lilt WOMEN AND THE STATE.
TT seems to us that the friends of immediate woman suffrage are hardly so wise or so patriotic as those who are concen- trating all their energies for the moment on the enlargement of the education of women and the opening of new spheres of duty for them in regions,—like that, for instance, of medical work, municipal economy, and the duties of poor-law guardians, —for which efen at present those amongst them who would be likely to be chosen for such duties are eminently fitted. When Mr. Mill said last Saturday in the Conduit Street Meeting, that "until the suffrage was gained nothing was obtained that might not be resumed at the caprice of our
. rulers," and that "even in America to abolish slavery was not enough ; the negroes could ncri be really free until they had
the franchise,"—he used what seems to us a most misleading
and almost absurd analogy. He intimated,—or if he did not intend to intimate, the whole validity of his reasoning failed,—
that the English women are held by the class who do possess the franchise in very much the same state of adverse servitude as the negroes of the Southern States,—that it is as much for the selfish interest, and in the power, of -men to keep women out of the franchise in order to keep them out of their other natural rights, as it was for the selfish interest and in the power of the whites of the South to keep negroes out of the franchise, in order to keep them out of their other naturalrights. This appears to us conspicuously and ludicrously false. If all the Southerners' wives and (consequently) daughters had been women of colour, and there had been no other coloured persons in the South, does any one dream for a moment that it would have been necessary to give them the suffrage in order to com- pel the Courts of justice to take the evidence of coloured per- sons, and to treat the murder of a coloured person as ordinary murder? As Mr. Mill very well knows, the chances are that in such a case the evidence of coloured persons would have been worth almost more than ordinary evidence, and the murder of a coloured person would have been regarded as a worse than ordinary murder. Wives and daughters have not as a rule been regarded as the objects of their husbands' and fathers' civil jealousy in any civilised state of which we ever read. And now in England, who doubts for a moment that the tendency is to relax the law in favour of women, rather than to apply the law harshly against women,—that a
woman_ has far more chance of a light sentence for a crime, other things being equal, than a man,—that a woman has
far more chance of heavy damages, other things being equal, than a man,—that woman's labour is hedged about with greater securities, —that an insult to a woman entails infinitely heavier social penalties ? Was all this true of a negro's posi- tion under the white oligarchy of the South ? If women with us are in an almost opposite position,—as who will deny I- how is this for a moment compatible with the assertion that no rights are secure to a woman without the franchise, that her claim for the franchise is her only security for other rights ?
But we go further, and say that the reason women do not possess all the privileges we should wish them to possess, and some of the privileges which, for the moment, we do not wish them to possess till they can give more proof of moderate ability to use them for the service of the State, is this, that women, far more than men, are opposed to the giving of such privileges,—that feminine influence works against their receiving them. And this brings us to the point we think Mr. Mill and Mr. Stansfeld, and Professor Fawcett and Mrs.
Fawcett, and Mr. and Mrs. Taylor too much ignore in their high argument,—that, as yet at least, women's suffrage would, if it could be forced upon a very reluctant class, and if that class could be compelled to use it, be the greatest instrument of reactionary measures yet conceived in English politics. This is, we imagine, Mr. Disraeli's real reason for his known leaning to women's suffrage. Women have as yet no political education. The women of the masses have probably no single political view, except perhaps whatever may be involved in the beliefs that drinking-shops are bad, that wages ought to be higher, and that their favourite religious advisers' views ought to be zealously seconded by their own social influence. We doubt if any of the political views involved in these beliefs would be politically sound ; we are sure that some of them would demand a large sacrifice of our present liberty. If the Roman Church really hopes to reconquer England, we imagine that it would lend its full support to the women's suffrage movement,—for there it might in time find a political lever of immense power, though at first no doubt the weight of women's influence would be chiefly thrown into the scale of a fanatical and intolerant Protestantism. Give women the suffrage, and the first use they would make of it at present would in all probability be to multiply the restrictions to which women are subject, to make light of the education of girls, and to aggravate the unjustly exclusive attention paid to that of boys. Even now the majority of those who are most strenuous for the education of women are not themselves women. Almost any mother of moderate means will tell you she cares chiefly about good teaching for her boys, and that, as for the girls, home teaching is quite good enough for them ; and she will not be entirely without excuse. Women, if they had the power given them, would probably pass a law to-morrow forbidding women to meddle with poli- tics,—a state of things which supplies, as we submit, a very much simpler answer to the difficulty about the actual condi- tion of things, than Mr. Mill's supposition that they are a class kept in subjection by force niajeure. In the highest in- terests of women themselves, and still more of the State in which they are only elements, we should much regret to see the franchise immediately pressed upon women. It is con- trary to all our traditions to connect any class with the politi- cal institutions of the nation till they have shown that they can add strength to those institutions by their knowledge, for- bearance, and interest in public questions. The behaviour of the Lancashire operatives on the cotton famine was one of the great and adequate reasons for giving the franchise to the artisans of our great cities. The dull indifference of the rural labourers is held to be an adequate excuse for with- holding it at present from the field-labourers. If there be anything in such a plea at all, what excuse can there be as yet for asking the franchise for women? They would certainly, for a generation to come at least, delay and embarrass every great reform. The evil spirit of caste, for instance, is even amongst Englishmen in every stage of society, far too strong ; amongst Englishwomen it is dangerously intense. Or consider how long we should have any wise though reluctant tolerance of moral evil in cases where all interference would infinitely increase that evil, if women bore as much sway in the State as men. To judge, at least, by the American women-agitators, politics would be- come one network of complicated restrictions so soon as women shall succeed in getting their voice preponderant in the State, We must say therefore that the true reformers appear to us to be those who are trying to multiply in every direction the means of promoting a wide and true culture for women, and asking for such obviously just and needful reforms as the Mar- ried Women's Property Bill ; and not those who are asking for the addition of another million of the most ignorant politicians in England to the electoral lists,—for we throw aside as utterly unpractical and unmeaning the proposal to enfranchise single women who are householders, and to leave married women (who are in nine cases out of ten less ignorant on politics than single women) without a vote. It is very encouraging to see how rapidly the movement in favour of women is really finding its way into those natural, and in any case essentially preliminary channels, by which the State must be benefited, while by the political movement, it seems to us that, for a long time at least, the State might be materially injured. (Probably, by the way, it is a new thing, to most of these lady agitators for the franchise, to think of the welfare of the State as one of the main considerations at all, so minutely individualistic is the character of their argument,—just as if the political qualifications of the class as a class were not even an element in the calculation.) But whatever be thought of the effect of woman franchise on the State, the effect of a wide and thorough education for the women of the day can only be of one kind, and hence it is to us a far greater subject of satisfaction to see the interest displayed in the education of girls, the demands made that the Government shall devote a considerable proportion of the grammar-school endowments to girls' schools, and the efforts which some wise and zealous people of both sexes are making (in one case at least,— that of the new University education for women,—the whole praise is due to a lady), to secure an advanced education for young women as good as the education open to men in Edin- burgh, Glasgow, Cambridge, and Oxford. We observe with the warmest satisfaction, that the ladies' colleges all over the country are making new exertions to meet the 'wants of the day. On this very day we have received two notices of great efforts in this direction,—one from a London ladies' college, the college in Bedford-square, which has always been in the front, and is now reconstituted with many very great improve- ments for a still more efficient work,—and one which is quite new of its kind, the proposed college at Hitchin for women over eighteen years of age, who are to have all the advantages for quiet reading and genuine study of students at Oxford and Cambridge,—separate rooms under their own exclusive control, first-rate lectures, periodical examinations, and that degree of intellectual liberty which is so great a delight to young men on their remove from school to the University. It is cheering to find that the new Hitchin College is really to be opened on the 10th October next ; that thirteen students have already passed a satisfactory pre- liminary examination (as severe as that at Cambridge), of whom the first two have gained scholarships ; and that most of the students who are coming are above the age of twenty, for this is a considerable guarantee in favour of honest work, and against mere playing at work. A great success in the direction of a genuine University for Women,—and this will be a great success,—would do more to raise the English standard of women's education, to make them aim at something alto- gether higher than has hitherto been aimed at, than all the political meetings in the world summoned to claim the franchise for women on the same ground on which it is claimed for negroes in the Southern States of America. No doubt true edu- cation for women must lead sooner or later to giving women true political interests and sound political views. As soon as they have any respectable amount of interest in politics, if they desire equal political rights with men, we do not see how, on any principle of justice, they can be refused them. If they think, as they well may, that they exercise a really greater and better political influence indirectly than directly, they will not demand them. But whether they are demanded or not, the political education of women must be a consequence of their general education, must be an incalculable boon to the State, must result in a higher political life for the State, whether it takes the form of wielding direct political in- fluence, or remains in the equally powerful form of latent heat. In any case, to make a fuss now about women's fran- chise seems to us a very remarkable illustration of the posi- tive passion of some people for putting the cart before the horse.