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Female Suffrage by Susan Fenimore Cooper

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Project an article arguing AGAINST the right of women to vote--an
article written by a woman?

{There are two reasons for doing so. The first is that Susan Fenimore
Cooper (1813-1894) was no ordinary woman. She was educated in
Europe and extremely well read; she was the daughter and literary
assistant of James Fenimore Cooper, America's first internationally
recognized novelist; and she was a naturalist and essayist of great
talent whose "nature diary" of her home village at Cooperstown,
published as "Rural Hours" in 1850, has become a classic of early
American environmental literature.

{Yet Susan Fenimore Cooper argued eloquently, bringing to her task
not only her deep religious feelings but also her very considerable
knowledge of world history and of American society, that women
should not be given the vote! Hers was not a simple defense of male
dominion; her case is combined with equally eloquent arguments in
favor of higher education for women, and for equal wages for equal
work. "Female Suffrage," is thus of considerable biographic
importance, throwing important light on her views of God, of society,
and of American culture.

{At the same time, "Female Suffrage" demonstrates that no social
argument--however popular or politically correct today--can be
considered as self-evident. Those who favor full legal and social
equality of the sexes at the ballot box and elsewhere (as I believe I
do), should be prepared to examine and answer Susan Fenimore
Cooper's arguments to the contrary. Many of those arguments are
still heard daily in the press and on TV talk shows--not indeed to end
women's right to vote, but as arguments against further steps
towards gender equality. Unlike many modern commentators, Susan
Fenimore Cooper examines these arguments in detail, both as to
their roots and their possible effects, rather than expressing them as
simplistic sound-bites. She asks her readers to examine whether
gender equality is compatible with Christian teachings; whether
universal suffrage can ever resolve social problems; whether the
"political" sphere is as significant to human life as politicians
believe. One need not agree with her answers, but one can only be
grateful that she forces us to ask questions.

{Hugh C. MacDougall, Secretary, James Fenimore Cooper Society--
August 1999}

Part I.

{Publisher's Note} [NOTE.--We have printed this Letter, which will
be continued in our next Number, not as an expression of our own
views, but simply as the plea of an earnest and thoughtful Christian
woman addressed to her fellow-countrywomen.--EDITOR OF

The natural position of woman is clearly, to a limited degree, a
subordinate one. Such it has always been throughout the world, in all
ages, and in many widely different conditions of society. There are
three conclusive reasons why we should expect it to continue so for
the future.

FIRST. Woman in natural physical strength is so greatly inferior to
man that she is entirely in his power, quite incapable of self-
defense, trusting to his generosity for protection. In savage life this
great superiority of physical strength makes man the absolute
master, woman the abject slave. And, although every successive
step in civilisation lessens the distance between the sexes, and
renders the situation of woman safer and easier, still, in no state of
society, however highly cultivated, has perfect equality yet existed.
This difference in physical strength must, in itself, always prevent
such perfect equality, since woman is compelled every day of her life
to appeal to man for protection, and for support.

SECONDLY. Woman is also, though in a very much less degree,
inferior to man in intellect. The difference in this particular may very
probably be only a consequence of greater physical strength, giving
greater power of endurance and increase of force to the intellectual
faculty connected with it. In many cases, as between the best
individual minds of both sexes, the difference is no doubt very slight.
There have been women of a very high order of genius; there have
been very many women of great talent; and, as regards what is
commonly called cleverness, a general quickness and clearness of
mind within limited bounds, the number of clever women may
possibly have been even larger than that of clever men. But, taking
the one infallible rule for our guide, judging of the tree by its fruits,
we are met by the fact that the greatest achievements of the race in
every field of intellectual culture have been the work of
man. It is true that the advantages of intellectual education have
been, until recently, very generally on the side of man; had those
advantages been always equal, women would no doubt have had
much more of success to record. But this same fact of inferiority of
education becomes in itself one proof of the existence of a certain
degree of mental inequality. What has been the cause of this
inferiority of education? Why has not woman educated herself in past
ages, as man has done? Is it the opposition of man, and the power
which physical strength gives him, which have been the
impediments? Had these been the only obstacles, and had that
general and entire equality of intellect existed between the sexes,
which we find proclaimed to-day by some writers, and by many
talkers, the genius of women would have opened a road through
these and all other difficulties much more frequently than it has yet
done. At this very hour, instead of defending the intellect of women,
just half our writing and talking would be required to defend the
intellect of men. But, so long as woman, as a sex, has not provided
for herself the same advanced intellectual education to the same
extent as men, and so long as inferiority of intellect in man has
never yet in thousands of years been gravely discussed, while the
inferiority of intellect in woman has been during the same period
generally admitted, we are compelled to believe there is some
foundation for this last opinion. The extent of this difference, the
interval that exists between the sexes, the precise degree of
inferiority on the part of women, will probably never be satisfactorily

Believing then in the greater physical powers of man, and in his
superiority, to a limited extent, in intellect also, as two sufficient
reasons for the natural subordination of woman as a sex, we have
yet a third reason for this subordination. Christianity can be proved
to be the safest and highest ally of man's nature, physical, moral,
and intellectual, that the world has yet known. It protects his
physical nature at every point by plain, stringent rules of general
temperance and moderation. To his moral nature it gives the
pervading strength of healthful purity. To his intellectual nature,
while on one hand it enjoins full development and vigorous action,
holding out to the spirit the highest conceivable aspirations, on the
other it teaches the invaluable lessons of a wise humility. This grand
and holy religion, whose whole action is healthful, whose restraints
are all blessings--this gracious religion, whose chief precepts are the
love of God and the love of man--this same Christianity confirms the
subordinate position of woman, by allotting to man the headship in
plain language and by positive precept. No system of philosophy has
ever yet worked out in behalf of woman the practical results for good
which Christianity has conferred on her. Christianity has raised
woman from slavery and made her the thoughtful companion of man;
finds her the mere toy, or the victim of his passions, and it places
her by his side, his truest friend, his most faithful counselor, his
helpmeet in every worthy and honorable task. It protects her far
more effectually than any other system. It cultivates, strengthens,
elevates, purifies all her highest endowments, and holds out to her
aspirations the most sublime for that future state of existence,
where precious rewards are promised to every faithful discharge of
duty, even the most humble. But, while conferring on her these
priceless blessings, it also enjoins the submission of the wife to the
husband, and allots a subordinate position to the whole sex while
here on earth. No woman calling herself a Christian, acknowledging
her duties as such, can, therefore, consistently deny the obligation
of a limited subordination laid upon her by her Lord and His Church.

>From these three chief considerations--the great inferiority of
physical strength, a very much less and undefined degree of
inferiority in intellect, and the salutary teachings of the Christian
faith--it follows that, to a limited degree, varying with
circumstances, and always to be marked out by sound reason and
good feeling, the subordination of woman, as a sex, is inevitable.

This subordination once established, a difference of position, and a
consequent difference of duties, follow as a matter of course. There
must, of necessity, in such a state of things, be certain duties
inalienably connected with the position of man, others inalienably
connected with the position of woman. For the one to assume the
duties of the other becomes, first, an act of desertion, next, an act
of usurpation. For the man to discharge worthily the duties of his
own position becomes his highest merit. For the woman to discharge
worthily the duties of her own position becomes her highest merit.
To be noble the man must be manly. To be noble the woman must
be womanly. Independently of the virtues required equally of both
sexes, such as truth, uprightness, candor, fidelity, honor, we look in
man for somewhat more of wisdom, of vigor, of courage, from natural
endowment, combined with enlarged action and experience. In
woman we look more especially for greater purity, modesty,
patience, grace, sweetness, tenderness, refinement, as the
consequences of a finer organization, in a protected and sheltered
position. That state of society will always be the most rational, the
soundest, the happiest, where each sex conscientiously discharges
its own duties, without intruding on those of the other.

It is true that the world has often seen individual women called by
the manifest will of Providence to positions of the highest authority,
to the thrones of rulers and sovereigns. And many of these women
have discharged those duties with great intellectual ability and great
success. It is rather the fashion now among literary men to
depreciate Queen Elizabeth and her government. But it is clear that,

whatever may have been her errors--and no doubt they were grave--
she still appears in the roll of history as one of the best sovereigns
not only of her own house, but of all the dynasties of England.
Certainly she was in every way a better and a more successful ruler
than her own father or her own brother-in-law, and better also than
the Stuarts who filled her throne at a later day. Catherine of Russia,
though most unworthy as a woman, had a force of intellectual ability
quite beyond dispute, and which made itself felt in every department
of her government. Isabella I. of Spain gave proof of legislative and
executive ability of the very highest order; she was not only one of
the purest and noblest, but also, considering the age to which she
belonged, and the obstacles in her way, one of the most skillful
sovereigns the world has ever seen. Her nature was full of clear
intelligence, with the highest moral and physical courage. She was in
every way a better ruler than her own husband, to whom she proved
nevertheless an admirable wife, acting independently only where
clear principle was at stake. The two greet errors of her reign, the
introduction of the Inquisition and the banishment of the Jews, must
be charged to the confessor rather than to the Queen, and these
were errors in which her husband was as closely involved as herself.
On the other hand, some of the best reforms of her reign originated
in her own mind, and were practically carried out under her own close
personal supervision. Many other skillful female rulers might be
named. And it is not only in civilized life and in Christendom that
woman has shown herself wise in governing; even among the wildest
savage tribes they have appeared, occasionally, as leaders and
rulers. This is a singular fact. It may be proved from the history of
this continent, and not only from the early records of Mexico and
Cuba and Hayti, but also from the reports of the earliest navigators
on our own coast, who here and there make mention incidentally of
this or that female chief or sachem. But a fact far more impressive
and truly elevating to the sex also appears on authority entirely
indisputable. While women are enjoined by the Word of God to
refrain from public teaching in the Church, there have been individual
women included among the Prophets, speaking under the direct
influence of the Most Holy Spirit of God, the highest dignity to which
human nature can attain. But all these individual cases, whether
political or religious, have been exceptional. The lesson to be
learned from them is plain. We gather naturally from these facts,
what may be learned also from other sources, that, while the
positions of the two sexes are as such distinct, the one a degree
superior, the other a degree inferior, the difference between them is
limited--it is not impassable in individual cases. The two make up
but one species, one body politic and religious. There are many
senses besides marriage in which the two are one. It is the right
hand and the left, both belonging to one body, moved by common
feeling, guided by common reason. The left hand may at times be
required to do the work of the right, the right to act as the left. Even
in this world there are occasions when the last are first, the first
last, without disturbing the general order of things. These
exceptional cases temper the general rule, but they can not abrogate
that rule as regards the entire sex. Man learns from them not to
exaggerate his superiority--a lesson very often needed. And woman
learns from them to connect self-respect and dignity with true
humility, and never, under any circumstances, to sink into the mere
tool and toy of man--a lesson equally important.

Such until the present day has been the general teaching and
practice of Christendom, where, under a mild form, and to a limited
point, the subordination of woman has been a fact clearly
established. But this teaching we are now called upon to forget, this
practice we are required to abandon. We have arrived at the days
foretold by the Prophet, when "knowledge shall be increased, and
many shall run to and fro." The intellectual progress of the race
during the last half century has indeed been great. But admiration is
not the only feeling of the thoughtful mind when observing this
striking advance in intellectual acquirement. We see that man has
not yet fully mastered the knowledge he has acquired. He runs to
and fro. He rushes from one extreme to the other. How many
chapters of modern history, both political and religious, are full of
the records of this mental vacillation of our race, of this illogical and
absurd tendency to pass from one extreme to the point farthest from

An adventurous party among us, weary of the old paths, is now
eagerly proclaiming theories and doctrines entirely novel on this
important subject. The EMANCIPATION OF WOMAN is the name
chosen by its advocates for this movement. They reject the idea of
all subordination, even in the mildest form, with utter scorn. They
claim for woman absolute social and political equality with man. And
they seek to secure these points by conferring on the whole sex the
right of the elective franchise, female suffrage being the first step in
the unwieldy revolutions they aim at bringing about. These views are
no longer confined to a small sect. They challenge our attention at
every turn. We meet them in society; we read them in the public
prints; we hear of them in grave legislative assemblies, in the
Congress of the Republic, in the Imperial Parliament of Great Britain.
The time has come when it is necessary that all sensible and
conscientious men and women should make up their minds clearly on
a subject bearing upon the future condition of the entire race.

There is generally more than one influence at work in all public
movements of importance. The motive power in such cases is very

simple. So it has been with the question of female suffrage. The
abuses inflicted on woman by legislation, the want of sufficient
protection for her interests when confided to man, are generally
asserted by the advocates of female suffrage as the chief motives
for a change in the laws which withhold from her the power of voting.
But it is also considered by the friend of the new movement that to
withhold the suffrage from half the race is an inconsistency in
American politics; that suffrage is an inalienable right, universal in
its application; that women are consequently deprived of a great
natural right when denied the power of voting. A third reason is also
given for this proposed change in our political constitution. It is
asserted that the entire sex would be greatly elevated in intellectual
and moral dignity by such a course; and that the effect on the whole
race would therefore be most advantageous, as the increased
influence of woman in public affairs would purify politics, and elevate
the whole tone of political life. Here we have the reason for this
movement as advanced by its advocates. These are the points on
which they lay the most stress:

FIRST. The abuse of legislative power in man, by oppressing the sex.

SECONDLY. The inalienable natural right of woman to vote; and
imperatively so in a country where universal suffrage is a great
political principle.

THIRDLY. The elevation of the sex, and the purification of politics
through their influence.

Let us consider each of these points separately.


In some countries of Europe much of wrong is still done to woman,
at the present day, by old laws owing their existence to a past state
of things, and which have not yet been repealed or modified to suit
existing circumstances. But we are writing now to American women,
and, instead of the evils existing in the other hemisphere, we are
looking at a very different state of society. Let us confine ourselves,
therefore, to the subject as it affects ourselves.

To go into all the details which might be drawn together from the
statute books of the different States of the Union bearing on this
point, and to do them full justice, would require volumes. Such a
course is not necessary. The question can be decided with truth and
justice on general principles--on generally admitted facts. We admit,
then, that in some States--perhaps in all--there may be laws in
which the natural and acquired rights of woman have not been fairly
considered; that in some cases she has needed more legal protection
and more privileges than she has yet received. But while this
admission is made, attention is at the same time demanded for a
fact inseparably connected with it; namely, the marked and generous
liberality which American men have thus far shown in the considerate
care and protection they have, as a general rule, given to the
interests of women. In no country, whether of ancient or modern
times, have women had less to complain of in their treatment by
man than in America. This is no rhetorical declamation; it is the
simple statement of an undeniable fact. It is a matter of social
history. Since the days of early colonial life to the present hour--or,
in other words, during the last two hundred and fifty years--such has
been the general course of things in this country. The hardest tasks
have been taken by man, and a generous tenderness has been
shown to women in many of the details of social life, pervading all
classes of society, to a degree beyond what is customary even in the
most civilized countries of Europe. Taking these two facts together--
that certain abuses still exist, that certain laws and regulations need
changing and that, as a general rule, American women have thus far
been treated by their countrymen with especial consideration, in a
legal and in a social sense--the inference becomes perfectly plain. A
formidable and very dangerous social revolution is not needed to
correct remaining abuses. Any revolution aiming at upsetting the
existing relations of the sexes--relations going back to the earliest
records and traditions of the race--can not be called less than
formidable and dangerous. Let women make full use of the
influences already at their command, and all really needed changes
may be effected by means both sure and safe--means already
thoroughly tried. Let them use all the good sense, all the
information, all the eloquence, and, if they please, all the wit, at
their command when talking over these abuses in society. Let them
state their views, their needs, their demands, in conscientiously
written papers. Let them appeal for aid to the best, the wisest, the
most respected men of the country, and the result is certain. Choose
any one real, existing abuse as a test of the honesty and the
liberality of American men toward the women of the country, and we
all know before-hand what shall be the result.*

{FOOTNOTE by SFC} * There is an injustice in the present law of
guardianship in the State of New York, which may be named as one
of those abuses which need reformation. A woman can not now, in
the State of New York, appoint a guardian for her child, even though
its father be dead. The authority for appointing a guardian otherwise
than by the courts is derived from the Revised statutes, p. 1, title 3,
chapter 8, part 2, and that passage gives the power to the father
only. The mother is not named. It has been decided in the courts
that a mother can not make this appointment--12 Howard's Practical
Reports, 532. This is certainly very unjust and very unwise. But let
any dozen women of respectability take the matter in hand, and, by
the means already at their command, from their own chimney-
corners, they can readily procure the insertion of the needful clause.
And so with any other real abuse. Men are now ready to listen, and
ready to act, when additional legislation is prudently and sensibly
asked for by their wives and mothers. How they may act when
women stand before them, armed CAP-A-PIE, and prepared to
demand legislation at the point of the bayonet, can not yet be

If husbands, fathers, brothers, are ready any day to shed their
heart's blood for our personal defense in

the hour of peril, we may feel perfectly assured that they will also
protect us, when appealed to, by legislation. When they lay down
their arms and refuse to fight for us, it will then be time to ask them
to give up legislation also. But until that evil hour arrives let men
make the laws, and let women be content to fill worthily, to the very
best of their abilities, the noble position which the Heavenly Father
has already marked out for them. There is work to be done in that
position reaching much higher, going much farther, and penetrating
far deeper, than any mere temporary legislation can do. Of that work
we shall speak more fully a moment later.


This second proposition of the advocates of female suffrage is of a
general character. It does not point to particular abuses, it claims
the right of woman to vote as one which she should demand,
whether practically needed or not. It is asserted that to disqualify
half the race from voting is an abuse entirely inconsistent with the
first principles of American politics. The answer to this is plain. The
elective franchise is not an end; it is only a means. A good
government is indeed an inalienable right. Just so far as the elective
franchise will conduce to this great end, to that point it becomes
also a right, but no farther. A male suffrage wisely free, including all
capable of justly appreciating its importance, and honestly
discharging its responsibilities, becomes a great advantage to a
nation. But universal suffrage, pushed to its extreme limits, including
all men, all women, all minors beyond the years of childhood, would
inevitably be fraught with evil. There have been limits to the
suffrage of the freest nations. Such limits have been found necessary
by all past political experience. In this country, at the present hour,
there are restrictions upon the suffrage in every State. Those
restrictions vary in character. They are either national, relating to
color, political, mental, educational, connected with a property
qualification, connected with sex, connected with minority of years,
or they are moral in their nature.*

[FOOTNOTE by SFC} *In connection with this point of moral
qualification we venture to ask a question. Why not enlarge the
criminal classes from whom the suffrage is now withheld? Why not
exclude every man convicted of any degrading legal crime, even petty
larceny? And why not exclude from the suffrage all habitual
drunkards judicially so declared? These are changes which would do
vastly more of good than admitting women to vote. {END

This restriction connected with sex is, in fact, but one of many other
restrictions, considered more or less necessary even in a democracy.
Manhood suffrage is a very favorite term of the day. But, taken in
the plain meaning of those words, such fullness of suffrage has at
the present hour no actual existence in any independent nation, or in
any extensive province. It does not exist, as we have just seen,
even among the men of America. And, owing to the conditions of
human life, we may well believe that unrestricted fullness of
manhood suffrage never can exist in any great nation for any length
of time. In those States of the American Union which approach
nearest to a practical manhood suffrage, unnaturalized foreigners,
minors, and certain classes of criminals, are excluded from voting.
And why so? What is the cause of this exclusion? Here are men by
tens of thousands--men of widely different classes and conditions--
peremptorily deprived of a privilege asserted to be a positive
inalienable right universal in its application. There is manifestly
some reason for this apparently contradictory state of things. We
know that reason to be the good of society. It is for the good of
society that the suffrage is withheld from those classes of men. A
certain fitness for the right use of the suffrage is therefore deemed
necessary before granting it. A criminal, an unnaturalized foreigner, a
minor, have not that fitness; consequently the suffrage is withheld
from them. The worthy use of the vote is, then, a qualification not
yet entirely overlooked by our legislators. The State has had, thus
far, no scruples in withholding the suffrage even from men, whenever
it has believed that the grant would prove injurious to the nation.

Here we have the whole question clearly defined. The good of society
is the true object of all human government. To this principle suffrage
itself is subordinate. It can never be more than a means looking to
the attainment of good government, and not necessarily its corner-
stone. Just so far is it wise and right. Move one step beyond that
point, and instead of a benefit the suffrage may become a cruel
injury. The governing power of our own country--the most free of all
great nations--practically proclaims that it has no right to bestow the
suffrage wherever its effects are likely to become injurious to the
whole nation, by allotting different restrictions to the suffrage in
every State of the Union. The right of suffrage is, therefore, most
clearly not an absolutely inalienable right universal in its application.
It has its limits. These limits are marked out by plain justice and
common-sense. Women have thus far been excluded from the
suffrage precisely on the same principles--from the conviction that to
grant them this particular privilege would, in different ways, and
especially by withdrawing them from higher and more urgent duties,
and allotting to them other duties for which they are not so well
fitted, become injurious to the nation, and, we add, ultimately
injurious to themselves, also, as part of the nation. If it can be
proved that this conviction is sound and just, founded on truth, the
assumed inalienable right of suffrage, of which we have been hearing
so much lately, vanishes into the "baseless fabric of a vision." If the
right were indeed inalienable, it should be granted, without regard to
consequences, as an act of abstract justice. But, happily for us,
none but the very wildest theorists are prepared to take this view of
the question of suffrage. The advocates of female suffrage must,
therefore, abandon the claim of inalienable right. Such a claim can
not logically be maintained for one moment in the face of existing
facts. We proceed to the third point.

told, must be the inevitable results of what is called the
emancipation of woman, the entire independence of woman through
the suffrage.

Here we find ourselves in a peculiar position. While considering the
previous points of this question we have been guided by positive
facts, clearly indisputable in their character. Actual, practical
experience, with the manifold teachings at her command, has come
to our aid. But we are now called upon, by the advocates of this
novel doctrine, to change our course entirely. We are under orders to
sail out into unknown seas, beneath skies unfamiliar, with small
light from the stars, without chart, without pilot, the port to which
we are bound being one as yet unvisited by mortal man--or woman!
Heavy mist, and dark cloud, and threatening storm appear to us
brooding over that doubtful sea. But something of prophetic vision is
required of us. We are told that all perils which seem to threaten the
first stages of our course are entirely illusive--that they will vanish
as we approach--that we shall soon arrive in halcyon waters, and
regions where wisdom, peace, and purity reign supreme. If we
cautiously inquire after some assurance of such results, we are told
that to those sailing under the flag of progress triumph is inevitable,
failure is impossible; and that many of the direst evils hitherto
known on earth must vanish at the touch of the talisman in the hand
of woman--and that talisman is the vote.

Now, to speak frankly--and being as yet untrammeled by political
aspirations, we fearlessly do so--as regards this flag of progress, we
know it to be a very popular bit of bunting; but to the eye of
common-sense it is grievously lacking in consistency. The flag of our
country means something positive. We all love it; we all honor it. It
represents to us the grand ideas by which the nation lives. It is the
symbol of constitutional government, of law and order, of union, of a
liberty which is not license. It is to us the symbol of all that may be
great and good and noble in the Christian republic. But this vaunted
flag of progress, so alluring to many restless minds, is vague in its
colors, unstable, too often illusive, in web and woof. Many of its
most prominent standard-bearers are clad in the motley garb of
theorists. Their flag may be seen wandering to and fro, hither and
thither, up and down, swayed by every breath of popular caprice; so
it move to the mere cry of "Progress!" its followers are content. To-
day, in the hands of the skeptical philosopher, it assaults the
heavens. Tomorrow it may: float over the mire of Mormonism, or
depths still more vile. It was under the flag of progress that, in the
legislative halls of France, the name of the Holy Lord God of Hosts,
"who inhabiteth eternity," was legally blasphemed. It was under the
flag of progress that, on the 10th of November, 1793, Therese
Momoro, Goddess of Reason, and wife of the printer Momoro, was
borne in triumph, by throngs of worshipers, through the streets of
Paris, and enthroned in the house of God.

Beyond all doubt, there is now, as there ever has been, an onward
progress toward truth on earth. But that true progress is seldom
rapid, excepting perhaps in the final stages of some particular
movement. It is, indeed, often so slow, so gradual, as to be
imperceptible at the moment to common observation. It is often
silent, wonderful, mysterious, sublime. It is the grand movement
toward the Divine Will, working out all things for eventual good. In
looking back, there are for every generation way-marks by which the
course of that progress may be traced. In looking forward no mortal
eye can foresee its immediate course. The ultimate end we know,
but the next step we can not foretell. The mere temporary cry of
progress from human lips has often been raised in direct opposition
to the true course of that grand, mysterious movement. It is like the
roar of the rapids in the midst of the majestic stream, which, in the
end, shall yield their own foaming waters to the calm current moving
onward to the sea. We ask, then, for something higher, safer, more
sure, to guide us than the mere popular cry of "Progress!" We dare
not blindly follow that cry, nor yield thoughtless allegiance to every
flag it upholds.

Then, again, as regards that talisman, the vote, we have but one
answer to make. We do not believe in magic. We have a very firm
and unchangeable faith in free institutions, founded on just
principles. We entirely believe that a republican form of government
in a Christian country may be the highest, the noblest, and the
happiest that the world has yet seen. Still, we do not believe in
magic. And we do not believe in idolatry. We Americans are just as
much given to idolatry as any other people. Our idols may differ from
those of other nations; but they are, none the less, still idols. And it
strikes the writer that the ballot-box is rapidly becoming an object of
idolatry with us. Is it not so? From the vote alone we expect all
things good. From the vote alone we expect protection against all
things evil. Of the vote Americans can never have too much--of the
vote they can never have enough. The vote is expected by its very
touch, suddenly and instantaneously, to produce miraculous changes;
it is expected to make the foolish wise, the ignorant knowing, the
weak strong, the fraudulent honest. It is expected to turn dross into
gold. It is held to be the great
educator, not only as regards races, and under the influence of time,
which is in a measure true, but as regards individuals and classes of
men, and that in the twinkling of an eye, with magical rapidity. Were
this theory practically sound, the vote would really prove a talisman.
In that case we should give ourselves no rest until the vote were
instantly placed in the hands of every Chinaman landing in California,
and of every Indian roving over the plains. But, in opposition to this
theory, what is the testimony of positive facts known to us all? Are
all voters wise? Are all voters honest? Are all voters enlightened?
Are all voters true to their high responsibilities? Are all voters
faithful servants of their country? Is it entirely true that the vote has
necessarily and really these inherent magical powers of rapid
education for individuals and for classes of men, fitting them, in
default of other qualifications, for the high responsibilities of
suffrage? Alas! we know only too well that when a man is not
already honest and just and wise and enlightened, the vote he holds
can not make him so. We know that if he is dishonest, he will sell
his vote; if he is dull and ignorant, he is misled, for selfish purposes
of their own, by designing men. As regards man, at least, the vote
can be too easily proved to be no talisman. It is very clear that for
man the ballot-box needs to be closely guarded on one side by
common-sense, on the other by honesty. A man must be endowed
with a certain amount of education and of principle, before he
receives the vote, to fit him for a worthy use of it. And if the vote be
really no infallible talisman for man, why should we expect it to work
magical wonders in the hands of woman?

But let us drop the play of metaphor, appropriate though it be when
facing the visions of political theorists. Let us look earnestly and
clearly at the positive facts before us. We are gravely told that to
grant the suffrage to woman would be a step inevitably beneficial
and elevating to the whole sex, and, through their influence, to the
entire race, and that, on this ground alone, the proposed change in
the constitution should be made. Here, so far at least as the
concluding proposition goes, we must all agree. If it can be clearly
proved that this particular change in our institutions is one so
fraught with blessings, we are bound to make it at every cost. The
true elevation of the whole race: that is what we are all longing for,
praying for. And is it indeed true that this grand work can effectually
be brought about by the one step we are now urged to take? What
says actual experience on this point? The whole history of mankind
shows clearly that, as yet, no one legislative act has ever
accomplished half of what is claimed by the advocates of woman's
suffrage as the inevitable result of the change they propose. No one
legislative act has ever been so widely comprehensive in its results
for good as they declare that this act shall be. No one legislative act
has ever raised the entire race even within sight of the point of
elevation predicted by the champions of what is called the
emancipation of woman. Hear them speak for themselves: "It is
hardly possible, with our present experience, to raise our
imaginations to the conception of so great a change for the better as
would be made by its removal"--the removal of the principle of the
subordination of the wife to the husband, and the establishment of
the entire independence of women, to be obtained by female
suffrage. These are not the words of some excited woman making a
speech at a public meeting. The quotation is from the writings of Mr.
Stuart Mill. The subordination of the wife to the husband is declared
by Mr. Mill to be "the citadel of the enemy." Storm the citadel,
proclaim the entire independence of the wife, and our feeble
imaginations, we are told, are utterly incapable of conceiving the
glorious future of the race consequent upon this one step. This is a
very daring assertion. It is so bold, indeed, as to require something
of positive proof ere we can yield to it our implicit belief. The citadel
we are urged to storm was built by the hand of God. The flag waving
over that citadel is the flag of the Cross. When the Creator made
one entire sex so much more feeble in physical powers than the
other, a degree of subordination on the part of the weaker sex
became inevitable, unless it were counteracted by increase of mental
ability, strengthened by special precept. But the mental ability, so
far as there is a difference, and the precept, are both on the side of
the stronger sex. The whole past history of the race coincides so
clearly with these facts that we should suppose that even those who
are little under the influence of Christian faith might pause era they
attacked that citadel. Common-sense might teach them something of
caution, something of humility, when running counter to the whole
past experience of the race. As for those who have a living belief in
the doctrines of Christianity, when they find that revealed religion,
from the first of the Prophets to the last of the Apostles, allots a
subordinate position to the wife, they are compelled to believe
Moses and St. Paul in the right, and the philosophers of the present
day, whether male or female, in the wrong. To speak frankly, the
excessive boldness of these new theories, the incalculable and
inconceivable benefits promised us from this revolution from the
natural condition of things in Christendom--and throughout the world
indeed--would lead us to suspicion. Guides who appeal to the
imagination when discussing practical questions are not generally
considered the safest. And the champions of female suffrage are
necessarily compelled to take this course. They have no positive
foundation to rest on. Mr. Stuart Mill has said in Parliament, in
connection with this subject, that "the tyranny of established custom
has entirely passed away." Nothing can be more true than this
assertion. As a rule, the past is now looked upon with doubt,
with suspicion, often with a certain sort of contempt, very far from
being always consistent with sound reason. The tyranny of the
present day--and it may be just as much a tyranny as the other--is
radically opposite in character. It is the tyranny of novelty to which
we are most exposed at present. The dangers lie chiefly in that
direction. There will be little to fear from the old until the hour of
reaction arrives, as it inevitably must, if the human mind be strained
too far in a new direction. At present the more startling an assertion,
the farther it wanders from all past experience, the greater are its
chances of attracting attention, of gaining adherents, of achieving at
least a partial and temporary success. In the age and in the country
which has seen the development of Mormonism as a successful
religious, social, and political system, nothing should surprise us.
Such is the restlessness of human nature that it will often, from
mere weak hankering after change, hug to its bosom the wildest
theories, and yield them a temporary allegiance.

Let us suppose that to-day the proposed revolution were effected;
all women, without restriction, even the most vile, would be
summoned to vote in accordance with their favorite theory of
inalienable right. That class of women, and other degraded classes
of the ignorant and unprincipled, will always be ready to sell their
votes many times over--to either party, to both parties, to the
highest bidder, in short. They will sell their vote much more readily
than the lowest classes of men now do. They will hold it with greater
levity. They will trifle with it. They will sell their vote any day for a
yard of ribbon or a tinsel brooch--unless they are offered two yards
of ribbon or two brooches. They will vote over again every hour of
every election day, by cunning disguises and trickery. And thus, so
far as women are concerned, the most degraded element in society
will, in fact, represent the whole sex. Nay, they will probably not
unfrequently command the elections, as three colored women are
said once to have done in New Jersey. A hundred honest and
intelligent women can have but one vote each, and at least fifty of
these will generally stay at home. If, which God forbid, it actually
comes to female voting, a very small proportion of the sex will, at
common elections, appear at the polls. Avocations more urgent,
more natural to them, and in which they are more deeply interested,
will keep them away. The degraded women will be there by the
scores, as tools of men, enjoying both the importance of the hour,
the fun, and THE PAY. Fifty women, known to be thieves and
prostitutes, will hold, at a moderate calculation, say two hundred
votes. And, as women form the majority of the resident population in
some States, that wretched element of society will, in fact, govern
those States, or those who bribe them will do so. Massachusetts,
very favorable to female suffrage now, will probably come round to
the opinion of New Jersey in former days. Great will be the
consumption of cheap ribbons, and laces, and artificial flowers, and
feathers, and tinsel jewelry, in every town and village about election
time, after emancipation is achieved. We are compelled to believe
so, judging from our knowledge of human nature, and of the use
already made of bribery at many elections. The demagogues will be
more powerful than ever. Their work will be made easy for them. It
seems, indeed, probable that under the new era our great elections
shall become a sort of grand national gift concerns, of which the
most active demagogues of all parties will be the managers. Not
that women are more mercenary, or more unprincipled than men. God
forbid! That would be saying too much. We entirely believe the
reverse to be true. But the great mass of women can never be made
to take a deep, a sincere, a discriminating, a lasting interest in the
thousand political questions ever arising to be settled by the vote.
They very soon weary of such questions. On great occasions they can
work themselves up to a state of frenzied excitement over some one
political question. At such times they can parade a degree of
unreasoning prejudice, of passionate hatred, of blind fury, even
beyond what man can boast of. But, in their natural condition, in
everyday life, they do not take instinctively to politics as men do.
Men are born politicians; just as they are born masons, and
carpenters, and soldiers, and sailors. Not so women. Their thoughts
and feelings are given to other matters. The current of their chosen
avocations runs in another channel than that of politics--a channel
generally quite out of sight of politics; it is an effort for them to turn
from one to the other. With men, on the contrary, politics, either
directly or indirectly, are closely, palpably, inevitably blended with
their regular work in life. They give their attention unconsciously,
spontaneously; to politics. Look at a family of children, half boys,
half girls; the boys take instinctively to whips and guns and balls
and bats and horses, to fighting and wrestling and riding; the girls
fondle their dolls, beg for a needle and thread, play at housekeeping,
at giving tea-parties, at nursing the sick baby, at teaching school.
That difference lasts through life. Give your son, as he grows up, a
gun and a vote; he will delight in both. Give your daughter, as she
grows up, a gun and a vote, and, unless she be an exceptional
woman, she will make a really good use of neither. Your son may be
dull; but he will make a good soldier, and a very tolerable voter.
Your daughter may be very clever; but she would certainly run away
on the battle-held, and very probably draw a caricature on the
election ticket. There is the making of an admirable wife and mother,
and a valuable member of society, in that clever young woman. She
is highly intelligent, thoroughly well educated, reads Greek and
Latin, and has a wider range of knowledge and thought than ninety-
nine in a hundred of the voters in the same district; but there is
nothing of the
politician in her nature. She would rather any day read a fine poem
than the best political speech of the hour. What she does know of
politics reaches her through that dull but worthy brother of hers. It is
only occasionally that we meet women with an inherent bias for
politics; and those are not, as a rule, the highest type of the sex--it
is only occasionally that they are so. The interest most women feel
in politics is secondary, factitious, engrafted on them by the men
nearest to them. Women are not abortive men; they are a distinct
creation. The eye and the ear, though both belonging to the same
body, are each, in a certain sense, a distinct creation. A body
endowed with four ears might hear remarkably well; but without eyes
it would be of little use in the world. A body with four eyes would
have a fourfold power of vision, and would consequently become
nearly as sharp-sighted as a spider; but without hearing its powers
of sight would avail little. In both cases, half the functions of the
human being, whether physical or mental, would be very imperfectly
performed. Thus it is with men and women; each has a distinct
position to fill in the great social body, and is especially qualified for
it. These distinct positions are each highly important. And it is
reasonable to believe that, by filling their own peculiar position
thoroughly well, women can best serve their Creator, their fellow-
creatures, and themselves. No doubt you may, if you choose, by
especial education from childhood upward, make your girls very
respectable politicians, as much so as the majority of your sons. But
in that case you must give up your womanly daughters--you must be
content with manly daughters. This essential difference between the
sexes is a very striking fact; yet the advocates of female suffrage
constantly lose sight of it; they talk and write as if it had no
existence. It is not lack of intellect on the part of women, but
difference of intellect, or rather a difference of organization and
affinities giving a different bias to the intellect, which is the cause of
their distinct mental character as a sex. And, owing to this essential
difference, the great majority of women are naturally disinclined to
politics, and partially unfitted for action in that field.

Part II.

LET us now look for a moment at the actual condition of women in
America, in connection with the predicted elevation. We are told they
are to be elevated by the suffrage--and that by hanging on to the
election tickets in the hands of their wives, the men are to be
elevated with them. What, therefore, is the ground women now
occupy, and from whence they are to soar upward on the paper wings
of the ballot? The principal facts connected with that position are
self-evident; there is nothing vague or uncertain here; we have but
to look about us and the question is answered. We already know, for
instance, from daily observation and actual experience, that, as a
general rule, the kindness and consideration of American men have
been great, both in public and in private life. We know that in
American society women have been respected, they have been
favored, they have been protected, they have been beloved. There
has been a readiness to listen to their requests, to redress
grievances, to make changes whenever these have become necessary
or advisable. Such, until very recently, has been the general current
of public feeling, the general tendency of public action, in America. If
there appear to-day occasional symptoms of a change in the tone of
men on this point, it is to be attributed to the agitation of the very
question we are now discussing. Whenever women make ill-judged,
unnatural, extravagant demands, they must prepare to lose ground.
Yes, even where the particular points in dispute are conceded to
their reiterated importunity, they must still eventually lower their
general standing and consideration by every false step. There are
occasions where victory is more really perilous than a timely defeat;
a temporary triumph may lead to ground which the victors can not
permanently hold to their own true and lasting advantage. On the
other hand, every just and judicious demand women may now make
with the certainty of successful results. This is, indeed, the great
fact which especially contributes to render the birthright of American
women a favorable one. If the men of the country are already
disposed to redress existing grievances, where women are
concerned, as we know them to be, and if they are also ready, as we
know them to be, to forward all needful future development of true
womanly action, what more, pray, can we reasonably ask of them?
Where lies this dim necessity of thrusting upon women the burdens
of the suffrage? And why should the entire nation be thrown into the
perilous convulsions of a revolution more truly formidable than any
yet attempted on earth? Bear in mind that this is a revolution which,
if successful in all its aims, can scarcely fail to sunder the family
roof-tree, and to uproot the family hearth-stone. It is the avowed
determination of many of its champions that it shall do so; while
with another class of its leaders, to weaken and undermine the
authority of the Christian faith in the household is an object if not
frankly avowed yet scarcely concealed. The great majority of the
women enlisted in this movement--many of them, it is needless to
say, very worthy persons as individuals--are little aware of all the
perils into which some of their most zealous male allies would lead
them. Degradation for the sex, and not true and lasting elevation,
appear to most of us likely to be the end to which this movement
must necessarily tend, unless it be checked by the latent good
sense, the true wisdom, and the religious principle of women
themselves, aroused, at length, to protest, to resist. If we are called
upon for proof of the assertion, that American men are already
prepared to redress actual grievances, we find that proof in their
course at the present moment. Observe the patience with which our
legislative bodies are now considering the petitions of a clamorous
minority demanding the redress of a fictitious grievance--a minority
demanding a political position which the majority of their sex still
utterly reject--a position repugnant to the habits, the feelings, the
tastes, and the principles of that majority. If men are willing to give
their attention to these querulous demands of a small minority of our
sex, how much more surely may we rely on their sympathy, and their
efficient support, when
some measure in which the interests of the whole sex are clearly
involved shall be brought before them by all their wives and

And again: they are not only already prepared to redress grievances,
but also to forward all needed development of true womanly action.
Take, in proof of this, assertion, the subject of education. This is,
beyond all doubt the vital question of the age, embracing within its
limits all others. Education is of far more importance than the
suffrage, which is eventually subject to it, controlled by it. This is,
indeed, a question altogether too grave, too comprehensive, and too
complicated in some of its bearings to be more than briefly alluded
to here. But let us consider education for a moment as the mere
acquirement of intellectual knowledge. This is but one of its phases,
and that one not the most important; but such is the popular,
though very inadequate, idea of the subject in America. Observe how
much has already been done in this sense for the instruction of the
woman of our country. In the common district schools, and even in
the high schools of the larger towns, the same facilities are generally
offered to both sexes; in the public schools brother and sister have,
as a rule, the same books and the same teachers. And we may go
much further and say that every woman in the country may already--
IF SHE IS DETERMINED TO DO SO--obtain very much the same
intellectual instruction which her own brother receives. If that
education is a highly advanced one she will, no doubt, have some
special difficulties to contend against; but those difficulties are not
insurmountable. The doors of most colleges and universities are
closed, it is true, against women, and we can not doubt that this
course is taken for sound reasons, pointed out by good sense and
true sagacity. It is impossible not to believe that between the ages
of fifteen and five-and-twenty young men and young women will
carry on their intellectual training far more thoroughly and
successfully apart than thrown into the same classes. At that age of
vivid impressions and awakening passions, the two sexes are
sufficiently thrown together in family life and in general society for
all purposes of mutual influence and improvement. Let them chat,
walk, sing, dance together, at that period of their lives; but if you
wish to make them good scholars, let them study apart. Let their
loves and jealousies be carried on elsewhere than in the college
halls. But already female colleges, exclusively adapted to young
women, are talked of--nay, here and there one or two such colleges
now exist. There is nothing in which American men more delight,
nothing more congenial to their usual modes of thought and action,
than to advance the intellectual instruction of the whole nation,
daughters as well as sons. We may rest assured that they will not
fail to grant all needful development in this direction. One female
college, of the very highest intellectual standard, would probably be
found sufficient for a population of some millions. The number of
women desiring a full college education will always, for many
different reasons, be much smaller than the number of male
students. But there is no good reason why such colleges, when found
desirable, should not enter into our future American civilization.
Individual American women may yet, by these means, make high
progress in science, and render good service to the country and the
race. Every branch of study which may be carried on thoroughly and
successfully, without impairing womanly modesty of mind and
manner, should be so far opened to the sex as to allow those
individuals to whom Providence has given the ability for deep
research to carry them to the farthest point needed. But as regards
those studies which are intended to open the way to professions
essentially bold and masculine in character, we do not see how it is
within the bounds of possibility for young women to move onward in
that direction without losing some of their most precious womanly
prerogatives--without, in short, unsexing themselves.

The really critical point with regard to the present position of women
in America is the question of work and wages. Here the pocket of
man is touched. And the pocket is the most sensitive point with
many men, not only in America, but all the world over. There can be
no doubt whatever that women are now driven away from certain
occupations, to which they are well adapted, by the selfishness of
some men. And in many departments where they are day-laborers for
commercial firms they are inadequately paid, and compelled to
provide food, lodging, fuel, and light out of scanty wages. Yes, we
have here one of the few real grievances of which American women
have a just right to complain. But even here--even where the pocket
is directly touched, we still believe that women may obtain full
justice in the end, by pursuing the right course. Only let the reality
of the grievance be clearly proved, and redress will follow, ere long.
Providence has the power of bringing good out of evil; and therefore
we believe that the movement now going on will here, at least, show
some lasting results for good. The "Song of the Shirt" shall, we trust,
ere long become an obsolete lay in our country. Our women, twenty
years hence, shall be better paid in some of their old fields of labor;
and new openings, appropriate to their abilities, mental and
physical, shall also be made for them. And here they are much more
likely to succeed without the suffrage than with it. It is not by
general law-making that they can better themselves in these
particulars. Individual fitness for this or that branch of work is what
is required for success. And if, by thorough preparation, women can
discharge this or that task, not essentially masculine in its
requirements, as well as men, they may rest assured that in the end
their wages will be the same as those of their fathers and brothers
in the same field of work.

And how is it with our homes--how fares it with American women in
the family circle? To all right-minded women the duties connected
with home are most imperative, most precious, most blessed of all,
partaking as they do of the spirit of religious duty. To women this
class of duties is by choice, and by necessity, much more absorbing
than it is to men. It is the especial field of activity to which
Providence has called them; for which their Maker has qualified them
by peculiar adaptation of body and mind. To the great majority of
American women these duties are especially absorbing, owing to the
difficulty of procuring paid subordinates, well qualified for the tasks
they undertake. The task of positive labor, and the task of close
supervision, are both particularly burdensome to American wives and
mothers. Thus far, or at least until very recently, those duties of wife
and mother have been generally performed conscientiously. The
heart of every worthy American woman is in her home. That home,
with its manifold interests, is especially under her government. The
good order, the convenience, the comfort, the pleasantness, the
whole economy of the house, in short, depend in a very great
measure on her. The food of the family is prepared by her, either
directly or by close supervision. The clothing of the family passes
through her hands or under her eye. The health of the family is
included within the same tender, watchful, loving oversight. The
education of the children is chiefly directed by her--in many families
almost exclusively so. Whether for evil or for good, by careless
neglect or by patient, thoughtful, prayerful guidance, she marks out
their future course. This is even too much the case. American fathers
love their children fondly; no fathers more affectionate than they
are; they pet their children; they toil ceaselessly for them; but their
education they leave almost entirely to the mother. It may be said,
with perfect truth, that in the great majority of American families the
educational influences come chiefly from the mother; they are tacitly
made over to her as a matter of course. The father has too often
very little to do with them. His work lies abroad, in the world of
business or politics, where all his time and attention are fully
absorbed. In this way the American mother rules the very heart of
her family. If at all worthy she has great influence with her husband;
she has great influence over her daughters; and as regards her sons,
there are too many cases in which hers is the only influence for good
to which they yield. Is there so little of true elevation and dignity in
this position that American women should be in such hot haste to
abandon it for a position as yet wholly untried, entirely theoretical
and visionary?

It will be said that all women are not married, that all wives are not
mothers, that there are childless widows and many single women in
the country. Quite true, but in a rapid sketch one looks at the chief
features only; and home life, with its varied duties, is, of course, the
principal point in every Christian country. The picture is essentially
correct, without touching on lesser details. We pause here to
observe also that almost every single woman has a home
somewhere. She makes a home for herself, or she is ingrafted on the
home of others, and wherever she may be--even in that wretched
kind of existence, boarding-house life--she may, if she choose, carry
something of the home spirit with her. In fact, every true woman
instinctively does so, whatever be the roof that covers her head. She
thinks for others, she plans for others, she serves others, she loves
and cherishes others, she unconsciously throws something of the
web of home feeling and home action over those near her, and over
the dwelling she inhabits. She carries the spirit of home and its
duties into the niche allotted to her--a niche with which she is
generally far more contented than the world at large believes--a
niche which is never so narrow but that it provides abundant material
for varied work--often very pleasant work too. Let it be understood,
once for all, that the champions of widows and single women are
very much given to talking and writing absurdly on this point. Their
premises are often wholly false. They often fancy discontent and
disappointment and inaction where those elements have no
existence. Certainly it is not in the least worth while to risk a
tremendous social revolution in behalf of this minority of the sex.
Every widow and single woman can, if she choose, already find
abundance of the most noble occupation for heart, mind, body, and
soul. Carry the vote into her niche, she certainly will be none the
happier or more truly respectable for that bit of paper. It is also an
error to suppose that among the claimants for suffrage single women
are the most numerous or the most clamorous. The great majority of
the leaders in this movement appear to be married women.

A word more on the subject of home life, as one in which the
interests of the whole sex are most closely involved. It is clear that
those interests are manifold, highly important to the welfare of the
race, unceasing in their recurrence, urgent and imperative in their
nature, requiring for their successful development such devotion of
time, labor, strength, thought, feeling, that they must necessarily
leave but little leisure to the person who faithfully discharges them.
The comfort, health, peace, temper, recreation, general welfare,
intellectual, moral, and religious training of a family make up,
indeed, a charge of the very highest dignity, and one which must tax
to the utmost every faculty of the individual to whom it is intrusted.
The commander of a regiment at the head of his men, the member of
Congress in his seat, the judge on his bench, scarcely holds a
position so important, so truly honorable, as that of the intelligent,
devoted, faithful American wife and mother, wisely governing her
household. And what are the interests of the merchant, the
manufacturer, the banker, the broker, the speculator, the selfish
politician, when compared with those confided to the Christian wife
and mother? They are too often simply contemptible--a wretched,
feverish, maddening struggle to pile up lucre, which is any thing but
clean. Where is the superior merit of such a life, that we should
hanker after it, when placed beside that of the loving, unselfish,
Christian wife and mother--the wife, standing at her husband's side,
to cheer, to aid, to strengthen, to console, to counsel, amidst the
trials of life; the mother, patiently, painfully, and prayerfully
cultivating every higher faculty of her children for worthy action
through time and eternity? Which of these positions has the most of
true elevation connected with it?

And then, again, let as look at the present position of American
women in society. In its best aspects social life may be said to be
the natural outgrowth of the Christian home. It is something far
better than the world, than Vanity Fair, than the Court of Mammon,
where all selfish passions meet and parade in deceptive
masquerade. It is the selfish element in human nature which
pervades what we call the world; self-indulgence, enjoyment, the
lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, the pride of life, receive, in that
arena, their full development. Society, on the contrary, in its highest
meaning, becomes the practical development of the second great
commandment, loving and serving our neighbor. In every Christian
country there are many individuals, especially among women, to
whom social life practically bears that meaning. Public worship itself
is a social act, the highest of all, blending in one the spirit of the
two great commandments--the love of God and the love of man. And
whatever of social action or social enjoyment is not inconsistent with
those two great commandments becomes the Christian's heritage,
makes a part, more or less important, of his education, enters into
the great stream of the better civilization. And it is here that we
reach what may be called the more public duties of woman. From all
duties entirely public she is now, or she may be if she choose,
relieved by man. These more public duties of hers are still but the
outgrowth of her home life, and more or less closely interwoven with
it. They are very important, never to be neglected with impunity. The
really unsocial woman is in great danger of becoming also un-
christian. Every friend crossing the threshold brings social life into
the home. The genial smile, the kindly greeting, the cheering word,
all these and a thousand other gracious impulses, are, of course, but
the first instinctive movements of the social feeling. And from these
we move onward over a vast field of action, to the very farthest
point reached by the higher charities of Christianity. There can be no
doubt that the charm, the grace, and the happy cheerfulness of
society are chiefly due to women; and it is also true that the whole
unwritten common-law of society is, in a great measure, under their
control. The world is constantly encroaching here, enervating and
corrupting social life. To oppose wisely, skillfully, and effectually
these treacherous encroachments, these alluring temptations, is one
of the most difficult tasks possible. To contribute her full share
toward purifying and brightening the social atmosphere about her, in
accordance with the spirit of true Christian civilization, such is one
great and essential part of woman's work in life. It is a work more
especially her own. Man, without his helpmeet, can do but little here.
His faculties are absorbed by other tasks, not more important, but
more engrossing and essentially different. The finer tact, the more
graceful manner, the quicker wit, the more tender conscience, are all
needed here. Every woman in the country has her own share of this
work to do. Each individual woman is responsible for the right use of
all her own social influences, whether for good or for evil.

To keep up the standard of female purity becomes emphatically one
of the most stringent duties of every Christian woman. For her own
sake, for the sake of all she loves, for the sake of her country, for
the service of Christ and His Church, she is bound to uphold this
standard at a high point--a point entirely above suspicion. This task
is of importance incalculable. But, owing to the frivolity of some
women, and the very loose ideas of many men, it is no easy task.
Undoubtedly, the very great majority of women are born modest at
heart. Their nature is by many degrees less coarse than that of man.
And their conscience is more tender. But there is one temptation to
which they too often yield. With them the great dangers are vanity
and the thirst for admiration, which often become a sort of diseased
excitement--what drinking or gambling is to men. Here is the weak
point. Yielding chiefly to this temptation, scores of women are falling
every day. Vanity leads them to wear the extravagant, the flashy,
the immodest, the unhealthy dress, to dance the immodest dance, to
adopt the alluring manner, to carry flirting to extremes. Vanity leads
them, in short, to forget true self-respect, to enjoy the very doubtful
compliment of a miserably cheap admiration. They become impatient
of the least appearance of neglect or indifference, they become
eager in pursuit of attention, while men always attribute that pursuit
to motives of the coarsest kind. It is generally vanity alone which
leads a married woman to receive the first disgraceful flattery of
dissolute men. Probably nine out of ten of those American women
who have trifled with honor and reputation, whose names are spoken
with the sneer of contempt, have been led on, step by step, in the
path of sin by vanity as the chief motive. Where one woman falls
from low and coarse passions, a hundred fall from sheer levity and
the love of admiration.

To counteract this fatal influence young women must be taught to
respect themselves, to be on their guard against vanity and its
enticements, to cherish personal modesty in every way. The married
woman who is quietly working by example or by precept among the
young girls nearest to her, seeking to cherish and foster among them
this vital principle of pure personal modesty in dress, in language, in
reading, in tone of voice, in countenance, in manner--the natural
outward expression of true modesty of heart--is doing far more for
her country than if she were to mount the rostrum to-morrow and
make a political speech eloquent as any of Webster's.

Sensible women may always have a good measure of political
influence of the right sort, if they choose. And it is in one sense a
duty on their part to claim this influence, and to exert it, but always
in the true womanly way. The influence of good sense, of a sound
judgment, of good feeling may always he theirs. Let us see that we
preserve this influence, and that we use it wisely. But let us cherish
our happy immunities as women by keeping aloof from all public
personal action in the political field. There is much higher work for us
to do. Our time, our thoughts, our efforts may be given to labors far
more important than any mere temporary electing, or law-making,
passed today, annulled to-morrow, in obedience to the fickle spirit of
party politics.


Toward this work legislation, the mere enacting of laws, can do but
little. We have all heard of the shrewd mind who considered the
songs of a people as more important than their laws. The moral
condition of a nation is subject to many different influences--of
these the statute book is but one, and that not the most important.
No mere skeleton of political constitution can, of itself, produce
moral health and strength. It is the living heart within which does
the work. And over that heart women have very great influence. The
home is the cradle of the nation. A sound home education is the
most important of all moral influences. In the very powerful
influences which affection gives them over the home, by teaching
childhood, by guiding youth, over the men of their family, women
have noble means for working good, not only to their own
households, not only to the social circle about them, but to the
nation at large. All these influences they can bring into action far
more effectually by adhering closely to that position which is not
only natural to them, but also plainly allotted to them by the
revealed Word of God. In no position of their own devising can they
do that work half so well.

Political and social corruption are clearly the great evils to be
dreaded for our country. We have already gone far enough in the
path of universal manhood suffrage to feel convinced that no mere
enlargement of the suffrage has power to save us from those evils.
During half a century we have been moving nearer and nearer to a
suffrage all but universal, and we have, during the same period,
been growing more corrupt. The undisguised frauds at elections, the
open accusations of bribery in legislative assemblies, the
accusations of corruption connected with still higher offices--of these
we read daily in the public prints. And these accusations are not
disproved. They are generally believed. It is clear, therefore, that
something more effectual than universal manhood suffrage is needed
to stem the torrent. And it is simply ridiculous to suppose that
womanhood suffrage can effect the same task. Who can believe that
where men, in their own natural field, have partially failed to
preserve a healthful political atmosphere, an honest political
practice, that women, so much less experienced, physically so much
more feeble, so excitable, so liable to be misled by fancy, by feeling,
are likely, in a position foreign to their nature, not only to stand
upright themselves, but, like Atlas of old, to bear the weight of the
whole political world on their shoulders--like Hercules, to cleanse the
Augean stables of the political coursers--to do, in short, all that man
has failed to do? No; it is, alas! only too clear that something more
than the ballot-box, whether in male or female hands, is needed
here. And it is the same in social life. The public prints, under a free
press, must always hold up a tolerably faithful mirror to the society
about them. The picture it displays is no better in social life than in
political life. We say the mirror is tolerably faithful, since there are
heights of virtue and depths of sin alike unreflected by the daily
press. The very purest and the very foulest elements of earthly
existence are left out of the picture. But the general view can
scarcely fail to be tolerably correct. Take, then, the sketch of social
life as it appears in some half dozen of the most popular prints from
week to week. You will be sure to find the better features grievously
blended with others fearfully distorted by evil. There are blots black
as pitch in that picture. There are forms, more fiend-like than human,
photographed on those sheets of paper. Crimes of worse than brutal
violence, savage cruelty, crimes of treachery and cowardly cunning
and conspiracy, breach of trust, tyrannical extortion, groveling
intemperance, sensuality gross and shameless--the heart sickens at
the record of a week's crime! It is a record from which the Christian
woman often turns aside appalled. Human nature can read no
lessons of humility more powerful than those contained in the
newspapers of the day. They preach what may be called home truths
with most tremendous force. From this record of daily crime it is only
too clear that universal suffrage has had no power to purify the
society in which we live. If no worse, we can not claim to be better
than other nations, under a different political rule.

This admission becomes the more painful when we reflect that in
America this full freedom of fundamental institutions, this relief from
all needless shackles, is combined with a well-developed system of
intellectual education. We are an absolutely free nation. We are, on
the whole, and to a certain point, intellectually, an educated nation.
Yet vice and crime exist among us to an extent that is utterly
disgraceful. It is evident, therefore, that universal manhood suffrage,
even when combined with general education, is still insufficient for
the task of purifying either social or political life. The theoretical
infidel philosopher may wonder at this fact. Not so the Christian.
Great intellectual activity, and the abuse of that power for evil
purposes, are a spectacle only too common in this world. Look at the
present condition of the most civilized nations. Of all generations
that have lived on earth, our own is assuredly the most enlightened,
in an intellectual sense; mental culture has never been so generally
diffused as it is to-day, nor has it ever achieved so many conquests
as within the last half century; and yet mark how comparatively little
has this wonderful intellectual progress accomplished in the noble
work of improving the moral condition of the most enlightened
countries. To the mind humbled by Christian doctrine, living in the
light of a holy faith, these facts, though unspeakably painful, can not
cause surprise. We are prepared for them. We have already learned
that no mere legislative enactment and no mere intellectual training
can suffice to purify the human heart thoroughly. An element much
more powerful than mental culture is needed for that great work. For
this work light from on high is sent. A thorough MORAL EDUCATION
is required, and the highest form of that education can be reached in
one way only--by walking in the plain path of obedience to the will of
the Creator, as revealed in Holy Scripture. We must turn, not to Plato
and Aristotle, but to inspired Prophet and Apostle. We must open our
hearts to the spirit of the Decalogue and the Sermon on the Mount.
We must go to Sinai and to Calvary, and humbly, on bended knee,
receive the sublime lessons to be learned there.

We should never have expected moral progress as an inevitable
consequence of free institutions and mere intellectual education, had
it not been that, like other nations, we indulge in idolatries, and
among our "gods many" are the suffrage and mental activity. We are
gravely told by philosophers that, with the vote in the hands of
woman, the moral elevation of the race is secured forever! "Great is
Diana of the Ephesians!" The feeling is common in America that to
doubt the omnipotence of universal suffrage in its extreme
development is not only treason, but a sort of blasphemy. And this
feeling is now leading many minds, unconsciously, perhaps, to shrink
from opposing the present movement in favor of womanhood
suffrage. They bow the knee to the common idol. They dare not
believe it possible for the suffrage to be carried too far. For
ourselves we have no sympathies whatever with idolatry. We
fearlessly declare our opinion, therefore, that no political institutions
whatever, neither despotic, nor monarchical, nor aristocratic, nor yet
the most free, are capable, in themselves, of achieving moral
education for a people. Neither do we believe it more possible for
abstract intellectual culture to gain this most important of all ends.
Institutions wisely free are a very great blessing. Let us be fervently
thankful for them. Intellectual education is equally important and
desirable. These are both noble and admirable means to work with,
provided we still look above and beyond them for a further
development of the race--for fullness of MORAL CIVILIZATION. In
fact, if we wish for a vigorous, healthful, lasting development of
republican institutions, we must necessarily unite with these not
only intellectual teaching, but also a sound MORAL EDUCATION. This
is a fact to which men, in the whirl of their political or commercial
struggles, too often willfully shut their eyes. They are quite ready to
acknowledge the truth of the assertion in a general way, but they
choose to forget its vast importance in political or commercial
practice. They recklessly lower the moral standard themselves,
whenever that standard is at a height inconvenient for the attaining
of some particular object toward which they are aiming. They are
lacking in faith. Unlike women, who carry faith with them in private
life, men act as if faith were not needed in everyday public life. At
least the great majority of men, nominal Christians, fail to carry
Christian principle with them into common business or politics. Faith,
in the heart of women, is connected with love; consequently it is
less easily stifled. They more frequently carry this principle with
them in daily practice--not to the extent that they should do, but far
more so than most men do. And here, Christian women, is your great
advantage. It is the Lord's work to which we would urge you. The
work of true faith, however lowly, is sure of a blessing. With faith
unfeigned in your hearts, giving purity to your lives, you have it in
your power to render most effectual service to the nation in your own
natural sphere, far beyond what you could possibly accomplish by the
path of common politics. You have never, as yet, done full justice to
the advantages of your own actual position in this respect. You have
overlooked the great work immediately before you. We have no
magic talisman to offer you in carrying out that work. We shall not
flatter you with the promise of unlimited success; we shall not
attempt to gratify any personal ambition of public honors. We have
no novel theories or brilliant illusions with which to dazzle your

There is absolutely no principle so sorely needed in the civilized
world to-day as this. We live in an age of false and inflated ambitions.
Simple moral truths fare badly in our time. Imposing theories,
brilliant novelties, subtle sophistries, exaggerated development,
arrogant pretensions--these too often crowd simple moral truths out
of sight, out of mind. And yet, without that class of duties in
healthful action, corruption more or less general is inevitable.

Truth of word, honesty of action, integrity of character, temperance,
chastity, moderation, sincerity, subordination to just authority,
conjugal fidelity, filial love and honor--these duties, and others
closely connected with them, bear old and homely names. But,
Christian women, you can not ask for a task more noble, more truly
elevating, for yourselves and your country, than to uphold these
plain moral principles, first by your own personal example, and then
by all pure influences in your homes and in the society to which you
belong. In no other mode can you so well forward the great work of
Christian civilization as by devoting yourselves to the daily personal
practice, and to the social cultivation, by example and influence, of
these plain moral duties. Your present domestic position is
especially favorable to this task. You have more time for thought on
these subjects; you have more frequent opportunities for influence
over the young nearest to you; you have more leisure for prayer, for
invoking a blessing on your efforts, however humble they may he. It
is not enough to set a decent example yourselves. You must go to
the very root of the matter. You must carry about with you hearts
and minds very deeply impressed with the incalculable importance of
a sound morality; you must be clearly convinced of the misery, the
shame, the perils of all immorality.

In this nineteenth century the civilization of a country must
necessarily prove either heathen or Christian in its spirit. There is no
neutral ground lying between these boundaries. Faith or infidelity,
such is the choice we must all make, whether as individuals or as
nations. Thanks be to God we are not only in name, but also partially
in character, a Christian nation. Faith is not entirely wanting. We all
in a measure feel its good effects. Even the avowed infidel living in
our midst is far more under its influences, though indirectly so, than
he is aware of. And where there is life, there we have hope of
growth, of higher development. To cherish that growth, to further
that higher development by all gracious and loving and generous
influences, is a work for which women are especially adapted. They
work from within outwardly. Men work chiefly by mental and physical
pressure from without. Men work by external authority; women work
by influences. Men seek to control the head. Women always aim at
touching the heart. And we have the highest of all authority for
believing that this last is the most efficient mode of working.

"Out of the heart are the issues of life." This, therefore, Christian
women, is your especial task. Use all the happy womanly influences
in your power to forward the moral education, the Christian
civilization, of the country to which you belong. Be watchful, with the
unfeigned humility of the Christian, over your own personal course,
and the example connected with it. Aim at keeping up, on all
occasions, a high practical standard of sound morality at all points.
Cultivate every germ of true moral principle in your own homes, and
in the social circle about you. Let the holy light of truth, honor,
fidelity, honesty, purity, piety, and love brighten the atmosphere of
your homes.

What heathen civilization means we know from many sources, more
especially from the records of Rome under the empire, in the days of
St. Paul, when it had reached its highest development.

What Christian civilization means we learn from the Apostle: "Let
him that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity."
"Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest,
whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever
things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report--think on
these things."

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