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- The Unexpurgated Case Against Woman Suffrage - 10/17 -
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.
It is not only the fact that the ideals of abstract justice and truth would inevitably be brushed aside by woman in the interests of those she loves which comes into consideration here; it is also the fact that woman is almost without a moral sense in the matter of executing a public trust such as voting or attaching herself to a political association with a view to influencing votes.
There is between man and woman here a characteristic difference.
While it is, of course, not a secret to anybody that the baser sort of man can at any time be diverted from the path of public morality by a monetary bribe or other personal advantage, he will not, at any rate, set at naught all public morality by doing so for a peppercorn. He will, for instance, not join, for the sake of a daughter, a political movement in which he has no belief; nor vote for this or that candidate just to please a son; or censure a member of Parliament who has in voting on female suffrage failed to consider the predilections of his wife.
But woman, whether she be politically enfranchised as in Australasia, or unenfranchised as at home; whether she be immoral in the sense of being purely egoistic, or moral in the sense of being altruistic, very rarely makes any secret or any shame of doing these things.
In this matter one would not be very far from the truth if one alleged that there are no good women, but only women who have lived under the influence of good men.
Even more serious than this postponement of public to private morality is the fact that even reputedly ethical women will, in the interests of what they take to be idealistic causes, violate laws which are universally accepted as being of moral obligation.
I here pass over the recent epidemic of political crime among women to advert to the want of conscience which permits, in connexion with professedly idealistic causes, not only misrepresentations, but the making of deliberately false statements on matters of public concern.
It is, for example, an illustration of the profoundly different moral atmospheres in which men and women live that when a public woman recently made, for what was to her an idealistic purpose, a deliberately false statement of fact in _The Times_, she quite naively confessed to it, seeing nothing whatever amiss in her action.
And it did not appear that any other woman suffragist could discern any kind of immorality in it. The worst thing they could find to say was that it perhaps was a little _gauche_ to confess to making a deliberately false statement on a public question when it was for the moment particularly desirable that woman should show up to best advantage before the eyes of man.
We may now for a moment put aside the question of woman's public morality and consider a question which is inextricably mixed up with the question of the admission of woman to the suffrage. This is the mental attitude and the programme of the female legislative reformer.
MENTAL OUTLOOK AND PROGRAMME OF THE FEMALE LEGISLATIVE REFORMER
The suffragist woman, when she is the kind of woman who piques herself upon her ethical impulses, will, even when she is intellectually very poorly equipped, and there is no imprint of altruism upon her life, assure you that nothing except the moral influence of woman, exerted through the legislation, which her practical mind would be capable of initiating, will ever avail to abate existing social evils, and to effect the moral redemption of the world.
It will not be amiss first to try to introduce a little clearness and order into our ideas upon those formidably difficult problems which the female legislative reformer desires to attack, and then to consider how a rational reforming mind would go to work in the matter of proposing legislation for these.
_First_ would come those evils which result from individuals seeking advantage to themselves by the direct infliction of injury upon others. Violations of the criminal law and the various forms of sweating and fleecing one's fellow-men come under this category.
_Then_ would come the evils which arise out of purveying physiological and psychological refreshments and excitements, which are, according as they are indulged in temperately or intemperately, grateful and innocuous, or sources of disaster and ruin. The evils which are associated with the drink traffic and the betting industry are typical examples.
_Finally,_ there would come into consideration the evils of death or physical suffering deliberately inflicted by man upon man with a view to preventing worse evils. The evil of war would come under this category. In this same category might also come the much lesser evil of punitive measures inflicted upon criminals. And with this might be coupled the evil of killing and inflicting physical suffering upon animals for the advantage of man.
We may now consider how the rational legislative reformer would in each case go to work.
He would not start with the assumption that it _must_ be possible by some alteration of the law to abolish or conspicuously reduce any of the afore-mentioned evils; nor yet with the assumption that, if a particular alteration of the law would avail to bring about this result, that alteration ought necessarily to be made. He would recognise that many things which are theoretically desirable are unattainable; and that many legislative measures which could perfectly well be enforced would be barred by the fact that they would entail deplorable unintended consequences.
The rational legislator whom we have here in view would accordingly always take expert advice as to whether the desired object could be achieved by legal compulsion; and as to whether a projected law which satisfied the condition of being workable would give a balance of advantages over disadvantages.
In connexion with a proposal for the prevention of sweating he would, for instance, take expert advice as to whether its provisions could be enforced; and whether, if enforceable, they would impose added hardships on any class of employees or penalties on any innocent class of employers.
In like manner in connexion with a proposed modification in criminal procedure, the rational reformer would defer to the expert on the question as to whether such modification would secure greater certainty of punishment for the guilty without increasing the risk of convicting the innocent.
In connexion with the second category of evils--the category under which would come those of drinking and betting--the rational legislative reformer would recognise the complete impracticability of abolishing by legislative prohibition physiological indulgences and the evils which sometimes attend upon them.
He would consider instead whether these attendant evils could be reduced by making the regulating laws more stringent; and whether more stringent restrictions--in addition to the fact that they would filch from the all too small stock of human happiness--would not, by paving the way for further invasions of personal liberty, cripple the free development of the community.
On the former question, which only experts could properly answer, the reasonable reformer would defer to their advice. The answer to the last question he would think out for himself.
In connexion with the evils which are deliberately inflicted by man with a view to reaping either personal profit, or profit for the nation, or profit for humanity, the reasonable reformer would begin by making clear to himself that the world we live in is not such a world as idealism might conjure up, but a world of violence, in which life must be taken and physical suffering be inflicted.
And he would recognise that the vital material interests of the nation can be protected only by armed force; that civilisation can be safeguarded only by punishing violations of the criminal law; and that the taking of animal life and the infliction of a certain amount of physical suffering upon animals is essential to human well-being, comfort, and recreation; and essential also to the achievement of the knowledge which is required to combat disease.
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