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- The Unexpurgated Case Against Woman Suffrage - 3/17 -


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.

PART I

ARGUMENTS WHICH ARE ADDUCED IN SUPPORT OF WOMAN'S SUFFRAGE

I

ARGUMENTS FROM ELEMENTARY NATURAL RIGHTS

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 Unexpurgated Case Against Woman Suffrage - 3/17

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