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thirty, provided always (and to be sure, they will never mistake that word, either in an act of parliament, or out of an act of parliament) that all virgins, or reputed virgins,, who are passed the age of one and twenty, and have wherewithal to set up some honest, well-chined younger brother, but tarry in expectation of striking a country-squire or alderman's son, shall be likewise aierced the same sum for their maiden-heads. The ladies, perhaps, will here object, that it is bard to be taxed for an invisible estate ; but we say, No. We can name them a hundred tradesmen here in the city, that, since the revolution, have paid for what they never had ; those, for instance, that have been rated at four hundred pounds, when they were not really worth one; and yet so valuable a thing is reputation, whether we deserve it or no, lost nothing by the bargain.
They would have none excused from marriage, but only the impotent and frigid, which, by the bye, gentlemen, is full as severe, as if you should vote that all must troop to the wars, but the parsons, and desire you to erect a court in every county consisiting of balfa score experienced matrons, who shall have full authority to examine all persons, whom they suspect to carry clipped money about them, for fear they should put upon their spouses, when it is not in their power to change it. Pray not altogether so hasty, fair ladies. Let your court have some men in it, and not all women: then we may expect to have justice done us; for experienced matrons are too much a party concerned to be trusted by themselves. We demand, whether it be convenient, that only vintners and aledrapers should have the sole right of determining measures. Vintners never think the measures small enough ; but it may so happen, that your experienced matrons, Anglis, your midwives, may be of a different opinion, and so think no measure large enough. Gentlemen, do but remember the Tryers, under the late reign of Fanaticism; they were a parcel of inquisitor-divines set up by the then no government, to license all such persons that were to be dispatched into the vineyard. Now these conscientious judges, if they had a quarrel to a man, certainly rejected him, and put him by, though, perhaps, he was master of a more unexceptionable talent than several others that had passed the pulpit-master before him. This needs no application.
They complain of the excessive multitude of misses and harlots, in and about the town, who, as they express it, divert the course of those streams that would otherwise run in the regular channel of matrimony. It is a sad truth, we confess it, the number of these interlopers is very grievous : and yet it is as sad a truth, that the petitioning ladies have occasioned it. Let them but leave quarrelling about jointures, and carry a little more christian complaisance about them, and the other fry would disappear in a moment: for whores in a state are like copper farthings in the way of trade, only used for the convenience of readier change. But, though ihese obdurate females are really accessory to the great increase of misses, they would have every per»on of quality who keeps one, in his own defence, pay a good swinging fine to the government. Is this reason
able or fair? Would governor Walker, do ye think, have done like a gentleman, if he had fined his heroes of Londonderry for feeding on horse-flesh, contrary to the statute, when they had nothing else to help themselves with? It is the same in all cases, where there is no choice but downright necessity.
They would have you enact, since they find wine is so potent a rival, that none but married men should have the privilege of entering into a tavern, that is, modestly speaking, of being drunk. With all our hearts, gentlemen, provided always, that none but married women shall be licensed to appear at the theatre, Chocolate-house, Whitehall, or the park; or, if they do, that any vigorous cavalier shall have full liberty to carry them off, without incurring the fate of poor Sir John Johnson.
To present you at one view, with the merits of the cause. The ladies are weary of lying alone, and so are we. They would fain be advantageously married, and so would your humble
servants. The quarrel, therefore, on their side, is unjustly begun. They look upon us to be their adversaries, whereas we have the same kind inclinations to their sex, as any of our fore-fathers; the same desires, the same wishes, by the same token, we heartily believe they have equal beauty, and equal, if not superior charms to any of their sex before them. But as, in a long tract of time, innovations cannot fail to start up; so the ladies, either presuming on their own strength, or on the inadvertency of the men, have trumped up several new doctrines upon us. A courtship, as the ladies are pleased to order it, is now the greatest penance any man in the world can undergo. We must swear as many oaths as would serve one of his majesty's largest garisons for a twelve-month, till we are believed. We must treat them like goddesses, lie prostrate at their feet, make presents so expensive and numerous, that, perhaps, the wife's portion will scarce make amends for what the mistress extorted from us. Because Jacob could serve two apprenticeships, for his Rachel, they imagine, that we must do the same; not considering, that the race of the Methuselahs and patriarchs is quite extinct, and that this Old Testament-lover, were be in our circumstances, who begin to decay at thirty, would have taken wiser and better measures.
These are our sentiments upon this subject : and, as we do not doubt the justice of this honourable house, so we little question, but that our cause will prevail, In a word, let lore be encouraged, and cruelty and coyness be punished,
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, shall ever pray.
A NEW BILL,
Quarto, containing Four Pages.
that is your safer name, and so we would advise you to title yourselves, we have received both your addresses, and both your suits lie before us. We confess that, to do you equal right, you both plead strongly, and pray heartily: however, the fervour of the suppliant does not always argue the honesty of the petition. The most unreasonable, most unjust things in the world, may be as vigo. rously prayed for as the best. A man, in his angry moments, may as zealously wish to see bis honest neighbour hanged, as he ever wished in a fit of sickness to be saved. The same tradesman's wife, that at morning service could think of nothing but Abraham's bosom, before night, perhaps, has altered her note, and prayed with greater vehemence to meet her gallant.
The merit, therefore, and not the oratory of the plea, is the business of our examination. But, before we descend to particulars, wę must so far join with you, to own your cause (that we may use your own phrase) a matter of the greatest consequence that ever came within our walls. For hymen and love, generation and progeny, the fulfilling of the great first commandment, increase and multiply,' is indeed an importance so high, that not only the present race of mankind, the now occupants of the world, but even the yet un. born, are concerned in it.
Having therefore duly weighed the whole controversy between the petitioners and remonstrancers, we must declare our ready tenderness, and, without partiality, favourable inclinations both to the complaints, and complainants, the aggrieved petitioners: for haying considered, that long customs, out of the memory of man, are, by the British constitution, equivalent to the inost binding laws; we find upon search, that England has been always the heaven of women, and also, by another customary female claim, that a woman never loses her honour; and, consequently, that the practised deference and complaisance to the sex is an unalienable right. Upon the said premises duly considered, as we sit here not to destroy fundamentals, but to support them, we must allow a great many unquestioned prerogatives, as their just and natural right; a fair Magna Charta on the soft sex's side.
Nevertheless, not to come to any conclusive determination, Causa inaudita, we think it highly concurrent with our own honour and justice, to discuss the main points in dispute between the ladies and batchelors, before we come to any final decision on either side.
First then, we cannot but take notice that the batchelors very unjustly charge the petitioners with difficult courtship: the pretend
ed servitude of tedious Jacob-prenticeships, &c. being in the whole a most notoriously false and malicious suggestion. For how can any man in his right wits believe that ten thousand green sickness maidens, subscribers to the petition, can be those hard-hearted Rachel mistresses, as if life, health, and love were so little dear to them, that they would rather die martyrs to oatmeal, loam, and chalk, than accept such able doctors and such pleasant physick for their recoveries, in that only Elixir Vitæ, man and matrimony.
Nay, do not the whole body of petitioners most frankly and generously avow, both for their majesties' and the nation's service, their ready inclinations and desires of recruiting the yearly Flandrian mortality, by an immediate consummation and propagation. Is not the fair Festival-sheet hung out, with all the heartiest bridal compliment, of 'Wake, sleepers, rise and eat?' And can the ungrateful batchelors talk of seven years courtship, after such endearing invitations! But, however, if by chance, once in an age, they meet with a thick-shelled bitter almond, must the generality of the sex, the tender pistachoes, requiring not half the cracking labour, and with ten times the sweeter kernel, be falsly reproached and reviled ?
And whereas the batchelors ridiculously object their fear and dread of entering into the matrimonial state, from the suggested frailty and brittleness of the weaker vessels: to obviate the folly of that fear, and the shallowness of that argument, we declare, Nemine contradicente, the fair sex, not to diminish their value, to be true precious porcelane, and it lies only in the gentle usage and tenderness of the bandling, to preserve them.
And we farther declare this petition of the longing ladies, notwithstanding the scurrilous batchelors ridiculing and censorious reflexions, to be as honest a supplication, as a prayer for daily bread; for every thing would live.
And whereas one great bar to matrimony are the common pretensions of good husbandry, in chusing rather to buy at Hackney, than keep a milcher of their own; as thereby endeavouring to avoid the expensive concomitants of wedlock. Now, as these unthinking remonstrancers never consider the dangerous risques of their own Latitudinarian principles and practices, in incurring the hazard of coming to Sassapiralla and Guiacum, and the rest of the dry drugs, infinitely more expensive than the objected matrimonial sweetmeats and caudles, gossipings and christenings, &c. the confectioners a much easier than the apothecaries bill, and one Dr. Wall a heavier incident charge than two Chamberlains.
We therefore think fit to lay before their eyes the too common too threatening malevolence of those malignant ascendants, viz. Venus in the lower house, and Mercury in the upper one ; and withal advise them to reflect, that the nursery of a whole fire-side is not half the expence of rearing of galloping runners into standing gouts. We could likewise further convince them, that the uni. versal havock of all the maims and cripples, from French chainshot and splinters got betwixt wind and water, is much the vaster hospital rent-charge, than the pensions of Chelsea and Chatham.
However, if no counsel nor precept can reduce them from their infamous reprobation to the honourable state, we hereby enact this punishment of their apostasy, that they live in their sins, and die in their shame; and, as the last publick brand, be utterly debarred even that common civility of bribing the searchers, and softening the bill of mortality, by slurring a shame-faced consumption upon 'a scandalous rot.
But to begin our examination into the petitioners greatest and loudest-tongued grievance, the multitude of misses; and all the fatal influences from those reigning ascendants; that not only, as the petitioners modestly complain, divert, but, as we may safely add, poison those wholesome streams which would otherwise run in the regular channel of matrimony; we shall here subjoin our power and authority for accomplishing a thorough reformation in this particular; with the following inflictions and punishment for the dis. couragement and suppression of the said notorious vice and enormity
Whereas therefore, to the scandal of the age, it has been often experienced, that a witty and beautiful spouse has been abandoned for a hard-favoured dowdy miss; under no other shadow of excuse, than the pretended discovery of having found a fiddle abroad, and therefore slighting the unmusical instrument at home. Now, in utter detestation of such abominable pretences, and such unnatural conjugal abdication, together with the manifest justice of Ler Talionis, we do hereby license and authorise the aforesaid fair abandoned, as well for the alleviation of doleful widowed nights, and virgin sheets, as for the support of the family, possibly in no small danger from such neglect and desertion, to borrow the assistance of some dignificd younger brother, to raise heirs, &c. without incurring the præmunire of elopement; or, upon non-readiness and failure of such honourable supply, to have free leave to take up with some coarser domestick menial, though but to the homely tune of Drive on, Coachman.
And, in like manner, it is resolved and ordered, that all those ramblers and strays under that misleading ignis fatuus, the sweet sin of variety, that shall therefore grasp at out-lying pluralities, though, possibly, naturally so weak-gifted, as to be scarce sufficiently qualified for due incumbence at home, shall, for the said wil. ful offence of non-residence, incur the penalty of sequestration, to be supplied by a curate, from the choice of the parish.
And wher as the fair complainants too loudly inveigh against their powerful rival, wine, and the present too spreading idolatry of the bottle, and the dangerous concomitants thereof which the batchelors endeavour to soften and sweeten, by insinuating the juice of the grape no ill-meaning enemy to the God of Love's subjects. For adjustment of the dispute, be it resolved, that wine be no farther encouraged than as amorum famulus, a good servant but bad master; to be indulged and cherished as a moderate grace-cup; to make love chirp, but not sleep; and be used for sauce and relish, not for souse and pickle, Be it therefore enacted, that, for due