Is Woman’s Suffrage An Enlightened And Justifiable Policy For The State? -- By: Henry A. Stimson
BSac 67:266 (April 1910) p. 335
Is Woman’s Suffrage An Enlightened And Justifiable Policy For The State?
New York City
Despite the vehemence which in many quarters has been introduced into the discussion, Woman’s Suffrage is still a matter for serious and enlightened consideration. Discussion both of the reasons for and against it, and of its probable results, is not to be precluded on the ground of its being a right, self-evident and ultimate; nor to be settled by any a priori argument.
It is time to examine political aphorisms which pass current for ultimate truth, but which are at best only half truths. “Equal Rights,” “Equal Opportunities,” and “Man-made Laws “are illustrations. Back of these lies the assumption that society and government rest on a social contract — Rousseau’s theory, which underlies so much of the democratic thought which came into vogue with the French Revolution. That conception was false, and has long since been repudiated by all serious thinkers; but it is responsible for the attitude of many ardent reformers to-day.
The ballot is simply a method of conducting public business, — far from perfect, even theoretically, because it implies a general intelligence which does not exist; and extremely ineffective in our own country, because of the ease with which it is controlled by political machinery. We have the form of expressing individual opinion; whereas, in reality, we can only vote for the candidates presented to us for that purpose.
It is well to bear in mind that law in America is no more man-made than is a document woman-made that chances to be written by a female secretary. Our legislators are men. But, despite their independence and self-assertiveness, they do, in the long run, only what the community desires; and
BSac 67:266 (April 1910) p. 336
the community, in fact, expresses its desires far less by the ballot than it does by public opinion. In the making of that public opinion, men and women participate, and no one will seriously question that the opinion of the women is a widely exercised and most important factor. It is often said that a community has no worse laws than it desires, and no better ones than it is prepared to see enforced. The certain fact is that no law can long exist in an American community against the will of the people, regardless of age or sex. So much of the making or administering of the law as is accomplished by the ballot is relatively small. Even if it were greater, the opinion that expresses itself through the ballot of the men at any election is eventually the opinion of the public, made up of all its elements, men and women alike.
“Equality” is a misleading w...
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