HC Deb 01 May 1872 vol 211 cc1-72

Order for Second Reading read.


Sir, I rise to move that the Bill be now read a second time. The question of giving the Parliamentary vote to women who are owners and occupiers of property has come before the House on three previous occasions; on the second it received much larger support than on the first, and on the third more than on the second. Last year 151 Members voted in favour of the Bill, and the total number of Members in the present House of Commons who have voted in favour of the principle of the Bill is 202. Outside there has been a corresponding growth of public opinion in favour of the measure, which has been shown by the expansion of old and the formation of new associations, by the resolutions of public meetings in all large towns, and by the increase in the number of Petitions presented to the House. Two years ago the number of signatures attached to the Petitions was 160,000; a year ago it was 180,000; this year, according to the last Return, the number has reached 243,000, and up to-day no doubt the number will reach 250,000. I mention these facts to show the steady rising and somewhat rapid growth of opinion in favour of the Bill, Although the ques- tion has been somewhat extensively discussed in this House, I cannot, of course, ask that the Bill be read a second time without offering some reasons for doing so; but I promise to be brief. Of course, everybody admits that in the abstract women have a right to vote. ["No, no!"] At all events, I can quote opinions to that effect given by the late Sir Robert Peel, the right hon. Gentleman the present Leader of the Opposition, the late Mr. Cobden, and many other distinguished men. Women have to obey laws, to suffer from the infraction of them, and to bear the burdens of the State in common with men. Every year we vote millions of money to maintain the Army, the Navy, our Courts of Justice, and the government of our colonial possessions. In support of all these, women contribute their full share. The Chancellor of the Exchequer makes distinctions between the rich and the poor in taxing the people. In the case of the income tax, for instance, the very poor pay none, and those who are less poor pay upon a diminished scale. But the Chancellor of the Exchequer makes no difference between men and women. I am aware, however, that Parliament never legislated to satisfy a theory, or to establish an abstract right, and therefore I must give other reasons in favour of this Bill. Among those reasons, I would say that whenever you remove disabilities from a portion of the people—I do not care what those disabilities may be—those in whose favour the change is made always stand higher in the estimation of the community than they stood before. Let women be consulted as men are consulted, in a constitutional manner, with regard to the laws which they are asked to obey, and from that moment they will have more self-respect and will command a greater degree of respect from men. Among the many very poor reasons which are urged against this Bill, is the statement that if women had the franchise that courtesy which is supposed to be universally extended to them by men would disappear; but it must be in the recollection of hon. Members, that in days gone by there were women in this country who returned Members to this House in their own right. Does anybody suppose that these privileged ladies were treated with less courtesy by those among whom they lived than their less privileged sisters? Women may or may not have intellectual defects which do not belong to men, but they have at least the sagacity which has enabled them to discover that it is independence which commands courtesy, and not dependence; they have the knowledge which assures them that it is influence and not the absence of influence which obtains consideration, whether it be the influence of wealth, of rank, or of political power. We charge women with leading vain and frivolous lives, and then we endeavour by force of law to limit their fields of thought and of activity to a narrow sphere which we call their own. Give women the responsibility which comes with political influence, and you open up to them a larger life; you will find them with experience and knowledge they did not before possess, and which they would not otherwise have acquired; you will make them fitter companions for intelligent men; and I believe the result will be the attainment of a higher civilization. I may be told these are not very practical considerations, and that they should be addressed only to men who have generous thoughts and wide sympathies; but I have found in my experience of this House, that these mental qualities are as much possessed by men on both sides of this House as they can be in any Assembly in the world; and that being so, I have a right to appeal to them. I am aware, nevertheless, that both the House and the country will ultimately decide this question upon severe practical considerations, and therefore it is to the practical argument I will for a short time call the attention of the House. There have been within my lifetime, and probably within the lifetime of the majority in this House, two considerable extensions of the suffrage—that of 1832 and that of 1867. In 1832 the middle classes for the first time in recent years obtained political power, and they have employed that power for their own advantage, and, I believe, for the advantage of the country. They have been enabled to secure almost absolute free trade—the freedom of that by which they live. They have modified legislation in many ways. Look, for instance, at the position of Dissenters, who are in the main a middle-class body. When they obtained political power they were labouring under great disabilities. Civil and religious liberty was the watch, word of almost every great statesman, and the result of their enfranchisement was, that they were put upon an equality with the rest of their countrymen. It has been the same with the working classes. In 1867 they acquired political power, and everyone knows what a change has come over the tone of the House in consequence. Had they not obtained the vote, it would have been impossible to have done justice to the cultivators of the soil in Ireland, or to have inaugurated a national system of education. Not only so, but we have commenced dealing with the truck system, and have come to regard trades unions as legitimate organizations. By the Ballot we are giving political independence to the humblest voter; and the Chancellor of the Exchequer never brings his Budget before the House without carefully balancing the interests of the country, and seeing that the working classes are treated as generously as any portion of the country. Now, women are said to be illogical; but the facts are against those who make the accusation. It is because women are logical that they ask for this Bill. They have noticed the result of the extension of the franchise in legislation with regard to every other portion of the people. They have found that the middle classes and the working classes have been consulted more assiduously, and are more respected throughout the community than they were before; and they believe, with a degree of reason which is unassailable, that the same results would follow if the franchise were extended to them. Have women any grievances to redress? Do they suffer from inequality of the laws? They believe, and many hon. Members in this House believe, that the legal inequalities from which women now suffer are far greater than those which were borne by the middle and working classes before they obtained political power. We should probably differ very much in this House, and in the country, as to the way in which these inequalities should be dealt with, but nobody will doubt their existence. Under the Elementary Education Act, I find that some of the boards, either on their own authority or with the sanction of the Educational Department, give three pennyworth of education to girls and four pennyworth to boys, a distinction which can be defended only on the ground that girls are more intelligent than boys, and that it therefore takes less time to instruct them. Women also have just grounds for complaint that the educational endowments of the country are withheld from them, and that the Endowed Schools Act does not rectify the injustice. Last year I referred to the unequal contest going on between a few intellectual women and the authorities of Edinburgh University. These women have passed with honour every examination to which they have been submitted, but they are not allowed to complete their professional education. No institution which is not national should come to Parliament for funds to sustain it. The Edinburgh University comes to this House year after year, and sums of money are annually voted for its maintenance, and yet it shuts its door to one-half of the community. I know of nothing more scandalous than the fact that every woman in Edinburgh is taxed for the maintenance of this University, and not one of them can partake of its advantages. I will not refer to the inequality of the divorce laws, beyond saying that last year the Prime Minister, in speaking upon this subject, expressed in eloquent terms his objection to the state of the law. With regard to the rights of property, it is well known that a woman's property is still confiscated by her marriage. To illustrate the hardship of the law, I may mention the recent case of Mrs. Shillito, who had £500 in the bank when she married. Her husband soon died, and the money was confiscated to pay the creditors of her husband, the principal of whom were his father and brother, for debts contracted before the marriage. The result was, the widow was left penniless. Let it be remembered that while the husband takes everything the wife has which is not settled on her, he is in no wise liable for a farthing of her debts. I have been told by wholesale traders in Manchester, who deal with thousands of shopkeepers all over the country, that it is difficult for them to give credit to any single woman, because she may at any time marry, and the result would be that the husband would become possessed of all she had without being responsible for her debts. The hon. Member for Coventry (Mr. Staveley Hill) has introduced a Bill dealing with this peculiarity; but I hope the House will not accept that Bill, be- cause it proposes a retrograde step, and will never settle the question satisfactorily. With regard to the possession of children, at present the right of the father is absolute—the right of the mother is absolutely nothing. Will anyone say that is a just arrangement? Surely the natural tie between the mother and the child is as strong as that between the father and the child. Look at the original anxiety and suffering of the mother in regard to her child; consider the incessant watching by day and night which falls upon her, and then imagine that at the age of seven she ceases to have any right of control over that child. There are numberless cases in which mothers are threatened with the loss of their children, if they do this, or refuse to do the other. But there is a stronger case still in the position of the widow having children. If there are those who believe that the father's rights should be absolute when living, surely there are none who think the mother should have no rights when the father is dead. I remember reading a speech by Mrs. Crawshay, of Merthyr, upon this point, wherein she declared it to be the hardest of all existing laws that the mother is not held to be the natural guardian of her children upon her husband's death. Nothing in the world can be harder than that. A woman may find when her husband is dead that a stranger may step in, and be able to dictate what religion her children should be taught, and even to separate them from her altogether. I could give instances of this kind which have lately been reported in the public Press, but I will be satisfied with that general statement, lest I should occupy too much the time of the House. Perhaps I shall be told that most of these hardships come from the common law, and have been of long duration. That is, I suppose, true; but it is not true that recent legislation has been more agreeable to women, or more in accordance with their sense of justice, and as it is my duty to make a practical case, showing the necessity for political protection, I am obliged to go for a moment into that recent legislation. Knowing what I know of the opinions of this House and of the other House of Parliament—for we have all of us the means of ascertaining the sentiments which prevail in the other Chamber—I am justified in saying that there is nothing at this moment but the consciences of women standing between this country and a gigantic system of prostitution supported and controlled by the State. So far is this system established by law, so deep is the root it has already taken among us, that prostitutes, in their legalized corporate capacity, have begun to petition this House, and to ask for a special Vote on account of their peculiar position; and the supporters of the system have been so unwise as to ask that these Petitions should be read at the Table. Women believe that this system of legislation has inflicted a supreme degradation upon their sex. Our soldiers and sailors are not the most sensitive, delicate, or fastidious, even among the humbler portion of our people; yet, when this system was applied to them by medical officers, there was a general revolt against it; the men declared it humiliating and degrading to them; and it was singular that Parliament could hold that that which was degrading and humiliating to men could in any sense be morally elevating to women. The Royal Commission has declared against that legislation; there have been innumerable Petitions against it, with as many as 500,000 signatures in one year; the Money Vote which it required was carried by a narrow majority of Government officials; and still apparently the system is to be continued. Having no part in the election of Members of Parliament, women have failed to exert their full influence upon the question. I am aware that what appears to have been an attempt to abolish the system has been made by the Government, but their Bill has in it the objectionable principle of the existing Acts. It is also full of injustice to women, and is characterized by all the harshness and cruelty of Puritan legislation, without the excuse of Puritan belief or of Puritan morals, either on the part of the Cabinet which introduced it or of the age in which we live. The legislation to which I have been referring has given an impulse to the movement in favour of women's suffrage greater than it has received from any other cause. Four years ago I attended a public meeting at Manchester, at which for the first time women advocated their claims to the Parliamentary vote, and at the present hour I could name at least 40 women, some of them ladies of rank, many of them ladies of wealth and position, and all women of character, who are engaged in the public advocacy of the suffrage question. Last year, when I brought forward this question, I had two principal opponents, the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Bouverie) and the hon. and learned Member for Taunton (Mr. James). One of these hon. Gentlemen possessed the largest experience in this House, and both were men of acknowledged ability. If I am to have opponents on this question, I consider it a privilege to have able opponents, because if the Bill I advocate is untenable—if it cannot pass, the more able the opponents the sooner it will be removed from the arena of the House of Commons; and if, on the other hand, the Bill is a just Bill, and the claim such as cannot be resisted, no amount of ability will long obstruct its course. These two hon. Gentlemen exercised all their ingenuity—they employed all their eloquence and powers of persuasion to induce the House to treat this Bill with disregard. They had an advantage which is never possessed by the Mover and Seconder of the Bill, because they spoke to a full House and to those who would decide the question. But the result of their opposition was, that a considerably larger number than before followed us into the Lobby, and included in that number were men of the very highest political influence. The right hon. Member for Kilmarnock took what I thought a peculiar line of argument. He seemed to treat women-voters as a revolutionary class. He gathered together from all quarters materials to support his views, and attributing fantastic notions to women, described them as dangerous to the Constitution. The hon. and learned Member for Taunton took an opposite line. His argument was founded chiefly on the incapacity of women, and he said women would be led by the clergy and others, so that they could never be trusted to act independently. These two arguments could not be both true. One was clearly destructive of the other; and if I might offer advice to my opponents, I would say that they would succeed better in opposing this Bill if they would compare notes before they came into the House, and not offer arguments which were mutually destructive. The hon. and learned Member for Taunton said that women were more impulsive and less logical than men. I have heard it said that the Scotch are less impulsive and more logical than the Irish, but surely that would not be a good reason for disfranchising the Irish people. Again, the negroes of the United States are more impulsive and less logical than the white population of America, but their enfranchisement is an absolute guarantee for justice, and secures the peace of the country. I will not enter upon a discussion of the mental differences between men and women. If their minds are alike, I suppose my hon. Friends will not object to give them votes; if there are mental differences between the sexes, I deny that this can be a fairly representative House unless it represents those differences. If, however, it be true that men have some advantage over women mentally, is there nothing to place on the other side of the account? Have not women more control over their passions? Do they not lead more regular lives? Are they not more sober? In the long catalogue of crime is there a single offence in which the male criminal does not greatly outnumber the female, notwithstanding the acknowledged fact that women have a closer acquaintance with poverty than men, and that in the struggle for bread they are more likely to be trodden down by the competitive crowd? If it be true that women want that self-guidance which it is supposed men possess, it is a profound misfortune, because, as the Prime Minister has said, there is a greater number of them every year who are obliged to seek an independent existence, and it has rarely happened that women have to obtain their bread without having to maintain others who are dependent upon them. In asking that women may be allowed to perform the humble function of giving a vote at the poll, it should not be forgotten that they are to be found at the head of important institutions; that they administer large fortunes as wisely as men; that they are every year occupying a higher place in art and literature, and that the most exalted political positions to which human beings can attain have from the earliest times being held by women with credit to themselves and advantage to the people. I have been told that women understand nothing of military matters, of law, and of diplomacy, and therefore they are not fit for the suffrage. I do not know whether this means that we have too few soldiers, lawyers, and diplomatists in this House. If all those electors who know nothing of law, of military matters, and of diplomacy were eliminated from the constituencies, the electing body would become so small that it might be abolished altogether. When you give votes to men, you do so in order that they may protect themselves against unjust laws. Now, are there no laws on the statute book, and no Bills before this House which women can understand? Half-a-score of Bills, which I could name, are at present before the House, dealing directly with women and children, and with which men have little to do. There is that Bill to which I have referred—described by the Government, I should suppose, in a spirit of irony—a Bill for the Better Protection of Women. There is a Bill also on the same subject by the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Charley)—a Bill that is believed by those out-of-doors to have a much more honest character, and a Bill by the same hon. Member for the protection of infants. The hon. Member for Coventry, as I have already stated, has a Bill before the House with regard to the property of women, and another hon. Member has a Bill with regard to the law of marriage. The hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. W. Fowler) has a Bill to repeal the Contagious Diseases Acts, and a Bill dealing with the custody of children. When I ask that women should have votes, I do so in order that they may give this House the capacity to legislate justly for the country upon matters in which they are peculiarly interested, because I believe no Parliament in the world has the capacity to legislate justly unless it is controlled to some extent by those for whom it legislates. Unless better reasons can be given for rejecting this Bill than have hitherto been given, I think I may express the hope that the House will read it a second time to-day. It is a rare thing for any Bill in the position of this to be rejected by the House. Let me state what I mean. In the first place, it is not a party question. It has been largely supported by both sides of this House. Last year—I do not know the exact numbers, but I believe that 100 Members on this side of the House voted for the Bill, and 50 Members on the opposite side. The measure cannot, therefore, be regarded as in any sense a party measure. We counted among our supporters influential occupants of the two front benches. There are only two Members in the House who have attained to the exalted political rank of Prime Minister. The right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) voted for the Bill last year, and has made on more than one occasion public statements upon the subject which have had more influence than he is aware of in stimulating the agitation in favour of this Bill. In one speech the right hon. Gentleman said— I say that in a country governed by a woman—where you allow women to form part of the estate of the Realm—Peeresses in their own right, for example; where you allow a woman not only to hold land, but to be a lady of the manor and hold legal courts; where a woman by law, may be a churchwarden and overseer of the poor—I do not see, where she has so much to do with the State and Church, on what reasons, if you come to right, she has not a right to vote. That is the opinion of the ex-Prime Minister. What is the opinion of the present First Lord of the Treasury? Last year he made what I thought a just and generous speech in defence of the principle of this Bill. He did not vote for the Bill, but he made a speech which if it did not compel him to vote for the Bill, at least would have enabled him to do so. And, in conclusion, he said— 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.—[3 Hansard, ccvi. 95.] If anyone desired to bring about a well-adjusted alteration of the law, so as to give women some share of political power, I venture to think he would take the course which I am taking. He would find that women who are householders and heads of families possess already every local vote, and he would propose to give to this class the Parliamentary vote. They have the local votes, because they have the qualification fixed by Parliament; and having also the qualification which gives men the Parliamentary vote, it would seem as if this should decide our course in any readjustment of the law. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister has spoken of the difficulties in his path; but I think his chief, if not his only difficulty is the inconvenience women would experience by personally recording their votes at the poll. I have read the accounts of meetings that have taken place in various parts of the country, and I give the answer to that difficulty, which has come from the lips of women. They say—"We readily accept inconvenience in order to avoid injustice." When the right hon. Gentleman speaks of the inconvenience of personal attendance at the poll, I think he must have referred to the dainty and delicate ladies of the London drawing-rooms, rather than to the women of the whole country, the great majority of whom in their ordinary avocations submit to inconveniences every week in their lives far heavier than that of going once in four or five years to cast a vote at the poll. The Ballot too, I suppose, will make some difference in this. Some believe we shall have the Ballot this year; and when we have the Ballot we shall find the polling day will be one of melancholy quiet. But I think there is an argument arising from the Ballot which ought to be alluded to when dealing with this question. The hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett), a few nights ago, in an argument in favour of household suffrage in the counties, stated that nobody henceforth would hold any votes in trust, and just as no one will hold votes in trust for the unenfranchised in counties, so no one will hold votes in trust for women. You will have something like 2,000,000 of men voting in the dark and not a single woman, and there will not be a woman in the country who will know anything as to how those votes are given. I venture to say that will be found to be an intolerable state of things, and the claim of women to have votes in their own right will be greatly strengthened by this change. I must just refer to a question which has been more or less referred to on previous occasions, and which I believe will influence some votes in this House. I have been told that the Bill would give votes to married women. Well, my object was to give votes in accordance with precedent, to women who were owners and occupiers of property. I confess I did not know whether or not married women would be competent to vote if they had the qualifications, but my attention has been called to the fact that the question has been mooted in Sunderland by way of objection to the votes of some married women whose names were on the municipal register, and who voted in their maiden names. The election was a very close one, and therefore those against whom they voted, and who lost the day, were very anxious to set aside the votes. The question, as I understand it, was decided in the Court of Queen's Bench against the married women, and it was held that the circumstance of their having married disqualified them. That being so, this objection to my Bill, that it would give married women votes, will be set at rest. But then there remains the counter-charge. There are some who complain that the Bill does not enfranchise married women, but I believe only the opponents of the Bill make that complaint. The right hon. Member for Kilmarnock has been reported to have said, when addressing his constituents, that this Bill would enfranchise only "the failures" of the sex. If it be true that the Baroness Burdett Coutts, Miss Nightingale, Miss Martineau, Miss Carpenter, Miss Cobbe, and other distinguished ladies whom I could name—if it be true that widows, the mothers of families whose husbands are dead, are the failures of their sex—then I admit my Bill enfranchises failures. But if this objection be sincere, how is it none of those who advance it bring in Bills to enfranchise married women? In bringing in this Bill I am standing on the ancient lines of the Constitution; I am asking that those who have the local vote should have the Parliamentary vote also. The common law prevents married women from voting. When a woman marries she loses her name, her freedom, her individuality, her property, her vote. Surely it is not for me, in my endeavours to give votes to the owners and occupiers of property, to run my head against the common law, in regard to the changes which come about in the case of a woman who marries. It is enough for me to assert that every house shall have a vote in accordance with the principle laid down by that great Act passed in the year 1867—the Household Suffrage Act. I have referred to a striking case which was discussed at the British Association in Edinburgh, of interference with the industrial liberty of women. I am afraid that is a sample of too many of the difficulties against which women have to contend. It is impossible, however, for us to abolish local legislation such as that. We cannot put down the tyranny of ignorant and narrow-minded men; but it is in our power to give a simple and complete remedy for Imperial injustice. Give to women the power which has now been almost universally extended to men of exercising control in the election of Members of Parliament, and every legislative injustice of which they complain will gradually but surely disappear. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving the second reading of the Bill.


said, he trusted that this important question would be debated fairly and dispassionately, and that the opponents of the Bill would for once refrain from imputing to its supporters aims and intentions which they utterly disclaimed, and which, so far from having any real existence, were the mere phantoms of imaginations heated by prejudice. He hoped, too, that hon. Members who opposed them would no longer insist upon arguing from contradictory premises, nor affect to know more of the character, the duties, and the aspirations of women than women themselves, and that under pretence of befriending and protecting the sex they would not persist in denying to them the means of self-defence. He felt justified in making these remarks by the character of the debate last year, for all the faults of argument of which he complained were to be found in the speeches of the opponents of the Bill in that debate. Taking the speech which was most applauded last year—that of the hon. and learned Member for Taunton—and certainly, if vehemence and reckless assertion were a recommendation it was entitled to that distinction—he would show how his remarks applied to that speech. He had taken down seriatim, as briefly as possible, the arguments used by the hon. and learned Gentleman, and he proposed now to examine them, and in so doing to dispose of the stock arguments against the Bill. The hon. and learned Member's first point had reference to law, and there, if anywhere, he might be expected to be strong. He said— 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 un-married."—[3 Hansard, ccvi. 108.] The process of procuring herself to be rated by a married woman was not described, and for his part he must confess he was curious to hear it, and hoped they would be enlightened on the subject. But here was the hon. and learned Gentleman's opinion on a point of law, and it turned out to be utterly valueless, for the Judges had decided in the case of the Sunderland municipal female voters, reported in The Times of the 23rd January last, that a woman who had been entitled to the municipal vote for the whole year just previous to an election lost that vote if she married before the election, and that a married woman separated from her husband, and carrying on a separate business in a separate house, who would have been entitled to the municipal vote had she been single, was not so entitled because of her marriage, the husband and wife being regarded by our law as one, and the legal existence of the wife being merged in that of her husband. All, therefore, that a married woman would get by following the hon. and learned Member's advice would be to be rated by her husband instead of being rated by the Returning Officer. But further on in his speech this very proposition was refuted by another, for the hon. and learned Gentleman said— If I thought the majority of English women desired this measure to become law, I should hesitate before I combated their wishes; but I say emphatically they do not.…. A few restless, itinerant ladies—my Lady A. here, Miss B. there—pass from town to town,…. and I never find that any woman, except these well-seasoned lecturers, rises to take a part of these political displays."—[Ibid. 112–13.] Here was the hon. and learned Gentleman knowing more about women than women themselves. But, to let that pass, if all women, married and single, were so utterly indifferent about the franchise, was it not absurd to say that the married would volunteer to bear the expense of being rated, and would incur the risk of a quarrel with their husbands besides, in order to get the suffrage, which they did not value the least? The hon. and learned Gentleman had pitched his prelude in a high key, but he soon rose to a far higher, for he went on to say that— The natural consequences of this measure, to be gathered from its terms and from the clearly expressed hopes and intentions of its supporters, are that any women, 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."—[Ibid. 108.] What! the same languid indifferent women that no practised lecturer could warm into taking any interest on the question of the franchise were to be suddenly changed into a band or frantic Mænades, to carry that House by storm, scramble over it into the House of Lords, and, not satisfied even with that, rush onward, still shouting "Excelsior!" and topple the very Bishops from their seats! That was a striking picture, very sensational indeed, and if it had been drawn by the friendly, bantering pencil of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Maguire), he could have understood it and smiled. But when it was seriously presented there as an argument in a grave debate of that House, and was pointed and intensified by an illusion in another speech during the same debate to the Sixth Satire of Juvenal, then he indignantly repelled and denounced it as a calumny on the women of England, which ought never to have been uttered. The gist of these descriptions and allusions was to imply that women would overstep the bounds of decorum if it were not for the restraints put upon them by men, and this he flatly denied. The great body of Christian women in this country were a law to themselves, and needed no such restraint. As to this particular measure he thought he might fairly put his experience against that of the hon. and learned Member, for he was sure he had attended more meetings of its supporters and given more time and attention to it than he had, and he maintained that while its supporters had shown a fixed determination to go through with it, they had also shown the greatest moderation. There had been no indecorous excitement, no intolerance of opposite opinions, no exaggerated pretensions, nothing, in short, to deserve the sarcasms of the hon. and learned Member for Taunton, and of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Bouverie). But the next argument on which he had to comment was that—"Property is made a qualification, because it has been held to indicate capacity and fitness for the franchise in the holder—and he holds that women do not possess that fitness, because their excess of sympathy shuts out from their mind logical power and judicial impartiality." But Blackstone said, in Book I., 170,— The true reason of requiring any qualification with regard to property, in voters, is to exclude such persons as are in so mean a situation that they are esteemed to have no will of their own. If these persons had votes, they would be tempted to dispose of them under some undue influence or other. This would give a great, an artful, or a wealthy man, a larger share in elections than is consistent with general liberty. If it were probable that every man would give his vote freely and without influence of any kind, then, upon the true theory and genuine principles of liberty, every member of the community, however poor should have a vote in electing those delegates to whose charge is committed the disposal of his property his liberty, and his life. But since that can hardly be expected in persons of indigent fortunes, or such as are under the immediate dominion of others, all popular States have been obliged to establish certain qualifications; whereby some who are suspected to have no will of their own, are excluded from voting, in order to set other individuals whose wills may be supposed independent more thoroughly upon a level with each other. Well, he preferred the authority of Blackstone; but was it endurable that the hon. and learned Member should talk in this stilted style about the logical power, forsooth, and judicial impartiality necessary for giving a vote at an election, knowing as he did very well how such votes were usually given? This was the very fiend's arch-mock. You might as well "lip a wanton and suppose her chaste" as go through the mud of an election and then talk of it in those high-flown terms. There was no want of the logical faculty in women, and it only wanted cultivation to be equal to that of men. The next argument was thus expressed—"In this House we discuss matters connected with the Army and Navy, with commerce, diplomacy, and law. Women can have no direct knowledge of these subjects." But were these all the matters that engaged the attention of that House? Were there no financial questions, no social questions, no religious questions discussed there? Under which of his five heads did the hon. and learned Member rank the questions of education, of the adulteration of food, of conventual institutions, of hospitals and charities? It was a farce to say that women knew nothing of these subjects, that their minds were a perfect blank, and their opinions of no value with respect to a multitude of other matters brought before that House, such as infant life protection, marriage with a deceased wife's sister, or the law of marriage generally. The hon. and learned Member asked—"How will you check the influence of the priest, the clergyman, and the well-selected canvasser upon women?" Yes, let him tell them how to check that influence upon men, and then they would tell him how to check it upon women. He would now turn for a moment to the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Bouverie), and of the Premier, delivered last year. The right hon. Gentleman, who was to move the Amendment, read an extract last year from an American paper, which stated— 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."—[3 Hansard, ccvi. 81.] And then he went on to show how in Illinois 1,400 women petitioned not to be allowed to vote; how in Massachusetts the Constitution would have been altered to give women votes but for the women themselves; how in Minnesota the Governor had vetoed a Woman's Suffrage Bill which had passed the Legislature because he was satisfied women would be annoyed to have the vote given them; and, lastly, how in Utah the women had the franchise but refused to go to the poll. Well, could anything be more damaging to the right hon. Gentleman's argument than those quotations? It was clear from them that in the United States women might have the franchise if they wished for it. In Utah they actually had it, but it was no wonder that ladies who could content themselves with the fortieth part of a husband should not be anxious to have a whole vote to themselves. In other places they might have it if they liked, but they did not desire it, and the reasons were plain. In the first place, who would set store on a suffrage to be shared, he would not say by the heathen Chinese, for he might be an honest fellow, but with every vagabond who had reached his twenty-first year? The truth was the suffrage in the States was so common that it was not worth having, and was so corruptly dealt with that no woman would touch it. The women of the States knew very well that what was wanted under their government was a retrenchment, not an extension of the franchise. They knew, too, that in their country it could not be given in the moderate form it was asked for, and would be given here. If given at all, it must be a universal womanhood suffrage, including married and single women alike; and if voting was already a nuisance in the States, owing to the number of voters, it would become perfectly intolerable if 10,000,000 or 12,000,000 women were all at once to be added to the list. But, above all, it must be remembered that the position of women in the States was incomparably better than that of women here, and that they had really little or nothing to gain by acquiring the suffrage. Two-thirds of the whole education of the people was in their hands. He saw proof of that when he visited the Normal School at New York, where no less than 1,200 young ladies were being trained as teachers. The business of the Treasury was in great part conducted by ladies. 700 performed the work of that principal office of State at Washington, and performed it with an amount of skill, method, and regularity which entirely disproved the statements of the right hon. Gentleman's American correspondent as to the un-business-like habits of women. The telegraphic offices in the States were full of women, who did their work as well as, or better than, men. In short, there was no employment in the States that women desired from which they were excluded. How should they compare the social position occupied by women in the States with that held by those in this country, or their personal security there with the miserable state of things in this country? A woman might go anywhere in the United States and be sure of being treated with respect. She enjoyed absolute security from the brutal violence of husbands and others. He held in his hands half-a-dozen slips lately cut from The Times recording brutal assaults, and even murder, perpetrated on wives and mothers, which have been punished only with short terms of imprisonment, such as were inflicted for cruelty to animals. From these reports it was evident that a man might in England gouge out his wife's eye, or throw her under a waggon, and so crush the life out of her, for a short incarceration. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kilmarnock referred them to the Sixth Satire of Juvenal. He would refer the right hon. Gentleman to our own inimitable satirist, in whose publication of last week he would see a just satire on the odious indifference shown to the safety of women in this country. If the assault of which he had the reports had been committed in the United States the neighbours of the ruffians who perpetrated them would have anticipated the proceedings of the judge, and would have saved him all trouble in the matter. But he would now turn for a moment to the speech of the Premier, who referred to Italy. Article 15 of the Electoral Law of that country says— The direct taxes paid by a widow, or a wife separated from her husband, shall be reckoned in the electoral census in favour of that son or son-in-law of the first or second degree whom she may select. This was repeated in Article 22 of the communal and provincial law. It was quite clear, therefore, that single women in Italy, if they had a property qualification, possessed an indirect vote. But he laid no great stress upon that. If it were right to give the suffrage to women in England let it be given, whatever might be the condition of things in other countries. Before concluding he wished to state what he conceived to be the case for woman's suffrage in England, divested of all that mountain of misrepresentation which the opponents of the Bill would heap upon it. There were 11,189,657 males in England and Wales, represented by 1,250,019 voters in boroughs and cities, and 801,109 voters in counties; in all, 2,051,128. There were 11,663,705 females represented by 108,838 municipal voters. What was asked was that these females who had the municipal vote should have the Parliamentary vote also. As far as he was concerned there was no stress laid upon the lodger franchise for women; but if it were given it would add only a thousand or two voters, for there were but 5,257 men who had the lodger franchise, and it would hardly be said that there would be anything like that number of women. He was not aware of any statistics showing the number of females who would be qualified to vote for counties; but, taking it at the proportion of females to males who had the municipal vote, there would be altogether in round numbers about 170,000 females who would obtain the franchise by this Bill. Thus, there would be 1 male in every 6 possessed of the right to vote, and 1 woman in every 60. Except in giving women a small amount of influence in questions which had a direct-interest for them, this measure would invest them with no political power at all. On the other hand, it would certainly relieve them of great difficulties in renting and retaining farms and houses, and other disadvantages in business matters, and it would remove from them an intolerable stigma as if they were creatures of an inferior nature to men. Were women to be so degraded that the wife of a deaf and dumb man might interpret his vote for him, and when he was dead might not vote for herself? What was the logical power and judicial impartiality of a ruffian who maltreated his wife that he should be entitled to vote, while the most refined and intellectual lady in the land—a Mary Somerville, a Burdett Coutts, or a Florence Nightingale—was declared incompetent? These anomalies were like the lies of Falstaff—"Gross as a mountain, open, palpable," and he therefore said remove this stigma from the women of England, and then there would be no property and no intelligence unrepresented, and this agitation, which could never otherwise be set at rest, would at once subside. In conclusion, he seconded the Motion for the second reading of the Bill.

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


, in rising, in accordance with a Notice given some days previous, to move the rejection of the Bill, said, he hoped the House would indulge him if Re stated perhaps the whole ground of his opposition to the proposal of his hon. Friend the Member for Manchester. He regretted greatly that his hon. Friend was not in his place, for he had made a moderate, earnest, and reasonable appeal to the House and country in favour of the measure he proposed; but it appeared to him that beyond his statement, as well as beyond the speech of the hon. Gentleman opposite the Member for Penrhyn (Mr. Eastwick), there was that insuperable difficulty under which they laboured—that while they were speaking in the name of the women of England, the great bulk of the cultivated intelligence of the women of England was decidedly opposed to them; and not only was it their feelings but their judgment, which led them to the conclusion that the Bill would be a misfortune to them instead of a boon. That was the feeling of the women of England, and he (Mr. Bouverie) could not help thinking that his hon. Friend the Member for Manchester spoke not for them, but only for the 40 ladies of wealth and character whom he said he represented. His hon. Friend had alluded to Petitions that were presented in favour of the Bill; well, undoubtedly, some 240,000 or 250,000 signatures had been attached to Petitions in favour of the Bill; but a large proportion of those signatures were not the signatures of women, and the Petitions themselves, instead of being the spontaneous outcome of the feelings of the signataries, were sent down to the localities ready drawn, and the people canvassed to sign them after the fashion which hon. Members so well understood. But even supposing the whole of the 250,000 signatures were those of women, they could scarcely be regarded as overwhelming evidence of the desire of the 8,000,000 adult females in these kingdoms for the success of the Bill introduced by his hon. Friend. He would dismiss at once, therefore, the suggestion of his hon. Friend that the number of signatures to these Petitions ought to weigh the House in consideration of the Bill. His hon. Friend had stated with truth that the House was never disposed to favour arguments based upon mere abstract principles, but insisted that substantial grounds should be shown for legislation. His hon. Friend then went on to state that the substantial grievances of those whom he represented were the lack of educational facilities for women, the difficulties connected with the holding of property by married women, and the question of the custody of children. With regard to the education question, he (Mr. Bouverie) admitted that in times past the female sex were placed at a disadvantage as compared with the male sex in the matter of educational advantages; but different ideas now prevailed, and it was not by any means requisite to give votes to women in order to settle the question on a satisfactory basis. He was certain that Parliament, as at present elected and constituted, would at any time be willing to pass any measure calculated to put boys and girls on an equality as far as education was concerned. Then there was the other grievance as regarded the custody of children. On that point his hon. Friend really weakened his argument, because he did not propose to give married women votes. It might, however, be presumed that it was to the children of married women he referred; so that, by way of correcting the grievances of married women, in respect of children, he proposed to give votes to a class who had nothing to do with children. [An hon. MEMBER: Widows.] He (Mr. Bouverie) would treat of widows presently. There could be no doubt, however, that his hon. Friend made out a case of occasional great hardship in married women being deprived of the custody of their children; but, speaking broadly, there must be under the marriage union, in case the parents separated, one parent only who should have the custody of the children, unless his hon. Friend proposed that there should be a judgment of Solomon, and the children should be each divided in half; and, moreover, did his hon. Friend maintain that there were no such beings as immoral and ill-conducted wives as well as husbands? Was there no such thing as a father who would be unwilling to entrust his children to a vicious and ill-conducted wife, as a wife would be to entrust her children to an ill-mannered husband? There might be a fair provision in law in these respects to decide upon the merits of each case, as to which parent should have the custody of the children, but there was really no ground on that score why women should have votes as Members of Parliament; and, in fact, his hon. Friend's arguments tended more to support a plan for remedying defects of the law. In this case, with regard to the custody of the children, it did not require to give votes to any class or number of women who desired to see justice done. All of them had sympathy enough with the distressed mother or wife unjustly deprived of the custody of her children, and were quite willing to remedy any defect in the law affecting her in this respect. Then, as regarded property, the hon. Member for Penrhyn spoke about the common law. Well, the common law was founded upon the theory—rightly or wrongly—that married persons made but one person in law, and hence had arisen these rights with regard to property. These rights, however, had within the last few years been considerably modified. They all knew that in the upper classes of life—and he might say in the middle classes of life—very rarely a marriage took place without a settlement or some provision being made with regard to the property of the woman. Something was done in that way to remedy the defects of the com- mon law, if it were defective, which absolutely gave the whole of the personal property to the husband. But while there was some ground for feeling that this state of the law might often operate with hardship with regard to married women in the humbler classes, on the other hand, the husband, by the fact of marriage, became liable for the debts of his wife; whatever debts she might have incurred during her maidenhood, he was bound to pay; and those warehousemen to whom his hon. Friend referred, who were afraid to give "tick" to a young woman because she might get married, had only to see that if the husband was a man of industry and means they would have the advantage of double security for payment for their goods. He (Mr. Bouverie) appealed to the House to say whether the grievances he had enumerated did not form the sole basis on which his hon. Friend asked Parliament to make a change in the representative system in this country such as had never been made in any other country on the face of the globe. The House, however, ought not to be led astray by his hon. Friend a second time by listening to his earnestness and the voice of his charming, as they did when he introduced a Bill to give votes to single women in municipal elections. Now, his hon. Friend came and said he was asking for a higher thing. He was asking the House to give votes to single women for Members of Parliament; but there should be some place where they ought to stop, and if they did not stop now, he (Mr. Bouverie) could not see where, in future, they were to have stopping ground on that question. Moreover, the addition to the number of the voters in constituencies which would be involved by passing the Bill before the House would be by no means the trumpery affair that his hon. Friend seemed to think, for the addition would not be less than from 320,000 to 330,000, or between 12½ and 13 per cent, according to a careful calculation which he had made on the basis of Returns presented to Parliament. He would remind the House, further, that to make an addition of that character would involve an immediate dissolution of Parliament. ["No, no!"] Hon. Members might express dissent from that statement; but he maintained that if so great an addition was made to the constituencies, it would be absolutely necessary to take their opinion as to the mode in which the country was to be governed. His main objection, however, to the proposal of his hon. Friend was that it merely touched the hem of a great question. It was not merely whether some 200,000 or 300,000 people should be added to the number of the constituencies, but whether the whole system upon which this country had been governed hitherto should be altered. And here arose another great difficulty in his view. His hon. Friend said that women were equally entitled as men to political power, and he thought his hon. Friend was also an advocate for universal manhood suffrage. [Mr. JACOB BRIGHT: No, no!] Well, there were many who were, and who were in favour of this Bill, and he believed the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government two years ago had indicated his feeling in that direction. It existed in America; and however much it might be open to objection, it was not therefore an impracticable system of government. Well, if manhood suffrage were given, they could not do without women suffrage. They must give votes to women all round, as well as to men. Then what was the consequence? Was the House aware that the women exceeded the men by something like 350,000 in this country? The males in the United Kingdom, of all ages, by the last Census, were 15,500,000, the females 16,218,000, leaving a difference in favour of females of 718,000. The adults were about 50 per cent of the whole number; so that about 50 per cent of women, under woman suffrage, would be entitled to have votes. That would amount to a majority of women with voting power in the country against men, who were supposed to be cruel tyrants, and to overbear and misuse the women; and, practically, it would come to this, that the women would outvote the men, and then the country would be governed by women. It was assumed that the women were in chronic opposition to the men, and, if in a majority, they would necessarily sway the councils of the country at home and abroad. Was that a conclusion to which they would like to come? Its absurdity, on the face of it, showed the fallacy of the views of his hon. Friend. But it was not necessary to have this universal woman suffrage to give women a prepon- derance at elections. The House was now aware that in nicely-balanced constituencies a comparatively small body of voters would turn their choice of a Member one way or the other. In the present constituencies they knew that a small number who held extreme views on the temperance question were able to turn the scale in many elections, and thus secure support by members to their opinions. If once the votes of women were admitted, as now proposed, there would be many instances where they would be able to turn the balance, and give a feminine character to the policy of the country. He respected the opinions of many women, but he was not prepared to say that the policy of this country was to be influenced by women rather than by men. There was a line from Shakspeare, where one of the old Romans said—"Our father's souls are dead, and we are governed by the spirits of our mothers;" but that was a state of things the old Roman did not like, and we should not like it either, that upon questions of peace or war, perhaps affecting the policy of this nation now and for times far distant, the feelings, sympathies, and peculiar character of women should guide the policy of the country. In the judgment of men, who had the harder work of life to undertake, leaving the gentler and milder duties to the women, this could not be desirable. He would remind the House, too, that it was not with the mere giving of votes that this matter could end. In this country political rights were not and could not be severed from political duties, and if the right to vote now claimed for them were to be conferred upon the women of the country, they ought to undertake the correlative duties which attached to the position of an elector in this country. Who could make a just distinction between women voting for Members of Parliament, and women sitting on the Bench as Judges—sitting as magistrates, or on juries on the trial of cases, and fulfilling all the judicial functions men now discharged? Take the cases where brutal men in the lower classes of life ill-treated their wives, and who received mild sentences from the magistrates. The remedy for that was not a change of the law. The law was just enough. The law imposed a severe penalty for offences of that sort, but it was the fault, if fault at all, of the tribunal. How would it be if women sat as a tribunal, and passed sentences on men who ill-treated their wives? Was the House prepared to see that change? He further understood that it was actually contemplated that women should have seats in this House, for he could not see, how, if they gave women votes, they could refuse to them the right of electing whom they liked to seats in this House; so that they must alter the whole mode in which the Government was carried on. Moreover, would the ambition of the ladies be limited to seats in this House? Would they not aspire to sit on the Ministerial bench or even in the Speaker's Chair? When they once departed from the existing practice in those respects, and gave political rights, his impression was that there was nowhere where standing-ground could be found to resist their claims. Take the case of the defence of the realms. Were women to be balloted for the Militia? Were they to serve as constables, or soldiers in the Army? That seemed ridiculous, but those views were actually advocated by writers of intelligence and ability in largely-circulated publications. A writer in a recent number of The Fortnightly Review—a publication which, by-the-by, came out once a-month—advocated women's rights with great intelligence and ability, and wrote strongly in favour of breaking down all existing distinctions, as far as business occupations were concerned, between men and women. He said— Some women are allowed, under the pressure of necessity, to teach, or to write for the Press, or, if they have very great energy, to profess medicine; it only remains to allow all who have the necessary material inducement to enter the Civil Service (where Mr. Gladstone is evidently prepared to let them have clerkships cheap), the Army, the Navy, the Universities, and any other learned or lucrative profession they may fancy. The writer also referred to the moral and physical forces of the State, and went on to say— Undoubtedly, when women have seats in Parliament and on the Bench, they will also hold commissions in the Army; and it may even be surmised that the profession of arms will be rather a favourite with them than otherwise; for military glory has more in common with the aims which they have hitherto been encouraged to pursue than any inducements held out by learned or commercial careers. The few cases on record of women who have disguised their sex in order to enter the Army offer no criterion as to the number who would do so when the necessity for secrecy was removed. The contrary assumption is so much the creation of habit, that it is scarcely possible to argue either for or against it. The physical strength of women is the principal difficulty contemplated; but it is obvious, quite apart from the effect of education or training, that the women of some races are taller and stronger than the men of others; and if that consideration appears too remote, it could be easily ascertained how many maids-of-all-work in London work harder than a dragoon. But it is supposed that women will be particularly influenced by the reluctance which we all feel at the prospect of slaughtering our fellow-creatures. Similarly it was held quite recently that they could not—it is still thought in some circles that they should not—cut off babies' legs. Now, to shoot an invader, who may be out of sight, and to cut off a baby's leg, are both painful surgical operations, which no right minded person would perform, except for the benefit of the infant or the fatherland; but there can be no question as to which of the two is most trying to the nerves and harrowing to the sentiments. Unless antiquity—as is possible—was quite mistaken as to the natural instincts of the female sex, it will prefer the science of destruction to the art of healing. [Laughter.] The proposal of his hon. Friend related simply to unmarried women, but he, for one, did not see how they could stop there. They all knew that, practically, the great object and the great happiness of single women was to have a happy married home, and that those who failed to get it had more or less to maintain themselves. In our artificial state of society, a great many women failed, especially in the higher classes, to obtain this object. That, he thought, was the great cause of the discomfort which prevailed, and the agitation which had sprung up. His hon. Friend, however, was very strong upon the point that he confined his proposal to single women; but he (Mr. Bouverie) confessed his inability to see how that could be done. The greater part of the grievances sought to be remedied by his hon. Friend were the grievances of married women, and it was by no means clear, from his hon. Friend's point of view, that the best way to remedy them was by conferring the franchise upon women who were not married. That appeared to him to be a very roundabout way of doing what was desired, because if it were necessary that political rights should be extended in order that the grievances of any class should be redressed, those rights should be extended not to those who did not suffer, but to the class aggrieved. The arguments of his hon. Friend, therefore, seemed to point in the direction of giving married women votes; but the giving the right of voting to married women was repugnant to all their ideas of married life. The theory of the married life was, that the husband and his wife were one. That was the old law, and it was none the less good because it was old. A learned author (Littleton), the subject of Lord Coke's Commentaries, writing in the time of Henry VI., said— Although a man may not grant or give his tenements to his wife during the couverture, they are hers, for that his wife and he be but one person in the law. And it was not only the theory of their law—the law as laid down by Littleton—but it was the law of the Church and of religion. It was laid down in that Book which they were accustomed to regard as a sacred code, and which dictated to them their duties, telling them that the husband should rule over the wife. In looking over the literature of the question, he could not help noticing that one of these ladies, who had written on the subject with singular literary ability and force, showed a very great antipathy to St. Paul. She professed a great, and, no doubt, honest respect for religion, but appeared to entertain a particular spite against St. Paul. He seemed to be picked out from everybody else, and spoken of as if he had no authority on the subject. But, perhaps, that might be accounted for when they recollected what St. Paul wrote— Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. What he would wish the House to observe was, that the theory not only of their law and of their religion, but of all their social customs, lay in the fact that the husband should rule over the wife; and that condition of things he believed afforded perfect security in the vast majority of cases for the comfort and happiness of the woman. He could not help thinking that his hon. Friend, and those who supported him, had in that matter fallen into a not uncommon error—that of mistaking exceptions for the rule, and that there were myriads of homes in this country, of all classes, where man and wife go on happily from year to year, during their lives; it being the business of the man to do the hard work, and of the woman to make home bright and cheerful for him. The theory, however, of his hon. Friend was, that there was a kind of constant opposition of interest on the part of husband and wife. With reference to the argument based on considerations affecting property, he might mention to the House his own personal experiences. When he married—a great many years ago—he went to consult a very able conveyancer, a personal friend of his, and of the same religious persuasion to which his hon. Friend belonged, about the character of the settlements. His friend said—and he was so impressed with it that he recollected it as well as if it had only happened yesterday—"I advise you strongly for the interest and happiness of your home not to have a separate settlement on your wife." His friend, then, with a view to enforce his advice, took down a volume of Chancery Reports, and read a passage, in which Lord Eldon, late in his official career, said he had seen a vast amount of litigation with regard to settlements; and the result of his great experience was that a separate and independent maintenance for the wife by settlement, as was commonly made in the upper classes, did not conduce to the happiness and welfare of families. That judgment and opinion he would set against the Motion of his hon. Friend. But the contention of his hon. Friend was, that all that was now to be changed. They were now to have a new kind of "compound householder." It was impossible to draw a distinction in this matter between married and single women. Indeed, his hon. Friend had had the candour to admit that that was so.


said, he wished to explain. If he had made such an admission it was a mistake, for he had never intended to convey any such impression.


said, he had certainly so interpreted his hon. Friend's arguments; but as his hon. Friend had disclaimed any intention of meaning any such thing, he had great pleasure in accepting his disavowal. The whole effect of his hon. Friend's argument, however, went to show that women, to be fully protected, must have votes in that House. The agitation, as he (Mr Bouverie) had already said, had in his opinion arisen from the fact of there being vast numbers of unmarried women, who must and would continue to have to maintain themselves by their own exertions under great difficulties, and some of whom he perhaps might be pardoned for having termed "failures" in life. Their industry was hardly sufficient to do so. That was partly due to the artificial life of women, partly to the unavoidable competition of men with women. They could not compete on equal terms. Their physical strength was not more than two-thirds of that of men, and they could not do more than two-thirds of the work; while they all knew that from physiological reasons, they could not from time to time during a large proportion of their adult life do so much. The labour, therefore, of a woman, was scarcely able to maintain her; and it should be remembered that many of them had to compete with married women, or with unmarried women supported by their father or brothers, who had homes, who eked out their maintenance from other sources by their labour, and who could compete with advantage over those who had wholly to maintain themselves. He admitted fully that they ought to do everything in their power to remedy that state of things by promoting the education of women and girls in all grades of life, and particularly in the higher kinds of education; and let him say that much had been done within the last few years in that respect. Women, too, were showing that they were taking advantage of the additional facilities given to them for education, and for learning various profitable modes of occupying themselves. In many of the artistic walks of life—in drawing, engraving, and designing, and those classes of pursuits for which women were eminently qualified—there had been a large advance made in the way of enabling them to earn a good maintenance; but these were all economical evils to which political remedies could not be applied. They were too apt to take up the theory of the school of politicians to which his hon. Friend belonged—that political rights would alter the economical condition of the class on whom those rights were conferred. That was a mistake. Economical conditions depended upon natural laws and legislation, and political rights could not directly affect them. Men must engage in works of toil—mining, ploughing, navigating, fighting—in short, all the employments which required physical power and endurance. Moreover, part of the hard work of life consisted in governing, and it was not woman's work to govern. The government of the household was one thing; but to mix oneself up with the turmoil of the polling-booth was quite another. They all knew, practically, that a person endowed with a vote was assailed in every possible way to give that vote one way or another. Temptation of every kind was held out—allurement and menace, and where refusal was given, the screw was put on. Why should womankind, and particularly gentlewomen, be subjected to the screw? They knew that it would subject them to all sorts of annoyances and persecution, and therefore it was that the women of the country could not be stirred up to join in that agitation. They were content to leave the governing part of the business of life to men, and they might rest assured that men were fairly disposed to do justice to women as well as to men in their legislation; and he denied that there was any indisposition to do that which was right and fair by the other sex. The time had, however, he thought come when the House must decide which system they preferred, for they were at the turning-point. If they gave a vote to women, he thought he had shown that they must go further, and give them everything else in the shape of political power. It might be prejudice on his part; perhaps it was, but he preferred the old system. That system he should believe to be right until his hon. Friend had proved it to be wrong, and his hon. Friend, he was inclined to think, had lost sight of the fact that the burden of proof lay upon him to show that the existing system was wrong. He did not think he could do better than, in conclusion, to quote the words of one of those 40 ladies of "wealth, worth, and position," who were his hon. Friend's clients. That lady, in one of an exceedingly well-written series of essays, said— The majority of Englishwomen have, I believe, at this day, a secret dread lest the granting of the claims which are just now favoured by women should revolutionize society. I wish particularly to notice the fear or presentiment which seems to me most worthy of our serious consideration—namely, the fear that to grant what they are asking would revolutionize our homes. This is, indeed, a serious question, for I believe that home is the nursery of all virtue, the fountain-head of all true affection, and the main source of the strength of our nation. Those words of Mrs. Butler were wisely thought and eloquently expressed, and, fully believing, as he did, in the concluding portion of them, he hoped the result would be to show that the majority of the House were of the same opinion.


, in rising to second the Amendment, said, he felt he owed an apology to the House for speaking three times on this subject during the present Parliament; but he was desirous of saying, notwithstanding all the arguments that had been adduced in favour of this measure, that his opinions and feelings on the question remained unchanged. He, moreover, was compelled to say something additional, from feelings of gratitude and gallantry, for he found by the public newspapers that, in conjunction with his right hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Bouverie) and his hon. Friend the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Beresford Hope), he had had the honour of being made the subject of a vote of thanks by some energetic ladies at a public meeting convened for the promotion of this movement, on the ground, as they asserted, that they had rendered them good service by exhibiting the utter weakness of the arguments of their opponents. Now, he viewed it as an inestimable advantage to be noticed by the ladies at all, and almost preferred to be thus attacked than to be consigned by them to utter oblivion. Few like "to lie in cold obstruction and to rot." It reminded him of an anecdote related of Dr. Johnson, about a certain individual who complained to him that on visiting Ireland he was kicked by an Irishman; whereupon the Doctor observed that he was glad to find that his friend had risen in the world—that nobody in England had ever thought him worth kicking. If, then, a lady should drink his (Mr. Scourfield's) very bad health, he should certainly feel disposed to return her thanks, and to drink to her good health. But to come to the question immediately before them, he denied that there was any evidence to prove that the mass of the women of England were in favour of the proposal. On the contrary, he was persuaded that the vast majority of the ladies of England and the general feeling of the people at large were utterly opposed to the movement. It had been once remarked by the Chief Baron Alexander that it required an immense amount of mental energy to hold one's tongue at certain times. Now, he (Mr. Scourfield) believed that the ladies of England generally had shown themselves possessed of that faculty in respect to this question; and he did not see any reason why their feelings upon it should be ignored, because they did not express them in so demonstrative a manner as certain lady politicians who were favourable to the measure. If they looked to the Petitions presented on the matter to that House, they would find them representing but a very small fraction of the people, whilst, he believed, there were millions against the Bill. Moreover, they all had a great respect for Petitions sent from the people; but they were different things from Petitions sent to the people. They had had much discussion in that House lately respecting the best mode of maintaining secrecy in the vote at Parliamentary Elections. He thought that the admission of women to the franchise would go far to render it impossible by any machinery to effect that object, and that they themselves would be the first to suffer from a breach of the law in that respect. If the question of voting, however, had been based exclusively on property, he was not sure that he should have any strong objections, provided the necessity of personal attendance were dispensed with; but with regard to that, he would remind the House of what the Prime Minister said last year upon that point. The right hon. Gentleman, speaking generally, said that the personal attendance of women at the poll would be a practical evil not only of the gravest, but of the most intolerable character. Moreover, when the proposal to substitute voting papers for personal attendance was brought before the House it found no more strenuous opponents than the hon. Gentleman and his Friends who promoted the Bill. Indeed, the proposal to render any voter who disclosed Ms vote liable to a period of imprisonment emanated from an hon. Gentleman who, if he had had his way, would now by his advocacy of this question, extend that privilege to women. The promoters of the Bill did not propose to extend the franchise to married women on the ground that they were under the influence of their husbands; but, as an hon. Friend of his suggested, if the Ballot Bill were carried, they would no longer be under the influence of their husbands, because, although they might tell their husbands they had voted one way, they might in reality have voted differently. It was further said that he and those who agreed with him were fighting shadowy and imaginary evils; but one of the ladies who had taken part in the proceedings at the public meeting recently held to promote this Bill, said that under the present system women suffered a loss of dignity and were inclined to take a childish view of life and its duties, to attempt to rival each other in "dress, domestic economy, the conventionalities of society, and infinitely small things of that kind." And another lady said they would not press for revolution, unless they saw that their demands had been hopelessly rejected. Well, that, at all events, was somewhat consolatory, for it was well to keep off the evil day as far as possible. Revolution at all times was a terrible affair, but when effected by ladies it would be horrible in the extreme. It was only last evening that the hon. Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Plunket) took the lead in a cry raised by all the Irish Members—and the Scotch Members "caught faintly the sound as it fell"—that the Civil servants in Ireland were entitled to an increase of salary. But what good, he (Mr. Scourfield) asked, would be a small increase of salary to the Civil servants, if those with whom they were intimately connected were to disregard all considerations of domestic economy? How would their comforts be promoted when on returning from their offices to their homes, they found their wives "quenching their familiar smiles with an austere regard of control," and giving them, instead of a mutton chop, a lecture on metaphysics. As to the value of the "conventionalities of society," he might invoke the personal testimony of the present Speaker, whom he now addressed not only with that respect and regard which his high official position exacted, and which his uniform kindness of manner had inspired, but with sentiments of sadness arising from the reflection that he was now probably addressing the last male occupant of the Chair. Lord Bacon had said that truth emerged more quickly from error than from confusion, and one of the most important means of saving society from utter confusion was the observance of those conventionalities which had been spoken of with, such contempt. He (Mr. Scourfield) was afraid that if the lady who might possibly succeed Mr. Speaker in that Chair, refused to recognize the conventional Rules which governed the proceedings and Business of the House, she would, in a very short time, find the House involved in such a state of chaos and confusion that she herself would be obliged to swear in a large body of able-bodied women as special constables to preserve something like order in the Assembly. Now, if he might venture to give advice to the ladies, he should recommend them to rely upon the natural attractions of their social position in society rather than upon the dreamy illusions of political power—on the proud positions which they were capable of attaining in English literature, as instanced by such names as Edgeworth, Austin, Martineau, and Mrs. Archer Eliot, rather than on the fickle and ephemeral notoriety of the public platform of politics and unwomanly declamation. If he ventured on any warning, he would use words not his own, but those of one of the most distinguished ladies that had ever adorned literature—namely, the incomparable Jane Austen, who, in one of her novels, said— Goldsmith tells us when lovely woman stoops to folly, she has nothing to do but to die; and when she stoops to be disagreeable, death is equally to be recommended as a clearer of ill-fame. Woman had now her home in the hearts and affections of all mankind. In her natural position, as the helpmate and comforter of man, she would ever find herself respected by all persons of refined taste and generous appreciations. He would conclude by quoting and applying the words of Burns— For a' that, and a' that, A man's a man for a' that. Now, notwithstanding the Darwinian theory as to the transmutation of species, and all the speeches made and resolutions passed at public meetings— For a' that, and a' that, A woman's a woman, for a' that; and he trusted that she would remain so to the end of time.

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.)


Sir, from the speech of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Scourfield) who has just spoken, it might be supposed that this was a Bill for the abolition of wives and mothers, instead of being what it really is, a Bill to confer on single women a voice in the selection of those who make our laws—laws by which women are equally affected as men. Before dealing with the main question raised by my hon. Friend's (Mr. Jacob Bright's) Bill, I would say something as to the assertion of my right hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Bouverie)—who is always daring in assertion—that the vast majority of women are opposed to it. Well, how is that shown? What evidence has he given in support of his sweeping assertion? We, in this House, decide just as Judges and juries do in Courts of Law, upon evidence; and the evidence in the present instance is this—that while Petitions in favour of the Bill have been received from all parts of the country, not one Petition has been presented against it. My hon. Friend the Member for Manchester has pointed to the 250,000 signatures in favour of his Bill, and referred to the total absence of signatures against it. Now, Sir, on which side does the balance of evidence incline? Surely not on the side of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kilmarnock. Can the right hon. Gentleman say that his own constituency are opposed to the principle involved in this proposal? As he seems not thoroughly acquainted with the sentiments of his own constituents upon this question, I will take the liberty of enlightening him thereon. Petitions were presented from Dumbarton, Rutherglen, Port Glasgow, and Kilmarnock in favour of the Bill, and the Town Council of Dumbarton adopted an unanimous Petition in the same spirit; and I may add that committees have been organized in Dumbarton and Rutherglen, of which the respective Provosts are secretaries. But the right hon. Gentleman objects to the Petitions with their 250,000 signatures, because they all seem to be framed in the same model. What he would desire to see would be an uncontrollable and spontaneous outcome of public feeling, expressed in bad English, as a proof of its genuineness. Why, Sir, we all know that in this, as in other organizations, there is a certain form of Petition adopted, as a means of precaution and of safety, by the promoters or supporters of the particular question at issue. In fact, that is a matter of course in the case of every systematized agitation. Now, against this mass of signatures, what have we?—the assertion of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen, that women are all opposed to the giving of the franchise to the woman who pays taxes, and fulfils various other duties of citizenship. Of course, no right hon. or hon. Gentleman would assert what they do not believe to be true; but their means of forming an accurate judgment may be limited, and therefore their individual assertions cannot outweigh the evidence on which we are able to rely. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kilmarnock has sought to alarm the House by describing the danger of allowing women to have a voice in public affairs, especially in such questions as those of peace and war—that were their influence felt in such grave questions, a feminine tone might be given to the policy of this country, which feminine tone would be perilous to its honour and independence—in fact, that women from their very nature would lean to a policy of cowardice at a time when the honour of the country most needed a bold and manly vindication. This is his assertion on the one hand; but he himself answers himself in a moment after by his quotation from The Fortnightly Review, in which women are represented as being led away by a passion for military glory, and that what really was to be apprehended was their military and combative spirit—at least, that was the impression the right hon. Gentleman sought to convey by his quotation, with which he utterly demolished his original proposition. One thing is clear—that his arguments were utterly inconsistent with, and therefore answered each other. But, Sir, what is the state of things at present? Are those who manage our affairs perfect? Are the affairs of this country never conducted in such a manner as to bring discredit upon its character for dignity and wisdom? Has there been, for instance, no blundering by "the lords of creation" in our foreign policy? Have we never seen our Ministers display at one time a senseless panic, and at another, a stupid bravado? Perhaps it would be well if the influence of women—even the dreaded feminine tone—could be made felt in the government of the country. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kilmarnock was not only illogical and inconsistent, but it was most unfair to the hon. Member for Manchester, inasmuch as he attributed to my hon. Friend the making of demands which are not contained in his Bill, and he then argues on an entirely false assumption of his own creation. All the Bill asks for is that the same franchise which widows and unmarried women now enjoy for other purposes—Poor Law, municipal, and educational—should be extended to them with reference to the return of Members to this House. No such demand as this has been made on the part of married women; and I have no hesitation in saying that if it had been made I should have voted against it, because it would not be right or prudent that political contention, or its possible cause, should be brought to the domestic hearth. There is then no question of the franchise for married women; and no just reason has been given why widows and spinsters who possess property and pay taxes should not enjoy and exercise it. The objection to this most moderate demand, which I regard as founded on reason, justice, and the strict principles of the Constitution, may be divided into two classes—those who speak in the spirit of the Troubadour of the 13th century, and those who speak in the spirit of the Grand Turk. The one would compliment woman out of her rights; the other would deny her those rights, on the most insulting pleas. The one would place woman on an imaginary pedestal, and there retain her for the worship of the male portion of the human race. According to them, she is a thing too delicate, too pure, too ethereal, to taint or tarnish by contact with the rude world—above all, by mixing in the riot and turmoil of a political contest; and therefore this dangerous gift of the franchise should be denied to her. Now let us deal with this matter in a rational manner, and not be carried away by high-sounding phrases, or by the descriptions of things which do not exist, or will not exist in this country. This objection to the polling-booth is the more important, as it was that most dwelt upon last year by the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, who, I may remark, has since the year before last advanced in opinion on this question. On the former occasion, as I understood the right hon. Gentleman, he regarded the proposal to give woman the franchise as something which, if granted, would imperil the foundations of society, whereas last year his objection was limited to allowing women to go themselves to the polling-place; and that if any mode could be devised by which their vote could be taken without submitting them to the danger or inconvenience of personal attendance, he would consent to their obtaining and exercising the franchise. But, Sir, what measure is now passing through this House? The Ballot Bill, which will become law at the end of the present Session. ["No, no!"] Well, certainly the Session after, and which will get rid of all legitimate objection as to the polling-booth. You talk of riot and tumult at elections. What is the first thing which your Ballot Bill does? It puts an end to nomination days; and thus, at one blow, you strike away the main source of riot and tumult, and with it one stock argument against the enfranchisement of women. Now, as to the polling under the system of the Ballot. It was my good fortune to witness the operation of the Ballot in Paris in the November of 1869, when, amongst the candidates of the extreme party, Monsieur Rochefort was elected. The balloting took place on Sunday and on Monday. On Sunday the voting was by no means so active as on Monday. On the Sunday comparatively few persons voted, because, as I was informed, the working classes were afraid of the ballot box being tampered with by the authorities. Can it possibly be imagined that anything of that kind would be done in this model country? Surely, such conduct must be altogether confined to the Celtic race, as the Anglo-Saxon would never dream of doing anything so unmanly. On the Monday, however, I went to five or six polling-places, some of them in the most democratic quarters. In one of these I remained more than half-an-hour, and during that time many persons, including several men en blouse, voted, and the whole proceeding was conducted with such order and regularity, such quiet and decorum, that if I were asked to say, on my honour as a gentleman—one having as true and exalted a respect for the delicacy and dignity of woman as any of those who oppose their just claims—would I consent that female members of my own family should take part in a similar proceeding, I should answer—"Certainly, I would," because there was nothing in what I saw that could in the slightest degree taint or tarnish the most delicate, the most sensitive, or the most ethereal of the sex. Then, we have the considerate objector, who says—"Oh, why take women from their domestic duties; why ask them to sacrifice their time for the public interest?" The obvious answer is—men do not sacrifice their interests, their duties, or their amusements to public affairs, and there is no necessity why they should do so; for even the most active politician can discharge his public duty thoroughly with a very small expenditure of time. One would suppose, from the manner in which this objection is urged, that my hon. Friend was by his Bill proposing to produce a constant crop of elections, to bloom like monthly roses. Elections are things of rare occurrence, which generally happen every three years; and the most conscientious and devoted of enfranchised women could easily discharge all her public obligations by the sacrifice of a few hours in the 12 months. But another and grave objection has been raised to-day by my hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Scourfield) in the interest of the over-worked Civil servant. He has drawn a dismal picture of the Civil servant returning to his home, wearied and jaded after his day's work, and instead of hearing the kettle singing joyfully on the hob, and his chop being nicely done, is treated by his wife to a lecture on metaphysics—or, instead of chops and tomato sauce, is regaled with chops and metaphysics. Such an argument as this, which would find its legitimate place in the pages of a comic album, or in a convivial speech, shows how desperately hard driven are hon. Gentlemen for anything like a reasonable ground of opposition to a plain and simple demand. Then you have objections based on the alleged inferiority of women. It is asserted that women—widows and spinsters—ought not to have the right of voting for Members of Parliament because of their being incapable of appreciating public questions and judging of public affairs. But, Sir, I venture to say there are not 10 Members of this House who have not, at one time or another, sought the influence of women to assist them in their election—aye, and who did not attribute to women a thorough knowledge of the questions then before the country. I can imagine the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock, upon finding the men coy, going to the women and asking them to induce their husbands to vote. I can imagine a case where the elector is thinking more of beer than of politics, or is perhaps calculating how he can sell his vote to the best advantage, and the wife says to the candidate—"John knows all about such matters, but we women know nothing of them;" and the candidate—possibly one who votes against giving women the franchise—saying—"You do know all about them, quite as well as any men; and don't mind what they say to the contrary;" and the wife replying—"Ah, Sir, but you Parliamentary gentlemen say we women are not fit to study political questions, or to mix in political matters. John, who is down in the public, knows all about them; we women do not—" [Mr. JAMES: What nonsense!] My hon. Friend below me has the courtesy to say—"What nonsense!" [Mr. JAMES: I did not.] I heard you. The hon. and learned Gentleman enjoys a monopoly of wisdom in this House. But, Sir, what is the abstruse or recondite question which a woman, as an elector, would be called on to decide?—what is this tremendously difficult question which a woman of ordinary intelligence would find it impossible to answer, but which men, even the stupidest of them, are capable of deciding off-hand? It is simply this—whether A. B. or C. D. is the more suitable candidate—whether this ambitious lawyer, or that great merchant, or that extensive landed proprietor, would be the most faithful and consistent and independent Member of Parliament? Surely, any woman of ordinary capacity, or ordinary quickness and penetration, is as capable of understanding that question fully as any ordinary man? But assume for a moment that women are not as competent to understand questions of public interest, whose fault is that? Is it the fault of nature, or of our existing system? We, in our self-complacency, attribute to an original defect in the constitution of woman, what is solely the result of a deficiency of education and training; but give women the same teaching as you secure to men, submit their minds to the same training, and in a short time you will find that the natural inferiority of woman is purely imaginary, and that they are as well fitted for political rights and privileges as men. What, Sir, is the qualification for the franchise—that great boon which you cannot venture to entrust to women? Is it virtue; is it intelligence; is it knowledge; is it sobriety; is it common decency; is it character; is it the possession of any single moral quality? No, the possession of the franchise does not depend upon any of these; for the rudest, and most brutal, and most profligate, and most drunken possess the franchise. Nay, the criminal who has perpetrated some atrocious offence, and has expiated his guilt by punishment—he may exercise the franchise; but the wise, gifted, good, moral woman is branded with political incapacity. What, then, is the qualification which opens the doors of the Constitution to the man, and shuts them in the face of the woman? The mere occupation of a house, or the possession of a certain amount of property. It has been argued that it is the house which has the franchise—that the franchise is given to the house. If so, why make a distinction between the house occupied by a woman and that occupied by a man? Why refuse the vote to the one, while you give it to the other? Where is the reason in that? But, says the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kilmarnock, if we give the franchise to women they will out-vote and swamp the men. Let us see if there be the very faintest approach to probability in this apprehension. My hon. Friend the Member for Manchester does not propose that all women, nor anything like all women, shall have a vote; he only asks that the minority shall be enfranchised, and those the occupiers of houses. That enfranchisement will not in any way interfere with the ordinary operations of nature; it will not destroy those mystic influences which attract the sexes towards each other; it will not prevent marriage and giving in marriage; all that will go on as well after the passing of the Bill as it does now; and thus the vast majority of women will not be entitled to vote, simply because they are married, and not single. Therefore, my right hon. Friend will see that the votes of the women cannot by any possibility swamp those of the men. We are told by the same authority that only the "failures in life" demand the franchise; that all the intellectual and highly cultivated women object to it; and that Miss Austen was opposed to the idea of such a concession. If it be true that the failures alone demand the franchise, then all I can say is this—the failures have awfully increased of late, for they may now be reckoned by tens of thousands. As to Miss Austen, she wrote good works some half-century since; but if that lady were now alive, would she not be found with the women of this day who are her equals, if not her superiors, in intellect and in cultivation? Among those failures who are bent on obtaining this right for their sex, are many of our deepest thinkers and our most brilliant writers; are women who, as mothers and heads of families, are models of domestic excellence—are women whom this pursuit does not divest of the delicacy and sensitiveness which are quite compatible with vigour of mind and energy of purpose. Ah, but women are too emotional—too much women, and too little men—they have the fatal defect of being illogical! Now, Sir, there is in this world—I shall not say in this House—a tendency to exalt logic at the expense of every other quality. I, for one, am no believer in the omnipotence of logic. A man may chop logic, and dexterously double up his opponent in argument; but if he be wanting in higher and better gifts, he indeed is a failure—at least a man of this kind makes no great mark on the age in which he lives—none whatever on posterity. Men of this kind fail—fail to lead and influence men, because they cannot understand man; they cannot sympathize with humanity, because they are ignorant of the springs and sympathies by which men are moved and men are governed. I am not afraid of seeing woman's influence more directly felt in this Assembly, and reflected in its Legislature. A great statesman is really great, because he combines in his nature something of the essential characteristic of woman—her generosity, her enthusiasm, her unselfishness, and her large sympathies. When a statesman of this stamp undertakes to redress a great wrong, or grant a great and lasting boon, he does so from strong conviction and with all his heart; and the service and the gift are done and given with such manifest sincerity and earnestness of intention, that they are acknowledged and received with a nation's gratitude; and that statesman, though at times he may fail or blunder, is sure to leave behind him a name of honour and a memory of affection. There are other men with nothing of the true woman in their nature, cold of heart and hard of head, who, if they redress a wrong or grant a boon, are impelled thereto by no generous impulse, by no large sympathy either for a class or for mankind, but whose chief motive is to retain or resume the possession of place and power. There is little gratitude for what they may do or give, and they leave no enduring memory behind them. Sir, if we had more of the influence of women in this House, it would be felt in our laws, which would be more tender to infirmity, more compassionate to suffering, more considerate to poverty, more replete with the spirit of a large and generous humanity. Sir, I support the Bill with all my heart, because I believe its passing would infuse into politics a higher tone and feeling than that which at present exists, and because I regard the demand which it makes as alike logical and constitutional.


Sir, a demand for enfranchisement, advanced by any body of our fellow-subjects, deserves—I should rather say, requires—the attention of this House. And when such a demand has attained the proportions of the present; when it is supported by an influential organization, and has been made the subject of a systematic agitation from one end of the country to the other, it is more than ever necessary that the grounds upon which it rests should be fairly examined and fully understood, and that its supporters should be treated with that consideration which is due to their perseverance, as well as to their evident earnestness and honesty of purpose. Therefore, Sir, in the few remarks which I wish to address to the House, I shall endeavour to avoid everything except that serious argument which the advocates of this Bill have a right to expect. They have, however, a right to expect something more. This is not a question upon which our words ought to be enigmatical or of doubtful import. If we entertain vital and fundamental objections to this proposal, it is due to its promoters—it is due to ourselves—it is due to the House —that we should state those objections clearly, fairly, and boldly, and not by complimentary phrases or equivocal utterances give encouragement to hopes, the realization of which we intend, if possible, to prevent by our votes. And now, Sir, taking this Bill in my hand, I find its title to be that of "A Bill to remove the Electoral Disabilities of Women." I should rather describe it as "A Bill to add to the Duties, the Burdens, the Responsibilities of Women;" or, if I looked at it from another point of view, I should be inclined to call it "A Bill to alter and amend the Laws of Creation, and to re-distribute that arrangement of Duties between the two Sexes which has hitherto existed, and which has worked with tolerable harmony since the world began." And the principal reason why I trouble the House to-day is, because I desire to enter my protest against such a re-distribution, which, on my conscience, I believe, would result in the infliction of a grievous injury upon the weaker sex, under the semblance—and, no doubt, with the full intention—of conferring upon them a benefit. Now, Sir, in grappling with this question, I am confronted at the outset with an argument to which I desire to direct attention. The very manliness of man's nature is appealed to against our opposition. It is said—"You are strong, and those who seek enfranchisement at your hands are weak; moreover, you, being in possession of rights from which you carefully exclude the other sex, are about to sit in judgement upon your own case; you have assumed to yourselves the right to deal with, and to settle, questions in which woman has an equal interest with man, and, therefore, it is for you to show by what right, moral or natural, you justify your exclusion of the other sex. And, if you fail to show such right clearly and beyond doubt, your sense of justice, your honour—nay, your very manliness and chivalry are all concerned in your speedy abandonment of an untenable position and in the immediate removal of these unjust disabilities." Sir, there is at least something touching in such an appeal to our feelings. No man likes to be told, or to be made to feel, that he is one of a body of tyrants who are keeping others—and those, too, weaker than himself—from rights, which are fairly theirs; and we must all feel at the first blush that, if we could reconcile it to our sense of duty, it would be both pleasant and graceful to yield forthwith to these demands, and to pass the Bill now before the House without further delay. But in dealing with such a question as this, we are bound to consider more than the first impressions which may be produced by such an appeal. We are bound to consider how it is that we occupy this position of exclusive possession of political rights; and, moreover, we require to be shown by good and conclusive reasoning, that our yielding a share of these rights to woman—involving as it would the disturbance of those relations between the two sexes which have hitherto existed—would be fraught with advantage to those on whose behalf it is demanded, and would tend to the general benefit of the community at large. And here arises the question at once—how comes it that this state of things ever existed? How did it ever happen that men stood in their present position in the government of public affairs and the transaction of the political duties of the worid? Did the two sexes start upon equal terms at the beginning of the world?—equal in strength, equal in the character of their intellectual powers, alike fit for the discharge of the same social and political duties? Was it, then, by an unjust usurpation that from the very first man obtained the political status which to this day he occupies to the exclusion of woman? Has the whole experience of the world been faulty from the first? Has the teaching of every religion which has ever obtained a hold upon the minds of nations been mistaken in the position which it has assigned to woman? Has a cruel usurpation been going on; has a grinding tyranny endured ever since the creation of the world; and has it been reserved for the enlightenment of the 19th century to discover its real character—to sweep away the scandal of ages—to repair the slights and redress the wrongs of woman, and to place her in the position of which she has been for so many centuries deprived by the greed, the ambition, the rapacity of man? Sir, we are to-day reviewing the social relations of mankind since the beginning of the world, and it is necessary to ask such questions. I can conceive an answer to them, although I suggest it with diffidence. There are still some persons bold enough —or timid enough, as it may be thought—to prefer the experience of ages and the universal assent of the world up to this time, even to the enlightened theories of modern philosophy. And such people, I imagine, would answer somewhat after this fashion—"At the first creation of the world a Higher Power than that of Kings and Parliaments decreed and constituted organic differences between the two sexes which cannot be affected by human legislation, and the same Power assigned to each sex special functions and special duties for which each was specially qualified." Sir, in the truth or falsehood of that proposition really lies the gist of the whole question. For if each sex, by its nature, its constitution, its organization, is equally fitted for the performance of the same functions and duties, then the justice of your Bill is undeniable, and our opposition is unfair and unreasonable. But if the natural difference between the sexes gives to and takes from each sex certain qualifications for certain duties, then, that natural difference must be taken into account in the consideration of any such question as the present, which involves the bestowal of certain rights—or rather, I should say, the imposition upon one sex of certain duties and obligations from which it has hitherto been by common consent exempt. Now, can it possibly be denied that this natural difference exists, and that, in consequence, there are many callings and occupations suited to one sex and not to the other—many duties for the performance of which one sex is unfit and incapable, but for which the other is specially qualified? And, taking this into account, when we are asked to re-consider and revise the apportionment of duties between the sexes, it behoves us to take especial care lest, misled by false sentiment and misplaced sympathy, in the attempt to extend woman's rights, we impose upon her duties and burdens which she would find intolerable. Sir, I know I shall be told that I am travelling beyond the limits of this Bill, which proposes only an extension of existing rights. ["Hear, hear!"] My hon. Friend behind me cheers that view of the case; but if he will consider the matter a little more attentively, he will discover that by this Bill a door will be opened which it will afterwards be difficult to shut. Equal rights involve equal obligations, and I can only argue upon this Bill as one, the passing of which must result in the eventual, if not the immediate, granting to woman of the right—and, mind you, with the right, the obligation—to perform every public duty now performed by man. I employ the arguments of the promoters of the Bill themselves. They say—"You make women pay taxes; you give them votes in vestries, in municipal elections, in the election of school boards; why do you stop short and deny them the Parliamentary franchise?" I say that that argument must be carried further, and that if it is illogical and unreasonable to make a standing-point where we now make it, it is equally unreasonable and illogical to make any standing-point at all, short of perfect equality between the two sexes. And I say, moreover, that if you who use these arguments are not prepared to give that perfect equality, the strength of your argument breaks down, you abandon your principle, and it is for you to show how any standing-point, short of that which would entail upon woman the performance of every duty now performed by man, can be more valid or more tenable than that upon which we rest to-day. You say—"Give women votes for the election of Members of Parliament, because you have already given them votes for the election of school boards." But may it not be urged with equal force, that since you have permitted women to be elected members of school boards you ought also to permit them to be elected Members of Parliament? I hardly know, from the contents of this Bill and the speeches of its promoters, whether this result is or is not contemplated by the authors of the measure. If so, I think I need hardly point out the difficulties that would arise, and how it would assuredly be discovered that the legislative duties which are discharged by men with tolerable facility would be burdensome beyond measure and beyond their strength in the case of women. Perfect equality in this case, although theoretically beautiful, would be practically impossible; because, as soon as the theory became practice, physical conditions would have to be taken into account, and the difference of constitution between the sexes would render it positive inequality. But, if men and women ought to be equal in every re- spect, how do you defend the exclusion of married women from participation in electoral privileges? I gather this to be the intention of the Bill, so far as I can understand the speeches delivered in its favour, although this point also is involved in some obscurity. But are married women to be placed at this disadvantage? Surely you will not allow that a married woman is under the control of her husband? That would be a very old-fashioned notion, and one, moreover, which would imply recognition of a quasi-inferiority of sex, which cuts away from under your feet the whole ground of your argument. Of course, it will be said that a vote is given upon considerations of property, and that a woman loses her individuality, and becomes, as it were, merged in her husband upon her marriage. But that is not a complete answer. Why should a woman be punished upon her marriage by being deprived of her vote? Is marriage a crime? If not, why clog it with a disability? And see, in what a position the passing of this Bill will place unmarried but marriageable women! A marriageable woman, whom you have taught to value the franchise as a great privilege, will have seriously to consider whether her duty to her country will allow her to enter into matrimonial bonds; and the inconvenience may become so general and serious that it may have to be considered whether it will not be desirable to establish by law, and socially to recognize, some engagement of a less disfranchising character. But what are these married women whom you would exclude from the franchise? Sir, they are the model women of England. We are all proud of our countrywomen; but when we express that pride, of what class is it that we especially think? I have a great respect for those talented ladies, estimable in every way, who go about the country as lecturers; but I should not take them as my model women; neither should I take ladies who have arrived at a certain age without falling into any matrimonial entanglement. When I speak of the women of England, I have in my mind those young, pure-minded girls, who are the light and life of their homes; who develop into the wives and mothers of England; who bring up England's children in the fear of God and in the love of all that is pure and good; who shed a hallowing influence over the families among whom their lot is cast, and bless the homes of which they are the pride and comfort. And that is the class whom your Bill would exclude from the franchise! You tell us that an unenfranchised class of men stands in an inferior position to those who have the franchise—you tell us that the whole sex of woman is degraded and held in less respect by man-kind because disenfranchised—and in the same breath, you propose by your legislation to place in an inferior position in comparison with their fellow-women, that class which, by universal admission, are pre-eminently fulfilling woman's mission upon earth, and who, by their nurture and education of our children, are more than any other class moulding our national character. But, Sir, it is said that women desire to have the franchise, and the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Jacob Bright) points with triumph to the Petitions which have been presented in favour of his Bill. I will venture upon no rash assertions upon this matter, but will state solely what I believe to be facts. We are told that to these Petitions are attached some 240,000 or 250,000 signatures. I do not know how many of these are the signatures of women—possibly one-half—but, when we consider that by the Census of last year it was shown that in England alone there are more than 11,000,000 women, and in the United Kingdom upwards of 16,000,000, this number is no very overwhelming proof of the unanimous concurrence of women in the objects of this Bill. Moreover, it must be considered that when amiable and talented ladies of high position hold meetings throughout the country, and ask for signatures to Petitions in support of these views, the natural politeness of mankind is brought into play, and many people will sign out of compliment, who either care very little about the matter, or who do so in the full confidence that Parliament will never pass such a measure, and that their signatures will do no harm. But it is asked why there are no Petitions against the Bill? I think there is a reason for that also. My clients—for it is in behalf of the bulk of the women of England that I am arguing—have an indisposition to mix themselves up in politics, or to step out of what they consider their natural sphere. They are not fond either of agitating or signing Petitions. And, beyond that, having seen how Parliament has already met this question, and the decisive majority against last year's Bill, they are content to remain quiet, and to rely upon the calm judgment and good sense of Parliament to reject it again. No one can, of course, pronounce positively as to the feelings of women upon such matters; but I confidently appeal to the personal experience of every Gentleman who hears me—and I am sure it will not differ widely from mine—namely, that the opinions we hear expressed by women upon this subject are, in a very great proportion indeed, decidedly opposed to the provisions of this Bill. Sir, I hope that in making these remarks, I am not saying or implying anything which can fairly be termed unkind or disrespectful to those who take a contrary view. Such, indeed, is far from my intention. It is in the interest of the women of England that I oppose this Bill. I am against "woman's rights," because I wish to maintain woman's privileges, and I am confident that the granting of the one would seriously imperil the other. Sir, in the course of last year's debate upon this subject, I remember that the hon. Member for Manchester was pleased to refer somewhat contemptuously to what he called the "pedestal" or "pinnacle" argument. And, yet, I think there is something in that argument which cannot be dismissed with a sneer. Those who think with me, when they speak of placing women as it were upon a pedestal, attach a real and tangible meaning to our words. We regard woman as something to admire, to reverence, to love; and, while we would share with her the happiness of life, we would shield her, as far as possible, from its harder and sterner duties. You point to the many instances of cruelty und oppression on the part of men against women. No doubt, there are but too many such instances, but I do not know what cure this Bill would provide. These outrages are perpetrated by brutes unworthy of the name of man; and, indeed, the very scorn, the indignation, the disgust which they excite in the breast of every man worthy of the name, go far to prove the real high and tender estimation in which woman is held by the vast majority of mankind. Sir, to my mind woman is to-day, as much as she ever was in the history of the world, an object for the devotion and chivalry of man. If I might venture upon a poetical image in this House, I would say that she is the silver lining which lights the cloud of man's existence; she softens the asperities of his nature; she elevates the enjoyments, as she assuages the miseries, of his being; she purifies his life here, and, perchance, renders him in some sort more fit for the Heaven for which he hopes hereafter! It is this view of the subject which you deride as the "pedestal argument;" but it will outlive both your derision and your theories. You may have on your side learned professors and enlightened philosophers of the modern school, but we also are not without our allies. We have the experience of ages; we have the common practice of the world since its creation; we have the teaching of Churches—aye, and I believe we have the good, practical common sense of the vast majority of English men and English women. We, then, will not be parties to placing woman in an entirely false position; we will not be parties to dragging her down into the arena of our every-day toil and strife; we will not inflict upon her additional unnecessary burdens and obligations; and it is because we believe that compliance with the demands embodied in your Bill would bring about such a result, because we believe that compliance with those demands would be fraught with evil to the other sex, and would be subversive of social relations which it would be a crime and a folly to disturb—that, whilst we admit the purity of your motives and the honesty of your intentions, we feel compelled to oppose to this measure a respectful but a determined resistance.


said, the Bill itself was unexceptionable and plausible enough, simply asking, as it did, that women who had property should be allowed to vote; and if he were not thoroughly persuaded that it was only a step towards a much larger measure he should have been prepared to support it. For instance, the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Jacob Bright) did not hesitate to say that women ought to be admitted into the medical and legal professions; but if they were permitted to do do so, it would be necessary to pass an Act for the abolition of flirtation. It was, therefore, of great importance that the House should consider what might be the consequences of a Bill of this kind, since, as had just been said, the next demand might be that women should be allowed to vote for Members of Parliament, and then seek election as Members themselves. If, as an hon. Member had stated, there were nearly a million more women than men, in what position would the men be if legislative power were extended to women? In that contingency, perhaps, the present Representatives of the people would have to apply for admission to the "Gentlemen's Gallery." He remembered an anecdote to the effect that when the Bank of England was founded, one of the regulations provided that no Scotchman should be a member of the Direction, the reason assigned being that if one Scotchman became a Director all the other Directors would soon be Scotchmen; and he believed that if votes were given to the women of England the men would be left at home to rock the cradles and wheel about the perambulators. In short, coupling the Bill with the pamphlets written by women, which were on the tables of all hon. Members, it was clear that this measure was but the commencement of other changes, which would amount to a revolution. He was, moreover, certain that instead of effecting any reform, the measure would destroy the comfort of every home in the country, and eventually undermine the Constitution itself.


said, that although he had supported the Bill in previous Sessions, he intended to vote against it on the present occasion, and he should state, in a very few words, his reason for doing so. He did not attach much weight to the argument that the Bill would unsex women; but there was an argument which would have more weight in the division than prominence in the debate—namely, that to give votes to women would be a great Conservative gain, for he believed Thackeray was right when he said that every woman was a Tory at heart. However, he should not be influenced even by that argument, though in the present state of parties the Liberals could ill afford to give any advantage to their opponents; nor by the additional one, that the ladies would be sure to vote for the best-looking candidates—an argument which, no doubt, weighed with the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Maguire) and other hon. Gentlemen possessed of similar personal advantages. What had influenced him on the subject was, that in the course of four years he had only met with four women who wished for the franchise, or who would exercise it if it were granted to them; and he wished to put this experience against the number of Petitions which had been presented in favour of the Bill. He was convinced that Parliament ought not to legislate on a mere abstract principle, for men could not live by logic alone. It was undoubtedly a fact that English women did not want to have the franchise, and even if this were a woman's question, he had a right to ask who the women were that desired this change, and for what reason? The Bill was advocated only by a small knot of earnest women, who had been brooding over real or imaginary wrongs for so long a period that they were unable to regard any question from any other point of view. Such were the women who originated and sustained the miserable agitation for the repeal of the Contagious Diseases Acts—an agitation which assumed such a form, that it was a disgrace to the country, as it flooded gentlemen's breakfast tables with abominable literature, not addressed to themselves only, but also to their wives and daughters. No doubt, there were other women who desired the change, but they were all women of one idea, who had worked themselves into the belief—a most erroneous one, as he believed—that that House, as at present elected, was disposed to ignore the just claims of women. If the franchise were given to these women there would be a new party in the House. There would then be a women's party—a Home Rule party in a new sense of the word, and there would be not merely war of opinions, or of races, or of creeds, but likewise a war of sexes. If he could believe that a large portion of his countrywomen desired this change, on national grounds and for national purposes, he would give to their application a willing and a patient hearing; but he could not consent to make a revolution for the sake of a handful of fanatics.


said, he should support the second reading of the Bill. All persons entitled by property to the franchise should be allowed to vote, unless they were disqualified by want of intel- ligence. Women now in England voted at municipal elections, voted for Poor Law Guardians, for churchwardens, voted as members of the great public companies, voted at the election of the school boards, and were themselves among the most efficient members of the school boards. Women voted as proprietors of Bank of England Stock, and formerly voted as proprietors of India Stock. The question was virtually conceded when women were allowed to vote at the school board elections and municipal elections. In Italy women were allowed to exercise the franchise, on the condition that they would exercise it through a deputy. Was there any reason for their exclusion from Parliamentary elections? The women who had the qualifications to entitle them to the franchise were better educated, more quiet, and sober in judgment than the average of Parliamentary electors. Women, physically weaker by nature and less favoured by law, had to fight the battle of life in the face of obstacles more formidable than those which beset the paths of men. And if in the pursuits of life open to women, women were earning the bread of independence, it was by the industry, self-denial, perseverance, and good conduct, which were the noblest features of national character. In the progress of society in the free industrial life of England, the number of independent women were increasing every day, supporting themselves as teachers, writers, painters, workers in every trade, artists in every art. Why, then, should the women voters—themselves as a class the best educated and best conducted amongst those entitled to the franchise—be excluded, upon the illogical argument that half of the human race were by nature, and ought by law, to be deprived of political privileges? They admitted representation ought to be co-extensive with direct taxation. Women were directly taxed. All their recent Parliamentary reforms were founded on the principle that the suffrage was needed by large classes of individuals for self-protection. Was it necessary to give the instance of Edinburgh University? There, a few women of great ability desired to be instructed as medical practitioners—desired to learn the practice of those arts of medicine and surgery which every lady cultivated in the days of chivalry; but Government and Parliament were silent whilst those ladies fought their battle alone against a powerful, first-class professional trades union. Women, therefore, asked for the Parliamentary suffrage, because they had a right to have their best interests politically represented, and because they paid in common with men, the taxes of the State, and they believed they had a constitutional right slightly to influence the making of the laws which they must obey. They had to meet, then, the prominent arguments against women's suffrage. They were of two classes, partly selfish and partly sentimental. It was said women ought to be placed on too high a pedestal to be dragged through the mire of a contested election. Politics involved trouble, and there were many most unpleasant things connected with politics—the riot on the nomination, the riot on the polling day—but the Ballot would moderate the excitement of the election. They disliked the nomination day themselves, and it would be abolished. And those who said it was unfeminine for a woman to give a public vote should remember the unpleasant occupations to which women had been allowed to devote themselves. Had not women been allowed to work in mines? Did they not brave all weathers as stewardesses on ocean steam vessels? Were they not left all menial work inside and outside the house—the sale of fish from door to door, and internal domestic slavery? Then, it was said women had sufficient power. A man's wife was very often the real prompter of what he did in the world, either foolishly or wisely. She was not accountable for the one, and got little credit to the other. Again, it was said disunion in families would be caused by the domestic head of the family no longer being allowed to be the political head, but it was not proposed to give the franchise to married women. The Bill only gave the franchise to spinsters and widows, and they left the question who was the head of the house to be decided in the ordinary manner. He passed over the arguments that a women had not a logical mind. Were they to go into the question who was able to follow in a logical argument? Should women be allowed a voice in the legal question as to who should have the custody of children? Should women be allowed to vote on the question of a free breakfast table, and questions as to the property of married women? Then there was the historical question. In the Middle Ages woman was not disqualified from any of the offices incident to the tenure of real property. She might be the Returning Officer at an election, Sheriff of a county, or the warden of a castle. The exclusion from the franchise in one remarkable way worked a grievous injustice on some estates. Widows were evicted from the farms their husbands cultivated, because the political influence would be diminished if the vote were lost. The last adverse argument to which he would refer was the purely sentimental argument. The ideal of some was that home should be adorned by beings charming and submissive, having no will of their own, not giving the slightest trouble. The opinions of the Eastern Patriarch were cited as a rule for life in Western Europe in the 19th century. Some persons might desire to imitate the wisdom of Solomon, but society had completely changed. They did not accept the antiquated idea of the subjection or slavery of women in the Patriarchal times as their rule of conduct. They did not accept either Patriarchal, or Spartan, or Athenian, or Roman ideas on the subject. In all those there was something to be imitated, far more to be avoided. In old times representative government did not exist, and most women shared the common lot of slavery. They did not recognize the dogmas of the physical subjection of women or her moral inferiority. Even in this agitation women had displayed the eloquence with which they were by nature gifted. Let equal political rights be given to those who contributed not the least to the happiness and prosperity of the Empire.


said, he regarded the Bill as belonging to the peculiarly dangerous class of those which were professedly moderate in their apparent object, while the arguments on which they were supported took a much wider scope. Ostensibly a Bill for the enfranchisement of the spinsters and widows with a stake in the country, it was advocated on the ground of the wrongs of women without property, especially of married women. It would be idle, therefore, to suppose that the agitation for women's rights would be stayed by the success of this measure; for the most bitter agitations had generally small and apparently innocent beginnings, though they might end in a blazing capital. In arguing the question he declined to consider its possible bearings on the balance of parties, although politics, according to some hon. Members on both sides of the House, consisted in the judicious or injudicious counting of votes, and in calculating the chances of the next General Election. Hence, some were urged to vote for the Bill on the ground that women were naturally Conservatives. Whether that was the case he did not know, but he was sure that the very qualities which made women the solace of our homes, the very qualities which gave them their real power, unfitted them for the hard fight of politics. It was very well in families that hard, calculating, perhaps mercenary man should be influenced by woman's sympathy and consolation. It was well that in a large portion of humankind the heart should rule the head, but to give that portion an independent and directly appreciable control of politics would lead to a reckless expenditure on philanthrophic schemes and to wars for ideas. A Parliament in which woman's influence prevailed would be impulsively ready to risk claims and back up assertions which would be ever on the verge of culminating in bloodshed for the sake of honour and mistaken chivalry. His right hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Bouverie) had been charged with arguing that women's votes would lead to a cowardly policy. He understood him to have said the contrary, and with that view he had expressed his agreement. As to the call for this perilous change, a few ladies might condescend to mingle in the fray of politics, but he did not believe women in general would so unsex themselves, while overflowing meetings in St. George's Hall could not alter the limits which God had placed between the sexes. The hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Maguire) had drawn a lively picture of women's influence in elections, and had proved, what no one doubted, how persuasive a tongue he brought with him among the ladies. But his lively pictures of electioneering through the women had all reference to our present system of masculine voting. Let the House conceive, if it could, how the process would be intensified if the women got direct votes. If an elector's wife could already be so influential, what would be the case if Biddy O'Grady were herself the elector, and brought Mary Shaughnessy with her to the poll? With all the hon. Gentleman's eloquence and popularity, he would find himself the director of an enormous power, if he could sway the suffrages of the fair daughters of Erin, within sound of The bells of Shandon, Which sound so grand on The pleasant waters of the Lee. How far such a power would, if it succeeded, tend to the furtherance of a stable and logical policy, he (Mr. Beresford Hope) left the House to judge. The hon. and learned Member for Tipperary (Mr. Heron) had urged that the exclusion of women from the franchise had deprived them of the tenancy of farms; well, no one could more strongly repudiate than himself importing political combinations into the business relations of landlord and tenant, but that argument had no relevancy, unless it implied that the tenant's vote was the property of the landlord. Now, as he objected to such undue influence, whether exercised by landlords or trades unions, he could not, like the hon. and learned Member, support this Bill as a process of keeping up women-tenants, with the intention of their being women-voters also, voting in the sense of their landlords. He presumed that advocates of the Ballot wished by means of this Bill to ascertain whether secrecy could be preserved if the fairer portion of the community were allowed votes. Under the Ballot it was clear that married women ought not to be treated exceptionally. The argument that their votes would be influenced by their husbands could not be urged by advocates of the Ballot, for on their own showing the votes would be secret, and would, therefore, be free from the husband's influence. Either the Ballot was the sham he had always believed it to be, or married as well as unmarried women ought to be entrusted with the franchise. Another objection to the Bill was that it would encourage the manufacture of faggot-votes, for by the easy process of giving a woman a rent-charge a county vote could be created. Considering the trickery which prevailed and which would always prevail in elections, it was obvious that the production of faggot-votes would be increased if unmarried women could be employed as the medium of the manufacture. The natural courtesy with which, as he hoped, we should always treat women, would cheek the rough and ready comments with which a flagrant creation of such faggot-votes was now met. The agents would see their opportunity and stuff their faggots with women; and so the constituencies would be extended and denaturalized to an extent of which hon. Members had little forethought. As to women's votes in municipal and school-board elections, the municipal franchise was extended to them by a Bill which slipped through the House in the small hours of the night; and though in the case of the school boards the thing was done deliberately, it must be remembered that these local bodies had limited the definite objects for which they existed, whereas Parliament was vested with the immeasurable Government of the Empire and with questions of peace and war over the world. If women enjoyed the Parliamentary suffrage, they surely ought to serve on juries, a duty from which many of the other sex would gladly be relieved. He opposed the Bill as the offspring of a narrow, fictitious, and noisy agitation.


This is a question which appeals to the judicial faculties of the House, and I certainly am not disposed to embark upon the large and sentimental questions which have been imported into the discussion of it. I trust the House will allow me to state why I, regarding the matter from a legal point of view, am about to support the second reading of the Bill. The Bill recommends itself to me because it asserts a principle, not an abstract principle, but a practical and correct principle, based upon a matter of fact. The principle asserted by the Bill I take to be this—that the women whom it proposes to enfranchise are, as a matter of fact, at least as much entitled to the exercise of the franchise it confers upon them as the men who are now to exercise it. I do not mean to embark upon a discussion of the abstract question of the rights of women, I will confine myself to the question before the House, and I think there are substantial reasons why, upon the simple issue before us, the verdict of the House should be given in favour of the second reading. Now, it seems to me that upon the question as to whether women are disabled by their sex from political rights, it is difficult for us Eng- lishmen under the English Constitution to return a negative answer. We live under a female Sovereign, upon whose character and whose reign it would not be becoming to say a word; but we live also in a country whose history has been distinguished by two reigns as remarkable in intellect and art, in politics and war, as any on the long roll of English Monarchs, and those two reigns were the reigns of female Sovereigns. I of course refer to Queen Elizabeth and Queen Anne. And upon the authority of others far more competent to speak to this matter than myself, I am able to say that at this moment if you go to India and the East, and if you find any native State peculiarly well governed in an enlightened way, and governed strongly, energetically, and sensibly, you will, as a general rule, find that State to be under female domination. If in one or two instances, then, it be true that the Asiatic woman is fit for the exercise of the highest political functions under circumstances where education, religion, the popular feeling of the country, and every other condition is unfavourable to the development of the intellectual capacity of the sex, that is an answer to any argument derived from the nature of woman, simply as woman, against her being entrusted with the discharge of other lesser political functions. I do not want to overstate the argument in the least, so that I would not assert that all women are, in matters of intellect and political capacity, equal to all men. I do not mean to say that any women that ever lived are equal to some men of former times. I do not think that to be true, and I do not argue it; but I do say that, as far as I am competent to judge, there are large classes of educated women in this country to whom you deny the franchise, who are at least as fit for the exercise of it as uneducated men, and large classes of men to whom we already give it. This being a question of fairness and justice, I will not be deterred from giving a vote which I think to be just, by jokes and arguments which my hon. Friend will forgive me for saying, are addressed rather to the prejudices and the sentiments of the House than to its reason and sense of justice. Now, Sir, let me give you an illustration of this. I have already mentioned the two great and distinguished female Sovereigns of England. It may be said with regard to the reign of Elizabeth that she was one of the few great women of the world, that there are few such, and that it would be unfair to argue from an exception. I grant it, and I pass by Queen Elizabeth. But take the case of Queen Anne. I take it, as far as I know history, that Queen Anne was a person of exceedingly ordinary capacity. I do not mean to say, therefore, that she was equal to Edward I., or Henry VII., or William III.; but I do say that Queen Anne was as fit to sit on the Throne of England as George I. And I say that she was a great deal more fit to sit on the Throne than George IV. If that be so, it seems to me we have no right to make a sort of compromise with justice, and to say that because we give to women the highest of all political functions to discharge, we can deny her as woman the exercise of any others. But I will not hesitate to say that, passing from the question of fitness of women, I vote for this Bill for another reason. I have perfect faith, and I say it sincerely in the wisdom and justice of Parliament; and I believe that when measures are shown to be unwise and unjust, and when laws which are shown to be unjust are brought before Parliament, Parliament will reject those measures, and will alter those laws. I can scarcely believe that if the House of Commons was as much aware, as every lawyer is aware, of the state of the law of England as regards the property of women, even still and after the very recent humane improvements in it, it would hesitate to say it was more worthy of a barbarian than of a civilized State. If that be so, I do not think the wisdom of Parliament will be darkened, nor the justice of Parliament slackened, because those who appeal to that wisdom are entitled to be heard by reason of the possession of something like political power when they come forward to ask for justice. I believe fully that after a certain number of years the law, which I regard in many respects as wholly indefensible, will be altered. As it is I believe the sense of justice on the part of the men, if they are once aroused to it and convinced of the injustice, will in time bring about the reform needed; but I believe this reform will not be brought about so fast as it would if we put into the hands of those who suffer from this injustice some share of political power. Therefore, Sir, while I admit I do not question the justice of Parliament or the right intentions of hon. Members, I submit that the constitutional means of remedying injustice is by influencing Members of Parliament in a constitutional way. Now, what is the objection to empowering women to vote? It cannot be said that it is lack of education. It cannot be put upon anything apart from a question of sex. It is said they are unfit for the exercise of this privilege because they are women, not because if they were not women they would be unfit, but they are unfit because they are women. To tell me you are to vote against this Bill because you do not think women as women are entitled to be enfranchised may be your opinion, but it is no argument. It is not perhaps your fault that you cannot advance a better reason; you may have difficulty in advancing a practical argument, and you cannot offer any evidence in support of your statement that women as women are unfit to exercise the Parliamentary franchise. The only evidence we have upon that subject tells against you. You have entrusted women with quasi-political duties. You have given them a voice in parochial and municipal affairs, and their proceedings have led to a satisfactory result. They can now vote in municipal elections but not in Parliamentary. It is not necessary for me to see, in order to assure myself that they may be fit for exercising the franchise—to vote for a Member of Parliament—that they should be also, if the question arises, fit to sit in Parliament. My answer to that question, if put now, is that, in my opinion, they are not fit; but it is unfair to say you are not to exercise the privilege for which you are fitted, because some years hence you may ask to be admitted to a privilege for which you are not fitted. I am content to ask—Are women in my judgment fit for the privilege they now ask you to give them? My answer is that they are. You are no more flying in the face of nature by allowing a woman having property to vote for a Member of Parliament than flying in the face of nature to allow a woman to vote for a town councillor or a member of a school board. It will be time enough to consider whether women are fit for other positions than this they now ask to be placed in when they make a new demand. At present we have to decide only this question, and it is absurd to endeavour to influence the decision by issues which may never be submitted to the House. We have been warned too. One hon. Member has recommended us to be careful lest this measure which has been introduced as independent of party, should tell against us as a party. I do not know whether women are Conservative or not. At any rate, I believe their tendency in that direction to be greatly exaggerated, and I object to decide questions of this kind on party considerations. It is right in itself, or wrong in itself, to pass this Bill; and if it is right, it should be passed. Probably women would be disposed to show their gratitude to those who had assisted them to procure the franchise, just as the borough voters had done; but whatever the fact, it is the duty of the House to do what it thinks right and just. These things must be judged according to the nature of the question before us. The nature of the question before us seems to me to be that these persons are entitled to vote, and therefore I should confer the right to vote upon them.


said, he must protest against the doctrine into which the hon. and learned Gentleman's gallantry had carried him, that the comparative intellectual capacity of men and women should be a criterion in this ease. The logical consequence of the hon. and learned Gentleman's argument and of his historical precedents would be that men should be disfranchised and women enfranchised, and that there should be an anti-Salic law, so that females might always reign. He doubted whether such a course would be for the benefit of the country. It was, moreover, dangerous to argue that because women were qualified for Sovereignty they were fit for other political offices, for it would follow that they were fit to sit in this House. He (Sir Charles Adderley), however, was really of opinion that it was a question of property only. The basis of representation in this country was not intellectual capacity, but property; and his reason for supporting the Bill was, that property ought not to be disfranchised because it happened to be held by women.


said, he did not agree with the observations which his hon. and learned Friend (Sir John Coleridge) had made in support of this Bill. He (Mr. Dowse) intended to vote against the Bill, and to give his reasons for voting against it. In 1870 he voted for the Bill; in 1871 he recorded a silent vote against it, and on the present occasion, with the kind permission of the House, he would explain why he intended to vote against it again. He was not ashamed to own, after a re-consideration of the matter, that he was wrong when on a previous occasion he voted for the Bill. He was partly influenced last year in the conclusion at which he arrived by the passing of the Married Women's Property Bill, which had entirely altered the position of women with regard to their husbands. That Bill provided that if any freehold estate descended to a woman after her marriage, she would be seized of it for her separate use, and that her receipts alone should be a full discharge. That being so, he was opposed to this Bill, because, having regard to the present state of the law, he did not know what the Bill meant, and because the proposer of it did not know what it meant. He was opposed to it, moreover, because nobody had stated what it meant. Under the Bill as it stood, with the conjoint operation of the Married Women's Property Act, a married woman might have a vote. ["No, no!"] If his hon. Friend the Member for Manchester did not wish to give a married woman a vote, why did not he say so in the Bill? It was a mere skeleton of a Bill, which in Committee might be clothed with flesh, and have blood infused into its veins, but he objected to such measures. This Bill was like the Highlander's gun—it would be a very good gun, if it only had a new stock, lock, and barrel. He objected most emphatically to changes of this kind being taken up, and valid objections treated as mere questions of detail, for the details of the Bill constituted a great and important question with which the House was brought face to face, and not a matter of detail alone. He listened to the speech of his hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General with a great deal of pleasure for one reason, because he found it so easy to answer. His hon. and learned Friend informed them that under Queen Anne the nation was distinguished in literature and scholarship, and, therefore, he supported the Bill; but he had yet to learn that Joseph Addison was a great writer because Queen Anne was a woman, or that the Augustan age of English literature would not have been as distinguished if a woman had not been on the Throne. And it took its name, by-the-by, not from Augusta, but from Augustus. If Queen Anne could only be present at that debate, with all the knowledge she had acquired in the meantime, he had no doubt she would vote against this Bill. The speech of his hon. and learned Friend drifted in the direction of the argument that if we had a female Sovereign, we might have a female Chief Justice, a female Attorney General, a female Speaker, a female Leader of the Opposition, and a female Prime Minister; and because this Bill was drifting into that, he (Mr. Dowse) did not see his way to voting for it. He was quite aware that many a Judge had been an old woman; but that was no reason why every old woman ought to be a Judge. The hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Maguire), in a pleasant book, had foreshadowed the future, and had only allowed 20 years to elapse till female Members would be sitting in this House; and one of the number figured in a sketch of that agreeable novelist, as possessed of winning ways which made her a most efficient whip. Everything tended to show that they could not stop with this fragment, but must take it as part of a great and momentous question. He wished thus to consider it, and to give his vote on that ground. It was because he did not desire to see women placed in a different sphere to that which they now occupied in this country, that he should vote against the second reading. Again, there was no demand for that Bill among the class of women who had a right to represent and speak for their sex, and who knew and valued their position as Englishwomen. In the evening after he voted for the Bill in 1870, he saw a lady and told her—"I have been working for your cause to-day; I have been endeavouring to remove the electoral disabilities of women;" and what was her answer?—"You might easily have been better employed." He believed that was the opinion of the great majority of women. In his opinion, the Bill was bad in form and bad in substance, and he should, therefore, vote against it.


said, he had voted for the Bill last Session; but not having heard anything said in favour of it by any of his constituents, he thought it his duty now to vote against it, and not to thrust a duty upon women which they did not desire.


said, although he felt strongly that, on many points, the law was unfair to women, that was no reason why he or the House should vote for this ill-considered and incomplete Bill.


said, he could not support the Bill, because it had been re-introduced this year in the same form as last year, and would give a franchise to women in every respect the same as to qualifications as was given to men under the existing law, and that that would go far beyond the principle of the representation of property, on which ground alone he had supported the general proposition of last year.


, in reply, said, that the words of the Bill were almost identical with those which gave the municipal vote to women, and it had been decided that when a woman married she no longer possessed the municipal vote. He was not afraid, therefore, that this Bill would give the franchise to married women; but if that were the case, the question would be one for consideration in Committee.

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

The House divided:—Ayes 143; Noes 222: Majority 79.

Words added.

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

Bill put off for six months.

Adderley, rt. hon. Sir C. Cawley, C. E.
Allen, W. S. Chadwick, D.
Amphlett, R. P. Charley, W. T.
Anderson, G. Cholmeley, Captain
Anstruther, Sir R. Clifford, C. C.
Bagwell, J. Coleridge, Sir J. D.
Bateson, Sir T. Corrigan, Sir D.
Bazley, Sir T. Cowen, Sir J.
Beaumont, S. A. Cowper-Temple, right hon. W.
Beresford, Lt.-Col. M.
Birley, H. Cubitt, G.
Blennerhassett, R. (Kry.) Dalglish, R.
Brewer, Dr. Damer, Capt. Dawson-
Brocklehurst, W. C. Davie, Sir H. R. F.
Browne, G. E. Delahunty, J.
Buckley, N. Denman, hon. G.
Callan, P. Dickinson, S. S.
Cameron, D. Digby, K. T.
Campbell, H. Dilke, Sir C. W.
Carter, R. M. Dimsdale, R.
Dixon, G. Mellor, T. W.
Downing, M'C. Melly, G.
Elliot, G. Miller, J.
Ewing, H. E. Crum- Mitchell, T. A.
Ewing, A. O. Morley, S.
Fawcett, H. Morrison, W.
Fitzmaurice, Lord E. Mundella, A. J.
Fletcher, I. Muntz, P. H.
Fordyce, W. D. Neville-Grenville, R.
Forester, rt. hon. Gen. Northcote. rt. hn. Sir S. H.
Forster, C. Ogilvy, Sir J.
Fortescue, hon. D. F. Palmer, J. H.
Fowler, R. N. Pender, J.
Gavin, Major Playfair, L.
Goldsmid, Sir F. Plimsoll, S.
Gourley, E. T. Potter, T. B.
Graham, W. Powell. W.
Gray, Sir J. Price, W. E.
Grieve, J. J. Rathbone, W.
Grosvenor, hon. N. Redmond, W. A.
Hadfield, G. Robertson, D.
Hanbury, R. W. Rylands, P.
Harris, J. D. Samuelson, H. B.
Herbert, hon. A. E. W. Selwin-Ibbetson, Sir H. J.
Heron, D. C.
Hibbert, J. T. Shaw, R.
Hoare, Sir H. A. Sherlock, D.
Hodgkinson, G. Sherriff, A. C.
Hoskyns, C. Wren- Sinclair, Sir J. G. T.
Howard, J. Smith, E.
Hunt, rt. hon. G. W. Smith, J. B.
Illingworth, A. Smyth, P. J.
Jenkinson, Sir G. S. Stacpoole, W..
Johnston, W. Stansfeld, rt. hon. J
Johnstone, Sir H. Straight, D.
Jones, J. Sykes, Colonel W. H.
Kennaway, J. H. Talbot, C. R. M.
Kinnaird, hon. A. F. Taylor, rt. hon. Colonel
Knightley, Sir R. Taylor, P. A.
Lambert, N. G. Torrens, W. T. M'C.
Lancaster, J. Trelawny, Sir J. S.
Langton, W. G. Trevelyan, G. O..
Lawson, Sir W. Villiers, rt. hon. C. P
Lea, T. Wedderburn, Sir D.
Lewis, H. Wells, E.
Liddell, hon. H. G. West, H. W.
Lusk, A. Wheelhouse, W. S. J.
MacEvoy, E. Whitworth, T.
Macfie, R. A. Williams, W.
M'Combie, W. Wingfield, Sir C.
M'Lagan, P.
M'Laren, D. TELLERS.
Maguire, J. F. Bright, J. (Manchester)
Mahon, Viscount Eastwick, E. B.
Manners, rt. hn. Lord J.
Adair, H. E. Barclay, A. C.
Adam, W. P. Baring, T.
Akroyd, E. Barnett, H.
Amcotts, Colonel W. C. Barrington, Viscount
Amory, J. H. Barttelot, Colonel
Annesley, hon. Col. H. Bass, A.
Arbuthnot, Major G. Bates, E.
Archdale, Capt. M. Beach, Sir M. Hicks-
Armitstead, G. Beaumont, W. B.
Assheton, R. Bentall, E. H.
Ayrton, rt. hon. A. S. Bentinck, G. C.
Aytonn, R. S. Bentinck, G. W. P.
Bailey, Sir J. R. Bolckow, H. W. F.
Baker, R. B. W. Bonham-Carter, J.
Bowring, E. A. Gower, hon. E. F. L.
Brady, J. Graves, S. R.
Brassey, H. A. Greene, E.
Brassey, T. Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.
Brinckman, Captain Grove, T. F.
Broadley, W. H. H. Guest, M. J.
Brooks, W. C. Hamilton, Lord C. J.
Bruce, rt. hon. Lord E. Harcourt, W. G. G. V. V.
Bruce, rt. hon. H. A. Hardy, rt. hon. G.
Buckley, Sir E. Hardy, J.
Burrell, Sir P. Hardy, J. S.
Bury, Viscount Headlam, rt. hon. T. E.
Butler-Johnstone, H. A. Henley, rt. hon. J. W.
Candlish, J. Henley, Lord
Cardwell, rt. hon. E. Heygate, Sir F. W.
Carington, hn. Capt. W. Hodgson, K. D.
Cartwright, F. Holford, J. P. G.
Cave, rt. hon. S. Holland, S.
Cavendish, Lord F. C. Hope, A. J. B. B.
Cavendish, Lord G. Horsman, rt. hon. E.
Child, Sir S. Hughes, W. B.
Childers, rt. hn. H. C. E. James, H.
Cholmeley, Sir M. Johnston, A.
Clay, J. Kavanagh, A. MacM.
Clive, Col. hon. G. W. Kay-Shuttleworth, U. J.
Clowes, S. W. Kekewich, S. T.
Cochrane, A. D. W. R. B. Kingscote, Colonel
Cogan, rt. hon. W. H. F. Knatchbull-Hugessen, E. H.
Cole, Col. hon. H. A.
Colebrooke, Sir T. E. Knox, hon. Colonel S.
Colman, J. J. Lacon, Sir E. H. K.
Conolly, T. Laird, J.
Craufurd, E. H. J. Lawrence, Sir J. C.
Crawford, R. W. Lawrence, W.
Crichton, Viscount Learmonth, A.
Croft, Sir H. G. D. Leatham, E. A.
Cross, R. A. Legh, W. J.
Dalrymple, C. Lennox, Lord G. G.
Dalrymple, D. Lewis, J. D.
Davenport, W. Bromley- Lindsay, hon. Col. C.
Dease, E. Lindsay, Colonel R. L.
Dent, J. D. Locke, J.
Dick, F. Lopes, H. C.
Dowdeswell, W. E. Lowther, hon. W..
Dowse, rt. hon. R Lyttelton, hon. C. G
Duff, R. W. Mackintosh, E. W.
Duncombe, hon. Col. M'Arthur, W.
Dundas, F. M'Mahon, P.
Du Pre, C. G. Marling, S. S.
Eaton, H. W. Matthews, H.
Edwards, H. Mills, C. H..
Egerton, hon. A. F. Mitford, W. T
Egerton, Capt. hon. F. Monckton, F.
Egerton, Sir P. G. Monckton, hon. G.
Egerton, hon. W. Monk, C. J.
Enfield, Viscount Morgan, C. O.
Ennis, J. J. Morgan, G. Osborne
Erskine, Admiral J. E. Mowbray, rt. hon. J. R.
Eykyn, R. Muncaster, Lord
Fielden, J. Murphy, N. D.
Floyer, J. Newdegate, C. N.
Foljambe, F. J. S. Newport, Viscount
Forde, Colonel Nicholson, W.
Foster, W. H. North, Colonel
Fowler, W. O'Conor, D. M.
Galway, Viscount O'Conor Don, The
Garlies, Lord O'Loghlen, rt. hon. Sir C. M.
Gladstone, W. H.
Glyn, hon. G. G. O'Reilly-Dease, M.
Goldsmid, J. Pakington, rt. hn. Sir J.
Gore, J. R. O. Palmer, Sir R.
Gore, W. R. O. Parker, Lt.-Colonel W.
Patten, rt. hon. Col. W. Thynne, Lord H. F.
Pease, J. W. Tite, Sir W.
Peel, A. W. Tollemache, Major W. F.
Philips, R. N. Torrens, R. R.
Phipps, C. P. Tracy, hon. C. R. D. Hanbury-
Pim, J.
Plunket, hon. D. R. Turner, C.
Portman, hon. W. H. B. Turnor, E.
Potter, E. Vandeleur, Colonel
Raikes, H. C. Verney, Sir H.
Ridley, M. W. Vivian, H. H.
Russell, A. Walpole, hon. F.
Salomons, Sir D. Watney, J.
Salt, T. Weguelin, T. M.
Samuda, J. D'A. Welby, W. E.
Seymour, A. Wells, W.
Simonds, W. B. Whatman, J.
Smith, A. Whitwell, J.
Smith, F. C. Williams, Sir F. M.
Smith, R. Winn, R.
Smith, S. G. Winterbotham, H. S. P.
Somerset, Lord H. R. C. Wyndham, hon. P.
Stanley, hon. F. Wynn, C. W. W.
Steere, L. Wynn, Sir W. W.
Stone, W. H.
Storks, rt. hon. Sir H. K. TELLERS.
Strutt, hon. H. Bouverie, rt. hon. E. P.
Stuart, Colonel Scourfield, J. H.
Talbot, J. G.