Outstanding speech by Rob Anders in The Canadian House of Commons
Date: Thu, 7 Apr 2005
House of Commons Hansard - April 5, 2005
Mr. Rob Anders (Calgary West, CPC): Mr. Speaker, what is ungrateful with regard to the amendment proposed by the Conservative Party on marriage
is that I have been reading through a lot of what I think are seminal works on this subject. I know that some of my colleagues in this place have quoted
philosophers. I know one of them relied on John Stuart Mill and took his great treatise On Liberty to go ahead and talk about freedoms. I want to quickly touch on this philosopher in particular because I think he is sometimes being used and abused by some of my colleagues in this place. With regard to marriage, John Stuart Mill said:
"A person is bound to take all these circumstances into account, before resolving on a step which may affect such important interests of others; and if he does not allow proper weight to those interests, he is morally responsible for the wrong." What Mill is saying is that we have to take into account the interests of children in this debate because they are third parties that are called into existence by marriage. Mill goes on to say, "liberty is often granted where it should be
withheld", even though his treatise is called On Liberty. He adds:
"- but he ought not to be free to do as he likes in acting for another under the pretext that the affairs of another are his own affairs. The State, while it respects the liberty of each in what specially regards himself, is bound to maintain a vigilant control over his exercise of any power which it allows him to possess over others."
In other words, family relations have a direct influence on human happiness, more important than all others taken together. Mill adds:
"- forbid marriage unless the parties can show that they have the means of supporting a family, do not exceed the legitimate powers of the State
... not objectionable as violations of liberty." What he is basically saying is that we can prohibit a mischievous act if it is injurious to others and that such an act should be subject to reprobation and social stigma. He talks about putting "restraints upon the inclinations when the consequence of their indulgence is a life or lives of wretchedness and depravity to the offspring, with manifold evils to those sufficiently within reach to be in any way affected by their actions".
I wanted it to be clearly understood that John Stuart Mill would never have advocated for civil unions. He would have adamantly opposed them
and I think I have given the reasons. I will now switch from talking about philosophers to talking about history. Luckily, we have 60 centuries, 6,000 years of written human history to which we can refer when we talk about the issue of marriage.I think they shed great light. H.W.F. Saggs, in his book The Babylonians, records that in the third millennium B.C. sacred marriage involved a ritual bath, love songs, magnificent ceremonial robes, gifts including outer garments of linen,
and feast celebrations. It is interesting how we see some of those same things today nearly 5,000 years later.
Arnold Toynbee wrote a seminal work on history called A Study of History. Book five of that is entitled "Disintegration of Civilization" or what he also refers to as the "Schism in the Soul".He recognizes that as societies begin to disintegrate we lose our sense of self-control and our sense of discipline, and that in order to be a
leader in such times people must go beyond the demands of duty. They must fortify morale, secure safety and give strength. It requires them
to step forward to inspire, to vindicate ideals and to enoble their civilizations. To do that people need to respect traditions, religious beliefs and rituals. They need to stand for what is universal and eternal, to do what is good. They must be servants with conscience and ability to have their civilization realize its highest potentialities. Edward Gibbon goes on in his work, the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, to cite several things that made for the decline of the Roman
Empire. One of those, the first that he cites, was the immorality that destroyed the integrity of family life.
It is important to note that before the Punic Wars against Carthage, polygamy was unknown among Romans, Athenians and the Jews, but in the later stages of the empire, a loose marriage contract made religious and civil rights nonessential.
In three centuries of prosperity and corruption, this principle was enlarged to frequent practice and pernicious abuse. Passion, interest or caprice suggested daily motives for the dissolution of marriage, a word, a sign, a message, a letter, even the mandate of a freed man, declared the separation of a marriage. It no longer had any bearing. The second thing that Gibbon talks about is gender confusion and the problems that had in the Roman Empire. The third is disregard for
religion. I think we can see some parallels today. I would like to go further into the details of the Roman Empire because there were some people who understood its fragility. Had these people not come about, the Roman Empire would never have been the pax Romana of 800 years that we know today. Instead, it would merely have been a flash in the pan. It would have died a quick death.
Julius Caesar in 59 BC offered rewards to Romans who had many children. He forbade childless women to ride in litters or wear jewellery. It sounds pretty stark in today's climate but, nonetheless, he understood the importance of family. I would also like to talk about what would be my favourite Roman emperor, Octavian, after the battle of Actium known as Augustus, and the Roman Empire, had Augustus Caesar not been around in his roughly 50 year reign. The Roman Empire had 200 years of peace and, in a sense, a continuation of its golden age as a result of Augustus Caesar. I would like to read into the record some of the things Augustus did. He interfered as little as possible in the running of the constitution. He preferred to govern through his moral authority. He inaugurated a
religious, moral and social reform of the Roman people. He rebuilt derelict temples, restored neglected ceremonies and priesthoods. He revived the old state religion with all its patriotic associations and he restored the sanctity of marriage. Once again, Augustus Caesar, to elongate the Roman Empire, restored the sanctity of marriage.
Those guilty of initiating divorce lost three-quarters of their propertyto their spouse. They did not get 50%. A woman would be stripped of her wealth and ornaments, and if the man introduced a new bride into his bed, his fortune would be lawfully seized by the vengeance of the exiled wife. We should think about that in terms of divorce rates. Offenders were even disabled from the repetition of nuptials. In other words, if people had a divorce they could not get remarried.
He stimulated the birth rate. He rewarded the parents of large families. As a matter of fact, if parents had as many as five children under the Emperor Augustus, they no longer paid any tax. One can imagine what not having to pay tax would do for a Canadian family with five children.
Augustus was also a patron of poets. He encouraged those poets to devote their talents to propagating ideals. Horace, therefore, preached religious and moral reform. Ovid popularized religious revival. The system that Augustus established endured with no essential change for three centuries. That is how successful it was. Then we come to Marcus Aurelius. His writings are still available to us, his own biography and his meditations. He was somebody who believed in being faithful to the gods and the traditions of the ancestors. In his time, outwardly Rome still stood, more resplendent and apparently more unshakeable than ever. Inwardly, however, she was in a state of mental and spiritual flux. The old order was losing its hold on men's minds and the new order was yet far off.
The old pattern of Roman civilization was showing signs of disintegration. Internal corruptions were part of the problem. He was somebody who wanted to show scrupulous respect because the state religion no longer had that and mere lip service was paid on the part of the educated to religion. To the educated man who no longer believed in the official religion, another recourse was philosophy, but here, unfortunately, there were many winds of doctrine.
I would go on to talk about Diocletian, for I think I would wrap up with him, but I have only a minute left. There are things we can learn from history. I only wish that my colleagues across the way, rather than referring to modernity and some of the modern philosophies, would instead refer to 6,000 years of written human history and observe closely what ramifications changes to law have had.
If they did that, if they read Toynbee, Durant and Gibbon, if they read some of these people who were the saviours of those civilizations, they would understand that this type of action undermines civilization and disintegrates it.