subways and street cars are so crowded that in the jam many a girl is set upon all sides until she loses any sense of personal propriety in her body. Then there is the question of dress: the exposure, the suggestiveness and the open familiarity with all parts of the body occasioned by bathing suits and décolleté dressing for so-called social functions. The modern dance with its close and familiar contact of body, its sensuous motions, set to the strain of sensuous music. In our colleges, biology classes are now made open forums in coeducational institutions, where boys and girls in their late teens sit to discuss the origins of life, and in their laboratory work, together dissect those organs upon which God has put honor and secrecy at the same time, with the same open familiarity that they give to the dissection of a flower."

The Rev. Mr. Masse undoubtedly would have us follow the custom of St. Vincent, who, to avoid seeing his sexual organs, would undress Page 400 in the dark. And that is not all. He further says: "Caressing, kissing and hugging become familiar pastimes of many young men and women who should be put in strait-jackets until they learn some sense of decency and find some sense of modesty."

The Rev. G. Campbell Morgan tells us that "unfaithfulness before marriage is as much adultery as unfaithfulness after marriage." He also states:

"The adulterer is the enemy of the state, and as such, after being divorced in the divorce court, should be imprisoned by the criminal courts. The man or woman upon whose guilt the marriage tie is broken, no Christian minister of any denomination has the right to remarry. It is an act of treason to the state to allow such persons to go free. They should be incarcerated in separation from the other sex to the end of their days, and then they could not wipe out the wrong they did the nation when by unchaste action they struck a blow at the family.... The prevalent notion that incompatibility of temperament is sufficient for divorce is a blow at the very throne of God.... Purity must refuse to give a moment's countenance in any form to such a doctrine of hell. The command is a simple, unqualified, irrevocable negative.... A sevenfold vice is this sin of unchaste conduct, being a sin against the Individual, the Family, the Nation, the Race, the Universe and God." [*9]

Does anyone need a better illustration of the corrupting and perverting influence of the Bible upon human thought and action than these perfidious words from the warped mentality of this reverend gentleman?

Yet this same clergyman tells us that the profligate David was a man after God's own heart, and that the debauchee Solomon was a character of exemplary virtue.

It is not surprising that the eminent historian, W. E. H. Lecky, commented: "It was a favorite doctrine of the Christian father that concupiscence, or the sexual passion, was the 'original sin' of human nature." [*10Page 401

The Rev. J. H. Powell, Jr., [**11] has the honesty to say regarding this Commandment that the death penalty provided for its violation "is not going to safeguard all the homes of the land either from adultery or from all the loss of affection and the development of other attachments that will undermine the happiness of the home. [*12] With reference to Jesus' "staggering" interpretation of this Commandment, he says: "I presume none of us is pure in heart, and we know within ourselves the burnings of wrong desire." [*13]

Nor must we omit an expression on the subject by the Reverend James M. Gillis, C.S.P., whose opinions we have already encountered. He puts together the only two parts of the Decalogue that deal with sex, and says: "These two Commandments, 'Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery,' and 'Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor's Wife,' bring us face to face with the ugly sin of lust, lust in the flesh and lust in the mind, and no man who respects himself and his audience can approach that subject without misgivings." [*14] Having professed the vows of celibacy, any act or thought of sex is lust in the mind of this Catholic theologian. He continues: "There is no happiness in sin, any kind of sin, and the sin of impurity is the surest way of misery."

Why should any act dealing with sex be condemned as sin? Why should a celibate priest brand the joys of the sexual embrace as the "surest way to misery"? Since he himself lacks experience, how can he speak with authority on this vital phase of life? In contradiction to his statement, I say that there are no sins of the flesh, there is only ignorance. Ignorance is the cause of mankind's misery. This ecclesiast evidently received his sexual knowledge from the Bible. Outside of this Commandment, the only references to sex in the Bible deal with rape, incest, sodomy, whoremongering, sexual perversions and other reprehensible deeds within the sexual realm. There is not one enlightening truth about sex within its pages. Page 402

"Men and women," he says, "plunge into it [satisfaction of the sins of the flesh] seeking happiness and they achieve only anguish." I deny this. Such a statement is a libel on honest men and women. There is more purity in the passionate embrace of lovers who have vowed eternal devotion to each other than in all the systems of religion ever invented, and in the vows of purity of all the celibates that ever lived. Devotion to one's mate is a higher virtue than celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom of God.

This Catholic priest does admit, however, that he feels the urges of sex. He confesses: "... We are drawn with a fierce attraction and with what seems at times irresistible force towards impurity," and admonishes: "Some persons may think that a good man is one who experiences no great temptation and that a bad man is one who has been cursed by the inheritance of a particularly passionate nature. But they who imagine such things can never have read the lives of the saints." The concluding statements of the Rev. Mr. Gillis are too important not to mention. He says: "A god does not go lusting about, a victim to the passions of the body."

How naïve and contradictory! Does he not preach that Mary, the betrothed of Joseph, was begotten with child by the Holy Ghost? [**15] By the violation of the previous Commandment, Christian "salvation" was gained, and by the violation of this Commandment Christianity was born. And did not an angel of the Lord come down to visit Elizabeth, the cousin of Mary, when it was discovered that her husband Zachariah was old in years? The Bible itself furnishes the evidence that she conceived and bore a son. [*16] In fact, from time immemorial the gods in song and fable have all too often lusted after the daughters of men.

As we discovered that ministers of religion knew little about the original meanings of the previous Commandments, so we find them equally ignorant about this one. To quote one is to quote them all. Page 403 Each has repeated almost verbatim the meaningless words of the others. This is particularly unfortunate because this Commandment is supposed to deal with the most vital and compelling force of existence, proper knowledge of which would prevent much of the misery and at least half the crimes which beset the human race. And how often has sex ignorance been the major cause of an adulterous act! The tragedies resulting from ignorance of sex are ten thousand times more stark than the pen can describe.

Since sex plays so vital a part in life, why did not the Bible God, in his "infinite" wisdom, give us more knowledge of proper sexual conduct than is contained in the words "Thou shalt not commit adultery"? If, according to the clergy, God made adultery a crime, it would have been just as easy for him -- since he was all-powerful -- to make adultery impossible. He could have made men and women of such a nature that when mated by love no outside attraction could possibly induce them to commit the sexual act with another person.

 
What Is Adultery?

Before the meaning and purpose of this Commandment can be understood, we must know what it is that must not be committed. Is the sex act adulterous only when committed in violation of the marriage vow, or does any promiscuous sexual relation come within the scope of its meaning? Is Jesus' definition of adultery to be followed, or must there be actual physical contact? Does prostitution violate this Commandment? What about polygamy and polyandry? Are these social customs prohibited by this Commandment? Are those guilty of incest, sodomy and other sexual perversions violators of this precept of the Decalogue? How are we to judge homosexuality, consanguinity and other unusual phases of sexual conduct? Does the failure to be specific as to what adultery is invalidate this Commandment, just as we found the failure to be definite a fault of the previous ones?

Why is there no provision for punishment if this Commandment Page 404 is violated, or reward offered for its observance? Was it for the same reason that no punishment or reward was provided for the observance of the sixth? Was this Commandment imposed on the early Hebrews because of certain taboos associated with sexual conduct, just as we found the previous Commandment not to kill was a taboo because of the fear of blood pollution? Is this Commandment, when strictly interpreted, like the previous one, impossible of observance? Just as the Sixth Commandment was contrary to the fundamental law of life, is this one equally in conflict with the basic law governing the instinct of self-preservation in the perpetuation of the race?

Unless we are acquainted with all phases of sexual conduct, how are we to understand what to do and what to abstain from doing? Without sex there can be no life, and as there are a multitude of regulations concerning sexual expression, some approved and some disapproved, depending on the time and place, how are we to determine which rules of sexual conduct to follow? Variations in sexual conduct are the result of the great disparity between the sex mechanism of man and woman. As a result of this great difference, woman has from time immemorial been forced to play, in the drama of life, the wife, the mother, the virgin and the prostitute.

Is a man, because of his inability to procreate, exempt from the sexual restrictions imposed on his female partner? Can any rules governing sexual conduct be universally applied? Is it possible for one rule to apply dogmatically to all irrespective of the variegated social customs existing in different parts of the world? If not, then of what value is this Commandment? And why was only adultery prohibited? Why not all sexual manifestations that have proved detrimental?

Is adultery committed only when the marriage vow is violated? If so, does it apply to both members of the union or only to one? And if only one, which one -- the husband or wife? And if the wife, why is the husband exempt? And if there are exceptions to this Commandment, why were they not stated? If this Commandment, as generally accepted, means a sex act "in violation of the marriage Page 405 bed," why were not other sex acts, often far more pernicious than mere unfaithfulness, included?

Then again, how can this Commandment be construed as a prohibition against adultery in the modern sense of the word, when the Children of Israel practiced polygamy at the time this Commandment was formulated?

A law or precept specifically designed to govern conditions in a particular type of society often cannot be utilized in an altogether different type of society. While conditions may provoke certain acts which the law was designed to prevent in one society, those conditions may be completely absent in another, thereby making the law unnecessary. No better illustration could be given to emphasize the inapplicability of certain edicts than the fact that in a polygamous state there is much less occasion for committing adultery than in the more restrictive state of monogamy. Polygamy, which was an accepted custom in Biblical times, is now actually prohibited by law in modern society.

The authoritative New Standard Bible Dictionary states that "the prohibition of the Seventh Commandment is indeed general; but it leaves open the question of what constitutes adultery for a man and what for a woman." It was the doctrine of the Roman jurists that adultery is a crime when committed by the wife, and the wife only, because of the danger of introducing strange children to the husband. [*17]

One of the greatest of the Christian fathers of the latter half of the fourth century distinguished between adultery and fornication committed by a married man. He decided that the sexual act with a married woman was adultery, with an unmarried woman merely fornication. [*18]

People in different countries have different ideas regarding sexual behavior, and so we find among the Creek Indians that it was Page 406 considered adultery if a man took a pitcher of water off a woman's head and drank from it. [*19]

The Roman Catholic Church condemns as adulterous the marriage of a Catholic with a Protestant. There still remains in force, as established by the Eastern Church of the Council at Trullo in the seventh century, the nullity of marriages between Catholics and heretics. The Greek Church also forbids the marriage of one of its followers with a Roman Catholic. [*20] The Jewish law does not recognize the marriage of a Jew with a person of another belief. Tertullian branded as fornication the marriage of a Christian with a pagan.

Cotton Mather rendered this infallible judgment:

"God gave to Adam a law of universal obedience written in his heart.... This law, so written in the heart, continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness after the fall of man, and was delivered by God on Mount Sinai."

As a result, the Massachusetts courts in 1631 ordered that "if any man shall have carnal copulation with another man's wife, they both shall be punished by death." This is supported by the Biblical text in Leviticus, Chapter 20, verse 10:

10. And the man that committeth adultery with another man's wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbor's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.

The criminal code of New York State defines adultery as "intercourse between two persons one of which is married." As this law is interpreted by the highest legal authority of the State, it excludes from its provision the intercourse of two adults who are not married. In other words, this law means that sexual relations between two unmarried people is not regarded as adultery or even as a crime. It recognizes by its omission the irrepressible sexual instincts, and Page 407 makes provision for the punishment for adultery, as so defined, merely as a protection of the parties in the married union. This law, however, does not exempt the man who is liable to the same prosecution as the woman. As a result, this law is rarely ever enforced, and in the few cases which have come before the courts, the guilty parties have been penalized only by a very small fine. Pope Boniface VIII made a unique comment when he said: "There is no more harm in adultery than in rubbing one's hands together." [*21]

In some places there is no definite provision in law for the punishment of adulterers. In others, it ranges from a fine of five dollars to a year's imprisonment. An illustration is the law that prevails in the town of Cardiff, which lies partly in Maryland and partly in Pennsylvania. If a person commits adultery on one side of the street, he may suffer the extreme punishment of a fine of ten dollars. On the other side of the street, within the boundary of the other State, he is subject to a fine of five hundred dollars or incarceration in jail for one year. [*22] Violators have been extremely sagacious in avoiding the severer penalty.

Was Solomon guilty of adultery when he indulged in the sexual embrace with more than seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines? Or was Solomon like the Duke of Ferrara (Niccolo D'Este), who had ninety-two illegitimate children, yet made a law that marital infidelity should be punishable by death? [*23]

These men were not the only ones who indulged carnally with other men's wives. There have been other instances which make Solomon's affair puny by comparison. The king of Benin had over four thousand wives -- although he generously gave some away to those of his male servants who had rendered him faithful service. In Ashanti, the law limited the king to three thousand, three hundred and thirty-three wives. Both the kings of Mtessa and Uganda and the king of Loango are said to have had over seven thousand Page 408 wives. [*24] Mushidi, the king of Budkey in the Belgian Congo, was the father of nine hundred and ten children. King Chulalongkorn, Rama V, the old king of Siam, had three thousand wives and three hundred and seventy children -- one hundred and thirty-four sons and two hundred and thirty-six daughters. John Dunn, the white king of Sululand, married forty wives and was the father of one hundred and twenty children, seventy of whom are said to be alive today. Abas Mirza, Prince Royal of Persia, became the father of sixteen children in a single night, and the following day six more of his wives gave birth to his offspring. [*25] Our own Brigham Young had nineteen wives and fifty-six children.

Were these men guilty of adultery, and if so, why were they permitted to continue these violations with complete impunity?

Was Shakespeare right when he said:

"Adultery?
Thou shalt not die; die for adultery: No:
The worm goes to't, and the small gilded fly
Does lecher in my sight.
Let copulation thrive; for Gloster's bastard son
Was kinder to his father than my daughters
Got 'tween the lawful sheets." [*26]

 
Bastardy

If adultery is an act which the Bible God seeks to prevent, then a child born of an adulterous union should in some way be distinguished from children born in the bonds of matrimony. But are children born out of wedlock any different from children born in wedlock? In further Biblical condemnation of adultery, we quote from Deuteronomy, Chapter 23, verse 2:

2. A bastard shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord; even to his tenth generation shall he not enter into the congregation of the Lord. Page 409

As far as nature is concerned, a woman may have twenty children by twenty different fathers, and a father may have a thousand children with as many different mothers. Nature is not concerned with marriage -- that is purely a man-made institution; she is, however, concerned with propagation, and propagation will continue regardless of the marriage customs that prevail. Thousands of children are born each year from the seed of men other than those they call father. The courts are continually called on to determine the parentage of children where a dispute of fatherhood arises. Long and bitter court battles have resulted because of the suspicion of husbands regarding the paternity of children. Shakespeare said, "It is a wise child that knows its own father."

At one time it was erroneously believed that the birth of twins was conclusive evidence of adultery on the part of the wife, as no man could be the father of two children born at the same time. Recently such a case came to public attention, reviving this primitive belief. Because his wife became the mother of twins, a Japanese, ironically in the Child Department of Kyoto Imperial University Hospital in Tokio, asked for a divorce on the ground that, according to ancient Japanese belief, the birth of twins indicated adultery on the part of the wife. [*27] Very often, when twins were born, one had to be killed. [*28]

If the Bible had given us the formula by which the true parentage of a child could be determined, that surely would have done more to prevent adultery than this Commandment. However, the Bible does contain a perfect and "infallible" formula to determine whether a woman has committed adultery, in the Book of Numbers, Chapter 5, verses 11 to 31:

11. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,

12. Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, If any man's wife go aside, and commit a trespass against him,

13. And a man lie with her carnally, and it be hid from the eyes of her husband, and be kept Page 410 close, and she be defiled, and there be no witness against her, neither she be taken with the manner;

14. And the spirit of jealousy come upon him, and he be jealous of his wife, and she be defiled; or if the spirit of jealousy come upon him, and he be jealous of his wife, and she be not defiled:

15. Then shall the man bring his wife unto the priest, and he shall bring her offering for her, the tenth part of an ephah of barley meal, he shall pour no oil upon it, nor put frankincense thereon; for it is an offering of jealousy, an offering of memorial, bringing iniquity to remembrance.

16. And the priest shall bring her near, and set her before the Lord:

17. And the priest shall take holy water in an earthen vessel, and of the dust that is in the floor of the tabernacle the priest shall take, and put it into the water:

18. And the priest shall set the woman before the Lord, and uncover the woman's head, and put the offering of memorial in her hands, which is the jealousy offering: and the priest shall have in his hand the bitter water that causeth the curse:

19. And the priest shall charge her by an oath, and say unto the woman, If no man have lain with thee, and if thou hast not gone aside to uncleanness with another instead of thy husband, be thou free from this bitter water that causeth the curse:

20. But if thou hast gone aside to another instead of thy husband, and if thou be defiled, and some man have lain with thee besides thine husband:

21. Then the priest shall charge the woman with an oath of cursing, and the priest shall say unto the woman, The Lord make thee a curse and an oath among thy people, when the Lord doth make thy thigh to rot, and thy belly to swell;

22. And this water that causeth the curse shall go into thy bowels, to make thy belly to swell, and thy thigh to rot. And the woman shall say, Amen, amen.

23. And the priest shall write these curses in a book, and he shall blot them out with the bitter water:

24. And he shall cause the woman to drink the bitter water that causeth the curse: and Page 411 the water that causeth the curse shall enter into her, and become bitter.

25. Then the priest shall take the jealousy offering out of the woman's hand, and shall wave the offering before the Lord, and offer it upon the altar:

26. And the priest shall take a handful of the offering, even the memorial thereof, and burn it upon the altar, and afterward shall cause the woman to drink the water.

27. And when he hath made her to drink the water, then it shall come to pass, that if she be defiled, and have done trespass against her husband, that the water that causeth the curse shall enter into her, and become bitter, and her belly shall swell, and her thigh shall rot: and the woman shall be a curse among her people.

28. And if the woman be not defiled, but be clean; then she shall be free, and shall conceive seed.

29. This is the law of jealousies, when a wife goeth aside to another instead of her husband, and is defiled;

30. Or when the spirit of jealousy cometh upon him, and he be jealous over his wife, and shall set the woman before the Lord and the priest shall execute upon her all this law.

31. Then shall the man be guiltless from iniquity, and this woman shall bear her iniquity.

This is the primitive "trial by ordeal." It was believed that a virtuous woman could surmount all obstacles and be immune to all defilement, just as it was believed that an honest man could survive the ordeal by fire. Could anything be more horrible than that such a test should be imposed upon an innocent woman to determine her faithfulness? Could anything be more monstrous? Can anyone conceive of anything more devilish? And yet this damnable and revolting test is found in the Bible as an infallible method -- an edict from God -- for determining female sexual purity! Think of it! Think also of the thousands of women who were brutally forced to make this humiliating, disgusting and self-convicting ordeal. Because were a woman as pure as the white of snow and as innocent as the day she Page 412 was born, she would be unable to survive such a test as this. Oh! How religion perverts the human mind!

This Bible formula belongs with the "infallible" test for determining witches which prevailed as late as the eighteenth century in Colonial America. Innocent women suspected of witchcraft were thrown into a river; if they swam to shore and safety, that was positive proof of their guilt, and they were therefore summarily killed; the women who drowned were innocent! They also practiced another infallible method, no doubt fashioned on this "trial by ordeal." Suspected women were stripped of their clothes, strapped to a bed, and sharp pointed needles were stuck into the most sensitive parts of their bodies. If they felt pain and shrieked for mercy, their cries were audible confessions of their guilt!

Equally strong was the belief among superstitious people that a woman who lost her milk during the nursing period was guilty of adultery, and such grounds were sufficient for divorce. [*29]

Roman history records the custom of exposing a newborn infant on a shield laid on the surface of a river when the father had cause to doubt its legitimacy.

It was also the custom in primitive times, when an infant's legitimacy was doubted, to throw it into the water. If it floated, that proved its legitimacy; if it sank, it was a bastard. [**30] This may have accounted for the original story of why Moses was put in the bulrushes, rather than the legend of Pharaoh's wrath. Moses was the son of Amram, who had married his paternal aunt, which, according to Hebrew law, was an incestuous union.

The Celts also have been known to use the water test to determine the legitimacy of children. They left this important matter to the judgment of the river Rhine. Infants would be thrown into the water, Page 413 and if they were bastards, the pure and stern river drowned them; but if they were trueborn, the waters gently wafted them into the mother's trembling arms. [*31]

Science has only recently made it possible to determine parentage with some degree of accuracy by comparing the structure and composition of the father's blood with that of the child. [**32]

If each child born out of wedlock were distinguished by some mark of illegitimacy, then this Commandment would be a warning to the woman, at least, to avoid extramarital relations. Or if, when an adulterous act was about to be committed, the woman suddenly became "as cold as ice" and the man physically impotent, then this Commandment would indeed have some value as a warning; but the reverse is generally true -- "forbidden sweets" are often "the sweetest" and clandestine sexual relations are usually the result of irresistible passion.

H. L. Mencken is credited with the statement that many today would take pride if they could claim illegitimate kinship with George Washington or any other equally prominent person of the past.

Judging from the men and women who have distinguished themselves by singular achievements, children born of adulterous unions are no less favored than those born within the bonds of marriage.

Pericles? son of the great Pericles and the celebrated courtesan Aspasia, was an able general.

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1515), one of the world's most versatile geniuses, was the illegitimate son of a Florentine lawyer and a mother of humble station. Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-1375), celebrated Italian writer and scholar, and author of the Decameron, was a love Page 414 child. Charlemagne never denied his illegitimacy. Clement VII, an illegitimate son, was Pope from 1524 to 1534, despite the previous Biblical quotation which said that "a bastard shall not enter the congregation of the Lord." Erasmus, "the man who laid the eggs that Luther hatched," was the son of a Dutch parish priest and his housekeeper servant. [*33] Jean d'Alembert (1717-1783), one of the most brilliant mathematicians and writers of his time, famous for his work on the great French Encyclopedia, was the illegitimate son of an artillery officer and was picked up as an infant on a doorstep in Paris. August Strindberg and Alexander Dumas fils were unlawfully begotten.

Abraham Lincoln and Alexander Hamilton were born from men other than those to whom their mothers were married. James Smithson (1765-1829), founder of the Smithsonian Institution, which is "devoted to the increase and diffusion of learning among men," was born in France, the natural son of Hugh Smithson, first Duke of Northumberland, and Mrs. Elizabeth Keate Macie. [**34]

Booker T. Washington, great Negro educator, and George Washington Carver, Negro scientist whose achievements in the field of food and plant chemistry are acclaimed the world over, did not know who their fathers were.

Even the Bible records some notable instances of illegitimate births. Solomon was a bastard, and his descendant, Jesus, was born from seed other than his father's. An "angel" of the Lord committed adultery with Elizabeth, and John the Baptist was born.

Bastardy or not, one thing is definite -- that the child is not responsible for the acts of its parents. It is born as the result of the union of a man and a woman regardless of the laws regulating such conduct. No child should have to bear the stigma of illegitimacy. Illegitimacy is a wrong, not of nature, but of law and religion. Was not Shakespeare right when he said: Page 415

"... Why bastard? wherefore base?
When my dimensions are as well compact,
My mind as generous and my shape as true,
As honest madam's issue? Why brand they us
With base? with baseness? bastardy? base, base?
Who in the lusty stealth of nature take
More composition and fierce quality
Than doth, within a dull, stale, tired bed,
Go to the creating a whole tribe of fops,
Got 'tween asleep and wake? ...
... I grow; I prosper:
Now, gods, stand up for bastards!" [*35]

   

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