John Fortescue.

The works of Sir John Fortescue, Knight, Chief Justice of England and Lord Chancellor to King Henry the Sixth (Volume 1) online

. (page 37 of 87)
Online LibraryJohn FortescueThe works of Sir John Fortescue, Knight, Chief Justice of England and Lord Chancellor to King Henry the Sixth (Volume 1) → online text (page 37 of 87)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

^^ predeftined by Divine forethought that the woman iliould be fubjed: to the man,
fince it is written that God laid, " Let Us make man, and let him be over the
whole creation." For not only was the man, as foon as he was created, fct over the living
things and plants at that time made, but that firft man had alfo the right of dominion over
their progeny yet unborn, and their feed not yet produced, when and as often as there-
after they fhould come forth into real and aftual being ; fo, too, it has been proved above
that, as the firil: man was fet over us, though then lying dormant in feminal eflence, he
was alfo fet over the woman not yet formed, but capable of being formed out of his
bones, exifting in the potential and obediential eflence of woman, not brought forth into
real and aftual being. And inafmuch as St. Auguftine fays, in the 83rd book of his Quef-
tions, that man was fafhioned at'ter one idea, a lion after another ; if, likewill-, man was
fafhioned after one idea and woman after another, it could corredly be faid that, before the
formation of man and woman was known to the angels, the future fubjeflion of the woman
to the man was clearly evident in an ideal and typical manner in the Divine Word, in vhom
all things that have been made were then living. (John, chap. i.). Wherefore by every
mode of origin the female fex was initiated and brought to maturity, that it might be f ibjed
to the male fex. Afterwards, that fex, having come forth into real and aiilual being, actually
fufTered that fubjedion, as is mofl plainly revealed, in that the firft woman was made for the
help of man, and obediently received from the man a name denoting her fubjedion ; the

I. .N N.

274 0)1 the Law of Nature. [par'

r II.

perpetual obfervance of which obedience the Lord by the ftrongeft bond compelled, in that
He formed the man and not the woman after His image, that is, to rule the world and
procreate men; wherefore He appointed the man alone to be His d.-puty upon earth, who,
like God, lliQuld not only rule woman and the world, but alfo procreate men. Thefe things
now, out of all that has been already ihown, we have brought together, as it were, into a
heap, not to inftrudl thee, the wifefl of Judges, to whom nothing is unknown, but that they
may become perfectly evident to my mother, who, as we before fufpeded, knew not the truth
of the law as flie did of the fa6ts of our cafe. Wherefore let her be contented witli reafon,
and without delay defift: from this fuit. And fmce to rule and to be fubjeft, ufing the words
ablolutely, are oppofites, and the judgment concerning oppofites is always the fame, namely,
that when one is granted, the other is denied; fmce nature herfelf compels the woman to be
fubje6t to the man, (he abfolutely prohibits her from ruling abfolutely, that 'S, univerfally,
over man, that is, from having iupreme ruleover him. For I fay a thing abft lutely which I
fay without adding any condition ; tor this is the rule of the logicians. And fmce to reign in
the kingdom now claimed is to rule over man abfolutely, it is by the law of nature abfolutely
prohibited to a woman to reign in luch a kingdom. Wherefore, feeing that to have kno\ '-
ledge of a thing is to know it by its caufe, my mother cannot henceforth be ignorant of he "e
things, nor fuppofe a woman capable of polTeliing a kingdom which acknowledges no fuptrio ■,
fmce fhe has been now mod clearly indoftrinated upon this matter with fo many and fuc i
fruitful caufes.

Chap. XXI.

The Woman is by nature J'uhjeil to the Man.

HE foregoing truths have not been drawn t"rom Nature's itreams remotely flowii^g,
which in their headlong courie have become mingled with certain impurities, but
c«=r^:s^^ ^^ve been tafted in the fpringing fountain of human nature itfelf, in whofe bafui,
through the medium of the living waters leaping up therefrom, we have beheld by the light
of Holy Writ how human nature flowed originally from the Divine ; which, when creating; i't
formed it into twin lexes, the male and the female, appointing the male to bear command, and
laying it upon the female to be fubjeft, and fo honoured that fex with that burden for ever ;
and thus this is determmed to be the law of woman's nature. From this fountain then
we have drawn the truth, that tor a woman to have abfolute rule over a man, tliat is, to
govern him and not be fubjeft to him, is unnatural, and a fubverfion of the order whi :h nature
ordained when maturing the human race. Wherefore, fince the Apollle fays (Rom. i jth
chapter), "Now the things which exilt have been ordained by God," whereby it follows
that all things which have not been ordained are to be accounted not uf GuJ, in proving that
for a woman to have abfolute dominion over a man is contrary to nature's rules, we have alio

PART II.] 0?i the Law of Nature, 275

proved that fuch predominance is not from God. And (ince our Lord fays, " Every
plantation which my Father hath nut pl,ii:!A,l ih.ill he rooted up," it is the Divine
fentence, and therefore ought to he thine alfo, O hoheft of jud^^es, that if a woman
intrude herfelt into a kingdom which acknowledges no fuperior — which is to rule and
not to be fubje6t to man — fhe ought to be expelled therefrom ; from which it alfo
follows that iTie has no right to obtain fuch a kingdom. And if fhe has dc fuito poiTeirion
of fuch a kingdom, not only ought ilie to be expelled therefrom, but fo long as llie holds it,
fhe deferts the order of her own nature ; and this is nothing elfe than to fm, fmce fin is
nothing elfe than the of the order of nature, or the abandonment of the univerfal
order of things.

Ch.^p. XXII.

Examples which merely relate faFts cannot prove that JVomen ow^ht to rei'^n.

UT, O mofl: learned of Judges, let not my mother prefs thee with the examples
G^ ot great things which women have done, lince to thee the caufes of prodigies are
no lels known than thofe of natural events. For thou knoweft that Deborah, whom
my mother mentioned, was a holy woman and a prophetefs, who by merit of her holy way
of life excelled in wildom her own hufband and all the children of Ifrael. So alio Judith, a
moft chafte woman, having lived a lite of the ft:ricT:ell aufterity, outfhone all the inhabitants
of Bethulia in the miniftry of counlel ; wherefore in the Divine purpofe flie was deemed
worthy to take off the head of the tyrant Holofernes, whereby alfo fhe put to flight the
army of the Affyrians. Yet her example does not ftir up to battle women, who are by
nature timid and weak. So neither do the deeds of Deborah, which were the operations of
extraordinary gifts of grace, prove that women ought to be appointed judges, as Deborah
was. Daniel, when a young boy, gave judgment moft equitably upon aged judges, vet this
example affords no grounds for fetting youths on the judgment-ieat. Balaam's afs fpoke, but
he doth not fet other people's aftes an example of Ipeaking. Divine miracles or prodigies,
therefore, which the Lord, who, as He wills, can form creatures other than thole already
created, has worked befide or beyond the powers of nature, avail us nothing in our conten-
tion concerning the courfe of nature and her decifion. And why is the viiftory cf the
Queen of the MalTageta", fhe who Imote down Cyrus, propounded to us ? Was noi that
Cvrus.the man of whom Ifaiah prophefied that the Lord fhould go before him and fiould
icatter the nations and put kings to flight, and ftiould accomplifti by his means grea and
marvellous things .'' His name, too, the Prophet aimounced before he was yet born, and
called him the r^nointed Lord {^Chrijlinn Domimtni). And altliough thefe things were ac-
complillied concerning him, yet did he not attribute them to the virtue of Ciod, but to hib

r "'.U-.^















i r



276 O?! the Law of NatU7~e. [


own power. Did he not then deferve to learn that he could not conquer even a woman
without God's help ? Wherefore that woman Tomyris, Oueen of the MalTiigetae, flew tint
Cyrus, who had flaughtered fo many men, now that he was by reafon of his pride left deftituts
of God's protection, though fenced round about with a great army; and in reprobation of
his crimes fhe enclofed his head in a glafs bottle filletl with blood, and round the vefTel had
thefe words written : " d'hou hafl: thirlled for blood, therefore drink it." My mother like-
wife brings forward the example of that moft impious woman Semiramis. Was not that
Semiramis the wife of Ninus, the fecond king that reigned in Afia ? And did (he not after
his death ufurp his empire, and, that Hie might reign in greater fifetv, unite herielf by the
nuptial bond to her own fon ? of whom St. Auguftine, in the i8th Book of the De Civitate Dei,
writes : " Semiramis, wife of Ninus, was flain by her own fon Ninus, becaufe fhe, the mother,
dared to pollute her fon by inceftuous intercourfe." For although this worn m thrull herfeU
upon that kingdom, yet fhe polIeiTed it by no title whatever ; nor can the deeds of fo vile a
woman excite us to imitate her acts, left, as her inceft fhows us the worft kind of incontinence,
fo her ambition fhould invite us to the moft iniquitous kind of exaltation. The kingdom, alfo,
of the Amazons, the only one in the world which we read to have been governed by won en,
can have no poiTible influence upon thee, moft excellent Judge ! I-or, as the prover.i f: ys,
one fwallow does not prove that fpring has come; and the Philofopher fays that th; t part
is bad which agrees not with its whole. Now it would be more fitting that the Atrazims
fliould cor.torm thcmfelves to the other regions of the world, than that all the kingdoms of
the world fhould give themfelves up to the rules of the Amazons. Nor, indeed, can a fem de
government, which is only fet over women, fland in the way of iny arguments, which rej -eft
the exercife of command over men only. Moreover, the name and the race of the Am; zo is,
as Diodorus Siculus fays in the third book of his Ancient Hiif:ories, are nowextinift, their laft
Queen of eminent virtue being Penthefilea, who was killed by Achilles in the Trojan w:'r, a
deftruflion which, it is believed, would never have come to pafs, if their condition had been
for the honour of the univerfe. But what profit do thefe fafts and events that have happened,
bring to us who are difputing about the decifion of reafon ? It is reafon that correds fad:s,
butfadts never change reafon ; for fads may fhow what has been done, but it is reafon albne
which informs us what ought to be done. Therefore, if the arguments which we ha /e urged
are valid, they cannot be difproved by bygone fads.

PART II.] On the Lcnv of Nature.

Chap. XXIII.

Such IFomen only an JuhjeLl to Men can govern Men.

ND moreover, when my mother fays that the daughters ot certaui Dukes,
Marquiies, and Earls, who rule their fubje(fls Hke Kings, fucceed their parents in
pv>r^^ their dignities and domains, and that between their titles and my mother's right
there is no difterence to be found, flie does not rightly diltinguiih between titles of
that kind and the cafe which we are fifting. No one ever doubted that women of rank
polfeirmg great domains, and other women alfo, often govern men. Thus a mother
governs her fon, a matron her houfe, ami an induftrious wife the houfehold of her liufband.
For the law of nature does not prohibit fuch women as are fubjedt to men from ruling
men ; nor is this contradicted by our difcuflionj which will only decide concerning
fupreme government. For woman was made for the help of man ; and fmce, after God,
man is the chief of the world, it is fitting tor the woman made for his help, in the exercife
ot her duty, to apply his patronage to herfelf, as plealeth her beft. For man rules thofe
whom he governs by means of others. Wherefore, all men alib, whom women feem to rule,
are ruled by the men to whom thofe women are fubjecft, even as God rules all the creatures
whom man has been fet over. Wherefore the author of the De Caufis fxys, that what-
ever a fecond caufe can do a firft caufe can do in a nobler and loftier manner. Hence, when
God intended to make woman for the help of man. He faid, " Let Us make a help for him
like unto himfelf;" and he does not fay like unto Us. Jjut man was made tor the help of
God, namely, to rule the world as His deputy, being created atter the likcnefs ot God. But
woman, being made for tlie help of man, is faid to have been made like, not unto God, but
unto man, becaufe (he is not, as man is, like to God, who has lupreme authority over all
things, fince fhe is unable to exercife fuch fupreme rule; but as Ihe can rule all things under
man, fhe has been made like to man who rules all thmgs under God. Wherefore in Genefis,
chap, v., it is thus written, " This is the book of the generation of Adam ; in the day that
God created man, in the likenefs of God made He him; male and female created He them."
He fays that both were created, but he fays that man alone was created after the likenefs of
God. So, too, in the firft chapter of the fame Book it is written, " God created man att-'r His
image and likenefs, in the image of God created He him, male and female created He ihem."
And he does not fay that both were created after the likenefs of God, no more than after
His image. Wherefore nature doth not fay that women fubjeft to men cannot rule men,
and thus fhe does not forbid women to fucceed to Dukes, Marquiies, and liarls, who are
ruled by iuperior lords, or to rule the men of their domains. Neverthelefs the Civil Law
does not allow them to fucceed in the domains of fuch peri'ons ; nor does the Apoille allow

■i nn-'i

.'1 • ^-n-:- .C'/.

278 On the Law of Natu?-e. \?h

RT 11.

them CO rule over men (i '["imotliy, chap, ii.) But for the prefent we pafs tliefe things by,
becaufe we fhow them more clearly in what follows ; nor do the points which we have now
conceded refute the words of my great-uncle, in which he above afferted that women are by
nature framed only for domellic cares ; becaufe, though in fubordination to men they are
able to trai)fa(5l: public bufinefs alio, yet they arc not made for it as for domeflic duties, fo as
to be fufficient to perform it by their own powers, b'or women are kept back from the
brunt of war by timidity, from cares of llate by flendernefs of underilanding, from the
labour of tillage by tendernels of frame, and from mercantile affairs by a certain kind of
heedieffnefs ; and thus they are prevented from exercifing any kind of adminiftration,
except the care of houfehold matters, by a fort of natural defed;. Whence women are not
permitted to manage thefe things, except under the care of men, and under the'r direiflion.
Wherefore, alfo, nature has fubjefteel them to tiie rule of men ; and thus obeyii g men they
are able to govern men, becaufe then their government is not deemed to be that of women,
but rather that of men. Wherefore the examples which my mother lias laid down concerning
the daughters of Dukes and other lords — which, however, fume laws do not allow — do not
prove that thofe daughters, though when fubjeft to men they may rule men, can alfo rule
a kingdom which obeys no iuperior.



Ch.ap. XXIV.

The natural i)ifir»iities of IFomen do not exclude them from governing^ but flioxv the

caiife why they are excluded. \

W^ Pil?> HE king's Grandfon having now ceaied fpeaking, his Brother forthwith beg.ui as
C^A "t^ follows. I do not, as the king's Daughter imagines, affign the impertetftions and
^l^s^- infirmities which women fuffer to be the caufes which exclude them f-om the
exercife of the higheft powers of government, but I ailerted that their deficiency in thofe
natural excellences of which women have a fmaller fhare than men may Ihow the cau e which
permits them not to hold fupreme authority ; for we cannot doubt that the Divine
will which fo created them is that caufe. That will, however, we cannot by our natural
powers of vifion diredly perceive, fince it is above the fcope of the human underlbmding ; fo
that we can recognize it only by the effefls of its working, by examination of nature. But


uA -f.V . -1

PART II.] On the haw of Natu7'e. ijq

that ill this way we can uiidcrftaiid it the Apoftle teaches us, faying, (lion:, i. 20), " The
invisible things of God from the creation of the world are clearly feen, being underllood by the
things that are made;" becaufe by fuch fearchings all creatures confefs God and fpeak. His
will, as the words he utters fpeak the will of a truthful man. In like manner, too, the
Philofopher fays that from the effe6l we arrive at a knowledge of the caufe ; wherefore, fince
there cannot be an infinite progrelfion of caufes, the Philofopher himfelf by natural difcourfe
of reafon arrives at a knowledge of a firft caufe, which is God ; from which it alfo follows
that none but the fool can fiy in his heart, "there is no God." Wherefore, when I lliowed
that the woman's fex is left beliind by the man's in poners, in ftrength, and in other natural
excellences, I fliowed alfo the Divine will by which each fex was formed, and, from the
effects of its operation, I difcovered this to be the cauie why women cannot rule in a kingdom
which acknowledges no fuperior, inafmuch as the harmonious order of the univerfe uffcreth
not by any means the lefs to be over the greater, or the lefs perfedl to rule the a'olo'utely
perfei5l. And thus I gathered from the footprints of God that which the king's grandlon
drew from the fountain of human nature. He hunte^i thefe things on the hills, but I
caught them In the valleys. P"or thus Wifdom cries in the ftreets, faying, " If any man love
wifdom, let him come to me and he fhall find It." So that there Is no creature fo fmall as
not to declare Go J to be its maker, and which doth not by its t]ualities, form, and powers,
make known the caufe why the wildom of the Creator fo fafliioned it. But becaufe thefe
things, as well as thofe with which the grandfon aforefald wound up his fpeech, are
explained by human reafons only. Into which error may creep unawares and lie concealed,
I will endeavour by the Divine fentence alfo, which Is clear of all error, to Ihow that
woman cannot reign in the kingdom concerning which we are contending. ■

Ch.ip. XXV.

That a iromun cmniot yeig}i Jiipre)ne is pointed out by the Divine Jentence.

!;^^T^E read In Genefis that, after our firfl: mother was feduced by the guile of the
cunning ferpent and did eat of the fruit of the tree of which man was for-
bidden to eat and had given of it to her hun)and and he too did eat, flie being
quellioned by the Lord as Judge, acknowledges her fault, and fays, " The ferpent b -guiled
me, and I did eat." Then, after the Lord had condemned with a triple penalty the 'erpent
for his wickednefs, by a final fentence He pimlflied the woman alio for her fault with a
double punlfhment, under thefe words (Gen. lii. 15), " I will multiply thy forrows, and thy
conception ; in Ibrrow thou fhalt bring forth children," — Behold one punlfhment, — " and thou
fhalt be under the power of thy hufband, and he fhall rule over thee." Behold the fecond.

'.I I.'-; AS

■ ri! .'I'.:,.'

. 't:c .!:w
^..b o" ror,

28o On the Law of Nature. [pAirr ii-

Finally the man alfo, who likewife had dcfpiled His command, the Lord then afflifted with
the mifery of labour and fweat, as that Book fliows ilill more cleai-ly. Now thefe Divine
fentenccs not only bound with their llriiftnefs thofe individuals to whom tiiey were pro-
pounded, but faftened with a perpetual chain the kinds, fpecies, and fexes, and alfo the
individual offspring that fliould proceed from them. Wherefore, juil as the offspring of the
man did not from that time forth eat its bread without labour, nor any woman with child by
a man efcape the forrows and pain of delivery, nor the brood of any viper find peace with the
leed of the woman, fo no woman anywhere from that time has been able to throw off from
her neck the yoke of man's power and of his dominion. And as that yoke preffed upon
our firll parent, fo, too, the fame yoke has humbled and for ever humbles all her daughters ;
fo that there has not been, and will not be for the future, any woman whom thi'^. Divine decree
has not bound or will not bind. And as this fentence directed every woman to )e under man's
power and authority, fo that a woman fhould not be under the dominion and power of man
is by the fame fentence interdifted ; for one of thofe contraries being commanded, the otl er
muft needs be forbidden. But for a woman to reign in a kingdom which acknowledges no
luperior, is not to be under the power and dominion of man, which is contrary to the
fentence aforefaid. Therefore llie is prohibited from fo reigning by the definitive fen en :e
of God. Thefe things are open and clear, and not obfcured by any veil of fophillry. V'h;.c,
then, remains to be proved, in order that a woman may be rejefted from fuch a kingdom .''
For it is proved above that rtie is rejecfled therefrom by the law of nature, and now it is alfo
fhown that fhe ought by the Divine fentence to be excluded. Beyond thefe, therefore, v,e
need no farther arguments. But as in the former Treatife we concluded that this difi^uie
may be ended by the laws of nature alone, it becomes me to fhow why in its difcuffion I lave
brought forward the Divine law befides. b or if in this examination the law of nature fuffice, it
is vain to flee to the proteiftion of another law, efpecially fince no error can lie fo fecrcicly
concealed that a perfed law will not deted it; and if the law of nature be not perfeft, it is
difficult to give a reafon why we have concluded that it is capable of fetting this fuit at n-lL
It will, therefore, be expedient for me now to declare myfelf fomewhat more plainly in thefe

Chap. XXVI. '

Wherefore the fentence of the Divine La-iv miifl no-iv be traced.

M^^iraiLTHOUGH the fentence of the law of nature is of force fo great that it ftands
Ǥ/^^^ in no need of the defence of another and a human law in earthly things, yet,
^M^^^ fince it cannot be known except by difcourfe of reafon— and fo, if the author
of the foregoing fhall have gone aftray from the right path of reafon, the things which he

PART ir.

On the Laiii of NatU7-c. 28

fets forth cannot be called the decifions of the law of nature, bur of the Writer — it feenis not
ufclcis for us to exanune in this htiyation the fentence of the Divine law alfo, which, rooted
in the firm foundation of taith, cannot be fliaken by the fickle motions of reafon. I<'or it is
more exalted and of greater authority than human law, and by it is all lunnan opinion
meafured, and, it it be juft, approved, and, if unjull, molT: juftly condemned. Wheretbre,
if the Divine law fliall itlelt, in the matters above difcuiTed, have decreed to the fame effee^t
as the law of nature feems to judge, the king's daughter will know at once that by every
right file is excluded from her father's kingdom. Yea, peixhance, in this fcrutiny, (lie will
find that the Divine law repels her by fetting up againft her a weightier charge than the '. ..

human. For although that fentence of labour and fweat feems to have been pronounced The fo.itencc
upon the man alone, it would be profane to think that the female fex was exempted from it. a'.^A] "''°"
For as in Adam all his feed of both fexes finned, fo too all his off-spring fhare in th : jienalty invuK, , the
laid upon him, fo tiiat in bearing that penalty no dillincftion is made between n,ales and
females. Wherefore the only quell:ion lett is concerning Eve, whether the penalty decreed
againft Adam overflowed upon her ; feeing that flie fuf^ered other penalties widely different
from Adam's, and fuch as could not hurt the male fex, and feeing that Adam could not have
made her, who polTelTed a free will like his own, guilty of fin without her having finned in
her own perfbn, and fb could not have implicated her in the punifhment of his guilt. Yet,
becaufe we know that Eve, who did eat of the fruit, finned againft the cominand much more
grievoufty than any of Adam's offspring, who only finned in tlieir parent, and yet fuffer
Adam's penalty ; and inafiiuich as both our fii-ft parents were ftained with the fame crime,
fo that they were both driven out of Paradife and made exiles in this vale ot milery, where
neither was fuffered to get his daily bread without the fweat of labour ; and inalmucn as, the)

Online LibraryJohn FortescueThe works of Sir John Fortescue, Knight, Chief Justice of England and Lord Chancellor to King Henry the Sixth (Volume 1) → online text (page 37 of 87)