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Matthew H. Carpenter to Walt Whitman, 31 January 1872

 syr.00002.001_large.jpg see notes Feb 9 1889 Confidential Mr. Walt Whitman: Dear Sir,

Examining some old papers, the other day, I found an extract from an argument of the late Hon.​ A. D. Smith,1 a Judge of the Sup.Ct.​ of Wisconsin, delivered by him when practising before that Court about twenty years ago, in a case of alleged rape, followed by conception; maintaining that the fact of conception was conclusive evidence of consent on the part of the prosecutrix. This argument was  syr.00002.002_large.jpg quite famous in Wisconsin at the time, and the extract may possibly interest you. Here it is:

"Conception, may it please Your Honors, is no reluctant throe of nature. Its production costs no pang, save when pleasure, from excess, is turning to pain; but it follows an embrace in which the heart, the lip, the entire humanity must participate; an embrace in which the mental, moral, & physical powers and susceptibilities are wrought to such an intensity of orgasm, mutual & reciprocal, that Nature crowns her beatitude with the production  syr.00002.003_large.jpg & endowment of a new identity. And wisely has she ordained that every faculty of mind or body which might thwart or counteract her purpose, should for the moment be wrapt in a bewilderment of bliss."

This is, in its way, I think a very fine thing; and the intimate friends of the author more than suspect that he had been there and knew.

Truly Yours Matt H. Carpenter  syr.00002.004_large.jpg

Matthew Hale Carpenter (1824–1881), a Republican from Wisconsin, served as a United States Senator from 1869–1875 and again from 1879–1881. Carpenter died before he could complete his second term. Prior to his election to the Senate, Carpenter served as a lawyer and district attorney in numerous Wisconsin cities.


  • 1. Abram Daniel Smith (1811–1865) was one of three justices elected to the Wisconsin Supreme Court upon its creation in 1853. Smith is perhaps most notable for his 1854 opinion in Ableman v. Booth, in which Smith wrote that the Fugitive Slave Act was unconstitutional on the grounds of states' rights. Smith's ruling was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1859, the same year Smith's tenure on the Wisconsin Supreme Court ended. See also Ruth Dunley, "In Search of A. D. Smith: A History Detective's Quest," Wisconsin Magazine of History 89.2 (Winter 2005–2006), 16–27. [back]
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