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- The Unexpurgated Case Against Woman Suffrage - 4/17 -


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


The Unexpurgated Case Against Woman Suffrage - 4/17

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