The Continental Monthly, Vol. 6, No 3, September 1864

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The Continental Monthly, Vol. 6,
No 3,
by Various

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Title: The Continental Monthly, Vol. 6, No 3, September 1864 Devoted
To Literature And National Policy
Author: Various
Release Date: October 8, 2007 [EBook #22926]
Language: English
Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1

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Continental Monthly:
Devoted To
Literature and National Policy
VOL. VI.--September, 1864--No. III.

Not of those affairs which are domestic in a broad, national sense; not
of any of our home institutions, 'peculiar' or otherwise; not of politics in
any shape, nor of railroads and canals, nor of interstate relations,
reconstructions, amnesty; not even of the omnivorous question, The
War, do I propose to treat under the head of 'Our Domestic Affairs;' but
of a subject which, though scarcely ever discussed except flippantly,
and with unworthy levity, in that broad arena of public journalism in
which almost every other conceivable topic is discussed, is yet second
to none, if not absolutely first of all in its bearings upon our domestic
happiness. I refer to the question of domestic service in our households.
The only plausible explanation of the singular fact that this important
subject is not more frequently discussed in public is, undoubtedly, to be
found in its very magnitude. Men and women whose 'mission' it is to
enlighten and instruct the people, abound in every walk of morals.
Religion, science, ethics, and every department of social economy but
this, have their 'reformers.' Before the great problem, How shall the
evils which attend our domestic service be removed? the
stoutest-hearted reformer stands appalled. These evils are so multiform
and all-pervading, they strike their roots so strongly, and ramify so
extensively, that they defy the attempt to eradicate them; and they are
thus left to flourish and increase. We have plenty of groans over these
evils, but scarcely ever a thoughtful consideration of their cause, or an

attempt worth noting to remove or mitigate them.
This is surely cowardly and wrong. This great question, which is really
so engrossing that it is more talked of in the family circle than any
other--this profound and intricate problem, upon the solution of which
the comfort, happiness, and thrift of every household in the land
depend more than upon almost any other--surely demands the most
careful study, and the deepest solicitude of the reformer and
philanthropist. The subject just now is receiving considerable attention
in England, and the journals and periodicals of that country have
recently teemed with articles setting forth the miseries with which
English households are afflicted, owing to the want of good servants.
But, unfortunately, from none of these has the writer been able to
extract much assistance in preparing an answer to the only practical
question: How are the evils of domestic service to be remedied? I quote,
however, an extract from a recent article in The Victoria Magazine, in
order to show how far the complaints made in England of the
shortcomings of servants run parallel with those of our own
housekeepers. It is to be noted that the writer confessedly holds a brief
for the servants. If the facts are fairly stated, the relation between a
servant in an English family and her employer differs widely from the
like relation with us;
'The prizes in domestic service are few, the blanks many. Ladies think
only of the prizes. Needlewomen and factory girls, when they turn their
attention to domestic service, see the hardworked, underfed scrub
lacking the one condition which goes far to alleviate the hardest lot,
that of personal liberty. People who have never known what it is to be
subject to the caprices of a petty tyrant, scarcely appreciate this
alleviation at its true value. They expatiate upon the light labors, the
abundance, the freedom from anxiety which characterize the lot of
servants in good places, with an unction worthy of Southern
slaveholders. What more any woman can want they cannot understand.
They think it nothing that a servant has not, from week to week, and
month to month, a moment that she can call her own, a single hour of
the day or night, of which she can say, 'This is mine, and no one has a
right to prescribe what I shall
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