[ . . . ] Overall, one should not overlook that marriage has two sides to it: the natural civil one and the divine Christian one. Even in cases of complete agreement on religious matters, people disregard at their own peril the civil side of things: education, class, rank, and age. A degree of civil equality is part of marriage. In the past, marriages between nobles and bourgeois were rare, and some aristocratic families disapprove of such unions. True and honest affection is determined by something that is difficult to define and, once awakened, it can overcome many barriers. One cannot presume to make a final judgment on this point. Reasonable parents ought to pray and discover God’s will and appeal to Him that He rules the child’s heart. They should also acknowledge that paternal power has real limits, and that an engagement, even though dependent on the parents’ consent, certainly comes close to this limit. The children have to have the distinct sense that they themselves assume responsibility for this step, which substantially loosens the bonds to their parental home. This means that any compulsion in one direction or the other is, at least, very questionable and easily causes dissonance and aberrations of the worst kind, as experience has amply shown. – It is more permissible that a younger girl marries an older man than the other way around, for the husband is supposed to guide the wife and not vice versa; it’s usual that the younger partner more easily takes on a subordinate role to the older one. Likewise, a happy marriage is easier to imagine if a rich man marries a poor girl than the other way around. Living on his wife’s fortune infringes on the natural sentiment of the hard-working man because he has an inherent obligation to support his wife and children. It is also quite wonderful and desirable if the families of the bride and the groom are on friendly terms with each other.
Source: Carl Büchsel, Erinnerungen aus dem Leben eines Landgeistlichen (1865-) [Reminiscences of a Rural Clergyman (1865-)], 10th ed. Berlin: Gustav Warneck Verlag, pp. 242ff.
Original German text reprinted in Werner Pöls, ed., Deutsche Sozialgeschichte 1815-1870. Ein historisches Lesebuch [German Social History 1815-1870: A Historical Reader]. 4th ed. Munich: C.H. Beck, 1988, pp. 75-78.
Translation: Erwin Fink