(The following comes from Brownson's Quarterly Review, Last Series, Vol. 1, 1873.)
It is no wonder that it seems to us that foreigners do not understand either our character or our institutions. They can judge them only as they are or as they find them; while we ourselves think and judge them not as they are, but as we expect in a nigh future to make them, or as they exist in our hopes and imaginations. We have no fixed or stable national character, no fixed or stable institutions. Both are constantly changing under the very eye of the spectator; but as we change with them, we note it not. The American people have no longer the character they had, nor so much character as they had in our own youth, and the laws and institutions, daily subjected to a reforming process, are hardly any longer recognizable. How then should foreigners understand us? The Trollopes, the Hamiltons, the Marryats, the Dickenses, et id omne genus, have said very little of us that is absolutely untrue, or that was so at the time they said it, or allowing for a little exaggeration that was not true. The great defect in the American character is that we cannot let well alone, are always trying experiments as if nothing had hitherto been tried and settled, and are carried away by a mania for reform which reforms nothing, and which only keeps us always in hot water and makes matters worse.
Out of this mania for reform, or this unrest, which is by no means confined to the American people, but is nearly as much English as it is American, has arisen what we call the Woman Question, or movement for female suffrage and eligibility, a continuation of the late abolition movement, and even less justifiable. Nobody really regrets the abolition of slavery; but the way in which it was done, and the means which were adopted to effect it, have left behind them a train of evils of which we have not yet seen the last or the worst. The men and women who took an active part in the movement were surprised and nearly deprived of their occupation by its success, and would have found themselves excessively wretched, but for a new or imaginary grievance to be redressed. This new grievance is what they call the Enslavement of Woman, or the denial to her of the political rights of suffrage and eligibility. She is now politically the slave to man, who claims to be, as father, brother, husband, or citizen, her lord and master. She must be emancipated, enfranchised, placed politically, as well as in all other respects, on a footing of equality with man. So, by substituting difference of sex for difference of race or complexion, they repeat without any expenditure of thought their old abolition lectures, harangues, and declamations, and claim to be laboring in the noble cause of liberty and the sacred interests of humanity, just as if there were no higher and more sacred name than that of humanity.
These people, some of them of one sex and some of the other – we have some scruples about the propriety of calling them men and women – tell us that the sexes are equal, or rather that women are equal to men, and, as the Irishman said, “a deal more so,” and that women have, by nature at least, equal rights with men. Suffrage and eligibility are natural rights, to which women have the same title as men, and therefore to deprive women of them while they are protected for men is an act of injustice. They are created as free and independent as the men, and to deprive them of these rights is to subject them, indeed to enslave them, to the masculine sex, and is as anti-democratic as it is unjust, and as much a violation of the American principles of equal rights, on which the government is founded, as was negro-slavery itself. Right, justice, equality, consistency, therefore, require the enfranchisement of women.
How those who hold the democratic principle, and maintain that suffrage and eligibility are natural rights which can be forfeited only by crime, can consistently deny this conclusion or logically resist this demand, is more than we can understand. The only ground which we can imagine, on which they can pretend to do it, is that it is repugnant to common sense and would be pernicious in practice. But this is a condemnation of democracy, and requires the rejection of the principles from which female suffrage and eligibility are a logical consequence. All true or sound principles are practical and can never prove hurtful in practice. When we shrink from the practical application of our principles, we condemn not the application, but the principles or our own consistency. When I admitted with the majority countrymen, the premises from which the women's rights people reason, as I did when a young man, I then and unequivocally defended the same conclusion that the woman's rights party, do, and I should do the same to-day if I held the same premises. We are utterly opposed to the demand of the women's right people, but we owe it to them to say that they differ from the great bulk of their countrymen only in that they are more logical, and have the courage of their principles.
Now we agree entirely with the American Congress of 1776, when they say they hold as self-evident that “all men are created equal” and are “endowed with certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness;” but when they say that “all just governments derive their powers from the consent of the governed,” we do by no means accept their dictum, for reasons which we gave last April in our article on the “Democratic Principle.” We, therefore, do not admit that either suffrage or eligibility, the right to vote or to be voted for, is a natural right for either man or woman, in which respect, we are happy to find that Dr. [Horace] Bushnell, the distinguished author of the first of the two works we have placed at the head of this article, fully agrees with us. Natural rights are those which are held prior to and independent of civil society, and which every civil society, whatever its form or constitution, is bound by the law of nature, the moral law, that is the law of God, promulgated through natural reason, to recognize, respect, protect, and defend. The right to vote, as well as the right to be voted for, is a civil right – a right which, if held at all, is held from God through civil society and therefore not prior to it, and consequently, as Judge Hunt decided, in the case of Susan B. Anthony, not a natural right held independently of the civil constitution. It is a right which depends on the civil law; and can be claimed and exercised only by virtue of the civil law; consequently is the natural and inalienable right of neither man nor woman. The question of suffrage and eligibility is a question not of natural but of civil or political right. The denial of either is the denial of no natural right, and consequently no injustice is done to those to whom it is denied, whether they be men or women.
This disposes of the question as one of natural right, and resolves the whole question of suffrage and eligibility into a question of civil or political expediency, of which the political society, when constituted, is the judge. Providence gives to each people or nation its political constitution, for no people or nation is a people or nation without some sort of political constitution. Individual men and women do not and cannot create the state, any more than they do or can create themselves. The state is for them, but, restricted by the natural and revealed law of God, it is above them and governs them. In this providential constitution, which constitutes the people or nation a state, and clothes it with the right and ability to govern, – is the law that governs the state and that determines the expediency or inexpediency of extending or restricting suffrage. What is called universal suffrage with us is of doubtful utility in securing the common or public good, and has very little practical effect, except in giving employment to swarms of demagogues and petty politicians, and filling all the offices of the several states and of the Union with men of low character, small brains, and no statesmanship. Yet we can see nothing of much importance that would be gained by restricting it, were that practical, as it certainly is not. The chief danger to good government does not arise from the classes that restricted suffrage would exclude, but from the classes that in any readjustment of the franchise would be included. The ruin [of] our republic will come, if at all, not from those usually looked upon as the “dangerous classes,” who are chiefly troublesome to the police; but from the so-accounted better classes, the business classes, who seek, and but too successfully, to convert the government into an agency for the promotion of their private interests.
We can see nothing that either the country or the women themselves would gain by the introduction of female suffrage and eligibility. As to the country, it would introduce into the elections or into the government no additional wisdom or virtue: for the women of a nation are superior in neither to the men, and, thrown into the political arena, they would most likely prove themselves inferior in both. The very fact that woman is physically the weaker vessel, physically weaker than man, renders her less morally independent, less frank, open, and straightforward, and in a contest with man, compels her to resort to art, artifice, intrigue, in which alone she can equal or surpass him. Her accession to the political body could, therefore, only introduce an additional element of political and moral corruption. The government controlled by women for the private interests of their sex would in no sense be better than the government controlled by men for their private interests of the male sex, and would be far less equal, for man rarely, if ever, separates his private interest from that of woman – his mother, his sister, his wife, his daughter, or even his mistress. He always includes in his private interest that of some woman; and if he cheats, steals, robs, swindles, gives or takes bribes, it is almost always for the sake of his Eve, or at least for the sake of his family. As between the sexes, man, as becomes him, is the more disinterested of the two, though in his mind they are hardly two, and Genesis expresses the feeling of almost every man, when it says God “made man in his own image and likeness; male and female made he them."
It is not we who would depreciate the virtue of woman, in her relations of wife, mother, daughter, or domestic friend. We recognize her merits as a religious, her rare administrative ability as the head of communities of nuns, for in all those relations she is under the direction of male superiors, directors, or supervisors. We do not believe women, unless we acknowledge individual exceptions, are fit to have their own head. The most degraded of the savage tribes are those in which the women rule, and descent is reckoned from the mother instead of the father. Revelation asserts, and universal experience proves that the man is the head of the woman, and that the woman is for the man, not the man for the woman; and his greatest error, as well as the primal curse of society is that he abdicates his headship, and allows himself to be governed, we might almost say, deprived of his reason by woman. It was through the seductions of the woman, herself seduced by the Serpent, that man fell, and brought sin and all our woe into the world. She has all the qualities that fit her to be a helpmate of man, to be the mother of his children, to be their nurse, their early, instructress, their guardian, their life-long friend; to be his companion, his comforter, his consoler in sorrow, his friend in trouble, his ministering angel in sickness; but as an independent existence, free to follow her own fancies and vague longings, her own ambition and natural love of power, without masculine direction or control, she is out of her element, and a social anomaly, sometimes a hideous monster, which men seldom are excepting through woman's influence. This is no excuse for men, but it proves that women need a head, and the restraint of father, husband, or the priest of God.
We do not think it desirable, therefore, to introduce the feminine element into politics, or to enfranchise our women. The government would gain nothing, while the family, domestic life, and society, could not but greatly suffer by it. Moreover, women generally do not desire it. Their present cares and burdens are as great as they can bear, and they feel that the proposed elevation would prove a degradation. They regard their domestic duties as infinitely more important than any public duties they could perform as electors, as members of State legislatures or of Congress, as governors, presidents, or secretaries of state. Considering the men usually selected of late to fill such places, it can hardly be an object of laudable ambition to be even a president of the United States: any other honest way of getting a living were far more honorable.
Not only would the government or politics gain nothing by the so-called enfranchisement of women, but the women themselves would gain nothing, while they would unquestionably lose much. We do not like the word enfranchisement as used by our woman's rights people. Woman is not more a slave to man than man is to woman; and she tyrannizes over him even more than he does over her. He is her physical superior, and can and often does beat her, but she has weapons of offence, if not of defence, not much inferior to his. Even her tongue is a weapon that is more effectual than a man's fists, as Lucretia Mott, the Quakeress preacher, practically proved to us personally some years ago at the tea-table of one of her nieces. A woman has a thousand ways in which she can annoy her husband or even father, and render his home a hell on earth, and all the time appear to be a victim of his coarseness and brutality, and be regarded by all her neighbors, especially her male neighbors and friends, as a meek, gentle, sweet tempered, suffering angel. We are too old, and have seen too much of life to hold that every woman is an angel, and every man, especially if a husband, is a devil. We do not believe that upon an average women are much better or worse than men, or that men are much worse or better than women; and we think men suffer as much from women as women do from men, and vice versa, and that each sex is equally capable, if so disposed, of adding to the happiness or the misery of the other. We are sorry that the claims on behalf of women, by the woman's rights people, and their declamations about the brutality and tyranny of men, force us into making remarks of this sort for the protection of society. Neither sex should ever be set against the other. Each has furnished examples of terrible depravity, and each has peopled heaven with innumerable saints and martyrs, and the highest honor the Church pays to any creature she pays to the Blessed Virgin, a woman, who has more than repaired the fault of our first mother, and even reversed her name, and made it a salutation and a blessing.
Woman, at least with us, is not enslaved, and in no respect has man turned his power of legislator against her, except in certain cases, soon to be mentioned, in which he has sought to benefit her rather than himself. She enjoys all the natural rights, “life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness,” as fully and as securely as he does, and she has all the civil rights that he has, all the difference is that she is freed from certain public duties that devolve on him, and which if duly considered are heavy burdens. It would be hard to say how women could be more free than they are, or what rights the law can give them, which they have not, or what legal disadvantage they labor under, For years the law has been very much modified in their favor, and in most of the States so modified as to render the wife practically independent of the husband. She holds her own estate, can receive devises and legacies and appropriate them, claim and use without his leave her own earnings, and, if we do not mistake, is not obliged, whatever his means, to contribute anything to the family expenses, not even to her own, unless she chooses. At any rate her property is not holden for his debts, while his is holden for hers, unless contracted in the way of separate business operations of her own. If he breaks a tea-cup or saucer which belongs to her she can sue him for damages. If she takes it into her head to desert his bed and board, and neglect all her duties as wife and mother, she is free to do so, and the husband cannot help himself, if she has property or means enough of her own with which to support herself. Indeed the law secures her so much freedom and so many advantages that prudent young men are becoming almost afraid to marry, and perhaps, would become wholly so, were it not that the law allows the husband to hold his property in his wife's name, and thus defraud his creditors.
What law, indeed, has man enacted that bears hardly on woman, and which, if she had legislative power, she would repeal. The only law against which the women's rights people specifically declaim, as far as we can ascertain, is the law of Christian marriage, which binds indissolubly, except by death, one woman to one man, and requires her, forsaking all others, to cleave unto him alone, and to love, cherish, and obey him, as her head, as Christ is the head of the Church. This law they denounce as cruel, tyrannical, and peculiarly oppressive to women. But this law has not been made and imposed by the male sex, nor by any human legislation. It is the law made and imposed on man by the Supreme Lawgiver in the day he created man male and female, instituted marriage, blessed them, and bid them multiply and replenish the earth. It expresses the will and the reason of the Supreme Lawgiver, who is himself the Supreme God, and it is hardly to be supposed that Mary Wollstonecroft, Frances Wright, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Mrs. Beecher Hooker, or the aged Lucretia Mott, knows better what is for our good than he who has made us. The law is no harder for the woman than it is for the man, for it binds him with the same bond that it does her; and it is even less difficult, and requires less self-restraint, on the part of the woman, owing to her natural constitution, to keep the bond, than on the part of the man. The permanence or indissolubility of the marriage bond, except by death, so far as there is any difference, is in favor of the woman rather than of the man, for she fades sooner, and becomes old earlier, except in the eyes of a loving husband, who cherishes her as the companion of his youth, his life-long friend and associate. To him she becomes more attractive with years, and his affection is only increased and made more tender by the age and infirmity, which render a new connection for her quite out of the question.
The indissolubility of marriage tends to promote the happiness, not the misery of married life, for most people without much difficulty reconcile themselves to the inevitable, and soon cease to struggle against it. Knowing that they are bound for life both husband and wife, unless already corrupted, close their eyes and shut up their desires to all forbidden fruit, refuse to suffer their imaginations to stray beyond the sphere of duty, and strive mutually to be loving and agreeable to each other. Marriages are much happier, and domestic life much more peaceful and pleasant, where divorces are unknown and not to be thought of, than where they can be had very nearly for the asking, as they can be in several of the states of the Union. Experience proves that the law of God once departed from, and divorce a vinculo allowed in any case, there is no practical stopping place this side of the total abolition of marriage. It is either no divorce a vinculo, or divorce ad libitum. It is not easy for a man who has descended part of the way down the Falls of Niagara, to arrest his descent, and remain stationary. The force of gravity will force him downwards, and plunge him into the gulf of waters at the foot.
The advocates of woman suffrage and eligibility are moved principally, whether men or women, by the desire to abolish Christian marriage and introduce in its place what is called FREE-LOVE. The whole movement, disguise it as we will, is a free-love movement. It seeks to abolish duty or obligation, for what it calls love. Its principle is that love cannot be constrained, and will not be regulated by a sense of duty, the Satanic doctrine inculcated by nearly all modern popular literature, especially by our novels written by women. The real marriage, the marriage in the sight of heaven, as the modern doctrine blasphemously asserts, is in the mutual love of the parties. Where the love is not, there is no marriage, and cohabitation is prostitution: wherever it is and so long as it lasts, cohabitation as man and wife is lawful, is pure and holy, the only true marriage. This is the free-love doctrine, as we understand it, and as we have heard it talked and have seen it acted on from our youth up. Do our women's-rights women understand this? It abolishes wifehood, and for the wife it substitutes the mistress, and makes the end of the relation pleasure, really sensual pleasure. Is sensual pleasure the end of life? Is the union of the sexes for that end alone, or chiefly for that end? And are prostitutes infamous only because they are mercenary, and sell for a fee what would be pure and holy if given from love? Is the title of mistress more honorable than that of wife? Is the mistress more secure than the wife. Then, women should know that love divorced from duty is a transient sentiment, and never lasts. As soon as the man's love is satiated, and his mistress has lost her power of pleasing him, what, as he incurred no obligation to her, is to prevent him from abandoning her, and taking a new and fresh mistress.
But she has, you will say, the same liberty to abandon him, and take to herself a new lover. But suppose, what may well happen, that a strong attachment on the side of one of the parties, and an strong aversion on the side of the other may have sprung up, that one of the parties has ceased to love while the other has not, or has found a new love, while the other is satisfied with the old love, how is the matter to be adjusted without lesion to the love of either? Put it any way you please, and the woman will be the losing party. While young or not past her prime, she may form new connections or many new connections, each shorter-lived than the first, but none on which she can rely when old, wrinkled, sour-visaged, and infirm. It is not every woman that can be a Ninon de l'Enclos. And, we may add, that after she has formed some dozen or half a dozen connections or provisional marriages, a man would no more seek her than he would the battered inmate of a brothel.
There is another consideration which the advocates of free-love, provisional marriage, or divorce ad libitum overlook, or to which they do not pay that attention its importance demands. The principal end of marriage is the procreation, nurture, and education of children, not the simple sensual pleasure of the man and the woman. Under the proposed free-love system are no children to be born? If children are born to whom are they to belong? What home are they to know? Who is to take care of them, provide for their proper instruction, education, and settlement in life? This is a serious matter. If no children are to be permitted to be born, which seems to be what is intended, the system cannot become general without the race becoming extinct. We observe that one of the strongest proofs alleged of masculine tyranny is the fact that it imposes on women the burden of child-bearing, and all the pains, cares, and hardships of maternity. Under the free-love system children will be a nuisance, and their birth will probably, by methods now known and extensively practised, be prevented, or, if they are not murdered before birth, in the foetal state, it will be necessary to farm them out with some avaricious, heartless spinsters, who will soon contrive to prevent them from ever troubling their unnatural parents in this world. Parents who are only provisionally married have no permanent home for their children, and, living for pleasure only, they cannot care for their bringing up, or their proper moral and religious training. Indeed, the abolition of Christian marriage would be the abolition of children and maternity.
Perhaps there are individuals clamoring for female suffrage and eligibility, or the so-called political enfranchisement of woman, who hold free-love in horror, and marriage and the family in profound respect; but if there are, we have never had the happiness of meeting with them. Such certainly were not the originators of the movement, Mary Wollstonecroft or Frances Wright; such was not William Godwin, when he wrote, in 1794, his “Enquiry concerning Political Justice;” such was not the French Convention or Assembly that abolished Christian marriage, and declared marriage a civil contract, and dissoluble almost at will of the parties; such are not the more recent Internationals and Communards. We have never encountered or conversed with a single member of the party, man or woman, who does not regard the marriage laws, or as we say, Christian marriage, as the principal grievance to be redressed. The reformers in the sixteenth century did not, that is, the more decent of them did not, openly advocate free-love, but they attacked Christian marriage, and asserted the liberty of divorce a vinculo, which asserts free-love, in principle at least. It is this fact that renders the movement specially objectionable, and, when it is sustained by the general tendencies of an age or country, exceedingly dangerous. There is no home without the wife, no family without the mother, and no society without the family; for all normal society makes the family, not the individual as we are attempting to do, its unit. God “created man in his own image and likeness: male and female made he them.” God is triune, and, as Donoso Cortés well argues, it is the family – the husband, wife, and child – not the individual, that in society copies the ever blessed Trinity, or presents an image of the eternal relations of the Godhead.
There is no doubt that women are exposed to many hardships and are compelled to bear many grievances, some through the fault of men, and some through their own fault; but they are beyond the reach of political power, administrative or legislative, to redress. The enfranchisement of woman might aggravate them, but would in no sense lighten them. Suffrage and eligibility are duties, not rights, and are a charge or burden, if properly considered. If they confer power, it is power to be intelligently and conscientiously exercised for the public good, not for one's private benefit. We know that this is seldom regarded, and that few strictly conscientious votes are cast in elections. Indeed, the caucus system, and the moral necessity that one is under, of voting for the candidates of his party, deprive suffrage both of its freedom and independence. Last November one was obliged, if he voted at all, to vote for General Grant or Horace Greeley, or throw his vote away. The talk about free and independent suffrage can hardly deceive any one. Universal suffrage is impracticable, for if every voter was left free to vote freely and independently according to his own judgment and choice, the votes would be so divided that there would be no election. Party organizations, caucuses, and well-known electioneering methods and measures, are all so many evidences of the impracticability of universal suffrage, if left to itself or to operate freely and independently, and are resorted to for the very purpose of controlling the choice of the free and independent electors, and concentrating their votes on candidates who are agreed upon in caucus by secret wire-pullers and irresponsible party managers. Were it not so, there would and could be no where there is a numerous constituency. Few elections are determined at the polls.
Politicians know this, and say it is necessary, for a popular government cannot be carried on without party organizations, in which respect they are doubtless right; but if so, it only proves that so-called popular government is an impracticable government. The people have no more direct influence under our form of government than under any other form of government, except Oriental despotism; they are only the more effectually humbugged, that is all. In every nation the mass of the people are born to be led, and the few are born to lead. This is the fact, war against it as we will, and the chief advantage of a democracy, as far as we can see, is that it opens the door for those born to lead in trade and industry, through their factors, the lawyers, to usurp the lead in politics, legislation, and government, for which they have no natural vocation. Ours is the most expensive government in the world, and our people are the most extravagant and wasteful. We are always clamoring for reform, and every reforming party no sooner succeeds than there is more need of reform than ever. The cry for reform means, “You go out and let us come in.”
Now we cannot see what possible benefit can result to the country by including women in the electoral people, to go through the solemn farce of voting for a cut-and-dried ticket, or what additional public spirit, intelligence, wisdom, or statesmanship would be gained by electing a woman for president, or women for representatives in Congress, for governors of States, or members of State legislatures. We know not what element needed for the wise and salutary government of the Union or of the several States, that she can supply any better than it is supplied by the other sex. Do women understand better than men the political wants of the country; the practical bearing of administrative or legislative measures; or are they more skilful in finance, better versed in political economy, or more capable of solving the terrible problem of the relations of capital and labor, the pons asinorum of modern statesmanship? Women surpass men in the management of household affairs, which is their special vocation; they also excel in the simplicity of their views, the tenacity with which they cling to a resolution once taken, and the energy and perseverance with which they labor to carry it out. If the question is a simple one, without complications in practice, and is to be solved without regard to any other question, without reference to practical interests or consequences, we are not sure but woman would make the better legislator. Thus in the abolition movement her assistance was invaluable; for, having made up her mind that slavery was a wrong to humanity, she was troubled by no legal or constitutional scruples about the right of Congress to abolish it; about depriving slaveholders, without indemnification, of their property which they held in good faith under the civil law, or the consequences to the slave, turned out of house and home, and deprived of his master's care and his master's kitchen. Slavery is wrong, and must be undone, though in undoing it, a far greater wrong is done than slavery itself. So again, drunkenness is an evil, is a sin; and the legislature must be called upon to prohibit the sale of intoxicating liquors, without any consideration of the interests or even the rights involved. Here, too, woman's assistance, if in the legislature, would be invaluable, and, after the abolition of the marriage laws in favor of free-love, the chief motive with the men who support what they call the enfranchisement of women, is to obtain their votes for their Maine-liquor-law fanaticism. We go as far as any Christian man can, in suppressing by moral and religious means the terrible vice of intemperance, but we deny the right of the legislature to prescribe what we may or may not eat or drink, as we do its right to prescribe what religion we may or may not profess. There are personal and individual rights the state must hold sacred. It may punish their abuse when the abuse becomes a social grievance or nuisance, but not interfere with their use, or their abuse even, when it does not extend beyond the individual, or disturb the public, or violate its rights.
Female suffrage and eligibility are desired by fanatics of every class, for women are by their very nature, by those very qualities which so admirably fit them to be wives and mothers, far more susceptible of fanaticism than men; and fanaticism of all sorts, whenever it can have its way, establishes both a political and a social despotism. Women are the chief agents in setting the fashions, and nothing in the world is more despotic than fashion. There is no country where women are so free, independent, and influential, as they are in the United States, especially in what were formerly called the free states, and there is none in which there is so little personal liberty, or so absolute a social despotism.
In uncomplicated questions, where simple and direct relations alone need to be consulted, or even in the combinations and complications that belong to wise and skilful management of the household, we willingly acknowledge woman's superiority; but in the complicated questions of the state, where there is to be a conciliation of interests and even of duties, and hardly a single apodictic principle, as in modern statesmanship, can be found to determine the course of action to be adopted, women fall far short of men, and really are incompetent. The reigns of queens have often been successful, we admit; but oftener, perhaps, for evil than for good, like that of Elizabeth of England. Yet when successful, whether for good or for evil, it has usually been through the exertions of the queen's ministers and her unbounded confidence in them. Queen Elizabeth's success depended in great part on her coquetry, her duplicity, her heartlessness, and the skill with which her ministers succeeded in disguising her barbarous and cruel persecution of Catholics who adhered to the religion she herself professed, and in her coronation oath swore to protect, under the name of merited punishment of traitors to her majesty.
We can, therefore, see nothing the country would gain by including women in the political people; and as for the women themselves, they would lose more than they can easily estimate. They would lose all they owe to man's chivalry, which is not a little, though greatly diminished since women have aspired to lead in popular literature. Women by their writings have deprived the sex of much of its prestige, and womanhood of its sacredness. They would lose most, if not all of the prerogatives hitherto claimed and enjoyed by them in society. If woman insists on being a man, men will treat her as a man, and will not yield her the place of honor at the public or private table, at the theatre, in assemblies or places of amusement, or the choicest seats in public conveyances. Men will leave her to fight her own battles and take care of herself, and the husband will no longer slave himself to find a home and all material comforts for his wife and daughters, nor find his pride in their grace and accomplishments, and in the ease, luxuries, and consideration he is able to procure them. Neither his affection nor his ambition will induce him to make any painful sacrifices for the wife who, forgetting her duties as a wife, bids him defiance, and uses all her arts, blandishments, and cajoleries and to outrival him in his own proper domain. No man who preserves any sense of his manhood will respect the wife who engages in a political canvass for herself, or love and cherish a wife whom he meets as his rival at the polls, and who there denies his headship, and refuses obedience where he has the right to command.
Women cannot enter the political arena, and struggle for votes and intrigue for office, become inspectors of customs, tide-waiters, and night watchmen, or police officers or roundsmen, without losing their refinement, and all those qualities which give them their social influence. They are utterly unfit to serve on our city police, to come in conflict with thieves, burglars, highway robbers, murderers, and the rowdies of all large cities and towns; and if there is any branch of the public service for which they are unfitted, there is an end of the argument, for it proves that there are duties which only men can perform, and that the pretence that women are competent to fill any and every office that men can fill, is unfounded. It necessarily follows that the sexes have each its appropriate sphere, out of which neither is in its normal state. The hope often expressed that the political enfranchisement of women would elevate politics to a higher plane, and render elections and political assemblies as decorous as the lady's drawing-room or saloon, is fallacious. It would only cause her to descend to their level, to the level of the poissardes of the old French revolution, or the pétroleuses of the recent Paris Commune. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony have become coarse and termagantish in comparison with what they were in their youth, when we both knew and esteemed them. They are no longer what they were.
Women cannot, whatever their capacity for work, do their duty as electors and as office-holders, without neglecting their duties as wives and mothers, any more than they can devote their lives to fashionable pleasures and dissipations. No woman is a true woman, or worthy of the love and respect of her husband, who does not find home the centre of her affections, of her pleasures, of her ambition, and of her duties, or feel that her appropriate sphere is that of domestic life. Most of the miseries of life from which each sex suffers alike come from woman's forgetfulness of her home duties, from her gadding abroad, if not bodily, at least in her longings, ambition, or aspirations. It is her duty, if married, to remember that she and her husband are one flesh, and in all that pertains to this life and its temporal interests they have no separate existence. Whatever tends to make her feel, save in matters of conscience, that she and her husband are two, divided in their interests, and independent of each other, tends to unfit her for her duties as a wife and mother, to degrade and corrupt her, and to degrade and corrupt the family, and, through the family, society.
Turn the matter over in any light you please, the woman's rights movement means the enfranchisement of the wife from subjection to her husband, and therefore is a revolt against the marriage relation itself, as instituted by the Creator of both men and women. It seeks to destroy the family by destroying the very conditions of its existence. Of the men, who like the late J. Stuart Mill, favor the movement, no language is too severe to condemn them. If sincere, they have no true manhood, and justly merit the contempt of every true woman; if insincere, and seeking to use women for their own ambition or pleasures, as is most likely the case, they are more contemptible still. They are in any case infidels in practice, if not in theory. Indeed the whole movement is a movement for the abolition of the Christian law, and of Christianity itself. We cannot name a single Christian believer, man or woman, who favors the movement. The movement is decidedly antichristian, and Fanny Wright, in her conversations with the writer, often spoke of the enfranchisement of women as the only effectual method of breaking down the power of the clergy, and getting rid of religion – superstition, she called it. Some Quakers, Unitarians, Universalists, with the whole body of Free Religionists, favor it; but they, if they sometimes receive the Christian name, are no Christian believers, do not admit the divine sovereignty or hold that the commandments of God, except as indicated by our natural inclinations or tendencies, are obligatory. Do our women imagine that their rights would be better secured and more sacred under those who deny the rights of God, and resolve all right into passion, instinct, inclination, sentiment, or force, than under Christianity, and a legislative code inspired by it? If so, nothing better proves their total unfitness for the liberty the woman's rights party are clamoring for.
The revolt against the subjection of the wife to the husband, enjoined by the law of God, which was always favored if not authorized by Quakerism, and rendered respectable in the eyes of many by the prestige for honesty and philanthropy as well as for thrift which the Quaker sect enjoys, has already become so general, and is so strengthened by the unwise and antichristian legislation of a large number of our States, as to produce a general domestic insubordination, which seriously threatens, not only the existence of civil society, but even of the family itself. The tendency of our legislation for a long series of years has been to render the wife independent of the husband, and to facilitate divorce; to create for the wife a separate existence from her husband in those respects in which the law of God declares the twain to be one.
The promise in the marriage contract of the woman to obey the man, is widely objected to by brides, and is rarely exacted, we apprehend, except in the case of Catholics and Episcopalians. Wives, to a fearful extent, cease to feel themselves bound in conscience to obey their husbands in all things that are not unlawful. The seed of disobedience is thus sown in the very source of the family and society. The children catch the spirit of disobedience from the reluctance of the wife to obey, or her actual disobedience to the husband. Children early become disobedient to their parents, and the distinctive qualities of “Young America” are inherited or learned from the mother. There is probably no country in the world in which there is so much disobedience and irreverence to parents, or in which family affections are so weak and count for so little, as our own. And this terrible fact we attribute in no small degree to the rejection of the true idea of Christian marriage, founded on the false idea that what is done from duty, or because enjoined or commanded, is less meritorious than what is done, as it is said, freely, from love. Seldom with us does the father or mother say uniformily and kindly to the child, when in American fashion, it asks, “Why?” “Because I (your father or mother) bid you.” We Americans do not believe in authority, and do not train our children to habits of obedience. Our whole domestic system of education is based on the principle that all authority is despotism, and to despotic power no one is bound in conscience to yield obedience. We must learn and bring up our children to understand that legitimate authority, that is, authority founded on right and tempered by justice and love, is not despotism, but is sacred and holy, and to be both loved and obeyed. The fact is that the woman's rights movement is only one form of the universal spirit of insubordination that so widely pervades modern society, and is hurrying it on in its downward career to barbarism. Henry Ward Beecher tells us that he owes his success to the fact that he is in sympathy with this spirit, which he sometimes calls the spirit of the age, sometimes humanity, whose pulse he feels, and to whose yearnings he endeavors in his doctrine to respond. It is the spirit of a corrupt age that forgets God; it is the spirit of fallen humanity, which Christianity teaches us must be resisted and overcome if we would escape hell, and which all experience proves we must resist if we would maintain the family, or preserve society from lapsing into the vices and immoralities, the private and public crimes and abominations that destroyed the renowned nations of antiquity. The first of virtues, and the foundation of all the virtues, is obedience; to recognize and obey the law of God. There is no dependence to be placed in a virtue that is based on the calculations of interest, on utility, or on a pretended moral sense, and which requires no self-sacrifice or submission of one's will. The woman's rights party do not believe it, a large portion of the American people do not believe it, infidels, revolutionists, Jacobins, socialists, communists, do not believe it, and yet is there no virtue without it, and a nation without virtue cannot be a free nation, and its very existence is doomed, as was that of the Cities of the Plain, Ancient Chaldea, Egypt, and Assyria.
We have not touched on the many real grievances women have the right to complain of, because none of them can be redressed by political or legislative action. Any attempt to redress them by political or legislative measures would only aggravate them. Many of them can be redressed only by a change in the tone and sentiment of the community with regard to wealth and poverty. As long as only wealth is honored and poverty is held by the public to be a crime, or even a misfortune, there is no practicable remedy. We must learn, as the first step, to honor poverty, to love and respect the poor, and to look upon riches as a delusion, a temptation, and a snare; for, as our Lord says, “Blessed are the poor,” and, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.” We must learn, as a part of this same lesson, to honor honest labor, and to respect the honest laboring man or laboring woman, even if the labor be in the humblest employments. This change can be effected by no political enfranchisement or legislative action; certainly not in our country, for here men and women have entire moral and spiritual freedom, so far at least as the constitution of the state and civil laws can secure either. The change can be wrought out only by moral and spiritual causes and influences. All the evils complained of grow out of the forgetfulness and violation of the moral and spiritual laws of the universe, which modern science denies outright or confounds with the physical laws of nature. We must return from our wanderings, and, by the aid of divine grace, place ourselves in harmony with the moral order, that is, the Christian order, as the first step in the work of removing any real grievances from which either men or women suffer. It is the neglect or the violation of this principle or fact that renders abortive or worse than abortive, all the attempts at reform or redress of grievances in the modern world, by whatever philanthropic motives prompted, or by whatever skill, zeal, and energy supported.
The change which we have indicated, and which Christianity enjoins, once effected, all the grievances complained of will either be felt to be no grievances, or they will, as it were, redress themselves. But as long as there is no change in the morals of women; as long as they revolt against the divine order and seek redress from external changes; as long as they suffer their affections to roam beyond the sphere for which God has designed and fitted them, and are ready to sacrifice their duties as wives and mothers, and to murder or suffer to be murdered the child they bear in their womb, in order to be relieved of the cares of maternity and to be free to lead lives of fashionable pleasure or dissipation, nothing can help them, or save either them or society from destruction.