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- The Unexpurgated Case Against Woman Suffrage - 2/17 -
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. Moreover, Mill was unmindful of the obligations of intellectual morality when he allowed his stepdaughter, in connexion with feminist questions, to draft letters  which went forward as
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