Nathaniel Hillyer. Egleston.

The North American review (Volume 139) online

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frage. Of course, if men have a natural right to vote, women
have also j for it is monstrous to suppose that sex creates a dif
ference in respect to absolute natural rights. This is the short
VOL. cxxxix. NO. 336. IDS 30



406 THE NORTH AMERICAN REVIEW.

and easy way that is used by many to establish the doctrine of
female suffrage. But it is as unsatisfactory as it is simple, and
I fear it repels many from a fair consideration of its claims.
Profoundly believing in the wisdom of opening the ballot-box
to woman, I am anxious to base such a measure upon considera
tions that will command the confidence of reflecting persons.
Let me premise that, while I reject the doctrine that voting is a
natural right in any strict or philosophical sense, there is yet a
loose sense in which the phrase may be used to express an im
portant thought. Thus, we say of various civic honors and
duties, and even of legislative grants, that one man has as good a
right to them as another j or, more positively, that it is not right
to deprive any class of them ; when we know that we are not
speaking strictly of natural rights, but of social privileges.
Such are often spoken of under the name of rights ; as, for ex
ample, the right to serve in the militia, or on juries, or of incor
poration for business purposes. We thus express our sense of
injustice in the establishment of any arbitrary inequalities before
the law. This perhaps is the essence of the popular demand for
" manhood suffrage." But, thus explained, popular suffrage is as
clearly subject to conditions as jury service, though not of the
same nature.

It must also be allowed that, other things being equal, the
widest extension of suffrage is desirable 5 and this for three
reasons, which are applicable to its extension to women. First,
because it is conducive to patriotism ; second, to education and,
third, to protection. Let us expand these statements. "We all
understand that whenever an alien becomes actually qualified
for the duties of citizenship, the bestowment of the privilege of
participation in the franchise tends to awaken a sense of interest
in, and attachment to, his adopted country ; and we know that
political education is promoted by the assumption of political
responsibilities. We also know that every class of citizens is
surer of equal protection before the laws if intrusted with politi
cal power. Giving all the weight to these considerations that
they deserve, it still remains that the crucial test for voting is
the safety of the state. If, as we believe, "every voter is a
trustee for good government," then, in our anxiety to enlarge
the number of trustees, we must not overlook the primary ques
tion of their fitness. In accordance with the suggestion here
tofore made, that in itself considered the widest extension of



WOMAN AS A POLITICAL FACTOR. 407

suffrage is wisest, it would seem that the onus probandi lies with
those proposing to exclude one-half of the people from all politi
cal power. But we are quite content to put it the other way,
and to undertake to show affirmatively that society suffers from
the exclusion of a class eminently fitted to discharge well the
trust of the ballot.

The qualifications for such a duty are twofold, intellectual and
moral capacity to act, and good intention. Without the one,
the voter maybe a public enemy ; without the other, an ignorant
dupe. The opponents of woman suffrage do not allege ignorance
as the disqualification of the sex, but they do allege what may
be called a temperamental incapacity to act wisely in the field
of practical politics. This objection, even when not distinctly
formulated, is still at the bottom of much of the opposition to
female suffrage, and it therefore demands careful consideration.

In the first place, we remark that there is a constant and
natural tendency to exaggerate the differential element. That
by which we distinguish any person or thing, after a time, comes
to present itself to us as the essential character. Careful
observers are constantly finding it necessary to correct this
disproportionate estimate of the common type and the varia
tion. We have our picturesque idea of the Englishman, the
Irishman, and the Frenchman j but when we come into close
contact with individuals, we find that the common character
istics of human nature largely preponderate over their racial
peculiarities. And so we find in the religious world great
central unities underlying external diversities. Catholics, CaL-
vinists, Unitarians, are not mere personifications of creeds. The
differentiation of humanity in the direction of sex follows the
same law ; it is but a differentiation. Not to dwell, as woman
suffragists are apt to do, on the Zenobias, the Joan of Arcs, or
the Elizabeths of history, because it may well be said that these
were exceptional, and indeed abnormal, women, let us confine
our attention to the mothers and daughters of every-day life,
the beings

" Not too bright or good
For human nature's daily food."

Are such mere dreamers, emotional and unpractical persons, or
do they perform well a great part of the world's common work ?
In their sphere do they show less than man of the qualities of



408 THE NORTH AMERICAN REVIEW.

patient persistence, of conscientious fidelity to details, of practi
cal wisdom, of careful frugality, of prudent management 1 We
are content to take the judgment of husbands and fathers.
Even where the ideal element shines out, and the woman is

" A spirit still and bright,
With something of an angel light/'

she may answer as truly to the rest of the poet's portrait:

" The reason firm, the temperate will,
Endurance, foresight, strength, and skill;
A perfect woman, nobly planned,
To warn, to comfort, and command. "

Whatever foolish notions the novelists may have instilled
into our minds, woman is not all emotion. The American woman
has her fair share of good sense and of administrative ability,
and there is reason to believe that she might bring into the
region of governmental affairs positive contributions of thrift,
order, integrity, and economy.

We must not lose sight of the ultimate tests of political
capacity. In Massachusetts some educational qualifications are
required ; and, when we consider what their absence in such a
state of society would imply, we believe that they are wise. But
we must not forget the profound truth in that saying of Mr. Hare,
that "no science can reach the depths of the knowledge painfully
won in the daily life and the experience of man and woman ; "
or, as impressively expanded by Mr. Mulford (" The Nation," p.
231) : " The life of the workman, the fulfillment of human rela
tionships in the family and the community, the endeavor of men
in the realities of life, is a deeper education; and in work
rather than in a certain literary or scientific acquisition is the
evidence of the capacity for political power."

But I do not rest here. While doing justice to the practical
side of woman, I do not deny that she is differentiated from man in
the relation of the intellect to the emotions. In abstract reason
ing, man is better ; in emotion, woman is quicker. If man has
"the love of wisdom," woman has " the wisdom of love." In
music we need the blending of the male and female voice ; and
music only typifies the universal duality in the world of nature
and spirit. In every sense it is true that it is not good for man
to be alone. In some of the great souls of the world has been



WOMAN AS A POLITICAL FACTOR. 409

found this union of both the masculine and feminine natures ;
but these " double-natured poets " are the exceptions. To pro
duce the effect in the mass, we must have men and women.
The world has been learning this lesson. Modern life has
availed itself more largely of the companionship of woman, and
has been the better and purer for it. In literature, in addition
to all that she has produced, woman has been the confessed aid
and inspiration of some of the noblest souls. She has infused
into theology the spirit of religion, and has softened and
rounded its old creeds. Her influence has been alike potential
in shaping and administering systems of education. Compan
ionship in thought has led to companionship in action, and we
have broken down many walls of partition, we have removed
many bars. Hand in hand women now walk with man in many
once forbidden paths.

Nor is woman now entirely excluded from all share in gov
ernmental administration. Some of the States of our Union
have found occasion for her services upon school boards and in
the management of charitable, reformatory, and penal institu
tions. This experiment in Massachusetts was initiated cautiously.
When the writer was chairman of the joint committee on char
itable institutions in the legislature of 1868, he introduced a
proposition to have an advisory board of women associated with
the trustees of the Lancaster Reform School for Girls. It was
strenuously opposed before the committee by one of the trustees,
a man distinguished for his active philanthropy; but it was
adopted, and gradually led the way to such changes as gave
women not merely an advisory but an authoritative position on
this and similar boards. Without reference to their opinions on
the question of suffrage, I have no doubt that those having the
best means of judgment would concur in the value of this added
force of woman's tact and temperament. Is there any reason to
suppose that these special traits, which are of use in administra
tion, would not be efficient and beneficent factors in political
power ?

But let us look more distinctly at woman's emotional nature,
and consider whether its presence at the polls will be a loss or a
gain. That emotional nature will find play mainly in questions
involving the taste and the conscience. It will tend to more
care as to character in selecting candidates, to refinement in ad
ministration, and to more ideal standards in legislation. And



410 THE NORTH AMERICAN REVIEW.

are not these confessed wants in onr statesmanship ? It is but
a crude notion of superficial thinkers and observers that refine
ment is incompatible with strength. And as to ideal conceptions
of duty, we find that they are absolutely essential to invigorate
the actual life and to correct the distortions and aberrations of
our working conduct. The man or the statesman that prides
himself upon being simply " a man of affairs/ 7 finds in the end
that the higher laws which he ignores are as rigorous and relent
less as the law of gravitation. Like Emerson's Brahma, the
voice of Duty is continually repeating to heedless ears,

"He reckons ill who leaves me out."

The world's greatest reforms have started from the intuitions
of the heart, and have found their early champions in those
whom the world looked on as dreamers. The pure heart sees
many things that the sharp intellect fails to discern.

I repeat again, that we must not make too much of the differ
entiation of sex ; and the history of reform shows how nobly
endowed have been the manly, heroic souls that have led the
world onward with the u vision and the faculty divine." Never
theless, it remains true that the average endowment of ideality
is greater in woman ; and that in the mass of men the ideal con
ceptions of youth " fade into the light of common day," and are
rebuked and destroyed by the worldly maxims of business life.

What factors shall enter into the determination of our na
tional and State policies is an intensely practical question for the
people of the United States ; and the great importance to be at
tached to the introduction of the feminine element lies in the
consideration that the great problems of statesmanship for the
present and the future are moral ones questions in the right
solution of which the conscience and the moral sense are to have
the determining voice as to principles, while the practical judg
ment has large scope in the adaptation of measures. "We need to
conjoin the pure intuitions of woman and the wise strength of
man. Such questions as these are at the front : Whether we
shall seek to increase our territory, or to develop our national
character; whether we shall pursue toward other American
nations a policy of blustering menace and arrogant interference,
or shall gain their good- will by scrupulous justice and a high-
toned international courtesy ; what shall be the treatment of the
weaker races in our own land j how we shall secure the rights
and the elevation of the laboring classes 5 how strengthen the



WOMAN AS A POLITICAL FACTOR. 411

family tie, and guard the home as the basis of the state ; how
secure ethical and religious (and yet unsectarian) training in
the public schools ; and how deal effectively with the over
shadowing topic of intemperance. He must be indeed a rash
optimist who does not feel that, as to some, at least, of these
problems, the scales will long gravitate in the wrong direction
without the reenforcing aid of woman's vote.

Take the single question of the suppression of the dram-shop.
Observe, I do not say the suppression of the liquor traffic. I
select that form of it which all good citizens reprobate. I do not
speak here as a prohibitionist. The dram-shop stands the con
fessed waster of wealth, the disorganizer of labor, the degrader
of the laborer, the destroyer of home, the disturber of social
order, the ally of every vice, the f omenter of every crime, the
paralyzer of every uplifting agency of education or religion, in
fine, the foe of Christian civilization and the enemy of the hu
man race. No one is shameless enough to advocate it, and yet
it stands in defiant strength. What is the secret of its strength ?
The whole liquor interest feels and resents an attack upon any
of its outposts. "With a sagacity born of selfishness, it sees that
the whole traffic in its varied ramifications is a unity ; and, as
the " Boston Advertiser " well said years ago, " The liquor inter
est, now that slavery is gone, is the strongest single pecuniary
interest in the country." Strong not merely in the enormous
capital invested in it, but strong also in that cohesion which
binds together those engaged in a traffic obnoxious to the gen
eral public. To the power of wealth, nowhere greater than in
the United States, we must add the force of an army of employe's,
and a vastly larger army of patrons enslaved by appetite ; and
such are the most obedient of vassals. Then we must count as
allies many who would be ashamed to be known as such the
owners of real estate that derive large rentals from the saloons.
The traffic has thus secured a business recognition. Its chiefs
are known on 'Change ; it is a customer ; it buys as well as sells.
It has the sympathy of the commercial classes j not of all, to be
sure, but of those who secretly believe that the chief end of man
is " to buy and sell and get gain." As, in the old days of the
slavery contest, the names of merchant princes, the names of
leading business firms, appear in defense of " vested interests,"
although those interests are in deadly hostility to human wel
fare. And now, thus supported, the dram-shop appears as a po
litical power. Its employes and devotees have ample time to



412 THE NORTH AMERICAN REVIEW.

attend the caucus, and are never absent from the polls. Except
in our largest cities, it rarely rises to the audacity of bringing
bar-tenders to the front as candidates for responsible situations ;
its interest lies in presenting less offensive champions j but,
nevertheless, it knows its men and makes no mistakes. The law-
abiding citizen is handicapped by his attachment to his party,
and by his supposed obligation to support its regular nominees j
while the liquor interest comes into politics as a free lance,
knowing no party but the party that bids most for its support.
Hence the politician regards the liquor vote with respect, the
temperance vote with contempt. The " trade " is ready to sacri
fice men or parties that stand in its way ; its opponents are, as
one legislator naively wrote, " willing to do as much for the
cause of temperance as the good of the Republican party will
allow." The result is inevitable ; the trade have it their own
way. Sometimes they insist on the enactment of shameless
laws ; sometimes they are content with the election of shameless
officials that nullify the enforcement of decent statutes. The
general result, either way, is the impunity of the grog-shop.
Ten years ago, the Republican party of Massachusetts, in con
vention assembled, resolved that the dram-shop should be sup
pressed. But, with its immense majority, it failed in the task
that its shrewd politicians never intended to undertake ; and to
day the dram-shop is licensed instead of suppressed.

In Massachusetts the women in the voting ages outnumber
the men by over fifty thousand. For reasons not necessary now
to be considered, it is not probable that the actual voters would
ever exceed those of the male sex ; but, making all allowances,
the female vote would determine any question upon the side
where it was largely predominant. Can any one doubt on
which side, in the issue against the dram-shop, that vote would
be thrown ? Here would be a fresh body of voters, compara
tively free from appetite for liquor, untrammeled by old
party prejudices and ties, with an instinctive feeling that the
saloon and the home are natural enemies, and with a quick
sympathy with suffering, putting their whole heart into the con
test, and supplying, in addition to their own votes, the moral
enthusiasm that in itself presages victory. The result would be
so sure, that the politician whose highest wisdom is always to be
on the winning side, would be in the advance, shouting for the
extermination of the dram-shop. And it would go.



WOMAN AS A POLITICAL FACTOR 413

I do not suppose that the influence of woman would stop
here ; everywhere it would be felt for good ; and I introduce the
temperance question simply as an emphatic and practical illustra
tion. Hers would be the soprano voice in politics, the voice of
aspiration, the voice of inspiration. It was no dreamer, no
mere sentimentalist, but the profoundest poet of modern Europe,
who gave us as the closing prophecy of his Faust, " The woman-
soul leadeth us upward and on ! n

By this course of thought, I seem to myself to have estab
lished suffrage for woman upon a sure and consistent basis, and
to have demonstrated that it is not only a just measure, but one
conservative of the highest interests of the state. But I know
that we shall not carry this reform merely by a logical main
tenance of our thesis ; we must first answer many objections in
the popular mind. One of these, for which I should have but
little respect, except for the character of many who urge it, is
that as all government must ultimately rest on physical force, it
should only be shared by those who maintain it ; or, in briefer
words, that as women cannot fight, they should not vote. But
was military service ever made the condition of suffrage ? Did
any sane man ever argue for the exclusion from the ballot-box
of Quakers, persons physically infirm, or those above the mili
tary age ? Voting is not a reward, but a duty. Besides, if we
assume that fighting is to continue to be a normal and usual
function of government, I suppose that women could discharge
even that in the same way that the two leading candidates for
the presidency found most convenient in the last war. In our
modern civilization, even in time of war, mere brute force will
always be the servitor of character, intelligence, and wealth.
Those who possess these, without regard to sex, will be found
most effective supporters of the government in time of peace or
war. I may add that, while the history of the late Rebellion
furnishes ample proof of the extent to which woman may hearten
and strengthen the national forces in a contest that enlists her
accordant sympathies or her moral convictions, I believe that
the determining vote of woman would be of immense service in
restraining the country from wars of selfish ambition or mere
aggrandizement.

But at the heart of much of the silent opposition to female
suffrage lies a feeling that I am bound thoroughly to respect,
and that makes me patient under the slow progress of this



414 THE NORTH AMERICAN REVIEW.

movement. It is the feeling that the distinctive delicacy and
purity of her sex would be injuriously affected by her admission
into the arena of politics. Society has an immense interest in
the preservation of this, and I do not wonder that it shrinks
from any unsexing of woman. Tennyson utters profound
philosophy when he says :

"Woman is not undeveloped man,
But diverse ; could we make her as the man,
Sweet love were slain."

With that would come the destruction of the home, and with
the home the state rises and falls. I thoroughly believe in
feminine women. But let us examine this matter closely, and
see whether this fear of the effect of suffrage is not founded upon
prejudice rather than upon reason. Let us, in the first place,
clear the question of complications. The " woman question," as
it may be called, is a broad one, with many phases, and is one of
the important problems of our modern life. What shall be the
education of women, and how shall it be obtained ? Shall pro
fessions and occupations be indiscriminately opened to them?
Shall they be urged to enter them? Shall there be perfect
equality in the household, or shall the husband have an official
headship? Shall the legal status of woman be identical with
that of man, and all statutes either in aid or restraint of her be
swept away ? These are grave questions, but their decision is
not involved in woman's admission to the ballot.

And again, I regret to say that the prejudice in this direc
tion against the suffrage movement has been increased by the
pugilistic style of some of its female advocates. Perhaps this
was natural and almost inevitable. Reformers are not apt to be
soft of speech and gentle in manners ; and many of the women
who lead this movement are somewhat abnormal representatives
of their sex, and are smarting under a sense of injustice. But
the mass of American women are not clamorous for their rights,
but anxious to discharge their duties. Such women find their
true voice in the tender eloquence and deep religious earnestness
of such advocates as Frances B. Willard, pleading for the ballot
as a means of home protection.

Let us now with candor examine all that the exercise of
suffrage by woman involves. It presupposes (or ought to,
although in the case of male suffrage it often fails to secure it) a
sufficient acquaintance with the issues at stake for the formation



WOMAN AS A POLITICAL FACTOR. 415

of an intelligent purpose, and it requires the slight physical act
of depositing at the polls a ballot that represents this purpose.
And that is all there is of it. It seems ludicrous to consider
gravely the objection that danger to woman's refinement of
character is involved in the simple act of attendance at the
polls. And yet how much rhetoric has been expended in paint
ing the debasement of such a scene ! It was an unnatural libel
to assert that American manhood would anywhere insult woman
hood. But, happily, we need not now rely upon d priori assump
tions, for experience has demonstrated that women, exercising
the limited right of voting for school committee, or in some of
the Territories exercising unrestricted suffrage, or in many of
the States attending the polls to cheer on and augment the
anti-liquor vote, have been treated with chivalrous courtesy.
And the recent device of dividing the voting in the wards of
cities and in large towns into precincts, together with the
presence of additional scrutinizing officers, has markedly tended
to additional good order and removed nearly all discomfort.
The habitual presence of women in large numbers at the voting
places would undoubtedly still further refine the manners and
the surroundings there. In any event, the public exposure to
which women could be subject in exercising the right of suffrage
would be nothing compared with that which one class cheerfully
undergo at the behest of fashion, and another under the
pressure of necessity.

If, then, there need be nothing offensive in the act of voting,
is there anything unwomanly in the preparation for it ? So far
as relates to moral and social questions, which form an increas
ingly large part of governmental problems, they are such as, in
their general aspects, naturally interest the wife, the mother, or



Online LibraryNathaniel Hillyer. EglestonThe North American review (Volume 139) → online text (page 40 of 60)