§ House again in Committee (according to Order).
§ [The EARL of KINTORE in the Chair.]
§ Clause 4:
§ Franchises (women).
§ 4.—(1) A woman shall be entitled to be registered as a parliamentary elector for a constituency (other than a university constituency) if she—
- (a) has attained the age of thirty years; and
- (b) is not subject to any legal incapacity; and
- (c) is entitled to be registered as a local government elector in respect of the occupation of land or premises in that constituency, or is the wife of a husband entitled to be so registered.
§ (2) A woman shall be entitled to be registered as a parliamentary elector for a university constituency if she has attained the age of thirty years and would be entitled to be so registered if she were a man.
§ (3) A woman shall be entitled to be registered as a local government elector for any local government electoral area where she would be entitled to be so registered if she were a man; or where she is the wife of a man who is entitled to be so registered in respect of premises in which they both reside, and she has attained the age of thirty years.
§ Debate resumed on the Amendment to Clause 4 moved by EARL LOREBURN—namely, to leave out subsections (1) and (2).
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (LORD FINLAY)
My Lords, although I am painfully sensible that there remains nothing new to be said on either side upon this subject, I desire your Lordships' indulgence for a short time in order that I may state the views which as an individual I hold on the proposal contained in the clause now under discussion. There is no ques- 466 tion whatever that the proposal here made is one of a very momentous character. I think that speakers on both sides have agreed in taking that view with regard to it and to its possible effects. One reason that is advanced in support of the proposal as it stands in the Bill is that it comes to us with the authority of the Speaker's Conference. That is perfectly true. But I very much doubt whether the same weight should be attached to that proposal of the Speaker's Conference as rightly attaches to other proposals relating to other matters in the Bill. And for more than one reason. In the first place, all the other points were, we understand, settled either unanimously or with a very great preponderance of opinion among the members of the Conference in favour of the recommendations embodied in the Bill, which now come before your Lordships' House in the other portions of the Bill relating to other matters than votes for women. Moreover, I think that your Lordships, on looking at the other proposals of the Bill which form the subject of discussion to a certain extent, were of opinion that those other proposals on the merits were excellent proposals, and were deserving of the acceptance of your Lordships' House.
In every proposal of a Bill of this kind, on whatever authority it comes before the House, the House is bound, of course, to exercise its judgment as to the merits of the proposal. Parliament does not sit to register the resolutions of any Committee or Conference, however authoritative it may be. It may, of course, derive great assistance from the recommendations of any Conference, particularly from such a Conference as this was, presided over by a chairman so eminent and so distinguished; but in the last resort Parliament must decide for itself. And for that reason I am very glad that the noble Lord, Lord Weardale, withdrew the proposal which he made with regard to omitting portions of the Bill which were not founded on unanimous recommendations of the Conference. Parliament has to decide for itself with regard to all of those recommendations. It would be an unconstitutional course for Parliament to adopt a proposal of which it did not approve, merely because it had been recommended to it by such a Conference. It would be a constitutional innovation, and, when dealing more particularly with great questions, Parliament cannot properly depute the exercise of that discretion 467 which by the Constitution can properly be exercised by itself alone.
These observations apply, of course, to all the recommendations of the Conference But with regard to the recommendations on the subject of votes for women, I desire to make this observation. This subject came up for discussion very late in the sittings of the Conference. I had ceased to be a member of the Conference, owing to my coming here in my present post, before that portion of the deliberations was entered upon, so that I have no personal knowledge of the subject. But I understand, from all that I have heard, that the proceedings on that occasion were not attended very largely, and that the ultimate resolution that was reached was arrived at only by a narrow majority. I perfectly agree with those speakers who have said that it was entirely within the power of the Conference to enter upon the subject of votes for women. I do not think there is the slightest ground for saying that it was ultra vires; in fact, I do not think that anybody ever said it was. They clearly had power to deal with it as a part of the subject of the franchise which the Conference had been formed to consider. But does not the conclusion at which they arrived on this point bear every trace of being a compromise—if I may use the expression—rather huddled up, in order that they might bring their proceedings to a completion by deciding on the branch of the question of the franchise which related to women, and not leave the whole thing undecided? Surely when we look at the conclusion arrived at, we see that there is no possibility of permanence about it. It is a mere compromise. There is no principle of any sort or kind underlying it; and I cannot see that you ever can, with such a basis for votes for women, get at what engineers call "the angle of repose."
It was said by one of my noble and learned friends yesterday that it was not desirable to deal all once with the whole subject of the admission of women. But that comes to this—that the recommendation is not one of a settlement, but that something should be done which will necessarily be but a prelude to further agitation for further change. It appears to me that there is something very odd about the proposal, and if it did not come from a body for which I feel so profound a respect, I should have said that there was something a little grotesque in saying that the vote 468 was to be given to women, but not until they arrived at the age of thirty. I do not know how that can be defended on any ground of principle.
I wish to make one further observation about this conclusion arrived at by the Conference—namely, that this matter of woman suffrage is quite separate from the rest of the Bill. You may remove it and yet leave a Bill which is complete in itself, and, in my opinion, a very admirable Bill, dealing with the subject of the franchise as it has hitherto always existed in this country. But it is said that though on the framework of the Bill it is clearly separable, you cannot separate it because it would be an insult to women to reject it. I think those were the words used yesterday on the subject by the same noble and learned Lord—Lord Buckmaster—to whom I have already referred. I cannot understand how any insult whatever would be involved. If Parliament should ultimately say, "We do not think that the time has arrived for making a change of this kind," it is only leaving matters as they are. What insult is there? I fail to see it; and the absence of any argument stronger than a statement, or an assertion, of that kind seems to me to show that there is no real reason for asserting that this part of the Bill is not separable from the rest. If the result of the proposed alteration should be disastrous what figure would this Parliament cut at the bar of history if all that it could plead was that it had obeyed the recommendation of the Speaker's Conference arrived at by a narrow majority, on a thin attendance, and in the circumstances to which I have already alluded?
The first question which naturally occurs to one in approaching this subject is, Do women want the vote? Some of them undoubtedly want it very much indeed. But do the majority of women want it? I confess that I am not at all satisfied that they do. It is impossible, of course, to feel confident, on a point of this kind, as to the opinions of all the women in the United Kingdom, whether there is a majority one way or the other; but the inclination of my opinion would be to say that most women do not want the vote. I think that there are a very great many of them who would agree with what was said the other day by a lady on the subject—namely, "If I get the vote, the first use I shall make of it will be to vote for taking it away." It would really be 469 more satisfactory if we had some evidence of a general desire for the vote on the part of women. Surely that is a very important element in the question; and evidence of that we have absolutely none.
But there is another question of still greater importance on which there is a singular absence of evidence—namely, Does the nation want this great change to be made? There is the same paucity of evidence upon that. The nation has not been consulted upon this matter. I blame nobody for that; but we are in the position that the country has never had an opportunity of expressing its opinion. In the absence of any utterance on the question in the ordinary and constitutional way, we are invited to have, regard to meetings of various committees, conferences, conclaves, and to resolutions passed—that was a subject particularly dwelt upon yesterday by my noble and learned friend Lord Haldane. I think that the noble Marquess below the gangway, Lord Lansdowne, turned the light of common sense upon what has been said on this subject when he pointed out that it was extremely dangerous to suppose that from resolutions of this kind passed here and there, memorials, and so on, you could get at a genuine knowledge of what is the real feeling of the country upon the subject. There is such a thing as manufactured opinion. I am not imputing anything to anybody; far from it; but we have over and over again know that resolutions may be passed in a great many quarters which, when the thing comes to be really examined, turn out not to represent the general and effective opinion of the country. We do know that the present House of Commons—as has been pointed out in the course of this debate—twice rejected a much more moderate proposal for the enfranchisement of women than that which is embodied in this Bill.
So far as the feeling of the country is concerned, judging for oneself, I should say that if there is any strong feeling about it in the minds of the population, it is rather one of being tired of the whole subject. I cannot see that there is any strong feeling generally entertained in favour of a great change of this kind. There is always the fact, which may weigh with some people as it weighed with a person in one of the Parables, who said, "lest by her continual coming she weary me." Of course, it may be that a mere desire 470 to do something and get rid of the subject may lead some people to say, "Well, after all, had we not better take the plunge?" I do not, however, believe there is any such general feeling. It was not a model judge who allowed his action to be influenced by such a consideration, but such motives may appeal to some politicians, though I do not believe that they appeal to the country as a whole. We have not any sufficient evidence of the people's will on the question whether they desire what is neither more nor less than a revolution in our institutions embodied in these proposals.
As I have said, the measure has been rejected before. What change of circumstances is there that can be relied upon as showing that opinion has changed on the point? It is said, "Oh, the war has changed everything. Look at women's war work." My Lords, I admit—no one admits it more ungrudgingly than I do—the splendid work which women have done in this war. That is no new tiling. The women of England have always done their duty in war time. They always will. They have done it in the past, and they will do it in the future, and I cannot see how any one can say that his eyes have at last been opened to the fact that his fellow country-women are patriotic, and will do all they can in times of difficulty. Of course, they will do so. They will do so to the end of time, in any circumstances and under any Constitution. The workers do not ask for the vote as a reward, and I venture to think that the argument should never have been used that the work that has been done entails the consequence that the vote should be conferred upon women.
Then there is this consideration, and it is really a little, whimsical. All the, hardest part of the work that has been done for the war has been done by women under thirty. The immense majority of munition workers are women who would not be enfranchised by this Bill. It is upon women over thirty and they alone that the Bill proposes to confer the franchise. The proposal is one for a gigantic experiment. It is to put upon the Register six millions of persons who are absolutely new to politics, and whose avocations and manner of life have hitherto precluded them from taking that active share in the discussion of political questions which all men, whatever their avocations, have more or less done. 471 There has been nothing like it before in the history of this country. There is nothing to compare with it in what took place in 1832, in 1867, or in 1885, and indeed I may say there has been nothing like it in the history of the world. Is it not a leap in the dark? Some supporters of the proposal tell us that it will make very little difference. Possibly it may be so in very many cases, but will it be so in all cases? Is this the time, at this crisis in the history of the country, to take a leap in the dark? I think that when dealing with the franchise was first mooted it was contemplated that the General Election on the new Register would be after the war was over; but it is now possible that we may have a General Election before the war is over, but after this Bill has altered the Register so profoundly.
Now, my Lords, what would be the effect of the admission of these six million voters to the Register if that contingency happened? Would not there be a vast amount of material for agitation, by those who are called pacifists, who are in favour of a hurried peace, among the millions of women who without political experience it is proposed to enfranchise by this Bill? They would be suddenly called upon to decide an issue of the most momentous character in the whole history of this country. What effect upon these inexperienced voters might not war weariness produce. By the manner in which this proposal is framed you eliminate the younger and more buoyant elements of womanhood from the function of voting; and in dealing with women over thirty, who alone are to have the vote, is it not necessary to bear in mind what might be on them the possible effect of war weariness—loss of sons, husbands, brothers, and it might be scarcity and privation—I do not speak of privation for themselves, because women are indifferent to privations, but for the children whom they love more than they do their own souls. If so, under the influence of such feelings in which all the better parts of their nature are enlisted, is it not possible that they might be ensnared by pleas for peace, by specious terms which seemed to give something but really gave nothing, by proposals for a peace which really would be no peace at all, a peace which would leave Prussian militarism really unbroken, a peace which, for some temporary ease, would throw away all the advantages for which we have 472 fought and struggled so hard and to obtain which we have made sacrifices so tremendous both in men and in money? My Lords, would these new voters be proof against such appeals in all cases? I hope that the great majority of them would. I think they would be. I have that much faith in my fellow country-women. But can any one say that it is not a tremendous experiment which you are making? It may turn out all right. I hope it will. But if the result of the woman's vote should be a hasty and inconclusive peace, there will be an end of the greatness of this country, and in the near future, I believe, to the continued existence of the British Empire.
There has been a good deal said in the course of this discussion as to the comparative merits of men and women. The whole of that discussion, I confess, seems to me very idle. Man has his sphere and woman has hers. I think that Mr. Asquith, in another place, in justifying his change of opinion on this subject, said that women had done all but fight. Well, my Lords, I am not sure that is quite accurate, because there is a great deal of the very hard but very necessary work for which women are physically unfit, apart from fighting. But, dealing with the statement as made, what an exception that is. "Have done all except fighting!" It is a tremendous exception, and it is really only typical of the radical difference between men and women. Try as you may you cannot get rid of that difference. I believe that women are in many ways higher and better than men, but I also believe hat war and the government of this Empire are the business of men.
We have had in this country a very great Queen, Queen Elizabeth, and have your Lordships observed that when that great Queen is praised she is praised for what the historian terms her "masculine qualities," and it is pointed out that her feminine, weaknesses did not detract from the ability and vigour of her reign. My Lords, women cannot become men. They are something better, and in their own sphere they are supreme. My own belief is that women as voters for the Imperial Parliament are as much out of their sphere as they would be sitting as members of either Chamber of the Legislature. These are the reasons, my Lords, which have led me to the conclusion on this subject which I have indicated to the House.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
My Lords, the Amendment moved by the noble Earl, Lord Loreburn, is a Motion for the rejection of this Bill.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
It is a Motion for the rejection of this Bill. Theoretically, no; in fact, yes.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
Very well. Let us examine the situation. It is quite true, as was said by the noble and learned Lord who has just sat down, that if this clause were cut out of the Bill the Bill would stand as a perfectly logical whole. So it would if you cut out the clauses enfranchising the soldiers and sailors.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
It would. The question is, Is the House of Commons going to pass any Bill without the franchise for the women or without the franchise for the sailors and soldiers? My Lords, I suggest to you that it is a pure delusion to suppose that there is any chance whatever of the House of Commons passing this Bill if votes for women are cut out, any more than they would pass it if the votes for seamen and soldiers were cut out. I suggest to you that if you pass this Amendment, it will be rejected by the House of Commons almost unanimously. If it is so rejected by the House of Commons, what are your Lordships, or the majority who have passed this Motion, going to do? Are you then going to give way to the opinion of the House of Commons? If so, I say very respectfully that you will have put this House in a humiliating position. But if you do not give way to the view of the House of Commons I should respect your attitude, I should thoroughly respect it, but I ask you beforehand, Have you counted the cost? The cost is this, that in the climax of this war you will split the nation from top to bottom. You will have against you not only those of the women who have desired the franchise; you will have against you the men who desired the franchise, and the seamen and soldiers who are looking forward to the franchise. The majority in this House, splendid as would be their courage, would be 474 almost isolated in the nation. You would have less support in the nation than the analagous majority had before the Reform Bill of 1832. If, in your opinion, to give votes to the women is a greater evil than the danger of splitting the nation in this way with all the consequences that would ensue, then you would be perfectly right to pass this amendment and to insist upon it; but do not do it without counting the cost and seeing the path that lies before you.
Again, my Lords, there may be some of your Lordships who would like to make Amendments in the clauses. I am not one of those, but I would point out to them that if this Motion is passed they will have no opportunity of making Amendments. In the very forcible speech which he made yesterday, Lord Lansdowne said that there were certain questions to which he desired answers, and that the attitude which he advised the House to take really depended upon his view of those answers. He asked in the first place, Does the country want this change? That question has again been asked by the noble and learned Lord opposite. Some evidence has already been put before your Lordships in this debate. You have been reminded that these subsections have been supported by the resolutions of the Unionist Party, of the Liberal Party, and of the Labour Party. You have been reminded also that they have been endorsed by an enormous preponderance of trade union opinion and of opinion in the Press. My noble friend Lord Lansdowne discounted all that. It is a large discount. I would ask him this question. Since the House of Commons adopted these subsections has there been the faintest indication of protest against them from the country as a whole? There is in existence a society formed for the express purpose of opposing the franchise to women. The noble Earl who leads the House has been the head of this society for a long time. It is a very important society, very ably conducted, and of course it has done, and done with great effect, all that it could to arouse the opinion of the country against the action of the House of Commons. Has there been the faintest response from the country? Has there been an indignation meeting anywhere? I would say that never in the whole course of my political experience has a measure been stamped with such unanimous national approval.
475 My noble friend threw great doubts upon the authority of the House of Commons to make this change, and so did the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor. What is the fact as to the record of the House of Commons in this matter? The noble and learned Earl, Lord Loreburn, never makes a misstatement intentionally, but on this point he made a misstatement, and I will show later what it was. In the first place, was this question before the electors at the time of the last General Election? That must be our starting point. I maintain that it was. Mr. Asquith, who was then Prime Minister, stated quite definitely, before the General Election, that he would bring in a Reform Bill and the House of Commons should have an opportunity of expressing its opinion of woman suffrage. What were the comments on that statement? The Times said—If the Election confirms the Government in power, the new Parliament will be considered to have received a mandate on the subject of woman suffrage.But that is not all. This very body to which I have alluded—the Women's National Anti-Suffrage League—in November, 1910, sent a letter to all Parliamentary candidates, of which the opening sentence ran as follows—The decision of the Cabinet to grant facilities for a Woman Suffrage Bill in the next Parliament makes woman suffrage a primary issue at the coming Election.I wish for no happier authority for my purpose than that. And what was the result? At that General Election—November, 1910–419 of the successful candidates were supporters of woman suffrage; a great deal more than half the House of Commons. And since the war began there have been seventy-two by-elections, and of the seventy-two candidates returned, fifty-eight have been supporters of woman suffrage.
Now I come to what is the unintentional misstatement of the noble and learned Earl, Lord Loreburn. He said that when Parliament was fresh it rejected woman suffrage, but now that it is old it has adopted it. My Lords, that is quite inaccurate. Almost the first thing this House of Commons did was to pass the Second Reading of Sir George Kemp's Conciliation Bill. It was read a Second time on May 5, 1911, by a majority of 167. It is quite true that the same Bill was rejected in 1912 by a majority of 476 fourteen, but the explanation for that has been given by my noble friend behind me—namely, that at that time the abominable outrages of the militant suffragists had begun. Therefore in adopting woman suffrage now, in its seventh year, the House of Commons is only returning to the opinion and attitude it adopted in the very first six months of its existence.
Then the noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne, said that women were profoundly divided on this question, and the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, has repeated that to-day. Of course they are. There is no doubt about it, and nobody knows—I do not know, any more than the noble Marquess opposite—on which side the majority of women are. But what I do know is that there is a very large body of women who passionately desire the suffrage, including among them some of the noblest women of every class in the nation. Has there ever been an occasion of the extension of the suffrage for men on which anybody was able to say, statistically, that he knew the majority of those who were going to be enfranchised desired to be enfranchised? It has always been a matter of opinion, and any statesman, when bringing forward a Reform Bill, has always been content to say, "I am satisfied there is a sufficient demand." That is all we say to your Lordships' House to-day. We say there is a sufficient demand, more than a sufficient demand, on the part of women on this question.
Have we, said the noble Marquess (Lord Lansdowne), the right to make this change? My Lords, if you really think that to give the vote to women is going to bring disaster to your country, you have no right to make this change; but if you think, as I do, that you are going to bring strength and fresh power to this land and Empire, then we have the right to make this change. The right depends upon our estimate of what the result is going to be But has it not come out quite clearly in all these debates, and I think particularly from the remarkable speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Bryce, on the Second Reading, that our differences on this subject are very largely temperamental? The arguments which I address to my anti-suffrage friends produce no impression upon them, and the arguments which they address to me produce no impression whatever upon me. At the bottom of the attitude of the noble Viscount, Lord Bryce, of the noble 477 and learned Earl, Earl Loreburn, and of the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, is the denial, on the ground of fitness, of women, as compared to men, to take part in politics. My noble friend Earl Loreburn said it was not in the interests of the State that women should have control in Imperial matters and in the issues of peace and war. I hold exactly the opposite opinion. I hold that women are as fitted, on the average, as men to take a share in the control of Imperial and domestic affairs. When I say they are as fitted, on the average, as men, that is not an extravagant compliment, and it is not meant to be an extravagant compliment.
This is not the occasion for going into those very interesting but fundamental questions of why we give the vote. The noble Viscount, Lord Bryce, gave us an echo from Victorian times, and the noble Earl, Lord Russell, gave us a touch of modernism. The position of myself and my friends is this. For whatever reason you extend the franchise to men, we say that, judged by that reason, women are on the average equally fit, and that in extending the franchise to them you are not only not placing the State in danger, but you are, by mixing their votes with those of men, minimising the danger of the extension of the franchise, if there is one, and adding to the strength of the State.
The noble and learned Earl (Lord Loreburn) appealed to those who had experience in the Dominions. My Lords, I have had the honour to be one of those. He made an express appeal to us. He said, "I want to know what those of your Lordships who have had experience in the Dominions think on this question." I will tell your Lordships. When I went to South Africa woman suffrage was with me an opinion. When I came back it was a burning faith. I will tell you why. Becauise I found that the women of my race in South Africa were an asset of Imperial value of the greatest importance. I found that everywhere they stimulated and supported the men; that if it were not for the influence of the women, if it were not for their grasp of the great Imperial issues which were at stake in South Africa, there would have been much more faltering on the part of the men than there had been. In South Africa it came to this: "Tell me who the mother was, and I will tell you what the polities were of the son." If an 478 Englishman married a Boer woman, which he often did, the children were Boers. If a Boer married an English woman or a Scotswoman, which he did, though not quite so often, the children were as British as myself. In South Africa there is no woman suffrage. That is quite true. The reason is because the Boer has exactly the same opinion on that subject as the Lord Chancellor.
Lord Loreburn said that men had indescribably a greater share of the suffering of the war than women. I do not think that I ever heard a statement that surprised me more. My Lords, is that true? Can the physical sufferings of the men be compared for one moment with the anguish of soul of a woman who loses her son, or of a wife who loses her husband? To me there is no comparison. The physical sufferings of the men are nothing compared with the mental agony and anguish of the women. The noble and learned Earl made a very great admission, an admission which the Lord Chancellor did not make. The noble and learned Earl went very near to saying that he thought women were fit to be trusted with the vote on domestic affairs. Therefore his attitude differs very greatly from the attitude of many of the opponents of woman suffrage. He is not prepared to say that women are not fit to have the vote on domestic affairs. But if his Amendment is carried you are depriving them of a vote on domestic affairs. The Imperial Parliament is concerned with all the intimate domestic affairs of the nation, of men and of women, and we have not yet arrived at the point of a Federal system where a separation has taken place. Therefore if you accept the noble and learned Earl's Amendment you are depriving women of that share in domestic legislation for which he himself says that they are fit.
Just think, my Lords, what you will be doing. It is quite untrue to say that men represent women in all matters. It is quite untrue, in a democracy, to say that those who have not votes are adequately represented by those who have votes. All experience shows the contrary. Nobody knows it better than your Lordships. You are all direct taxpayers. Most direct taxpayers have votes; but because they are a small body compared to those who are not direct taxpayers we know that they are 479 in danger, in a democracy, of unfair treatment. If that is true of the direct taxpayers (who have a vote) because they are in a minority, what do you think will be the position of these millions of women who have to earn their own livelihood in the economic reconstruction after the war if they have no vote? What chance will the women have of getting their interests fairly considered in this great reconstruction if they have no votes, and the male trade unionists and the employers have votes? I think it is an absolute delusion to say that Parliament would fairly consider their interests.
Again, on some subjects women have a distinct point of view which they have a perfect right to express. There was a subject alluded to by my noble friend the Leader of the House in his speech yesterday, a most controversial subject—that of the marriage laws. There is a body of opinion in this nation and in your Lordships' House in favour of drastic changes in the marriage laws. How can you with any sense of justice think of dealing with the marriage laws, turning them upside down, without allowing women to have a say in the matter? You cannot say that the attitude of women on that question is necessarily the same as that of the men. The noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne, said that he looked with a certain amount of alarm upon this franchise, and, by way of diminishing the risk, he proposed to vote for the noble and learned Earl's Amendment, which cuts out the women's vote altogether. I am not one of those who regard the experiment of this Bill with foreboding, because I believe most profoundly in our race. I believe in its political instincts, in the justice of its intention, and in its common sense. But there is no part of the race in which I believe more than I do in the married women. Yet, by way of diminishing the risks of this experiment, the noble Marquess and his friend propose to leave in the young men and to cut out the married women and the women of property. The only women who are proposed to be enfranchised—of course, the numbers are enormous—are the women of property and the married women. I ask your Lordships which are the most stable elements in the State, the women of property and the married women, or the young unmarried men? Why, in every great strike again and again we have been told, and have seen, that the older men, the married men, were for sober and 480 cautious action, were for conciliation. It was the young men who forced the pace, it was the young men who brought industries to the verge of civil war. And yet by way of precaution, by way of diminution of the danger of this franchise, you are going to cut out that element which has the greatest stake in the nation, and, as I maintain, would be the greatest of all your element of stability—that is, the mothers of families, the married women. Far from regarding that portion of the Bill as an addition to the risk, I consider that the married women are an immense assurance against the foreboding and the dangers which are inseparable from any extension of the franchise.
We were asked by Lord Loreburn quite definitely to base our acceptance of his Amendment on the comparative unfitness of women to deal with Imperial matters. Surely that is a very extraordinary thing to ask your Lordships to do after the experience of this war. What did the Lord Chancellor say? He said the women of England have always done their duty in war time, and always will do. That sounds to me rather a curious way of describing women who are wholly unfit to take any share in the counsels of peace and war. The Lord Chancellor, although he said that, said something else, and I was very sorry to hear him say it. He said that the women would be more likely than the men to be a prey to the pacifists, and that if we gave the vote to women the result might be a humiliating and dishonourable peace. What have the women of England done to deserve that taunt from the Lord Chancellor? Is that his reward to them for their attitude throughout this war? I am not speaking of the work they have done, of what they have done in hospitals, or the fact that they have lost their lives in action by land and by sea; I am not talking of what they have done in the munition factories, or on the farms, or in the offices. No, they never took up that work because they looked for a reward. I ask you to judge of the fairness and justice of that insinuation by their attitude in this war. Their service has been as essential to victory as the service of the men. Have they ever shown themselves less patriotic? Have they shown themselves less able to comprehend the causes of this war or the issues at stake? Have they shown themselves less determined, less self-sacrificing, have they shown themselves more hysterical, have they ever once struck during this war? 481 Has any disturbance of national unity or any weakening of national resolution come from the women? Never once. There has been in this magnificent determination and solidarity of our race more evidence of weakening among the men than there has been among the women; and if you cannot answer adversely to the women the questions which I have asked, on what grounds of justice, fairness, or wisdom are you going to refuse the sex the vote because they are wholly unfit to comprehend an Imperial question?
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
Your Lordships will, I am sure, agree that this debate has been, and is, one worthy of a great occasion and worthy of this House, that it has been sustained at a high level from the first, and that the arguments on either side have been stated with weight and clearness. So much has been said that I shall interpose for but a few moments. There are, however, two points which I think ought to be a little further emphasised, although they have been alluded to already. The first is that there has been no evidence of what the country thinks upon this subject. That has been stated by some of the weightiest voices in the House. Lord Bryce, Lord Loreburn, and Lord Lansdowne have stated it. I shrink from challenging such authority by saying that what we have in evidence is the evidence of our senses day by day—our ordinary intercourse with our friends, with those whom we meet anywhere, and, above all, the House of Commons, regarded for the moment not as a body of representative men speaking for their constituents, but as a specimen body of English citizens. You have there a great collection of men, 440 of whom voted the other day. Out of that 440 a large number had on previous occasions either abstained from voting or voted against woman suffrage. Only fifty-five out of the whole number could be found to vote against it now. That is the kind of evidence I want—not speaking of them as the spokesmen of their constituents, though they are bound in self-protection to be that too, but as specimen English, Scottish, Irish, and Welsh, citizens. These men have swept right round. Lord Loreburn spoke of them the other night as having turned a somersault. They do not perform those feats of agility for nothing. It meant that it was a recognition of a complete change of opinion which common 482 sense and daily experience shows us to be taking place among the people with whom we have to do. That seems to me to be the real fact about the change of public opinion. That change corresponds with what we all find among our friends; and as the noble Earl who has just sat down says, what protest have we heard or seen on the other side that is worthy of the name? Everybody we meet shrugs his shoulders and says, "I suppose now the thing is inevitable," or says, "I am keenly in favour of it."
I realise as fully as any man the gravity, the uncertainty, of this great change. It is a plunge in the dark, there is no doubt about it. No one can foresee what will be the outcome of adding 6,000,000 women to the list of voters, but this House has now to choose between consenting to take that plunge and setting itself against a palpable desire in favour of that plunge among the people at large, the result of which we see in our common intercourse, in the votes of the House of Commons, and in the total absence of any organised protest even attempted on a large scale.
Then we go further and ask why that change of view has come about? I deprecate in the strongest possible way the allegation that those who are in favour of passing these subsections want to do so as a reward to the women for having behaved well in the war; as something that is to be given as a reward to them for being good. It is nothing of the kind. That is a complete misconception—at least, so it seems to me—of what we mean by the trust of the franchise. It is not a plum which somebody is to have as a reward for being good. It is the discharge of a great and serious responsibility which people have to exercise as a trust given to them by the nation to exercise for the nation when they have shown that they are fit and worthy to take a responsibility of the kind. It is given to women as a recognition of the part which they are now taking in our national life from top to bottom; not for the part that they have taken in doing women's work—nursing, and the rest—but for the part which in our whole social system, fabric, operations, administration, they are taking to-day, permeated through and through as these things are by the agency and the activity and the effective, daily work of women. I am not speaking of the fact that the women have nursed our wounded 483 men, or that they have done the things which we all knew from the beginning they would do.
The noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne, said last night that he was not surprised at what the women have done. Nobody is surprised at their self-sacrifice, at the outpouring of everything that is highest and best in what the women have done. I venture to think that many are surprised, however, at the way in which women have conducted themselves in entering into the Civil Service work, the industrial work, the educational work, the commercial work, the agricultural work, and so on, all through the kingdom, and are carrying their responsibilities alongside the responsibilities of men, exercising for the public welfare the trust that has been given to them, and, therefore, showing their fitness for and, as I think, showing their claim as a right to have, the further responsibility and trust of exercising the vote. That seems to me to be the right way in which to put the cause of the change which surely we are all observing, whether we like it or not; and it is for that reason that I venture to hope that these subsections will be retained in the Bill.
For this House to set itself against what is now decided ultimately to be done—for there can be no retreat now for the House of Commons—could in my view be justified only by absolutely overwhelming evidence of a strength of opinion outside, of which there is not at the moment a vestige. That would be the sole justification we could have for acting in the way which is suggested to us in some quarters. With regard to this House and its responsibility, to reject these subsections now would mean either to court within a few weeks a humiliating surrender, or to inaugurate a controversy of the most harmful kind possible to be carried on, not, I believe, by violence—I do not expect that there would be violent methods now—but a controversy which would be carried on by a splitting of the nation from top to bottom in a most mischievous way, and that at the very crisis of a war upon the steady and uninterrupted and undistracted continuance of which the welfare of the British Empire and of the world depends.
My Lords, so much has been said already in this debate that I think every speaker must feel that there can be very little to add, and I shall hope 484 to be able at least to imitate the brevity of the last speaker. If I might first refer to something which was said by Lord Bryce on the Second Reading, your Lordships will remember that the noble Viscount mentioned various States in America which had woman suffrage. I think that very few members of your Lordships' House would care to compete with the noble Viscount in his knowledge of the United States of America, but I happen to have been in one of them within the last year which the noble Viscount did not mention, but which was subsequently mentioned, however, last night by the right rev. Prelate the Bishop of London—namely, the very important State of California, which has woman suffrage, and which has had a remarkable revolution in the direction of clean government, although I say nothing as to whether it is or is not a consequence. Personally, I have never used the argument that the vote should be given to women in hope of the results that would follow from the gift.
The noble and learned Earl who moved the Amendment which we are now discussing occupied a large portion of the first part of his speech in impressing upon your Lordships the enormous importance of the questions which have to be dealt with after the war. I think that every member of this House recognises that those questions are of the utmost importance; but it seems to me that the argument of the noble and learned Earl really tells against himself, because it cannot be suggested by any opponent of woman suffrage that those measures are going to be measures which affect men only, or, indeed, which affect men more than women. It is understood, I think, by everybody that there will be a considerable labour fight by the women who are earning their living, and they will require all the protection and all the assistance that the Parliamentary vote can give them in that fight; and the greater the importance of the questions which are to be decided, surely the more necessary it is in the interests of justice that they should have all the protection and all the weapons that they can have in that issue.
Then the noble and learned Earl said it might be that there was something to be said for women having the vote in domestic matters, but that they were not entitled to apply their judgment and their control to Imperial and to foreign matters. He seemed to think that the masculine intellect alone was fitted to deal with those matters. But in their reactions he will not deny, 485 I am sure, that they affect women as much as men. And why the appalling consequences of war, which affect the women of this country in their way quite as much as they affect men, should be matters in which women have nothing to say, just because of their importance, I cannot again understand on any ordinary principles of justice; unless, indeed—as was suggested by a recent speaker—it is because you put woman upon an altogether different plane and you are not prepared to admit her to the rights of a human being or a citizen, because you think that she should always ask for what she requires from the male voter, and that she should trust to his generosity, and, I think you would often have to add, to his non-forgetfulness, to get it. That is not the case in modern politics. We all know that those who have the power are much more likely to get attended to than those who have only justice on their side.
Then the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, in speaking to-day, said one thing which astonished me considerably—namely, that in spite of this proposal having been made, in spite of the importance of the issues which will fall to be decided after the war, in some of which women will be profoundly interested, it would be no insult to them, and they would be wrong in regarding it as an insult, to have these subsections quietly swept out of the Bill, and they must continue to be ruled and governed by the other sex in the future as in the past. There have been said to be slaves who hug their chains, but I think slaves who are beginning to acquire a sense of the meaning and of the value of freedom, and who have begun to see the gates of the Promised Land open to them and to care about entering that Promised Land, are likely to regard it as a very grave and gross insult if the gates are slammed in their faces and they are to take no part in the conduct of the affairs of the country with regard to the things that really matter. But I confess that this insult to women, grave as it would be, seems to me to be hardly graver than the final conclusion in the remarks of the Lord Chancellor (which conclusion has been so ably dealt with by Lord Selborne) as to the probable pacifist tendencies of women, a suggestion made without any shred of evidence to support it.
There was a final reason which does not particularly appeal to me personally, but 486 which I think will appeal to a large number of your Lordships—it has been mentioned more than once in the course of this debate—and that is the actual political situation. I do not think any one suggests that this Bill has been produced by the Government merely for the sake of producing a Bill or for the sake of introducing a measure of great importance in the middle of the war. This Bill is produced because the times call for it. It was a necessity. It was an inevitable political necessity which no Government could escape, and I think the Speaker's Conference also felt that it was a political necessity to include in this Bill the question of woman suffrage. The Lord Chancellor spoke a great deal about the small majority of the Speaker's Conference. I did not hear him say anything about the large majority of the House of Commons by which this proposal was put in the Bill.
I think your Lordships probably all feel that these matters have reached a stage now where it is essential that this Bill in all its main features should be placed upon the Statute Book, for the country is expecting it. I am told there is no evidence of that. But the most rev. Primate pointed out evidence of what one hears on all sides, which shows that the country regards this Bill already almost as a fait accompli; and for your Lordships to intervene and reject it at this stage would be to do a thing which, from the point of view of this House's own authority and existence, would be very unwise and very unstatesmanlike. I think that that reason may appeal to many of your Lordships for not interfering with this Bill in any of its essential features, however little enthusiasm they may arouse in some of your Lordships. I do not want to traverse any other ground already gone over by other speakers, but I think that for the two reasons I have mentioned your Lordships will be ill-advised to reject the Bill.
§ LORD GISBOROUGH
My Lords, I crave your indulgence in addressing the House for the first time. There appear to me to have been made during this debate one or two statements which I think rather prejudge the case and prevent a right decision being arrived at. One of them, coming from so great an authority as the most rev. Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury, naturally carries tremendous weight, and that is the argument that 487 there has been no sign in the country of any stir against this proposal, and that no resolutions have been passed against it. That is hardly fair, because I think it is known that there was an intention to carry out a campaign in the country against this proposal, and this intention was only given up by those who are opposed to woman suffrage at the request of the noble Earl who leads this House, and for whose guidance we who are opposed to woman suffrage were grateful. That campaign was given up only on the undertaking which he then gave to speak and vote against woman suffrage when the subject came up for debate. That is the sole reason why no campaign was carried out and no resolutions have been passed, as I think they would have been passed, by big majorities throughout the country.
Lord Burnham made what I think were two astounding statements in his speech last night. One was that the main object of the Speaker's Conference was to deal with this question of woman suffrage. I venture to say it was nothing of the kind. We have it on the authority of the Government that the main object was to produce a new Register, and, secondly, to put upon it by unanimous desire—and therefore I thought it was unfair to compare it with woman suffrage—all those who have been fighting for us. The fact that an agreement was not arrived at on the question of woman suffrage and that it was carried only by a bare majority shows that the Speaker's Conference failed in its object as regards woman suffrage. Then, if what Lord Burnham said be true, what becomes the position of the Government? If this was the main object of the Conference, what becomes of the position of a Government which leaves the main question to be decided by the free-will of the House? Surely, if it were the main question, they would have made it a Government question and treated it as such.
Again, Lord Burnham said—and it was repeated by Lord Selborne—that if these subsections are excluded the Bill falls to the ground. Lord Selborne was corrected on the point, but repeated and emphasised it. Whom are we to believe—Lord Burnham and Lord Selborne, who are not members of the Government, or the Government themselves? I have here the words of my right hon. relative, Mr. Long, who on July 4, 1917, said—We are told that if this is rejected the Government will drop the Bill. In the earlier debates 488 my hon. friend the Member for Herefordshire, a strong and very able and courageous advocate on the subject of woman suffrage, put me a question in the course of a speech. He said, 'Will the Government drop this Bill if woman suffrage is not carried?' I asked him to remember that the Government had left it to the House. It is ludicrous to suggest, on a question which we have left to the House and upon which therefore we have undertaken to accept the decision of the House, if the House exercises its freedom and comes to a decision of which some of us disapprove, that, therefore, we will say that all this is to be wasted and the Bill is to be dropped.If that is the opinion of the Government, I think we are justified in saying that what they said they meant, that this is an open question, and that if we decide that this proposal is not to be included in the Bill it will not have the effect which is said, but that the Bill will become law and be as strong a Bill, and even a stronger Bill, than before.
Then Lord Haldane, I think it was, said that the majority of the National Union Conference had passed a resolution by a big majority in favour of this subject. I have been a member of that Conference for years, and have attended more than one of their conferences, and I do not remember a single occasion on which this question has been even discussed, let alone carried by a large majority—with two exceptions. On two occasions, at the fag-end of the conference, when the great bulk of the delegates had gone home, the question came up and was stated to be carried by a handful of members. I have been present on other occasions when the question, having been put down on the Order Paper, was reached before the delegates had left, and on every occasion it has been moved to proceed to the next question, and that Motion has been carried nem. con.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Buckmaster, also remarked that this subject had been discussed on every platform throughout the country. There, again, I take issue. For my sins, during the last twenty years, I think I have addressed as many meetings as most ordinary members of Parliament have had to do. On no single occasion have I ever addressed myself to, or been called upon to do so, or heard any other speaker at those meetings deal with, this subject, unless in answer to a direct question. I venture to say that this question never has been thoroughly discussed in the country, that it never has been laid before the country, and that 489 the opinion of the country has never really been taken upon it. Yet your Lordships are asked to pass this, the greatest and most revolutionary measure, for all time, without a mandate from the people; to take this irrevocable step, and to pass this proposal into law merely at the request of a House of Commons which has already died three deaths and is preparing for a fourth.
After all, this is a serious question, and raises the most momentous issue that has ever been before the country, and we have to decide it. Reference has been made to woman suffrage in countries like America and like Australia and other of our Colonies. I say there is no comparison of any sort or kind, because there is this vital difference in their case and in ours. In the Colonies women are in a hopleess minority, and therefore it makes very litle difference whether they have the vote or not. But here in this country women are in an enormous majority. Previous to this war there were 1,300,000 more women than men in the country. It has also been computed that on every day that an election takes place some million men are away—commercial travellers, business men, sightseers, "globe-trotters" (as they are called), men at sea, and others. In addition to these—alas! that it has to be said—some 500,000 of our most gallant men will have been killed before the war is over.
And there is still a further deduction to be made. After the South African War, with the, comparatively speaking, small Army that we had then, I believe I am right in saying that something like 350,000 men, becoming unsettled by the life at the Front, refused to return to the monotony of agricultural or factory life, and emigrated to our Colonies and other countries. If 350,000 emigrated out of that small Army, how many are going to emigrate out of the vast Army, exceeding 5,000,000, which we have assembled to-day, bearing in mind that greater and stronger inducements are offered by the Colonies to them to go out there? You can take, I think, 500,000—that is only 150,000 more than emigrated after the South African War—as the very lowest computation that can be made. If these are added, you will have in this country at the close of this war between 3,000,000 and 4,000,000 more women than men at every Election. It might then be said that we are limiting the age, and that they will not all be included. 490 Does anybody put that argument forward with any belief in it? We all know—I have it on the evidence of women themselves—that they look upon this proposal sa almost an insult, and that the first thing they are going to do is to demand the extension of the qualification to them inexactly the same way as it is given to men; and they will get it, because there is no logical argument against it. Then you will be face to face with the greatest revolution that has ever occurred in this or any other country, and will be handing over the government of this great Empire to a majority of women.
Surely, my Lords, in an issue like this at such a time, and in the absence of any mandate from the people, we are justified in this House in saying that we decline to take that dangerous step in the dark. We are justified in saying that, whereas if we pass this measure it becomes irrevocable and cannot be undone if you find (as many of us think is the case) the great bulk of the country is dead against you—you cannot go back once you have placed this principle in the law—on the other hand it can be brought up again if the country desires it if we take the line of not rejecting it altogether but of postponing it. You will then not have committed yourselves to any irrevocable decision, but you will have taken a step which your Lordships will be justified in taking of referring it back to the people for their mandate before it becomes law.
THE ADDITIONAL PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY OF THE ADMIRALTY (THE EARL OF LYTTON)
My Lords, I am sure I shall have the assent of all your Lordships in saying that, whether we agree with his opinions or not, we all welcome the noble Lord who has just spoken, and, as he said, addressed your Lordships for the first time. We welcome his entrance into these debates, and hope that we shall have the advantage of hearing him on other occasions.
In listening to this debate I have been chiefly struck by the fact that up to this moment there has not been any adequate expression of the feelings of those who will be most affected by this clause and by the Amendment of the noble Earl—the feelings, I mean, of those women who, now for a great many years, have been waiting and working—patiently at first, but with ever-increasing impatience in recent years, 491 and I am afraid also even with ever-increasing bitterness—for their admission to the rights of the franchise for the Imperial Parliament. When the Lord Chancellor just now expressed the fear that the women of this country might be more inclined than the men to be influenced by a spirit of war-weariness, I could not help feeling how little he really knows them. It is, perhaps, the case that there is no one in this House who really can express the feeling of those who have agitated for years for this reform, but as I have been privileged for many years to work with them, to enjoy their confidence, to share their hopes, their anxieties, and their many disappointments, I would like to say a very few words from that point of view before we go to a Division.
I would remind your Lordships that this is no new question. It may be new to many of your Lordships, but it is one of the oldest of the political controversies in this country. I myself have taken an active part in the political agitation for the obtaining of the suffrage for women for ten years, and even that has only been the very last phase of the movement. In the past history of the agitation there have been many incidents which have given cause for a sense of soreness, or grievance a feeling that women have not received, fair play; and I think your Lordships can hardly realise the effect which would be produced, upon top of these many disappointments in the past, if the Amendment of the noble Earl were accepted, and at this moment and in these circumstances this clause was struck out of the Bill.
Let me try and explain to your Lordships, if I can, the sort of reasons which give rise to this particular feeling of soreness and bitterness. First of all, at the present moment there are only four classes which are specifically, as distinct classes, excluded from our franchise—paupers, lunatics, children, and women. Now the fact alone that women have been up to the moment condemned to remain in that category has in itself created a great feeling of resentment; and I would remind your Lordships that the last of these classes, women, are in a worse position than any of the others. You are going to remove the pauper disqualification in this Bill; of the three classes that remain, there is a hope that lunatics may one day cease to be lunatics; children certainly will cease to be children—provided that they are of the male sex; 492 and it is only in the case of women that, as a class, at all times, in all circumstances, and at all ages, they are definitely excluded, together with paupers and lunatics, from exercising the rights of citizenship and voting for Members of Parliament.
There is another reason why, especially in more recent years, this feeling of resentment has been increased, and that is because the women have found that in their agitation a different standard of evidence, a different standard of opinion, a different standard of action is applied to their agitation from that which is applied in all other political controversies. Let me give your Lordships an illustration of what I mean. We have been told over and over again in this debate that we have no evidence whatever of the opinion of women on the question as to whether or not they should be admitted to the Parliamentary franchise. That point was fully and ably dealt with by the noble Earl, Lord Selborne, just now. I do not want to go into figures, but I do not think I can state the case better than by reminding your Lordships of the nature of the evidence before us. What is the kind of evidence we require, in discussing political matters, before we can make up our mind which way the weight of opinion lies? When so many people have expressed their opinion, and so many have been silent, we take the expression of opinion from organised bodies and compare the expressed organised opinion on the one side with the expressed organised opinion on the other. In all political questions we leave out of consideration opinions which are not expressed. If you apply that standard to this question as it is applied to every other political question, I say that there is no comparison whatever between the evidence which may be brought forward on the one side and that on the other. If you take the two parties, composed of men and women who are engaged in this agitation, those in favour and those against, there is no comparison whatever in the number of meetings addressed, and in all the features of political agitation, between the various woman suffrage societies throughout the country and the one National League for Opposing Woman Suffrage. Do not let it be supposed that I wish to underrate the value, importance, and influence of this society, but it is not comparable, in length of time, and methods of agitation, with the efforts that have been made by the various woman suffrage societies. After all, these 493 are societies existing for the particular purpose of this agitation.
I wonder whether your Lordships are aware, wherever the opinion of women is organised for any purpose whatever, that without exception these women's organisations have, at one time or another, expressed an opinion and passed a resolution in favour of the enfranchisement of women. Women doctors, women nurses, women teachers, women trade unionists and workers of all kinds, wherever they have been organised have passed resolutions and petitioned Parliament in favour of the suffrage. Can any one produce a single resolution or an expression of opinion from an organised body of women, except that of the National League for Opposing Woman Suffrage (which is composed of men and women), which can compare with that fact? Women do feel, therefore, a certain resentment that, in spite of all this evidence of meetings and resolutions passed in favour of the franchise, and after having adopted every possible known means of political agitation, at the end of it they are told that it does not matter and that there is no evidence before us on which we can form an opinion. That is really adopting a totally different standard from that which is adopted on every other question. There has not been a single political question before Parliament in the last ten years in support of which you could adduce, according to the recognised standard, a greater measure of public support than the question of woman suffrage. Yet in spite of that we are told by the noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne, by the noble and learned Earl, Lord Loreburn, and by the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, that we have no means of knowing what the opinion of women is on this subject.
I listened yesterday, as I always do, with the greatest attention to the speech of the noble and learned Earl. I have always felt that there is no man in this House who can state better, more moderately, or more bravely a case than he can; but I have never listened to him with greater sympathy than I did last night, not because I had sympathy with his views, but because he found himself obliged to give expression to them. It seemed to me inconceivable, and out of keeping with all the political traditions and political opinions which the noble and learned Earl has expressed in this House, that he should have to defend a 494 lost cause last night. In order to do that, and in order to attack it, he represented the case before him in a way which, I thought, was a little strange. For instance, the noble and learned Earl really argued to your Lordships' House as if we were proposing, in this Bill, to transfer all responsibility and power in respect of our Army, our Navy, our foreign affairs, and our Empire, from masculine to feminine opinion. Of course, it was easy to argue against a case like that, and I should myself argue against it. But there is no suggestion of doing anything of the kind. What is proposed here is that in the electorate of ths country which chooses the Parliament women should be allowed in future to have a share in selecting their representatives. Again, the noble and learned Earl was acutely conscious all the time that he was asking your Lordships' House to do something which would bring you into conflict with the overwhelming weight of opinion in the House of Commons. I could not help remembering the many times he has urged, from the Woolsack, measures for the approval of your Lordships' House on the grounds that they had received the vote of a large majority in the House of Commons.
THE EARL OF LYTTON
And also that they were right—yes. The noble and learned Earl, I know, felt a difficulty last night and, in order to overcome it he had to convince himself, and try to convince your Lordships, that the House of Commons did not really know its own mind. He said that on two separate occasions the House of Commons had rejected the principle of woman suffrage. That was answered subsequently, although the noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne, I think, took exception to the explanation which was given. He said it could not be due to the prejudice created by militancy, but that it was an evidence of a certain hardening of opinion against the cause of woman suffrage. I want to go a little more into detail as to what actually was done by this Parliament on this question. I was at that time intimately associated with members of the House of Commons who were promoting various Bills on the subject. I worked with them on a Committee, and I remember exactly what was done in respect of these Bills. This Parliament 495 was elected in December, 1910, and as the noble Earl, Lord Selborne, has reminded us, there came to that Parliament 419 Members pledged to support the cause of woman suffrage. In May, 1911, a Bill was passed by a majority of 310 to 143, but it went no further; just as a previous Bill, in the previous session, was passed by a majority of 324 to 215, and again got no further. It is just the fact that the House of Commons continually passes Resolutions, or passes the Second Reading of Bills, and that they get no further which was an additional grievance to those who thought that they had a right to expect something from the pledges given to them by their Members. It was because the private Bill could in the circumstances get on further that Mr. Asquith gave a pledge that in the next session he would introduce a Reform Bill to which a private Member could move a woman suffrage Amendment. When that Bill came before the House of Commons an Amendment in favour of woman suffrage was ruled out of order by the Speaker, and it was because that Amendment was ruled out of order that the Bill had to be withdrawn, and it was withdrawn because the Government at that time knew that they could not proceed with a Reform Bill unless the House of Commons had an opportunity of expressing its opinion on this matter.
Instead of an opportunity of voting for an Amendment to a Government Bill, the House of Commons was given a further opportunity of discussing a private Member's Bill. I remember very well what the feeling of suffragists at that time was. They were not content with the private Member's Bill which was offered to them as an alternative. They had no interest in the Bill. They actively opposed it outside, and that was the main cause for the aggravated form of militancy which was agitating the country at that time. With suffragists outside against the Bill, with Members inside prejudiced by militancy, it is quite true that the House of Commons rejected the measure. Those were the conditions under which it was done; and I think it is only right that the House should remember, if you are going to base any argument on the fact that the Bill was rejected by the House of Commons before, the circumstances which brought it about.
Let me come to this Bill. Let me remind your Lordships of the Divisions 496 upon it. The House of Commons passed a Resolution calling upon the Government to introduce it by a majority of 341 to 62. When it was introduced, its Second Reading was carried by 329 to 40. This clause, when under discussion in Committee, was carried by 385 to 55; and finally, when the Motion was put "That Clause 4 stand part of the Bill" only seventeen Members were found to vote against it; and the Third Reading of the Bill was carried without a Division. Is it possible to produce a single Government measure of great importance in recent times which could claim so overwhelming a support of the House of Commons as that? At last, my Lords, those who advocated this measure were beginning to believe that the question was going to be treated seriously, and it is inconceivable that, after Divisions of that magnitude in the House of Commons, this clause should be struck out of the Bill by the action of your Lordships' House, and another disappointment added to the total of those which women have already had to endure.
The moment in which it is suggested that this should be done is in itself an added aggravation of the grievance which has been created, because you will be doing this in connection with a Bill the object of which is to make the representation of the people more adequate, more perfect, more complete, than it has ever yet been; and it will be at a moment when you are extending manhood suffrage to its furthest limit, at a moment when you are saying emphatically that the only qualification which you are going to impose upon anybody for a vote in Parliament will be a residence of six months in a particular district. Is it to be in connection with the discussion of such a Bill that you are to say again that women must remain in the category of lunatics and children? That is what would be the effect of accepting this Amendment. You will be saying that for all time they are to be disqualified. Those who would like to raise the question of the age limit, those who would like to express an opinion on the Amendment to be proposed by Lord Balfour of Burleigh, will all be shut out. This question will be decided finally if this Amendment is carried.
On the last occasion when this subject was before your Lordships' House it was refused by a large majority, but the wonder was, I think, considering the prejudice 497 which was created at that time, that it received so large a measure of support as it did. At that time the women whom you are asked to enfranchise for the first time were represented to you as engaged in a campaign of organised violence. What is the position to-day? The strongest reason, not for giving women the vote, but for giving it to them now, and giving it to them by this Bill, is the fact that they are engaged in national service so widely diffused, so important in character, as has been admitted by many speakers, that you could not hope successfully to carry on this war without them. It is that, my Lords, which has caused this tremendous change of opinion on the question.
The noble and learned Earl, Lord Loreburn, spoke last night of persons being converted in battalions. He almost seemed to complain of the fact. I can understand his regretting their conversion, but it was no argument in favour of his Amendment. The fact is that, as the most Rev. Primate has just reminded us, there has been a very significant change in public opinion in the last few months. Let me ask your Lordships to note how this change in public opinion has been specifically recognised quite recently by the Sovereign in the fact that he has for the first time decided that women should be entitled to rewards for their services in the same way as men, and has instituted an Order under which the awards of national service during the war shall be distributed impartially between men and women. All these things have made a profound impression elsewhere, and I refuse to believe that this House is the only place to remain unaffected by those changes.
The noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne, said last night, quite truly, that if you make a mistake now by enfranchising women your mistake will be irreparable, but that if you make the mistake of refusing it your mistake may be repaired. Yes, my Lords, but this is the moment for repairing it. That mistake has been constantly made in the past. It was made in this House in May, 1914. I say that this is the moment and that this is the opportunity offered to your Lordships for restoring it, and it is for that reason that we are asking you now to join with the House of Commons in making reparation for the numerous occasions in the past when the mistake to which the noble Marquess referred has been made.
498 I want to say one word in conclusion which is directly connected with this House, and with the immediate circumstances in which we find ourselves. I will deal with the second point raised by Lord Lansdowne last night when he asked whether we had the right to deal with the subject now. I have no hope of changing convinced, considered opinions. I have no wish to do so, but I would make an appeal to the large numbers of your Lordships who may, perhaps, still have an undecided opinion on this question, and whose votes will therefore decide the Division we are about to take. Lord Lansdowne said that this clause was an excrescence on the Bill, and Lord Balfour of Burleigh said that you could strike the clause out and proceed with the Bill just the same without it, and I think the Lord Chancellor took the same view of the matter. But that is exactly what you cannot do—not, let me assure the noble Lord who spoke last, because of any action which the Government will take in the matter. The Government has all along said that the two Houses of Parliament shall be perfectly free to deal with this matter, and that no pressure of any kind will be put upon them by the Government. It is not because the Government would withdraw the Bill if this were struck out, but I will tell you why this is just what you cannot do. There are two reasons. The first is that it would be a crowning injustice to women that you should proceed with a Bill giving full extension of the franchise to men and at the same time strike this clause out of the Bill.
The Lord Chancellor said he could sec why to do this would be an added grievance. I will tell you. Women are perfectly prepared—they were at the beginning of the war, and they are still—to wait until the end of the war if Parliament should so decide before the justification of their claims—on one condition, namely, that the franchise should be left alone altogether. If Parliament should determine that it is not desirable during the war to raise the question of the reform of the franchise, women are perfectly prepared to wait. But what they are not prepared to do, what they would never tolerate for a moment, is that you should raise the question, that you should deal with manhood suffrage, that you should carry it to the furthest limits, and at the same time that they should be left out. That would be an impossible position 499 which would never be accepted by even the most patriotic women at this time.
But there is another reason, the reason mentioned by Lord Selborne. You cannot do it because the House of Commons would not allow it. Does anybody suppose for a moment that after the Divisions, the figures of which I have given to your Lordships, the House of Commons would consent to pass the remainder of this Bill if this clause were struck out? No. I have no anxiety for the fate of this clause. This Bill will never pass into law without it. But I have great anxiety for the circumstances in which it will remain in the Bill. I think it will make just the whole difference how it is done. We have the opportunity to-night of our own free will, without pressure from anybody, on its merits, of showing confidence in this new electorate, of putting this clause into the Bill of our own motion. If we reject it we shall find ourselves obliged in a few weeks' time either to embark upon an embittered and impossible controversy with the House of Commons, or we shall find ourselves forced to accept grudgingly, with a bad grace, against our will and under pressure, what is inevitable.
I have tried to explain why there were circumstances causing special bitterness and a special sense of grievance in the past. We have an opportunity now of wiping that out once and for all. We have an opportunity of expressing generous confidence in these new electors and summoning all of them, men and women, to our aid in dealing with the grave problems of reconstruction which lie before us. I do, therefore, appeal most earnestly to your Lordships to reject this Amendment to-night and to ensure that this Bill shall pass into law as the ungrudged gift, not only of all Parties, but of both Houses of Parliament.
§ VISCOUNT CHAPLIN
My Lords, the noble Earl who has just sat down has made an appeal to your Lordships' House on the same grounds as those which were raised by my noble friend behind me, Lord Selborne, in his speech earlier in the evening. In reply to Lord Lansdowne, Lord Selborne said he held the opinion that if your Lordships throw out the clause in this House it will be put back again in the House of Commons, and that if we stick to it we shall split the nation. I thought to myself when he said that, Could there 500 possibly be a better confirmation of the line which many of us have taken in this House with regard to controversial legislation? Is this to be the outcome of your controversial measure, that if we have the courage of our own opinions, if we act up to our duties and take the course which we believe to be right, we can only do it at the cost of splitting the nation? My noble friend behind me (the Earl of Selborne) appeared altogether to have forgotten what the noble Earl who leads the House has repeated on several occasions since these debates began, both with regard to the question which we are discussing and with regard to the question of proportional representation, that these are considered open questions by the Government, and, as they were open in the House of Commons, so I understood him to say they were to be equally open to our judgment in the House of Lords. If that be so, and evidently I am right in what I say, what becomes of the objection of noble Lords about splitting the nation, when we have done only what we have been invited to do by the Government itself?
The noble Earl opposite quoted Lord Lansdowne and the statements that have been made in this House, that once you pass this Bill it is irrevocable. That is perfectly true. That is the great danger which we have to face in assenting to this clause. It is a danger and a responsibility which I am not prepared to take. Here is a cry which comes to me in a large number of different communications from the other side of the Atlantic. These communications have come from men of high position, Judges, and so on, in the various parts of the United States, and also from large numbers of ladies. The remarkable thing about my correspondents is that they have all for years and years been working to establish woman suffrage in America. This is the burden of their song: "For many years in my past life I have worked, harder than I ever did for anything else, for woman suffrage. The result, alas! has been disastrous in the extreme; and were it possible I would work ten times harder to get rid of it than I ever worked on behalf of it." Therefore the question is not quite so easy and so simple as it seems to be to some noble Lords.
There is a matter which I do not think I mentioned in my speech on the Second Reading. The experience of Australia and 501 of the United States with regard to woman suffrage points to two things. The first is that the women of the working classes invariably vote in the same way as their male relatives. In Australia women have been found invariably to vote against conscription. That may be right or it may be wrong. Mr. Hughes has been defeated recently in Australia for the second time on this issue of conscription; and if woman suffrage were general in Canada, it is almost certain that Sir Robert Borden would have been defeated also on this same issue. This would have happened at a moment when it is vital to the British Empire and to our Allies that we should obtain every possible man in order to win this war.
That is but one part of the question. It has been estimated by the best authorities whom I have been able to consult that 5,000,000 out of the 6,000,000 new women voters whom it is proposed to create are connected directly or indirectly with Labour. I have no reason to doubt the authority upon which I make this statement, and if the statement is true it means that you are going to add 7,000,000 instead of 2,000,000 votes to organised Labour in this country—it would be 2,000,000 only if the additional men's votes were taken into account. When we think of the situation in which we are now placed, when we hear of industrial unrest, of strikes occurring day after day, is this the moment for making so tremendous an experiment? I am convinced that the great mass of the British working men are as loyal and as patriotic as any other class in this country. Thousands of them joined the ranks at the beginning of the war; and I know from a personal friend that in one mine alone he lost 3,000 men shortly after hostilities began. That shows the truth of what I said just now, that the great mass of these men lack nothing in regard to patriotism and loyalty.
Let us now look at the other side of the question—the everlasting strikes that are going on (it is hardly an exaggeration to say) week after week amongst some of the workers who have remained at home. I apprehend that most of your Lordships have read the remarkable articles which appeared in The Times some weeks ago called "The Ferment of Revolution." In my opinion that was, perhaps, the best thing that has been done in the Press in 502 this country for many years. I am afraid that those articles are true to a certain extent, and they show that, in regard to all these strikes, it is the tail which wags the dog. The extremists among the workers found out long ago the attraction of a strike for an increase of wages, which neither the workmen nor his wife is able to resist in any circumstances. Therefore it is that at the present time the extremists have learned how to manipulate matters. The extreme pacifists, the men who are most opposed to the war and who do everything they can to thwart the efforts of the Government are the men who are pulling the Labour strings to-day. If I am right, surely that is no reason for our encouraging them now by a large addition to their voting forces. I think that it affords an admirable reason for doing exactly the opposite.
I noticed a statement, made last night by my noble friend Lord Burnham in the very able speech that he made, upon which I desire to say a word or two. He criticised Lord Lansdowne for trying to destroy the Bill, which he said was accepted as an agreed settlement by the country. I wondered on what ground he made that statement, and I am still totally unsatisfied by any of the replies that have been given up to now during this debate. In his defence of this particular clause he made another statement which I should like to quote, for it seemed to me to be of a very singular and remarkable character, He was speaking of the Convention and what happened there, and what he said was this—From the Chair it was laid down, on the first day on which we met, that this was one of the main questions for consideration, and this could not have been said without agreement after consultation with the Leaders of the Parties by whom the Conference was appointed.The Leaders of the Parties are the Leaders of the Government at the present time, and to me it has an odd appearance and rather detracts from the idea that this is an absolutely independent decision arrived at by the Conference when I learn that woman suffrage was considered to be one of the main objects of this Conference—one of the main objects to be considered solely because of the intervention or the information laid before the Conference by the Leaders of the two Parties, the Unionist, and, I suppose, the Radical Parties. I thought it right to call attention to this particular statement.
503 I will not detain your Lordships much longer, but I wish to make an appeal and to remind you of something else that occurred quite within recent years, and which redounded and will for all time continue to redound greatly to your Lordships' credit. I have always been taught to believe that it is one of your proud traditions that whenever the country has been in a position of danger or in a tight place, it is your Lordships' House which, in the last resort, has always been ready to come forward for the safety of the nation. Such an occasion occurred not many years ago. May I go back for one moment to the last speech which I made in the House of Commons? On that occasion I had to follow Sir Edward Grey in the Blockade Debate, and what did I learn from the course of that debate, and what did I point out and remind him of? I reminded Sir Edward Grey of his instructions to his delegates at the Declaration of London. What were they?—If any other nation desires to abandon the policy of contraband of war, you are to support them.The Declaration was signed and agreed to, containing that as one of its Articles; but by the mercy of Providence it was found, which it appears the Government had forgotten, that although that Declaration had been signed there was in existence a Naval Prize Court Act which made the Declaration wholly inoperative until that Act was repealed. What happened? Sir Edward Grey and his Government brought in a Bill to repeal that Act, and that Bill, of course, was sent up to this House. What was its fate? Your Lordships threw it out, and had it not been for your courageous action at that time, which brought upon your head the usual and invariable abuse which always follows any action on your part in antagonism to the House of Commons, we should have been—and this is no exaggeration—if the policy of contraband had been abandoned we should have been beaten in this war with Germany. Who is there, among all the supporters of this Bill to-night, who urge us on no account to differ from the House of Commons, who will deny the statement I have just made? My Lords, I believe that in all your long tradition you never stood on a higher pedestal than you did then, and than you do still in the opinion of those who remember this action on your part. And it is because of this that I venture to urge upon you—young 504 member as I am of your Lordships' House you must remember that I was for many years a member of the House of Commons, the last place in the world of which I should desire to speak with any disrespect, but still undoubtedly it is true that the present House of Commons has long out-stayed any authority that it ever possessed—that you are now confronted with one of those occasions on which you have to decide for yourselves what is your duty, and what is the right course for you to pursue, without fear or favour, and, in my humble opinion, without regard to any other consideration. I do not profess to say for a moment what your Lordships ought to think, or to do, or to say, but I shall un-feignedly rejoice if you take your courage, in both hands on this occasion and refuse to accept the clause in the Bill as it stands now.
§ LORD WILLOUGHBY DE BROKE
My Lords, I know that the noble Viscount will not think me guilty of disrespect if I do not follow him into his parallel in regard to the action which this House took in regard to the Declaration of London. I do not think that the question of woman suffrage is really comparable in importance with the action that this House took in regard to the question of contraband and the Declaration of London. But the analogy with regard to the effectiveness of the action of the House of Lords requires a certain amount of examination. When we took action with regard to the Declaration of London our action was effectual; and I want to ask Lord Loreburn, with great respect, what steps he is going to take to make his action effective with regard to woman suffrage, supposing that he wins and this clause is rejected. I have no doubt the noble Earl will tell us whether he is going to carry through his action to the bitter end, and what he will do, for instance, supposing the Government think the Bill is vital to the country, and go the length of creating Peers to carry it. In such circumstances, is the noble Earl going to stand on the line he has taken, or have confidential special orders been issued in a sealed packet to his supporters to hold the position for a certain time, and then to evacute it? It will be very interesting to see what the future action of Lord Loreburn and his friends will be supposing that they carry their Amendment.
This debate has taken the form largely of a Second Reading debate about the con- 505 stitutional propriety, first of giving women the vote now, and secondly whether they ought to have it at all. Those who are against woman suffrage have found excellent constitutional reasons for rejecting it, and those in favour of woman suffrage, like I am, consider that we are quite within our rights in accepting what we believe to be the opinion outside, fortified by a majority in the House of Commons of seven to one, I submit that that is not an unsound constitutional ground. We are told with regard to the wisdom of this House passing the woman suffrage part of the Bill that the question has never been before the country. I really do not know what people mean when they say it has not been before the country. If they mean, according to the rules of the old Party game, that it has never been brought up and fathered at a General Election by any particular political Party and consequently has neither been placed on the Statute Book nor rejected. I make them a present of that argument. But no contested Election has been fought for I do not know how long, at which the candidates have not been asked what their views were with regard to woman suffrage. It has been a very live question; and if it conies to talking about electioneering addresses and all that sort of thing, I should like to remind the House that the last Home Rule Bill (which somehow or other, in spite of the Party truce, has found its way on to the Statute Book) did not figure in the last electioneering addresses of certain Cabinet Ministers, and a great many Radical candidates. I have not got the names here, but I am certain of the fact. The details of that Home Rule Bill were never submitted to the electors of this country.
Everybody knows that in the moral and in the effective sense this question of woman suffrage has been more talked about for a great many years than almost any other domestic question. We are told it has not been before the country. Supposing that Lord Loreburn fails to carry his Amendment, I imagine that Lord Balfour of Burleigh will continue with his, and propose that the question of women's votes shall be submitted to a referendum. It is a little remarkable that he proposes there shall be in the first instance a referendum of the women to settle whether women are to have the vote or not. We are told that conferring votes on women is the most gigantic social revolution which has ever taken place, that it is a political 506 upheaval of the very greatest kind, and that women are not fit to take part in deciding great questions of this nature. Yet the very first thing proposed is to ask the women by referendum to decide themselves upon the question which those who are opposed to the suffrage say is the greatest social revolution of the day. I cannot see by what logic or by what argument that proposal is advocated by anti-suffragists. I will not anticipate what may or may not be said when the debate about the referendum takes place, but I should say that the introduction of the referendum into the constitutional machinery of this country is at least as important a step as the giving of votes to women. It is a step in the direction of plebiscitary as a substitute for Parliamentary government in this country. I am not going to say now whether I think that is right or wrong, but I do submit that the referendum ought not to be accepted by this country unless we have had it thoroughly well thrashed out and examined and backed up by a good majority in both Houses of Parliament, and until we are perfectly certain of public support in this matter. So much for the constitutional propriety of passing woman suffrage.
Now with regard to the question itself, I am not going over the old arguments. As a supporter of woman suffrage I was grateful for the chivalrous speech of Lord Loreburn. While I was listening to that speech I could not help thinking that if everything he said about women is true, as I think it is, I was not sure whether we ought not to take away the vote for men altogether and allow the women only to decide the question. The noble Earl really made a powerful speech in favour of woman suffrage. I am very much obliged to him for having done so. He used an argument which we have often heard before, but which he stated with his usual force and clarity. He said that women might perhaps take part in what are called domestic questions, but that they were not fitted to take part in Imperial questions. I have never been able to see how you are to separate a domestic question from an Imperial question. The heredity and environment accompanying the birth of every British boy and girl is essentially a domestic question, but at the same time it is the whole foundation and root of the British Empire. It is just on these very questions with regard to the regeneration of the 507 race that we want the assistance of women. If this war has proved anything at all it has proved that the nation which in the long run can bring to maturity the greatest number of healthy men and women and place them in the field will eventually win in the great racial struggle of which this war may only be the beginning. It is for that reason, in my humble opinion, highly desirable that we should seek the assistance of women in framing our Imperial policy and legislation forthwith.
I believe I am not allowed to introduce in this House the name of His Most Gracious Majesty, but I believe that, without any disloyalty and without any irreverence, I may recall that he said a thing which ought to be taken as the text of any political Party which wants to succeed when he said, in a memorable speech, that the foundations of the Empire are in the homes of the people. It is for that reason that I, for one, welcome the chance that now occurs of women having the vote. There are others who want to know—and we were warned by the noble Earl, Lord Russell, that we ought not to ask the question—what the women are going to do with the vote. Perhaps you would not get a good answer to that, for very likely they may not know themselves. But to those who have any misgivings about the frame of mind of a certain quality and type of woman, I would refer your Lordships, with great respect and in all seriousness and sincerity, to Mrs. Pankhurst and the Women's Party. Mrs. Pankhurst, whatever you may think of the action she has taken, is entitled to respect. She has at least been absolutely sincere in supporting the cause of woman suffrage. She has sat in her cell, and faced death, because she believed it to be right. Not long ago Mrs. Pankhurst and her Party published a very remarkable, and from a Conservative point of view an exceedingly sound, document setting forth what they thought ought to be the national policy. This doctrine was so sound and so imperial that it even found favour in the Globe newspaper soon after Mr. Leo Maxse undertook the editorship. It is remarkable that the Women's Party is the only organised political Party which has put in the forefront of their programme the maintenance of the union between Great Britain and Ireland. In a long statement of policy Mrs. Pankhurst also goes through the whole gamut which the Imperial Party, as it is called in this country, have most 508 at heart, and therefore I do not think we need have very many misgivings with regard to the action that will be taken by at any rate a certain type and quality of woman in this country.
I want to back up the appeal which the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, made to those who have not yet made up their mind whether they are going to vote for or against woman suffrage. There are some who are dead against women having the vote and who will stop it if they can. I have nothing but respect for those noble Lords, and their logical and proper course is to insist upon the noble and learned Earl fighting it through to the bitter end and sticking to it, no matter what the consequences may be. But there are others whom one meets not only in this House but outside who say, "I suppose woman suffrage will come some day, and I really do not mind if women get the vote. I do not like it, but I do not mind, provided only a few get the vote, and provided they do not get it now." I do not think we can be too nice about who is going to get the vote and how they are going to get it. The delay is one of the things which has caused so much bitterness among women throughout the country. It is jam to-morrow, but never jam to-day. Surely this is a good time when those who are undecided can make up their minds, when we could give the vote with dignity, without yielding to passion, when controversy is not acute, and when the militants have turned their energies into war work. I trust that those who have not yet made up their minds on this question will endeavour to do so before the end of the debate, and that the House of Lords will not present the spectacle of denying the vote to women, especially after the manner in which they have behaved during the war.
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON)
My Lords, a noble Lord asked me just now, outside the House, whether I thought that the vote of a single member of your Lordships' House would be, or had been, influenced by a single speech that had been or could be made. I found difficulty in giving an answer to that question, but I thought it a great disparagement of the many able speeches that have been delivered on both sides, in the course of this debate, than which I do not remember, in any recent discussion, a more highly 509 sustained level of argument in the proceedings of your Lordships' House. But it made me wonder whether I could possibly escape from speaking myself. I can assure your Lord ships that I have no great fondness for speaking at any time, and I have no anxiety to speak in this debate. In fact, I would much rather, for many reasons, maintain silence. But in the course of this discussion, now extending over two days, so many references and even appeals have been made to me by noble Lords of great influence and authority—such as the noble and learned Earl, Lord Loreburn, and the noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne, who exhibited a most flattering and unexpected recollection of things that I have said or have not said on previous occasions; and, lastly, by the noble Lord, Lord Willoughby de Broke, who has just resumed his seat—that I feel I should not be justified in saying nothing. Further, if I may touch a personal note, I think I owe it to myself to state candidly to your Lordships' House the difficult position in which I find myself placed, and the course which I think it my duty to pursue.
In what I have to say pray believe that I do not speak as the spokesman of the Government or as the Leader of your Lordships' House. As regards the Government, the noble Viscount (Lord Chaplin) who spoke just now was quite correct in his description of the situation. Members of the Government in this House, as in the other House, have been at liberty to speak and vote on this matter in what way they pleased; and as regards the Leadership of this House, I must in what I have to say disclaim any desire to do more than state my own views, or to affect to exercise an influence on the opinions or actions of anybody else. In answer to the appeal and the question addressed to me by the noble Earl, Lord Loreburn, I am bound to say that, having listened to nearly every speech in this debate, and having listened with particular admiration, if I may say so, to the very powerful speech of the noble Earl, Lord Selborne—than which I have never heard anything which was a stronger or more effective statement of the female case—I personally remain unconvinced that it is either fair, or desirable, or wise, in the manner that is proposed, to add 6,000,000 female voters to the electorate of this country. And may I, in order to vindicate my own 510 position, state briefly the reasons which lead me to continue to hold that view?
In the first place, as many speakers have pointed out, this is a vast and incalculable, almost a catastrophic, change which, whatever may be your views about it, is without precedent in history and without justification in experience. I own, my Lords, that personally I am not very much impressed by the example of Finland and Norway and the fourteen States of America, nor even of California, upon which stress was laid by the noble Earl, Lord Russell, a few minutes ago, nor even of New Zealand or Saskatchewan. The action and examples of those communities, important as they are, all leave me in this connection absolutely cold and unmoved. No one can dispute the fact that no great State in history has ever made, so far, such a change, and I cannot think that I am acting very foolishly in ranging myself in opinion by the side of France and Italy—I do not mention Germany in this connection—and all the other great countries in the world; while the example of Russia, which I believe has conceded at one swoop universal suffrage, male and female, does not fill me with any positive enthusiasm.
The second point that affects me is this. This change, the most serious in our constitutional development that, if it is passed, will have occurred for at least half a century, will be, as was effectively pointed out by Lord Gisborough in his excellent maiden speech, irrevocable. Once given, the franchise—a boon, a privilege, a right, whatever you like to call it—can never be taken back. It may be ill-used, it may be misused, it may even be abused, but, once given, it can never be withdrawn. Therefore you are doing in this case, if you pass this clause in the Bill, even more than crossing a Rubicon. You are opening the floodgates to something much more than a tiny rill; you are opening them to a flood—because, as we all know, we cannot stop here—which will presently overspread this country and submerge, whether for good or evil, many landmarks that we have hitherto known.
Further—although this is a point, as I think, of somewhat minor importance—I have not heard in this debate any sufficient answer to the plea that no mandate or authority has been given by the country for this grant of the female vote. The point is not one which I wish to labour, and I 511 mention it only because it has been used on both sides. For instance, the noble Earl, Lord Selborne, argued that the question was before the country at the last Election in 1910 because Mr. Asquith had made a speech to that effect, and because, he said, 419 of the successful candidates were supporters of the measure. I have had those figures sent to me. I regard them with great suspicion. All that this means is that the 419 gentlemen had at some time or another expressed an opinion in favour of some form or another of female suffrage. But a good many of them have voted against it since; and, as a matter of fact, I believe it to be the case that at the Election of 1910, out of something like 1,200 election addresses, female suffrage was mentioned in only a little over one hundred. Therefore I think it is pushing things too far to say that, although female suffrage has been in the minds of people on both sides for many years, it was a substantial issue at the Election of 1910.
If I fail to convince my noble friend Earl Selborne himself, may I remind him that there is sitting at no great distance from him on the same Bench the noble Marquess, Lord Crewe. Lord Crewe has for some time taken a rather Laodicean attitude about female suffrage, and we have never any of us quite known in these debates upon which side he was going to come down. On the last occasion when I addressed your Lordships I succeeded much to my delight, in drawing the noble Marquess into the Lobby with me; but on this occasion the noble Earl, Lord Selborne, has been victorious. But as regards the particular point that I am raising now, I recall that in the debate in May, 1914, the noble Marquess (Lord Crewe) spoke as follows—I find it difficult to persuade myself that the verdict of the country has been given in favour of woman suffrage.With that remark I entirely agree. I will pass on, not omitting to say this, that if in 1910 there was a mandate for woman suffrage to the House of Commons, then clearly the majority of that House, which in two years after that date—in 1912 and 1913—threw out a woman suffrage measure, disobeyed the mandate which they had received from the country and ought to have received notice to quit.
I agree with my noble and learned friend Earl Loreburn—and I do not think that any one really disputed this—that the 512 selection of the age of thirty at which, in the case of woman, the vote is to be conferred is both arbitrary and illogical. It is arbitrary because, the basis of the vote being the stake and interest which the recipient may be presumed to have in the fortunes of the State, it is surely absurd to contend that a woman only begins to acquire that stake or to develop that interest when she reaches the age of thirty. It is illogical because, at the very moment that you are abolishing, or affecting to abolish, the sex disqualification, you say that a soldier at nineteen may have a vote at the next Election because he is a man, but that a woman may not have a vote until she reaches the age of thirty because she is a female. The fact is that while you affect with one hand to be destroying a distinction between the sexes, you are setting up a new and absolutely arbitrary distinction between the sexes of another description, of which you will, I venture to say, hear a good deal as time passes.
This brings me to the point—I think that more than one speaker has made it, but, if so, perhaps there is no harm in stating it again—that this arbitrary, artificial, and illogical limit of the age of thirty to the franchise for women is one that cannot possibly last. I wonder whether there are any noble Lords in this House who really think that we are going to halt at the age of thirty, and at the number of six millions. It is like King Canute calling upon the waves of the ocean, upon the incoming tide, not to lave his sacred feet. Is there any one who believes that this age limit can last more than a few years from the present date? I put the question to my noble friend Earl Selborne. Is there a single suffrage society—and he knows them—in this country which will pledge itself not to proceed with an immediate agitation for an extension. I have here a resolution passed by the Central National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies, to this effect—The National Union has not yet attained its object of gaining votes for women on the same terms as they are, or may be, granted to men, and will not have attained it even when the Representation of the People Bill has gone through. It will, of course, continue to work for it.If I wanted further evidence I should derive it from the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Buckmaster, yesterday evening. The noble Lord spoke not only with his accustomed power but with 513 admirable candour. He not only admitted the proposition which I have just ventured to lay down, that this distinction is both arbitrary and indefensible, but he went further and said that it had only been introduced because the country would be disturbed at the discovery, if the female qualification were made the same as the male, that there would be an overwhelming majority of female electors. But he went on to say that it would come. Therefore we now know exactly where we stand. This is not merely the thin end of the wedge; you are taking the wedge and hammering it half-way in. It means that, starting with the 6,000,000 of voters, what the period may be I hesitate confidently to predict, but in my judgment not twenty years, not fifteen, and not ten years will pass before the 6,000,000 voters will become 10,000,000 and very likely 12,000,000. Thus on all those grounds which I have stated I continue to regard this measure with a mistrust and an apprehension which I should be dishonest if I were to attempt to conceal.
I am not going to say one word about all the arguments for and against female suffrage with which we are so familiar. It has been my duty to state them to the best of my ability on previous occasions, and they were recapitulated with so much force by the noble Viscount, Lord Bryce, in a debate that we had at an earlier stage that I feel it is unnecessary for me to refer to them now—I mean the arguments that are based in the main on the distinction between the natures and physiological functions of men and women and upon the general and economic condition of their lives. I will only, in what I have to say, deal with one or two arguments, what I may describe as the more novel arguments, that have emerged from modern condition, and that have played a considerable part in this debate.
The first of these is the argument that has been so freely used, and which has been responsible for so many of those generous and impulsive conversions somewhat unkindly described by the noble and learned Earl as the political somersaults which have been exhibited in so many parts of the country—the twofold argument, first, that women have earned the vote by the contribution they have made to the prosecution of the war; secondly, that the vote is required by them to enable them to take part in the industrial reconstruction that 514 must follow upon its termination. As regards the first point, I am personally in entire agreement with what has been said from almost every part of the House about the service of women in the war. I should not for one moment wish to depreciate any more than any other noble Lord would the service which women have rendered. Whether we contemplate what they have done in munition works, or as nurses and hospital workers—and, be it remembered, several of them have paid the sacrifice of their lives—or as workers in fields and gardens, in huts and canteens, in railway stations, on omnibuses and trams—in whatever capacity we may regard this work, women have shown a flexibility of adaptation to the new conditions of their life, a zeal and devotion, and, I will also add, an efficiency which have been of inestimable service to the State. We all of us grant that. I am one of those who see nothing surprising in this; I think it would have been surprising had they done anything else. And by what have they been inspired? No doubt by a variety of motives, none of them in the smallest degree discreditable, still less dishonourable. They have been animated by a love of their country, by a devotion to their husbands and brothers, and dear ones, perhaps—and far from illegitimately—by the attraction of good pay and by the opening up of the better conditions of life which were thus placed before them. Yes, but if that be the ground on which the vote is claimed, precisely the same thing has been done by many boys (to whom, of course, we do not propose to give the vote) and—this is much stronger still—by armies of women between the ages of twenty and thirty to whom you are not going to give the vote. Again, we are not the only people who have made this splendid display of feminine patriotism and ardour. The same thing has been done in France, Belgium, Italy, Serbia, Rumania, where their services have been just as great as those of the women of this country, and their agony infinitely greater, but where there is no idea of treating that service as the ground for political reward.
There is another point. In so far as this vote, if given, is to be regarded as a recognition of successful war work, it is, I think, open to the objection that it is not the war workers whom in the main you are going to reward. Many noble Lords have made this point, and it is one which I endeavoured to examine a little while ago with a view 515 to ascertaining what are the facts of the case. I endeavoured to make an analysis, based on the Census of 1911, of what the occupations in this country of women of the age of thirty and above ordinarily are, These figures, of course, apply to pre-war conditions, because they are based on the Census of 1911. Be it remembered, in passing, that the 6,000,000 women to whom you are going to give the vote, if you give it, are divided into two classes—the wives of separate occupiers, who number 5,000,000 out of the 6,000,000, and separate occupiers themselves, married, unmarried, or widows, who make up the remaining 1,000,000. In 1911, of this total female population of thirty years of age and upwards, 86 per cent. of the married and widowed women were not occupied at all, which means that they were engaged in domestic duties, mainly at home. It was only the remaining 14 per cent, who were occupied as domestic servants, textile workers, dressmakers, shopkeepers, nurses, teachers, typists, and other professional occupations. I have no means of knowing how far these percentages have been affected, as no doubt they have been, by the social conditions arising out of the war, but still I think it is quite clear that the great majority of the women to whom the franchise is now proposed to be given are not women who can be classified as war workers in the fullest sense of the term, and, on the other hand, that a large majority of the class of actual war workers will not get the vote under this proposal. Therefore what you are doing—and I think we ought to be clear about the point—is this. You are saying to these female war workers, "We are much obliged to you for all you have done. You have rendered splendid and devoted service, but you are young, and undisciplined, and immature; therefore, although soldiers of any age from nineteen to thirty may vote, you must not vote; you must wait a bit for more age and experience, and until we have settled down to the conditions of peace. But meanwhile we are so grateful to you for all that you have done that we propose to give the vote to your elder sister, to your mother, to your grandmother, and to your maiden aunt." That is the exact proposition upon which we are now embarking; and for my own part I would much sooner, if I were defending this grant, take the line of the most rev. Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury, who brushed aside altogether the idea of reward for war 516 work and said that he defended the grant of the suffrage to women, not because of what they had done now, but because of their general position, status, and influence in the community, and because he thought they had exhibited civic capacities and virtues which entitled them now to this recognition.
I pass to another argument which has played a great part in this debate—namely, the argument that the vote of women is required adequately to support their interests in the industrial reorganisation that will follow the conclusion of hostilities. That, of course, really is an argument, if I choose to employ it, in favour of the enfranchisement of women between the ages of twenty and thirty, because I imagine that when reconstruction takes place those women will have just as great a right to have their interests looked after as the women between thirty and forty or between fifty and sixty, and it will be only vicariously through the elder women that the feminine interests of the other women can be safeguarded. This argument was used with great power and effect by the right rev. Prelate the Bishop of London at the close of the proceedings last night. He told us then that he had been converted to the support of the female movement by the belief that we need the service of women in the reconstruction that will arise after the war. I do not know whether I ought to be glad or sorry to say that I am better acquainted with the history of the right rev. Prelate than he is himself. He has post-dated the era of his conversion. Having rather a tenacious memory, I recall that in the debate on Lord Selborne's Motion before the war, in 1914, the right rev. Prelate again made a most excellent speech, and again he told us that he was "a recent convert"—before the war had taken place. And he told us that what converted him on that occasion—I am sure that it must be a sort of natural repercussion—was also militancy; he had been converted by the militant women, not because he approved of the abominable things they had done, but because they could not have done those things had there not been a rankling sense of injustice behind them. Therefore, if the women go to war in an illicit way here, or if the men go to war in a legitimate way abroad, in either case the conversion of a member of the Episcopal Bench is certain.
The right rev. Prelate—who, I hope, will pardon me for this little excursion into the 517 history of his convictions—told us that the votes of women are required to deal with all the social, moral, industrial, and educational problems which will arise after the close of the war. I do not dispute for a moment the title of the right rev. Prelate to bring that point of view before your Lordships. But I felt two things about that remark. In the first place I felt that a great many of these things are of the kind that will be done and can only be done by the exercise of that municipal vote which you are conferring upon 5,000,000 women by this legislation, that the greater part of the things upon which he was laying such stress fell within the sphere of local government and of municipal activity, about which we hear so little but which is really the vital force in the rebuilding and regeneration of the nation. The other point that I felt was this. I felt that the right rev. Prelate was exhibiting a confidence in Parliament which was so innocent as almost to be childish. We adopt a very peculiar attitude towards Parliament. When Parliament is sitting—I have heard it in the debate to-night—we lose no opportunity of saying that it is an utterly useless and impotent machine—I am saying that of the House of Commons; we never say it of ourselves—utterly out of touch with the community, obsolete, possessing almost every vice; but when we talk about the House of Commons of the future it is always going to give us (though it never does) a new heaven and a new earth; everything is to be put right; and as the men did not do it, the women are to be brought in to do it instead.
Now, is that the future which we are to expect upon the termination of this war—namely great Parliamentary activity to set right all the things that are wrong? I do not think that it is. I quite agree that from the ferment and the fret of this war a new social and moral order will, and ought to, emerge. What form it will take I, no more than anybody else, will dare to predict. But if it is to be anything substantial and successful, I personally hold the view that it is much more likely to succeed if it is not imposed from above, but if it springs from the volition of the people themselves below.
In this war do we all realise what a change has come over the conditions under which we live? We have allowed the State to become the universal taskmaster of the country. Every man and almost every woman is engaged in completing his quota 518 of bricks, and no Egyptian taskmaster assumed anything like the control which the State has assumed during this war. Will that continue? I believe that there will be a most prodigious reaction, and that as soon as the soldiers come back from the field, as soon as a new Parliament is constituted, that Parliament will not begin to deal with all the things of which we are speaking, but will undertake the task of freeing itself from the shackles which have been laid upon it during the continuance of the war. I think it will not be so much by the action of Parliament as by the operation of the old eternal economic laws and by the fruitful co-operation of various bodies, leagues, and unions, that the salvation to which we all look will be most likely to come.
But there are other post-war conditions as affected by the vote upon which I cannot help looking with some anxiety, and this is a point to which scarcely any attention has been paid in the course of this debate. I am assuming that not merely the 6,000,000 women get the vote, but that a very much larger number get it before long. Have we paused to consider what difference that will make in the relations between the sexes in our future lives? Let me give your Lordships a few illustrations of the way in which it seems to me it is likely to operate. Will men in the future like to have the conditions of their industrial life and their wages regulated by a preponderance of women? Supposing war unhappily occurs in the future—we hope it may not, but after all it may—will men be willing to be conscribed by a female vote while women go free? In peace, will men consent to have the conditions of their ordinary lives—the amount of drink, for instance, that they may consume—fixed by women? In these conditions, in which force for the first time, if women chose to exercise it, will pass from the male to the feminine side of the scale, I wonder whether men will continue their reluctance to apply the doctrine of physical force to women which has been the basis of the chivalrous relation that has hitherto existed between the sexes and has been the most ennobling and purifying influence in our national life.
Let me take another point. Take the industrial and social conditions of the future. Will women after the war, particularly if they have the vote, consent to be excluded from all those occupations and good wage-earning posts which they have 519 enjoyed during the last two or three years? Will they consent to give up the good, the ample, the almost extravagant wages that in some cases they are obtaining? Will they not use the vote to insist upon retaining them? Will men agree to this? Will the old division of labour between the two sexes, which has been based upon a sort of natural selection, continue to survive, or will it disappear? And, my Lords, another and more searching question still, What will happen to the household? The noble Lord, Lord Willoughby de Broke, referred just now to language used on some former occasion by our illustrious Sovereign, to the effect that the welfare of the country rested in the homes of the people. We all agree with that. But will women under these new conditions, with the power of the vote behind them, be willing to return to the monotonous routine of domestic life? Will they not insist upon retaining, as much as they can, all the artificial advantages they have been given during the course of the war? It is all very well to break up the home temporarily for the purposes of war and for women to farm out their childern and engage deputy mothers while they themselves are away on munition or other work, but the first duty of the country after the war is over will be to terminate those conditions, to get the mother back to her children, and to resume a more healthy condition of social and domestic life. I have no desire to enter into the sphere of prophecy, but I am rather alarmed at the effect which this grant of the suffrage on a large scale to women may have on the solution of some of those very complex problems to which I have ventured to allude.
But, after all, those are matters of speculation. The real question which we have to put to ourselves is the one which the noble and learned Earl, Lord Loreburn, put the other day—namely, will the grant of this vote on so extended a scale conduce to soundness of government and the stability of the State? Now, I speak frankly as a Conservative—not, I hope, a very old-fashioned Conservative, but as we get older our political instincts get more confirmed, and we tend to become what other people call reactionary and we ourselves call experienced. I therefore look at the thing through Conservative spectacles. I remember in the old days, when many of my noble friends opposite first began to espouse the cause of the woman's vote, that they always used to tell me that I was a 520 great fool not to do the same thing, because after all the bulk of the women would vote Tory, and it was a very useful thing to have this addition to the strength of the Party to which I, along with them, belonged. I was never impressed by that argument—not, I mean, by the probability of its being true. But I felt so strongly upon the subject of woman suffrage that I once remarked that if I were certain that the whole of the women were going to vote for the Party to which I belonged, I should prefer to decline the favour and not give the vote.
Now will these six millions of women, to be followed by ten and twelve millions, have, as some noble Lords have contended, a sobering and steadying influence upon the fortunes of the State? Have they had it in the countries or communities where the vote has already been given? I am not going to acerbate this discussion for one moment by alluding to what women have done in periods of great excitement in the Revolutions of France, or Russia, or other countries, or even to the abominable acts of which they were guilty in the militant campaign which preceded the war. I may assume that those things are either unlikely or impossible to occur in this country, or, if they have occurred, that they will not occur again. I will take women in times of peace. I think my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor was somewhat unfairly attacked for having made, as was alleged, a remark which insulted the women, by suggesting that it was possible—he earnestly deprecated the prospect—that their vote might be got hold of and organised, should they receive it, in favour of pacifist views on the war. I am sure he never intended it as in any way derogatory to women, but I do not think his warning ought to be neglected altogether. I have been told on good authority that in the vote given in Australia on the two occasions that Mr. Hughes appealed to the country one of the main reasons for his defeat was that the women were opposed to him, and that the women allowed their natural domestic desire to protect and recover their dear ones to over-ride the larger obligation of their duty to the State as a whole Whether that be true or untrue, this I think is incontrovertible, that wherever the female vote has been given—it certainly applies to the States of America—almost everywhere it has given a stimulus to Socialism. The noble Earl, Lord Russell 521 would not deprecate that. But I am speaking from another point of view, and it causes me considerable alarm. The other day there was a vote in the New York State of America, and I came across a passage in the New York Times in which that paper openly claimed the victory of women as a victory for Socialism. I might give other illustrations, but I will not pursue the matter.
I do not doubt myself that the noble Viscount. Lord Chaplin, was substiantially right when, as I understood him, he said that the time would not long be delayed, if the vote was given to women, and still more if it is extended, before you will find the Labour Party, the Socialist Party, and parties more extreme still, doing their best to consolidate and organise that vote in order to throw it upon their own side. If I desired to offer a prophecy I would say that before many years are past, in so far as women act together, the influence which you are about to throw into the distribution of power in the State will not be a Conservative influence, but will be a Socialist influence, and very likely a disturbing influence in the life of this country.
I have ventured to express to your Lordships the grounds of my own view and apprehension, and therefore you will not be surprised to know that I cannot vote for this proposal. I should violate my conscience if I did so. Am I justified in voting against it? Am I justified in voting for the Amendment of my noble and learned friend Lord Loreburn? Logically that is the direct consequence of everything I have said. Also I may add that it would express my own convictions. Let me, however, honestly confess to this House certain considerations which are present in my mind. Great and not undeserved stress has been laid in this debate upon what has passed in another place. We have been more than once reminded of the fact that in the last important Division on female suffrage there was a majority of 385 in favour, to 55 against; and it has to be remembered—this was a point to which I called your attention the other day—that this great majority was composed of the members of the Party to which I belong in almost the same proportion as it was of members of the Liberal Party—140 Unionists to 182 Liberals. Now, my Lords, I am quite content to admit that the present House of Commons has a very dubious record in respect of female suffrage. It was practically admitted by the noble 522 Earl, Lord Selborne, himself. They started upon their career in the first flush of innocence by giving female suffrage a majority of 167. Then they went back. Whether it was owing to the militant campaign or not, I hesitate to say—I have not the evidence—but they went back and voted against it twice, by majorities, I think he said, of 14 and 48; and now they have swung round again, and a few weeks ago they gave it a majority of 330. This, I say, is a somewhat ambiguous record. I admit further that these proposals which come to us from the House of Commons stand on no logical basis. You give the vote to boys of nineteen because they have fought; you give the vote to women of thirty though they have not fought.
But, my Lords, I am impressed by the position which was stated by the noble Earl, Lord Selborne. He said that in these matters his arguments never carried conviction to anybody else, and that the arguments used by opponents never had the slightest effect upon him. I will present him with an astonishing exception to that rule. The argument that he used in this particular did have an effect upon me, and the effect it had was this. I agree with the argument that the House of Commons, old as it is, obsolete as it is, is at the present moment the sole constitutional representative of the feelings of the country, and I do not know, I have no reason to suppose, that if the soldiers who are fighting came back they would vote in a different manner from their fellows who have remained at home. It is still the sole constitutional representative of the feelings of this country. We may be better judges of the feelings of the country, but I do not think that any of us, however high he may put the claims of this House, would say that our moral authority is higher than that of the House of Commons. Now, my Lords, I ask you to contemplate what may happen if, over this matter, we come into collision with the House of Commons within a few weeks of its having given that vote. Your Lordships can vote as you please. You can cut this clause out of the Bill. You have a perfect right to do so. But if you think that by killing the clause you can also save the Bill, I believe you to be mistaken. Nothing to my mind—this, again, is only a matter of speculation—is more certain than that if your Lordships cut this clause out of the Bill, as you may perhaps be going to do, the House of Commons will return the 523 Bill to you with the clause reinserted. Will you be prepared to put it back? Will you be content, if you eliminate the clause, with this vigorous protest that you have made, and will you then be prepared to give way? Or, if you do not give way, are you prepared to embark upon a conflict with a majority of 350 in the House of Commons, of whom nearly 150 belong to the Party to which most of your Lordships also belong?
Somebody said, in the course of this debate, that it would be an insult to the women to cut out this clause from the Bill. I do not take that view. I am aware of no promise to the women. I am aware of no ground upon which, if it were cut out, they could regard it as an insult; neither do I say it would be an insult or an affront to the House of Commons. But I say it would be a challenge to the House of Commons, and a challenge which the great majority in that Assembly would not fail to take up. Well, my Lords, if we embark upon that fight I confess I have myself no hopes that we shall win it. I should not like by my own action to be responsible for embarking upon it. I am now speaking of my own vote, and I should not like to think that by my vote—after all, I cannot quite divest myself of the position which I happen to occupy—I had hurried it on. Therefore, although I think the House of Commons is mistaken, although I think the majority of my Party in that House is mistaken, and although I think both will rue the day when they acted in the manner that they have done, I cannot conceal from myself the impression that the particular vote that the noble Earl, Lord Loreburn, asks us to give is one which may bring us into conflict with another place. All the more so because the matter directly affects their own constitution and composition in future, and because it is a vote which will be followed by a good deal of agitation and excitement in this country, and may involve us in a struggle from which the House of Commons is not likely to desist, and in which I cannot myself feel any confidence, much as I should like to do so, that your Lordships would prevail.
Therefore, my Lords, I cannot vote either way upon this Amendment, for I am loth to assume the responsibility of embark upon a course which I might not be able to pursue, and as regards which I might be accused of having precipitated a conflict from which your Lordships would not 524 emerge with credit. I have made this frank explanation to your Lordships of what is in my own mind, and if your Lordships do not appreciate the scruples which I entertain, or share the fears which I have expressed, I hope you will credit me at least with sincerity, and believe that it is a greater trial to me not to support my convictions by my vote than it could possibly be to be either misinterpreted or misunderstood.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
I ought to have mentioned that my noble friend Lord Peel, who is in charge of the Bill and who is conducting it with so much ability through the House, feels himself in the same position as I am and will act in the same way.
§ EARL LOREBURN
My Lords, I shall occupy very few moments. Some questions have been asked of me which it is my duty to answer. In regard to the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, when he very courteously expressed his sympathy with me in having to make the speech which I made—I am much obliged to him—I desire to say that I have only expressed the opinions of a lifetime which I hold (unfortunately not in the same sense) as strongly as he holds his, and which have been extremely well expressed by the noble Earl who has just addressed the House. My only reluctance was the reluctance that I always feel to take up time in addressing an Assembly. Lord Willoughby de Broke asked me a very searching question. He was quite entitled to ask it, and he shall have an answer. I do not apprehend that the consequences would be as serious as he and other noble Lords have suggested. But I would not have placed this Amendment on the Paper if I did not intend to stand to my guns, as far as I am concerned. What the House may think fit to do is a matter for the House to determine. Each noble Lord is responsible for himself. I will only say one more word with regard to this debate. Lord Russell, I thought, attributed to me opinions which I have never expressed. I have said nothing about the prospect as to the manner in which women would exercise the vote if they got it, and I purposely made no allusion to the war or anything connected with it. But if it be true that the general attitude of women when they get the vote, if they 525 do get it, is in favour of peace and not in favour of a warlike policy, then I say that no man can pay them a higher compliment than will be involved in that opinion.
I am sorry if the noble and learned Earl did not catch the explanation I made at the time. I was not referring to him at all, but to the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor.
THE LORD CHAIRMAN
In order that noble Lords who desire to amend the subsections shall not be prejudiced in the
§ event of your Lordships retaining the subsections in the Bill, I propose to take the Division on the question whether the two first words of subsection (1)—namely, "A woman"—shall stand part. These words govern both subsections. If they are left out, both subsections go; if they are retained, noble Lords will be able to move further Amendments.
§ On Question, whether the words proposed to be left out shall stand part of the clause—
§ Their Lordships divided:—Contents, 134; Not-Contents, 71.527
|Canterbury, L. Abp.||Cowdray, V.||Elphinstone, L.|
|York, L. Abp.||Devonport, V.||Emmott, L.|
|Falmouth, V.||Erskine, L.|
|Marlborough, D.||Gladstone, V.||Faber, L.|
|Sutherland, D.||Haldane, V.||Farrer, L.|
|Harcourt, V.||Forbes, L.|
|Bath, M.||Hill, V.||Harris, L.|
|Camden, M.||Hood, V.||Hylton, L.|
|Crewe, M.||Knutsford, V.||Islington, L.|
|Lincolnshire, M.||Milner, V.||Kintore, L. (E. Kintore.)|
|Salisbury, M.||Morley of Blackburn, V.||Lamington, L.|
|Reading, V.||Leith of Fyvie, L.|
|Albemarle, E.||Templetown, V.||Marchamley, L.|
|Ancaster, E.||Meldrum, L. (M. Huntly.)|
|Brownlow, E.||Bangor, L. Bp.||Minster, L. (M. Conyngham.)|
|Chesterfield, E.||Chichester, L. Bp.||Monckton, L. (V. Galway.)|
|Clarendon, E.||Ely, L. Bp.||Monteagle, L. (M. Sligo.)|
|Darnley, E.||Gloucester, L. Bp.||Monteagle of Brandon, L.|
|Dartmouth, E.||Llandaff, L. Bp.||Mostyn, L.|
|Denbigh, E.||London, L. Bp.||Muir Mackenzie, L.|
|Derby, E.||Oxford, L. Bp.||Newton, L.|
|Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.)||St. Asaph, L. Bp.||Northcliffe, L.|
|St. David's, L. Bp.||Parker of Waddington, L.|
|Dundonald, E.||Wakefield, L. Bp.||Parmoor, L.|
|Grey, E. [Teller.]||Winchester, L. Bp.||Penrhyn, L.|
|Hardwicke, E.||Worcester, L. Bp.||Ponsonby, L. (E. Bessborough.)|
|Harrowby, E.||Pontypridd, L.|
|Howe, E.||Aberconway, L. [Teller.]||Ranfurly, L. (E. Ranfurly.)|
|Kimberley, E.||Airedale, L.||Ranksborough, L.|
|Lichfield, E.||Anslow, L.||Rathcreedan, L.|
|Lucan, E.||Barnard, L.||Rayleigh, L.|
|Lytton, E.||Basing, L.||Rhondda, L.|
|Malmesbury, E.||Blyth, L.||Ritchie of Dundee, L.|
|Mar and Kellie, E.||Boston, L.||Rothermere, L.|
|Mayo, E.||Brodrick, L. (V. Midleton.)||Rowallan, L.|
|Morley, E.||Buckmaster, L.||St. Davids, L.|
|Mount Edgcumbe, E.||Burnham, L.||Sandys, L.|
|Onslow, E.||Clements, L. (E. Leitrim.)||Shaw, L.|
|Russell, E.||Colchester, L.||Somerleyton, L.|
|Sandwich, E.||Colebrooke, L.||Southwark, L.|
|Scarbrough, E.||Coleridge, L.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Selborne, E.||Courtney of Penwith, L.||Stuart of Wortley, L.|
|Stradbroke, E.||Crawshaw, L.||Tenterden, L.|
|Verulam, E.||De Ramsey, L.||Thurlow, L.|
|Denman, L.||Whitburgh, L.|
|Sandhurst, V. (L. Chamberlain.)||Desborough, L.||Willoughby de Broke, L.|
|Churchill, V.||Digby, L.||Wolverton, L.|
|Finlay, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Shrewsbury, E.||Dinevor, L.|
|Wicklow, E.||Faringdon, L.|
|Argyll, D.||Gisborough, L.|
|Newcastle, D.||Allendale, V.||Glenconner, L.|
|Northumberland, D.||Bryce, V.||Inverclyde, L.|
|Chaplin, V.||Joicey, L. [Teller.]|
|Lansdowne, M.||Chilston, V.||Kenmare, L. (E. Kenmare.)|
|Zetland, M.||Falkland, V.||Leconfield, L.|
|Halifax, V.||Mowbray, L.|
|Amherst, E.||Iveagh, V.||Northbourne, L.|
|Bathurst, E.||Knollys, V.||Oxenfoord, L. (E. Stair.)|
|Camperdown, E.||Mersey, V.||Plunket, L.|
|Cottenham, E.||Redesdale, L.|
|Devon, E.||Annesley, L.||Robson, L.|
|Ferrers, E.||Ashton of Hyde, L.||Roundway, L.|
|Halsbury, E.||Balfour, L.||Saltersford, L. (E. Courtown.)|
|Harewood, E.||Barrymore, L.||Saltoun, L.|
|Jersey, E.||Bateman, L.||Savile, L.|
|Leicester, E.||Biddulph, L.||Stafford, L.|
|Lindsay, E.||Brancepeth, L. (V. Boyne.)||Stuart of Castle Stuart, L.|
|Lonsdale, E.||Carnock, L.||Sudeley, L.|
|Loreburn, E. [Teller.]||Charnwood, L.||Swaythling, L.|
|Morton, E.||Cheylesmore, L.||Sydenham, L.|
|Northbrook, E.||Clifford of Chudleigh, L.||Treowen, L.|
|Northesk, E.||De Mauley, L.||Weardale, L.|
On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ House resumed; and to be again in Committee on Monday.