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existing state of things, as against those who, like himself, would impugn it. Of course, as Mr. Mill admits, the state of public opinion upon the subject does, in point of fact, force him to support the views which he advances by positive arguments; but we hold that it does so rightly, and that the advocate of a theory which, as we think, so far from being a natural development, is a total subversion of the relations hitherto established between the sexes of the human race, is bound to adduce conclusive prcofs of its truth before he can claim or expect its adoption.
At the outset of the Essay the proposition which is sought to be established is thus stated :
“That the principle which regulates the existing social relations between the two sexes—the legal subordination of one sex to the other-is wrong in itself, and now one of the chief hindrances to human improvement; and that it ought to be replaced by a principle of perfect equality, admitting no power or privilege on the ono side, nor disability on the other.”
Mr. Mill looks upon what he is pleased to call the subjection of women as the one remaining vestige in civilized countries of the sovereignty of physical force, and as a solitary remnant of the institution of slavery-an institution which is the distinctive creature of that sovereignty. While the slavery of the male sex has been abandoned by the nations of civilized Europe, divers reasons have conspired to cause the retention of that of the female sex. But it is a state of things wholly at variance with the principles of personal freedom and individual action which now prevail.
“At present, in the more improved countries, the disabilities of women are the only case, save one, in which laws and institutions take persons at their birth, and ordain that they shall never in all their lives be allowed to compete for certain things. The one exception is that of royalty..... The social subordination of women thus stands out an isolated fact in modern social institutions : a solitary breach of what has become their fundamental law: a single relic of an old world of thought and practice, exploded in everything else, but retained in the one thing of most universal interest. It is as if a gigantic dolmen, or a vast temple of Jupiter Olympius, occupied the site of St. Paul's, and received daily worship, while the surrounding Christian churches were only resorted to on fasts and festivals. This entire discrepancy between one social fact and all those which accompany it, and the radical opposition between its nature and the progressive movement which is the boast of the modern world, and which has successively swept away everything else of an analogous character, surely affords to a conscientious observer of human tendencies serious matter for reflection.”
Surely it does; and we wonder that it has not suggested to Mr. Mill's mind the obvious reflection, that possibly, after all,
the entire discrepancy' and 'radical opposition' may be found to exist more in imagination than in reality.
But to proceed. After pointing out that the condition of women through all the progressive period of human history has been approaching nearer to equality with men, Mr. Mill proceeds to combat the argument, that the nature of the two sexes adapts them to their present functions and position, and renders these appropriate to them.
“ Standing,” he says, “ on the ground of common sense and the constitution of the human mind, I deny that any one knows or can know the nature of the two sexes, as long as they have only been seen in their present relation to one another. If men had ever been found in society without women, or women without men, or if there had been a society of men and women in which the women were not under the control of the men, something might have been positively known about the mental and moral differences which may be inherent in the nature of each. What is now called the nature of women is an eminently artificial thing."
Hence Mr. Mill concludes that no argument can fairly be based upon the existence of alleged natural differences between the sexes against their social and legal equality.
Having thus cleared the ground by dismissing the teaching and experience of past ages as of no value in the discussion of the question, Mr. Mill proceeds to consider more in detail the condition of women as it is, and to state what, in his opinion, it ought to be, in reference to the marriage state, and to the admissibility of both sexes alike to all functions and occupations. With respect to the former subject he says:
“We are continually told that civilization and Christianity have restored to the woman her just rights. Meanwhile, the wife is the actual bond-servant of her husband: no less so, as far as legal obligation goes, than slaves commonly so-called. She vows a lifelong obedience to him at the altar, and is held to it all through her life by law. Casuists may say that the obligation of obedience stops short of participation in crime, but it certainly extends to everything else. She can do no act whatever but by his permission, at least tacit. She can acquire no property but for him ; the instant it becomes hers, even by inheritance, it becomes ipso facto his.”
The whole of this statement is highly coloured, and the last clause of it is positively incorrect. Real estate, the only property which, in the strict sense of the term, comes to the wife by inheritance, does not become the property of the husband by devolving upon her. We are not, however, called upon to maintain that the relations between husbands and wives, or generally between men and women, are, in this country and at the present time, absolutely perfect. Even while we write, a Bill is in progress through Parliament, and has been entertained with marked favour by the Lower House, which, if passed into law, would materially affect the rights of married women over property acquired by them. But nothing less than a fundamental alteration of the whole relation between husband and wife will, in Mr. Mill's eyes, satisfy the require. ments of justice and expediency. There must be real, unequivocal, unqualified equality—as much as between two partners in a business firm-and the only preponderance to be allowed to either party, except so far as it may be regulated by law or by ante-nuptial contract, must depend upon the comparative qualifications of the two. The influence of greater age is generally on the side of the husband, but that which is derived from bringing the means of support to the family will, under the new régime, be as likely to be found on the side of the wife as on that of the husband. For Mr. Mill desires the free and unrestricted admission of women to all the functions and occupations hitherto retained as the monopoly of the stronger sex. “On this point,” he says,
".... I should anticipate no difficulty in convincing any one who has gone with me on the subject of the equality of women in the family. I believe that their disabilities elsewhere are only clang to in order to maintain their subordination in domestic life, because the generality of the male sex cannot yet tolerate the idea of living with an equal.”
Mr. Mill would remove all legal disabilities which at present stand in the way of a woman entering any path of life whatever, trusting to individual choice or sense of fitness, and the natural laws of success and failure to regulate the due allotment of members of both sexes to the discharge of the several employments and duties of society. It cannot be doubted, he urges, that there are some women capable of discharging functions which are at present in the exclusive grasp of the male sex; and if the majority of them are not so, we shall find that majority instinctively, and without the necessity of legal intervention, avoiding the function for which it is unsuited.
In the last chapter of his Essay, Mr. Mill sums up the benefits which are, in his opinion, to be expected from the social revolution which he advocates. First and foremost he places “the advantage of having the most universal and pervading of all human relations regulated by justice instead of injustice."
“Marriage is the only actual bondage known to our law. ... So long as the right of the strong to power over the weak rules in the very heart of society, the attempt to make the equal right of the weak the principle of its outward actions will always be an uphill struggle ; for the law of justice, which is also that of Christianity, will never get possession of men's inmost sentiments; they will be working against it even when bending to it.'
In the next place, Mr. Mill expects by his scheme to double the mass of mental faculties available for the higher service of humanity. . “Where there is now one person qualified to benefit mankind and promote the general improvement as a public teacher or an admi. nistrator of some branch of public or social affairs, there would then be a chance of two.... This great accession to the intellectual power of the species, and to the amount of intellect available for the good management of its affairs would be obtained partly through the better and more complete intellectual education of women, which would then improve pari passu with that of men.”
Again, the opinion of women, which has always possessed a great influence, would then possess a more beneficial influence upon the general mass of human belief and sentiment. And lastly, the most direct benefit of all would be “the unspeakable gain in private happiness to the liberated half of the species ; the difference to them between a life of subjection to the will others, and a life of rational freedom.”
Now we do not deny that, like everything that bears the “ liberté, egalité, et fraternité” stamp, there is something at first sight somewhat fascinating in the picture which Mr. Mill has unfolded to our view. But the subject is far too momentous for determination upon first impressions. Let us accept Mr. Mill's invitation, and enter into the discussion “as a real discussion, descending to foundations, and not resting satisfied with vague and general assertions.”
There can be no doubt, that in the history of the human race the progress of civilisation has been attended by a gradual triumph of intellectual over physical strength, and a gradual amelioration in the condition of the female sex. Mr. Mill apparently regards the alteration which he advocates in the relations between the sexes as the natural and logical issue of these two processes of development. We think, however, that he has formed a mistaken estimate of the possible limits of the one, and of the tendencies and direction of the other.
When Mr. Mill, in dealing with the problem before him, ignores altogether the physical side of human nature, and con. fines the natural differences between the two sexes to their mental and moral characteristics, treating men and women as if they were disembodied spirits, we are constrained to ask whether the element of physical strength can be thus reduced to a nullity, and become a matter of absolute indifference. Surely there can be but one answer to the question. Intellectual power may assert an undisputed superiority over physical
force, but can never effect its annihilation. A man in possession of intellectual faculties of the highest order, if health and strength of body fail, will be seriously impeded in employing those faculties for the advantage of himself and others, and may even be absolutely debarred from doing so. And, given two individuals of equal mental ability, but endowed with different degrees of bodily power, we can predict with certainty which of them will obtain the superiority. We cannot, therefore, in considering the natural differences between the sexes, treat the word nutural as synonymous with metaphysical, and disregard, as beside the question, the inferiority of women to men in bodily strength and power of endurance, and the physical distinctions of sex, with all that these involve. On the supposition, then, that the mental and moral capabilities of men and women are equal-a supposition with respect to which Mr. Mill affirms that neither he nor anyone else can possibly know whether it is correct or not, but of which we are willing, for the sake of argument, to concede the truth-we are, when we take into account the material side of the question, forced to the conclusion, that the female sex has been placed by nature in a position of inferiority as compared with the male. Now, where there are two things, between certain component parts of which there exists an inequality, any attempt to create equality between the remaining portions must necessarily tend to produce disparity between the wholes. This, however, is precisely what Mr. Mill proposes to do. The mental and moral characteristics of the two sexes are, according to our assumption, equal, but their physical capabilities are unequal, and Mr. Mill proposes to equalize in every respect their legal and social condition. What will be the effect of this, but to leave the physical disparity unbalanced by any counteracting elements, and to create a state of things in which the sum total of the terms involved will be unfavourable to the female sex? The fact is, that the abolition of all legal and social distinctions between men and women cannot result in placing the latter upon an equality with the former, unless there is some difference between the metaphysical power of men and women which will compensate for the inferior physical strength of the female sex. That there is no ground for supposing the existence of such a difference as this, Mr. Mill has taken great pains to prove, being well aware that, if its reality could be demonstrated, it would go far to shake the plausibility of his proposition for equalizing the legal and social condition of men and women. Hence, if Mr. Mill really desires the equality of the two sexes, he appears to us to be confronted with the following dilemma. Upon the supposition of an equality in the metaphysical powers of men and women, some distinctions in their artificial condition,