Front Page Titles (by Subject) chapter ii: Of the Duties of the Married State - The Whole Duty of Man According to the Law of Nature
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
chapter ii: Of the Duties of the Married State - Samuel von Pufendorf, The Whole Duty of Man According to the Law of Nature 
The Whole Duty of Man According to the Law of Nature, trans. Andrew Tooke, ed. Ian Hunter and David Saunders, with Two Discourses and a Commentary by Jean Barbeyrac, trans. David Saunders (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2003).
About Liberty Fund:
The copyright to this edition, in both print and electronic forms, is held by Liberty Fund, Inc.
Fair use statement:
Of the Duties of the Married State
I.Matrimony. L. N. N. l. 6. c. 1.Among those States of Man which we have call’d Adventitious, or in which a Man is placed by some antecedent human Act, Matrimony obtains the first Place. * Which also is the chief Representation of the Social Life, and the Seed-Plot of Mankind.
II.Instituted by Nature.And, first, it is certain, That that ardent Propensity found to be in both Sexes to each other, was not implanted in them by the All-wise Creator, merely that they might receive the Satisfaction of a vain Pleasure; for had it been so, nothing could have been the Occasion of greater Brutishness and Confusion in the World; but that hereby Married Persons might take the greater Delight in each other’s Company; and that both might with the more Chearfulness apply themselves to the necessary Business of Propagation, and go through those Cares and Troubles which accompany the Breeding and Education of Children. Hence it follows, That all Use of the Parts destin’d by Nature for this Work, is contrary to the Law Natural, if it tends not to this End. On which Account also, are forbidden all Lusts for a different Species, or for the same Sex; all filthy Pollutions; and indeed, all Copulations out of the State of Matrimony, whether with the mutual Consent of both Parties, or against the Will of the Woman.
III.Obligation to Matrimony. L. N. N. l. 6. c. 1. §3.The Obligation under which we lye to contract Matrimony, may be consider’d either with respect to Mankind in general, or to our particular Station and Relation in the World. The Strength of the former of these, consists in this, That the Propagation of Mankind, neither can nor ought to be kept up by promiscuous and uncertain Copulations, but is to be limited and circumscribed by the Laws of Wedlock, and only to be endeavour’d in a married State: For without this no Man can imagine any Decency or orderly Society among Men, nor any Observation of the Civil Rules of Life.
But Men singly consider’d, are obliged to enter the Matrimonial State, when a convenient Occasion offers it self; whereto also not only a mature Age, and an Ability for Generation‐Work10 is necessary, but there ought beside to be a Possibility of lighting on a Person of the like Condition, and a Capacity of maintaining a Wife, and the Posterity she shall bring forth; and that the Man may be such a one as is fit to become the Master of a Family.
Not still, but that any Man is excepted from this Duty, who betakes himself to a chaste Single Life, finding his Constitution accommodated thereto, and that he is capable in that, rather than in the Married State, to be useful to Mankind, or to the Commonwealth; especially also, if the Case be so, that there is no Fear of the Want of People.
IV.Matrimonial Contract. L. N. N. l. 6. c. 1. §9.Between those who are about to take upon themselves the Married State, a Contract ought, and is wont to intervene, which, if it be Regular and Perfect, consists of these Heads:
First, Because the Man (to whom it is most agreeable to the Nature of both Sexes, that the Contract should owe its Original) intends hereby to get himself Children of his own, not spurious or supposititious; therefore the Woman ought to plight her Troth 11 to the Man, That she will permit the Use of her Body to no other Man but to him; the same, on the other Hand, being requir’d of the Husband.
And, Secondly, Since nothing can be more flatly contrary to a Social and Civil Life, than a vagabond, desultory, and changeable Way of Living, without any Home, or certain Seat of his Fortunes; and since the Education of that which is the Off‐spring of both, is most conveniently taken Care of by the joint Help of both Parents together: And whereas continual Cohabitation brings more of Pleasure and Comfort to a Couple who are well match’d, whereby also the Husband may have the greater Assurance of his Wife’s Chastity; therefore the Wife does moreover ingage her Faith to her Husband, That she will always cohabit with him, and join her self in the strictest Bond of Society, and become of the same Family with him. And this mutual Promise must be supposed to be made from the Husband to her of the like Cohabitation, the Nature of this State so requiring.
But because it is not only agreeable to the natural Condition of both Sexes, that the Case of the Husband should be the more Honourable of the two; but that he should also be the Head of the Family, of which himself is the Author; it follows, That the Wife ought to be subject to his Direction in Matters relating to their mutual State and to their Household. Hence it is the Prerogative of the Husband, to chuse his Habitation, and she may not against his Will, wander abroad, or lodge apart.
Yet it does not seem essentially necessary to Matrimony, that the Man should have Power of Life and Death, or of inflicting any grievous Punishment, as neither of disposing at his Pleasure of all the Estate or Goods of his Wife: But these Points may be settled between the Married Couple, by peculiar Agreements, or by the municipal Laws of the Place.
V.One Man and one Woman. L. N. N. l. 6. c. 1. §19.Now tho’ ’tis manifestly repugnant to the Law of Nature, that one Woman should have more Men than one at once; yet it obtain’d among the Jews of old, and many other Nations, that one Man might have two or more Wives. Nevertheless, let us allow never so little Weight to Arguments brought from the primitive Institution of Marriage deliver’d in Holy Writ;* yet it will appear from right Reason, That ’tis much more decent and fit for one Man to be content with one Woman. Which has been approved by the Practice of all the Christians through the World, that we know of, for so many Ages.
VI.Contract perpetual. L. N. N. l. 6. c. 1. §20, 21.Nor does the Nature of this strict Union tell us less plainly, That the Bond of Matrimony ought to be perpetual, and not to be unloosed, but by the Death of one Party; except the essential Articles of the principal Matrimonial Covenant be violated, either by Adultery, or a wicked and dishonest Desertion. But for ill Dispositions, which have not the same Effect with such lewd Desertion, it has obtained among Christians, that a Separation from Bed and Board shall be sufficient, without allowing any Ingagement in a new Wedlock. And one great Reason hereof, among others, is this, That too free a Liberty of Divorce might not give Incouragement to either Party to cherish a stubborn Temper; but rather, that the irremediable State of each, might persuade both to accommodate their Humours to one another, and to stir them both up to mutual Forbearance. For the rest, if any essential Article of the Matrimonial Contract be violated, the wronged Party only is discharged from the Obligation; the same still binding the other, so long as the former shall think good.
VII.Moral Impediments. L. N. N. l. 6. c. 1. §27.Any Man may contract with any Woman, where the Law makes no special Prohibition, if their Age and Constitution of Body render them capable of Matrimony, except some Moral Impediment be in the Way: Presupposing, That he or she is under a Moral Impediment, who are already married to some other Person.
VIII.Kindred L. N. N. l. 6. c. 1. §28.And it is accounted a Moral Impediment of lawful Matrimony, if the Parties are too nearly allied by Blood or by Affinity. On which Score, even by the Law of Nature, those Marriages are accounted incestuous and wicked, which are contracted between any Persons related in the Ascending or Descending Line. And for those in the other transverse Order, as with the Aunt, either on the Father’s or Mother’s Side, the Sister, &c. As also those in Affinity, as, with the Mother-in-law, Step-Mother, Step-Daughter, &c. Not only the positive Divine Law, but that of most civiliz’d Nations, with whom also all Christians agree, does abominate. Nay, the Special Laws of many Countries forbid Marriage even in the more remote Degrees, that so they may keep Men from breaking in upon those which are more sacred, by setting the Barrier at a greater Distance.
IX.Ceremony.Now as the Laws are wont to assign to other Contracts and Bargains some Solemnities, which being wanting, the Act shall not be adjudged of Validity: So also it is in Matrimony, where the Laws require, for the sake of Decency and good Order, that such or such Ceremonies be performed. And these, though not injoined by the Law Natural, yet without the same, those who are Subjects of such a Community,12 shall not consummate a legal Matrimony; or at least, such Contract shall not be allowed by the Publick to be effectual.
X.Mutual Duties.It is the Duty of a Husband to love his Wife, to cherish, direct and protect her; and of the Wife to love and honour her Husband, to be assistant to him, not only in begetting and educating his Children, but to bear her Part in the Domestick Cares. On both sides, the Nature of so strict an Union requires, That the Married Couple be Partakers as well in the good as ill Fortune of either, and that one succour the other in all Cases of Distress; moreover, That they prudently accommodate their Humours to each other; in which Matter, it is the Wife’s Duty to submit.
[*] Grotius de Jure Belli & Pacis, l. 2. c. 5. §9. &c.
[10.]I.e., the capacity to procreate.
[11.]I.e., the woman must promise to be sexually faithful.
[*] See Element. jurisprud. universal. l. 11. §7. Apol. §29. Eris Scandica. P. 48. & seq. p. 109.
[12.]The reference to “Subjects of such a Community” is Tooke’s innovation. Pufendorf refers only to those subject to the “civil laws” (leges civiles), which he is here treating as supplementary to the natural laws dictating monogamous perpetual unions. We recall that by civil laws Pufendorf means the positive laws of a particular state—here, the laws prescribing the form of marriage ceremonies—which should accord with the end of natural law (social peace) but are not the same.