HC Deb 03 May 1871 vol 206 cc68-123

Order for Second Reading read.


observed that when the question of the removal of the electoral disabilities of women was first brought before the House in 1867, it was regarded with feelings of curiosity, and probably most of those who remained to hear the debate did so in the expectation that they would get some amusement from it. When the Bill, of which he was about to move the second reading, was last year submitted to the House, its opponents somewhat underestimated the amount of Parliamentary support it would receive. They had no idea that in a house of between 200 and 300 it would be read a second time by a considerable majority. Such, however, was the fact; and when it was borne in mind, in connection with that fact, that there were 170 Members of the present Parliament who had, at one time or another, given their sanction to the principle of the Bill, he thought he might state that they now approached the discussion of it with a feeling that they had a subject before them as serious and important as any which had ever occupied the attention of the House or country. He had no means of knowing whether the House would read the Bill a second time to-day; but, if he might judge of the future by the past, he could say if they did not read it a second time to-day, they would do so at no distant period. Whatever measures had been generally supported by the large Parliamentary boroughs had found their way to the Statute Book. The great towns had recently decided in favour of household suffrage for men; and they had now decided, not with entire unanimity, but with a remarkable approach to it, in favour of this Bill for giving household suffrage throughout the country without any distinction of sex. Edinburgh and Birmingham, Manchester and Bristol, Leeds and Brighton, Oldham and Sheffield, Halifax and Bolton had given an undivided vote in favour of the Bill. He would not go into the general question of unequal legislation as between men and women. He believed the House pretty well understood the whole subject. Women asked for the Parliamentary suffrage because they bore in common with men all the burdens of the State, and because they believed that they had a constitutional right to influence the making of the laws which they had to obey. The great and oppressive inequalities in the laws as between the sexes supplied them with a practical motive of the very strongest kind to endeavour to obtain the franchise, from a knowledge of the fact that only those who could influence the legislative body had any chance of getting their grievances redressed. Two recent cases might be quoted as illustrating the state of the law between men and women. One was the case of a grandchild of Lord Mount-Cashell—a child taken away from the guardianship of its mother by its father. The case was most severely commented on by the Judge, and the Court would have liked to give a decision entirely opposed to that it gave. He did not say that the child, instead of being the property of the father, should be the property of the mother, but in a matter of this kind there should be some just decision, and, if there was any choice, certainly the child should go to that parent who would best do a parent's duty by it. Another case came before the Courts the other day, and the question was whether in this country a widow had any right to bring up her child in the religion she professed. The father was a Roman Catholic, the mother a Protestant, and the child was eight years of age. The father had left no instructions as to the religion in which the child should be trained; but the relatives of the dead father absolutely controlled the mother, who was obliged to have her child brought up in the Roman Catholic religion, although she herself entirely disbelieved it. Women had discovered that whenever a class of persons hitherto debarred from the franchise were admitted within the political pale, a very decided change soon occurred in the legislation affecting them. Until working men got votes the House had looked with considerable suspicion on trades unions, and would gladly have suppressed them; but now they had legislated for them in a spirit of justice, and probably even of generosity. He did not believe this change was owing to the fact that working men could now meet them at the polling-booth, and there assert their powers. He attributed it to a much better motive. When working men were enfranchised the House had been compelled to look at every question which affected them, and were likely, therefore, to arrive at more truthful and just decisions. If women had the franchise the House would get to know their opinions and feelings, and legislation affecting them would be more successful. Had they possessed the franchise, would the Women's Property Bill have met the fate it did? It passed that House and reached the other Chamber, where the voice of justice was not always heard unless its demands were in harmony with the supposed interests of those who assembled there. What was done with it? The Peers destroyed the Bill and created another. During that process the Government, so far as he recollected, were inactive, and did not lend the slightest assistance to the admirable Bill sent up by that House. He did not blame the Government; they were over-weighted with business, having three times more on their hands than they could possibly get through. They must choose what measures they could give attention to, and must do the work of their masters—those who made and could unmake them. To suppose they could give attention to the interests of the unenfranchised was to suppose what was impossible. That Bill came back with the principle knocked out of it—a thing of shreds and patches, very good for the lawyers, but very difficult for anyone else to understand; and to this hour confiscation of property at marriage was the law for women in this country. The Government had been obliged to take up the subject of University Tests, especially during the last two Sessions, the object being not to enable Nonconformists to obtain an academical education, but to enable them to enjoy certain emoluments they could not otherwise reach. But how was it with women? A struggle was going on among women for a higher education. At Edinburgh University some half-dozen women of great ability, high character, and industry desired to become qualified as medical practitioners—not seeking emoluments and honours, but simply the education which such institutions were supposed to give; but nobody came down to that House for their relief; no great party was set in Motion; the Government was silent while half-a-dozen women were heroically fighting their own battle against a high-class trade union in that city. In the course of the discussion on the Bill for legalizing marriage with a deceased wife's sister, several hon. Members referred to what was said to be the opinion women entertained of that measure. The hon. Member for Boston (Mr. Collins) had read a passage from the Women's Suffrage Journal to show this. That journal, conducted by a woman, was as ably conducted as any journal in the kingdom, and more than any other paper represented the suffrage associations of the country. Women, however, were not satisfied with that sort of irregular representation in this House. What they said was that if their opinions were of any value, if their condition was to be studied at all, they ought to express their views by the constitutional method—through the polling-booth, precisely as men did. With a conscientious desire to lessen infanticide, the hon. and learned Member for Salford (Mr. Charley) had introduced the Infant Life Preservation Bill. If it affected anyone, it affected women, and it was natural they should consider it. These women's suffrage societies were becoming vigilance committees, which watched the legislation of the House with regard to women. They agreed with the hon. and learned Member for Salford in his object, but they differed from him in regard to the means by which he proposed to attain it. They had presented a Memorial to the Home Secretary against the Bill, and they had sent it to every Member. Was it not of some use to hon. Members to see the criticizms of women upon the Bill? And if it were, was not their demand a reasonable one, that they should be allowed to express their opinions at the pollingbooth? If political disabilities ought to exist at all, it would be more fair to place them on men than on women; if either men or women should be without votes, it ought to be men; and his reason for that opinion was that men had ten times the means of influencing the Legislature of any country apart altogether from votes. They had physical strength, combative qualities, opportunities of meeting, and the almost entire control of the Press, the platform, and the pulpit; they were the masters of all the great professions in this country; they had the command of the purse; and when all these things were considered it appeared to him that hon. Members sitting on that side of the House, who had always been in favour of representation, could hardly enter the Lobby to vote against this Bill without feelings of discomfort almost akin to shame. Among those who opposed the Bill last Session were the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Bouverie), the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire (Lord Elcho), and the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate); and, if he could have selected his opponents, he would have picked out these three Members. From the names of his opponents he should expect that they would bring forward arguments drawn from prejudices rather than from reason; and he found that the arguments which did service a few years ago in opposition to the extension of the franchise were disinterred. As it was said that men did not want the franchise, and men were produced who did not want it, so with respect to women now; but during this Session there had been presented to Parliament in favour of the Bill 420 Petitions, to which 150,000 signatures were attached; and 150 meetings of varying character, but many of them crowded, had been held in support of it in the United Kingdom, but mainly in Scotland and England. It was said that the franchise would be a curse to women; but it might be assumed that women were the best judges of that; and there had recently been presented to the Prime Minister a Memorial in support of the Bill, signed by women, and headed by the names of Florence Nightingale, Harriet Martineau, Miss Carpenter, and several ladies of title. He now came to the pedestal or pinnacle argument, which was that women stood in too high a position to be subjected to the dirt and mire of politics; but everything in this world had its baser side, including religion, literature, and art, and we did not attempt to exclude women from them on that account. Those who used this pinnacle argument were members of aristocratic families, and belonged to that privileged order in which women stood on high social pinnacles; but he did not come there to advocate the claims of women who stood upon any pinnacle or pedestal whatever, he came to plead the cause of those who, less powerfully armed by nature, less favoured by law, had to do the rough work of the world in the face of obstacles more formidable than ever beset the path of men. He did not underrate the importance of adding 14 or 16 per cent to the constituency, but what he regarded as serious was the neglect of this demand for enfranchisement, because Parliament could not legislate successfully for a community with so large a portion of which it had no relation. If the Bill passed, no demand for a Dissolution would come from women, who would know that from that time the questions in which they were concerned would assume a different aspect, because they would have votes at the next election. The present Government in its first Session enabled women to vote at municipal elections; an eminent Member observed to him at the time—"That vote means the other," and the public had made up their minds that it did. Last Session women were enabled to vote for members of school boards, and to be members of them, too, as they were in several places. As women could not be elected by large communities without being known to them, and as they had been encouraged to present selves to constituencies, it appeared to be impossible for a Government which had gone so far to justify itself in preventing women from voting once in four or five years at Parliamentary elections. Last year, the Government being neutral on this question, the House passed the second reading of the Bill by a large majority, and then there came over the scene a remarkable change, which he never could understand; but there was a panic, and in a state of panic men always saw that which did not exist. There was set to work machinery which more than once he had seen employed to upset just decisions; and on that occasion this result was achieved. He cared very little about the party aspects of this Bill; but if, as was alleged, the political power of women would be Conservative, it was a question for the grave consideration of the Government whether they would make it more Conservative by promoting its closer alliance with the Conservative party. Last year the Home Secretary did not conceal, but rather attempted to avow, that if he had been left unfettered he would have voted for it; the Solicitor General voted for the Bill, and had spoken warmly in its favour before his constituency; the Solicitor General for Ireland voted for it; and the Secretary of the Poor Law Board was a supporter of it; the Secretary to the Admiralty voted for Mr. Mill's Resolution in favour of the enfranchisement of women. There were other Members of the Government who had never availed themselves of any opportunity of voting against the Bill. The Attorney General had not done so; the Vice President of the Council, who had admitted women to the membership of school boards, would hardly be likely to do so; the Under Secretary at the Home Office, and the Secretary to the Treasury, had not voted against it; and, without inferring that all these were in favour of the Bill, he must conclude that there was something favourably suspicious in the fact that they had not voted against it. The great principle of the Liberal party was that taxation and representation should go together; and with so many Members of the Government favourable to the Bill, and others not hostile to it, it would not be a very unlikely thing that they should on this occasion leave this an open question, and allow the House to dispose of it froe from their influence. [Mr. GLADSTONE: Hear, hear!] He rejoiced that the Prime Minister would co-operate with them so far as to allow the House to dispose of the question according to its own view. Parliament had made the home the political unit, do not let it maintain disabilities in those homes bereft of the father, and where the support to be derived from the presence of men was not to be found. The hon. Member concluded by moving that the Bill be read a second time.


, in seconding the Motion, said, that as he had had no opportunity of speaking in the debate on this question last year, although his name was then as now on the back of the Bill, he naturally felt desirous of stating the grounds on which he supported the Bill, and had placed his name in a somewhat prominent position with regard to it. He was the more anxious to speak because he differed in some respects from the views of the hon. Member who had just spoken. However, his health just then was not such as to encourage him to address the House, and he should not have done so had he not taken a real interest in the Bill, and did he not feel it to be an imperative duty to do all in his power to support it. He must begin by saying that he was surprised at the extreme and even dangerous importance which some attached to the enfranchisement, not of women, but of the comparatively few women who possessed the qualifications which entitled men to vote, and whose claims had not been voluntarily surrendered by marriage. Our common law looked upon husband and wife as one, and we might, therefore, set aside all married women, even those who enjoyed the income of property settled on themselves without the intervention of trustees. If we did so, and also eliminated all women except unmarried householders and lodgers qualified as males were required to be, and took the remainder only, the number of female voters placed on the list, according to the best information he could obtain, would not equal one-fifth of the number of voters added by the last Reform Bill. The peril of this addition, if there were any, was still further diminished by the fact that women were not turbulent, corrupt, and revolutionary like men, and that any changes their influence might introduce would be of the mildest and most beneficent character. He was astonished, therefore, when he heard the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Bouverie) on whose Motion the Bill was thrown out last Session, speak of it as a measure which ought not to be carried without an appeal to the country, and a Dissolution of Parliament. If the passing of this Bill were to involve a Dissolution, we might as well have one about the encroachments on the Thames Embankment. The enfranchisement of some myriads of women would no more affect the nation at large than those encroachments, and if they chose to call that enfranchisement and encroachment it was at all events a beneficial one, while those others were mischievous. Another futile objection which he had heard in the last year's debate was that women could not be admitted to the suffrage without conceding to them also a seat in Parliament It was a sufficient answer to that objection that the clergy possessed the suffrage but could not sit in Parliament, and had never agitated for the privilege. A more absurd objection still was that the enfranchisement of a small minority of women would alter the character of the whole sex, who would invade the occupations, habits, and lines of thought which formed the peculiar domain of man, and sweeping like a torrent, as it were, per fas atqur nefas obliterate the boundaries which Nature herself had set up between the sexes. Were it not for the extreme respect in which he held a candid opponent, he should catch himself inwardly exclaiming— The force of folly could no further go. If he wished to know what change admission to the suffrage would make in women, we could not do better than consider what it made in men. He did not deny the advantage of enfranchisement, but he did not believe that it consisted in an immediate change of character. Was any man, he asked, the wiser, the merrier, the better, the worse (he would not say till the Ballot Bill passed, perhaps not even then), the richer, the poorer, for obtaining the right to vote? He should be curious to hear anyone explain the physiological or psychological changes which he had detected in himself after he had obtained the suffrage. Thousands were indifferent about the possession and use of their privilege as voters, and many women would be as indifferent, though more conscientious, perhaps, than many men, when they did vote. But it was unnecessary to argue that the electoral suffrage would make no change for the worse in woman's character, because there was a practical demonstration of the fact in that the municipal suffrage had been given to women, and the educational, without in the slightest degree detracting from the feminine softness of women, or disturbing their rôle in life's great drama as wives and mothers. Women meddled neither more nor less in politics than they did in the days of Margaret of Anjou, of Queen Elizabeth, or of those contests when a beautiful duchess canvassed for Charles James Fox. Some few high spirits entered the political arena then, as they might do now, but the vast majority contented themselves with elevating and depressing their eyebrows, as the Roman ladies did their thumbs, for or against the combatants; and so, he thought, things would remain. He dismissed the thought that any very portentous changes, political or social, would be effected by carrying the measure; but then the question arose, if the measure were likely to be so inoperative, why press it at all? The answer was that it completed the representation of property and of intelligence. The intelligent views of women were no more to be disregarded than those of men; and, as it was our constitutional theory that property ought to be represented, there was no reason why it should not be represented when it was in the hands of women who discharged the duties connected with it, and were, therefore, entitled to its privileges. In the next place, it was only just that women should have such a political status as to enable them to obtain an equal share of educational endowment, and other social advantages which were at present denied them. The hon. Member for Sheffield last year spoke of many women as being but "fair savages;" the reason was that the unfair savages, men, took the lion's share of education; and the same unfairness prevailed in other matters, and he agreed with Mr. Mill, when he said— All that education and civilization are doing to efface the influences on character of the law of force, and replace them by those of justice, remains merely on the surface as long as the citadel of the enemy, (that is the unjust treatment of women) is not attacked. Lastly it appeared to him that to imply the inferiority of women by withholding from them the suffrage was detrimental to their character, whether that inferiority be, or be not, wholly and absolutely true; and an illustration of this was to be found in the results of the policy of the Spaniards towards the Indians in America. He had lately read in the work of a distinguished Trench traveller, a passage which seemed to him to bear on this point. It was this— The special code and ordinances sent out by the council of the Indies unintentionally, perhaps, but effectually, favoured the spread and perpetuation of the popular prejudices as to the real inferiority of the Indians, by speaking of them and providing for them as minors in all civil matters. Habituated for so long a period to contempt and pity, they have come to regard themselves as inferior beings, and their self-respect can never be restored except through a series of efforts as prolonged as those which have humbled them have been continuous. For these reasons he supported this Bill, but he also thought there was a special reason why this country should be the first to adopt the enfranchisement of women. That reason was the immense influence which the example of England must exert upon the 200,000,000 of Asiatics in India, among whom, with a few brilliant exceptions, women had been degraded to a state little better than slavery. How could we expect that Indian women would be emancipated from the imprisonment of the zenanah, or be admitted to the full privileges of education, so long as we continued to proclaim the inferiority of women in this country? If for no other reason, he should support this measure as a blow dealt at the slavery of women in the East, and as a reply to the besotted demand of the Chinese Government that schools for female education should be dissolved.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Jacob Bright.)


said, that in rising to move that the Bill be read a second time that day six months, he must begin by an apology for obtruding himself on their notice as leading the opposition to the measure; but he had abstained from giving notice of opposition almost up to the last hour in the hope that some other Member would come to the front. In fact, he was at all times unwilling to put himself forward in opposition to any matter which interested a great number of his fellow-countrymen and countrywomen; but the House would do him the justice to admit that he had always had the courage to avow his opinions on matters brought under the notice of the House—a merit not always conspicuous in Ministers or Members. The hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Jacob Bright), who had been a comparatively short time in the House, had been pleased to speak personally of him; nor did he complain of that so long as what was said was true. He had never, that he was aware of, felt anything like "discomfort akin to shame" for anything he had done or said in that House; and as the hon. Gentleman did not seem to be aware of it, he (Mr. Bouverie) would inform him that he had invariably supported measures for the extension of the popular franchise. The hon. Gentleman then coupled his name with the names of some hon. Members who put themselves in opposition to their party upon the Reform Act of 1866. He thought it would have been better had the hon. Gentleman taken the trouble to ascertain what were the facts before he went out of his way to attack a Gentleman sitting on the same side of the House. If his hon. Friend had referred to the Division Lists, which were authorized records of the votes given in that House, he would have seen that he (Mr. Bouverie) had always given his vote in favour of the extension of the franchise; and that when he criticized the Bill of 1866, his suggestions were accepted by the Government. But his hon. Friend raised a question of a different kind by the Bill he had introduced, and had argued as if it were a mere compliment to the measure he had himself passed two years ago, contending that, in logic, the House of Commons was bound to confer the Parliamentary suffrage on women, because it had already entrusted them with the municipal franchise. For his own part, he (Mr. Bouverie) believed that that extension was made inadvertently, and almost by surprise; but, however that might be, he, for one, would be no party to any further extension of that measure. He must remind the House that the experience we had had of the measure on which his hon. Friend based his argument was not of a very satisfactory kind. One of the points he (Mr. Bouverie) insisted upon last year in his opposition to the measure admitting women to the franchise was, that mixing up women in contested elections would be to contaminate the sex—that sex which we were bound to keep in respect, and whose modesty and purity we were especially bound to hold in reverence. On that occasion he also urged upon the House that if we conferred the Parliamentary franchise on women we should not be able to protect those who were unwilling to take part in politics. Politics would be forced upon them—they would be driven to the poll whether they liked it or not—their lives would be made a burden to them during a contested election; and there was no woman who would not be assailed, bothered, annoyed, and persecuted to give her vote. Therefore, unless the great bulk of our countrywomen asked for the franchise—and it was well known that they did not ask for it—the House ought not to impose such a damnosa hœreditas upon them. The struggles of parties in political life stood on a very different footing from the minor affairs referred to by his hon. Friend. About a month ago there was a discussion in the Manchester Town Council as to whether that body should petition in favour of this Bill, and a majority agreed to do so. He would read, however, the statements made by two gentlemen who took part in this debate. Mr. Alderman Murray said— With regard to the question before them, though he supported it last year, he felt bound to vote for the amendment on this occasion, and he would tell them why. At the last municipal election it was his duty to preside at one of the booths in Ardwick, and he must say that more unseemly sights took place on that occasion than he ever witnessed at any previous election, either municipal or Parliamentary. Women in a state of semi-drunkenness were hustled into publichouses by men in the same state; and he made up his mind then that before the Parliamentary franchise was extended to women they ought to have the Ballot. Well, he (Mr. Bouverie) had always supported the Ballot as a means of protecting a man in the conscientious exercise of his franchise; but how could the Ballot prevent scenes of that kind? How could it prevent women from entering these publichouses, and affording the same unseemly spectacle? Again, Mr. Alderman Lamb was reported to have said that— He would ask whether any gentleman present would like to see his wife, daughter, or sister taking part in the disgraceful scenes which were witnessed at the last municipal election. Staggering women, supported by staggering men—not their husbands—were seen going up to vote, both sexes boisterous and obscene in their language. He thought, therefore, that the experience of the measure which gave the municipal franchise to women did not suggest the expediency of extending the principle. But this was altogether a much narrower view than that which he wished to press on the attention of the House. The real question was of a very wide description, indeed — perhaps no more serious question could be raised in Parliament than this. It was so serious, indeed, that he was astonished to hear his right hon. Friend (Mr. Gladstone) intimating that it was considered an open question for Members of the Government, on which they could vote as they pleased. To his mind the hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester, by his proposal, raised in a practical shape a question which had been often raised before by philosophers in their closets—namely, "Why are half the human race excluded from political privileges?" No — this was not a new question; albeit it was a very portentous one; but his hon. Friend, in attempting to solve that question in the way he proposed, was in reality disturbing the whole foundations of society and obliterating the distinction of sex, and ignoring the functions of the sexes in society which have existed in all times and in every civilized community. This was not a new idea, nor a notion originating in this country. The issue now raised sprung up in a country which was fertile in strange notions and ideas—the United States of America—those States which were often extolled by his hon. Friend and those who acted with him as furnishing an example of everything wise and expedient in political life. Now, what had our practical kinsmen on the other side of the Atlantic done in reference to this question? Why, the Legislatures of several of the States, and even Congress itself, had repudiated the notion of woman suffrage, and the American women themselves had also repudiated it. Would the House allow him to read an extract from a letter of the New York correspondent of a daily newspaper in this country?— I am afraid it must be confessed that the Woman Suffrage Movement in the United States is pretty well 'played out.' It has become unmistakably evident of late that the women of the country do not want the suffrage. The same correspondent, after quoting the letter of a lady who exposed the unbusinesslike way in which women managed their societies in America, said— I agree with this lady that it is not surprising that under this state of things the sensible women of the country have become disgusted with the agitators and with their agitation, and have exercised the influence which they have with their brothers and husbands to knock the whole thing on the head as soon as possible. In Illinois, the other day, 1,400 women of a single town petitioned not to be allowed to vote; in Massachusetts an amendment to the Constitution, allowing women to vote, has been rejected in the Legislature by a large majority at the request, as it appears, of the women themselves; in Minnesota a Women's Suffrage Bill, which had passed the Legislature, has been vetoed by the Governor, who says that he is satisfied the women of the State would be more annoyed than gratified by the suffrage; and in Utah, where the women have the suffrage, they refuse to go to the polls.


asked whether it was proposed there to give the vote to married as well as to single women?


believed it was. Therefore he (Mr. Bouverie) said his hon. Friend's Bill really tended to obliterate the practical distinctions which the experience, the wisdom, and the habits of mankind in all ages had established. It had been said that the Bill was a very small affair, and that the House need not go further. But if we conceded electoral power to women, how could we refuse them a share in legislative power, in judicial power, in administrative power? All the great branches of political power—the legislative, the administrative, the judicial, and the electoral—must be equally conceded. This was a state of things which the House ought seriously to contemplate if it intended to pass the Bill. His hon. Friend, no doubt, would be prepared to go that length; but he felt sure such a view was not entertained by the great bulk of the women of England. His hon. Friend the Member for Manchester assumed to speak in the name of all the women of England; but, in fact, he spoke in the name of only a very few of them. The great bulk of the women of England had an instinctive distaste for political privileges, for they were aware of the evil which would ultimately ensue to their sex if they entered into competition with men in all the rough pursuits of life. Women are weaker than men, at all events physically. If they had to struggle in the world on equal terms with men, they must inevitably be oppressed. They were protected now by the habits and ideas of society generally from oppression. There was scarcely any man above 40 years old who was not identified in his happiness and interests in life with one woman—or with more than one woman. The happiness, the interests, the hopes of his wife and daughter, here and hereafter, were far dearer to the head of the family than his own. His interests and theirs were entirely wrapped up together; and he maintained, that this was the real protection of women against oppression and injury, and not the electoral power which his hon. Friend proposed to secure to them by this Bill. To his mind, his hon. Friend struck at the very foundation of society—namely, the family. Was the head of the family the man or the woman? Was the head of the family to be the master of the family or was he not? Was it nature's intention, and was it our Maker's intention, or was it not, that when society was founded on the family the man should be at the head of the family and should rule? Strange notions were spread abroad at the present day by those whose views his hon. Friend advocated in that House. The existing state of things was to come to an end. He was not speaking without book, but would quote some passages, of not inordinate length, to show that the persons who with great ability promoted the views advocated by his hon. Friend aimed their blows at the existing state of society, and at marriage in particular. These were socialist views, and he was glad to say they were not entertained by the great bulk of our countrymen and countrywomen. They were, however, entertained by philosophers and fanatics in ancient times, and they had been much written about during the last half-century; so that there was a large literature on the subject by many writers, and especially by French writers. He dared say his hon. Friend had not studied much of the literature on this subject. He, on the contrary, had; and he knew that the logical results of what his hon. Friend advocated were the socialist views of those who asserted that the existing foundations of society were altogether wrong, and that the laws of property and marriage ought to be entirely revised, they being at present an abuse of the rights and privileges of mankind. Marriage was represented by those writers as a state of intolerable bondage and slavery. He would quote a passage from a work by Mr. John Stuart Mill, a gentleman who was called by some a great philosopher, although in his judgment he was rather a courageous sophist than a philosopher. In his essay On the Subjection of Women Mr. Mill said— The wife is the actual bond servant of her husband, no less, so for as legal obligation goes, than slaves commonly so called. She vows a life-long obedience to him at the altar, and is held to it all through her life by law. That was the complaint. In another passage Mr. Mill said— I am far from pretending that wives are in general no better treated than slaves; but no slave is a slave to the same lengths and in so full a sense of the word as a wife is. Again, Mr. Mill said— If married life were all that it might be expected to be, looking to the laws alone, society would be a hell upon earth. And again— The law of servitude in marriage is a monstrous contradiction to all the principles of the modern world, and to all the experience through which those principles have been slowly and painfully worked out. It is the sole case, now that negro slavery has been abolished, in which a human being in the plenitude of every faculty is delivered up to the tender mercies of another human being, in the hope, forsooth, that this other will use the power solely for the good of the person subjected to it. Marriage is the only actual bondage known to our law. There remain no legal slaves except the mistress of every house. Was that a just representation of married life, and the relations between husband and wife among the great bulk of our countrymen and countrywomen? Mr. Mill was not even original in these views. In the year 1825 this subject was handled by Mr. W. Thompson, a gentleman of the same school of opinion as Mr. Owen, the Socialist, who gradually drifted into extraordinary notions, and held that there ought to be no morality, no laws, no property, and no marriage. Among Mr. Owen's chief apostles was this Mr. Thompson, who wrote a book entitled An appeal of one-half the Human Race against the Pretensions of the other Half. In this work he said— Even under the present arrangements of society, founded as they all are on the basis of individual competition, nothing could be more easy than to put the rights of women, political and civil, on a perfect equality with those of men. It is only to abolish all prohibitory and exclusive laws statute, or what are called 'common,' the remnants of the barbarous customs of our ignorant ancestors, particularly the horrible and odious inequality and indissolubility of that disgrace of civilization—the present marriage code. Again he said— Woman is, then, compelled in marriage by the possession of superior strength on the part of men; by the want of knowledge, skill, and wealth; by the positive cruel, partial, and cowardly enactments of law; by the terrors of superstition; by the mockery of a pretended vow of obedience; and, to crown all, and as the result of all, by the force of an unrelenting, unreasoning, unfeeling, public opinion, to be the literal unequivocal slave of the man who may be styled her husband …. A domestic, a civil, a political slave, in the plain, unsophisticated sense of the word, in no metaphorical Sense, is every married woman. It would thus be seen not only that Mr. Mill was a sophist in regard to this matter, but that he had not the advantage of being an original sophist. Such were the views on which were founded the operations of those persons outside the House who asked for an extension of the franchise to women owners of property. Another of the modern philosophers, Mr. M. D. Conway, said in a recent work entitled The Earthward PilgrimageThat which is now called morality directly and deliberately stunts or even ruins the faculty of man, and on principle. This will appear to those who consider its standards of nobility, commercial success, Sabbath-keeping expediency; but beside the grave at Bournemouth" (the writer was here referring to the grave of Mary Woolstonecraft, one of the originators of this school). "I revert only to that point upon which our hereditary monastic morality is most stern and uncompromising—marriage. Nothing but superstition ever sacrifices human beings to institutions. The origin of the marriage superstition is Pagan …. Like every other superstition it is suicidal. Permitting the minimum of freedom in its regulation and duration, marriage finds the young already dreading it …. Formosa now excites sympathy, she will presently gain respect. When finally she shall deserve respect, when she also shows she can be faithful as lover and mother, the lock and bolt system will break down. Society will before long be glad enough to assimilate contracts between man and woman to contracts between partners in business. He thought he had shown to the House by these extracts that there was a school who ardently supported the Member for Manchester's measure, but who aimed their shot higher than he, and made an attack upon the very foundations of society. There was a Book far more esteemed by our countrywomen, if not by our countrymen, than the writings of Mr. Mill, and it said—"Thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee." Now they were told that all this was to come to an end, and that women were to engage in men's pursuits—to be politicians, to become Members of that House, and to take part in the administration of the country. His hon. Friend the Member for Cork (Mr. Maguire) had just written an entertaining book, in which he contemplated what would occur 30 years hence, and described a House of Commons, most of the members of which were women, the whips being two remarkably engaging and captivating young ladies. This was a condition of affairs to which he, for one, strongly objected, for he maintained that the pride and glory of woman were her modesty and her purity. Women could not be brought into contact with the rough occupations of men without defiling their modesty and purity. He did not know whether his hon. Friend the Member for Manchester was a classical scholar, and had read the Sixth Satire of Juvenal respecting the state to which society was reduced in Rome after the women there had been struggling for what they called their emancipation. He did not, of course, say that a similar state of things could be brought about in a civilized country in the present day; but, still, the tendency of human nature would be the same as it was in the time of Juvenal, and he believed that the great English divine of 200 years ago was right when he said that "fear and blushing were the girdle of virtue." In the polling-booths and in the House of Commons, in the market and in the Exchange, women, if they engaged in an equal struggle with men, must go to the wall. They were the weaker part of the human race, and in competition with men they must be worsted. Some of the greatest French writers had complained that in their country "the family" had almost disappeared from the lower strata of society; that the women had ceased to make a home—indeed, that there was no word for home in the French language. He would take the liberty of reading part of a letter which had been placed in his hands since he entered the House, and which was evidently written by an accomplished and educated lady. She wrote to him as follows:— I find that you purpose moving the rejection of the Women's Suffrage Bill when it comes on for its second reading to-morrow. As the upholders of this Bill have had their hands strengthened by the voices of a small number of very demonstrative women, it seems scarcely right that not a voice should be raised to aid you in urging the rejection of the measure. I consider myself to be in exactly the position which enables me to express opinions which may be regarded as a fair exponent of the feelings of my countrywomen on the subject. I am middle-aged, unmarried, and live in my own house, and under the new régime should be entitled to a borough and a county vote. I have a keen appreciation of politics, and am intensely interested in everything connected with the well-being of society; but I am strongly opposed to the extension of the franchise to women, not because I think they are not wise enough to use the privilege aright, but because they have other and more genial duties. I feel myself able to give an opinion on this subject, having an immense circle of acquaintances, including no inconsiderable number of single ladies, not one of whom has ever expressed the least desire to be endowed with the boon which Jacob Bright and its other advocates would have one to suppose was the blessing above all others to be desired. As a rule, unmarried Englishwomen are perfectly satisfied with the position and privileges which the Legislature confers. The noisy few will ever be heard above the quiet many, while the latter would almost rather be burdened with the weight and responsibilities of the franchise than make an effort to protest that they do not desire it. That letter, he believed, succintly expressed the ideas of the great bulk of our educated countrywomen. He clung to the conviction he expressed last year, that if this so-called boon were given it would prove a curse to them, and, therefore, he entreated the House to support him in negativing the Motion of his hon. Friend.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Mr. Bouverie.)


said, he should not have recourse this year, as he did last, to the Previous Question, but should give his cordial support to the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kilmarnock. Neither would he detain the House long, as all the ground had been travelled over by his right hon. Friend. If, indeed, the matter had been put as a question of the representation of property, and the mode of exercising the franchise had been by voting papers, he might, perhaps, have taken a different method of dealing with the question from that which he now intended, but as it was he should give his decided opposition to the present Bill. He was firmly convinced that the great mass of the women of this country did not desire to have this so-called privilege conferred upon them; and he did not see why, because a small set of demonstrative women persisted in setting up what they claimed as the rights of their sex, the House should force upon the more numerous and more retiring portion of the female community what they did not wish for, and would, if given to them, probably repudiate. One of the nuisances of the present day was the tyranny which was attempted to be exercised by societies who professed to represent the opinion of the country. No doubt everybody had a right to petition—no doubt everybody had a right to press their opinions upon others — no doubt they had a right to appoint a paid secretary—but they had no right to force upon their whole sex what only a very limited portion of them asked for or even understood what it meant. This giving to women was only putting in the thin end of the wedge — to use a popular phrase, as if anyone had over heard of putting in the thick end. As a means of testing whether the women of England really wished for the power of voting, he would suggest — and commend the suggestion to the attention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer—that every person signing a Petition in favour of the extension of the franchise to women should be instructed to accompany the signature with a photographic portrait; and that Mr. Darwin, or Professor Owen, who could distinguish the sex of animals from very trifling signs, should be retained to decide from an examination of the pictures as to the sex of the person represented — for he could not help suspecting that many of the signataries were not women, but men in women's clothing. Until better evidence was produced to show that it was really the wish of the mass of women in England to have the proposed privilege conferred upon them, he certainly should do what he did last year—namely, record his decided opinion against the Bill.


Sir, as both the hon. Gentleman who moved, the second reading of the Bill and the hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment have referred to the position of the Government with regard to this question, I desire very briefly to explain to the House what that position really is. The Government, as a Government, abstain from taking any part whatever in this discussion—not upon the ground that their mind and time are overcharged with public business, but upon the more comprehensive and positive ground, that it is neither desirable nor advantageous that the Government should make a rule of interfering, as a Government, in the discussion of every measure at its earliest stages:—and for this plain reason—that we wish in this country that our legislation should be founded on mature and on free consideration of subjects by the public, and we believe lieve that that consideration would be prejudiced by a too early announcement of the views and intentions of the Government on public questions; for a deliberate judgment would be much prejudiced by considerations of party which it is hardly possible to keep out of subjects of this sort after a deliberate expression of its opinion by the Executive Government. With a view to free consideration, it seems to me far more desirable—while we need not shrink from expressing our opinions—that we should leave to Members of our own party to take an independent course on this question—not because it is an unimportant question, but because our intervention as a body, is premature and inexpedient. Now, Sir, I am not prepared to vote with my hon. Friend (Mr. Jacob Bright) in favour of this Bill; and I may state the reasons which disincline me to take that course. But I must congratulate my hon. Friend on the ability with which he has stated his case. The presence of the hon. Member here—I might even say the tones of his voice—agreeably remind me of the absence of his distinguished Relative—I will not say that it consoles me for the loss we sustain; but, at least, if my right hon. Friend and late Colleague cannot be with us, I rejoice that the name of his family is so worthily represented in the House.

Now, Sir, my main reason for declining to vote for this Bill is that, although I do not think our present law perfect, I am unwilling to adopt, by the second reading of the Bill, the principle of a measure for its amendment until I have some better prospect than I have at the present moment as to the satisfactory nature of the particular Amendment proposed. Proceeding to state my view of the case, in the first place, I would set aside altogether—and I hope the House will take a similar course—the question whether the adoption of such a measure as this is likely to act in any given sense upon the fortunes of one political party or another. It would be what I may call a sin against first principles to permit ourselves to be influenced by any feeling we might entertain on such a point; and therefore into that part of the subject I will not for a moment undertake to inquire. When I look at the particular proposals of my hon. Friend I am encountered by the particular reasoning on which the opposition has been based. The Mover and Seconder of the Amendment opposed the Bill on the specific ground that they are opposed to these revolutionary changes in the relative positions of men and women. These they do not allege to be directly included in this Bill, but they say, and I admit with some semblance of truth, that the Bill savours of them more or less. I entirely agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Bouverie), in his opposition to these revolutionary measures. But I must speak of Mr. Mill in terms of much greater and warmer respect than those the right hon. Gentleman has used. For the character of Mr. Mill I have a profound respect, and to his authority I should always be inclined to attach much weight; but from his reasoning on this subject I am compelled altogether and fundamentally to dissent. I am very sorry that Mr. Mill is not present as a Member of this House to propound and defend his views, because from the loftiness of his principles and from his admirable temper he is peculiarly fitted to purify the atmosphere of debate. The hon. Member who has brought forward the present measure has not openly proclaimed the views of Mr. Mill in reference to its subject-matter; the Bill, indeed, is somewhat remarkable in one point of view — namely, that it avoids any statement of the reasons for the change which it proposes to make in the law. It is usual to make some such statement in the Preamble of a Bill; but on the present occasion my hon. Friend has altogether dispensed with a Preamble, as though unwilling to commit himself to a limited purpose in the changes he wishes to bring about. With regard to the specific objections to the measure, I was well pleased with a portion of the speech of the hon. Member who seconded the Amendment (Mr. Scourfield). He based his objection on the direct operation of the measure as it stands, and I have no assurance from my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester of any disposition to modify the measure in Committee in any important respect. The great objection I on which the hon. Gentleman based his opposition is the proposal which required the personal attendance of women to give their votes, and which would consequently involve them in the general proceedings of contested elections. That appears to me to be an objection of great force. It may be that when we adopt the principle of secret voting, we may ensure that tranquillity of elections which, has been achieved in other countries. I remember to have been in Berlin on the day of a General Election, and to have been totally unable from any sign or note whatever in the streets, to discover the fact that the election was going on. We are told that the same tranquillity prevails on the day of election in Australia. Whether that state of things arises from secret voting or not, I hope we shall labour to attain tranquillity in election procedure. All the pomp and glory of elections in this country, which I am old enough to recollect, has now disappeared. I must say there was in it something of a national character. But while we have got rid of all that was attractive, we retain much that is dangerous and demoralizing. Speaking generally, however, I am inclined to say that the personal attendance and intervention of women in election proceedings, even apart from any suspicion of the wider objects of many of the promoters of the present movement, would be a practical evil not only of the gravest, but even of an intolerable character. I am not quite sure that my hon. Friend, in excluding married women from the operation of his Bill, has adopted a perfectly consistent course. It is clear that married women, if they possess the qualification, ought not to be excluded from any privilege conferred upon single women. The question with regard to the recognition of women's rights—I use the expression very largely without intending to express any opinion upon it—is, after all, a question of degree. The ancient law recognized the rights of women in the parish; I apprehend she could vote and act in parochial affairs. The modern law has extended the right to the municipality, so far as the right of voting is concerned, and I hope our municipal elections will receive some reform with regard to order and tranquillity; for we must admit that the intervention of women, under circumstances like those just described by my right hon. Friend (Mr. Bouverie), is a matter of regret. Coming down to the most recent date, I own my belief that my right hon. Friend the Vice President of the Council was right in the course he took last year, and that we have done wisely, on the whole, in giving both the franchise and the right of sitting on the school boards to women. Now we are asked to go further, and we have to consider whether the same principle that has been applied to parochial and municipal elections shall, or shall not be extended to Parliamentary elections also. Now, I may go so far as to admit that my hon. Friend has a presumptive case for advocating some change in the law; although, for my part, I will go no further until I know more of the nature of the change to be effected. With reference to the nature of that change, I am sorry my hon. Friend has not noticed the subject of the representation of the property of women at elections by their actual exercise of the franchise without requiring their personal attendance at the polling-booths. I will not give any positive opinion on that subject; but I have never heard any conclusive reason why we should not borrow a leaf from the lawbooks of Italy, where a woman is allowed to exercise the franchise if she is possessed of a qualification, subject to the condition that she shall only exercise it through a deputy, some friend, or relative specially chosen for the purpose. That may be found on examination to be a good or a bad plan; but it is one worthy of discussion. I admit, at any rate, that, as far as I am able to judge, there is more presumptive ground for change in the law than some of the opponents of the measure are disposed to own. I think my right hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Bouverie) perhaps fell into an error on this subject, which is very common in our discussions, I mean the error of making the social rules and considerations, which govern and determine the constitution of the upper class of society, the rules and considerations which should apply to all ranks. It is very easy to deal with this case as regards the upper class. I am disposed, without giving a positive opinion, to say that, so far as grievance is concerned, so far as practical mischief to be removed is concerned, with regard to the higher circles, to those who are familiarly called the "upper ten thousand," there is no case at all for entertaining a measure of this kind. There is not even a presumptive case. But when we look at the whole of society the case is different. In the first place, we are encountered by a great social fact. My right hon. Friend rests upon the old law of the human race, the law under which to the woman falls the domestic portion of duty, the care of the household, and to the man the procuring of subsistence. But that great world-wide and world-old fact is one which the Return of every Census shows to be undergoing serious modification. The number of absolutely dependent women is decreasing from year to year, while the number of self-depending women, especially in the great towns of the country, is rapidly increasing. My right hon. Friend speaks truly when he says that the head of the family is the person naturally charged with the interests of his unmarried daughters; but when we go downwards in the social scale we find that, almost as a matter of necessity—at any rate as a matter of practice—it now very frequently happens, especially in this vast Metropolis, that the cases arise where, when the girl approaches womanhood, it becomes almost a necessity for the father, under the limited conditions of his existence and his habitation, to say to his daughter that, irrespective of the lot of marriage, which is the normal or ordinary condition of woman, she must begin to think for herself, and set about providing for her subsistence. If it be true that there is a progressive increase in the number of self-dependent women, that is a very serious fact, because these women are assuming the burdens which belong to men; and I agree with the hon. Member for Manchester that, when they are called upon to assume those burdens, and to undertake the responsibility of providing for their own subsistence, they approach the task under greater difficulties than attach to their more powerful competitors in the battle of life.

Now, Sir, I cannot help thinking that, for some reason or other, there are various important particulars in which women obtain much less than justice under the social arrangements of our life. It is to me a matter of astonishment to observe in London the distribution of employment as between men and women. I scarcely ever see in the hands of a woman an employment that ought more naturally to be in the hands of a man; but I constantly see in the hands of a man employment which might be more beneficially and economically in the hands of a woman. I may be told that there is no direct connection between this and the Parliamentary franchise—and I admit it; but, at the same time, I am by no means sure that these inequalities may not have an indirect connection with a state of law in which the balance is generally cast too much against women and too much in favour of men. There is one instance which has been quoted, and I am not sure there is not something in it—I mean the case of farms. The not unnatural disposition of landowners is to see their farms in the hands of those who, sympathizing—as the English tenant is ordinarily and honourably disposed to do—with his landlord, can give effect to that sympathy by voting at the poll, and I believe to some extent in the competition for that particular employment, women suffer in a very definite manner in consequence of their disqualification to vote. I go somewhat further than this, and say that, so far as I am able to form an opinion of the general tone and colour of our law in these matters, where the peculiar relation of men and women are concerned, that law does less than justice to women. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Bouverie) has said truly that some enthusiasts or fanatics are set on modifying or subverting the law of marriage. I confess I am one of those who think that we struck a most serious blow at the law of marriage when we passed the Divorce Act; and I have never yet been able to satisfy my mind as to the reasons why, in framing and passing that Act, we chose to introduce into our legislation a new and gross inequality against women and in favour of men. The subject I am on the verge of is rather painful and not necessary to enter upon in detail; but I may say that in the whole of this chapter of legislation, especially where the irregular relations of men and women and their consequences are concerned, the English law does women much less than justice, and great mischief, misery, and scandal result from that state of things. I may be told that it is not to be supposed that women would in any circumstances, even if in a majority, exercise any preponderating influence on public affairs. They will not and they cannot. It seems to me a self-evident proposition, and does not weigh with me in reference to the course I should take with regard to this Bill. But the question whether it is possible to devise a method of enabling women to exercise a sensible influence without undertaking personal functions and without exposing themselves to personal obligations inconsistent with the fundamental principles of their condition as women, is a question which, in my opinion, is very worthy of consideration. Although, therefore, I am unable to give a vote for a Bill with respect to which there is no promise of modification, if we cannot adopt it in its present form, yet I am not sorry to think that some activity of thought in these busy days of ours is directing itself to the subject of the relations which actually exist between men and women in this country; and if it should hereafter be found possible to arrive at a safe and well-adjusted alteration of the law as to political power, the man who shall attain that object, and who shall see his purpose carried onward to its legitimate consequences in a more just arrangement of the provisions of other laws bearing upon the condition and welfare of women, will, in my opinion, be a real benefactor to his country.


said, he had not hitherto voted on this measure, because, while on the one hand unable to discover any logical reasons against it, he had on the other been restrained by that which was popularly called "sentiment," but which was an element that ought not to be shut out from view in considering questions of this kind. And he was prepared to admit that if there were any proof on the present occasion that the majority or any reasonable proportion of the women who would be affected by the Bill were hostile to the measure he should be glad to allow sentiment rather than reason to prevail, and withhold his support from the Bill; but on reference to the Parliamentary Papers he found that up to that morning no single Petition had been presented against the measure; while a considerable number had been presented in its favour. Therefore, he was bound to ask, what were the practical arguments against the measure, and having listened to the speeches of the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment, and of the Prime Minister, he was unable to perceive that there were any arguments possessing validity against the second reading of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Bouverie) took exception to the speech of the hon. Member who moved the second reading of the Bill on the ground that it was too narrow. He (Lord John Manners) confessed that if he were to find fault with the speech it would be in precisely the opposite direction; but the right hon. Gentleman himself could not be accused of narrowing the issue, for his speech was directed to almost every subject under the sun except the Bill the House was now called upon to discuss. He told the House with perfect truth that he had studied every branch of the subject, and produced most voluminous evidence that his statement was correct, with the single exception that he had not studied the Bill itself. He dilated upon the laws of marriage and of property, the state of affairs in America, and the writings of every philosophical writer on the question from Payne Knight to Mill, denouncing the theories of the latter; but he did not say one word to show that the female ratepayers of this country ought not to have the suffrage accorded to them. He could not tell from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government whether he was in favour or against the measure. He thought, however, he might venture to say that, whatever might be the opinions of the right hon. Gentleman now, he would, before long, be numbered among the supporters of the measure. The principal objection which the right hon Gentleman appeared to take to this measure was that it had no Preamble, but he did not know that in these days that was a serious objection. He had himself passed a measure, while in office, that had no Preamble. Then the right hon. Gentleman had objected that there was nothing in this Bill to prevent the personal attendance of the female voters at the poll; but that objection if valid, might be equally urged against women voting at municipal elections, and elections for the school boards and local boards of health. The right hon Gentleman had suggested that by going to Italy we might borrow a mode by which we could surmount this difficulty; but he would suggest that the difficulty would be removed without travelling so far by resorting to the plan already in use in respect to the elections for the Universities, where voters were permitted to record their votes by deputy. But, whether it were advisable to adopt that plan or not, the subject was one preeminently for the decision of the House, when they got into Committee. What he contended was that, if the principle of enfranchising women ratepayers was sound in relation to other elections, it was equally sound in relation to the election of Members of Parliament. Did his right hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Bouverie) mean to contend that women had no interest in the subjects brought before that House? Were they not interested, for example, in the subject of education, or were they not interested, and did their interests not deserve to be represented in the Deceased Wife's Sister Bill—a measure which had so long been the shuttlecock of the two Houses of Parliament? His right hon. Friend appeared to say by his argument that women might be permitted to vote for such inferior bodies as Poor Law Guardians, Boards of Education, and Municipal Councils, but that they had no right to share in the election of so august a being as a Member of the House of Commons. Now, he (Lord John Manners) was prepared at all times to vindicate, if necessary, the rights and privileges of that House, but to assert that female ratepayers were not worthy to form a part of the constituencies of Members of Parliament was an arrogation of personal dignity and superiority which he was by no means able to support. Under all those circumstances, he confessed he was unable to see any reason why the female ratepayers should be any longer excluded from the exercise of the franchise at Parliamentary elections, and he should therefore give his support to the second reading of the Bill.


thought that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kilmarnock in opposing the Bill gave the House an elaborate, but a very truthful, exposé of the policy of women's rights, in his Bill of indictment against the strong minded phalanx, for whom he personally had a great respect and no little fear. It was only the previous morning that he had received a speech from a lady belonging to that body, in which he was charged with comparing certain noble women to dancing dogs. He had a high respect for the virtues and the capacity of women, and he therefore looked upon a woman's tongue, sharpened by debates and journalism, as a very formidable weapon, and one that was highly dangerous to encounter. The speech of the Prime Minister was satisfactory to him in one point, for it showed that, however much his right hon. Friend's opinions might have changed with respect to other parts of the marriage law, his opinions in relation to the subject of divorce were exactly what they were 14 years ago. He (Mr. B. Hope) also fought by his side, as well as his noble Friend who had just spoken, in opposition to the Divorce Act of 1857. Recollecting these days, he listened with much interest for the arguments which his noble Friend should adduce. In supporting the measure of the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Jacob Bright), he was bound to traverse the able reasoning of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Bouverie); but he did nothing of the kind. He simply contended that because women were allowed to exercise the franchise at municipal and school board elections, they should be allowed to vote for Members of that House. This was assertion and not argument until the identity of the two cases was shown, and when that was done his noble Friend must, in consistency, range himself with the supporters of the Ballot. He was astonished to hear his noble Friend allege as any argument that no women had petitioned against the Bill. These words should have come from any mouth but his, for it was equally true that they had never petitioned against the Divorce Bill, although it was well known that the women of England were righteously opposed to the passing of that measure. He (Mr. B. Hope) honoured the women for not having done so, because that innate modesty which was the great attribute of the sex prevented them putting themselves forward on such occasions. Their not petitioning was, indeed, an argument against the change, for it proved that women shrank from thrusting themselves forward into the noisy turmoil of politics. No doubt women had sometimes petitioned Parliament—they had even crowded that Table with Petitions on a certain question which should have been the very last to attract their attention So far from that fact being a reason for conferring this franchise upon women, as showing that they took a deep interest in the proceedings of the House, he thought that the disgusting appearance of the Petitions to which he alluded greatly strengthened the arguments of those who were conscientiously opposed to the principle contended for by the advocates of the present measure. He was opposed to the Bill, because he wished to protect women from being forced forward into the hurly-burly of party politics, and obliged to take part in all the disagreeable accompaniments of electioneering contests and their consequences. The right hon. Gentleman the First Minister of the Crown, referring to the upper ten thousand, said that they had not an appreciable shadow of grievance to complain of in this respect, whilst he observed that the class of self-dependent women was increasing very rapidly, and seemed to regard this fact as a reason for the change. The right hon. Gentleman, indeed, stated that he would not vote for the Bill of the hon. Member for Manchester; but his sibylline tones left the impression that there was such doubt lurking in his mind that in another Session he would be found in the ranks of those who were in favour of women's suffrage. The fact of the class of self-dependent women increasing so much was in his mind a reason for withholding the franchise from them. There were a few women who obtained a great influence in society by their genius and their capacity for work, and he honoured them for it. They had, however, as much power already in their way as the exercise of a vote for Members of that House could give them; but the great majority of the self-dependent class were persons who, by many sacrifices and ceaseless industry, just succeeded in realizing competence sufficient with great thrift to support them in a moderate and quiet way. The extension of the franchise to such women would not only disturb the peaceful character of their lives, but might seriously endanger that competence by forcing them into the arena of political excitement where they would be exposed to the animosities, the bickerings, and the resentments which are so unhappily inherent in the rough work of electioneering. Taking, then, this self-dependent class as they really were, and not as philosophers painted them, he thought that Parliament would do them a great wrong by exposing them to the temptations inseparable from the franchise, whether those who possessed it took an active part in politics, or refused to exercise the franchise which had been conferred on them. All who were familiar with contests knew that it was often as troublesome not to vote as to give a vote; and yet Parliament was asked to put the helpless female lodgers, seamstresses, and such persons, in this dilemma. The very nature of women called for sympathy and protection, and for the highest and most chivalrous treatment on the part of the men; but, instead of this being accorded for the future, it was now proposed to thrust them into a position which they were by their sex, by their condition in life, and by their previous training totally unqualified to grapple with. It would be said that the proposal was only to enfranchise unmarried women; but he was not a believer in such illogical finality. If this Bill were passed, did his right hon. and learned Friend behind him (Mr. Russell Gurney) believe that the distinction contemplated in it between married and unmarried women would long continue to be upheld? And, without going so far, why should not those ladies who were temporarily independent be invested with these privileges? There was, for instance—he would not mention any names—a lady who had recently been remarkable for an act of great daring, and who had subsequently escaped in consequence of admirable management—would it not be right that she should be invested with these privileges for some eight years or so? The lady in question was one whose ability had been proved, and her innocence decided in the face of the world. If this Bill should pass, and the number of emancipated women were found to produce no appreciable change in the quality of the representation in the House, then he would say that they had made a great disturbance to gain something very small indeed; but, on the other hand, if it were found to cause any serious alteration in the character of the representation, then, with all due respect to all the new constituencies, he believed that the alteration would be shown in the deterioration, and not in the improvement, of the quality of Parliament. On this head he desired to speak plainly. It was not a question whether the male or the female intellect were the superior one. He simply said that they were different, and that the difference made man more capable of direct government, and woman more fitted for private influence. There were in the world women of a manlike-mind—a Mrs. Somerville or a Miss Martineau, and there were now and then men of feminine softness; but he reasoned from the generality, and not from marked exceptions. Reason predominated in the man, emotion and sympathy in the woman, and if the female vote made any noticeable difference in the character of our constituencies, the risk would be that they would have in the House an excess of the emotional and sentimental element over the logical and reasoning faculty. Though emotion and sentiment were admirable qualities in their way, he maintained distinctly that reason ought to govern emotion, and not emotion govern reason. If, indeed, our existing constituencies were exclusively composed of bachelors and widowers, it might be argued that the reason was not sufficiently tempered by sentiment. But with the large bulk which they contain of family men, he felt quite satisfied that the womanly nature had quite as much play in making up the national mind as could be healthfully desired. The character of the legislation of a woman-chosen Parliament would be the increased importance which would be given to questions of a quasi-social or philanthropic character—viewed with regard to the supposed interests, or the partisan bias of special classes, rather than to broader considerations of the public weal—in excess of the great constitutional and international issues which the Legislature was empanelled to try. We should have more wars for an idea, or hasty alliances with scheming neighbours, more class cries, permissive legislation, domestic perplexities, and sentimental grievances. Our legislation would develop hysterical and spasmodic features, partaking more of the French and American system than re-producing the tradition of the English Parliament. On these grounds he should vote against the second reading of the Bill.


Last year, when this Bill was before Parliament, I argued its subject-matter on the philosophical principles of right and wrong; but as the opponents of the measure will take no other grounds than those of sentiment, habit, or expediency, I think it would be wasting the time of the House to deal with it as an abstract question. I intend, therefore, to satisfy myself on the present occasion with merely answering those controversial objections which have been put forward in debate. The sum and substance of these are, that we are making a dangerous innovation on the social habits of the people; that we are, as the Prime Minister told us last Session — though his tone is very different to-day — up-rooting the landmarks of society. Well, that phrase has a fine extinct Tory roll in its sound, and when I saw it excavated by the Prime Minister from some old Tory quarry, where it had laid buried for so many years, I felt sure that a master of eloquence like the head of the Liberal party in this House must have been much perplexed how to answer a liberal proposal in a liberal spirit. I was, therefore, very confident that he would soon change his opinion, and his speech today has been a great encouragement to the promoters of the Bill. The simple argument in the whole question is this—The law deals with women as capable citizens, and taxes them for the support of the State. If sex be no ground for relieving them from the burdens of citizenship, sex can form no justification for refusing to them the rights of citizenship. Surely nothing is clearer than our constitutional maxim that Parliament derives its legal right of levying taxes because it is composed of representatives of the taxpayers, and yet we exclude from representation about one-sixth or one-seventh of the taxpayers of this country, simply on the ground of sex. No one contends that the intellect of an average woman is too low to perform the humblest duty of political life—that of giving a vote to a representative. The exclusion is simply defended on the ground of sex; otherwise, the most highly cultivated and virtuous woman would not be denied the right which the most ignorant and debased man possesses, provided he has the household qualifications. In logic there is no case for the opponents of this Bill, and so my right hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock rightly argues it as a question of expediency—Women should not interfere with polities," is the favourite general phrase which satisfies my right hon. Friend and a large number of those who agree with him. Well, but what do they mean by politics? My right hon. Friend, when he uses this phrase, takes the very lowest and meanest definition of the term—the petty strife of political parties for power. If that constituted politics, I might agree with him, that women would not suffer much if they kept out of that heated atmosphere of contention. But the word "politics" means much more than that. It is the science of governing all the people of a State in a fair relation to each other, and in a manner conducive to their happiness, by giving them security for their property and security for their persons. But if that be the object of politics, is it fair to exclude from its study and participation more than one-half of the whole people simply because they were not born males? The voice of this House has admitted that this exclusion is not fair on two notable occasions. You have conferred on tax-paying women the municipal franchise, and you have admitted them to the educational franchise, You have done more—and you have acted fairly and wisely—you have conferred upon them administrative and legislative functions by enabling them to be elected as members of school boards. A few hon. Gentlemen thinks they have been mistaken in these concessions to women. That admission is a bad one, for if, uninfluenced by female constituents, this House has made such serious mistakes in regard to their sex, it will be better for them that their legitimate influence should be brought to bear upon us to legislate rightly in their interests. But the good sense of the whole House tell us that we have made no mistakes, and that the municipal and educational privileges which we have conferred upon women have been exercised worthily and usefully. In fact, the late school elections have demolished the whole objections brought forward last year by the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock. He told us that we must not expose women to the rough practices of elections, as they would be damaged by the contact. He raised women like a piece of fine porcelain on a high pedestal to be gazed at and admired, forgetting that the great mass of them are good sound earthenware, excellent for everyday use, and no more liable to be broken than the ordinary ware of which man is composed. Did my right hon. Friend assist at any of the school elections? If he did, or if he were present at any of the late municipal elections, he would have seen that his fears for female electors were altogether chimerical; and if the Bill introduced by the right hon. the Vice President of the Council in regard to future Parliamentary elections pass into law, there will be as little reason to apprehend difficulties in their case. He told us to-day of one or two female municipal electors who went to the poll drunk. That is merely to say that there are degraded women as well as men, and is no real argument against the measure. I admit that female electors would alter the tone of elections, but it will be by improving and softening the tone, just as their freer admission into the society of men has purified and elevated it, and lessened the drunken habits which our ancestors were not ashamed to indulge in, but which became incompatible with the freer intercourse of the two sexes in ordinary social relations. In a similar way of improvement, Parliamentary elections may be altered when women as well as men form part of the constituencies. The opponents of female suffrage profess to refuse it in the interests of women themselves. They say that their indirect influence on mankind is immense, and that it would be lessened if they had a direct and responsible influence on public affairs. No argument could be worse. An indirect and irresponsible influence is apt to degenerate into intrigue, and is never exerted in the best manner for the benefit of the public. I admit that women have an immense amount of indirect influence on political affairs. If anyone doubt it, let him look at the influence which they have lately exerted throughout the country in opposition to certain Acts which have outraged their feelings. I give no opinion as to whether this influence has been rightly or wrongly exercised; but I allude to it as a great political fact, which carries within it a most important lesson, in whatever aspect it is viewed. The Acts to which I have alluded were repugnant to a large body of women, and they have carried on an agitation against them with such influence and power that many seats in this House are rendered insecure unless their occupants are in harmony with this opposition. If the women who feel so keenly on this question are right, then it is clear that their views ought to have been more thoroughly represented in this House before we passed Acts which have affected them so deeply. If the women are wrong in their opposition, and have acted more from sentiment than from reason—more from sympathy with the fallen of their sex than from a just sense of what is politic in the regulation of an injurious traffic, the cause of their error lies with us, who, by excluding women from the consideration of public affairs, have prevented them from acting under a sense of responsibility, and of subordinating their feelings to the exigencies of public politics. In either case, this powerful agitation reads us a lesson which we may well lay to heart. It tells us that women have a powerful political influence, and the sooner that we bring it from an under-current to the surface, and subordinate it to a sense of responsibility, the better it will be for the State. You reply that women are not educated for the discharge of political privileges. Quite true, and mainly our fault. Neither were the great mass of electors upon whom you have lately conferred the suffrage. Yet responsibility in such matters is a rapid educator, and our uneducated electors put to shame the fears of them who did not wish to extend to them the privileges of citizenship. There seems to be a great alarm in the minds of hon. Gentlemen that our Bill is only the beginning of the end, and that the dreadful finality will be that honourable ladies, as well as honourable gentlemen, may, in time, sit together on the benches of this House. They tell us that the logic of the franchise involves the right of being a representative. I confess that I am not appalled by this distant contingency. I am not sure that at the present moment there is any disqualification for a female becoming a Parliamentary candidate; but if one attempted to assert her claim, just consider—even if you pass this Bill—how heavily handicapped she would be in the race; for the male voters would still be about 6–7ths, and the female voters only 1–7th of the registered electors. In the face of a heavy competition on the part of men, no woman is likely to start with such odds against her. My hon. Friends, in the lack of practical arguments against a limited practical Bill, try to connect it with abstract ideas of universal rights, which are not in discussion at all. They have no serious apprehension of this kind, and I am not going to discuss it seriously; though if I did, I would join them in resisting the admission of women into Parliament, not on the ground of mental, but of physical incapacities for the work. My right hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock has read us extracts from eccentric writers who object to marriage and other socialities, though he failed to connect them with any supporters of this movement. He might as well have adduced the wild ravings of Socialists and Red Republicans as an argument for refusing the extension of suffrage to males. Let us honestly admit that much of the opposition to granting political rights to women rests on the traditional ideas of her inferiority and subjection to man. She is not one-half of the genus homo, but a mere rib taken out of man, and always to be considered in relation to this rib theory of her existence. Her raison d'etre is to subserve man's interests in life, to minister to his passions, to promote his comforts. We have been favoured with various definitions in the debate of what woman is. The hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Scourfield) told us that "their vocation is a high one—their vocation is to make life endurable." Well, that is the traditional view of her existence. The hon. Gentleman is logical in refusing her relief from her humble functions though he has described them as lofty. He doubtless remembers that it was woman, not man, who first stretched out her hand to pluck an apple from the tree of knowledge, and knowing how she was punished for her aspirations for a more intellectual and higher existence, he thinks it well to keep her in a merely endurable one all the days of her life. Then the hon. Member for the University of Cambridge gives us a most charming definition of women—one more likely to be accepted by them than the "endurable" definition of the hon. Member for Pembroke. He told us that "their function is to guide, to influence, to moderate, to regulate, to suffer—not to govern." The definition is elegant and worthy of the graceful eloquence of the hon. Member; but if we convert his verbs into nouns, it is difficult to understand why guidance, influence, moderation, regulation, and endurance are not high qualities for Government. It is because we desire to see such qualities influencing political life that we wish to have them introduced into the representative system. The exclusion of women from the political system has taught the nation to underrate them publicly and socially. Women have had less than their share in education, in parental bequests, in lucrative employments; but notwithstanding this inferiority, they have all their share in rating and taxation. We wish political equality in order to obtain for her public and social equity. I began my remarks with a passage from the speech of the First Minister of the Crown, and I will end with a political axiom which he has illustrated by his eloquence. That axiom is, that to justify the denial of the franchise to any person, it is necessary to prove personal unfitness or public danger. In this debate, neither of these conditions have been justified. Personal unfitness to exercise the rights of citizens is incompatible with the imposition of the burdens of citizenship. Public danger can be little apprehended by the infusion of a higher morality into the affairs of public life. We therefore only demand the application of a political axiom, which is the foundation of a true representation of the people as distinguished from that of privileged classes. I would now have sat down, but that I have forgotten to allude to the attack made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kilmarnock, on one of my distinguished constituents, Mr. John Stuart Mill. He quoted passages from his writings which simply referred to the inequality of law between the husband and wife, and he adduced them as proofs that he objected to the institution of marriage. I rather think that I am as well acquainted with the writings of that distinguished philosopher as my right hon. Friend, and I defy him to bring forward a single passage which fairly bears such a construction. But I could point to him a beautiful epitaph on the grave of an Englishwoman at Avignon. That epitaph expresses John Stuart Mill's opinions in regard to the wife who adorned his married life; and any man who has read these touching words will know in what veneration he held her character and that of her sex, and would blush to accuse that man of being an opponent to the sanctity of marriage.


Mr. Speaker—Sir, I trust the House will permit me to state the reasons which will cause me to record a sincere and an earnest vote in opposition to the second reading of this Bill. As an opponent of this measure, I am not content to discuss the question in the spirit in which it has been dealt with by the First Minister of the Crown. I am not disposed to dwell upon the point whether the Bill is framed with or without a Preamble—neither is it my intention to regard the effect of this measure as being found within the four corners of the Bill. Strongly as I feel that the question should be dealt with in no technical spirit, yet, in passing, let me point out that, even under the very terms of this measure, every married woman who procures herself to be rated would be entitled to a vote equally with the unmarried. But it is our very duty to look to the future, and see the effect of this and every other Act which passes this House. Well, Sir, the natural consequences of this measure, to be gathered from its terms, and from the clearly expressed hope and intentions of its supporters, are that any woman, either married or single, may be returned to this House; to balance the Constitution they must be allowed to sit in the House of Lords—and I presume to occupy seats on the Episcopal Bench. A still further consequence would be that women must serve on juries, and perform all and every other of the duties of citizens. These being the direct results of this Bill, surely the opponents of it are entitled to stand on the defensive; to say that no precedent in the past, and no practice in the present, justifies it; and to demand from its supporters what are the grounds on which they seek to effect this most momentous change. May I not add that if these are the effects of such a Bill becoming law, surely the speech of the Prime Minister must have been heard with dissatisfaction by all, with sadness by many. To mix up the Ballot, a mere matter of procedure, with this great question of principle is frittering away this discussion, and is almost an insult to those who support the Ballot. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that if it were believed that as soon as the Ballot became law all objection to women recording their votes would be removed, the number of the supporters of secret voting would be sensibly diminished. I trust I may without offence say that on listening to the arguments which the First Minister has used for the Bill, and to his announcement that he should vote against it, that it occurs to my mind that it is not alone the merits of this question that affect the right hon. Gentleman's judgment; and so regarding his speech, I would remind him that whilst we are told that "Fame has no present," it is equally true that "Popularity has no future." But, Sir, I must deal with the real open supporters of this Bill—and first I would refer to the argument that generally proceeds from hon. Members sitting on the opposite side of the House—namely, that property should be represented, and that women being holders of such property thereby obtain the right to vote. But those who use that argument overlook the causes which has led to the possession of property being regarded as a qualification for the franchise. The possession of property has been made a qualification because it has been held to indicate capacity and fitness for the franchise in the holder. If the property itself were the thing to be represented, why should not minors vote? Why, too, is the owner of 100 houses to be without a vote, whilst the occupier of one possesses the franchise? Certainly, with Members holding Liberal opinions—and they are the principle supporters of this Bill—this theory will find no favour. Another argument which is suggested is that anyone who is governed by the laws is entitled to take part in framing them. Such was the effect of a resolution, the exact words of which have escaped my memory, passed at a recent public meeting; and such, too, are the views of my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh University, who says that those who bear the burdens of the State should enjoy its rights. But what does this argument amount to? It is universal suffrage and something more, for children and lunatics bear the burdens of the State. It is, in fact, but a mistaken and erroneous expression of the idea that that State is best and most happily governed in which the largest number of citizens take a share in its government. But the soundness of that saying depends entirely upon the determination of the question whether the citizens so taking a share in their own government are fit and capable so to do. If I do not mis-read a discourse lately delivered by Mr. Mill, he is content to rest his advocacy for the enjoyment of the franchise by women on their fitness and capacity for its exercise. How can it be otherwise, for if it could be demonstrated that women had not this capacity, who would desire to see them on the electoral roll? For my own part, I would wish, and would be well content, to let the question be discussed on this one simple issue—Do women possess the fitness and capacity to fulfil the duties of the suffrage they claim? Now, I know how difficult it is to define what this fitness and capacity mean. I am well aware that in quickness of apprehension, in other powers, too, such as that of acquiring languages, women are equal, perhaps superior, to men. But if you ask me whether they possess an equal political capacity, I reply emphatically that they do not. The want of it proceeds from many causes, but principally from that excess of sympathy in the mental constitution of women which shuts out from their mind logical power and judicial impartiality. Let a woman range herself on one side of a question, or be identified with particular interests, and it is nigh to impossibility to persuade her that there is any error on the side she advocates, or any right in that she is opposed to. Happy, maybe, it is for us that this is so; the devotion and sympathy that men receive would doubtless often be withhold, if we were weighed in a balance too fairly held or tried by weights too strictly adjusted. That there are exceptions to this want of political capacity I freely admit; and often the error is made of pointing to those exceptions as if they fairly represented all women. Equally there are women to be found who are superior to men in physical strength; but I presume it would not be said that, as a rule, the greater strength of body lies with women. Perhaps, however, I am wrong in this, for I forget at this moment whether the supporters of this Bill do or do not admit the inferiority of woman's physical strength. I fancy there is a difference of opinion amongst them, and that there is a section which thinks that much depends upon training. But probably, on the whole, the majority of the House will agree that at present this comparative physical weakness does exist. Again, in relation to this political fitness, we must consider from what sources a woman's practical knowledge can be derived. My hon. Friend the Member for the University of Edinburgh (Dr. Lyon Playfair) says that the real object, and the very essence of politics, are the science of government. This may be the result of politics, but what are the practical subjects which form our politics? In this House we discuss matters connected with the Army and Navy, with commerce, diplomacy, and law. As society now exists, what practical knowledge can any woman have of these subjects? Are they to enter the Army and Navy, to take their seats in the counting-house, to receive diplomatic appointments, or to assume the wig and barrister's gown? As society now exists, women can have no direct knowledge of these subjects. Is it not evident that they must be guided by the second-hand information of others, and not from practical experience? It will, I doubt not, be answered that all these things will be altered, and that all this knowledge will come. But before this can be, not only must the character of our social life be altered, but still further changes must be effected; our hot blood must grow colder; the passions which are "wild and strong within us" must become tame and weak; and so our very nature must be changed. But dare we trust to political enactments thus to control nature? What father would send a daughter of 19 or 20 years of age into the world to herd with men, to fit her for political life, saying—"I know dangers will await her; but the hon. Member for Manchester says she has a political function to fulfil, and I must send her forth from my roof to fit her for that fulfilment?" A politician may think this, but no father will do it. The hon. Member for the University of Edinburgh has said we need not be afraid of giving the franchise to women, as only one-seventh of each constituency will be females. But ought we to add an element to the constituencies which, in any form or numbers, we shall have cause to fear? I object to think that we shall have to regard women as political opponents, whose power we permit only because they are weak in numbers. It is not in this spirit we hitherto have had to treat the female sex. I should scarcely dread this measure if it were only the influence of women I feared upon the constituencies. It is not their influence upon the State, but that of men upon them, we have most to regard. We are about to outrage the instincts of hon. Members opposite by passing the Ballot Bill, for the sole purpose, as many think, of controlling the undue influence of men towards each other; but if this measure becomes law, how will you check the influence of the priest in one island, of the clergyman in the other, and of the well-selected canvasser in both? Surely it cannot be expected that women, if enjoying the franchise, will give an unbiassed vote, the result of political conviction? Not depending on their own judgments, you are about to create a class upon which influence, which certainly will be undue, will ever be brought to bear. One other argument often used in support of this Bill I cannot refrain from noticing. It is said, and that saying is always applauded—"If the Sovereign who rules us is a woman, how can you refuse the right to vote to those who are of her sex?" Perhaps to those who use or applaud this argument it will be useless to point out that the negative political virtues are those which best become the holder of Royal power in a country governed by a mixed Monarchy. I also fear that there are many of the female supporters of this measure who scarcely appreciate any argument to be derived from the plain incidents of domestic life. But Her Majesty herself, in the simple annals of her own happy home, has been pleased to tell us that, to which I pray them to take good heed. We know that in her early life the Sovereign had been carefully taught to fulfil the duties of her high position. Wise statesmen had afforded her a political training; she, an Englishwoman, had learnt the history and shared the instincts of the English people; and yet, when it pleased her to take beneath her roof one of her own age, a stranger and a foreigner, happy was it for this country that she ever leant upon him for guidance, counsel, and support—simply because she was a woman and he a man. If I thought the majority of Englishwomen desired this measure to become law, I should hesitate before I combatted their wishes; but I say emphatically they do not. Let hon. Members judge by their own experiences, and say whether I am not right. A few restless itinerant ladies—my Lady A here, Miss B there—pass from town to town, delivering their often-repeated and well learnt speeches. But what support do they receive from those they address? I have carefully perused the periodical which advocates the cause of women's suffrage, and I never find that any woman, except these well-seasoned lecturers, rises to take part in these political displays. Following a woman's nature, the audience remains silent; this silence is regarded as acquiescence, and a triumph in favour of woman's suffrage is immediately claimed. Long, Sir, as I have trespassed upon the House, I feel that still stronger arguments than any I have used remain yet unsaid. But hon. Members need not be alarmed; I am not about to detain them, for those are arguments which in public assembly the tongue is not prone to utter. But, Sir, they will be felt and appreciated by every man who, on this day, will let his memory travel back to the time when at the knee of his first instructress he received his earliest lessons, in language not always logical, sometimes not even accurate; but yet they were the lessons which formed his impulses—almost his very instincts of good, for they were the precepts which fell from a mother's lips. Still more strongly will these arguments be recognized by those who, in later life, have felt the influences, and known the succour and support, which spring from the sympathy of a true woman's love; and, Sir, so sure am I that a vast majority of such men there will be, alike within this House and Realm, that I cannot believe that either now, or ever, we shall attempt by legislation to alter that position which nature has ordained, which ages have ratified, and which women have accepted as their true and best condition in life.


I cannot but compliment the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down (Mr. James) on the force and eloquence which characterized his argument. I have not heard any arguments against the Bill before to day; but I do not think those of the hon. and learned Gentleman altogether unanswerable. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Bouverie) who has moved the Amendment appears to think that this Bill is of the same kind as that withdrawn at Massachusetts, and which did not receive popular support in Utah; because the arguments he used were such as might be brought against a Bill proposing to revolutionize in this country the relations between the sexes, and to give to married women the same power of voting as their husbands. But the Bill proposes nothing of the kind. What it does propose is, that any woman who is placed in the position which gives a man a vote shall be entitled to exercise the franchise. It does not propose to divide the vote in the case of man and wife, and therefore all the arguments of my right hon. Friend appear to me to be entirely out of place. Then he used what has been called "the hobgoblin argument." He said this was the first step towards socialism. If I thought that would be the effect of this measure, I should be very loth to give it my support. I confess I have always thought the female part of the population showed great reverence for law and order, and was more deeply imbued with religious feelings than the rest of the community, and I believe there could be no more certain means of checking the growth of socialism than by giving greater power to women. The right hon. Gentleman says he does not wish the female character to be contaminated by possessing and exercising the suffrage. But if the possession of the franchise tends to degrade the female character, we have already inflicted that degradation upon them by giving them the right to vote at municipal elections, and we must be considered to have degraded all those classes whom, in the years 1867 and 1868, we thrust into the suffrage. But to pass to the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman who has just sat down (Mr. James) I understand he accepts the position of the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Beresford Hope) and says that if the female part of the community bear the same burdens as the male, and also pay rates, there is no reason—unless they are personally unfit — why they should not have a vote. He accepts the conditions, adding that the female is personally unfit. And here, I think, he takes too low a view of the female intellect. In the latter part of his speech, where he speaks of maternal love, and of love of another kind, he seemed to forget that he might attribute other qualities than those of the heart to women. He says they are led away by their sympathies and are incapable of calmly exercising their reason, and that the female mind can rarely follow a logical argument. But if we were to go into the question who is able to follow a logical argument, and to regard the possession of an illogical mind as a disqualification, I fear we should have perpetually to pass Bills of disfranchisement. A great many of those whose opinions we in this House represent could not, I am afraid, put their opinions in a logical shape, and few, I apprehend, follow a logical argument when we go to the hustings and invariably vote from sympathy or feeling. He says that on politital subjects it is notorious that women are not capable of forming independent judgments. I want to know, is this not because they have not been entrusted with political power? The position of the hon. and learned Gentleman is quite untenable. All the objections against the Bill seem to spring from the customs of this country in regard to the education of women. We know that in some countries so low is the opinion of the female sex that they are shut up with their families; while in other countries, and I fear in some parts of our own, they are treated as beasts of burden. The mental habits of women, as in the case of men, must depend on their training; and I believe no greater impetus could be given—in favour of the education of women—than by entrusting them with political power. The hon. and learned Gentleman says they are unacquainted with subjects such as the Army and Navy, and other subjects upon which women in this country are supposed to have no opinions. But is not this House concerned in a great many social questions on which the opinions of women might be most usefully brought to bear? Does not Parliament concern itself with the good management of hospitals and poor-houses, and are not women admirably qualified to deal with such subjects as these? There are many questions as to which it is impossible that both sexes can have an equally clear insight. Some questions have come before this House, notably of late years, in regard to which it would be impossible for men to understand the feelings of the other sex. There is the question which was alluded to by the hon. Member for Cambridge University—the question of the Contagious Diseases Act. Who could say that men are capable of entering into the feelings of women on this question? It has been said that women were going about in an itinerant manner, lecturing in support of their own views. But I say, in any case, they have a right to their opinions. But why do they go about? It is because they have no legitimate mode of enforcing their opinions, and, therefore, they are compelled to resort to itineracy as the only means open to them. Supposing that this Bill were passed, and that female ratepayers were allowed to give their votes in the election of Members of Parliament, I believe that the itinerant agitation, which has lately made itself prominent, would subside. Then with regard to another question which has frequently of late years been before the House—that of altering the marriage law—is not that a question in which women are entitled to take an active part? Is the opinion of women of no value upon that? During the present and in other Sessions this House has passed a Bill containing an alteration of the marriage law which I believe to be repugnant to 99 out of every 100 women in the country. And I ask again, is not this a question upon which they have a right to be heard. Can we assume to ourselves the right to alter the whole state of the marriage law, while more than half the population of the country are regarded as having no voice in the matter? I have never before recorded my vote in favour of this measure, and lately I have not voted at all upon the question, because when changes occur in one's opinions one does not like to commit oneself to such changes on a sudden, or without mature deliberation; but having considered the matter maturely, I have come to the conclusion that it is no longer right to refuse to accede to the principles contained in the Bill now under discussion. It is not often that measures coming from that quarter of the House receive my support, but this particular measure commends itself to my reason. I believe that the feeling against granting the franchise to women is the result of old prejudice and not of reason; and therefore I shall with great pleasure support the second reading of this Bill.


said, that in common with many other hon. Members of the House, he had been gratified by hearing the able and eloquent speech of the hon. and learned Member who had just sat down (Mr. James). He rejoiced in it the more on account of the manliness with which the hon. and learned Member, whilst acknowledging the ties of party, lamented the want of force in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the First Minister of the Crown; but if hon. Members on the Government side of the House, who acknowledged the bonds of party, had some reason to complain that their leader did not repeat emphatically the sentiments to which he gave expression last Session, in these words— I must say I cannot recognize a necessity or desire for this measure, which would justify such an unsettling, not to say uprooting, of the old landmarks of society."—[3 Hansard, cci. 620.] If, he repeated, hon. Gentleman opposite, while acknowledging party obligations, lamented that those words were not repeated, or the equivalent of these strong words by their Leader, what must be the feelings of hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House, who, in like manner, acknowledged the obligations of party? Had not they much more reason to be dissatisfied when they heard the ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer, of a Ministry who professed Conservative opinions, adopting this ultra-radical measure? He regretted extremely that the House was not fuller when his right hon. Friend, as he hoped he would allow him to call him, the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Bouverie) spoke in opposition to this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman was true to all the best traditions of his party. He was an old Whig and something more; and he remembered that at the close of the last century and at the commencement of the present century, during the Long War, the Whig party became involved by their acceptance of the Encyclopædist opinions, which were then prevalent in France; and he remembered their long and just exclusion from office, and that, at last, they wisely receded from those dangerous opinions, as did that great Sovereign, Frederick of Prussia. Acquainted, therefore, as he was, with the history and the traditions of his party, the right hon. Gentleman was perhaps one of the most competent, as well as safest witnesses, who could warn this House against the consequences of accepting this dangerous measure, for he fully agreed with the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, in what he said last Session, when he declared that it tended to the uprooting of all the relations of society. The least that could be said was this—that if such a law were to be enacted, it would be established without reference to, if not in defiance of, the natural relations of society. He wished hon. Members had been there in greater numbers to have heard the speech of the right hon. Gentleman; and he would express a hope that a speech, which was no less worthy of perusal than it was worth hearing, might reach the country through the usual channels of communication. It appeared to him that the division which was about to be taken on that Bill would establish a clear distinction between those who were sound constitutional, and those who were unsound and unconstitutional reformers; between those who would effect changes in the constituencies, and therefore in the constitution of that House, and in the course of their legislation, consistent with the great traditions of the country—traditions which were reflected across the Atlantic, in the United States, and those who, disgusted with the popular privileges, to the concession of which they had been forced, now sought to degrade that Assembly, which had been elected by household suffrage. He did not say that lightly—he said it because he knew that this measure had been promoted out-of-doors by those who looked upon the state of this country with disgust, and were prepared to adopt any measure to force a change. Indeed, where could be found an expression of more intense disgust than was conveyed in the description given of England by Dr. Manning, when he deliberately described this country as the "sentina gentium," the cesspool of nations? Such was the expression which Dr. Manning thought fit, in 1864, to publish in a sermon. He should look with suspicion upon every vote given in favour of this Bill by those who were known to be Dr. Manning's followers, because he was convinced that such votes would be actuated not by the desire for any wholesale reform, but that they would be given consistently with the policy of the Ultramontane or Jesuit party, who held really free institutions to be so antagonistic to their objects and those of the Papacy, that any measure was justifiable for the purpose of uprooting them. What was the feeling in the United States with respect to this class of politicians? He was conversing with an American gentleman, and he asked him—"Are you prepared in the United States to adopt this proposal for female suffrage, which is now agitating this country?" "No," he replied; "I was a strong advocate for the enfranchisement of the coloured population; but as to this agitation for women's rights, which would shake the very foundations of society by disregarding the natural relations between the sexes—no!" said he, and he spoke, Sir, very plainly, "we are not such fools as to do that." The fact was that the whole history of this measure, and the whole process of reasoning upon which it was founded, are unworthy of and degrading to this House. What had the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Northamptonshire (Mr. Hunt) said in answer to the formidable arguments of the hon. and learned Member for Taunton (Mr. James)? The hon. and learned Member for Taunton stated that the female population of this country had not been trained in those higher sciences, which were necessary to direct the legislation of this House; that they had not been trained in diplomacy; that they had not been trained in law; that they had not been trained in political economy. The right hon. Gentleman replied to that by saying, that there were some small municipal questions—question, perhaps, touching family business, for example—at most, small municipal questions, upon which women would be qualified to vote; and therefore the right hon. Gentleman, setting at naught the united opinion of the majority of the people of England—for he was certain that the majority of the English people were opposed to this measure—setting at naught, too, the deliberate verdict of the men of the United States, would confuse and confound the constituencies of this country by introducing an element which had been adopted nowhere unless in Italy. The right hon. Gentleman was not, that he was aware of, an advocate of the Ballot; and he was not aware either that he was an advocate for voting by delegation. Why, in the United States they had the Ballot, and yet the people of the United States had the common sense to resist this proposal. In Italy they had a different system of election; the people voted there by delegation, upon the same system that was adopted in Prussia; and he asked the right hon. Gentleman whether that was the principle which he would introduce into the electoral system of this country? If not, the objection of the United States was unanswered. He was unwilling to detain the House, but it did appear to him that the arguments which had been advanced in support of this measure were utterly futile. What was the argument used by the hon. Member for Penrhyn (Mr. East-wick)? He said that because the Spaniards in South America oppressed the Indians, therefore the women of England ought to be enfranchised. Now, he would put it to the common sense of the House—was there any analogy between the position of the Indians in South America and that of women in England? Then the hon. Gentleman attempted this further argument in favour of this measure: he would have the House of Commons enfranchise the women of England. Why? Because he thought it would set a good example in Turkey and China. He had listened to the somewhat chemical analysis of the hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Edinburgh; he seemed to him to adopt this kind of argument—That whereas there were the same chemical elements to be found in the composition of men and women, therefore it was plainly just that women should be enfranchised. There might be some differences, he could not help imagining he might have continued, in the physical construction of men and women, and then he could have told us that through some Darwinian process of development, these differences would eventually be obliterated. He would content himself with again thanking the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kilmarnock for having so plainly traced the evil source of the mischievous principles from which this measure had sprung, and for having, as he has often done before, effectively defended the dignity of the House, for such, he trusted, would now be the result, from being betrayed by the extreme folly of adopting that gross exaggeration.


briefly replied. He stated that Arles Dufaure, who was then in London, was of opinion that the best remedy for the unstable condition of things in France, was to give women votes, and said that the one able speech made that day against the Bill, that of the hon. and learned Member for Taunton, could be demolished with the greatest possible ease, if the Rules of the House permitted him to produce some women—who were then listening to the debate—at the Bar to state their own case.

Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."

The House divided:—Ayes 151; Noes 220: Majority 69.

Words added.

Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.

Bill put off for six months.

Amphlett, R. P. Gourley, E. T.
Anderson, G. Graham, W.
Anstruther, Sir R. Grant, Colonel hon. J.
Bagwell, J. Gray, Lieut.-Colonel
Bateson, Sir T. Gray, Sir J.
Bazley, Sir T. Grieve, J. J.
Beach, W. W. B. Grosvenor, Capt. R. W.
Beaumont, S. A. Grosvenor, hon. N.
Beresford, Lt.-Col. M. Gurney, rt. hon. R.
Birley, H. Hadfield, G.
Booth, Sir R. G. Hambro, C.
Browne, G. E. Hardy, J.
Callan, P. Harris, J. D.
Cameron, D. Henderson, J.
Campbell, H. Herbert, hon. A. E. W.
Carter, Mr. Alderman Herbert, H. A.
Cawley, C. E. Hermon, E.
Chadwick, D. Heron, D. C.
Charley, W. T. Hesketh, Sir T. G.
Cholmeley, Captain Hill, A. S.
Clifford, C. C. Hoare, Sir H. A.
Corry, rt. hon. H. T. L. Hodgkinson, G.
Cowen, J. Hughes, T.
Cubitt, G. Hunt, rt. hon. G. W.
Dalglish, R. Illingworth, A.
Damer, Capt. Dawson- Jenkinson, Sir G. S.
Davie, Sir H. R. F. Johnston, W.
Dawson, R. P. Jones, J.
Dickinson, S. S. King, hon. P. J. L.
Dickson, Major A. G. Kinnaird, hon. A. F.
Digby, K. T. Knight, F. W.
Dilke, Sir C. W. Lancaster, J.
Dimsdale, R. Langton, W. G.
Disraeli, rt. hon. B. Lawson, Sir W.
Dixon, G. Lea, T.
Dodds, J. Lewis, H.
Downing, M'C. Liddell, hon. H. G.
Eaton, H. W. Lloyd, Sir T. D.
Elliot, G. Lopes, Sir M.
Ewing, A. O. Lowther, J.
Ewing, H. E. C. Lush, Dr.
Fawcett, H. Lusk, A.
Fitzmaurice, Lord E. Macfie, R. A.
Fletcher, I. M'Lagan, P.
Fordyce, W. D. M'Laren, D.
Forester, rt. hon. Gen. Maguire, J. F.
Forster, C. Maitland, Sir A. C. R. G.
Fortescue, hon. D. F. Manners, rt. hn. Lord J.
Fowler, R. N. Mellor, T. W.
Gavin, Major Melly, G.
Gilpin, C. Miller, J.
Goldney, G. Mitchell, T. A.
Goldsmid, Sir F. Morgan, G. O.
Morrison, W. Sherriff, A. C.
Mundella, A. J. Simon, Mr. Serjeant
Muntz, P. H. Sinclair, Sir J. G. T.
Noel, hon. G. J. Smith, E.
Ogilvy, Sir J. Smith, J. B.
Palk, Sir L. Smith, W. H.
Peel, J. Stacpoole, W.
Playfair, L. Stansfeld, rt. hon. J.
Potter, T. B. Straight, D.
Powell, W. Sykes, Colonel W. H.
Rathbone, W. Talbot, C. R. M.
Reed, C. Taylor, P. A.
Richard, H. Torrens, W. T. M'C.
Robertson, D. Trevelyan, G. O.
Round, J. Villiers, rt. hon. C. P.
Rylands, P. Wedderburn, Sir D.
Salt, T. West, H. W.
Samuelson, B. Wheelhouse, W. S. J.
Sandon, Viscount White, J.
Sartoris, E. J. Whitworth, T.
Scott, Lord H. J. M. D. Wingfield, Sir C.
Selwin-Ibbetson, Sir H. J.
Shaw, R. Bright, J. (Manchester)
Shaw, W. Eastwick, E. B.
Acland, T. D. Cave, right hon. S.
Adair, H. E. Cavendish, Lord F. C.
Adam, W. P. Cavendish, Lord G.
Adderley, rt. hon. Sir C. Cecil, Lord E. H. B. G.
Agar-Ellis, hon. L. G. F. Chambers, M.
Allen, Major Chaplin, H.
Amcotts, Col. W. C. Cholmeley, Sir M.
Annesley, hon. Col. H. Clay, J.
Anson, hon. A H. A. Clive, Col. hon. G. W.
Arbuthnot, Major G. Cogan, rt. hon. W. H. F.
Arkwright, R. Cole, Col. hon. H. A.
Armitstead, G. Conolly, T.
Aytoun, R. S. Cowper, hon. H. F.
Backhouse, E. Craufurd, E. H. J.
Bagge, Sir W. Crawford, R. W.
Baines, E. Crichton, Viscount
Baker, R. B. W. Croft, Sir H. G. D.
Barclay, A. C. Cross, R. A.
Baring, T. Dalway, M. R.
Barrington, Viscount Davenport, W. B.
Barttelot, Colonel Dease, E.
Beach, Sir M. H. Dent, J. D.
Beaumont, H. F. Dowse, R.
Beaumont, W. B. Duff, R. W.
Bentinck, G. C. Duncombe, hon. Col.
Benyon, R. Dundas, F.
Bingham, Lord Dyott, Colonel R.
Blennerhassett, Sir R. Egerton, hon. A. F.
Bourke, hon. R. Egerton, Sir P. G.
Bowring, E. A. Elcho, Lord
Brand, rt. hon. H. Elphinstone, Sir J. D. H.
Brassey, T. Enfield, Viscount
Bright, R. Ennis, J. J.
Brinckman, Captain Esmonde, Sir J.
Bristowe, S. B. Eykyn, R.
Broadley, W. H. H. Fellowes, E.
Brooks, W. C. Fitzwilliam, hn. C. W. W.
Bruce, Lord C. Forde, Colonel
Bruce, rt. hon. H. Foster, W. H.
Bruce, Sir H. H. Fothergill, R.
Bruen, H. Galway, Viscount
Burrell, Sir P. Gladstone, W. H.
Cartwright, F. Glyn, hon. G. G.
Cartwright, W. C. Goldsmid, J.
Gore, J. R. O. O'Brien, Sir P.
Gore, W. R. O. O'Conor, D. M.
Gower, hon. E. F. L. O'Conor Don, The
Greaves, E. Onslow, G.
Grey, rt. hon. Sir G. O'Reilly, M. W.
Grove, T. F. Palmer, J. H.
Guest, A. E. Palmer, Sir R.
Hamilton, I. T. Parker, Lt.-Col. W.
Hamilton, Lord C. Patten, rt. hon. Col. W.
Hamilton, Lord G. Pease, J. W.
Hamilton, Marquess of Peel, A. W.
Hardy, rt. hon. G. Pell, A.
Hardy, J. S. Percy, Earl
Hartington, Marquess of Philips, R. N.
Headlam, rt. hon. T. E. Phipps, C. P.
Henley, rt. hon. J. W. Pim, J.
Henley, Lord Portman, hon. W. H. B.
Hervey, Lord A. H. C. Potter, E.
Heygate, Sir F. W. Raikes, H. C.
Hildyard, T. B. T. Ridley, M. W.
Hodgson, K. D. Rothschild, N. M. de
Holland, S. Royston, Viscount
Holms, J. Russell, A.
Hope, A. J. B. B. Sackville, S. G. S.
Horsman, rt. hon. E. Salomons, Sir D.
Howard, hon. C. W. G. Samuda, J. D'A.
Hughes, W. B. Seely, C. (Lincoln)
Hutton, J. Seely, C. (Nottingham)
James, H. Seymour, A.
Johnston, A. Smith, A.
Kavanagh, A. MacM. Smith, S. G.
Kay-Shuttleworth, U. J. Somerset, Lord H. R. C.
Kekewich, S. T. Stapleton, J.
Kingscote, Colonel Stone, W. H.
Knatchbull-Hugessen, E. H. Strutt, hon. H.
Stuart, Colonel
Laird, J. Sturt, H. G.
Lawrence, Sir J. C. Sykes, C.
Lawrence, W. Talbot, J. G.
Learmonth, A. Thynne, Lord H. F.
Leatham, E. A. Tipping, W.
Leeman, G. Tite, Sir W.
Lefevre, G. J. S. Tollemache, J.
Legh, W. J. Tollemache, hon. F. J.
Lennox, Lord G. G. Tracy, hon. C. R. D. Hanbury-
Lewis, J. D.
Lindsay, hon. Col. C. Turner, C.
Loch, G. Turnor, E.
Locke, J. Verner, E. W.
Lowther, W. Verney, Sir H.
Lyttelton, hon. C. G. Walpole, hon. F.
Mackintosh, E. W. Walsh, hon. A.
M'Arthur, W. Walter, J.
M'Clure, T. Waterhouse, S.
M'Mahon, P. Waters, G.
Marling, S. S. Weguelin, T. M.
Matthews, H. Welby, W. E.
Maxwell, W. H. Whalley, G. H.
Milles, hon. G. W. Wharton, J. L.
Mills, C. H. Whitbread, S.
Mitford, W. T. Whitwell, J.
Monk, C. J. Williams, C. H.
Morgan, C. O. Williamson, Sir H.
Mowbray, rt. hon. J. R. Wilmot, H.
Newdegate, C. N. Yarmouth, Earl of
Newport, Viscount
Newry, Viscount TELLERS.
Nicol, J. D. Bouverie, rt. hon. E. P.
Norwood, C. M. Scourfield, J. H.