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20,000 took sufficient interest in to admit that no instance was to the subject to vote for woman be found of the exercise by women suffrage.”1
of the parliamentary franchise. But, when investigating the ori- And, in order to show that females gin of this movement, we are met were not legally incapable of votwith the bold challenge that female ing, Sir J. Coleridge was driven suffrage was exercised centuries to cite a case in which it was ago in Great Britain, and great decided that a woman might hold stress has been laid by some upon
the office of sexton! this asserted precedent. What When the judgments of the does it amount to? All the facts bench came to be delivered, their and bearings of the case were lordships made light of these quasithoroughly thrashed out before the precedents, and swept away every Court of Common Pleas during shred of argument for pristine November 1868 in the registration female suffrage based upon them. case of Chorlton, appellant, v. Chief-Justice Bovill admitted that Lings, respondent, wherein a cer- a few instances had been adduced tain Mary Abbott claimed to be where women
“appear to have put on the list of parliamentary been parties to the return of memvoters for the township of Man- bers of Parliament,” and even went chester. Her case was a test one, as far as to allow the possibility representing the consolidated ap- of a few women having voted. peals of 5346 other women. The “But these instances,” he added, late Lord Coleridge, then Q.C. “are of comparatively little weight, and Solicitor-General, cited every- as opposed to uninterrupted usage thing possible in the women's be- to the contrary for several cenhalf. It was sought by him to turies.. The fact of its not show that in 13 Hen. IV. Lucy, having been asserted or acted upon Countess of Kent, evidenced the for many centuries raises a strong return of a member of Parliament presumption against its having by her attorney. In 2 Hen. V. an legally existed.”
legally existed.” And he winds attorney signed a similar indenture up thus: “I come to the conclupro Margaret, widow of Sir H. sion that there is no such right, Vavaseur. In 7 Edw. VI. the and that women are legally inreturn for the borough of Gatton capacitated from voting.” Mr was made by the Lady Elisabeth Justice Willes gave judgment to Copley, widow of Roger Copley, like effect: “It is said that women and all the inhabitants of the might be suitors of the County borough. A return for the borough Court, and must therefore have of Aylesbury in 14 Eliz. is signed been among the voters for the by Dame Dorothy Packington, election of knights of the shire. widow, and in the Lyme case (1) But could they act as suitors ? there is a list of burgesses of the Apparently not." Mr Justice town of Lyme Regis in 19 Eliz. Keating remarked as follows: “It which includes the names of three is not very difficult to suppose women, But so meagre
and that in those ancient times, when little to the point of establishing such proceedings were probably woman suffrage were these not very regular, a few seals should amples that counsel was obliged have been affixed without the
legal right of women to vote being or other temperance legislation. recognised; whereas, it is abso- The effect on family life seems to lutely inconceivable that women be nil; certainly not bad : but should ever have possessed the after a year or two it is found that franchise, and yet should have the women of the worst classes are immemorially ceased from its exer- those that most regularly go to the cise for so long a time.” Mr polls.” Now, this lukewarmness in Justice Byles concurred with the the matter is just what might be above views. 1
expected, having regard to the disA further point brought out by tinguishing characteristics of the Judge Willes, and supported by sex; but it is a strong argument the late Professor E. A. Freeman against the existence of spontanis that a peeress in her own right eity or any urgent feeling on the has neither seat nor vote in the part of the masses of women Upper House, nor, says the latter, towards exercising the
vote. can she vote by proxy. Surely, Furthermore, “there is a widethen, so long as the highest born spread apprehension that to bring and presumably most cultured of women into politics might lower our country women are debarred their social position, diminish men's by sex reasons from taking part in deference for them, harden and parliamentary duties, the female roughen them, and, as it is excommoner may reasonably hesitate pressed, 'brush the bloom off the to rush into the political arena ! flowers. This feeling is at least
I come now to my second point. as strong among women as among Is this agitation to obtain the elec
: . Of the many American toral vote for women a spontaneous ladies whose opinion I inquired, one on the part of the sex gener- the enormous majority expressed ally? The answer seems distinctly themselves hostile; and there has in the negative. Even in those been formed a Women's AntiAmerican States “where women Suffrage Association of America, possess the school suffrage, it is which conducts an active agitareported that extremely few vote. tion." Further, “in enacting In Minneapolis, a city of 200,000 their State Constitution” (1889), people, one is told that only two says Bryce, “the people of Washor three hundred women usually ington pronounced against female vote at school elections.” As re- suffrage by a majority of two to gards Wyoming, Mr Bryce con- one, and a good authority declared sidered the balance of evidence to me that most of the women were unfavourable to the exercise of well pleased to lose the privilege." female suffrage. This is what Moreover, the Convention of Augone of the most trustworthy au- ust 1894, sitting to consider the thorities on the subject told him. draft of a new Constitution for " After the first excitement is over, New York State, would have it is impossible to get respectable nothing to do with woman sufwomen out to vote except every frage, and this “is deemed to have two or three years on some purely seriously discouraged the emotional question like Prohibition ment so far as the Atlantic States
1 Law Reports, Court of Common Pleas, vol. iv. London, 1869. 2 Article on
· Peerage” in 'Ency. Brit.' (1885). In the article “ Woman," in same publication (1888), Mr Williams takes a different view, affirming the peeress's right to sit, as distinguished from speaking or voting, in Parliament.
concerned.” Similarly, in themselves well in evidence, and South Australia, where female
where female to pass for a considerable army. suffrage was recently enacted, a The number of women who may strong movement against it is fancy themselves in favour of givsaid to have sprung up among ing a more limited franchise than the German women of the colony. I have expressed above may doubt
Again, “ the number of women, less be larger, but the fallacy of says Mr Goldwin Smith, “who separating the wider from the have spontaneously asked for the narrower aspects of the question change (woman suffrage] appears will be touched on presently. to be small; and its smallness is Then, again, much has been important as an index of woman's made of the monster Petition feeling respecting her own inter- for female suffrage exhibited in est.” 1 Mr Gladstone expresses Westminster Hall last May, with himself more strongly. “The sub- its 257,000 women's signatures. ject,” he
says, is as yet only sec- But any one conversant with the tional, and has not really been methods whereby girls and women taken into view by the public mind are induced to sign documents of at large. ... There has never this kind will largely discount its within my knowledge been a case importance as an index to the in which the franchise has been genuine opinions of the sex. extended to a large body of persons The next stage of our inquiry generally indifferent about receiv- is very important: The probable ing it. But here, in addition to a influence of woman's vote, if it widespread indifference, there is on were given, upon the character of the part of large numbers of women our legislation. From our knowwho have considered the matter for ledge of the sex, and the general themselves the most positive objec- tenor of the discussions at the tion, and strong disapprobation."2 reunions where women's rights These words from the greatest and claims are debated, we living exponent of Liberalism I judge with tolerable accuracy the commend to the careful consid- class of legislation to which the eration of the Women's Liberal female mind would incline. We Federation, and its various affili- should have in the forefront liquor ated societies, which in their plat- prohibition pure and absolute : forms make such & prominent for, conversely, in America " Proplank of female suffrage.
hibitionist Conventions,” Mr Bryce And surely it is a fact patent to tells us, “almost always declare us all, that in this country the in favour of woman suffrage." female advocates for conferring Under the guidance of leaders upon women a franchise coexten- like certain sentimentalist M.P.'s sive with that enjoyed by míen are whose names are familiar to us, a comparatively small though clam- the clique of ladies and ultraant band; but who, by the aid of purists — who not long since fell serial literature, much pamphle- foul of Lord Roberts for certeering, and benevolent "report- tain regulations he had carried ing” of their meetings in the jour- out for the benefit of our solnalistic press, manage to keep diers in India—would desire to
Questions of the Day. By Professor Goldwin Smith. Macmillan, 1893. 2 Letter on “Female Suffrage " addressed to Mr Samuel Smith, M.P., just before the general election of 1892.
have their way and prosecute it and political adventurer. In New with redoubled energy. In this Zealand, for example, woman's connection the Proceedings of the suffrage has got a footing for the Women's Liberal Federation at 'moment, and the two main planks Chelsea in May 1894, to discuss it has adopted are, as in Amerthe Cambridge Corporation Bill ica, liquor prohibition and secular for the regulation of women of (non-religious) education. Then, doubtful character, may be studied as has been truly said, behind with advantage. There is enough prohibition of alcoholic drinks beand to spare of sentimental legis- gins to loom prohibition of tolation already: with a
bacco. In ancient Rome they faction supported by the woman tried taxing the unmarried, and vote, sentiment would be apt to recently, according to M. Leroyrun riot. The very fact that, with Beaulieu, like suggestions were parties otherwise pretty evenly made with a view to check the divided, a small access of female shrinkage of population in France. votes might turn the scale, would. Such an impost as one on bachopen the door more widely than elorhood might not impossibly ever to the political canvasser. commend itself to a sensational With women's votes to catch, male legislature largely dominated by and female touters would abound. female votes ! Furthermore, it “ It is not women's virtues,” says is matter of common knowledge Mr Francis Parkman, “that would that women (save perhaps a sebe prominent or influential in the lect few of the upper classes political arena : they would shun and the band of political malit by an invincible repulsion. The contents) concern themselves but Washington' lobby has given little with politics, and that the
some means of judging what great mass of them have scarcewe may expect from the woman ly an intelligent or thought-out inside politics. If politics are '
idea on the subject. Such serito be purified by artfulness, effron- als as, let us say, "The Family tery, insensibility, a pushing self- Herald,” Short Stories,' or 'Forassertion, and a glib tongue, then get-me-not,' with their thousand we may
look for regeneration ; for and one fiction-tales of how men the typical female politician will and girls fall in love, are much be richly endowed with all these more in women's line than the gifts. And as the zeal of one
newspaper; and of the latter, class of female reformers has been, when they do read it, it is not and no doubt will be, largely the political matter, but the directed to their grievances in fashions column, and the births, matters of sex, we shall have marriages, and deaths, that mainly sbrill-tongued discussions of sub- interest them. The vote of the jects which had far better be left lower strata of the present male alone."
electorate is already erratic enough, The gentler sex prone to be and most difficult to forecast upon swayed by impulse, and are easily any given question. But with a led. Thus, also, they would fall large, perhaps a preponderating, a ready prey to the paid organiser female element superadded, it
1 Minority Report of U.S. Senate Committee, p. 24 (quoted by Mr Goldwin Smith in Questions of the Day').
2 Economiste Française, September 1890.
would be an absolutely indeter- the constituencies in every part minate quantity. Some specious of the country during the recent panacea of the moment which was elections."1 But, be it remembered, calculated to touch their sym- the work of the 1500 or 1600 wopathies, and which the more stolid men, many of them high-placed and but stable political instinct of the distinguished, who form its Ladies' man would reject, might be adopt- Grand Council, and the work of ed with enthusiasm ; and, in such their female coadjutors througha case, the loudest sounding bell- out the country, in labouring to wether would draw the whole instil into the masses sound, moderflock. Dreamers, fanatics, quack- ate, and constitutional principles, salvers of every hue, extremists is all done outside the polling-booth. prepared to “throw the whole The male voter can be talked to at Constitution into the crucible," home. Then, it seems to be forwould find in female suffrage a gotten that women qua women do perennially happy hunting ground. not form a class. Their class inHerein would be a real ever- terests are intimately linked with present danger.
those of the male kind most of Apart, then, from the question them are associated with, and the of its effect on the personality of male vote properly represents them. the woman herself, we are led to The laws affecting woman's proconclude that the conferring of perty have been amended and the parliamentary franchise on the placed on a vastly improved footfemale sex would not tend to exalt, ing by the action of men. In civil or even benefit, the legislation of causes and criminal trials it has the country.
been truly observed that with Coming to our fourth interro- juries women stand a better chance gatory, a great point is sought than do men. The divorce and to be made in the leaflets issued marriage laws have been largely by the Central National Society relaxed and modified in favour of for Women's Suffrage as to the women. Quite recently a subnecessity for a mixed electorate stantial increase to the female of the sexes in order to remove inspectorate of factories was made female disabilities. The futility by Government, without the leverof this contention ought to be age of any female franchise. In palpable. The Primrose League, truth, latter-day legislation has largely composed of ladies, wields been endeavouring to do ample a powerful influence by means of justice to the interests of the quiet persuasive personal appeals female sex; and if the time of and social intercourse, reinforced Parliament be not frittered away by occasional public meetings. upon vast chimerical schemes for “ The action of the Primrose disrupting the body-politic, much League," said Lord Salisbury, more may yet be done by the male recently, “ is the action of social mandate of the constituencies. influence, . . . the quiet influence Men in voting or legislating are unof private life, . . . and it is this likely to forget the wants of their private non-public influence, this wives, mothers, sisters, daughters. influence of mind on mind in con- “No one,” remarks Mr Bryce, versation, and not in speeches or "who observes America can doubt in leaflets, that has largely affected that whatever is deemed to be for
1 Address to the Primrose League at Covent Garden, 29th April 1896. VOL. CLXI.-NO. DCCCCLXXVII.