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ART. II.-PROFESSOR GOLDWIN SMITH ON THE
FAILINGS OF WOMEN. A GREAT writer, herself a woman, and one well skilled in the analysis of character, said, when writing of her sex, “Some have felt that these blundering lives are due to the inconvenient indefiniteness with which the Supreme Power has fashioned the natures of women; if there were one level of feminine incompetence as strict as the ability to count three and no more, the social lot of women might be treated with scientific certitude. Meanwhile, the indefiniteness remains, and the limits of variation are really much wider than any one would imagine from the sameness of women's coiffure, and the favourite love stories in prose and in verse.' Professor Goldwin Smith, unlike George Eliot, ignores all these subtler distinctions betweeu women and women, and with a cheerful confidence quite refreshing in these doubting, hesitating days, tells us in the January Nineteenth Century what is the temperament and besetting failing, and what are the capacities and capabilities of the whole sex. Women are tional," says this observant writer, “untrustworthy counsellors, incapable of responsibility, and unsafe rulers." In proof of the last assertion, Mr. Smith goes back on his history. Like his studies in feminine human nature, his historical studies appear somewhat barren of results; the four women named (Margaret of Anjou, Henrietta Maria, Marie Antoinette, and the Empress Eugénie) would have served infinitely better as illustrations of the misfortunes of women married to weak or unwise rulers, than as showing how women act when power is placed in their own hands. But granting Mr. Smith these four incapable women-rulers, the case for the whole sex is hardly made out; to a student of history like himself, it should not be impossible to find four incapable rulers of his own sex, yet both he and we would be unwilling to charge incapacity on all.
But it is not women that Mr. Smith is especially anxious to criticise, but the woman's movement, which he appears to think is organised solely in a spirit of antagonism to man. A recent writer in the Westminster
woman Review Review expresses the opinion that men are more in favour of the proposed change than women, and that men would more largely benefit by it. This view seems to put the question in a truer light, for how can we widen, enlighten, improve one sex and not benefit the other? They rise or sink, together dwarf'd or godlike." Their work may be, often is, distinct, but their lives are lived together, their natures touch and influence each other in innumerable subtle ways; whatever their unlikenesses (and of these we have heard more than enough), men and women have so many needs and sorrows in common that it seems impossible to conceive of any great social change made to advance the interests of one sex at the expense of the other.
Mr. Smith further tells us that man has bridged the sea, reclaimed the earth, fought, legislated, risen from savage to civilized life, and shared all he has gained with woman; and thus he seems to imply by his industry in gaining, and magnanimity in sharing, he has earned a right to the sole exercise of political power, and a larger share of domestic authority. What then, we may ask, have women been doing all these long ages? Have they stood idiy by, accepting the fruit of a conquest and struggle in which they have had no share, or have they, burdened and handicapped in the race, yet risen from the debasement and degradation of savage life, starting bebind their stronger companions, yet ever, step by step, gaining on them, advancing with advancing civilization, themselves a part of it, toiling, striving, suffering, laying down their lives too, that the race might exist, and go forward; so that each great social change has brought not only improved lives for men and women, but improved relations between them? Mr. H. Spencer, in his “Sociology," tells us “as civilization re-adjusts men's natures to higher social requirements, there goes on a corresponding re-adjustment between the natures of men and women, tending in sundry respects to diminish their differences: and it is to be anticipated that the higher culture of women will in other ways reduce the contrast.” If the possession of political power be looked upon as the right of those who have helped to make society what it is, women can
hardly with justice be excluded from all share in it; they have built no ships, cleared no forests, fought no battles, it is true, yet without a woman's skill and industry in utilizing man's earnings and inventions, in keeping the home he provided, much of his labour would be useless. If Mr. Smith insists on having a sort of Debtor v. Creditor account drawn up between men and women, let us at least make it fairly represent both sides: ships and harbours, buildings, and clearings are great and good works to have accomplished, but not greater than to have brought up one little child to a pure, noble manhood or womanhood. It would be foolish and ungrateful of women to deny their dependence upon men, we can agree with Mr. Smith in that; quite as foolish and ungrateful would it be of men to deny their less apparent, but not less real, dependence upon women.
Among sundry other legislative boons conferred upon them, and which they are in danger of ungratefully over-looking, women are reminded that men have instituted monogamy, solely in their (the women's) interest, and we are led to suppose, at much sacrifice of personal feeling, without any apprehension of benefit to the masculine half of the race in the new arrangement, and with no consciousness of the fact that polygamy and progress are impossible together. We women would like to give our ancestors credit for more enlightened, even if less magnanimous views, and to believe that they realised that a pure manhood was quite as impossible as a pure womanhood under such a system. Whatever our ancestors knew, we of to-day
, at any rate know that the present position and character of our Englishmen, no less than of our English woman is due in a large measure to the ennobled conceptions of home-life which monogamy, and monogamy alone made possible.
But Mr. Smith has other grave charges to bring besides the general and black one of ingratitude; he brings a more particular charge against the leaders of the movement, very serious and damaging if true, that some of them are trying to dissuade young women from marriage, and the burdens of maternity.” Such advice universally followed would certainly lead to
s Review disastrous consequences, but Mr. Smith may console himself with the reflection that young woman otherwise minded are not readily persuaded to a single life; if they are not deterred from matrimony by the present condition of the law with regard to a wife's and mother's position, there is little fear that they will hearken to the dangerous eloquence of the leaders of the movement. A too eager, heedless, reckless rushing into marriage is a much commoner folly, than a too cautious weighing of its difficulties and responsibilities. Not many girls say like Dorothea in prospect of it, “I know I must expect trials, marriage is a state of higher duties, I never thought of it as mere personal ease; and not many finding as she did the trials, and sacrifices greater than she anticipated, go so nobly and cheerfully through all. Young women marrying under delusions as to the ease and freedom from care of the married state, are the worst prepared for its realities and duties. Nothing is gained for them or their husbands by encouraging them in a spirit of helplessness and dependence. Harriet Martineau writing about woman says: “Let her lean upon man as much as she will, how much can he do for her? from how much can he protect her? From a few physical perils, and a very few social evils, this is all; over the moral world he has no control except on his own account, and it is the moral life of human beings that is all in all. He can neither secure her from pain nor grief, nor rescue her from the strife of emotions, nor prevent the film of life from cracking under her feet, nor hide from her the abyss that is beneath, nor save her from sinking into it at last, alone. While it is so, while woman is human, let us beware how we deprive her of any of the strength which is all needed for the strife and burden of humanity; let us beware how we put her off her watch and defence by promises which cannot be fulfilled, promises of support which can be derived only from within—from the self-reliance which is generated by the freest moral action."
Perhaps after all the best argument to use against Mr. Smith is to accept his testimony respecting women, and differ from his conclusions; if they are so weak,
emotional, dependent, and irresponsible (faults likely to be found in people leading narrow lives, with only personal aims, acted for in great matters, with no sense of citizenship, or of duties to the State), may we not hope they will find some discipline for their characters in the very movement he deprecates. If it be true that “The power to get freedom becomes the measure of the power to use it," and that “dissatisfaction with old arrangements is a sign that the character requires better ones," may we not hope that before the small measure of justice women demand can be granted, some of the faults, that loom so large on Mr. Smith's oppressed eyes, as quite to obscure their few poor merits, may disappear, and may not those leading the movement through the dark hours before the dawning, say confidently like Tennyson's Princess:
6. Yet in the shadow will we work,
SARAH A. NORTON.
ART. III.—“A HEARTY DEMOCRAT.'
MR. GOLDWIN SMITH, in his article on the “Machinery of Elective Government” in the January number of the Nineteenth century, declares himself a “hearty Demo-. crat,” and an advocate for a "widely extended suffrage." The object of the article, indeed, is to suggest changes in the machinery by which Governments are to be elected, but he points out that “to engage the loyalty of the many it is necessary that government should be administered in the name of an authority to which their hearts, as well as their understandings, bow. Such an authority in bygone times was the king, such an authority now is the whole nation.” A more powerful plea for a generous extension of political privileges has scarcely ever been written, for even universal suffrage has no terrors for Mr. Smith. With his accustomed