The Unexpurgated Case Against Woman Suffrage
by Almroth E. Wright
1  2     Next Part
Home - Random Browse







Programme of This Treatise—Motives from which Women Claim the Suffrage—Types of Men who Support the Suffrage—John Stuart Mill.





Signification of the Term "Woman's Rights"—Argument from "Justice"—Juridical Justice—"Egalitarian Equity"—Argument from Justice Applied to Taxation—Argument from Liberty—Summary of Arguments from Elementary Natural Rights.



Complaint of Want of Chivalry—Complaint of "Insults"—Complaint of "Illogicalties"—Complaint of "Prejudices"—The Familiar Suffragist Grievance of the Drunkard Voter and the Woman of Property Who is a Non-Voter—The Grievance of Woman being Required to Obey Man-Made Laws.



Argument that Woman Requires a Vote for her Protection—Argument that Woman ought to be Invested with the Responsibilities of Voting in Order that She May Attain Her Full Intellectual Stature.





International Position of State would be Imperilled by Woman's Suffrage—Internal Equilibrium of State would be Imperilled.



Characteristics of the Feminine Mind—Suffragist Illusions with Regard to the Equality of Man and Woman as Workers—Prospect for the Intellectual Future of Woman—Has Woman Advanced ?



Standards by which Morality can be Appraised—Conflict between Different Moralities—The Correct Standard of Morality—Moral Psychology of Man and Woman—Difference between Man and Woman in Matters of Public Morality.









What are the Suffragist's Grievances?—Economic and Physiological Difficulties of Woman—Intellectual Grievances of Suffragist and Corrective.




It has come to be believed that everything that has a bearing upon the concession of the suffrage to woman has already been brought forward.

In reality, however, the influence of women has caused man to leave unsaid many things which he ought to have said.

Especially in two respects has woman restricted the discussion.

She has placed her taboo upon all generalisations about women, taking exception to these on the threefold ground that there would be no generalisations which would hold true of all women; that generalisations when reached possess no practical utility; and that the element of sex does not leave upon women any general imprint such as could properly be brought up in connexion with the question of admitting them to the electorate.

Woman has further stifled discussion by placing her taboo upon anything seriously unflattering being said about her in public.

I would suggest, and would propose here myself to act upon the suggestion, that, in connexion with the discussion of woman's suffrage, these restrictions should be laid aside.

In connexion with the setting aside of the restriction upon generalising, I may perhaps profitably point out that all generalisations, and not only generalisations which relate to women, are ex hypothesi [by hypothesis] subject to individual exceptions. (It is to generalisations that the proverb that "the exception proves the rule" really applies.) I may further point out that practically every decision which we take in ordinary life, and all legislative action without exception, is based upon generalisations; and again, that the question of the suffrage, and with it the larger question as to the proper sphere of woman, finally turns upon the question as to what imprint woman's sexual system leaves upon her physical frame, character, and intellect: in more technical terms, it turns upon the question as to what are the secondary sexual character[istic]s of woman.

Now only by a felicitous exercise of the faculty of successful generalisation can we arrive at a knowledge of these.

With respect to the restriction that nothing which might offend woman's amour propre [self love] shall be said in public, it may be pointed out that, while it was perfectly proper and equitable that no evil (and, as Pericles proposed, also no good) should be said of woman in public so long as she confined herself to the domestic sphere, the action of that section of women who have sought to effect an entrance into public life, has now brought down upon woman, as one of the penalties, the abrogation of that convention.

A consideration which perhaps ranks only next in importance to that with which we have been dealing, is that of the logical sanction of the propositions which are enunciated in the course of such controversial discussions as that in which we are here involved.

It is clearly a precondition of all useful discussion that the author and reader should be in accord with respect to the authority of the generalisations and definitions which supply the premisses for his reasonings.

Though this might perhaps to the reader appear an impractical ideal, I would propose here to attempt to reach it by explaining the logical method which I have set myself to follow.

Although I have from literary necessity employed in my text some of the verbal forms of dogmatism, I am very far from laying claim to any dogmatic authority. More than that, I would desire categorically to repudiate such a claim.

For I do not conceal from myself that, if I took up such a position, I should wantonly be placing myself at the mercy of my reader. For he could then, by merely refusing to see in me an authority, bring down the whole edifice of my argument like a house of cards.

Moreover I am not blind to what would happen if, after I claimed to be taken as an authority, the reader was indulgent enough still to go on to read what I have written.

He would in such a case, the moment he encountered a statement with which he disagreed, simply waive me on one side with the words, "So you say."

And if he should encounter a statement with which he agreed, he would in his wisdom, censure me for neglecting to provide for that proposition a satisfactory logical foundation.

If it is far from my thoughts to claim a right of dictation, it is equally remote from them to take up the position that I have in my arguments furnished proof of the thesis which I set out to establish.

It would be culpable misuse of language to speak in such connexion of proof or disproof.

Proof by testimony, which is available in con-nexion with questions of fact, is unavailable in connexion with general truths; and logical proof is obtainable only in that comparatively narrow sphere where reasoning is based—as in mathematics—upon axioms, or—as in certain really crucial experiments in the mathematic sciences—upon quasi- axiomatic premisses.

Everywhere else we base our reasonings on premisses which are simply more or less probable; and accordingly the conclusions which we arrive at have in them always an element of insecurity.

It will be clear that in philosophy, in jurisprudence, in political economy and sociology, and in literary criticism and such like, we are dealing not with certainties but with propositions which are, for literary convenience, invested with the garb of certainties.

What kind of logical sanction is it, then, which can attach to reasonings such as are to be set out here?

They have in point of fact the sanction which attaches to reasonings based upon premisses arrived at by the method of diacritical judgment.

It is, I hasten to notify the reader, not the method, but only the name here assigned to it, which is unfamiliar. As soon as I exhibit it in the working, the reader will identify it as that by which every generalisation and definition ought to be put to the proof.

I may for this purpose take the general statements or definitions which serve as premisses for my reasonings in the text.

I bring forward those generalisations and definitions because they commend themselves to my diacritical judgment. In other words, I set them forth as results which have been reached after reiterated efforts to call up to mind the totality of my experience, and to de-tect the factor which is common to all the individual experiences.

When for instance I propose a definition, I have endeavoured to call to mind all the different uses of the word with which I am familiar—eliminating, of course, all the obviously incorrect uses.

And when I venture to attempt a generalisation about woman, I endeavour to recall to mind without distinction all the different women I have encountered, and to extricate from my impressions what was common to all,—omitting from consideration (except only when I am dealing specifically with these) all plainly abnormal women.

Having by this procedure arrived at a generalisation—which may of course be correct or incorrect—I submit it to my reader, and ask from him that he should, after going through the same mental operations as myself, review my judgment, and pronounce his verdict.

If it should then so happen that the reader comes, in the case of any generalisation, to the same verdict as that which I have reached, that particular generalisation will, I submit, now go forward not as a datum of my individual experience, but as the intellectual resultant of two separate and distinct experiences. It will thereby be immensely fortified.

If, on the other hand, the reader comes to the conclusion that a particular generalisation is out of conformity with his experience, that generalisation will go forward shorn of some, or perchance all, its authority.

But in any case each individual generalisation must be referred further.

And at the end it will, according as it finds, or fails to find, acceptance among the thoughtful, be endorsed as a truth, and be gathered into the garner of human knowledge; or be recognised as an error, and find its place with the tares, which the householder, in time of the harvest, will tell the reapers to bind in bundles to burn them.

A. E. W. 1913.


Programme of this Treatise—Motives from which Women Claim the Suffrage—Types of Men who Support the Suffrage—John Stuart Mill.

The task which I undertake here is to show that the Woman's Suffrage Movement has no real intellectual or moral sanction, and that there are very weighty reasons why the suffrage should not be conceded to woman.

I would propose to begin by analysing the mental attitude of those who range themselves on the side of woman suffrage, and then to pass on to deal with the principal arguments upon which the woman suffragist relies.

The preponderating majority of the women who claim the suffrage do not do so from motives of public interest or philanthropy.

They are influenced almost exclusively by two motives: resentment at the suggestion that woman should be accounted by man as inherently his inferior in certain important respects; and reprehension of a state of society in which more money, more personal liberty (In reality only more of the personal liberty which the possession of money confers), more power, more public recognition and happier physiological conditions fall to the share of man.

A cause which derives its driving force so little from philanthropy and public interest and so much from offended amour propre and pretensions which are, as we shall see, unjustified, has in reality no moral prestige.

For its intellectual prestige the movement depends entirely on the fact that it has the advocacy of a certain number of distinguished men.

It will not be amiss to examine that advocacy.

The "intellectual" whose name appears at the foot of woman's suffrage petitions will, when you have him by himself, very often Make confession:—"Woman suffrage," he will tell you, "is not the grave and important cause which the ardent female suffragist deems it to be. Not only will it not do any of the things which she imagines it is going to do, but it will leave the world exactly where it is. Still—the concession of votes to women is desirable from the point of view of symmetry of classification; and it will soothe the ruffled feelings of quite a number of very worthy women."

It may be laid down as a broad general rule that only two classes of men have the cause of woman's suffrage really at heart.

The first is the crank who, as soon as he thinks he has discerned a moral principle, immediately gets into the saddle, and then rides hell-for-leather, reckless of all considerations of public expediency.

The second is that very curious type of man, who when it is suggested in his hearing that the species woman is, measured by certain intellectual and moral standards, the inferior of the species man, solemnly draws himself up and asks, "Are you, sir, aware that you are insulting my wife?"

To this, the type of man who feels every unfavourable criticism of woman as a personal affront to himself, John Stuart Mill, had affinities.

We find him writing a letter to the Home Secretary, informing him, in relation to a Parliamentary Bill restricting the sale of arsenic to male persons over twenty-one years, that it was a "gross insult to every woman, all women from highest to lowest being deemed unfit to have poison in their possession, lest they shall commit murder."

We find him again, in a state of indignation with the English marriage laws, preluding his nuptials with Mrs. Taylor by presenting that lady with a formal charter; renouncing all authority over her, and promising her security against all infringements of her liberty which might proceed from himself.

To this lady he is always ascribing credit for his eminent intellectual achievements. And lest his reader should opine that woman stands somewhat in the shade with respect to her own intellectual triumphs, Mill undertakes the explanation. "Felicitous thoughts," he tells us, "occur by hundreds to every woman of intellect. But they are mostly lost for want of a husband or friend . . . to estimate them properly, and to bring them before the world; and even when they are brought before it they generally appear as his ideas."

Not only did Mill see woman and all her works through an optical medium which gave images like this; but there was upon his retina a large blind area. By reason of this last it was inapprehensible to him that there could be an objection to the sexes co-operating indiscriminately in work. It was beyond his ken that the sex element would under these conditions invade whole departments of life which are now free from it. As he saw things, there was in point of fact a risk of the human race dying out by reason of the inadequate imperativeness of its sexual instincts.

Mill's unfaithfulness to the facts cannot, however, all be put down to constitutional defects of vision. When he deals with woman he is no longer scrupulously conscientious. We begin to have our suspicions of his uprightness when we find him in his Subjection of Women laying it down as a fundamental postulate that the subjection of woman to man is always morally indefensible. For no upright mind can fail to see that the woman who lives in a condition of financial dependence upon man has no moral claim to unrestricted liberty. The suspicion of Mill's honesty which is thus awakened is confirmed by further critical reading of his treatise. In that skilful tractate one comes across, every here and there, a suggestio falsi [suggestion of a falsehood], or a suppressio veri [suppression of the truth], or a fallacious analogy nebulously expressed, or a mendacious metaphor, or a passage which is contrived to lead off attention from some weak point in the feminist case.[1] Moreover, Mill was unmindful of the obligations of intellectual morality when he allowed his stepdaughter, in connexion with feminist questions, to draft letters [2] which went forward as his own.

[1] Vide [See] in this connexion the incidental references to Mill on pp. 50, 81 footnote, and 139. [2] Vide Letters of John Stuart Mill, vol. ii, pp. 51, 79, 80, 100, 141, 157, 238, 239, 247, 288, and 349. There is yet another factor which must be kept in mind in connexion with the writings of Mill. It was the special characteristic of the man to set out to tackle concrete problems and then to spend his strength upon abstractions.

In his Political Economy, where his proper subject matter was man with his full equipment of impulses, Mill took as his theme an abstraction: an economic man who is actuated solely by the desire of gain. He then worked out in great elaboration the course of conduct which an aggregate of these puppets of his imagination would pursue. Having persuaded

himself, after this, that he had in his possession a vade mecum [handbook] to the comprehension of human societies, he now took it upon himself to expound the principles which govern and direct these. Until such time as this procedure was unmasked, Mill's political economy enjoyed an unquestioned authority.

Exactly the same plan was followed by Mill in handling the question of woman's suffrage. Instead of dealing with woman as she is, and with woman placed in a setting of actually subsisting conditions, Mill takes as his theme a woman who is a creature of his imagination. This woman is, by assumption, in mental endowments a replica of man. She lives in a world which is, by tacit assumption, free from complications of sex. And, if practical considerations had ever come into the purview of Mill's mind, she would, by tacit assumption, be paying her own way, and be making full personal and financial contributions to the State. It is in connexion with this fictitious woman that Mill sets himself to work out the benefits which women would derive from co-partnership with men in the government of the State, and those which such co-partnership would confer on the community. Finally, practising again upon himself the same imposition as in his Political Economy, this unpractical trafficker in abstractions sets out to persuade his reader that he has, by dealing with fictions of the mind, effectively grappled with the concrete problem of woman's suffrage.

This, then, is the philosopher who gives intellectual prestige to the Woman's Suffrage cause.

But is there not, let us in the end ask ourselves, here and there at least, a man who is of real account in the world of affairs, and who is—not simply a luke-warm Platonic friend or an opportunist advocate—but an impassioned promoter of the woman's suffrage movement? One knows quite well that there is. But then one suspects —one perhaps discerns by "the spirit sense"—that this impassioned promoter of woman's suffrage is, on the sequestered side of his life, an idealistic dreamer: one for whom some woman's memory has become, like Beatrice for Dante, a mystic religion.

We may now pass on to deal with the arguments by which the woman suffragist has sought to establish her case.





Signification of the Term "Woman's Rights"—Argument from "Justice" —Juridical Justice-"Egalitarian Equity"—Argument from Justice Applied to Taxation—Argument from Liberty—Summary of Arguments from Elementary Natural Rights.

Let us note that the suffragist does not—except, perhaps, when she is addressing herself to unfledged girls and to the sexually embittered—really produce much effect by inveighing against the legal grievances of woman under the bastardy laws, the divorce laws, and the law which fixes the legal age of consent. This kind of appeal does not go down with the ordinary man and woman—first, because there are many who think that in spite of occasional hardships the public advantage is, on the whole, very well served by the existing laws; secondly, because any alterations which might be desirable could very easily be made without recourse to woman's suffrage; and thirdly, because the suffragist consistently acts on the principle of bringing up against man everything that can possibly be brought up against him, and of never allowing anything to appear on the credit side of the ledger.

The arguments which the woman suffragist really places confidence in are those which are provided by undefined general principles, apothegms set out in the form of axioms, formulae which are vehicles for fallacies, ambiguous abstract terms, and "question-begging" epithets. Your ordinary unsophisticated man and woman stand almost helpless against arguments of this kind.

For these bring to bear moral pressure upon human nature. And when the intellect is confused by a word or formula which conveys an ethical appeal, one may very easily find oneself committed to action which one's unbiased reason would never have approved. The very first requirement in connexion with any word or phrase which conveys a moral exhortation is, therefore, to analyse it and find out its true signification. For all such concepts as justice, rights, freedom, chivalry—and it is with these that we shall be specially concerned—are, when properly defined and understood beacon-lights, but when ill understood and undefined, stumbling-blocks in the path of humanity.

We may appropriately begin by analysing the term "Woman's Rights" and the correlative formula "Woman has a right to the suffrage."

Our attention here immediately focuses upon the term right. It is one of the most important of the verbal agents by which the suffragist hopes to bring moral pressure to bear upon man.

Now, the term right denotes in its juridical sense a debt which is owed to us by the State. A right is created when the community binds itself to us, its individual members, to intervene by force to restrain any one from interfering with us, and to protect us in the enjoyment of our faculties, privileges, and property.

The term is capable of being given a wider meaning. While no one could appropriately speak of our having a right to health or anything that man has not the power to bestow, it is arguable that there are, independent of and antecedent to law, elementary rights: a right to freedom; a right to protection against personal violence; a right to the protection of our property; and a right to the impartial administration of regulations which are binding upon all. Such a use of the term right could be justified on the ground that everybody would be willing to make personal sacrifices, and to combine with his fellows for the purpose of securing these essentials—an understanding which would almost amount to legal sanction.

The suffragist who employs the term "Woman's Rights" does not employ the word rights in either of these senses. Her case is analogous to that of a man who should in a republic argue about the divine right of kings; or that of the Liberal who should argue that it was his right to live permanently under a Liberal government; or of any member of a minority who should, with a view of getting what he wants, argue that he was contending only for his rights.

The woman suffragist is merely bluffing. Her formula "Woman's Rights" means simply "Woman's Claims."

For the moment—for we shall presently be coming back to the question of the enforcement of rights—our task is to examine the arguments which the suffragist brings forward in support of her claims.

First and chief among these is the argument that the Principle of Justice prescribes that women should be enfranchised.

When we inquire what the suffragist understands under the Principle of Justice, one receives by way of answer only the petitio principii [question begging] that Justice is a moral principle which includes woman suffrage among its implications.

In reality it is only very few who clearly apprehend the nature of Justice. For under this appellation two quite different principles are confounded.

The primary and correct signification of the term Justice will perhaps be best arrived at by pursuing the following train of considerations:—

When man, long impatient at arbitrary and quite incalculable autocratic judgments, proceeded to build up a legal system to take the place of these, he built it upon the following series of axioms:—(a) All actions of which the courts are to take cognisance shall be classified. (b) The legal consequences of each class of action shall be definitely fixed. (c) The courts shall adjudicate only on questions of fact, and on the issue as to how the particular deed which is the cause of action should be classified. And (d) such decisions shall carry with them in an automatic manner the appointed legal consequences.

For example, if a man be arraigned for the appropriation of another man's goods, it is an axiom that the court (when once the questions of fact have been disposed of) shall adjudicate only on the issue as to whether the particular appropriation of goods in dispute comes under the denomination of larceny, burglary, or other co-ordinate category; and that upon this the sentence shall go forth: directing that the legal consequences which are appointed to that particular class of action be enforced.

This is the system every one can see administered in every court of justice.

There is, however, over and above what has just been set out another essential element in Justice. It is an element which readily escapes the eye.

I have in view the fact that the classifications which are adopted and embodied in the law must not be arbitrary classifications. They must all be conformable to the principle of utility, and be directed to the advantage of society.

If, for instance, burglary is placed in a class apart from larceny, it is discriminated from it because this distinction is demanded by considerations of public advantage. But considerations of utility would not countenance, and by consequence Justice would not accept, a classification of theft into theft committed by a poor man and theft committed by a rich man.

The conception of Justice is thus everywhere interfused with considerations of utility and expediency.

It will have become plain that if we have in view the justice which is administered in the courts—we may here term it Juridical Justice—then the question as to whether it is just to refuse the suffrage to woman will be determined by considering whether the classification of men as voters and of women as non-voters is in the public interest. Put otherwise, the question whether it would be just that woman should have a vote would require the answer "Yes" or "No," according as the question whether it would be expedient or inexpedient that woman should vote required the answer "Yes" or "No." But it would be for the electorate, not for the woman suffragist, to decide that question.

There is, as already indicated, another principle which passes under the name of Justice. I have in view the principle that in the distribution of wealth or political power, or any other privileges which it is in the power of the State to bestow, every man should share equally with every other man, and every woman equally with every man, and that in countries where Europeans and natives live side by side, these latter should share all privileges equally with the white—the goal of endeavour being that all distinctions depending upon natural endowment, sex, and race should be effaced.

We may call this principle the Principle of Egalitarian Equity—first, because it aims at establishing a quite artificial equality; secondly, because it makes appeal to our ethical instincts, and claims on that ground to override the distinctions of which formal law takes account.

But let us reflect that we have here a principle which properly understood, embraces in its purview all mankind, and not mankind only but also the lower animals. That is to say, we have here a principle, which consistently followed out, would make of every man and woman in primis [at first] a socialist; then a woman suffragist; then a philo-native, negrophil, and an advocate of the political rights of natives and negroes; and then, by logical compulsion ant anti-vivisectionist, who accounts it unjust to experiment on an animal; a vegetarian, who accounts it unjust to kill animals for food; and findly one who, like the Jains, accounts it unjust to take the life of even verminous insects.

If we accept this principle of egalitarian equity as of absolute obligation, we shall have to accept along with woman's suffrage all the other "isms" believed in, and agitated for, by the cranks who are so numerously represented in the ranks of woman suffragists.

If, on the other hand, we accept the doctrine of egalitarian equity with the qualification that it shall apply only so far as what it enjoins is conformable to public advantage, we shall again make expediency the criterion of the justice of woman's suffrage.

Before passing on it will be well to point out that the argument from Justice meets us not only in the form that Justice requires that woman should have a vote, but also in all sorts of other forms. We encounter it in the writings of publicists, in the formula Taxation carries with it a Right to Representation; and we encounter it in the streets, on the banners of woman suffrage processions, in the form Taxation without Representation is Tyranny.

This latter theorem of taxation which is displayed on the banners of woman suffrage is, I suppose, deliberately and intentionally a suggestio falsi. For only that taxation is tyrannous which is diverted to objects which are not useful to the contributors. And even the suffragist does not suggest that the taxes which are levied on women are differentially applied to the uses of men.

Putting, then, this form of argument out of sight, let us come to close quarters with the question whether the payment of taxes gives a title to control the finances of the State.

Now, if it really did so without any regard to the status of the claimant, not only women, but also foreigners residing in, or holding property in, England, and with these lunatics and miners with property, and let me, for the sake of a pleasanter collocation of ideas, hastily add peers of the realm, who have now no control over public finance, ought to receive the parliamentary franchise. And in like manner if the payment of a tax, without consideration of its amount, were to give a title to a vote, every one who bought an article which had paid a duty would be entitled to a vote in his own, or in a foreign, country according as that duty has been paid at home or abroad.

In reality the moral and logical nexus between the payment of taxes and the control of the public revenue is that the solvent and selfsupporting citizens, and only these, are entitled to direct its financial policy.

If I have not received, or if I have refunded, any direct contributions I may have received from the coffers of the State; if I have paid my pro rata share of its establishment charges—i.e. of the costs of both internal administration and external defence; and I have further paid my proportional share of whatever may be required to make up for the deficit incurred on account of my fellow-men and women who either require direct assistance from the State, or cannot meet their share of the expenses of the State, I am a solvent citizen; and if I fail to meet these liabilities, I am an insolvent citizen even though I pay such taxes as the State insists upon my paying.

Now if a woman insists, in the face of warnings that she had better not do so, on taxing man with dishonesty for withholding from her financial control over the revenues of the State, she has only herself to blame if she is told very bluntly that her claim to such control is barred by the fact that she is, as a citizen insolvent. The taxes paid by women would cover only a, very small proportion of the establishment charges of the State which would properly be assigned to them. It falls to man to make up that deficit.

And it is to be noted with respect to those women who pay their full pro rata contribution and who ask to be treated as a class apart from, and superior to, other women, that only a very small proportion of these have made their position for themselves.

Immeasurably the larger number are in a solvent position only because men have placed them there. All large fortunes and practically all the incomes which are furnished by investments are derived from man.

Nay; but the very revenues which the Woman Suffrage Societies devote to man's vilification are to a preponderating extent derived from funds which he earned and gave over to woman.

In connexion with the financial position of woman as here stated, it will be well to consider first the rich woman's claim to the vote.

We may seek light on the logical and moral aspects of this claim by considering here two parallel cases.

The position which is occupied by the peer under the English Constitution furnishes a very interesting parallel to the position of the woman who is here in question.

Time out of mind the Commons have viewed with the utmost jealousy any effort of the House of Lords to obtain co-partnership with them in the control of the finances of the State; and, in pursuance of that traditional policy, the peers have recently, after appeal to the country, been shorn of the last vestige of financial control. Now we may perhaps see, in this jealousy of a House of Lords, which represents inherited wealth, displayed by a House of Commons representing voters electing on a financial qualification, an unconscious groping after the moral principle that those citizens who are solvent by their own efforts, and only these, should control the finances of the State.

And if this analogy finds acceptance, it would not—even if there were nothing else than this against such proposals—be logically possible, after ousting the peers who are large tax-payers from all control over the finances of the State, to create a new class of voters out of the female representatives of unearned wealth.

The second parallel case which we have to consider presents a much simpler analogy. Consideration will show that the position occupied in the State by the woman who has inherited money is analogous to that occupied in a firm by a sleeping partner who stands in the shoes of a deceased working partner, and who has only a small amount of capital in the business. Now, if such a partner were to claim any financial control, and were to make trouble about paying his pro rata establishment charges, he would be very sharply called to order. And he would never dream of appealing to Justice by breaking windows, going to gaol, and undertaking a hunger strike.

Coming back from the particular to the general, and from the logical to the moral aspect of woman's claim to control the finances of the State on the ground that she is a tax-payer, it will suffice to point out that this claim is on a par with the claim to increased political power and completer control over the finances of the State which is put forward by a class of male voters who are already paying much less than their pro rata share of the upkeep of the State.

In each case it is a question of trying to get control of other people's money. And in the case of woman it is of "trying on" in connexion with her public partnership with man that principle of domestic partnership, "All yours is mine, and all mine's my own."

Next to the plea of justice, the plea which is advanced most insistently by the woman who is contending for a vote is the plea of liberty.

We have here, again, a word which is a valuable asset to woman suffrage both in the respect that it brings moral pressure to bear, and in the respect that it is a word of ambiguous meaning.

In accordance with this we have John Stuart Mill making propaganda for woman suffrage in a tractate entitled the Subjection of Women; we have a Woman's Freedom League—"freedom" being a question-begging synonym for "parliamentary franchise"—and everywhere in the literature of woman's suffrage we have talk of woman's "emancipation"; and we have women characterised as serfs, or slaves—the terms serfs and slaves supplying, of course, effective rhetorical synonyms for non-voters.

When we have succeeded in getting through these thick husks of untruth we find that the idea of liberty which floats before the eyes of woman is, not at all a question of freedom from unequitable legal restraints, but essentially a question of getting more of the personal liberty (or command of other people's services), which the possession of money confers and more freedom from sexual restraints.

The suffragist agitator makes profit out of this ambiguity. In addressing the woman worker who does not, at the rate which her labour commands on the market, earn enough to give her any reasonable measure of financial freedom, the agitator will assure her that the suffrage would bring her more money, describing the woman suffrage cause to her as the cause of liberty. By juggling in this way with the two meanings of "liberty" she will draw her into her toils.

The vote, however, would not raise wages of the woman worker and bring to her the financial, nor yet the physiological freedom she is seeking.

The tactics of the suffragist agitator are the same when she is dealing with a woman who is living at the charges of a husband or relative, and who recoils against the idea that she lies under a moral obligation to make to the man who works for her support some return of gratitude. The suffragist agitator will point out to her that such an obligation is slavery, and that the woman's suffrage cause is the cause of freedom.

And so we find the women who want to have everything for nothing, and the wives who do not see that they are beholden to man for anything, and those who consider that they have not made a sufficiently good bargain for themselves—in short, all the ungrateful women—flock to the banner of Women's Freedom—the banner of financial freedom for woman at the expense of financial servitude for man.

The grateful woman will practically always be an anti-suffragist.

It will be well, before passing on to another class of arguments, to summarise what has been said in the three foregoing sections.

We have recognised that woman has not been defrauded of elementary natural rights; that Justice, as distinguished from egalitarian equity, does not prescribe that she should be admitted to the suffrage; and that her status is not, as is dishonestly alleged, a status of serfdom or slavery.

With this the whole case for recrimination against man, and a fortiori [for greater reason] the case for [a] resort to violence, collapses.

And if it does collapse, this is one of those things that carries consequences. It would beseem man to bethink himself that to give in to an unjustified and doubtfully honest claim is to minister to the demoralisation of the claimant.



Complaint of Want of Chivalry—Complaint of "Insults"—Complaint of "Illogicalities"—Complaint of "Prejudices"—The Familiar Suffragist Grievance of the Drunkard Voter and the Woman of Property Who is a Non-Voter—The Grievance of Woman being Required to Obey Man-Made Laws.

We pass from the argument from elementary natural rights to a different class of arguments—intellectual grievances. The suffragist tells us that it is unchivalrous to oppose woman's suffrage; that it is insulting to tell woman that she is unfit to exercise the fran- chise; that it is "illogical" to make in her case an exception to a general rule; that it is mere "prejudice" to withhold the vote from her; that it is indignity that the virtuous and highly intelligent woman has no vote, while the drunkard has; and that the woman of property has no vote, while her male underlings have; and, lastly, that it is an affront that a woman should be required to obey "man-made" laws.

We may take these in their order.

Let us consider chivalry, first, from the standpoint of the woman suffragist. Her notion of chivalry is that man should accept every disadvantageous offer which may be made to him by woman.

That, of course, is to make chivalry the principle of egalitarian equity limited in its application to the case between man and woman.

It follows that she who holds that the suffrage ought, in obedience to that principle of justice, to be granted to her by man, might quite logically hold that everything else in man's gift ought also to be conceded.

But to do the woman suffragist justice, she does not press the argument from chivalry. Inasmuch as life has brought home to her that the ordinary man has quite other conceptions of that virtue, she declares that "she has no use for it."

Let us now turn to the anti-suffragist view. The anti-suffragist (man or woman) holds that chivalry is a principle which enters into every reputable relation between the sexes, and that of all the civilising agencies at work in the world it is the most important.

But I think I hear the reader interpose, "What, then, is chivalry if it is not a question of serving woman without reward?"

A moment's thought will make the matter clear.

When a man makes this compact with a woman, "I will do you reverence, and protect you, and yield you service; and you, for your part, will hold fast to an ideal of gentleness, of personal refinement, of modesty, of joyous maternity, and to who shall say what other graces and virtues that endear woman to man," that is chivalry.

It is not a question of a purely one-sided bargain, as in the suffragist conception. Nor yet is it a bargain about purely material things.

It is a bargain in which man gives both material things, and also things which pertain perhaps somewhat to the spirit; and in which woman gives back of these last.

But none the less it is of the nature of a contract. There is in it the inexorable do ut des; facio ut facias [give me this, and I will give you that; do this for me, and I will do that for you].

And the contract is infringed when woman breaks out into violence, when she jettisons her personal refinement, when she is ungrateful, and, possibly, when she places a quite extravagantly high estimate upon her intellectual powers.

We now turn from these almost too intimate questions of personal morality to discuss the other grievances which were enumerated above.

With regard to the suffragist's complaint that it is "insulting" for woman to be told that she is as a class unfit to exercise the suffrage, it is relevant to point out that one is not insulted by being told about oneself, or one's class, untruths, but only at being told about oneself, or one's class, truths which one dislikes. And it is, of course, an offence against ethics to try to dispose of an unpalatable generalisation by characterising it as "insulting." But nothing that man could do would be likely to prevent the suffragist resorting to this aggravated form of intellectual immorality.

We may now turn to the complaint that it is "illogical" to withhold the vote from women.

This is the kind of complaint which brings out in relief the logical endowment and legislative sagacity of the suffragist.

With regard to her logical endowment it will suffice to indicate that the suffragist would appear to regard the promulgation of a rule which is to hold without exception as an essentially logical act; and the admission of any class exception to a rule of general application as an illogicality. It would on this principle be "illogical" to except, under conscription, the female population from military service.

With regard to the suffragist's legislative sagacity we may note that she asks that we should put back the clock, and return to the days when any arbitrary principle might be adduced as a ground for legislation. It is as if Bentham had never taught:—

"What is it to offer a good reason with respect to a law? It is to allege the good or evil which the law tends to produce; so much good, so many arguments in its favour; so much evil, so many arguments against it.

"What is it to offer a false reason? It is the alleging for, or against a law, something else than its good or evil effects."

Next, we may take up the question as to whether an unwelcome generalisation may legitimately be got out of the way by characterising it as a prejudice. This is a fundamentally important question not only in connexion with such an issue as woman suffrage, but in connexion with all search for truth in those regions where crucial scientific experiments cannot be instituted.

In the whole of this region of thought we have to guide ourselves by generalisations.

Now every generalisation is in a sense a prejudgment. We make inferences from cases or individuals that have already presented themselves to such cases or individuals of the same class as may afterwards present themselves. And if our generalisation happens to be an unfavourable one, we shall of necessity have prejudged the case against those who are exceptions to their class.

Thus, for example, the proposition that woman is incapable of usefully exercising the parliamentary franchise prejudges the case against a certain number of capable women. It would none the less be absolutely anarchical to propose to abandon the system of guiding ourselves by prejudgments; and unfavourable prejudgments or prejudices are logically as well justified, and are obviously as indispensable to us as favourable prejudgments.

The suffragist who proposes to dispose of generalisations which are unfavourable to woman as prejudices ought therefore to be told to stand down.

It has probably never suggested itself to her that, if there were a mind which was not stored with both favourable prejudgments and prejudices, it would be a mind which had learned absolutely nothing from experience.

But I hear the reader interpose, "Is there not a grave danger that generalisations may be erroneous?"

And I can hear the woman suffragist interject, "Is there not a grave danger that unflattering generalisations about woman may be erroneous?"

The answer to the general question is that there is of course always the risk that our generalisations may be erroneous. But when a generalisation finds wide acceptance among the thoughtful, we have come as close to truth as it is possible for humanity to come.

To the question put by the suffragist the reply is that experience with regard to the capacity of woman has been accumulating in all climes, and through all times; and that the belief of men in the inherent inferiority of women in the matter of intellectual morality, and in the power of adjudication, has never varied.

I pass now to the two most familiar grievances of the suffragist; the grievance that the virtuous and intelligent woman has no vote, while the male drunkard has; and the grievance that the woman of property has no vote, while her male underlings have.

All that is worth while saying on these points is that the suffragist is here manufacturing grievances for herself, first, by reasoning from the false premiss that every legal distinction which happens to press hardly upon a few individuals ought for that to be abrogated; and, secondly, by steady leaving out of sight that logical inconsistencies can, for the more part, be got rid of only at the price of bringing others into being.

The man who looks forward to the intellectual development of woman must be brought near to despair when he perceives that practically every woman suffragist sees in every hard case arising in connexion with a legal distinction affecting woman, an insult and example of the iniquity of man-made laws, or a logical inconsistency which could with a very little good-will be removed.

We have come now to the last item on our list, to the grievance that woman has to submit herself to "man-made laws."

This is a grievance which well rewards study. It is worth study from the suffragist point of view, because it is the one great injury under which all others are subsumed. And it is worth studying from the anti-suffragist point of view, because it shows how little the suffragist understands of the terms she employs; and how unreal are the wrongs which she resents.

Quite marvelously has the woman suffragist in this connexion misapprehended; or would she have us say misrepresented?

The woman suffragist misapprehends—it will be better to assume that she "misapprehends"—when she suggests that we, the male electors, have framed the laws.

In reality the law which we live under—and the law in those States which have adopted either the English, or the Roman law—descends from the past. It has been evolved precedent, by precedent, by the decisions of generation upon generation of judges, and it has for centuries been purged by amending statutes. Moreover we, the present male electors—the electors who are savagely attacked by the suffragist for our asserted iniquities in connexion with the laws which regulate sexual relations—have never in our capacity as electors had any power to alter an old, or to suggest a new law; except only in so far as by voting Conservative or Liberal we may indirectly have remotely influenced the general trend of legislation.

"Well but"—the suffragist will here rejoin—"is it not at any rate true that in the drafting of statutes and the framing of judicial decisions man has always nefariously discriminated against woman?"

The question really supplies its own answer. It will be obvious to every one who considers that the drafting of statutes and the formulating of legal decisions is almost as impersonal a procedure as that of drawing up the rules to govern a game; and it offers hardly more opportunity for discriminating between man and woman.

There are, however, three questions in connexion with which the law can and does make a distinction between man and woman.

The first is that of sexual relations: rape, divorce, bastardy, and the age of consent. In connexion with rape, it has never been alleged that the law is not sufficiently severe. It is, or has been, under colonial conditions, severe up to the point of ferocity. In the matter of divorce the law of a minority of man-governed States differentiates in favour of man. It does so influenced by tradition, by what are held to be the natural equities, and by the fact that a man is required to support his wife's progeny. The law of bastardy [illegitimate childbirth] is what it is because of the dangers of blackmail. The law which fixes the age of consent discriminates against man, laying him open to a criminal charge in situations where woman—and it is not certain that she is not a more frequent offender—escapes scot-free.

The second point in which the law differentiates is in the matter of exacting personal service for the State. If it had not been that man is more prone to discriminate in favour of woman than against her, every military State, when exacting personal military service from men, would have demanded from women some such equivalent personal service as would be represented by a similar period of work in an army clothing establishment, or ordnance factory, or army laundry; or would at any rate have levied upon woman a ransom in lieu of such service.

The third point in which the law distinguishes between man and woman is with reference to the suffrage. The object of this book is to show that this is equitable and in the interests of both.

The suffragist further misapprehends when she regards it as an indignity to obey laws which she has not herself framed, or specifically sanctioned. (The whole male electorate, be it remarked, would here lie under the same dignity as woman.)

But in reality, whether it is a question of the rules of a game, or of the reciprocal rights and duties of members of a community, it is, and ought to be, to every reasonable human being not a grievance, but a matter of felicitation, that an expert or a body of experts should have evolved a set of rules under which order and harmony are achieved. Only vanity and folly would counsel amateurs to try to draw up rules or laws for themselves.

Again, the woman suffragist takes it as a matter of course that she would herself be able to construct a system of workable laws. In point of fact, the framing of a really useful law is a question of divining something which will apply to an infinite number of different cases and individuals. It is an intellectual feat on a par with the framing of a great generalisation. And would woman—that being of such short sight, whose mind is always so taken up with whatever instances lie nearest to her—be capable of framing anything that could pass muster as a great generalisation?

Lastly, the suffragist fails to see that the function of framing the laws is not an essential function of citizenship.

The essential functions of citizenship are the shaping of public policy, and the control of the administrative Acts of Government.

Such directive control is in a state of political freedom exercised through two quite different agencies.

It is exercised—and it is of the very essence of political freedom that this should be the normal method of control—in the first place, through expressed public opinion. By this are continuously regulated not only momentous matters of State, such as declarations of war and the introduction of constitutional changes, but also smaller and more individual matters, such as the commutation of a capital sentence, or the forcible feeding of militant suffragists.

In the background, behind the moral compulsion of expressed public opinion, there is, in the case of a Parliamentary State, also another instrument of control. I have in view that periodical settlement of the contested rulership of the State by the force of a majority of electors which is denoted a general election.

The control exercised by the suffrages of the electors in a general election is in certain important respects less effective than that exercised by the everyday public expression of opinion. It falls short in the respect that its verdicts are, except only in connexion with the issue as to whether the Government is to be retained in office or dismissed, ambiguous verdicts; further, in the respect that it comes into application either before governmental proposals have taken definite shape, or only after the expiration of a term of years, when the events are already passing out of memory.

If we now consider the question of woman's franchise from the wider point of view here opened up, it will be clear that, so far as concerns the control which is exercised through public opinion on the Government, the intelligent woman, and especially the intelligent woman who has made herself an expert on any matter, is already in possession of that which is a greater power than the franchise. She has the power which attaches to all intelligent opinion promulgated in a free State. Moreover, wherever the special interest of women are involved, any woman may count on being listened to if she is voicing the opinions of any considerable section of her sex.

In reality, therefore, woman is disfranchised only so far as relates to the confirmation of a Government in office, or its dismissal by the ultima ratio [ultimate reason] of an electoral contest. And when we reflect that woman does not come into consideration as a compelling force, and that an electoral contest partakes of the nature of a civil war, it becomes clear that to give her the parliamentary vote would be to reduce all those trials of strength which take the form of electoral contests to the level of a farce.

With this I have, I will not say completed the tale of the suffragist's grievances—that would be impossible—but I have at any rate dealt with those which she has most acrimoniously insisted upon.



Argument that Woman Requires a Vote for her Protection—Argument that Woman ought to be Invested with the Responsibilities of Voting in Order that She May Attain Her Full Intellectual Stature.

There, however, remains still a further class of arguments. I have in view here arguments which have nothing to do with elementary natural rights, nor yet with wounded amour propre. They concern ethics, and sympathy, and charitable feelings.

The suffragist here gives to man "counsels of perfection."

It will be enough to consider here two of these:—the first, the argument that woman, being the weaker vessel, needs, more than man, the suffrage for her protection; the second, that woman, being less than man in relation to public life, ought to be given the vote for instructional purposes.

The first of these appeals will, for instance, take the following form:—"Consider the poor sweated East End woman worker. She knows best where the shoe pinches. You men can't know. Give her a vote; and you shall see that she will very soon better her condition."

When I hear that argument I consider:—We will suppose that woman was ill. Should we go to her and say: "You know best, know better than any man, what is wrong with you. Here are all the medicines and remedies. Make your own selection, for that will assuredly provide what will be the most likely to help."

If this would be both futile and inhuman, much more would it be so to seek out this woman who is sick in fortune and say to her, "Go and vote for the parliamentary candidate who will be likely to influence the trend of legislation in a direction which will help."

What would really help the sweated woman labourer would, of course, be to have the best intellect brought to bear, not specially upon the problem of indigent woman, but upon the whole social problem.

But the aspect of the question which is, from our present point of view, the fundamentally important one is the following: Granting that the extension of the suffrage to woman would enable her, as the suffragist contends, to bring pressure upon her parliamentary representative, man, while anxious to do his very best for woman, might very reasonably refuse to go about it in this particular way.

If a man has a wife whom he desires to treat indulgently, he does not necessarily open a joint account with her at his bankers.

If he wants to contribute to a charity he does not give to the managers of that charity a power of attorney over his property.

And if he is a philanthropical director of a great business he does not, when a pathetic case of poverty among his staff is brought to his notice, imperil the fortunes of his undertaking by giving to his workmen shares and a vote in the management.

Moreover, he would perhaps regard it as a little suspect if a group of those who were claiming this as a right came and told him that "it was very selfish of him" not to grant their request.

Precious above rubies to the suffragist and every other woman who wants to apply the screw to man is that word selfish. It furnishes her with the petitio principii that man is under an ethical obligation to give anything she chooses to ask.

We come next—and this is the last of all the arguments we have to consider—to the argument that the suffrage ought to be given to woman for instructional purposes.

Now it would be futile to attempt to deny that we have ready to hand in the politics of the British Empire—that Empire which is swept along in "the too vast orb of her fate"—an ideal political training-ground in which we might put woman to school. The woman voter would there be able to make any experiment she liked.

But one wonders why it has not been proposed to carry woman's instruction further, and for instructional purposes to make of a woman let us say a judge, or an ambassador, or a Prime Minister.

There would—if only it were legitimate to sacrifice vital national interests—be not a little to say in favour of such a course. One might at any rate hope by these means once for all to bring home to man the limitations of woman.





International Position of State would be Imperilled by Woman's Suffrage—Internal Equilibrium of State would be Imperilled.

The woman suffrage movement has now gone too far to be disposed of by the overthrow of its arguments, and by a mere indication of those which could be advanced on the other side. The situation demands the bringing forward of the case against woman's suffrage; and it must be the full and quite unexpurgated case.

I shall endeavour to do this in the fewest possible words, and to be more especially brief where I have to pass again over ground which I have previously traversed in dealing with the arguments of the suffragists.

I may begin with what is fundamental. It is an axiom that we should in legislating guide ourselves directly by considerations of utility and expediency. For abstract principles—I have in view here rights, justice, egalitarian equity, equality, liberty, chivalry, logicality, and such like—are not all of them guides to utility; and each of these is, as we have seen, open to all manner of private misinterpretation.

Applying the above axiom to the issue before us, it is clear that we ought to confine ourselves here to the discussion of the question as to whether the State would, or would not, suffer from the admission of women to the electorate.

We can arrive at a judgment upon this by considering, on the one hand, the class-characters of women so far as these may be relevant to the question of the suffrage; and, on the other hand, the legislative programmes put forward by the female legislative reformer and the feminist.

In connexion with the class-characters of woman, it will be well, before attempting to indicate them, to interpolate here the general consideration that the practical statesman, who has to deal with things as they are, is not required to decide whether the characters of women which will here be considered are, as the physiologist (who knows that the sexual products influence every tissue of the body) cannot doubt, "secondary sexual characters"; or, as the suffragist contends, "acquired characters." It will be plain that whether defects are "secondary sexual characters" (and therefore as irremediable as "racial characters"); or whether they are "acquired characters" (and as such theoretically remediable) they are relevant to the question of the concession of the suffrage just so long as they continue to be exhibited.[1]

[1] This is a question on which Mill (vide Subjection of Women, last third of Chapter I) has endeavoured to confuse the issues for his reader, first, by representing that by no possibility can man know anything of the "nature," i.e., of the "secondary sexual characters" of woman; and, secondly, by distracting attention from the fact that "acquired characters" may produce unfitness for the suffrage.

The primordial argument against giving woman the vote is that that vote would not represent physical force.

Now it is by physical force alone and by prestige—which represents physical force in the background—that a nation protects itself against foreign interference, upholds its rule over subject populations, and enforces its own laws. And nothing could in the end more certainly lead to war and revolt than the decline of the military spirit and loss of prestige which would inevitably follow if man admitted woman into political co-partnership.

While it is arguable that such a partnership with woman in government as obtains in Australia and New Zealand is sufficiently unreal to be endurable, there cannot be two opinions on the question that a virile and imperial race will not brook any attempt at forcible control by women.

Again, no military foreign nation or native race would ever believe in the stamina and firmness of purpose of any nation that submitted even to the semblance of such control.

The internal equilibrium of the State also would be endangered by the admission to the register of millions of electors whose vote would not be endorsed by the authority of physical force.

Regarded from this point of view a Woman's Suffrage measure stands on an absolutely different basis to any other extension of the suffrage. An extension which takes in more men—whatever else it may do—makes for stability in the respect that it makes the decrees of the legislature more irresistible. An extension which takes in any women undermines the physical sanction of the laws.

We can see indications of the evil that would follow such an event in the profound dissatisfaction which is felt when—in violation of the democratic principle that every man shall count for one, and no man for more than one—the political wishes of the large constituencies which return relatively few members to Parliament, are overborne by those of constituencies which, with a smaller aggregate population, return more members.

And we see what such evil finally culminates in when the over-representation of one part of a country and the corresponding under-representation of other portions has led a large section of the people to pledge themselves to disregard the eventual ordinances of Parliament.

If ever the question as to whether the will of Ulster or that of the Nationalists is to prevail is brought to the arbitrament of physical force, it will be due to the inequalities of parliamentary representation as between England and Ireland, and as between the Unionist and Nationalist population of Ulster.

The general lesson that all governmental action ought to be backed by force, is further brought home to the conscience when we take note of the fact that every one feels that public morality is affronted when senile, infirm, and bedridden men are brought to the poll to turn the scale in hotly contested elections.

For electoral decisions are felt to have moral prestige only when the electoral figures quantitatively represent the physical forces which are engaged on either side. And where vital interests are involved, no class of men can be expected to accept any decision other than one which rests upon the ultima ratio.

Now all the evils which are the outcome of disparities between the parliamentary power and the organised physical force of contending parties would "grow" a hundredfold if women were admitted to the suffrage.

There would after that be no electoral or parliamentary decision which would not be open to challenge on the ground that it was impossible to tell whether the party which came out the winner had a majority which could enforce its will, or only a majority obtained by the inclusion of women. And no measure of redistribution could ever set that right.

There may find place here also the consideration that the voting of women would be an unsettling element in the government of the State, forasmuch as they would, by reason of a general lack of interest in public affairs, only very; seldom come to the poll: would, in fact, come to the poll in full strength only when some special appeal had come home to their emotions.

Now an electorate which includes a very large proportion of quite uninterested voters would be in the same case as a legislature which included a very large proportion of members who made a practice of staying away. It would be in the same case, because the absentees, who would not have acquired the training which comes from consecutive attention to public affairs, might at any moment step in and upset the stability of State by voting for some quite unconsidered measure.

Coming back in conclusion to our main issue, I would re-emphasise an aspect of the question upon which I have already elsewhere insisted.[1] I have in view the fact that woman does, and should, stand to physical violence in a fundamentally different relation to man. Nothing can alter the fact that, the very moment woman resorts to violence, she places herself within the jurisdiction of an ethical law, which is as old as civilisation, and which was framed in its interests.

[1] Vide Appendix, pp. 176-179.



Characteristics of the Feminine Mind—Suffragist Illusions with Regard to the Equality of Man and Woman as Workers—Prospect for the Intellectual Future of Woman—Has Woman Advanced?

The woman voter would be pernicious to the State not only because she could not back her vote by physical force, but also by reason of her intellectual defects.

Woman's mind attends in appraising a statement primarily to the mental images which it evokes, and only secondarily—and sometimes not at all—to what is predicated in the statement. It is over-influenced by individual instances; arrives at conclusions on incomplete evidence; has a very imperfect sense of proportion; accepts the congenial as true, and rejects the uncongenial as false; takes the imaginary which is desired for reality, and treats the undesired reality which is out of sight as non-existent—building up for itself in this way, when biased by predilections and aversions, a very unreal picture of the external world.

The explanation of this is to be found in all the physiological attachments of woman's mind:[1] in the fact that mental images are in her over-intimately linked up with emotional reflex responses; that yielding to such reflex responses gives gratification; that intellectual analysis and suspense of judgment involve an inhibition of reflex responses which is felt as neural distress; that precipitate judgment brings relief from this physiological strain; and that woman looks upon her mind not as an implement for the pursuit of truth, but as an instrument for providing her with creature comforts in the form of agreeable mental images.

[1] Certain of these have already been referred to in the letter printed in the Appendix ( vide p.167 infra).

In order to satisfy the physical yearning for such comforts, a considerable section of intelligent and virtuous women insist on picturing to themselves that the reign of physical force is over, or as good as over; that distinctions based upon physical and intellectual force may be reckoned as non-existent; that male supremacy as resting upon these is a thing of the past; and that Justice means Egalitarian Equity—means equating the weaklings with the strong and the incapable with the capable.

All this because these particular ideas are congenial to the woman of refinement, and because it is to her, when she is a suffragist, uncongenial that there should exist another principle of justice which demands from the physically and intellectually capable that they shall retain the reins of government in their own hands; and specially uncongenial that in all man-governed States the ideas of justice of the more forceful should have worked out so much to the advantage of women, that a large majority of these are indifferent or actively hostile to the Woman's Suffrage Movement.

In further illustration of what has been said above, it may be pointed out that woman, even intelligent woman, nurses all sorts of misconceptions about herself. She, for instance, is constantly picturing to herself that she can as a worker lay claim to the same all-round efficiency as a man—forgetting that woman is notoriously unadapted to tasks in which severe physical hardships have to be confronted; and that hardly any one would, if other alternative offered, employ a woman in any work which imposed upon her a combined physical and mental strain, or in any work where emergencies might have to be faced.

In like manner the suffragist is fond of picturing to herself that woman is for all ordinary purposes the intellectual equal, and that the intelligent woman is the superior of the ordinary man.

These results are arrived at by fixing the attention upon the fact that an ordinary man and an ordinary woman are, from the point of view of memory and apprehension, very much on a level; and that a highly intelligent woman has a quicker memory and a more rapid power of apprehension than the ordinary man; and further, by leaving out of regard that it is not so much a quick memory or a rapid power of apprehension which is required for effective intellectual work, as originality, or at any rate independence of thought, a faculty of felicitious generalisations and diacritical judgment, long-sustained intellectual effort, an unselective mirroring of the world in the mind, and that relative immunity to fallacy which goes together with a stable and comparatively unresponsive nervous system.

When we consider that the intellect of the quite ungifted man works with this last-mentioned physiological advantage, we can see that the male intellect must be, and—pace [with the permission of] the woman suffragist—it in point of fact is, within its range, a better instrument for dealing with the practical affairs of life than that of the intelligent woman.

How far off we are in the case of woman from an unselective mirroring of the world in the mind is shown by the fact that large and important factors of life may be represented in woman's mind by lacunae [gaps] of which she is totally unconscious.

Thus, for instance, that not very unusual type of spinster who is in a condition of retarded development (and you will find this kind of woman even on County Council's), is completely unconscious of the sexual element in herself and in human nature generally. Nay, though one went from the dead, he could not bring it home to her that unsatisfied sexuality is an intellectual disability.

Sufficient illustration will now have been given of woman's incapacity to take a complete or objective view of any matter in which she has a personal, or any kind of emotional interest; and this would now be the place to discuss those other aspects of her mind which are relevant to her claim to the suffrage. I refer to her logical endowment and her political sagacity.

All that I might have been required to say here on these issues has, however, already been said by me in dealing with the arguments of the suffragist. I have there carefully written it in between the lines.

One thing only remains over.—We must, before we pass on, consider whether woman has really, as she tells us, given earnest for the future weeding out of these her secondary sexual characters, by making quite phenomenal advances within the lifetime of the present generation; and, above all, whether there is any basis for woman's confident assurance that, when for a few generations she shall have enjoyed educational advantages, she will at any rate pull up level with man.

The vision of the future may first engage our attention; for only this roseate prospect makes of any man a feminist.

Now the basis that all this hope rests upon is the belief that it is a law of heredity that acquired characteristics are handed down; and, let it be observed, that whereas this theory found, not many decades ago, under the influence of Darwin, thousands of adherents among scientific men, it finds to-day only here and there an adherent.

But let that pass, for we have to consider here, not only whether acquired characteristics are handed down, but further whether, "if we held that doctrine true," it would furnish scientific basis for the belief that educational advantages carried on from generation to generation would level up woman's intellect to man's; and whether, as the suffragist also believes, the narrow education of past generations of women can be held responsible for their present intellectual shortcomings.

A moment's consideration will show—for we may here fix our eyes only on the future—that woman could not hope to advance relatively to man except upon the condition that the acquired characteristics of woman, instead of being handed down equally to her male and female descendants, were accumulated upon her daughters.

Now if that be a law of heredity, it is a law which is as yet unheard of outside the sphere of the woman suffrage societies. Moreover, one is accustomed to hear women, when they are not arguing on the suffrage, allege that clever mothers make clever sons.

It must, as it will have come home to us, be clear to every thoughtful mind that woman's belief that she will, through education and the cumulation of its effects upon her through generations, become a more glorious being, rests, not upon any rational basis, but only on the physiological fact that what is congenial to woman impresses itself upon her as true. All that sober science in the form of history and physiology would seem to entitle us to hope from the future of woman is that she will develop pari passu [step by step] with man; and that education will teach her not to retard him overmuch by her lagging in the rear.

In view of this larger issue, the question as to whether woman has, in any real sense of the word, been making progress in the course of the present generation, loses much of interest.

If to move about more freely, to read more freely, to speak out her mind more freely, and to have emancipated herself from traditionary beliefs—and, I would add, traditionary ethics—is to have advanced, woman has indubitably advanced.

But the educated native too has advanced in all these respects; and he also tells us that he is pulling up level with the white man.

Let us at any rate, when the suffragist is congratulating herself on her own progress, meditate also upon that dictum of Nietzsche, "Progress is writ large on all woman's banners and bannerets; but one can actually see her going back."



Standards by which Morality can be Appraised—Conflict between Different Moralities—The Correct Standard of Morality—Moral Psychology of Men and Woman—Difference between Man and Woman in Matters of Public Morality.

Yet a third point has to come into consideration in connexion with the woman voter. This is, that she would be pernicious to the State also by virtue of her defective moral equipment.

Let me make clear what is the nature of the defect of morality which is here imputed to woman.

Conduct may be appraised by very different standards.

We may appraise it by reference to a transcendental religious ideal which demands that the physical shall be subordinated to the spiritual, and that the fetters of self should be flung aside.

Or again, we may bring into application purely mundane utilitarian standards, and may account conduct as immoral or moral according as it seeks only the happiness of the agent, or the happiness of the narrow circle of humanity which includes along with him also his relatives and intimate friends, or again, the welfare of the wider circle which includes all those with whom he may have come into contact, or whom he may affect through his work; or again, the welfare of the whole body-politic of which we are members; or lastly, that of the general body of mankind.

Now it might be contended that all these different moralities are in their essence one and the same; and that one cannot comply with the requirements of any one of these systems of morality without fulfilling in a measure the requirements of all the other moralities.

It might, for example, be urged that if a man strive after the achievement of a transcendental ideal in which self shall be annulled, he will pro tanto [to such extent] be bringing welfare to his domestic circle; or again, that it would be impossible to promote domestic welfare without, through this, promoting the welfare of the nation, and through that the general welfare of the world.

In like manner it might be argued that all work done for abstract principles of morality like liberty and justice, for the advancement of knowledge, and for whatever else goes to the building up of a higher civilisation, will, by promoting the welfare of the general body of mankind, redound to the advantage of each several nation, and ultimately to the advantage of each domestic circle.

But all this would be true only in a very superficial and strictly qualified sense. In reality, just as there is eternal conflict between egoism and altruism, so there is conflict between the different moralities.

To take examples, the attempt to actualise the transcendental religious ideal may, when pursued with ardour, very easily conflict with the morality which makes domestic felicity its end. And again—as we see in the anti-militarist movement in France, in the history of the early Christian Church, in the case of the Quakers and in the teachings of Tolstoy—it may quite well set itself in conflict with national ideals, and dictate a line of conduct which is, from the point of view of the State, immoral.

We need no further witness of the divorce between idealistic and national morality than that which is supplied in the memorable utterance of Bishop Magee, "No state which was conducted on truly Christian principles could hold together for a week."

And domestic morality will constantly come into conflict with public morality.

To do everything in one's power to advance one's relatives and friends irrespectively of all considerations of merit would, no doubt, be quite sound domestic morality; it could, however, not always be reconciled with public morality. In the same way, to take one's country's part in all eventualities would be patriotic, but it might quite well conflict with the higher interests of humanity.

Now, the point towards which we have been winning our way is that each man's moral station and degree will be determined by the election which he makes where egoism and altruism, and where a narrower and a wider code of morality, conflict.

That the moral law forbids yielding to the promptings of egoism or to those of the narrower moralities when this involves a violation of the precepts of the wider morality is axiomatic. Criminal and anti-social actions are not excused by the fact that motives which impelled their commission were not purely egoistic.

But the ethical law demands more than abstention from definitely anti-social actions. It demands from every individual that he shall recognise the precepts of public morality as of superior obligation to those of egoism and domestic morality.

By the fact that her public men recognised this ethical law Rome won for herself in the ancient world spectacular grandeur. By an unexampled national obedience to it glory has in our time accrued to Japan. And, in truth, there is not anywhere any honour or renown but such as comes from casting away the bonds of self and of the narrower moralities to carry out the behests of the wider morality.

Even in the strongholds of transcendental religion where it was axiomatic that morality began and was summed up in personal morality, it is gradually coming to be recognised that, where we have two competing moralities, it is always the wider morality which has the prior claim upon our allegiance.

Kingsley's protest against the morality of "saving one's dirty soul" marked a step in advance. And we find full recognition of the superior claim of the larger morality in that other virile dictum of Bishop Magee, "I would rather have England free, than England sober." That is, "I would maintain the conditions which make for the highest civilisation even at the price of a certain number of lapses in personal and domestic morality."

What is here new, let it be noted, is only the acknowledgment by those whose official allegiance is to a transcendental ideal of personal morality that they are called upon to obey a higher allegiance. For there has always existed, in the doctrine that guilty man could not be pardoned and taken back into favour until the claims of eternal justice had been satisfied, theoretical recognition of the principle that one must conform to the precepts of abstract morality before one may ethically indulge oneself in the lower moralities of philanthropy and personal benevolence.

The view point from which I would propose to survey the morality of woman has now been reached. It has, however, still to be pointed out that we may appropriately, in comparing the morals of man and woman, confine our survey to a comparatively narrow field. That is to say, we may here rule out all that relates to purely personal and domestic morality—for this is not relevant to the suffrage. And we may also rule out all that relates to offences against the police laws—such as public drunkenness and offences against the criminal law—for these would come into consideration only in connexion with an absolutely inappreciable fraction of voters.

It will be well to begin by signalising certain points in the moral psychology of man.

When morality takes up its abode in a man who belongs to the intellectual caste it will show itself in his becoming mindful of his public obligations. He will consider the quality of his work as affecting the interest of those who have to place dependence upon it; behaviour to those who are casually brought into relations with him; the discharge of his indebtedness to the community; and the proper conduct of public affairs.

In particular, it will be to him a matter of concern that the law shall be established upon classifications which are just (in the sense of being conformable to public advantage); and that the laws shall everywhere be justly, that is to say rigorously and impartially, administered.

If we now turn to the man in the street we shall not find him especially sensible to the appeals of morality. But when the special call comes it will generally be possible to trust him: as an elector, to vote uninfluenced by considerations of private advantage; and, when called to serve on a jury, to apply legal classifications without distinction of person.

Furthermore, in all times of crisis he may be counted upon to apply the principles of communal morality which have been handed down in the race.

The Titanic disaster, for example, showed in a conspicuous manner that the ordinary man will, "letting his own life go," obey the communal law which lays it upon him, when involved in a catastrophe, to save first the women and children.

Lastly, we come to the man who is intolerant of all the ordinary restraints of personal and domestic morality. Even in him the seeds of communal morality will often be found deeply implanted.

Time and again a regiment of scallawags, who have let all other morality go hang, have, when the proper chord has been made to vibrate in them, heard the call of communal morality, and done deeds which make the ears of whosoever heareth of them to tingle.

We come into an entirely different land when we come to the morality of woman. It is personal and domestic, not public, morality which is instinctive in her.

In other words, when egoism gives ground to altruism, that altruism is exercised towards those who are linked up to her by a bond of sexual affection, or a community in blood, or failing this, by a relation of personal friendship, or by some other personal relation.

And even when altruism has had her perfect work, woman feels no interest in, and no responsibility towards, any abstract moral ideal.

And though the suffragist may protest, instancing in disproof of this her own burning enthusiasm for justice, we, for our part, may legitimately ask whether evidence of a moral enthusiasm for justice would be furnished by a desire to render to others their due, or by vehement insistence upon one's own rights, and systematic attempts to extort, under the cover of the word "justice," advantages for oneself.

But it will be well to dwell a little longer on, and to bring out more clearly, the point that woman's moral ideals are personal and domestic, as distinguished from impersonal and public.

Let us note in this connexion that it would be difficult to conceive of a woman who had become deaf to the appeal of personal and domestic morality making it a matter of amour propre to respond to a call of public morality; and difficult to conceive of a woman recovering lost self-respect by fulfilling such an obligation.

But one knows that woman will rise and respond to the call of any strong human or transcendental personal affection.

Again, it is only a very exceptional woman who would, when put to her election between the claims of a narrow and domestic and a wider or public morality, subordinate the former to the latter.

In ordinary life, at any rate, one finds her following in such a case the suggestions of domestic—I had almost called it animal—morality.

It would be difficult to find any one who would trust a woman to be just to the rights of others in the case where the material interests of her children, or of a devoted husband, were involved. And even to consider the question of being in such a case intellectually just to any one who came into competition with personal belongings like husband and child would, of course, lie quite beyond the moral horizon of ordinary woman.

1  2     Next Part
Home - Random Browse