Numero Uno—“The following sheets were, as the note on the opposite page expresses, printed so long ago as the year 1780. The design, in pursuance of which they were written, was not so extensive as that announced by the present title. They had at that time no other destination than that of serving as an introduction to a plan of a penal code in terminus, designed to follow them, in the same volume.The body of the work had received its completion according to the then present extent of the author’s views, when, in the investigation of some flaws he had discovered, he found himself unexpectedly entangled in an unsuspected corner of the metaphysical maze. A suspension, at first not apprehended to be more than a temporary one, necessarily ensued: suspension brought on coolness, and coolness, aided by other concurrent causes, ripened into disgust.
Imperfections pervading the whole mass had already been pointed out by the sincerity of severe and discerning friends; and conscience had certified the justness of their censure. The inordinate length of some of the chapters, the apparent inutility of others, and the dry and metaphysical turn of the whole, suggested an apprehension, that, if published in its present form, the work would contend under great disadvantages for any chance, it might on other accounts possess, of being read, and consequently of being of use.
But, though in this manner the idea of completing the present work slid insensibly aside, that was not by any means the case with the considerations which had led him to engage in it. Every opening, which promised to afford the lights he stood in need of, was still pursued: as occasion arose the several departments connected with that in which he had at first engaged, were successively explored; insomuch that, in one branch or other of the pursuit, his researches have nearly embraced the whole field of legislation.
Several causes have conspired at present to bring to light, under this new title, a work which under its original one had been imperceptibly, but as it had seemed irrevocably, doomed to oblivion. In the course of eight years, materials for various works, corresponding to the different branches of the subject of legislation, had been produced, and some nearly reduced to shape: and, in every one of those works, the principles exhibited in the present publication had been found so necessary, that, either to transcribe them piece-meal, or to exhibit them somewhere where they could be referred to in the lump, was found unavoidable. The former course would have occasioned repetitions too bulky to be employed without necessity in the execution of a plan unavoidably so voluminous: the latter was therefore indisputably the preferable one.
To publish the materials in the form in which they were already printed, or to work them up into a new one, was therefore the only alternative: the latter had all along been his wish, and, had time and the requisite degree of alacrity been at command, it would as certainly have been realised. Cogent considerations, however, concur, with the irksomeness of the task, in placing the accomplishment of it at present at an unfathomable distance.
Another consideration is, that the suppression of the present work, had it been ever so decidedly wished, is no longer altogether in his power. In the course of so long an interval, various incidents have introduced copies into various hands, from some of which they have been transferred by deaths and other accidents, into others that are unknown to him. Detached, but considerable extracts, have even been published, without any dishonourable views (for the name of the author was very honestly subjoined to them), but without his privity, and in publications undertaken without his knowledge.
It may perhaps be necessary to add, to complete his excuse for offering to the public a work pervaded by blemishes, which have not escaped even the author’s partial eye, that the censure, so justly bestowed upon the form, did not extend itself to the matter.
In sending it thus abroad into the world with all its imperfections upon its head, he thinks it may be of assistance to the few readers he can expect, to receive a short intimation of the chief particulars, in respect of which it fails of corresponding with his maturer views. It will thence be observed how in some respects it fails of quadrating with the design announced by its original title, as in others it does with that announced by the one it bears at present.
An introduction to a work which takes for its subject the totality of any science, ought to contain all such matters, and such matters only, as belong in common to every particular branch of that science, or at least to more branches of it than one. Compared with its present title, the present work fails in both ways of being conformable to that rule.
As an introduction to the principles of morals, in addition to the analysis it contains of the extensive ideas signified by the terms pleasure, pain, motive, and disposition, it ought to have given a similar analysis of the not less extensive, though much less determinate, ideas annexed to the terms emotion, passion, appetite, virtue, vice, and some others, including the names of the particular virtues and vices. But as the true, and, if he conceives right, the only true ground-work for the development of the latter set of terms, has been laid by the explanation of the former, the completion of such a dictionary, so to style it, would, in comparison of the commencement, be little more than a mechanical operation.
Again, as an introduction to the principles of legislation in general, it ought rather to have included matters belonging exclusively to the civil branch, than matters more particularly applicable to the penal: the latter being but a means of compassing the ends proposed by the former. In preference therefore, or at least in priority, to the several chapters which will be found relative to punishment, it ought to have exhibited a set of propositions which have since presented themselves to him as affording a standard for the operations performed by government, in the creation and distribution of proprietary and other civil rights. He means certain axioms of what may be termed mental pathology, expressive of the connection betwixt the feelings of the parties concerned, and the several classes of incidents, which either call for, or are produced by, operations of the nature above mentioned.
The consideration of the division of offences, and every thing else that belongs to offences, ought, besides, to have preceded the consideration of punishment: for the idea of punishment presupposes the idea of offence: punishment, as such, not being inflicted but in consideration of offence.
Lastly, the analytical discussions relative to the classification of offences would, according to his present views, be transferred to a separate treatise, in which the system of legislation is considered solely in respect of its form: in other words, in respect of its method and terminology.
In these respects the performance fails of coming up to the author’s own ideas of what should have been exhibited in a work, bearing the title he has now given it. viz. that of an Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation. He knows however of no other that would be less unsuitable: nor in particular would so adequate an intimation of its actual contents have been given, by a title corresponding to the more limited design, with which it was written: viz. that of serving as an introduction to a penal code.
Yet more. Dry and tedious as a great part of the discussions it contains must unavoidably be found by the bulk of readers, he knows not how to regret the having written them, nor even the having made them public. Under every head, the practical uses, to which the discussions contained under that head appeared applicable, are indicated: nor is there, he believes, a single proposition that he has not found occasion to build upon in the penning of some article or other of those provisions of detail, of which a body of law, authoritative or unauthoritative, must be composed. He will venture to specify particularly, in this view, the several chapters shortly characterized by the words Sensibility, Actions, Intentionality, Consciousness, Motives,Dispositions, Consequences. Even in the enormous chapter on the division of offenses, which, notwithstanding the forced compression the plan has undergone in several of its parts, in manner there mentioned, occupies no fewer than one hundred and four closely printed quarto pages, the ten concluding ones are employed in a statement of the practical advantages that may be reaped from the plan of classification which it exhibits. Those in whose sight the Defence of Usury has been fortunate enough to find favour, may reckon as one instance of those advantages the discovery of the principles developed in that little treatise. In the preface to an anonymous tract published so long ago as in 1776, he had hinted at the utility of a natural classification of offenses, in the character of a test for distinguishing genuine from spurious ones. The case of usury is one among a number of instances of the truth of that observation. A note at the end of Sect. xxxv. chap. xvi. of the present publication, may serve to show how the opinions, developed in that tract, owed their origin to the difficulty experienced in the attempt to find a place in his system for that imaginary offense. To some readers, as a means of helping them to support the fatigue of wading through an analysis of such enormous length, he would almost recommend the beginning with those ten concluding pages.
One good at least may result from the present publication; viz. that the more he has trespassed on the patience of the reader on this occasion, the less need he will have so to do on future ones: so that this may do to those, the office which is done, by books of pure mathematics, to books of mixed mathematics and natural philosophy. The narrower the circle of readers is, within which the present work may be condemned to confine itself, the less limited may be the number of those to whom the fruits of his succeeding labours may be found accessible. He may therefore in this respect find himself in the condition of those philosophers of antiquity, who are represented as having held two bodies of doctrine, a popular and an occult one: but, with this difference, that in his instance the occult and the popular will, he hopes, be found as consistent as in those they were contradictory; and that in his production whatever there is of occultness has been the pure result of sad necessity, and in no respect of choice.
Having, in the course of this advertisement, had such frequent occasion to allude to different arrangements, as having been suggested by more extensive and maturer views, it may perhaps contribute to the satisfaction of the reader, to receive a short intimation of their nature: the rather, as, without such explanation, references, made here and there to unpublished works, might be productive of perplexity and mistake. The following then are the titles of the works by the publication of which his present designs would be completed. They are exhibited in the order which seemed to him best fitted for apprehension, and in which they would stand disposed, were the whole assemblage ready to come out at once: but the order, in which they will eventually appear, may probably enough be influenced in some degree by collateral and temporary considerations.
Part the 3rd. Principles of legislation in matters of procedure: uniting in one view the criminal and civil branches, between which no line can be drawn, but a very indistinct one, and that continually liable to variation.
Part the 6th. Principles of legislation in matters of political tactics: or of the art of maintaining order in the proceedings of political assemblies, so as to direct them to the end of their institution: viz. by a system of rules, which are to the constitutional branch, in some respects, what the law of procedure is to the civil and the penal.
Part the 10th. Plan of a body of law, complete in all its branches, considered in respect of its form; in other words, in respect of its method and terminology; including a view of the origination and connexion of the ideas expressed by the short list of terms, the exposition of which contains all that can be said with propriety to belong to the head of universal jurisprudence.
The use of the principles laid down under the above several heads is to prepare the way for the body of law itself exhibited in terminis; and which to be complete, with reference to any political state, must consequently be calculated for the meridian, and adapted to the circumstances, of some one such state in particular.
Had he an unlimited power of drawing upon time, and every other condition necessary, it would be his wish to postpone the publication of each part to the completion of the whole. In particular, the use of the ten parts, which exhibit what appear to him the dictates of utility in every line, being no other than to furnish reasons for the several corresponding provisions contained in the body of law itself, the exact truth of the former can never be precisely ascertained, till the provisions, to which they are destined to apply, are themselves ascertained, and that in terminis. But as the infirmity of human nature renders all plans precarious in the execution, in proportion as they are extensive in the design, and as he has already made considerable advances in several branches of the theory, without having made correspondent advances in the practical applications, he deems it more than probable, that the eventual order of publication will not correspond exactly with that which, had it been equally practicable, would have appeared most eligible. Of this irregularity the unavoidable result will be, a multitude of imperfections, which, if the execution of the body of law in terminis had kept pace with the development of the principles, so that each part had been adjusted and corrected by the other, might have been avoided. His conduct however will be the less swayed by this inconvenience, from his suspecting it to be of the number of those in which the personal vanity of the author is much more concerned, than the instruction of the public: since whatever amendments may be suggested in the detail of the principles, by the literal fixation of the provisions to which they are relative, may easily be made in a corrected edition of the former, succeeding upon the publication of the latter.
In the course of the ensuing pages, references will be found, as already intimated, some to the plan of a penal code to which this work was meant as an introduction, some to other branches of the above-mentioned general plan, under titles somewhat different from those, by which they have been mentioned here. The giving this warning is all which it is in the author’s power to do, to save the reader from the perplexity of looking out for what has not as yet any existence. The recollection of the change of plan will in like manner account for several similar incongruities not worth particularizing.
Allusion was made, at the outset of this advertisement, to some unspecified difficulties, as the causes of the original suspension, and unfinished complexion, of the present work. Ashamed of his defeat, and unable to dissemble it, he knows not how to refuse himself the benefit of such an apology as a slight sketch of the nature of those difficulties may afford.
The discovery of them was produced by the attempt to solve the questions that will be found at the conclusion of the volume: Wherein consisted the identity and completeness of a law? What the distinction, and where the separation, between a penal and a civil law? What the distinction, and where the separation, between the penal and other branches of the law?
To give a complete and correct answer to these questions, it is but too evident that the relations and dependencies of every part of the legislative system, with respect to every other, must have been comprehended and ascertained. But it is only upon a view of these parts themselves, that such an operation could have been performed. To the accuracy of such a survey one necessary condition would therefore be, the complete existence of the fabric to be surveyed. To the performance of this condition no example is as yet to be met with any where. Common law, as it styles itself in England,judiciary law as it might aptly be styled every where. that fictitious composition which has no known person for its author, no known assemblage of words for its substance, forms every where the main body of the legal fabric: like that fancied ether, which, in default of sensible matter, fills up the measure of the universe. Shreds and scraps of real law, stuck on upon that imaginary ground, compose the furniture of every national code. What follows?—that he who, for the purpose just mentioned or for any other, wants an example of a complete body of law to refer to, must begin with making one.
There is, or rather there ought to be. a logic of the will. as well as of the understanding: the operations of the former faculty, are neither less susceptible, nor less worthy, then those of the latter, of being delineated by rules. Of these two branches of that recondite art, Aristotle saw only the latter: succeeding logicians, treading in the steps of their great founder, have concurred in seeing with no other eyes. Yet so far as a difference can be assigned between branches so intimately connected, whatever difference there is, in point of importance, is in favour of the logic of the will. Since it is only by their capacity of directing the operations of this faculty, that the operations of the understanding are of any consequence.
Of this logic of the will, the science of law, considered in respect of its form, is the most considerable branch,—the most important application. It is, to the art of legislation, what the science of anatomy is to the art of medicine: with this difference, that the subject of it is what the artist has to work with, instead of being what he has to operate upon. Nor is the body politic less in danger from a want of acquaintance with the one science, than the body natural from ignorance in the other. One example, amongst a thousand that might be adduced in proof of this assertion, may be seen in the note which terminates this volume.
Yet more: a body of proposed law, how complete soever, would be comparatively useless and uninstructive, unless explained and justified, and that in every tittle, by a continued accompaniment, a perpetual commentary of reasons: which reasons, that the comparative value of such as point in opposite directions may be estimated, and the conjunct force, of such as point in the same direction may be felt. must be marshalled, and put under subordination to such extensive and leading ones as are termed principles. There must be therefore, not one system only, but two parallel and connected systems, running on together. the one of legislative provisions, the other of political reasons, each affording to the other correction and support.
Are enterprises like these achievable? He knows not. This only he knows, that they have been undertaken, proceeded in, and that some progress has been made in all of them. He will venture to add, if at all achievable, never at least by one, to whom the fatigue of attending to discussions, as arid as those which occupy the ensuing pages, would either appear useless, or feel intolerable. He will repeat it boldly (for it has been said before him), truths that form the basis of political and moral science are not to be discovered but by investigations as severe as mathematical ones, and beyond all comparison more intricate and extensive. The familiarity of the terms is a presumption, but is a most fallacious one, of the facility of the matter. Truths in general have been called stubborn things: the truths just mentioned are so in their own way. They are not to be forced into detached and general propositions, unincumbered with explanations and exceptions. They will not compress themselves into epigrams. They recoil from the tongue and the pen of the declaimer. They flourish not in the same soil with sentiment. They grow among thorns; and are not to be plucked, like daisies, by infants as they run. Labour, the inevitable lot of humanity, is in no track more inevitable than here. In vain would an Alexander bespeak a peculiar road for royal vanity, or a Ptolemy, a smoother one, for royal indolence. There is no King’s Road, no Stadtholder’s Gate, to legislative, any more than to mathematic science. …
I. Nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure. It is for them alone to point out what we ought to do, as well as to determine what we shall do. On the one hand the standard of right and wrong, on the other the chain of causes and effects, are fastened to their throne. They govern us in all we do, in all we say, in all we think: every effort we can make to throw off our subjection, will serve but to demonstrate and confirm it. In words a man may pretend to abjure their empire: but in reality he will remain. subject to it all the while. The principle of utility recognizes this subjection, and assumes it for the foundation of that system, the object of which is to rear the fabric of felicity by the hands of reason and of law. Systems which attempt to question it, deal in sounds instead of sense, in caprice instead of reason, in darkness instead of light.
II. The principle of utility is the foundation of the present work: it will be proper therefore at the outset to give an explicit and determinate account of what is meant by it. By the principle of utility is meant that principle which approves or disapproves of every action whatsoever. according to the tendency it appears to have to augment or diminish the happiness of the party whose interest is in question: or, what is the same thing in other words to promote or to oppose that happiness. I say of every action whatsoever, and therefore not only of every action of a private individual, but of every measure of government.
III. By utility is meant that property in any object, whereby it tends to produce benefit, advantage, pleasure, good, or happiness, (all this in the present case comes to the same thing) or (what comes again to the same thing) to prevent the happening of mischief, pain, evil, or unhappiness to the party whose interest is considered: if that party be the community in general, then the happiness of the community: if a particular individual, then the happiness of that individual.
IV. The interest of the community is one of the most general expressions that can occur in the phraseology of morals: no wonder that the meaning of it is often lost. When it has a meaning, it is this. The community is a fictitious body, composed of the individual persons who are considered as constituting as it were its members. The interest of the community then is, what is it?—the sum of the interests of the several members who compose it.
V. It is in vain to talk of the interest of the community, without understanding what is the interest of the individual. A thing is said to promote the interest, or to be for the interest, of an individual, when it tends to add to the sum total of his pleasures: or, what comes to the same thing, to diminish the sum total of his pains.
VI. An action then may be said to be conformable to then principle of utility, or, for shortness sake, to utility, (meaning with respect to the community at large) when the tendency it has to augment the happiness of the community is greater than any it has to diminish it.
VII. A measure of government (which is but a particular kind of action, performed by a particular person or persons) may be said to be conformable to or dictated by the principle of utility, when in like manner the tendency which it has to augment the happiness of the community is greater than any which it has to diminish it.
VIII. When an action, or in particular a measure of government, is supposed by a man to be conformable to the principle of utility, it may be convenient, for the purposes of discourse, to imagine a kind of law or dictate, called a law or dictate of utility: and to speak of the action in question, as being conformable to such law or dictate.
IX. A man may be said to be a partizan of the principle of utility, when the approbation or disapprobation he annexes to any action, or to any measure, is determined by and proportioned to the tendency which he conceives it to have to augment or to diminish the happiness of the community: or in other words, to its conformity or unconformity to the laws or dictates of utility.
X. Of an action that is conformable to the principle of utility one may always say either that it is one that ought to be done, or at least that it is not one that ought not to be done. One may say also, that it is right it should be done; at least that it is not wrong it should be done: that it is a right action; at least that it is not a wrong action. When thus interpreted, the words ought, and right and wrong and others of that stamp, have a meaning: when otherwise, they have none.
XI. Has the rectitude of this principle been ever formally contested? It should seem that it had, by those who have not known what they have been meaning. Is it susceptible of any direct proof? it should seem not: for that which is used to prove every thing else, cannot itself be proved: a chain of proofs must have their commencement somewhere. To give such proof is as impossible as it is needless.
XII. Not that there is or ever has been that human creature at breathing, however stupid or perverse, who has not on many, perhaps on most occasions of his life, deferred to it. By the natural constitution of the human frame, on most occasions of their lives men in general embrace this principle, without thinking of it: if not for the ordering of their own actions, yet for the trying of their own actions, as well as of those of other men. There have been, at the same time, not many perhaps, even of the most intelligent, who have been disposed to embrace it purely and without reserve. There are even few who have not taken some occasion or other to quarrel with it, either on account of their not understanding always how to apply it, or on account of some prejudice or other which they were afraid to examine into, or could not bear to part with. For such is the stuff that man is made of: in principle and in practice, in a right track and in a wrong one, the rarest of all human qualities is consistency.
XIII. When a man attempts to combat the principle of utility, it is with reasons drawn, without his being aware of it, from that very principle itself. His arguments, if they prove any thing, prove not that the principle is wrong, but that, according to the applications he supposes to be made of it, it ismisapplied. Is it possible for a man to move the earth? Yes; but he must first find out another earth to stand upon.
XIV. To disprove the propriety of it by arguments is impossible; but, from the causes that have been mentioned, or from some confused or partial view of it, a man may happen to be disposed not to relish it. Where this is the case, if he thinks the settling of his opinions on such a subject worth the trouble, let him take the following steps, and at length, perhaps, he may come to reconcile himself to it.
1. Let him settle with himself, whether he would wish to discard this principle altogether; if so, let him consider what it is that all his reasonings (in matters of politics especially) can amount to?
2. If he would, let him settle with himself, whether he would judge and act without any principle, or whether there is any other he would judge an act by?
3. If there be, let him examine and satisfy himself whether the principle he thinks he has found is really any separate intelligible principle; or whether it be not a mere principle in words, a kind of phrase, which at bottom expresses neither more nor less than the mere averment of his own unfounded sentiments; that is, what in another person he might be apt to call caprice?
4. If he is inclined to think that his own approbation or disapprobation, annexed to the idea of an act, without any regard to its consequences, is a sufficient foundation for him to judge and act upon, let him ask himself whether his sentiment is to be a standard of right and wrong, with respect to every other man, or whether every man’s sentiment has the same privilege of being a standard to itself?
5. In the first case, let him ask himself whether his principle is not despotical, and hostile to all the rest of human race?
6. In the second case, whether it is not anarchial, and whether at this rate there are not as many different standards of right and wrong as there are men? and whether even to the same man, the same thing, which is right to-day, may not (without the least change in its nature) be wrong to-morrow? and whether the same thing is not right and wrong in the same place at the same time? and in either case, whether all argument is not at an end? and whether, when two men have said, “I like this”, and “I don’t like it”, they can (upon such a principle) have any thing more to say?
7. If he should have said to himself, No: for that the sentiment which he proposes as a standard must be grounded on reflection, let him say on what particulars the reflection is to turn? if on particulars having relation to the utility of the act, then let him say whether this is not deserting his own principle, and borrowing assistance from that very one in opposition to which he sets it up: or if not on those particulars, on what other particulars?
8. If he should be for compounding the matter, and adopting his own principle in part, and the principle of utility in part, let him say how far he will adopt it?
9. When he has settled with himself where he will stop, then let him ask himself how he justifies to himself the adopting it so far? and why he will not adopt it any farther?
10. Admitting any other principle than the principle of utility to be a right principle, a principle that it is right for a man to pursue; admitting (what is not true) that the word right can have a meaning without reference to utility, let him say whether there is any such thing as a motive that a man can have to pursue the dictates of it: if there is, let him say what that motive is, and how it is to be distinguished from those which enforce the dictates of utility: if not, then lastly let him say what it is this other principle can be good for?” Jeremy Bentham, Introduction to the Principles of Morals & Legislation; Preface, Chapter One, “Of the Principle of Utility ”
Numero Dos—“In preparing this work, our object has been to put into permanent shape the few scattered reports of the Woman Suffrage Movement still to be found, and to make it an arsenal of facts for those who are beginning to inquire into the demands and arguments of the leaders of this reform. Although the continued discussion of the political rights of woman during the last thirty years, forms a most important link in the chain of influences tending to her emancipation, no attempt at its history has been made. In giving the inception and progress of this agitation, we who have undertaken the task have been moved by the consideration that many of oar co-workers have already fallen asleep, and that in a few years all who could tell the story will have passed away.In collecting material for these volumes, most of those of whom we solicited facts have expressed themselves deeply interested in our undertaking, and have gladly contributed all they could, feeling that those identified with this reform were better qualified to prepare a faithful history with greater patience and pleasure, than those of another generation possibly could.
A few have replied, “It is too early to write the history of this movement; wait until our object is attained; the actors themselves can not write an impartial history; they have had their discords, divisions, personal hostilities, that unfit them for the work.” Viewing the enfranchisement of woman as the most important demand of the century, we have felt no temptation to linger over individual differences. These occur in all associations, and may be regarded in this case as an evidence of the growing self-assertion and individualism in woman.
Woven with the threads of this history, we have given some personal[Pg 8]reminiscences and brief biographical sketches. To the few who, through ill-timed humility, have refused to contribute any of their early experiences we would suggest, that as each brick in a magnificent structure might have had no special value alone on the road-side, yet, in combination with many others, its size, position, quality, becomes of vital consequence; so with the actors in any great reform, though they may be of little value in themselves; as a part of a great movement they may be worthy of mention—even important to the completion of an historical record.
To be historians of a reform in which we have been among the chief actors, has its points of embarrassment as well as advantage. Those who fight the battle can best give what all readers like to know—the impelling motives to action; the struggle in the face of opposition; the vexation under ridicule; and the despair in success too long deferred. Moreover, there is an interest in history written from a subjective point of view, that may compensate the reader in this case for any seeming egotism or partiality he may discover. As an autobiography is more interesting than a sketch by another, so is a history written by its actors, as in both cases we get nearer the soul of the subject.
We have finished our task, and we hope the contribution we have made may enable some other hand in the future to write a more complete history of ‘the most momentous reform that has yet been launched on the world—the first organized protest against the injustice which has brooded over the character and destiny of one-half the human race.’ …
The prolonged slavery of woman is the darkest page in human history. A survey of the condition of the race through those barbarous periods, when physical force governed the world, when the motto, ‘might makes right,’ was the law, enables one to account, for the origin of woman’s subjection to man without referring the fact to the general inferiority of the sex, or Nature’s law.Writers on this question differ as to the cause of the universal degradation of woman in all periods and nations.
One of the greatest minds of the century has thrown a ray of light on this gloomy picture by tracing the origin of woman’s slavery to the same principle of selfishness and love of power in man that has thus far dominated all weaker nations and classes. This brings hope of final emancipation, for as all nations and classes are gradually, one after another, asserting and maintaining their independence, the path is clear for woman to follow. The slavish instinct of an oppressed class has led her to toil patiently through the ages, giving all and asking little, cheerfully sharing with man all perils and privations by land and sea, that husband and sons might attain honor and success. Justice and freedom for herself is her latest and highest demand.
Another writer asserts that the tyranny of man over woman has its roots, after all, in his nobler feelings; his love, his chivalry, and his desire to protect woman in the barbarous periods of pillage, lust, and war. But wherever the roots may be traced, the results at this hour are equally disastrous to woman. Her best interests and happiness do not seem to have been consulted in the arrangements made for her protection. She has been bought and sold, caressed and crucified at the will and pleasure of her master. But if a chivalrous desire to protect woman has always been the mainspring of man’s dominion over her, it should have prompted him to place in her hands the same weapons of defense he has found to be most effective against wrong and oppression.[Pg 14]
It is often asserted that as woman has always been man’s slave—subject—inferior—
In an age when the wrongs of society are adjusted in the courts and at the ballot-box, material force yields to reason and majorities.
Woman’s steady march onward, and her growing desire for a broader outlook, prove that she has not reached her normal condition, and that society has not yet conceded all that is necessary for its attainment.
Moreover, woman’s discontent increases in exact proportion to her development. Instead of a feeling of gratitude for rights accorded, the wisest are indignant at the assumption of any legal disability based on sex, and their feelings in this matter are a surer test of what her nature demands, than the feelings and prejudices of the sex claiming to be superior. American men may quiet their consciences with the delusion that no such injustice exists in this country as in Eastern nations, though with the general improvement in our institutions, woman’s condition must inevitably have improved also, yet the same principle that degrades her in Turkey, insults her in this republic. Custom forbids a woman there to enter a mosque, or call the hour for prayers; here it forbids her a voice in Church Councils or State Legislatures. The same taint of her primitive state of slavery affects both latitudes.
The condition of married women, under the laws of all countries, has been essentially that of slaves, until modified, in some respects, within the last quarter of a century in the United States. The change from the old Common Law of England, in regard to the civil rights of women, from 1848 to the advance legislation in most of the Northern States in 1880, marks an era both in the status of woman as a citizen and in our American system of jurisprudence. When the State of New York gave married women certain rights of property, the individual existence of the wife was recognized, and the old idea that “husband and wife are one, and that one the husband,” received its death-blow. From that hour the statutes of the several States have been steadily diverging from the old English[Pg 15] codes. Most of the Western States copied the advance legislation of New York, and some are now even more liberal.
The broader demand for political rights has not commanded the thought its merits and dignity should have secured. While complaining of many wrongs and oppressions, women themselves did not see that the political disability of sex was the cause of all their special grievances, and that to secure equality anywhere, it must be recognized everywhere. Like all disfranchised classes, they begun by asking to have certain wrongs redressed, and not by asserting their own right to make laws for themselves.
Overburdened with cares in the isolated home, women had not the time, education, opportunity, and pecuniary independence to put their thoughts clearly and concisely into propositions, nor the courage to compare their opinions with one another, nor to publish them, to any great extent, to the world.
It requires philosophy and heroism to rise above the opinion of the wise men of all nations and races, that to be unknown, is the highest testimonial woman can have to her virtue, delicacy and refinement.
A certain odium has ever rested on those who have risen above the conventional level and sought new spheres for thought and action, and especially on the few who demand complete equality in political rights. The leaders in this movement have been women of superior mental and physical organization, of good social standing and education, remarkable alike for their domestic virtues, knowledge of public affairs, and rare executive ability; good speakers and writers, inspiring and conducting the genuine reforms of the day; everywhere exerting themselves to promote the best interests of society; yet they have been uniformly ridiculed, misrepresented, and denounced in public and private by all classes of society.
Woman’s political equality with man is the legitimate outgrowth of the fundamental principles of our Government, clearly set forth in the Declaration of Independence in 1776, in the United States Constitution adopted in 1784, in the prolonged debates on the origin of human rights in the anti-slavery conflict in 1840, and in the more recent discussions of the party in power since 1865, on the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the National Constitution; and the majority of our leading statesmen have taken the ground that suffrage is a natural right that may be regulated, but can not be abolished by State law.
Under the influence of these liberal principles of republicanism that pervades all classes of American minds, however vaguely, if[Pg 16] suddenly called out, they might be stated, woman readily perceives the anomalous position she occupies in a republic, where the government and religion alike are based on individual conscience and judgment—where the natural rights of all citizens have been exhaustively discussed, and repeatedly declared equal.
From the inauguration of the government, representative women have expostulated against the inconsistencies between our principles and practices as a nation. Beginning with special grievances, woman’s protests soon took a larger scope. Having petitioned State legislatures to change the statutes that robbed her of children, wages, and property, she demanded that the Constitutions—State and National—be so amended as to give her a voice in the laws, a choice in the rulers, and protection in the exercise of her rights as a citizen of the United States.
While the laws affecting woman’s civil rights have been greatly improved during the past thirty years, the political demand has made but a questionable progress, though it must be counted as the chief influence in modifying the laws. The selfishness of man was readily enlisted in securing woman’s civil rights, while the same element in his character antagonized her demand for political equality.
Fathers who had estates to bequeath to their daughters could see the advantage of securing to woman certain property rights that might limit the legal power of profligate husbands.
Husbands in extensive business operations could see the advantage of allowing the wife the right to hold separate property, settled on her in time of prosperity, that might not be seized for his debts. Hence in the several States able men championed these early measures. But political rights, involving in their last results equality everywhere, roused all the antagonism of a dominant power, against the self-assertion of a class hitherto subservient. Men saw that with political equality for woman, they could no longer keep her in social subordination, and “the majority of the male sex,” says John Stuart Mill, “can not yet tolerate the idea of living with an equal.” The fear of a social revolution thus complicated the discussion. The Church, too, took alarm, knowing that with the freedom and education acquired in becoming a component part of the Government, woman would not only outgrow the power of the priesthood, and religious superstitions, but would also invade the pulpit, interpret the Bible anew from her own stand-point, and claim an equal voice in all ecclesiastical councils. With fierce warnings and denunciations from the pulpit, and false interpretations of Scripture, women have been intimidated and misled, and their religious feelings have[Pg 17] been played upon for their more complete subjugation. While the general principles of the Bible are in favor of the most enlarged freedom and equality of the race, isolated texts have been used to block the wheels of progress in all periods; thus bigots have defended capital punishment, intemperance, slavery, polygamy, and the subjection of woman. The creeds of all nations make obedience to man the corner-stone of her religious character. Fortunately, however, more liberal minds are now giving us higher and purer expositions of the Scriptures.
As the social and religious objections appeared against the demand for political rights, the discussion became many-sided, contradictory, and as varied as the idiosyncrasies of individual character. Some said, “Man is woman’s natural protector, and she can safely trust him to make laws for her.” She might with fairness reply, as he uniformly robbed her of all property rights to 1848, he can not safely be trusted with her personal rights in 1880, though the fact that he did make some restitution at last, might modify her distrust in the future. However, the calendars of our courts still show that fathers deal unjustly with daughters, husbands with wives, brothers with sisters, and sons with their own mothers. Though woman needs the protection of one man against his whole sex, in pioneer life, in threading her way through a lonely forest, on the highway, or in the streets of the metropolis on a dark night, she sometimes needs, too, the protection of all men against this one. But even if she could be sure, as she is not, of the ever-present, all-protecting power of one strong arm, that would be weak indeed compared with the subtle, all-pervading influence of just and equal laws for all women. Hence woman’s need of the ballot, that she may hold in her own right hand the weapon of self-protection and self-defense.
Again it is said: “The women who make the demand are few in number, and their feelings and opinions are abnormal, and therefore of no weight in considering the aggregate judgment on the question.” The number is larger than appears on the surface, for the fear of public ridicule, and the loss of private favors from those who shelter, feed, and clothe them, withhold many from declaring their opinions and demanding their rights. The ignorance and indifference of the majority of women, as to their status as citizens of a republic, is not remarkable, for history shows that the masses of all oppressed classes, in the most degraded conditions, have been stolid and apathetic until partial success had crowned the faith and enthusiasm of the few.
The insurrections on Southern plantations were always defeated[Pg 18] by the doubt and duplicity of the slaves themselves. That little band of heroes who precipitated the American Revolution in 1776 were so ostracised that they walked the streets with bowed heads, from a sense of loneliness and apprehension. Woman’s apathy to the wrongs of her sex, instead of being a plea for her remaining in her present condition, is the strongest argument against it. How completely demoralized by her subjection must she be, who does not feel her personal dignity assailed when all women are ranked in every State Constitution with idiots, lunatics, criminals, and minors; when in the name of Justice, man holds one scale for woman, another for himself; when by the spirit and letter of the laws she is made responsible for crimes committed against her, while the male criminal goes free; when from altars where she worships no woman may preach; when in the courts, where girls of tender age may be arraigned for the crime of infanticide, she may not plead for the most miserable of her sex; when colleges she is taxed to build and endow, deny her the right to share in their advantages; when she finds that which should be her glory—her possible motherhood—treated everywhere by man as a disability and a crime! A woman insensible to such indignities needs some transformation into nobler thought, some purer atmosphere to breathe, some higher stand-point from which to study human rights.
It is said, “the difference between the sexes indicates different spheres.” It would be nearer the truth to say the difference indicates different duties in the same sphere, seeing that man and woman were evidently made for each other, and have shown equal capacity in the ordinary range of human duties. In governing nations, leading armies, piloting ships across the sea, rowing life-boats in terrific gales; in art, science, invention, literature, woman has proved herself the complement of man in the world of thought and action. This difference does not compel us to spread our tables with different food for man and woman, nor to provide in our common schools a different course of study for boys and girls. Sex pervades all nature, yet the male and female tree and vine and shrub rejoice in the same sunshine and shade. The earth and air are free to all the fruits and flowers, yet each absorbs what best ensures its growth. But whatever it is, it requires no special watchfulness on our part to see that it is maintained. This plea, when closely analyzed, is generally found to mean woman’s inferiority.
The superiority of man, however, does not enter into the demand for suffrage, for in this country all men vote; and as the lower orders of men are not superior, either by nature or grace, to the higher[Pg 19] orders of women, they must hold and exercise the right of self-government on some other ground than superiority to women.
Again it is said, “Woman when independent and self-asserting will lose her influence over man.” In the happiest conditions in life, men and women will ever be mutually dependent on each other. The complete development of all woman’s powers will not make her less capable of steadfast love and friendship, but give her new strength to meet the emergencies of life, to aid those who look to her for counsel and support. Men are uniformly more attentive to women of rank, family, and fortune, who least need their care, than to any other class. We do not see their protecting love generally extending to the helpless and unfortunate ones of earth. Wherever the skilled hands and cultured brain of woman have made the battle of life easier for man, he has readily pardoned her sound judgment and proper self-assertion. But the prejudices and preferences of man should be a secondary consideration, in presence of the individual happiness and freedom of woman. The formation of her character and its influence on the human race, is a larger question than man’s personal liking. There is no fear, however, that when a superior order of women shall grace the earth, there will not be an order of men to match them, and influence over such minds will atone for the loss of it elsewhere.
An honest fear is sometimes expressed “that woman would degrade politics, and politics would degrade woman.” As the influence of woman has been uniformly elevating in new civilizations, in missionary work in heathen nations, in schools, colleges, literature, and in general society, it is fair to suppose that politics would prove no exception. On the other hand, as the art of government is the most exalted of all sciences, and statesmanship requires the highest order of mind, the ennobling and refining influence of such pursuits must elevate rather than degrade woman. When politics degenerate into bitter persecutions and vulgar court-gossip, they are degrading to man, and his honor, virtue, dignity, and refinement are as valuable to woman as her virtues, are to him.
Again, it is said, “Those who make laws must execute them; government needs force behind it,—a woman could not be sheriff or a policeman.” She might not fill these offices in the way men do, but she might far more effectively guard the morals of society, and the sanitary conditions of our cities. It might with equal force be said that a woman of culture and artistic taste can not keep house, because she can not wash and iron with her own hands, and clean the range and furnace. At the head of the police, a woman could[Pg 20] direct her forces and keep order without ever using a baton or a pistol in her own hands. “The elements of sovereignty,” says Blackstone, “are three: wisdom, goodness, and power.” Conceding to woman wisdom and goodness, as they are not strictly masculine virtues, and substituting moral power for physical force, we have the necessary elements of government for most of life’s emergencies. Women manage families, mixed schools, charitable institutions, large boarding-houses and hotels, farms and steam-engines, drunken and disorderly men and women, and stop street fights, as well as men do. The queens in history compare favorably with the kings.
But, “in the settlement of national difficulties,” it is said, “the last resort is war; shall we summon our wives and mothers to the battle-field?” Women have led armies in all ages, have held positions in the army and navy for years in disguise. Some fought, bled, and died on the battle-field in our late war. They performed severe labors in the hospitals and sanitary department. Wisdom would dictate a division of labor in war as well as in peace, assigning each their appropriate department.
Numerous classes of men who enjoy their political rights are exempt from military duty. All men over forty-five, all who suffer mental or physical disability, such as the loss of an eye or a forefinger; clergymen, physicians, Quakers, school-teachers, professors, and presidents of colleges, judges, legislators, congressmen, State prison officials, and all county, State and National officers; fathers, brothers, or sons having certain relatives dependent on them for support,—all of these summed up in every State in the Union make millions of voters thus exempted.
In view of this fact there is no force in the plea, that “if women vote they must fight.” Moreover, war is not the normal state of the human family in its higher development, but merely a feature of barbarism lasting on through the transition of the race, from the savage to the scholar. When England and America settled the Alabama Claims by the Geneva Arbitration, they pointed the way for the future adjustment of all national difficulties.
Some fear, “If women assume all the duties political equality implies, that the time and attention necessary to the duties of home life will be absorbed in the affairs of State.” The act of voting occupies but little time in itself, and the vast majority of women will attend to their family and social affairs to the neglect of the State, just as men do to their individual interests. The virtue of patriotism is subordinate in most souls to individual and family aggrandizement. As to offices, it is not to be supposed that the class of[Pg 21] men now elected will resign to women their chances, and if they should to any extent, the necessary number of women to fill the offices would make no apparent change in our social circles. If, for example, the Senate of the United States should be entirely composed of women, but two in each State would be withdrawn from the pursuit of domestic happiness. For many reasons, under all circumstances, a comparatively smaller proportion of women than men would actively engage in politics.
As the power to extend or limit the suffrage rests now wholly in the hands of man, he can commence the experiment with as small a number as he sees fit, by requiring any lawful qualification. Men were admitted on property and educational qualifications in most of the States, at one time, and still are in some—so hard has it been for man to understand the theory of self-government. Three-fourths of the women would be thus disqualified, and the remaining fourth would be too small a minority to precipitate a social revolution or defeat masculine measures in the halls of legislation, even if women were a unit on all questions and invariably voted together, which they would not. In this view, the path of duty is plain for the prompt action of those gentlemen who fear universal suffrage for women, but are willing to grant it on property and educational qualifications. While those who are governed by the law of expediency should give the measure of justice they deem safe, let those who trust the absolute right proclaim the higher principle in government, “equal rights to all.”
Many seeming obstacles in the way of woman’s enfranchisement will be surmounted by reforms in many directions. Co-operative labor and co-operative homes will remove many difficulties in the way of woman’s success as artisan and housekeeper, when admitted to the governing power. The varied forms of progress, like parallel lines, move forward simultaneously in the same direction. Each reform, at its inception, seems out of joint with all its surroundings; but the discussion changes the conditions, and brings them in line with the new idea.
The isolated household is responsible for a large share of woman’s ignorance and degradation. A mind always in contact with children and servants, whose aspirations and ambitions rise no higher than the roof that shelters it, is necessarily dwarfed in its proportions. The advantages to the few whose fortunes enable them to make the isolated household a more successful experiment, can not outweigh the difficulties of the many who are wholly sacrificed to its maintenance.[Pg 22]
Quite as many false ideas prevail as to woman’s true position in the home as to her status elsewhere. Womanhood is the great fact in her life; wifehood and motherhood are but incidental relations. Governments legislate for men; we do not have one code for bachelors, another for husbands and fathers; neither have the social relations of women any significance in their demands for civil and political rights. Custom and philosophy, in regard to woman’s happiness, are alike based on the idea that her strongest social sentiment is love of children; that in this relation her soul finds complete satisfaction. But the love of offspring, common to all orders of women and all forms of animal life, tender and beautiful as it is, can not as a sentiment rank with conjugal love. The one calls out only the negative virtues that belong to apathetic classes, such as patience, endurance, self-sacrifice, exhausting the brain-forces, ever giving, asking nothing in return; the other, the outgrowth of the two supreme powers in nature, the positive and negative magnetism, the centrifugal and centripetal forces, the masculine and feminine elements, possessing the divine power of creation, in the universe of thought and action. Two pure souls fused into one by an impassioned love—friends, counselors—a mutual support and inspiration to each other amid life’s struggles, must know the highest human happiness;—this is marriage; and this is the only corner-stone of an enduring home. Neither does ordinary motherhood, assumed without any high purpose or preparation, compare in sentiment with the lofty ambition and conscientious devotion of the artist whose pure children of the brain in poetry, painting, music, and science are ever beckoning her upward into an ideal world of beauty. They who give the world a true philosophy, a grand poem, a beautiful painting or statue, or can tell the story of every wandering star; a George Eliot, a Rosa Bonheur, an Elizabeth Barrett Browning, a Maria Mitchell—whose blood has flowed to the higher arches of the brain,—have lived to a holier purpose than they whose children are of the flesh alone, into whose minds they have breathed no clear perceptions of great principles, no moral aspiration, no spiritual life.
Her rights are as completely ignored in what is adjudged to be woman’s sphere as out of it; the woman is uniformly sacrificed to the wife and mother. Neither law, gospel, public sentiment, nor domestic affection shield her from excessive and enforced maternity, depleting alike to mother and child;—all opportunity for mental improvement, health, happiness—yea, life itself, being ruthlessly sacrificed. The weazen, weary, withered, narrow-minded wife-mother[Pg 23] of half a dozen children—her interests all centering at her fireside, forms a painful contrast in many a household to the liberal, genial, brilliant, cultured husband in the zenith of his power, who has never given one thought to the higher life, liberty, and happiness of the woman by his side; believing her self-abnegation to be Nature’s law.
It is often asked, ‘if political equality would not rouse antagonisms between the sexes?’ If it could be proved that men and women had been harmonious in all ages and countries, and that women were happy and satisfied in their slavery, one might hesitate in proposing any change whatever. But the apathy, the helpless, hopeless resignation of a subjected class can not be called happiness. The more complete the despotism, the more smoothly all things move on the surface. ‘Order reigns in Warsaw.’ In right conditions, the interests of man and woman are essentially one; but in false conditions, they must ever be opposed. The principle of equality of rights underlies all human sentiments, and its assertion by any individual or class must rouse antagonism, unless conceded. This has been the battle of the ages, and will be until all forms of slavery are banished from the earth. Philosophers, historians, poets, novelists, alike paint woman the victim ever of man’s power and selfishness. And now all writers on Eastern civilization tell us, the one insurmountable obstacle to the improvement of society in those countries, is the ignorance and superstition of the women. Stronger than the trammels of custom and law, is her religion, which teaches that her condition is Heaven-ordained. As the most ignorant minds cling with the greatest tenacity to the dogmas and traditions of their faith, a reform that involves an attack on that stronghold can only be carried by the education of another generation. Hence the self-assertion, the antagonism, the rebellion of woman, so much deplored in England and the United States, is the hope of our higher civilization. A woman growing up under American ideas of liberty in government and religion, having never blushed behind a Turkish mask, nor pressed her feet in Chinese shoes, can not brook any disabilities based on sex alone, without a deep feeling of antagonism with the power that creates it. The change needed to restore good feeling can not be reached by remanding woman to the spinning-wheel, and the contentment of her grandmother, but by conceding to her every right which the spirit of the age demands. Modern inventions have banished the spinning-wheel, and the same law of progress makes the woman of to-day a different woman from her grandmother.
With these brief replies to the oft-repeated objections made by the opposition, we hope to rouse new thoughts in minds prepared to receive them. That equal rights for woman have not long ago been secured, is due to causes beyond the control of the actors in this reform. ‘The success of a movement,’ says Lecky, ‘depends much less upon the force of its arguments, or upon the ability of its advocates, than the predisposition of society to receive it.’ …
As civilization advances there is a continual change in the standard of human rights. In barbarous ages the right of the strongest was the only one recognized; but as mankind progressed in the arts and sciences intellect began to triumph over brute force. Change is a law of life, and the development of society a natural growth. Although to this law we owe the discoveries of unknown worlds, the inventions of machinery, swifter modes of travel, and clearer ideas as to the value of human life and thought, yet each successive change has met with the most determined opposition. Fortunately, progress is not the result of pre-arranged plans of individuals, but is born of a fortuitous combination of circumstances that compel certain results, overcoming the natural inertia of mankind. There is a certain enjoyment in habitual sluggishness; in rising each morning with the same ideas as the night before; in retiring each night with the thoughts of the morning. This inertia of mind and body has ever held the multitude in chains. Thousands have thus surrendered their most sacred rights of conscience. In all periods of human development, thinking has been punished as a crime, which is reason sufficient to account for the general passive resignation of the masses to their conditions and environments.
Again, ‘subjection to the powers that be’ has been the lesson of both Church and State, throttling science, checking invention, crushing free thought, persecuting and torturing those who have dared to speak or act outside of established authority. Anathemas and the stake have upheld the Church, banishment and the scaffold the throne, and the freedom of mankind has ever been sacrificed to the idea of protection. So entirely has the human will been enslaved in all classes of society in the past, that monarchs have humbled themselves to popes, nations have knelt at the feet of monarchs, and individuals have sold themselves to others under the subtle promise of “protection”—a word that simply means release from all responsibility, all use of one’s own faculties—a word that has ever blinded people to its true significance. Under authority and[Pg 26] this false promise of “protection,” self-reliance, the first incentive to freedom, has not only been lost, but the aversion of mankind for responsibility has been fostered by the few, whose greater bodily strength, superior intellect, or the inherent law of self-development has impelled to active exertion. Obedience and self-sacrifice—the virtues prescribed for subordinate classes, and which naturally grow out of their condition—are alike opposed to the theory of individual rights and self-government. But as even the inertia of mankind is not proof against the internal law of progress, certain beliefs have been inculcated, certain crimes invented, in order to intimidate the masses. Hence, the Church made free thought the worst of sins, and the spirit of inquiry the worst of blasphemies; while the State proclaimed her temporal power of divine origin, and all rebellion high treason alike to God and the king, to be speedily and severely punished. In this union of Church and State mankind touched the lowest depth of degradation. As late as the time of Bunyan the chief doctrine inculcated from the pulpit was obedience to the temporal power.
All these influences fell with crushing weight on woman; more sensitive, helpless, and imaginative, she suffered a thousand fears and wrongs where man did one. Lecky, in his “History of Rationalism in Europe,” shows that the vast majority of the victims of fanaticism and witchcraft, burned, drowned, and tortured, were women. Guizot, in his “History of Civilization,” while decrying the influence of caste in India, and deploring it as the result of barbarism, thanks God there is no system of caste in Europe; ignoring the fact that in all its dire and baneful effects, the caste of sex everywhere exists, creating diverse codes of morals for men and women, diverse penalties for crime, diverse industries, diverse religions and educational rights, and diverse relations to the Government. Men are the Brahmins, women the Pariahs, under our existing civilization. Herbert Spencer’s “Descriptive Sociology of England,” an epitome of English history, says: “Our laws are based on the all-sufficiency of man’s rights, and society exists to-day for woman only in so far as she is in the keeping of some man.” Thus society, including our systems of jurisprudence, civil and political theories, trade, commerce, education, religion, friendships, and family life, have all been framed on the sole idea of man’s rights. Hence, he takes upon himself the responsibility of directing and controlling the powers of woman, under that all-sufficient excuse of tyranny, “divine right.” This same cry of divine authority created the castes of India; has for ages separated its people into bodies, with different[Pg 27] industrial, educational, civil, religious, and political rights; has maintained this separation for the benefit of the superior class, and sedulously taught the doctrine that any change in existing conditions would be a sin of most direful magnitude.
The opposition of theologians, though first to be exhibited when any change is proposed, for reason that change not only takes power from them, but lessens the reverence of mankind for them, is not in its final result so much to be feared as the opposition of those holding political power. The Church, knowing this, has in all ages aimed to connect itself with the State. Political freedom guarantees religious liberty, freedom to worship God according to the dictates of one’s own conscience, fosters a spirit of inquiry, creates self-reliance, induces a feeling of responsibility.
The people who demand authority for every thought and action, who look to others for wisdom and protection, are those who perpetuate tyranny. The thinkers and actors who find their authority within, are those who inaugurate freedom. Obedience to outside authority to which woman has everywhere been trained, has not only dwarfed her capacity, but made her a retarding force in civilization, recognized at last by statesmen as a dangerous element to free institutions. A recent writer, speaking of Turkey, says: “All attempts for the improvement of that nation must prove futile, owing to the degradation of its women; and their elevation is hopeless so long as they are taught by their religion that their condition is ordained of heaven.” Gladstone, in one of his pamphlets on the revival of Catholicism in England, says: “The spread of this religion is due, as might be expected, to woman;” thus conceding in both cases her power to block the wheels of progress. Hence, in the scientific education of woman, in the training of her faculties to independent thought and logical reasoning, lies the hope of the future.
The two great sources of progress are intellect and wealth. Both represent power, and are the elements of success in life. Education frees the mind from the bondage of authority and makes the individual self-asserting. Remunerative industry is the means of securing to its possessor wealth and education, transforming the laborer to the capitalist. Work in itself is not power; it is but the means to an end. The slave is not benefited by his industry; he does not receive the results of his toil; his labor enriches another—adds to the power of his master to bind his chains still closer. Although woman has performed much of the labor of the world, her industry and economy have been the very means of increasing her degradation. Not being free, the results of her labor have gone to[Pg 28] build up and sustain the very class that has perpetuated this injustice. Even in the family, where we should naturally look for the truest conditions, woman has always been robbed of the fruits of her own toil. The influence the Catholic Church has had on religious free thought, that monarchies have had on political free thought, that serfdom has had upon free labor, have all been cumulative in the family upon woman. Taught that father and husband stood to her in the place of God, she has been denied liberty of conscience, and held in obedience to masculine will. Taught that the fruits of her industry belonged to others, she has seen man enter into every avocation most suitable to her, while she, the uncomplaining drudge of the household, condemned to the severest labor, has been systematically robbed of her earnings, which have gone to build up her master’s power, and she has found herself in the condition of the slave, deprived of the results of her own labor. Taught that education for her was indelicate and irreligious, she has been kept in such gross ignorance as to fall a prey to superstition, and to glory in her own degradation. Taught that a low voice is an excellent thing in woman, she has been trained to a subjugation of the vocal organs, and thus lost the benefit of loud tones and their well-known invigoration of the system. Forbidden to run, climb, or jump, her muscles have been weakened, and her strength deteriorated. Confined most of the time to the house, she has neither as strong lungs nor as vigorous a digestion as her brother. Forbidden to enter the pulpit, she has been trained to an unquestioning reverence for theological authority and false belief upon the most vital interests of religion. Forbidden the medical profession, she has at the most sacred times of her life been left to the ignorant supervision of male physicians, and seen her young children die by thousands. Forbidden to enter the courts, she has seen her sex unjustly tried and condemned for crimes men were incapable of judging.
Woman has been the great unpaid laborer of the world, and although within the last two decades a vast number of new employments have been opened to her, statistics prove that in the great majority of these, she is not paid according to the value of the work done, but according to sex. The opening of all industries to woman, and the wage question as connected with her, are most subtle and profound questions of political economy, closely interwoven with the rights of self-government.
The revival of learning had its influence upon woman, and we find in the early part of the fourteenth century a decided tendency[Pg 29] toward a recognition of her equality. Christine of Pisa, the most eminent woman of this period, supported a family of six persons by her pen, taking high ground on the conservation of morals in opposition to the general licentious spirit of the age. Margaret of Angoulême, the brilliant Queen of Navarre, was a voluminous writer, her Heptaméron rising to the dignity of a French classic. A paper in the Revue des Deux Mondes, a few years since, by M. Henri Baudrillart, upon the “Emancipation of Woman,” recalls the fact that for nearly four hundred years, men, too, have been ardent believers in equal rights for woman.
In 1509, Cornelius Agrippa, a great literary authority of his time, published a work of this character. Agrippa was not content with claiming woman’s equality, but in a work of thirty chapters devoted himself to proving “the superiority of woman.” In less than fifty years (1552) Ruscelli brought out a similar work based on the Platonic Philosophy. In 1599, Anthony Gibson wrote a book which in the prolix phraseology of the times was called, “A Woman’s Worth defended against all the Men in the World, proving to be more Perfect, Excellent, and Absolute, in all Virtuous Actions, than any man of What Quality Soever.” While these sturdy male defenders of the rights of woman met with many opponents, some going so far as to assert that women were beings not endowed with reason, they were sustained by many vigorous writers among women. Italy, then the foremost literary country of Europe, possessed many women of learning, one of whom, Lucrezia Morinella, a Venetian lady, wrote a work entitled, “The Nobleness and Excellence of Women, together with the Faults and Imperfections of Men.”
The seventeenth century gave birth to many essays and books of a like character, not confined to the laity, as several friars wrote upon the same subject. In 1696, Daniel De Foe wished to have an institute founded for the better education of young women. He said: “We reproach the sex every day for folly and impertinence, while I am confident had they the advantages of education equal to us, they would be guilty of less than ourselves.” Alexander’s History of Women, John Paul Ribera’s work upon Women, the two huge quartos of De Costa upon the same subject, Count Ségur’s “Women: Their Condition and Influence,” and many other works showed the drift of the new age.
The Reformation, that great revolution in religious thought, loosened the grasp of the Church upon woman, and is to be looked upon as one of the most important steps in this reform. In the[Pg 30] reign of Elizabeth, England was called the Paradise of Women. When Elizabeth ascended the throne, it was not only as queen, but she succeeded her father as the head of the newly-formed rebellious Church, and she held firm grasp on both Church and State during the long years of her reign, bending alike priest and prelate to her fiery will. The reign of Queen Anne, called the Golden Age of English Literature, is especially noticeable on account of Mary Astell and Elizabeth Elstob. The latter, speaking nine languages, was most famous for her skill in the Saxon tongue. She also replied to current objections made to woman’s learning. Mary Astell elaborated a plan for a Woman’s College, which was favorably received by Queen Anne, and would have been carried out, but for the opposition of Bishop Burnett.
During the latter part of the eighteenth century, there were public discussions by women in England, under the general head of Female Parliament. These discussions took wide range, touching upon the entrance of men into those industries usually assigned to women, and demanding for themselves higher educational advantages, and the right to vote at elections, and to be returned members of Parliament.
The American Revolution, that great political rebellion of the ages, was based upon the inherent rights of the individual. Perhaps in none but English Colonies, by descendants of English parents, could such a revolution have been consummated. England had never felt the bonds of feudalism to the extent of many countries; its people had defied its monarchs and wrested from them many civil rights, rights which protected women as well as men, and although its common law, warped by ecclesiasticism, expended its chief rigors upon women, yet at an early day they enjoyed certain ecclesiastical and political powers unknown to women elsewhere. Before the Conquest, abbesses sat in councils of the Church and signed its decrees; while kings were even dependent upon their consent in granting certain charters. The synod of Whitby, in the ninth century, was held in the convent of the Abbess Hilda, she herself presiding over its deliberations. The famous prophetess of Kent at one period communicated the orders of Heaven to the Pope himself. Ladies of birth and quality sat in council with the Saxon Witas—i.e., wise men—taking part in the Witenagemot, the great National Council of our Saxon ancestors in England. In the seventh century this National Council met at Baghamstead to enact a new code of laws, the queen, abbesses, and many ladies of quality taking part and signing the decrees. Passing by other similar instances, we find in the reign of Henry III, that four women took seats in Parliament, and in the[Pg 31] reign of Edward I. ten ladies were called to Parliament, while in the thirteenth century, Queen Elinor became keeper of the Great Seal, sitting as Lord Chancellor in the Aula Regia, the highest court of the Kingdom. Running back two or three centuries before the Christian era, we find Martia, her seat of power in London, holding the reins of government so wisely as to receive the surname of Proba, the Just. She especially devoted herself to the enactment of just laws for her subjects, the first principles of the common law tracing back to her; the celebrated laws of Alfred, and of Edward the Confessor, being in great degree restorations and compilations from the laws of Martia, which were known as the “Martian Statutes.”
When the American colonies began their resistance to English tyranny, the women—all this inherited tendency to freedom surging in their veins—were as active, earnest, determined, and self-sacrificing as the men, and although, as Mrs. Ellet in her “Women of the Revolution” remarks, “political history says but little, and that vaguely and incidentally, of the women who bore their part in the revolution,” yet that little shows woman to have been endowed with as lofty a patriotism as man, and to have as fully understood the principles upon which the struggle was based. Among the women who manifested deep political insight, were Mercy Otis Warren, Abigail Smith Adams, and Hannah Lee Corbin; all closely related to the foremost men of the Revolution. Mrs. Warren was a sister of James Otis, whose fiery words did so much to arouse and intensify the feelings of the colonists against British aggression. This brother and sister were united to the end of their lives in a friendship rendered firm and enduring by the similarity of their intellects and political views. The home of Mrs. Warren was the resort of patriotic spirits and the headquarters of the rebellion. She herself wrote, “By the Plymouth fireside were many political plans organized, discussed, and digested.” Her correspondence with eminent men of the Revolution was extensive and belongs to the history of the country. She was the first one who based the struggle upon “inherent rights,” a phrase afterward made the corner-stone of political authority. Mrs. Warren asserted that “‘inherent rights’ belonged to all mankind, and had been conferred on all by the God of nations.” She numbered Jefferson among her correspondents, and the Declaration of Independence shows the influence of her mind. Among others who sought her counsel upon political matters were Samuel and John Adams, Dickinson, that pure patriot of Pennsylvania, Jefferson, Gerry, and Knox. She was the first person who counseled separation and pressed those views upon John Adams, when[Pg 32] he sought her advice before the opening of the first Congress. At that time even Washington had no thought of the final independence of the colonies, emphatically denying such intention or desire on their part, and John Adams was shunned in the streets of Philadelphia for having dared to hint such a possibility. Mrs. Warren sustained his sinking courage and urged him to bolder steps. Her advice was not only sought in every emergency, but political parties found their arguments in her conversation. Mrs. Warren looked not to the freedom of man alone, but to that of her own sex also.
England itself had at least one woman who watched the struggle of America with lively interest, and whose writings aided in the dissemination of republican ideas. This was the celebrated Catharine Sawbridge Macaulay, one of the greatest minds England has ever produced—a woman so noted for her republican ideas that after her death a statue was erected to her as the “Patroness of Liberty.” During the whole of the Revolutionary period, Washington was in correspondence with Mrs. Macaulay, who did much to sustain him during those days of trial. She and Mrs. Warren were also correspondents at that time. She wrote several works of a republican character, for home influence; among these, in 1775. “An Address to the people of England, Scotland, and Ireland, on the present Important Crisis of Affairs,” designed to show the justice of the American cause. The gratitude American’s feel toward Edmund Burke for his aid, might well be extended to Mrs. Macaulay.
Abigail Smith Adams, the wife of John Adams, was an American woman whose political insight was worthy of remark. She early protested against the formation of a new government in which woman should be unrecognized, demanding for her a voice and representation. She was the first American woman who threatened rebellion unless the rights of her sex were secured. In March, 1776, she wrote to her husband, then in the Continental Congress, “I long to hear you have declared an independency, and, by the way, in the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, I desire you would remember the ladies, and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of husbands. Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention are not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound to obey any laws in which we have no voice or representation.” Again and again did Mrs. Adams urge the establishment of an independency and the limitation of man’s power over woman, declaring all arbitrary power dangerous and tending to[Pg 33]revolution. Nor was she less mindful of equal advantages of education. “If you complain of education in sons, what shall I say in regard to daughters, who every day experience the want of it?” She expressed a strong wish that the new Constitution might be distinguished for its encouragement of learning and virtue. Nothing more fully shows the dependent condition of a class than the methods used to secure their wishes. Mrs. Adams felt herself obliged to appeal to masculine selfishness in showing the reflex action woman’s education would have upon man. “If,” said she, “we mean to have heroes, statesmen, and philosophers, we should have learned women.” Thus did the Revolutionary Mothers urge the recognition of equal rights when the Government was in the process of formation. Although the first plot of ground in the United States for a public school had been given by a woman (Bridget Graffort), in 1700, her sex were denied admission. Mrs. Adams, as well as her friend Mrs. Warren, had in their own persons felt the deprivations of early educational advantages. The boasted public school system of Massachusetts, created for boys only, opened at last its doors to girls, merely to secure its share of public money. The women of the South, too, early demanded political equality. The counties of Mecklenberg and Rowan, North Carolina, were famous for the patriotism of their women. Mecklenberg claims to have issued the first declaration of independence, and, at the centennial celebration of this event in May, 1875, proudly accepted for itself the derisive name given this region by Tarleton’s officers, “The Hornet’s Nest of America.” This name—first bestowed by British officers upon Mrs. Brevard’s mansion, then Tarleton’s headquarters, where that lady’s fiery patriotism and stinging wit discomfited this General in many a sally—was at last held to include the whole county. In 1778, only two years after the Declaration of Independence was adopted, and while the flames of war were still spreading over the country, Hannah Lee Corbin, of Virginia, the sister of General Richard Henry Lee, wrote him, protesting against the taxation of women unless they were allowed to vote. He replied that “women were already possessed of that right,” thus recognizing the fact of woman’s enfranchisement as one of the results of the new government, and it is on record that women in Virginia did at an early day exercise the right of voting. New Jersey also specifically secured this right to women on the 2d of July, 1776—a right exercised by them for more than a third of a century. Thus our country started into governmental life freighted with the protests of the Revolutionary Mothers against being ruled without their consent. From that hour to the present, women have been continually[Pg 34] raising their voices against political tyranny, and demanding for themselves equality of opportunity in every department of life.
In 1790, Mary Wollstonecraft’s “Vindication of the Rights of Women,” published in London, attracted much attention from liberal minds. She examined the position of woman in the light of existing civilizations, and demanded for her the widest opportunities of education, industry, political knowledge, and the right of representation. Although her work is filled with maxims of the highest morality and purest wisdom, it called forth such violent abuse, that her husband appealed for her from the judgment of her contemporaries to that of mankind. So exalted were her ideas of woman, so comprehensive her view of life, that Margaret Fuller, in referring to her, said: “Mary Wollstonecraft—a woman whose existence proved the need of some new interpretation of woman’s rights, belonging to that class who by birth find themselves in places so narrow that, by breaking bonds, they become outlaws.” Following her, came Jane Marcet, Eliza Lynn, and Harriet Martineau—each of whom in the early part of the nineteenth century, exerted a decided influence upon the political thought of England. Mrs. Marcet was one of the most scientific and highly cultivated persons of the age. Her “Conversations on Chemistry,” familiarized that science both in England and America, and from it various male writers filched their ideas. It was a text-book in this country for many years. Over one hundred and sixty thousand copies were sold, though the fact that this work emanated from the brain of a woman was carefully withheld. Mrs. Marcet also wrote upon political economy, and was the first person who made the subject comprehensive to the popular mind. Her manner of treating it was so clear and vivid, that the public, to whom it had been a hidden science, were able to grasp the subject. Her writings were the inspiration of Harriet Martineau, who followed her in the same department of thought at a later period. Miss Martineau was a remarkable woman. Besides her numerous books on political economy, she was a regular contributor to the London Daily News, the second paper in circulation in England, for many years writing five long articles weekly, also to Dickens’ Household Words, and the Westminster Review. She saw clearly the spirit and purpose of the Anti-Slavery Movement in this country, and was a regular contributor to the National Anti-Slavery Standard, published in New York. Eliza Lynn, an Irish lady, was at this time writing leading editorials for political papers. In Russia, Catharine II., the absolute and irresponsible ruler of that vast nation, gave utterance to views, of which, says La Harpe, the revolutionists of France[Pg 35] and America fondly thought themselves the originators. She caused her grandchildren to be educated into the most liberal ideas, and Russia was at one time the only country in Europe where political refugees could find safety. To Catharine, Russia is indebted for the first proposition to enfranchise the serfs, but meeting strong opposition she was obliged to relinquish this idea, which was carried to fruition by her great-grandson, Alexander.
This period of the eighteenth century was famous for the executions of women on account of their radical political opinions, Madame Roland, the leader of the liberal party in France, going to the guillotine with the now famous words upon her lips, “Oh, Liberty, what crimes are committed in thy name!” The beautiful Charlotte Corday sealed with her life her belief in liberty, while Sophia Lapiérre barely escaped the same fate; though two men, Siéyes and Condorcét, in the midst of the French Revolution, proposed the recognition of woman’s political rights.
Frances Wright, a person of extraordinary powers of mind, born in Dundee, Scotland, in 1797, was the first woman who gave lectures on political subjects in America. When sixteen years of age she heard of the existence of a country in which freedom for the people had been proclaimed; she was filled with joy and a determination to visit the American Republic where the foundations of justice, liberty, and equality had been so securely laid. In 1820 she came here, traveling extensively North and South. She was at that time but twenty-two years of age. Her letters gave Europeans the first true knowledge of America, and secured for her the friendship of LaFayette. Upon her second visit she made this country her home for several years. Her radical ideas on theology, slavery, and the social degradation of woman, now generally accepted by the best minds of the age, were then denounced by both press and pulpit, and maintained by her at the risk of her life. Although the Government of the United States was framed on the basis of entire separation of Church and State, yet from an early day the theological spirit had striven to unite the two, in order to strengthen the Church by its union with the civil power. As early as 1828, the standard of “The Christian Party in Politics” was openly unfurled. Frances Wright had long been aware of its insidious efforts, and its reliance upon women for its support. Ignorant, superstitious, devout, woman’s general lack of education made her a fitting instrument for the work of thus undermining the republic. Having deprived her of her just rights, the country was new to find in woman its most dangerous foe. Frances Wright lectured that winter in the[Pg 36] large cities of the West and Middle States, striving to rouse the nation to the new danger which threatened it. The clergy at once became her most bitter opponents. The cry of “infidel” was started on every side, though her work was of vital importance to the country and undertaken from the purest philanthropy. In speaking of her persecutions she said: “The injury and inconvenience of every kind and every hour to which, in these days, a really consistent reformer stands exposed, none can conceive but those who experience them. Such become, as it were, excommunicated after the fashion of the old Catholic Mother Church, removed even from the protection of law, such as it is, and from the sympathy of society, for whose sake they consent to be crucified.”
Among those who were advocating the higher education of women, Mrs. Emma Willard became noted at this period. Born with a strong desire for learning, she keenly felt the educational disadvantages of her sex. She began teaching at an early day, introducing new studies and new methods in her school, striving to secure public interest in promoting woman’s education. Governor Clinton, of New York, impressed with the wisdom of her plans, invited her to move her school from Connecticut to New York. She accepted, and in 1819 established a school in Watervleit, which soon moved to Troy, and in time built up a great reputation. Through the influence of Governor Clinton, the Legislature granted a portion of the educational fund to endow this institution, which was the first instance in the United States of Government aid for the education of women. Amos B. Eaton, Professor of the Natural Sciences in the Rensselaer Institute, Troy, at this time, was Mrs. Willard’s faithful friend and teacher. In the early days it was her custom, in introducing a new branch of learning into her seminary, to study it herself, reciting to Professor Eaton every evening the lesson of the next day. Thus she went through botany, chemistry, mineralogy, astronomy, and the higher mathematics. As she could not afford teachers for these branches, with faithful study she fitted herself. Mrs. Willard’s was the first girls’ school in which the higher mathematics formed part of the course, but such was the prejudice against a liberal education for woman, that the first public examination of a girl in geometry (1829) created as bitter a storm of ridicule as has since assailed women who have entered the law, the pulpit, or the medical profession. The derision attendant upon the experiment of advancing woman’s education, led Governor Clinton to say in his message to the Legislature: “I trust you will not be deterred by commonplace ridicule from extending your munificence[Pg 37] to this meritorious institution.” At a school convention in Syracuse, 1845, Mrs. Willard suggested the employment of woman as superintendents of public schools, a measure since adopted in many States. She also projected the system of normal schools for the higher education of teachers. A scientific explorer as well as student, she wrote a work on the “Motive Power in the Circulation of the Blood,” in contradiction to Harvey’s theory, which at once attracted the attention of medical men. This work was one of the then accumulating evidences of woman’s adaptation to medical study.
In Ancient Egypt the medical profession was in the hands of women, to which we may attribute that country’s almost entire exemption from infantile diseases, a fact which recent discoveries fully authenticate. The enormous death-rate of young children in modern civilized countries may be traced to woman’s general enforced ignorance of the laws of life, and to the fact that the profession of medicine has been too exclusively in the hands of men. Though through the dim past we find women still making discoveries, and in the feudal ages possessing knowledge of both medicine and surgery, it is but recently that they have been welcomed as practitioners into the medical profession. Looking back scarcely a hundred years, we find science much indebted to woman for some of its most brilliant discoveries. In 1736, the first medical botany was given to the world by Elizabeth Blackwell, a woman physician, whom the persecutions of her male compeers had cast into jail for debt. As Bunyan prepared his “Pilgrim’s Progress” between prison walls, so did Elizabeth Blackwell, no-wise disheartened, prepare her valuable aid to medical science under the same conditions. Lady Montague’s discovery of a check to the small-pox, Madam Boivin’s discovery of the hidden cause of certain hemorrhages, Madam de Condrày’s invention of the manikin, are among the notable steps which opened the way to the modern Elizabeth Blackwell, Harriot K. Hunt, Clemence S. Lozier, Ann Preston, Hannah Longshore, Marie Jackson, Laura Ross Wolcott, Marie Zakrzewska, and Mary Putnam Jacobi, who are some of the earlier distinguished American examples of woman’s skill in the healing art.
Mary Gove Nichols gave public lectures upon anatomy in the United States in 1838. Paulina Wright (Davis) followed her upon physiology in 1844, using a manikin in her illustrations. Mariana[Pg 38] Johnson followed Mrs. Davis, but it was 1848 before Elizabeth Blackwell—the first woman to pass through the regular course of medical study—received her diploma at Geneva. In 1845-6, preceding Miss Blackwell’s course of study, Dr. Samuel Gregory and his brother George issued pamphlets advocating the education and employment of women-physicians, and, in 1847, Dr. Gregory delivered a series of lectures in Boston upon that subject, followed in 1848 by a school numbering twelve ladies, and an association entitled the “American Female Medical Education Society.” In 1832, Lydia Maria Child published her “History of Woman,” which was the first American storehouse of information upon the whole question, and undoubtedly increased the agitation. In 1836, Ernestine L. Rose, a Polish lady—banished from her native country by the Austrian tyrant, Francis Joseph, for her love of liberty—came to America, lecturing in the large cities North and South upon the “Science of Government.” She advocated the enfranchisement of woman. Her beauty, wit, and eloquence drew crowded houses. About this period Judge Hurlbut, of New York, a leading member of the Bar, wrote a vigorous work on “Human Rights,” in which he advocated political equality for women. This work attracted the attention of many legal minds throughout that State. In the winter of 1836, a bill was introduced into the New York Legislature by Judge Hertell, to secure to married women their rights of property. This bill was drawn up under the direction of Hon. John Savage, Chief-Justice of the Supreme Court, and Hon. John C. Spencer, one of the revisers of the statutes of New York. It was in furtherance of this bill that Ernestine L. Rose and Paulina Wright at that early day circulated petitions. The very few names they secured show the hopeless apathy and ignorance of the women as to their own rights. As similar bills were pending in New York until finally passed in 1848, a great educational work was accomplished in the constant discussion of the topics involved. During the winters of 1844-5-6, Elizabeth Cady Stanton,[Pg 39] living in Albany, made the acquaintance of Judge Hurlbut and a large circle of lawyers and legislators, and, while exerting herself to strengthen their convictions in favor of the pending bill, she resolved at no distant day to call a convention for a full and free discussion of woman’s rights and wrongs.
In 1828, Sarah and Angelina Grimke, daughters of a wealthy planter of Charleston, South Carolina, emancipated their slaves and came North to lecture on the evils of slavery, leaving their home and native place forever because of their hatred of this wrong. Angelina was a natural orator. Fresh from the land of bondage, there was a fervor in her speech that electrified her hearers and drew crowds wherever she went. Sarah published a book reviewing the Bible arguments the clergy were then making in their pulpits to prove that the degradation of the slave and woman were alike in harmony with the expressed will of God. Thus women from the beginning took an active part in the Anti-Slavery struggle. They circulated petitions, raised large sums of money by fairs, held prayer-meetings and conventions. In 1835, Angelina wrote an able letter to William Lloyd Garrison, immediately after the Boston mob. These letters and appeals were considered very effective abolition documents.
In May, 1837, a National Woman’s Anti-Slavery Convention was held in New York, in which eight States were represented by seventy-one delegates. The meetings were ably sustained through two days. The different sessions were opened by prayer and reading of the Scriptures by the women themselves. A devout, earnest spirit prevailed. The debates, resolutions, speeches, and appeals were fully equal to those in any Convention held by men of that period. Angelina Grimke was appointed by this Convention to prepare an appeal for the slaves to the people of the free States, and a letter to John Quincy Adams thanking him for his services in defending the right of petition for women and slaves, qualified with the regret that by expressing himself “adverse to the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia,” he did not sustain the cause of freedom and of God. She wrote a stirring appeal to the Christian women of the South, urging them to use their influence against slavery. Sarah also wrote an appeal to the clergy of the South, conjuring them to use their power for freedom.
Among those who took part in these conventions we find the names of Lydia Maria Child, Mary Grove, Henrietta Sargent, Sarah Pugh, Abby Kelley, Mary S. Parker, of Boston, who was president of the Convention; Anne Webster, Deborah Shaw, Martha Storrs,[Pg 40] Mrs. A. L. Cox, Rebecca B. Spring, and Abigail Hopper Gibbons, a daughter of that noble Quaker philanthropist, Isaac T. Hopper.
Abby Kelley was the most untiring and the most persecuted of all the women who labored throughout the Anti-Slavery struggle. She traveled up and down, alike in winter’s cold and summer’s heat, with scorn, ridicule, violence, and mobs accompanying her, suffering all kinds of persecutions, still speaking whenever and wherever she gained an audience; in the open air, in school-house, barn, depot, church, or public hall; on week-day or Sunday, as she found opportunity. For listening to her, on Sunday, many men and women were expelled from their churches. Thus through continued persecution was woman’s self-assertion and self-respect sufficiently developed to prompt her at last to demand justice, liberty, and equality for herself.
In 1840, Margaret Fuller published an essay in the Dial, entitled “The Great Lawsuit, or Man vs. Woman: Woman vs. Man.” In this essay she demanded perfect equality for woman, in education, industry, and politics. It attracted great attention and was afterward expanded into a work entitled “Woman in the Nineteenth Century.” This, with her parlor conversations, on art, science, religion, politics, philosophy, and social life, gave a new impulse to woman’s education as a thinker.
“Woman and her Era,” by Eliza Woodson Farnham, was another work that called out a general discussion on the status of the sexes, Mrs. Farnham taking the ground of woman’s superiority. The great social and educational work done by her in California, when society there was chiefly male, and rapidly tending to savagism, and her humane experiment in the Sing Sing (N. Y.), State Prison, assisted by Georgiana Bruce Kirby and Mariana Johnson, are worthy of mention.
In the State of New York, in 1845, Rev. Samuel J. May preached a sermon at Syracuse, upon “The Eights and Conditions of Women,” in which he sustained their right to take part in political life, saying women need not expect “to have their wrongs fully redressed, until they themselves have a voice and a hand in the enactment and administration of the laws.”
In 1847, Clarina Howard Nichols, in her husband’s paper, addressed to the voters of the State of Vermont a series of editorials, setting forth the injustice of the property disabilities of married women.
In 1849, Lucretia Mott published a discourse on woman, delivered[Pg 41] in the Assembly Building, Philadelphia, in answer to a Lyceum lecture which Richard H. Dana, of Boston, was giving in many of the chief cities, ridiculing the idea of political equality for woman. Elizabeth Wilson, of Ohio, published a scriptural view of woman’s rights and duties far in advance of the generally received opinions. At even an earlier day, Martha Bradstreet, of Utica, plead her own case in the courts of New York, continuing her contest for many years. The temperance reform and the deep interest taken in it by women; the effective appeals they made, setting forth their wrongs as mother, wife, sister, and daughter of the drunkard, with a power beyond that of man, early gave them a local place on this platform as a favor, though denied as a right. Delegates from woman’s societies to State and National conventions invariably found themselves rejected. It was her early labors in the temperance cause that first roused Susan B. Anthony to a realizing sense of woman’s social, civil, and political degradation, and thus secured her life-long labors for the enfranchisement of woman. In 1847 she made her first speech at a public meeting of the Daughters of Temperance in Canajoharie, N. Y. The same year Antoinette L. Brown, then a student at Oberlin College, Ohio, the first institution that made the experiment of co-education, delivered her first speech on temperance in several places in Ohio, and on Woman’s Rights, in the Baptist church at Henrietta, N. Y. Lucy Stone, a graduate of Oberlin, made her first speech on Woman’s Rights the same year in her brother’s church at Brookfield, Mass.
Nor were the women of Europe inactive during these years. In 1824 Elizabeth Heyrick, a Quaker woman, cut the gordian knot of difficulty in the anti-slavery struggle in England, by an able essay in favor of immediate, unconditional emancipation. At Leipsic, in 1844, Helene Marie Weber—her father a Prussian officer, and her mother an English woman—wrote a series of ten tracts on “Woman’s Rights and Wrongs,” covering the whole question and making a volume of over twelve hundred pages. The first of these treated of the intellectual faculties; the second, woman’s rights of property; the third, wedlock—deprecating the custom of woman merging her civil existence in that of her husband; the fourth claimed woman’s right to all political emoluments; the fifth, on ecclesiasticism, demanded for woman an entrance to the pulpit; the sixth, upon suffrage, declared it to be woman’s right and duty to vote. These essays were strong, vigorous, and convincing. Miss Weber also lectured in Vienna, Berlin, and several of the large German cities. In England, Lady Morgan’s “Woman and her Master” appeared;—a work filled[Pg 42] with philosophical reflections, and of the same general bearing as Miss Weber’s. Also an “Appeal of Women,” the joint work of Mrs. Wheeler and William Thomson—a strong and vigorous essay, in which woman’s limitations under the law were tersely and pungently set forth and her political rights demanded. The active part women took in the Polish and German revolutions and in favor of the abolition of slavery in the British West Indies, all taught their lessons of woman’s rights. Madam Mathilde Anneke, on the staff of her husband, with Hon. Carl Schurz, carried messages to and fro in the midst of danger on the battle-fields of Germany.
Thus over the civilized world we find the same impelling forces, and general development of society, without any individual concert of action, tending to the same general result; alike rousing the minds of men and women to the aggregated wrongs of centuries and inciting to an effort for their overthrow.
The works of George Sand, Frederika Bremer, Charlotte Bronté, George Eliot, Catharine Sedgwick, and Harriet Beecher Stowe, in literature; Mrs. Hemans, Mrs. Sigourney, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, in poetry; Angelica Kauffman, Rosa Bonheur, Harriet Hosmer, in art; Mary Somerville, Caroline Herschell, Maria Mitchell, in science; Elizabeth Fry, Dorothea Dix, Mary Carpenter, in prison reform; Florence Nightingale and Clara Barton in the camp—are all parts of the great uprising of women out of the lethargy of the past, and are among the forces of the complete revolution a thousand pens and voices herald at this hour.” Susan B. Anthony, History of Woman Suffrage, Volume I; Preface, Introduction, Chapter One
Numeros Tres—“On February 15, 1898, an explosion ripped through the American battleship Maine, anchored in Havana Harbor, sinking the ship and killing 260 sailors. Americans responded with outrage, assuming that Spain, which controlled Cuba as a colony, had sunk the ship. Many newspapers presented Spanish culpability as fact, with headlines such as ‘The War Ship Maine was Split in Two by an Enemy’s Secret Infernal Machine.’ Two months later, the slogan ‘Remember the Maine‘ carried the U.S. into war with Spain. In the midst of the hysteria, few Americans paid much attention to the report issued two weeks before the U.S. entry into the war by a Court of Inquiry appointed by President McKinley. The report stated that the committee could not definitively assign blame to Spain for the sinking of the Maine. In 1911, the Maine was raised in Havana harbor and a new board of inquiry again avoided a definite conclusion. In 1976, however, in the aftermath of the Vietnam War, Admiral Hyman Rickover conducted a new investigation. Rickover, something of a maverick in the Navy, came to the conclusion that the explosion was caused by spontaneous combustion in the ship’s coal bins, a problem that afflicted other ships of the period.
But controversy over the sinking of the Maine continues; some recent authors have, for example, rejected Rickover’s account and argued that rogue, anti-American Spanish officers used primitive mines to destroy the ship.
The loss of the Maine had to be investigated, but it could have been done differently. The Secretary of the Navy could have chosen the members of the court of inquiry. Instead Long decided to rely upon established procedures, a step consistent with the way he viewed his function. He assigned the task to Sicard. When the Commander-in-Chief of the North Atlantic Squadron proposed a list of relatively junior officers, Long—or someone else in Washington—intervened and changed the membership. By Sampson’s selection, the court had for its president a senior captain, well-known and respected in the Navy, and an officer who had been a vigorous Chief of the Bureau of Ordnance. The Navy Department answered as best it could requests from the court for plans and for a naval constructor. Long also turned to O’Neil, Chief of the Bureau of Ordnance, for additional advice. Long erred in his failure to go beyond normal procedures for technical advice.
The court of inquiry presented its results in two parts. The proceedings consisted mainly of transcripts of testimony. The findings were the facts as determined by the court. Between the proceedings and the findings was a broad gap. The court left no record of the reasoning which carried it from the often inconsistent witnesses to the conclusion that an external explosion had destroyed the ship. In other respects the court was also deficient. Curiously, the log of the Maine was never mentioned. In all probability it was lost with the vessel, but an acknowledgment of the fact would have helped complete the record and fulfill Navy Regulations. Thecourt failed to reconcile estimates of the contents of the magazines. It did not explore a significant matter which was part of Sigsbee’s defense. This was the alleged fact that the mooring assigned to the Maine was seldom used. Even if true, a sinister connotation did not immediately follow. The court could have taken up the subject. Captain Frank Stevens, captain of the City of Washington and the individual whom Sigsbee said had made the statement, appeared before the court and was not questioned on this point. Sigsbee’s testimony and his later writing can be criticized in detail but to do so would be lengthy and repetitious. His arguments were necessarily vague and speculative.
The Sampson court failed to call for technical experts. The simplest explanation for this omission is that the court felt no need to do so. All members were officers with years of service at sea. With plans of the ship and assistance of the naval constructor they had requested, and with information from the divers, the court might have believed that no one else could do a better job. From this standpoint, bringing in technical advisors would have meant delay, added nothing, and perhaps endangered control of the court over the investigation. Sampson was working under pressure. The possibility of war was imminent and the nation was clamoring for his report. As it was Sampson had fended off Washington attempts to hurry the court.
The court’s verdict of an external explosion was one that could be expected. The strained relations between the two nations, the warlike and patriotic atmosphere in Congress and the press, and the natural tendency to look for reasons for the loss that did not reflect upon the Navy might have been predisposing factors in the court’s finding. Above all, there was the way in which part of the keel and bottom plating were driven upward to form the inverted V. As the questioning of Converse by Marix revealed, the court was aware of an hypothesis by which an internal explosion accounted for this particular characteristic of the damage. Had the ship blown up in an American or friendly foreign port, and had the same type of damage occurred, it is doubtful that an inquiry would have laid the blame on a mine. The finding of the court of 1898 appears to have been guided less by technical consideration and more by the awareness that war was now inevitable.
The hearings held by the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations contained nothing of technical substance and appears to have had no more justification than to compile a record of Spanish misdeeds. Officers who had not even seen the findings of the court were asked for their opinion. Sigsbee was allowed to relate his theories about the makeshift mine without challenge. He even alluded to his possession of certain information too sensitive to reveal. So far as was known no one took up the matter and asked that Sigsbee testify in secret. By the time the committee held its hearings, the time for rational consideration had passed.
The board of 1911 could do its work free from the risk of war. Moreover, its members were better qualified for their task than were those of the court and they could examine the wreck under the best possible circumstances. The order signed by the Secretary of the Navy stated that assignment clearly: “The Board will make an exhaustive examination of the wreck of the Maine and state whether in its opinion there is anything shown, or any new evidence developed, that would indicate the cause of the explosion which destroyed the vessel. The board’s report, ordered printed by Congress on December 14, 1911, is difficult to understand, partly because its exhibits were not printed and partly because the reasoning behind its conclusion was not given. The report can be considered in the following order: first, what the report said about the damage done to the keel and bottom plating near frame 18—the inverted V—which the 1898 court said was caused by a mine: and second, the board’s own explanation for the loss of the ship.
The board stated that the damage done to the keel and bottom plating near frame 18 “ascribed by the court of inquiry of 1898 to the direct effect of an explosion exterior to the ship” was not caused by a mine. In the board’s words: “. . . the condition of the wreckage . . . [in the area of frame 18] can be accounted for by the action of gases of low explosives such as the black and brown powders with which the forward magazines were stored. The protective deck and hull of the ship formed a closed chamber in which the gases were generated and partially expanded before rupture. With these two sentences out of an 11-page report the board negated and overturned the key evidence upon which the 1898 court based its finding that the Maine was destroyed by a mine. The remainder of the report dealt with a description of the wreck and the board’s finding.
Secretary of the Navy Meyer’s orders calling for an “exhaustive examination” gave full authority to the board to say why it did not believe that the inverted V was caused by a mine, and to offer a description of the forces—even if only a hypothetical explanation of how this section of the keel and bottom plating were driven upward. The 1911 board based its finding that a mine destroyed the Maine upon an important discovery in the area of the wreck inaccessible to the 1898 court. After some mud was removed, it was discovered that the bottom of the ship had been damaged between frames 28 and 31 about 45 feet aft of the location of the inverted V. One section of plating was bent inward and folded back with one edge remaining attached to the outer bottom. The exposed edge of an adjacent plate was also bent inward slightly. The board stated that a mine caused this damage.
Why the board took this position is not understood. The displacement of the bottom plating could have been accounted for by an internal explosion and the dynamic effects of the ship’s sinking. More important, the displaced plating did not exhibit the scars which would be expected from a mine explosion. The 1911 board depended upon Ferguson’s photographs and models, the proceedings and finding of the 1898 court, and visits to the wreck so far as the records show, the 1911 board, as did the 1898 court, carried out its investigation without the advice of any outside experts and without the help of available technical information.
Perhaps, but this is only speculation, the 1911 board was willing on technical grounds to overturn the fundamental conclusion of the 1898 court, though unwilling to raise the question whether there had been a mine at all. Only 13 years had elapsed since the nation had gone to war with the battle cry “Remember the Maine.“ It would have been difficult for the board to raise the issue whether the nation and its constituted authorities had made a grave error In 1898.
In the light of much greater experience acquired since the court and the board investigated the Maine, the Hansen-Price analysis concludes that, in all probability, the damage between frames 28 and 31 was caused by an internal explosion alone. Photographs of this portion of the bottom taken in 1911, and studied by Hansen and Price, show no evidence of the tearing and distortion of plates that would be expected from an external underwater explosion.
In all probability, the Maine was destroyed by an accident which occurred inside the ship. Since the accident could have been prevented, it is proper to ask what would have happened if the Maine had not exploded. The answer to this question is difficult, for it depends on an assessment of the relations between the United States and Spain before the ship sailed for Havana. If war between the two countries was inevitable before the Maine left for the Cuban capital, the destruction of the battleship and the efforts to determine the cause of the disaster are only interesting footnotes to history.
No matter what course McKinley followed he risked war. If he did nothing and the conflict in Cuba continued, congressional sentiment and public feeling might force American military intervention which Spain was bound to resist. If he exerted pressure on Spain to end the fighting, he also ran the danger of war. In this dilemma he chose to act. He warned Spain that fighting on the island must end. He tendered his good offices, but did not become a pawn of Spain by underwriting Spanish efforts to restore peace. The Spanish government in Madrid was weak. Toward the end of 1897 it established an autonomous government in Cuba. Under its terms the inhabitants of the island were to govern their own internal affairs but were to remain under Spanish sovereignty. If autonomy succeeded in winning the support of the civilian population of Cuba, three years of civil warfare would end. The odds against success were great. Years of bitter strife had to be overcome, a deteriorated economy rebuilt, and a population divided by social and racial prejudice brought together.
There were signs of hope. Granting autonomy was itself an indication that a better future for Cuba was possible, for Spain having once ventured along this course could not turn back. Dupuy de Lôme, toward the end of 1897, thought that autonomy was improving the relations between the United States and Spain, for Cuban affairs were no longer attracting American attention to the extent they had a few months earlier. Even the riot of January 12, 1898, in Havana did not necessarily mean the failure of autonomy. The disturbance was not sufficiently dangerous for Lee to call for the Maine, even though the ship was available for that purpose; even though he was convinced that autonomy could not succeed; and even though he was eager to introduce a naval presence into the harbor. It was the officials in Washington who were alarmed. It was they who sent the Maine to Havana.
Ordering the Maine to Havana did not mean that war was inevitable. Probably McKinley was uncertain what he should do. It was essential to prevent the loss of American lives. Nothing could have made his determination clearer than the despatch of a major fleet unit to the Cuban capital. On the other hand, the President, the Assistant Secretary of State, and the Secretary of the Navy, would hardly have sent a battleship into Havana, with its narrow entrance guarded by strong fortifications, if they thought war was imminent. Nor would Spain have sent the Vizcaya to New York. The governments of the two countries were trying to establish normal relations, though recognizing that war was a possibility.
Chances for peace dropped after the explosion of the Maine. From the debates in the Congressional Record and from the pages of the press, a strong sentiment demanded intervention. The court of inquiry carried out its work under these circumstances. Had its members investigated the loss of the battleship with all the resources available to them, they might have reached two possible findings: that the Maine was destroyed by an internal explosion, or that the ship was destroyed by causes unknown. In either case, the result would have been the injection of reason into an atmosphere of emotion. At least the United States would not have found itself adopting an official position which was technically unsound and which increasing numbers of people have questioned over the years. And—although the chance was slim—war might have been avoided.
As a result of the war the United States became an imperial power. The sinking of the Maine did not create the emotional forces that led to American imperialism: it released them. The United States assumed, particularly in the Philippines, obligations to maintain order and to defend territories remote from its shore. The easiness of victory for a time obscured the responsibilities which had been incurred. Exuberant Americans lionized the victor of the easy battle of Manila and celebrated the triumph which carried the flag to new heights of world prestige. Rudyard Kipling uttered a deep and fervent appeal:
Take up the White Man’s burden—
Ye dare not stoop to less—
A bitter struggle took place in the Senate over the treaty which ended the war. Opposition stemmed from several motives, but one was misgivings over the role of the United States as an imperial power. Ironically the United States became an imperial nation just as classic imperialism (symbolized by colonial possessions on a map having the same color as the mother country) was ending. Within a few decades an increasing number of Americans recognized the justice of some of the earlier doubts. In 1935 the Commonwealth of the Philippines was established with the intent that after ten years the islands would become independent. Despite the intervention of World War II, the Philippines obtained independence in 1946, although the United States retained extensive privileges.
In the modern technological age, the battle cry ‘Remember the Maine‘ should have a special meaning for us. With almost instantaneous communications that can command weapons of unprecedented power, we can no longer approach technical problems with the casualness and confidence held by Americans in 1898. The Maine should impress us that technical problems must be examined by competent and qualified people; and that the results of their investigation must be fully and fairly presented to their fellow citizens. With the vastness of our government and the difficulty of controlling it, we must make sure that those in ‘high places’ do not, without most careful consideration of the consequences, exert our prestige and might. Such uses of our power may result in serious international actions at great cost in lives and money—injurious to the interests and standing of the United States.” “Better Late Than Never? Rickover Clears Spain of Maine Explosion;” History Matters