HERMAPHRODITE, is a living being possessing the organs of generation belonging to both sexes.
On surveying the origin, the progress, and decay of the animal creation, there is sufficient reason to infer, that na ture is infinitely more solicitous about preserving the differ ent genera and species than the individuals of the race. Thus where their continuation is required by mutual concourse,as among the larger and more perfect creatures of the earth, it is necessary that the sexual organs of each should bc re served distinct and entire. Though accidental monstrosi ties ensue in other parts, the animal functions can be car ried on, and sometimes with little injury ; but imperfections in that portion of the frame appropriated for procreation, is for the most part an impediment to the laws which regulate the reproduction of living beings.
Nevertheless, the sexual organs, like other parts of ani mated matter, are liable to exhibit malformation, or mon strosities ; and hence an idea has originated, that in man and different animals, the qualities of a perfect male and female may be united in the same individual. The fables of the ancients have perhaps conspired to give probability to these opinions. According to their allegories, a son of Mercury and Venus, who had been fostered by the Naiads of Ida, became enamoured of the nymph Salmacis, who fled from his embraces. But he joined her in a fountain where she could escape no longer, and besought the gods that their bodies might be united in one His prayers were heard.
the sexual organs. At an early period of Roman history, a law was enacted, that every child of this description should be shut up in a chest and thrown into the sea ; and ',ivy gives an instance where, on some difficulty with respect to the sex of an infant, it was directed to be thrown into the sea, tanquam faclum et turpe prodigium. Nay, such a visi tation seems to have been considered a mark of divine ven geance, for the execution was always followed by religious rites. The Jewish law is extremely solicitous regarding the disposal of hermaphrodites : the civil and canon law contain numerous hypotheses and enactments concerning them, and their succession is provided for by the laws of England.
The general scope of these laws tends to form regu lations which shall apply according to the apparent pre dominance of for the ancient legislators, though suf ciently aware of this distinction, do not seem to have ad mitted hermaphrodites as possessing a complete duplica tion of the generative organs. Being undoubtedly found ed on experience, they cannot be considered void of inte rest. The numerous and diversified ordinances of the Talmud divide hermaphrodites into four classes; under which aspect they are to be treated partly as male, partly as female ; next, as both male and female ; and, lastly, as neither male nor female. First, they are like men, in be
ing obliged to dress in male attire, and marry their bro thers widows. Secondly, they are like women, because they may not converse with the male sex alone in private ; they may walk among the dead ; and are prohibited from bearing testimony : also, because they may shave their heads after a particular fashion, and pluck out their beards. Thirdly, they are to be esteemed both men and women, from having their share of the paternal and maternal in heritance, and such other succession, which they may claim as of either sex ; they may retire to a sanctuary in case of accidental slaughter, and remain there as if it had been of either a man or woman ; and if it be murder, they shall be put to death as for killing either a man or woman. Fourthly, hermaphrodites are to be considered neither man nor woman, by the law of Moses, in striking or calumni ating another, but the judge shall ordain reparation; nor in making vows to the Deity, or in withdrawing from the world to devote themselves to his service. Many other partitions are made under these divisions. The canon and civil law displays all that uncertainty which is the natural offspring of prejudice, and the want of knowledge. Doubts and questions arc started,, useless to society, and oppressive to those affected by them; and in general they are, as in the Jewish law, to be solved according to the predominance of sex. Notwithstanding the numerous and absurd re straints put upon supposed hermaphrodites, it does not appear that they are precluded from marrying ; on the contrary, if the two sexes in themselves be equal, a choice of the object is left, while other cases of marriage are re gulated by sexual predominance. However, should the question be regarding an oath, the ordinances of the church seem to declare, that under the same equality of organization the testimony must be rejected. Herma phrodites may not be promoted to holy orders, on account of deformity or monstrosity ; nor can they be appointed judges," because they are ranked among infamous persons, to whom the gates of dignity should not be opened." These are but a few of the prohibitions levelled against them. Many are cruel and unnecessary ; and of so singu lar a kind, that a learned and humane physician exclaims, " would not any one conceive, that these supposed andro gyni, instead of being of the same nature with us, howe ver marked and deformed their parts of generation might be, were rather another race of animals, sui generis, than This androgynous being was thenceforth called Hernia phroditus, (whence the derivation of hermaphrodite,) and affords a subject for many beautiful sculptures from the hands of the ancients, which are still preserved.