Jon Quincy Adams once said,

“From all that I have read of history and government of human life and manners, I have drawn this conclusion, that the manners of women were the most infallible barometer to ascertain the degree of morality and virtue of a nation.”

To get the thread rolling or spinning I would say he is right to a very high degree. What say yous guys.

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Assumption to a very high degree and a subjective statement based on the viewpoint of an upper-class white male almost two and a half centuries ago.

It's the product of a certain place and time, and it's interesting as a statement on men's view of women at that particular time and place, and surely we can analyze the context for clues as to the origins of the idea that womenfolk are the keeper of morals.

But it's not an absolute and doesn't really tell us anything about today. Even in colonial times you could find plenty of examples of morally "bad" women. Men as well. To use it as a measure of national morality is pure tripe.

Adam's assertion doesn't require analyzing how a nation treats it's women.  Granted treating women appropriately ought be expected of any civilized nation just as treating any person appropriately is.

Adam's assertion requires analyzing how a nation's women treats others.

It's supposed to be enlightened and flattering towards women - look how important they are - but with 0 context, why does he choose that half (or quarter, if you separate children) of the nation? What's irrelevant about men's manners? Also, using manners to discern morality and virtue is suspect. Manners vary; morality and virtue are derived from self-evident truths.

Tocqueville has similar comments about American women, but there I know the context. He particularly remarks on women traveling alone. To him, this shows both how law-abiding the nation is (weaker citizens protected by general order and stronger citizens) and how egalitarian (women not constantly under a man's authority).

I don't think it is saying that males manners are irrelevant, but just that if manners or morals swung in one direction for the worse then there would be balance or an origin. 

That's why I think the word barometer is pretty useful because it's not to say that men alone can't sway the moral high ground. But if as a group all agreed on acting a certain way and there was no contrast, then anything they do would appear to be right. Also taking my own life as an example, my Dad swears like  sailor. My mom never liked it or always stopped me if I did it, and now I rarely swear.

I would disagree about manners.

Manners are a subset of ethics, therefore ultimately morals and virtues will come into play.

I disagree that ethics necessarily reflect morals. Virtues, maybe. But manners and ethics are social constructs, not moral ones. Morals *may* come into play, but are not necessarily part of the equation. 

Perhaps so, I included morals to cover my bases, there are areas between the two that get cloudy.

It could possibly be during the time he wrote it there may have been a tighter correlation between manners and morals, virtues. 

I'm not seeing it.  Also not sure what the practical outcome would be if I adopted that perspective.

And this is bad for what reason?

Also, scantily-dressed women are not original to the 20th century!


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