Front Page Titles (by Subject) Chapter IV - The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXI - Essays on Equality, Law, and Education
Return to Title Page for The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXI - Essays on Equality, Law, and Education
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
Chapter IV - John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXI - Essays on Equality, Law, and Education 
The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXI - Essays on Equality, Law, and Education, ed. John M. Robson, Introduction by Stefan Collini (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1984).
About Liberty Fund:
The online edition of the Collected Works is published under licence from the copyright holder, The University of Toronto Press. ©2006 The University of Toronto Press. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced in any form or medium without the permission of The University of Toronto Press.
Fair use statement:
there remains a question, not of less importance than those already discussed, and which will be asked the most importunately by those opponents whose conviction is somewhat shaken on the main point. What good are we to expect from the changes proposed in our customs and institutions? Would mankind be at all better off if women were free? If not, why disturb their minds, and attempt to make a social revolution in the name of an abstract right?
It is hardly to be expected that this question will be asked in respect to the change proposed in the condition of women in marriage. The sufferings, immoralities, evils of all sorts, produced in innumerable cases by the subjection of individual women to individual men, are far too terrible to be overlooked. Unthinking or uncandid persons, counting those cases alone which are extreme, or which attain publicity, may say that the evils are exceptional; but no one can be blind to their existence, nor, in many cases, to their intensity. And it is perfectly obvious that the abuse of the power cannot be very much checked while the power remains. It is a power given, or offered, not to good men, or to decently respectable men, but to all men; the most brutal, and the most criminal. There is no check but that of opinion, and such men are in general within the reach of no opinion but that of men like themselves. If such men did not brutally tyrannize over the one human being whom the law compels to bear everything from them, society must already have reached a paradisiacal state. There could be no need any longer of laws to curb men’s vicious propensities. Astraea must not only have returned to earth, but the heart of the worst man must have become her temple. The law of servitude in marriage is a monstrous contradiction to all the principles of the modern world, and to all the experience through which those principles have been slowly and painfully worked out. It is the sole case, now that negro slavery has been abolished, in which a human being in the plenitude of every faculty is delivered up to the tender mercies of another human being, in the hope forsooth that this other will use the power solely for the good of the person subjected to it. Marriage is the only actual bondage known to our law. There remain no legal slaves, except the mistress of every house.
It is not, therefore, on this part of the subject, that the question is likely to be asked, Cui bono? We may be told that the evil would outweigh the good, but the reality of the good admits of no dispute. In regard, however, to the larger question, the removal of women’s disabilities—their recognition as the equals of men in all that belongs to citizenship—the opening to them of all honourable employments, and of the training and education which qualifies for those employments—there are many persons for whom it is not enough that the inequality has no just or legitimate defence; they require to be told what express advantage would be obtained by abolishing it.
To which let me first answer, the advantage of having the most universal and pervading of all human relations regulated by justice instead of injustice. The vast amount of this gain to human nature, it is hardly possible, by any explanation or illustration, to place in a stronger light than it is placed by the bare statement, to any one who attaches a moral meaning to words. All the selfish propensities, the self-worship, the unjust self-preference, which exist among mankind, have their source and root in, and derive their principal nourishment from, the present constitution of the relation between men and women. Think what it is to a boy, to grow up to manhood in the belief that without any merit or any exertion of his own, though he may be the most frivolous and empty or the most ignorant and stolid of mankind, by the mere fact of being born a male he is by right the superior of all and every one of an entire half of the human race: including probably some whose real superiority to himself he has daily or hourly occasion to feel; but even if in his whole conduct he habitually follows a woman’s guidance, still, if he is a fool, he thinks that of course she is not, and cannot be, equal in ability and judgment to himself; and if he is not a fool, he does worse—he sees that she is superior to him, and believes that, notwithstanding her superiority, he is entitled to command and she is bound to obey. What must be the effect on his character, of this lesson? And men of the cultivated classes are often not aware how deeply it sinks into the immense majority of male minds. For, among right-feeling and well-bred people, the inequality is kept as much as possible out of sight; above all, out of sight of the children. As much obedience is required from boys to their mother as to their father: they are not permitted to domineer over their sisters, nor are they accustomed to see these postponed to them, but the contrary; the compensations of the chivalrous feeling being made prominent, while the servitude which requires them is kept in the background. Well brought-up youths in the higher classes thus often escape the bad influences of the situation in their early years, and only experience them when, arrived at manhood, they fall under the dominion of facts as they really exist. Such people are little aware, when a boy is differently brought up, how early the notion of his inherent superiority to a girl arises in his mind; how it grows with his growth and strengthens with his strength; how it is inoculated by one schoolboy upon another; how early the youth thinks himself superior to his mother, owing her perhaps forbearance, but no real respect; and how sublime and sultan-like a sense of superiority he feels, above all, over the woman whom he honours by admitting her to a partnership of his life. Is it imagined that all this does not pervert the whole manner of existence of the man, both as an individual and as a social being? It is an exact parallel to the feeling of a hereditary king that he is excellent above others by being born a king, or a noble by being born a noble. The relation between husband and wife is very like that between lord and vassal, except that the wife is held to more unlimited obedience than the vassal was. However the vassal’s character may have been affected, for better and for worse, by his subordination, who can help seeing that the lord’s was affected greatly for the worse? whether he was led to believe that his vassals were really superior to himself, or to feel that he was placed in command over people as good as himself, for no merits or labours of his own, but merely for having, as Figaro says, taken the trouble to be born.[*] The self-worship of the monarch, or of the feudal superior, is matched by the self-worship of the male. Human beings do not grow up from childhood in the possession of unearned distinctions, without pluming themselves upon them. Those whom privileges not acquired by their merit, and which they feel to be disproportioned to it, inspire with additional humility, are always the few, and the best few. The rest are only inspired with pride, and the worst sort of pride, that which values itself upon accidental advantages, not of its own achieving. Above all, when the feeling of being raised above the whole of the other sex is combined with personal authority over one individual among them; the situation, if a school of conscientious and affectionate forbearance to those whose strongest points of character are conscience and affection, is to men of another quality a regularly constituted Academy or Gymnasium for training them in arrogance and overbearingness; which vices, if curbed by the certainty of resistance in their intercourse with other men, their equals, break out towards all who are in a position to be obliged to tolerate them, and often revenge themselves upon the unfortunate wife for the involuntary restraint which they are obliged to submit to elsewhere.
The example afforded, and the education given to the sentiments, by laying the foundation of domestic existence upon a relation contradictory to the first principles of social justice, must, from the very nature of man, have a perverting influence of such magnitude, that 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. All that education and civilization are doing to efface the influences on character of the law of force, and replace them by those of justice, remains merely on the surface, as long as the citadel of the enemy is not attacked. The principle of the modern movement in morals and politics, is that conduct, and conduct alone, entitles to respect: that not what men are, but what they do, constitutes their claim to deference; that, above all, merit, and not birth, is the only rightful claim to power and authority. If no authority, not in its nature temporary, were allowed to one human being over another, society would not be employed in building up propensities with one hand which it has to curb with the other. The child would really, for the first time in man’s existence on earth, be trained in the way he should go, and when he was old there would be a chance that he would not depart from it. But 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.
The second benefit to be expected from giving to women the free use of their faculties, by leaving them the free choice of their employments, and opening to them the same field of occupation and the same prizes and encouragements as to other human beings, would be that of doubling 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 administrator of some branch of public or social affairs, there would then be a chance of two. Mental superiority of any kind is at present everywhere so much below the demand; there is such a deficiency of persons competent to do excellently anything which it requires any considerable amount of ability to do; that the loss to the world, by refusing to make use of one-half of the whole quantity of talent it possesses, is extremely serious. It is true that this amount of mental power is not totally lost. Much of it is employed, and would in any case be employed, in domestic management, and in the few other occupations open to women; and from the remainder indirect benefit is in many individual cases obtained, through the personal influence of individual women over individual men. But these benefits are partial; their range is extremely circumscribed; and if they must be admitted, on the one hand, as a deduction from the amount of fresh social power that would be acquired by giving freedom to one-half of the whole sum of human intellect, there must be added, on the other, the benefit of the stimulus that would be given to the intellect of men by the competition; or (to use a more true expression) by the necessity that would be imposed on them of deserving precedency before they could expect to obtain it.
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. Women in general would be brought up equally capable of understanding business, public affairs, and the higher matters of speculation, with men in the same class of society; and the select few of the one as well as of the other sex, who were qualified not only to comprehend what is done or thought by others, but to think or do something considerable themselves, would meet with the same facilities for improving and training their capacities in the one sex as in the other. In this way, the widening of the sphere of action for women would operate for good, by raising their education to the level of that of men, and making the one participate in all improvements made in the other. But independently of this, the mere breaking down of the barrier would of itself have an educational virtue of the highest worth. The mere getting rid of the idea that all the wider subjects of thought and action, all the things which are of general and not solely of private interest, are men’s business, from which women are to be warned off—positively interdicted from most of it, coldly tolerated in the little which is allowed them—the mere consciousness a woman would then have of being a human being like any other, entitled to choose her pursuits, urged or invited by the same inducements as any one else to interest herself in whatever is interesting to human beings, entitled to exert the share of influence on all human concerns which belongs to an individual opinion, whether she attempted actual participation in them or not—this alone would effect an immense expansion of the faculties of women, as well as enlargement of the range of their moral sentiments.
Besides the addition to the amount of individual talent available for the conduct of human affairs, which certainly are not at present so abundantly provided in that respect that they can afford to dispense with one-half of what nature proffers; the opinion of women would then possess a more beneficial, rather than a greater, influence upon the general mass of human belief and sentiment. I say a more beneficial, rather than a greater influence; for the influence of women over the general tone of opinion has always, or at least from the earliest known period, been very considerable. The influence of mothers on the early character of their sons, and the desire of young men to recommend themselves to young women, have in all recorded times been important agencies in the formation of character, and have determined some of the chief steps in the progress of civilization. Even in the Homeric age, αἰδώς towards the Τρωάδας έλκεσιπεπλους is an acknowledged and powerful motive of action in the great Hector.[*] The moral influence of women has had two modes of operation. First, it has been a softening influence. Those who were most liable to be the victims of violence, have naturally tended as much as they could towards limiting its sphere and mitigating its excesses. Those who were not taught to fight, have naturally inclined in favour of any other mode of settling differences rather than that of fighting. In general, those who have been the greatest sufferers by the indulgence of selfish passion, have been the most earnest supporters of any moral law which offered a means of bridling passion. Women were powerfully instrumental in inducing the northern conquerors to adopt the creed of Christianity, a creed so much more favourable to women than any that preceded it. The conversion of the Anglo-Saxons and of the Franks may be said to have been begun by the wives of Ethelbert and Clovis.[†] The other mode in which the effect of women’s opinion has been conspicuous, is by giving a powerful stimulus to those qualities in men, which, not being themselves trained in, it was necessary for them that they should find in their protectors. Courage, and the military virtues generally, have at all times been greatly indebted to the desire which men felt of being admired by women: and the stimulus reaches far beyond this one class of eminent qualities, since, by a very natural effect of their position, the best passport to the admiration and favour of women has always been to be thought highly of by men. From the combination of the two kinds of moral influence thus exercised by women, arose the spirit of chivalry: the peculiarity of which is, to aim at combining the highest standard of the warlike qualities with the cultivation of a totally different class of virtues—those of gentleness, generosity, and self-abnegation, towards the non-military and defenceless classes generally, and a special submission and worship directed towards women; who were distinguished from the other defenceless classes by the high rewards which they had it in their power voluntarily to bestow on those who endeavoured to earn their favour, instead of extorting their subjection. Though the practice of chivalry fell even more sadly short of its theoretic standard than practice generally falls below theory, it remains one of the most precious monuments of the moral history of our race; as a remarkable instance of a concerted and organized attempt by a most disorganized and distracted society, to raise up and carry into practice a moral ideal greatly in advance of its social conditions and institutions; so much so as to have been completely frustrated in the main object, yet never entirely inefficacious, and which has left a most sensible, and for the most part a highly valuable impress on the ideas and feelings of all subsequent times.
The chivalrous ideal is the acme of the influence of women’s sentiments on the moral cultivation of mankind: and if women are to remain in their subordinate situation, it were greatly to be lamented that the chivalrous standard should have passed away, for it is the only one at all capable of mitigating the demoralizing influences of that position. But the changes in the general state of the species rendered inevitable the substitution of a totally different ideal of morality for the chivalrous one. Chivalry was the attempt to infuse moral elements into a state of society in which everything depended for good or evil on individual prowess, under the softening influences of individual delicacy and generosity. In modern societies, all things, even in the military department of affairs, are decided, not by individual effort, but by the combined operations of numbers; while the main occupation of society has changed from fighting to business, from military to industrial life. The exigencies of the new life are no more exclusive of the virtues of generosity than those of the old, but it no longer entirely depends on them. The main foundations of the moral life of modern times must be justice and prudence, the respect of each for the rights of every other, and the ability of each to take care of himself. Chivalry left without legal check all forms of wrong which reigned unpunished throughout society; it only encouraged a few to do right in preference to wrong, by the direction it gave to the instruments of praise and admiration. But the real dependence of morality must always be upon its penal sanctions—its power to deter from evil. The security of society cannot rest on merely rendering honour to right, a motive so comparatively weak in all but a few, and which on very many does not operate at all. Modern society is able to repress wrong through all departments of life, by a fit exertion of the superior strength which civilization has given it, and thus to render the existence of the weaker members of society (no longer defenceless but protected by law) tolerable to them, without reliance on the chivalrous feelings of those who are in a position to tyrannize. The beauties and graces of the chivalrous character are still what they were, but the rights of the weak, and the general comfort of human life, now rest on a far surer and steadier support; or rather, they do so in every relation of life except the conjugal.
At present the moral influence of women is no less real, but it is no longer of so marked and definite a character, it has more nearly merged in the general influence of public opinion. Both through the contagion of sympathy, and through the desire of men to shine in the eyes of women, their feelings have great effect in keeping alive what remains of the chivalrous ideal—in fostering the sentiments and continuing the traditions of spirit and generosity. In these points of character, their standard is higher than that of men, in the quality of justice, somewhat lower. As regards the relations of private life it may be said generally, that their influence is, on the whole, encouraging to the softer virtues, discouraging to the sterner: though the statement must be taken with all the modifications dependent on individual character. In the chief of the greater trials to which virtue is subject in the concerns of life—the conflict between interest and principle—the tendency of women’s influence is of a very mixed character. When the principle involved happens to be one of the very few which the course of their religious or moral education has strongly impressed upon themselves, they are potent auxiliaries to virtue: and their husbands and sons are often prompted by them to acts of abnegation which they never would have been capable of without that stimulus. But, with the present education and position of women, the moral principles which have been impressed on them cover but a comparatively small part of the field of virtue, and are, moreover, principally negative; forbidding particular acts, but having little to do with the general direction of the thoughts and purposes. I am afraid it must be said, that disinterestedness in the general conduct of life—the devotion of the energies to purposes which hold out no promise of private advantages to the family—is very seldom encouraged or supported by women’s influence. It is small blame to them that they discourage objects of which they have not learnt to see the advantage, and which withdraw their men from them, and from the interests of the family. But the consequence is that women’s influence is often anything but favourable to public virtue.
Women have, however, some share of influence in giving the tone to public moralities since their sphere of action has been a little widened, and since a considerable number of them have occupied themselves practically in the promotion of objects reaching beyond their own family and household. The influence of women counts for a great deal in two of the most marked features of modern European life—its aversion to war, and its addiction to philanthropy. Excellent characteristics both; but unhappily, if the influence of women is valuable in the encouragement it gives to these feelings in general, in the particular applications the direction it gives to them is at least as often mischievous as useful. In the philanthropic department more particularly, the two provinces chiefly cultivated by women are religious proselytism and charity. Religious proselytism at home, is but another word for embittering of religious animosities: abroad, it is usually a blind running at an object, without either knowing or heeding the fatal mischiefs—fatal to the religious object itself as well as to all other desirable objects—which may be produced by the means employed. As for charity, it is a matter in which the immediate effect on the persons directly concerned, and the ultimate consequence to the general good, are apt to be at complete war with one another: while the education given to women—an education of the sentiments rather than of the understanding—and the habit inculcated by their whole life, of looking to immediate effects on persons, and not to remote effects on classes of persons—make them both unable to see, and unwilling to admit, the ultimate evil tendency of any form of charity or philanthropy which commends itself to their sympathetic feelings. The great and continually increasing mass of unenlightened and shortsighted benevolence, which, taking the care of people’s lives out of their own hands, and relieving them from the disagreeable consequences of their own acts, saps the very foundations of the self-respect, self-help, and self-control which are the essential conditions both of individual prosperity and of social virtue—this waste of resources and of benevolent feelings in doing harm instead of good, is immensely swelled by women’s contributions, and stimulated by their influence. Not that this is a mistake likely to be made by women, where they have actually the practical management of schemes of beneficence. It sometimes happens that women who administer public charities—with that insight into present fact, and especially into the minds and feelings of those with whom they are in immediate contact, in which women generally excel men—recognise in the clearest manner the demoralizing influence of the alms given or the help afforded, and could give lessons on the subject to many a male political economist. But women who only give their money, and are not brought face to face with the effects it produces, how can they be expected to foresee them? A woman born to the present lot of women, and content with it, how should she appreciate the value of self-dependence? She is not self-dependent; she is not taught self-dependence; her destiny is to receive everything from others, and why should what is good enough for her be bad for the poor? Her familiar notions of good are of blessings descending from a superior. She forgets that she is not free, and that the poor are; that if what they need is given to them unearned, they cannot be compelled to earn it: that everybody cannot be taken care of by everybody, but there must be some motive to induce people to take care of themselves; and that to be helped to help themselves, if they are physically capable of it, is the only charity which proves to be charity in the end.
These considerations shew how usefully the part which women take in the formation of general opinion, would be modified for the better by that more enlarged instruction, and practical conversancy with the things which their opinions influence, that would necessarily arise from their social and political emancipation. But the improvement it would work through the influence they exercise, each in her own family, would be still more remarkable.
It is often said that in the classes most exposed to temptation, a man’s wife and children tend to keep him honest and respectable, both by the wife’s direct influence, and by the concern he feels for their future welfare. This may be so, and no doubt often is so, with those who are more weak than wicked; and this beneficial influence would be preserved and strengthened under equal laws; it does not depend on the woman’s servitude, but is, on the contrary, diminished by the disrespect which the inferior class of men always at heart feel towards those who are subject to their power. But when we ascend higher in the scale, we come among a totally different set of moving forces. The wife’s influence tends, as far as it goes, to prevent the husband from falling below the common standard of approbation of the country. It tends quite as strongly to hinder him from rising above it. The wife is the auxiliary of the common public opinion. A man who is married to a woman his inferior in intelligence, finds her a perpetual dead weight, or, worse than a dead weight, a drag, upon every aspiration of his to be better than public opinion requires him to be. It is hardly possible for one who is in these bonds, to attain exalted virtue. If he differs in his opinion from the mass—if he sees truths which have not yet dawned upon them, or if, feeling in his heart truths which they nominally recognise, he would like to act up to those truths more conscientiously than the generality of mankind—to all such thoughts and desires, marriage is the heaviest of drawbacks, unless he be so fortunate as to have a wife as much above the common level as he himself is.
For, in the first place, there is always some sacrifice of personal interest required; either of social consequence, or of pecuniary means; perhaps the risk of even the means of subsistence. These sacrifices and risks he may be willing to encounter for himself; but he will pause before he imposes them on his family. And his family in this case means his wife and daughters; for he always hopes that his sons will feel as he feels himself, and that what he can do without, they will do without, willingly, in the same cause. But his daughters—their marriage may depend upon it: and his wife, who is unable to enter into or understand the objects for which these sacrifices are made—who, if she thought them worth any sacrifice, would think so on trust, and solely for his sake—who can participate in none of the enthusiasm or the self-approbation he himself may feel, while the things which he is disposed to sacrifice are all in all to her; will not the best and most unselfish man hesitate the longest before bringing on her this consequence? If it be not the comforts of life, but only social consideration, that is at stake, the burthen upon his conscience and feelings is still very severe. Whoever has a wife and children has given hostages to Mrs. Grundy.[*] The approbation of that potentate may be a matter of indifference to him, but it is of great importance to his wife. The man himself may be above opinion, or may find sufficient compensation in the opinion of those of his own way of thinking. But to the women connected with him, he can offer no compensation. The almost invariable tendency of the wife to place her influence in the same scale with social consideration, is sometimes made a reproach to women, and represented as a peculiar trait of feebleness and childishness of character in them: surely with great injustice. Society makes the whole life of a woman, in the easy classes, a continued self-sacrifice; it exacts from her an unremitting restraint of the whole of her natural inclinations, and the sole return it makes to her for what often deserves the name of a martyrdom, is consideration. Her consideration is inseparably connected with that of her husband, and after paying the full price for it, she finds that she is to lose it, for no reason of which she can feel the cogency. She has sacrificed her whole life to it, and her husband will not sacrifice to it a whim, a freak, an eccentricity; something not recognised or allowed for by the world, and which the world will agree with her in thinking a folly, if it thinks no worse! The dilemma is hardest upon that very meritorious class of men, who, without possessing talents which qualify them to make a figure among those with whom they agree in opinion, hold their opinion from conviction, and feel bound in honour and conscience to serve it, by making profession of their belief, and giving their time, labour, and means, to anything undertaken in its behalf. The worst case of all is when such men happen to be of a rank and position which of itself neither gives them, nor excludes them from, what is considered the best society; when their admission to it depends mainly on what is thought of them personally—and however unexceptionable their breeding and habits, their being identified with opinions and public conduct unacceptable to those who give the tone to society would operate as an effectual exclusion. Many a woman flatters herself (nine times out of ten quite erroneously) that nothing prevents her and her husband from moving in the highest society of her neighbourhood—society in which others well known to her, and in the same class of life, mix freely—except that her husband is unfortunately a Dissenter, or has the reputation of mingling in low radical politics. That it is, she thinks, which hinders George from getting a commission or a place, Caroline from making an advantageous match, and prevents her and her husband from obtaining invitations, perhaps honours, which, for aught she sees, they are as well entitled to as some folks. With such an influence in every house, either exerted actively, or operating all the more powerfully for not being asserted, is it any wonder that people in general are kept down in that mediocrity of respectability which is becoming a marked characteristic of modern times?
There is another very injurious aspect in which the effect, not of women’s disabilities directly, but of the broad line of difference which those disabilities create between the education and character of a woman and that of a man, requires to be considered. Nothing can be more unfavourable to that union of thoughts and inclinations which is the ideal of married life. Intimate society between people radically dissimilar to one another, is an idle dream. Unlikeness may attract, but it is likeness which retains; and in proportion to the likeness is the suitability of the individuals to give each other a happy life. While women are so unlike men, it is not wonderful that selfish men should feel the need of arbitrary power in their own hands, to arrest in limine the life-long conflict of inclinations, by deciding every question on the side of their own preference. When people are extremely unlike, there can be no real identity of interest. Very often there is conscientious difference of opinion between married people, on the highest points of duty. Is there any reality in the marriage union where this takes place? Yet it is not uncommon anywhere, when the woman has any earnestness of character; and it is a very general case indeed in Catholic countries, when she is supported in her dissent by the only other authority to which she is taught to bow, the priest. With the usual barefacedness of power not accustomed to find itself disputed, the influence of priests over women is attacked by Protestant and Liberal writers, less for being bad in itself, than because it is a rival authority to the husband, and raises up a revolt against his infallibility. In England, similar differences occasionally exist when an Evangelical wife has allied herself with a husband of a different quality, but in general this source at least of dissension is got rid of, by reducing the minds of women to such a nullity, that they have no opinions but those of Mrs. Grundy or those which the husband tells them to have. When there is no difference of opinion, differences merely of taste may be sufficient to detract greatly from the happiness of married life. And though it may stimulate the amatory propensities of men, it does not conduce to married happiness, to exaggerate by differences of education whatever may be the native differences of the sexes. If the married pair are well-bred and well-behaved people, they tolerate each other’s tastes; but is mutual toleration what people look forward to, when they enter into marriage? These differences of inclination will naturally make their wishes different, if not restrained by affection or duty, as to almost all domestic questions which arise. What a difference there must be in the society which the two persons will wish to frequent, or be frequented by! Each will desire associates who share their own tastes: the persons agreeable to one, will be indifferent or positively disagreeable to the other; yet there can be none who are not common to both, for married people do not now live in different parts of the house and have totally different visiting lists, as in the reign of Louis XV. They cannot help having different wishes as to the bringing up of the children: each will wish to see reproduced in them their own tastes and sentiments: and there is either a compromise, and only a half-satisfaction to either, or the wife has to yield—often with bitter suffering; and, with or without intention, her occult influence continues to counterwork the husband’s purposes.
It would of course be extreme folly to suppose that these differences of feeling and inclination only exist because women are brought up differently from men, and that there would not be differences of taste under any imaginable circumstances. But there is nothing beyond the mark in saying that the distinction in bringing-up immensely aggravates those differences, and renders them wholly inevitable. While women are brought up as they are, a man and a woman will but rarely find in one another real agreement of tastes and wishes as to daily life. They will generally have to give it up as hopeless, and renounce the attempt to have, in the intimate associate of their daily life, that idem velle, idem nolle, which is the recognised bond of any society that is really such: or if the man succeeds in obtaining it, he does so by choosing a woman who is so complete a nullity that she has no velle or nolle at all, and is as ready to comply with one thing as another if anybody tells her to do so. Even this calculation is apt to fail; dulness and want of spirit are not always a guarantee of the submission which is so confidently expected from them. But if they were, is this the ideal of marriage? What, in this case, does the man obtain by it, except an upper servant, a nurse, or a mistress? On the contrary, when each of two persons, instead of being a nothing, is a something; when they are attached to one another, and are not too much unlike to begin with; the constant partaking in the same things, assisted by their sympathy, draws out the latent capacities of each for being interested in the things which were at first interesting only to the other; and works a gradual assimilation of the tastes and characters to one another, partly by the insensible modification of each, but more by a real enriching of the two natures, each acquiring the tastes and capacities of the other in addition to its own. This often happens between two friends of the same sex, who are much associated in their daily life: and it would be a common, if not the commonest, case in marriage, did not the totally different bringing-up of the two sexes make it next to an impossibility to form a really well-assorted union. Were this remedied, whatever differences there might still be in individual tastes, there would at least be, as a general rule, complete unity and unanimity as to the great objects of life. When the two persons both care for great objects, and are a help and encouragement to each other in whatever regards these, the minor matters on which their tastes may differ are not all-important to them; and there is a foundation for solid friendship, of an enduring character, more likely than anything else to make it, through the whole of life, a greater pleasure to each to give pleasure to the other, than to receive it.
I have considered, thus far, the effects on the pleasures and benefits of the marriage union which depend on the mere unlikeness between the wife and the husband: but the evil tendency is prodigiously aggravated when the unlikeness is inferiority. Mere unlikeness, when it only means difference of good qualities, may be more a benefit in the way of mutual improvement, than a drawback from comfort. When each emulates, and desires and endeavours to acquire, the other’s peculiar qualities, the difference does not produce diversity of interest, but increased identity of it, and makes each still more valuable to the other. But when one is much the inferior of the two in mental ability and cultivation, and is not actively attempting by the other’s aid to rise to the other’s level, the whole influence of the connexion upon the development of the superior of the two is deteriorating: and still more so in a tolerably happy marriage than in an unhappy one. It is not with impunity that the superior in intellect shuts himself up with an inferior, and elects that inferior for his chosen, and sole completely intimate, associate. Any society which is not improving, is deteriorating: and the more so, the closer and more familiar it is. Even a really superior man almost always begins to deteriorate when he is habitually (as the phrase is) king of his company, and in his most habitual company the husband who has a wife inferior to him is always so. While his self-satisfaction is incessantly ministered to on the one hand, on the other he insensibly imbibes the modes of feeling, and of looking at things, which belong to a more vulgar or a more limited mind than his own. This evil differs from many of those which have hitherto been dwelt on, by being an increasing one. The association of men with women in daily life is much closer and more complete than it ever was before. Men’s life is more domestic. Formerly, their pleasures and chosen occupations were among men, and in men’s company: their wives had but a fragment of their lives. At the present time, the progress of civilization, and the turn of opinion against the rough amusements and convivial excesses which formerly occupied most men in their hours of relaxation—together with (it must be said) the improved tone of modern feeling as to the reciprocity of duty which binds the husband towards the wife—have thrown the man very much more upon home and its inmates, for his personal and social pleasures: while the kind and degree of improvement which has been made in women’s education, has made them in some degree capable of being his companions in ideas and mental tastes, while leaving them, in most cases, still hopelessly inferior to him. His desire of mental communion is thus in general satisfied by a communion from which he learns nothing. An unimproving and unstimulating companionship is substituted for (what he might otherwise have been obliged to seek) the society of his equals in powers and his fellow in the higher pursuits. We see, accordingly, that young men of the greatest promise generally cease to improve as soon as they marry, and, not improving, inevitably degenerate. If the wife does not push the husband forward, she always holds him back. He ceases to care for what she does not care for; he no longer desires, and ends by disliking and shunning, society congenial to his former aspirations, and which would now shame his falling-off from them; his higher faculties both of mind and heart cease to be called into activity. And this change coinciding with the new and selfish interests which are created by the family, after a few years he differs in no material respect from those who have never had wishes for anything but the common vanities and the common pecuniary objects.
What marriage may be in the case of two persons of cultivated faculties, identical in opinions and purposes, between whom there exists that best kind of equality, similarity of powers and capacities with reciprocal superiority in them—so that each can enjoy the luxury of looking up to the other, and can have alternately the pleasure of leading and of being led in the path of development—I will not attempt to describe. To those who can conceive it, there is no need; to those who cannot, it would appear the dream of an enthusiast. But I maintain, with the profoundest conviction, that this, and this only, is the ideal of marriage; and that all opinions, customs, and institutions which favour any other notion of it, or turn the conceptions and aspirations connected with it into any other direction, by whatever pretences they may be coloured, are relics of primitive barbarism. The moral regeneration of mankind will only really commence, when the most fundamental of the social relations is placed under the rule of equal justice, and when human beings learn to cultivate their strongest sympathy with an equal in rights and in cultivation.
Thus far, the benefits which it has appeared that the world would gain by ceasing to make sex a disqualification for privileges and a badge of subjection, are social rather than individual; consisting in an increase of the general fund of thinking and acting power, and an improvement in the general conditions of the association of men with women. But it would be a grievous understatement of the case to omit the most direct benefit of all, 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 of others, and a life of rational freedom. After the primary necessities of food and raiment, freedom is the first and strongest want of human nature. While mankind are lawless, their desire is for lawless freedom. When they have learnt to understand the meaning of duty and the value of reason, they incline more and more to be guided and restrained by these in the exercise of their freedom; but they do not therefore desire freedom less; they do not become disposed to accept the will of other people as the representative and interpreter of those guiding principles. On the contrary, the communities in which the reason has been most cultivated, and in which the idea of social duty has been most powerful, are those which have most strongly asserted the freedom of action of the individual—the liberty of each to govern his conduct by his own feelings of duty, and by such laws and social restraints as his own conscience can subscribe to.
He who would rightly appreciate the worth of personal independence as an element of happiness, should consider the value he himself puts upon it as an ingredient of his own. There is no subject on which there is a greater habitual difference of judgment between a man judging for himself, and the same man judging for other people. When he hears others complaining that they are not allowed freedom of action—that their own will has not sufficient influence in the regulation of their affairs—his inclination is, to ask, what are their grievances? what positive damage they sustain? and in what respect they consider their affairs to be mismanaged? and if they fail to make out, in answer to these questions, what appears to him a sufficient case, he turns a deaf ear, and regards their complaint as the fanciful querulousness of people whom nothing reasonable will satisfy. But he has a quite different standard of judgment when he is deciding for himself. Then, the most unexceptionable administration of his interests by a tutor set over him, does not satisfy his feelings: his personal exclusion from the deciding authority appears itself the greatest grievance of all, rendering it superfluous even to enter into the question of mismanagement. It is the same with nations. What citizen of a free country would listen to any offers of good and skilful administration, in return for the abdication of freedom? Even if he could believe that good and skilful administration can exist among a people ruled by a will not their own, would not the consciousness of working out their own destiny under their own moral responsibility be a compensation to his feelings for great rudeness and imperfection in the details of public affairs? Let him rest assured that whatever he feels on this point, women feel in a fully equal degree. Whatever has been said or written, from the time of Herodotus to the present, of the ennobling influence of free government[*] —the nerve and spring which it gives to all the faculties, the larger and higher objects which it presents to the intellect and feelings, the more unselfish public spirit, and calmer and broader views of duty, that it engenders, and the generally loftier platform on which it elevates the individual as a moral, spiritual, and social being—is every particle as true of women as of men. Are these things no important part of individual happiness? Let any man call to mind what he himself felt on emerging from boyhood—from the tutelage and control of even loved and affectionate elders—and entering upon the responsibilities of manhood. Was it not like the physical effect of taking off a heavy weight, or releasing him from obstructive, even if not otherwise painful, bonds? Did he not feel twice as much alive, twice as much a human being, as before? And does he imagine that women have none of these feelings? But it is a striking fact, that the satisfactions and mortifications of personal pride, though all in all to most men when the case is their own, have less allowance made for them in the case of other people, and are less listened to as a ground or a justification of conduct, than any other natural human feelings; perhaps because men compliment them in their own case with the names of so many other qualities, that they are seldom conscious how mighty an influence these feelings exercise in their own lives. No less large and powerful is their part, we may assure ourselves, in the lives and feelings of women. Women are schooled into suppressing them in their most natural and most healthy direction, but the internal principle remains, in a different outward form. An active and energetic mind, if denied liberty, will seek for power: refused the command of itself, it will assert its personality by attempting to control others. To allow to any human beings no existence of their own but what depends on others, is giving far too high a premium on bending others to their purposes. Where liberty cannot be hoped for, and power can, power becomes the grand object of human desire; those to whom others will not leave the undisturbed management of their own affairs, will compensate themselves, if they can, by meddling for their own purposes with the affairs of others. Hence also women’s passion for personal beauty, and dress and display; and all the evils that flow from it, in the way of mischievous luxury and social immorality. The love of power and the love of liberty are in eternal antagonism. Where there is least liberty, the passion for power is the most ardent and unscrupulous. The desire of power over others can only cease to be a depraving agency among mankind, when each of them individually is able to do without it: which can only be where respect for liberty in the personal concerns of each is an established principle.
But it is not only through the sentiment of personal dignity, that the free direction and disposal of their own faculties is a source of individual happiness, and to be fettered and restricted in it, a source of unhappiness, to human beings, and not least to women. There is nothing, after disease, indigence, and guilt, so fatal to the pleasurable enjoyment of life as the want of a worthy outlet for the active faculties. Women who have the cares of a family, and while they have the cares of a family, have this outlet, and it generally suffices for them: but what of the greatly increasing number of women, who have had no opportunity of exercising the vocation which they are mocked by telling them is their proper one? What of the women whose children have been lost to them by death or distance, or have grown up, married, and formed homes of their own? There are abundant examples of men who, after a life engrossed by business, retire with a competency to the enjoyment, as they hope, of rest, but to whom, as they are unable to acquire new interests and excitements that can replace the old, the change to a life of inactivity brings ennui, melancholy, and premature death. Yet no one thinks of the parallel case of so many worthy and devoted women, who, having paid what they are told is their debt to society—having brought up a family blamelessly to manhood and womanhood—having kept a house as long as they had a house needing to be kept—are deserted by the sole occupation for which they have fitted themselves; and remain with undiminished activity but with no employment for it, unless perhaps a daughter or daughter-in-law is willing to abdicate in their favour the discharge of the same functions in her younger household. Surely a hard lot for the old age of those who have worthily discharged, as long as it was given to them to discharge, what the world accounts their only social duty. Of such women, and of those others to whom this duty has not been committed at all—many of whom pine through life with the consciousness of thwarted vocations, and activities which are not suffered to expand—the only resources, speaking generally, are religion and charity. But their religion, though it may be one of feeling, and of ceremonial observance, cannot be a religion of action, unless in the form of charity. For charity many of them are by nature admirably fitted; but to practise it usefully, or even without doing mischief, requires the education, the manifold preparation, the knowledge and the thinking powers, of a skilful administrator. There are few of the administrative functions of government for which a person would not be fit, who is fit to bestow charity usefully. In this as in other cases (pre-eminently in that of the education of children), the duties permitted to women cannot be performed properly, without their being trained for duties which, to the great loss of society, are not permitted to them. And here let me notice the singular way in which the question of women’s disabilities is frequently presented to view, by those who find it easier to draw a ludicrous picture of what they do not like, than to answer the arguments for it. When it is suggested that women’s executive capacities and prudent counsels might sometimes be found valuable in affairs of state, these lovers of fun hold up to the ridicule of the world, as sitting in parliament or in the cabinet, girls in their teens, or young wives of two or three and twenty, transported bodily, exactly as they are, from the drawing-room to the House of Commons. They forget that males are not usually selected at this early age for a seat in Parliament, or for responsible political functions. Common sense would tell them that if such trusts were confided to women, it would be to such as having no special vocation for married life, or preferring another employment of their faculties (as many women even now prefer to marriage some of the few honourable occupations within their reach), have spent the best years of their youth in attempting to qualify themselves for the pursuits in which they desire to engage; or still more frequently perhaps, widows or wives of forty or fifty, by whom the knowledge of life and faculty of government which they have acquired in their families, could by the aid of appropriate studies be made available on a less contracted scale. There is no country of Europe in which the ablest men have not frequently experienced, and keenly appreciated, the value of the advice and help of clever and experienced women of the world, in the attainment both of private and of public objects; and there are important matters of public administration to which few men are equally competent with such women, among others, the detailed control of expenditure. But what we are now discussing is not the need which society has of the services of women in public business, but the dull and hopeless life to which it so often condemns them, by forbidding them to exercise the practical abilities which many of them are conscious of, in any wider field than one which to some of them never was, and to others is no longer, open. If there is anything vitally important to the happiness of human beings, it is that they should relish their habitual pursuit. This requisite of an enjoyable life is very imperfectly granted, or altogether denied, to a large part of mankind; and by its absence many a life is a failure, which is provided, in appearance, with every requisite of success. But if circumstances which society is not yet skilful enough to overcome, render such failures often for the present inevitable, society need not itself inflict them. The injudiciousness of parents, a youth’s own inexperience, or the absence of external opportunities for the congenial vocation, and their presence for an uncongenial, condemn numbers of men to pass their lives in doing one thing reluctantly and ill, when there are other things which they could have done well and happily. But on women this sentence is imposed by actual law, and by customs equivalent to law. What, in unenlightened societies, colour, race, religion, or in the case of a conquered country, nationality, are to some men, sex is to all women; a peremptory exclusion from almost all honourable occupations, but either such as cannot be fulfilled by others, or such as those others do not think worthy of their acceptance. Sufferings arising from causes of this nature usually meet with so little sympathy, that few persons are aware of the great amount of unhappiness even now produced by the feeling of a wasted life. The case will be even more frequent, as increased cultivation creates a greater and greater disproportion between the ideas and faculties of women, and the scope which society allows to their activity.
When we consider the positive evil caused to the disqualified half of the human race by their disqualification—first in the loss of the most inspiriting and elevating kind of personal enjoyment, and next in the weariness, disappointment, and profound dissatisfaction with life, which are so often the substitute for it; one feels that among all the lessons which men require for carrying on the struggle against the inevitable imperfections of their lot on earth, there is no lesson which they more need, than not to add to the evils which nature inflicts, by their jealous and prejudiced restrictions on one another. Their vain fears only substitute other and worse evils for those which they are idly apprehensive of: while every restraint on the freedom of conduct of any of their human fellow creatures, (otherwise than by making them responsible for any evil actually caused by it), dries up pro tanto the principal fountain of human happiness, and leaves the species less rich, to an inappreciable degree, in all that makes life valuable to the individual human being.
Fortnightly Review, XIV (Dec., 1870), 715-20. Signed “J.S. Mill” Running titles as title. Reprinted posthumously in Dissertations and Discussions, IV (1875), 119-29. Identified in Mill’s bibliography as “An article on ‘Treaty obligations’ in the Fortnightly Review of Dec. 1st 1870” (MacMinn, 100). For comment on the essay, see xxix and lxxi above.
while it is undoubtedly true that, in the practical application even of the best established and most universally received rules of morality, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred an honest man seldom doubts by which he is to guide his conduct, yet no one, I presume, will deny that there will be found a hundredth case in which different moral obligations conflict. But, though this is not likely to be denied, there exists very generally a cowardly reluctance to look the fact in the face, and make provision for it, as one of the unavoidable inconveniences of an imperfect condition. People are afraid lest the force of recognised duties should be weakened, by admitting the liability of one duty to be overruled by another; and, though well knowing that this does happen, and not prepared to deny that it sometimes ought to happen, they prefer to be excused from giving their approbation beforehand to so unpleasant-looking a fact. The consequence is, that those who, having the responsibility of action, are forced to make for themselves some path through these moral entanglements, finding no rules or principles laid down for them but such as ignore instead of meeting the difficulties of the case, decide according to the dictate either of their selfish interests, or of some prevailing sentiment, which, if more disinterested, is not necessarily a truer guide. And since national concerns, by reason of their superior complication, afford by far the greatest number of these disputable questions of obligation, this is one (and not the smallest) among the causes of that laxity of principle which has almost always prevailed in public matters, even when the moralities of private life have met with a tolerable amount of observance.
There is no case which more flagrantly exemplifies these general observations than the case of international treaties. Through the greater part of the present century, the conscience of Europe has been habituated to the demoralising spectacle of treaties made only to be broken. In 1814 and 1815, a set of treaties were made by a general Congress of the States of Europe, which affected to regulate the external, and some of the internal, concerns of the European nations, for a time altogether unlimited. These treaties, having been concluded at the termination of a long war, which had ended in the signal discomfiture of one side, were imposed by some of the contracting parties, and reluctantly submitted to by others. Their terms were regulated by the interests, and relative strength at the time, of the victors and vanquished; and were observed as long as those interests and that relative strength remained the same. But as fast as any alteration took place in these elements, the powers, one after another, without asking leave, threw off, and were allowed with impunity to throw off, such of the obligations of the treaties as were distasteful to them, and not sufficiently important to the others to be worth a fight. The general opinion sustained some of those violations as being perfectly right; and even those which were disapproved, were not regarded as justifying a resort to war. Europe did not interpose when Russia annihilated Poland; when Prussia, Austria, and Russia extinguished the Republic of Cracow; or when a second Bonaparte mounted the throne of France. England alone, among the great contracting powers, never actively violated this set of treaties; though England, too, was a party after the fact to one of the most justifiable of the violations—the separation of Belgium from Holland. Such is the spectacle which Europe has had before her for half a century; and it is well calculated, one would think, to moderate her surprise, when another treaty, made forty years later, in the same wild hope of fixing a certain condition of the affairs of Europe in perpetuity, has in a similar manner broken down.[*] If we ask ourselves why this case has aroused more anger in this country than any of the others had done, the reply, if given with a full remembrance of the previous cases, can scarcely be, that it is more shocking to the conscience than any of them; for the annihilation of the Republic of Cracow was not merely the infringement of a treaty, it was also, had there existed no treaty to forbid it, in itself a gross violation of public rights and morality. But it did not touch so nearly what we had been taught to fancy our own interests, and was not so liable to be imagined a defiance to us in particular. Not to a greater tenderness of the public conscience, but to the different aspect affronts and injuries wear to the unreflecting when addressed to ourselves and when addressed to others, must, I fear, be attributed our special perception of the moral value of treaties on this occasion. We may fairly be complimented with being so far in advance of some of the other great States of Europe, that it is a disputable point whether we have of late years infringed any of our treaty obligations, although we must remember that the announcement, by one of our leading statesmen, that almost the last treaty we entered into was only to be considered binding by ourselves if adhered to by the others who entered into the same obligation, met with very general approval.[†] Yet the public, if actuated purely by moral feeling, ought to have been more startled by the suggestion of a possible breach of morality on our own part, than by the certainty of an actual breach of it on the part of somebody else. The fact is, we have not yet advanced so far as to regard these questions purely from the moral point of view. Our indignation is hot or cold according to circumstances quite foreign to the morality of the case; and is likely to continue so until the morality of such cases has been placed on a firmer and more clearly defined basis than it has yet received.
I am ready to join with any one in averring that this is an evil state of things, most injurious to public morality. No honest man can see with indifference a condition in which treaties do not bind, in which it rests with the party who deems himself aggrieved by them, to say whether they shall be observed or not; in which nations cannot trust each other’s pledged word. It does not follow, however, that this evil is likely to be remedied by ignoring the fact, that there are treaties which never will, and even which never ought to be permanently observed by those who have been obliged to submit to them; far less, therefore, to be permanently enforced. It is not necessary to go far back for one of the most signal examples which the entire history of mankind affords. Did any impartial person blame Prussia or Austria, because, in 1813, they violated the treaties which bound them to the first Napoleon, and not only did not fight in his ranks, as their engagements required, but brought their whole military force into the field against him, and pursued him to his destruction? Ought they, instead of cancelling the treaties, to have opened a negotiation with Napoleon, and entreated him to grant them a voluntary release from their obligations; and if he did not comply with their request to be allowed to desert him, ought they to have faithfully fought in his defence? Yet it was as true of those treaties, as it is of the treaty of 1856, that disadvantageous and dishonourable as they might be, they had been submitted to as the purchase-money of peace, when the prolongation of war would have been most disastrous; for, had the terms been refused, Napoleon could with ease have conquered the whole of Prussia, and at least the German dominions of Austria, which is considerably more. I presume, than England and France could have done to Russia, after the fall of Sebastopol. I already seem to hear some uncandid reader crying out, “Do you pretend that Russia has as complete a justification, and even positive obligation, to break her treaties, as Prussia and Austria then had?” Certainly not. The case of Austria and Prussia was about as extreme a case as, in the nature of national affairs, could possibly occur: Russia herself could not pretend that her own approaches within a great distance of theirs. But the principle may be the same, and principles are best tested by extreme cases. If a principle will not stand good in every case which it covers, it is a proof that some other principle requires to be considered along with it.
What means, then, are there of reconciling, in the greatest practicable degree, the inviolability of treaties and the sanctity of national faith, with the undoubted fact that treaties are not always fit to be kept, while yet those who have imposed them upon others weaker than themselves are not likely, if they retain confidence in their own strength, to grant a release from them? To effect this reconcilement, so far as it is capable of being effected, nations should be willing to abide by two rules. They should abstain from imposing conditions which, on any just and reasonable view of human affairs, cannot be expected to be kept. And they should conclude their treaties, as commercial treaties are usually concluded, only for terms of years.
To the first of these rules it is essential that the obligations should be defined, which nations are not warranted in imposing on one another. I do not pretend to enter exhaustively into so large a subject. But one great principle one can clearly see, and it is the only one which need concern us at present. The community of nations is essentially a republic of equals. Its purposes require that it should know no distinction of grades, no rights or privileges enjoyed by some and refused to others. The basis of international law—without which the weak, for whose protection chiefly international law exists, would never be secure—is, that the smallest and least powerful nation, in its capacity of a nation, is the equal of the strongest. Whatever rights belong to one belong to all, and can only be temporarily forfeited, even by misconduct, unless the erring nation is to be treated as a savage, and thrust out of the communion of civilised nations altogether. Now, all treaties which bind a nation, within itself and in its own affairs, by restrictions not common to all the rest, violate this principle. Of this nature is a stipulation that a country shall maintain one form of government, or abjure another; that she shall abstain from fortifying places situated within her own territory; that she shall limit to a prescribed amount her army or her fleet, or the portion of each stationed in a particular part of her dominions, no equivalent limitation of armaments being consented to by the other parties to the treaty, or by nations in general. I do not say that some of these restrictions cannot ever be admissible as a temporary penalty for crimes committed against other states; though in general some penalty would be preferable which could be completed by a single act. The period, however, for which such exceptional disabilities can justly be imposed, ought not, I conceive, to exceed the length of a generation; or, more properly, the period at the end of which a majority of the adult population will have grown up from childhood subsequently to the offence, so that the people suffering the penalty are no longer, as a body, the same with those who shared in the fault.
But the end in view would be in a still greater degree attained, were nations to decline concluding any treaties except for limited periods. Nations cannot rightfully bind themselves or others beyond the period to which human foresight can be presumed to extend; thus aggravating the danger which, to some extent, always exists, that the fulfilment of the obligation may, by change of circumstances, become either wrong or unwise. I am not aware of any good reason why engagements reciprocally entered into by nations for their joint advantage, should not be subject to periodical renewal. There are few, if any, contracts between nations, the terms of which might not be so framed as to protect either party from sustaining undue loss or injury in case of the non-renewal of the contract. And with respect to the other kind of treaties, those which nations inflict upon one another, there is a very much greater chance of their being faithfully observed, if a legitimate and peaceful emancipation from them is looked forward to at the end of a moderate length of time. The treaty of 1856, vainly affecting to be perpetual, has been repudiated in fourteen years. Had it been concluded for twenty, or even for twenty-five years, it would probably have lasted out the term. It is, perhaps, necessary to say, that the expiration of a treaty does not imply that a money indemnity exacted by it should be repaid, or a ceded territory restored. Possession, once transferred, is an accomplished fact; and to disturb it, after an interval of peace, would imply a fresh aggression, which requires no stipulation of treaties to constitute it a casus belli. The lapse of the treaty would merely reinstate the nation that had been punished, in those common rights of all nations, the enjoyment of which is the normal condition of an independent State; rights which no nation ought to be, and no high-spirited nation will ever consent to be, permanently dispossessed of.
If these principles are sound, it remains to be considered how they are to be applied to past treaties, which, though containing stipulations which, to be legitimate, must be temporary, have been concluded without such limitation, and are afterwards violated, or, as by Russia at present, repudiated, on the assumption of a right superior to the faith of engagements.
It is the misfortune of such stipulations, even if as temporary arrangements they might have been justifiable, that if concluded for permanency, they are seldom to be got rid of without some lawless act on the part of the nation bound by them. If a lawless act, then, has been committed in the present instance, it does not entitle those who imposed the conditions to consider the lawlessness only, and to dismiss the more important consideration, whether, even if it was wrong to throw off the obligation, it would not be still more wrong to persist in enforcing it. If, though not fit to be perpetual, it has been imposed in perpetuity, the question when it becomes right to throw it off is but a question of time. No time having been fixed. Russia fixed her own time, and naturally chose the most convenient. She had no reason to believe that the release she sought would be voluntarily granted, on any conditions which she would accept, and she chose an opportunity which, if not seized, might have been long before it occurred again, when the other contracting parties were in a more than usually disadvantageous position for going to war.
Had this been all, there would have been little in the conduct of Russia but what most other powers in her position would have done, and what there are, at all events, but too many precedents for doing. Her special offence is, that in asserting what she might, without being entirely unreasonable or unscrupulous, believe to be her right, she showed no desire whatever that the wound inflicted upon the confidence, so necessary to mankind, in the faith of treaties, should be the smallest possible. She showed herself perfectly indifferent to any such consequence. She made her claim in the manner most calculated to startle mankind, and to destroy their faith in the observance of all treaties which any one of the contracting parties thinks it has an interest in shaking off. Not but that it is in itself a less immoral act, if a promise is to be broken, to give notice beforehand of the intention, than to keep it hidden, and break the engagement without notice, while the other party is relying on its being kept. This is too obvious not to be seen in private life, and it is as true of public treaties as of private promises. Had Russia, however, thought the trust of nations in each other’s engagements a thing of the highest importance, she would, even if determined to assert finally at all costs what she claims as her right, have first exhausted all endeavours, and consented to some sacrifices, to attain the freedom she claimed by the general consent of Europe. If Russia had acted in this honourable manner, she would have set, perhaps for the first time in history, an example which neither we ourselves who blame her, nor any other state, would find it easy to show in their own annals. She has chosen a less honourable course. But this misconduct of Russia (misconduct not so much before the bar of history and the past practice of nations, as before that of true morality, and of what we may hope will become the future customs) does not entitle us to bring upon millions of innocent persons the unspeakable evils of war, in order to enforce an obligation which it was wrong to impose, and which we ought therefore plainly to declare that we do not desire to reimpose. The notice which the high-handed proceeding of the Russian Government demanded at our hands, was to protest (as Lord Granville immediately did)[*] against the claim of a contracting party to set aside a treaty by a mere announcement of its will; and, for the rest, to follow the precedent set by the French Government, when three of the powers who were parties to the treaties of Vienna, destroyed the Republic of Cracow and confiscated its territory. M. Guizot, then Foreign Minister of France, made a public declaration, that France took notice of this violation of treaties; that she did not intend to oppose herself, by arms or otherwise, to the proceeding, but that she reserved to herself the full exercise of whatever rights the infringement of a treaty, to which she was a contracting party, restored to her.[†] If we are unable to arrange any joint peaceable action with the other powers concerned, an intimation somewhat like this would be the only dignified notice we could take of the mode of a demand, the substance of which the intrinsic merits of the case forbid us to resent. We may, however, hope that if our Government stands firm against the unreasonable clamour of the war party, some arrangement may be come to by which the obnoxious stipulations may be abrogated with the consent of all concerned.
THE CONTAGIOUS DISEASES ACTS
The Evidence of John Stuart Mill, Taken before the Royal Commission of 1870, on the Administration and Operation of the Contagious Diseases Acts of 1866 and 1869. Reprinted Verbatim from the Blue Book (London: Association for the Repeal of the Contagious Diseases Acts, ). Reprinted from “Minutes of Evidence Taken before the Commission upon the Administration and Operation of the Contagious Diseases Acts,” Parliamentary Papers, 1871, XIX, 1818-25. The Acts are 29 Victoria, c. 35 (1866), and 32 & 33 Victoria, c. 96 (1869). Not listed in Mill’s bibliography. No copy in the Somerville College Library. Mill’s evidence was taken on 13 May, 1871 (in the House of Lords), with William Nathaniel Massey in the Chair, and the following members of the Committee present: Robert Applegarth, John Henry Bridges, Richard Collinson, Holmes Coote, Robert Gregory, John Hannah, Timothy Holmes, Walter Charles James, Frederick Denison Maurice (whose name is omitted from the list in the pamphlet and in PP), Anthony John Mundella, John Somerset Pakington, and Peter Rylands. The text is headed: “Mr. John Stuart Mill gave evidence as follows.”. Mill’s examination included questions 19,990 to 20,101 of the evidence before the Committee. For comment on the evidence, see xxxvii-xxxviii and lxxi-lxxii above.
The text below is taken from the pamphlet reprint of the evidence. It has been collated with the version in PP, which is signified in the variant notes by “711”.
The Contagious Diseases Acts
william nathaniel massey:Are you acquainted with the Acts of Parliament which are the subject of inquiry by this Commission? I have a general acquaintance with them.
Have you any practical knowledge of the working of them? No practical knowledge.
Then any opinion you express with regard to these Acts, refers to the principles on which they are founded? Yes; the general principles of legislation. I have not studied the details.
The principal Act now in force is entitled “An Act for the better prevention of contagious diseases at certain naval and military stations.”[*]And are you aware that the policy which dictated this legislation in the first instance, was a desire to maintain the health of soldiers and sailors, whose physical efficiency was reported to be very seriously affected by the disease which they contracted at garrison and seaport towns, those towns and garrisons being the resort, in a peculiar manner, of common prostitutes? Yes; I am aware of that.
Do you consider that such legislation as that is justifiable on principle? I do not consider it justifiable on principle, because it appears to me to be opposed to one of the greatest principles of legislation, the security of personal liberty. It appears to me that legislation of this sort takes away that security, almost entirely from a particular class of women intentionally, but incidentally and unintentionally, one may say, from all women whatever, inasmuch as it enables a woman to be apprehended by the police on suspicion and taken before a magistrate, and then by that magistrate she is liable to be confined for a term of imprisonment which may amount, I believe, to six months, for refusing to sign a declaration consenting to be examined.
The Act of Parliament in express terms applies only to common prostitutes, plying their trade as prostitutes within the protected districts. The police have express instructions to confine their action to the women specified in the Act. We have it in evidence before us that those orders have been most carefully obeyed by a select body of police detached upon this particular duty.aIn point of fact,aI donot know whether that would make any difference in your opinion. The Commission, I may say, are satisfied that no practical abuse of the Act has taken place by the police; that in fact, women who are not intended by the Legislature to be subjected to these provisions have not been molested by it. We so far qualify that by saying it is possible that in some particular instances the suspicion of the police may have rested upon women who are not within the description of common prostitutes, but practically the Act has been carried out with great care. Is your objection confined to the possibility of a modest woman being brought up under these Acts? That is a very great part of my objection. Although I am quite aware that the Act only authorises the apprehension of prostitutes, still a discretion must necessarily be left in the police to prevent the entire evasion of the Act: and I have understood that it is held by its supporters, medical men and others, that the powers must be very considerable if the Acts are not to be very seriously evaded. What number of cases there have been in which modest women, or women at any rate not prostitutes, have been apprehended by the police on suspicion, I do not know, but it appears to me that the police have that power, and that they must have the power, it is impossible to enforce the Acts unless they have the power, the Acts cannot be made really effectual unless those powers are strengthened. But in any case it seems to me that we ought not to assume, even supposing bthatb no case of abuse has been found out as yet, that abuses will not occur. When power is given which may be easily abused, we ought always to presume that it will be abused, and although it is possible that great precautions will be taken at first, those precautions are likely to be relaxed in time. We ought not to give powers liable to very great abuse, and easily abused, and then presume that those powers will not be abused.
What power do you refer to? The power of apprehending women on suspicion, and then requiring them to enter into engagements subjecting themselves to examination.
Then setting aside the tendency to which these Acts are liable in their execution of invading the liberty of modest women, do you consider it objectionable in itself that the Legislature should make provision for the periodical examination of common prostitutes who let out their bodies for hire? I think that it is objectionable. If any penalty is to be imposed, and this must be considered a penalty, for being a common prostitute, she ought to have power to defend herself in the same manner as before any ordinary tribunal, and of being heard by counsel, in order to prove that she is not a prostitute if she can. There are great numbers of prostitutes, I believe in this country, certainly in foreign countries, who are not registered, and the effect of the examination which the Act requires, and similar examinations which are required in foreign countries, is said to be, and I believe with a great deal of truth, to lead to a great amount of clandestine prostitution, and the Acts therefore are not effectual unless clandestine prostitution is touched also
The provision of the Act is this, that a woman shall be permitted, if shecthinkscfit, to acknowledge herself to be a common prostitute upon paper, that is called in the Act a voluntary submission, and she may deposit that in the hands of the police or the authorities of the hospital, and in pursuance of that submission she is examined and subjected to the same examination with regard to periodical attendance as if ordered to attend before the magistrate; the alternative being that if she declines to sign a voluntary submission, she may be taken before a magistrate, and the question whether she is a common prostitute, will be a question for the magistrate to try. She may be heard by counsel, and the only difference between that mode of trial and the ordinary mode of trial is the absence of a jury. She is tried, in fact, by a tribunal analogous to that which has been created by recent legislation in an Act called the “Criminal Justice Act,”[*]which in fact merely extends summary jurisdiction which already obtained in this country. Do I understand you to say that you think the protection of a jury is necessary in such a case? I have not considered that subject, but I think all the protection, which is necessary in other cases of judicial investigation would be necessary in this. There can be hardly any more serious case to the person concerned than that of being charged with being a prostitute, if she is not really so. With regard to the first part of your question, supposing that her declaration of her being a prostitute is voluntary, and that her submission to examination is strictly spontaneous on her part, I have nothing to say against it then, but I do not think it is the business of Government to provide the means of such examinations.
To follow up that, supposing a woman had voluntarily submitted her person to examination, and her person was found to be diseased, would you consider it an unjustifiable violation of herdlibertydif she was sent to hospital, and detained in the hospital against her will until she was cured? I should think the objection less strong than in the other case, but I still think it objectionable because I do not think it is part of the business of the Government to provide securities beforehand against the consequences of immoralities of any kind. That is a totally different thing from remedying the consequences after they occur. That I see no objection to at all. I see no objection to having hospitals for the cure of patients, but I see considerable objection to consigning them to hospitals against their will.
The condition which I took the liberty of putting to you was the voluntary submission of the women? Yes.
Upon that voluntary submission the woman is found diseased. Now the woman being found diseased and being a common prostitute, upon her voluntary submission the law assumes the right of sending her to a hospital, and detaining her in that hospital, until she is no longer in a condition to communicate contagion Do you think that a warrantable violation of the woman’s liberty, which is the first question? Do you consider that a proper course for legislation to take? I do not consider it a violation of the woman’s liberty in that case, because she would know beforehand to what she would subject herself. If she voluntarily underwent this examination, she might well be made to undertake that if she was examined and found diseased, she should consent beforehand to go to the hospital, and be there detained until cured; therefore, on the score of personal liberty, I have no objection to it. But I have a still remaining objection to the Government undertaking, even on the solicitation of the parties concerned, to provide beforehand the means of practising certain indulgences with safety. Of course the objection on the ground of personal liberty does not occur in that case, but the other objection does. It applies to this case as much as the other, I think if a woman comes and asks to be examined and asks it to be ascertained that she is in a healthy condition, and to be submitted to treatment until she is healthy in order that she may be fitter to follow a certain profession, the State is in fact going out of its way to provide facilities for the practice of that profession, which I do not think the State is called upon, or can without considerable disadvantage undertake, to do.
Would your objection be modified by this consideration. It is in evidence before this Commission, and we will assume for the purpose of your answer that it is proved to your satisfaction that the contagious disease extends far beyond the guilty persons, and may be communicated to innocent wives, and be transmitted to innocent children? That opens another point on which I should like to express an opinion. Of course I understand it is not the object of the Act of Parliament to afford facilities for indulgence. The object of the Act is not to protect those who voluntarily seek indulgence, but to protect the innocent from having these diseases communicated to them; that I understand to be the object. Now a woman cannot communicate the disease but to a person who seeks it, and who knowingly places himself in the way of it. A woman can only communicate it through a man; it must be the man who communicates it to innocent women and children afterwards. It seems to me, therefore, if the object is to protect those who are not unchaste, the way to do that is to bring motives to bear on the man and not on the woman, who cannot have anything to do directly with the communication of it to persons entirely innocent, whereas the man can and does. If you ask whether I think it possible to bring motives to bear on the man, I think there are various ways in which it may be done. In the first place, the same degree of espionage which is necessary to detect women would detect also the men who go with them, because very often they are detected only by the circumstance of being seen to go into certain houses with men. In that case, if the women can be laid hold of, the men can also, and be obliged to give an account why they are there. But without the exercise of espionage on either men or women, there are other means which can be had recourse to; very severe damages in case a man is proved to have communicated this disease to a modest woman, and in the case of his wife, divorce as a matter of right; I think that a stronger case in which to apply the remedy of divorce can hardly be conceived.
Supposing for a moment that the enactment in law making it penal to communicate the disease to another person was objectionable on the ground that it would lead to extortion, and that a wife so affected would not be able to overcome all those influences which her own affections have over her to induce her not to take the extreme step of seeking divorce, what remedy would you provide for the innocent children? The evil could only reach the children through the wife. The unborn children could only be infected by the mother being first infected. If it was proved that a man had been the means of communicating to his wife, she being a modest woman, or to his children, any of these diseases, the law should grant the woman a divorce, and compel the man in proportion to his means to pay very heavy damages to them for their support apart from himself. That, in my opinion, is what the law ought to do in the case. I quite see there would be often great difficulty in enforcing it; probably it would only be enforced in a certain proportion of cases, and very likely not in the majority of cases, but still the knowledge that it could be enforced would operate as a considerable check on the evil; and even the fact that the law declared this a very great crime, not only rendering the person who committed it subject to heavy penalties, but deemed so serious as to warrant the dissolving of the marriage tie, the mere effect of placing its mark on the conduct in this way would have very great influence, and would make this crime be considered, as in truth it is, one of the gravest a man could possibly commit.
rev. john hannah:Would you think it worth while to make an effort to stop it, viewed simply as a plague? That is, of course, a question to be considered, but I have heard and read that many medical men, and other strong supporters of the Act, think it cannot be made effectual enough to stamp out these diseases unless it is made much more strict than it is, consequently much more oppressive to women, and still more liable to abuse, besides which I have understood that several medical men who were warm supporters of the Acts nevertheless think it impossible for the Acts to be made to that degree effectual, or any degree approaching that, unless men are subject to it as well as women, and the reason they do not propose this is because they do not think that men would consent to it.
Confining you to the one point of detention, I think I gather your objections to it arise from collateral considerations which admit of removal. I mean the consideration that the detention is simply to facilitate an immoral purpose, an objection which you dwelt upon, did you not? It seems to me always liable to that objection, even if it is not liable to others.
Still, is not the policy of detention separable from what is clearly a bad reason, viz., to make sin safe? I do not see how it can be separated. I do not see how that which makes illicit indulgence of that sort safe, or is supposed to do so, can be prevented from giving some degree of encouragement to it, though far, I know, from the intention of the Act.
The point, I apprehend, is really this; in case it is really a plague, differing only from other plagues by the intermixture of the moral element, then is not the Legislature justified in the interests of the innocent in endeavouring, so far as it can, to stamp it out, even if there is no hope of complete success? I should say this question is very much affected by the degree of hope there is of complete success. It seems to me there ought to be a very good prospect of complete extirpation to justify anything of that kind, and I do not understand that such hope is entertained by those who are now most in favour of the Acts.
sir walter james:You mentioned that personal examination of men and women was a degrading thing, and in itself illegal? I did. I think it is exceedingly degrading to the women subjected to it, not in the same degree to men; therefore there is more reason that if it is applied at all it should be applied to men as well ase women, or if not to both, rather to men than to women. Men are not lowered in their own eyes as much by exposure of their persons, besides which it is not a painful operation in the case of a man, which I believe in the case of a woman it often is, and they very much detest it.
With regard to the cost of these Acts, I understand on the continent these Acts are self-supporting, are you aware of that? are you aware that such is the case? I am not aware whether it is so.
Is it your opinion that it would be right and just that those persons for whose safety these Acts were passed should pay for them? It depends on who those are who are affected by the Acts.
Should you consider it more just that they should pay for it by licenses as on the continent, or that the British taxpayer, the poor man should pay for it? It seems to me that all the objections which exist against the Acts, exist in an extreme degree against licenses, because they have still more the character of toleration of that kind of vicious indulgence, than exists under the Acts at present, or can exist in any other way.
I think on this point you will agree with me that licenses should be paid for byfprostitutes themselves, and the brothel-keepers, rather than as in the present case by the English people? If the thing was really justifiable on the ground on which it is defended, namely, as a great sanitary measure for the protection of all classes, I think it would be very fair that the English people should pay: but it is not professed, and could not be with truth asserted to be the object of these Acts, to protect persons in vicious indulgence or to protect the class of prostitutes. The strongest argument for the Acts has been the protection of those who are liable to take the disease without any voluntary exposure to it on their own part.
But supposing the opposite to be the case, would not the hardship of the case be greater, that is, that the innocent should pay the cost of these Acts rather than the guilty? I should think such considerations of such extremely small importance compared with the general bearing of the Acts, that I should think them hardly worth regarding. The very expense in any case would not be great.
But the expense would be very considerable if extended to other classes? If applied to the whole population the expense no doubt would be very much greater.
Would you consider, if applied to the whole population, it would be a justifiable subject to tax the people for? I think it would; I do not think it belongs to the class of measures which, if justifiable at all, it would be unjust to make a charge on the whole community. The health of the community is a subject now considered, I think with reason, to be within the province of Government. But I do not think this consideration material in comparison with the inconvenience that I see in the fact, that the expense could not be charged on the prostitutes themselves without in a manner licensing their profession. Moreover it is not the prostitutes themselves mainly who are protected, but their customers, and I do not see how you can get at them especially to make them pay. You can make prostitutes pay, but you cannot make those who frequent them pay.
Undoubtedly you can according to the principles of political economy, by making a prostitute recoup by charging a larger sum to customers, because we have heard in evidence that these registered women charge a higher price than the others. A gentleman said the officers gave a higher price to those licensed women than the others, so that you see in that case the cost would not fall upon the woman but upon her customers? In that case this particular objection fails, but the objection is still unanswered that it involves special licensing of persons to practise that profession.
Do you think that evil is at all avoided by the present Acts? By no means. I think one of the objections to the present Acts is that they do not avoid that evil, but still they are not attended with so much of it as the licensing system would be.
You are aware that a woman has an order to attend the next examination? I am.
And that it is their custom to show their tickets? Yes; that comes very near to the licensing.
Can you draw a distinction between it and licensing? There is hardly any distinction. It makes some difference that it is not called a license. That makes a considerable difference in the feeling about it, not by the public, but by the women themselves.
We have strong evidence that they are considered equivalent to it? That may very possibly be the case.
Do you see a substantial difference between medicalgexaminationsgunder these Acts, and the continental system? I do not see any substantial difference. It seems to me that the same objections apply to both.
Except that it is applied to a smaller population here, and that on the continent it is applied to all? More extensively.
rev. frederick denison maurice:Supposing the whole of these Acts were repealed so far as regards the military and naval population, so that the whole purpose to supply prostitutes for them was taken away, would you then think that there might be hospitals for this purpose established by Government; would you see any objection to such hospitals being under Government control? I do not see any reason. I by no means wish that there should not be hospital accommodation for those cases to the utmost extent for which it may be required. But I think the objection that applies to the Acts would apply in some degree to having hospitals for this express purpose. The great defect now is that these patients are not admitted into most hospitals. It would be desirable that the restrictive regulations which exclude them from all except a few hospitals should be removed in some way or other, and hospital accommodation provided for this disease in the same way as for others, but not by Government taking that charge on itself, which would be liable to the same objection as licensing prostitutes.
Do you not think the Government ought to exert itself for the purpose of putting down this disease? I think the Government ought, so far as it can, to exert itself in putting down all diseases—this among the rest, but I certainly do see some degree of objection to anything special being done by the Government distinguishing between this and other diseases in that respect.
Then if the Act really fulfilled its purpose, and was for all contagious diseases, by there being one department in each hospital, you would not think that objectionable? No. Supposing the opinion of Parliament was that contagious diseases generally, all sorts of infectious and contagious diseases, were proper subjects for the Government to take in hand administratively, and to provide proper means for curing, I should say there was no objection in including this among the others.
You would not think it bad legislation? No, because it would not single out diseases of this kind to meet with particular favour.
dr. john henry bridges:I understood one of your objections to the Act was that the State thereby gave security for the consequences of committing an immoral act? It facilitates the act beforehand; which is a totally different thing and always recognized in legislation as a different thing from correcting the evils which are the consequences of vices and faults. If we were never to interfere with the evil consequences which persons have brought upon themselves, or are likely to have brought upon themselves, we should help one another very little. Undoubtedly it is quite true that interfering to remedy evils which we have brought on ourselves has in some degree the same bad consequences, since it does in the same degree diminish the motive we have to guard against bringing evils on ourselves. Still a line must be drawn somewhere, and a marked line can be drawn there. You may draw a line between attacking evils when they occur, in order to remedy them as far as we are able, and making arrangements beforehand which will enable the objectionable practices to be carried on without incurring the danger of the evil. hTheseh two things I take to be distinct, and capable of being kept distinct in practice. As long as hospitals are not peculiarly for that class of diseases, and do not give that class of disease any favour as compared with others, they are not liable to objection, because their operation consists in remedying the effects of past evils: they do not hold out a special facility beforehand to practising illicit indulgence with a security which it would not otherwise enjoy. The interference is not preventive but remedial.
By attacking the evil after it has occurred, you would, I presume, prefer dealing with a woman after she is diseased? Yes; I mean having hospitals, and taking means of curing people of diseases either of this kind or other kinds, which they have brought upon themselves by their own fault.
You are probably aware speaking of the country generally that there are not a very large number of hospitals, for the treatment of these diseases? I believe there are not.
And that it is excluded to a very large extent from our provincial hospitals? Yes.
Now would not the effect of having wards for the admission of venereal disease in all our hospitals scattered about the country have the effect which you deprecate, that is, of making fornication more secure from the chance of disease than it is at present? No doubt it would. No doubt everything you do to relieve people from what may be the iconsequencei of their own fault, does in some degree diminish the motives to refrain from that fault. Still if we are to help one another at all, we must not stretch this argument to its full extent. Relieving people who are in danger of starvation is liable to the same objection. All poor laws, all relief whatever to the indigences or distresses of our fellow creatures are liable to it, since the people themselves are often very much to blame for bringing themselves into a position in which they require relief, and no doubt the relief does in some not inconsiderable degree diminish the prudential motives for abstaining. But still all our experience, and the consideration given to the question by thinkers and legislators, have ended in the recognition of this, that we ought not to abstain from helping one another through the evils of life, provided we do it in such a way as that it shall not provide facilities beforehand, but only deal with the evil when it has been incurred.
Apart from the existence of venereal disease, will you be prepared to lay down as a principle that the State should not take cognizance of the existence of prostitution? Of course a good deal will depend on the sort of cognizance, but I do not think that prostitution should be classed and recognised as such by the State. It seems to me there are inconveniences of many kinds in that.
You do not see your way to any improved legislation, for instance, with reference to brothels? That is a different question and a very difficult one. The question of the regulation of brothels, whether they should be systematically put down, or let alone to a certain degree, enters into very wide reaching considerations as to the degree in which the law should interfere in questions of simple morality, and also how far it should attack one portion of the persons who conspire to do a particular act, while it tolerates the others. I have always felt it very difficult to lay down a general rule on the subject, and I am not prepared to do so now, but I do not think it material to the consideration of these Acts.
sir john somerset pakington:Am I right in inferring from the evidence you have been so good as to give us, that you would not consider the fact of a very large proportion of the crews of our men-of-war and the soldiers of our army, being incapacitated for rendering service to the State by this terrible disease, an adequate reason for legislation of this kind? Not for legislation of this kind; but it might be for legislation of other kinds. I cannot say that I have considered the subject much, but I do not see why the State should not subject its own soldiers and sailors to medical examination, and impose penalties on them in case they are found diseased. I would not undertake to say that it might not, by measures directly acting on soldiers and sailors, in a very considerable degree discourage that kind of indulgence. It is certain, at least I have understood so, that the impression on the minds of soldiers and sailors, is that it is not discouraged, that it is considered by Parliament a necessity which may be regulated, but which must be accepted, and that Parliament does not entertain any serious disapprobation of immoral conduct of that kind. Now the State might exercise an influence opposite to that, by making the being found diseased a ground for military penalties in the case of soldiers and sailors. I do not pretend to have made up my mind on the subject, or to have anything definite to propose. I only throw that out as a possibility.
Are you aware that in the case of soldiers, the very thing you recommend has been now in practice for many years, and is still in practice? I have understood that soldiers are examined.
Under those circumstances the remedy you suggest can hardly be regarded as a fresh security? Not an entirely fresh security, certainly. I have mentioned that I have not considered or studied that part of the subject.
I infer from your answer that the fact to which I have adverted of the known suffering in the way I have described must be regarded as a great public evil? No doubt it is a great public evil.
Do you think it is an evil which the State would not be justified in endeavouring to avert? If the State endeavours to avert it by any means which are not objectionable in a greater degree than the evil itself.
Do you think that the State had better rather continue to suffer from the evil than to pass such Acts as these for its prevention? I think the State had better continue to suffer as much of that evil as it cannot prevent in other ways, by the application of military discipline and the correction of these practices among the soldiers.
Can you suggest any way other than that already adverted to, and which I have told you is already in exercise? You mentioned that the soldiers are liable to examination, but you have not mentioned, and I am not aware, to what degree, if the result of that examination proves them to be diseased, they are liable to penalties.
I cannot describe the exact penalty, but the principle has been in action. I do not say with regard to the whole army, but can you suggest any other description? I have not considered that part of the subject, but certainly I am not prepared to suggest any other.
And I understand you to be of opinion that in no case should the State resort to such a remedy as is found in these Acts? Exactly. I do not think that the State should resort to any remedy which operates by taking means beforehand to make the indulgence safe.
I think you told us that you have only a general knowledge ofjthesejActs, and no practical experience of their working? That is so.
You spoke of the violation of personal liberty, and I think you also, if I took down your words correctly, objected to the power of apprehending women on suspicion.[*]Do you think, as far as you know the Act, that the expression “apprehend the woman on suspicion” is an expression taken in its ordinary sense, which is applicable to the powers which these Acts give? It seems to me that it is applicable as far as I understand the subject; inasmuch as when women have not voluntarily declared themselves to be prostitutes, they may be, as I understand, watched by policemen, and if the policeman thinks a woman is practising prostitution, although not registered, he has it in his power, on any grounds of suspicion which appear to him to be adequate, to require the woman to enter into an undertaking to submit herself to examination, or to take her before a magistrate, who will make her do so.
I am glad I asked you the question, because it is very clear you are under a misapprehension. There is no such power calling on a woman to make a declaration compelling her to be examined. The only power of the police in this case is where they have good reason to suppose a woman to be practising common prostitution, if she does not voluntarily sign a paper stating she is willing to be examined, to lay an information before a magistrate, and proceed in the ordinary course before that magistrate. You would hardly call that apprehension on suspicion, would you? Certainly, I should call that apprehending a woman on suspicion. It is apprehending a woman on grounds which, in the opinion of the policeman, place her under suspicion of practising prostitution without acknowledgment. I am aware that policemen have no power of using any compulsion for making a woman enter into an engagement subjecting herself to examination. I am aware that that can only be done before a magistrate, and after such inquiries as he might hold; but the policeman has it in his power, whether he uses the power or not, to use threats to induce the woman to enter into this engagement.
I have no wish to raise any question on the narrow meaning of the word “apprehend,” but as you have said it is a violation of personal liberty, I will ask you whether you are aware that the liberty of such women, as of all other persons, is protected by law, until interrupted under the authority of law? Yes, I did not make that distinction as I ought to have done. I admit its relevancy.
When you said that a prostitute ought to have the power of defending herself before the ordinary tribunals, I think you would admit that she has that power, because she is brought before the magistrate, and that magistrate is not only free but bound in duty to hear everything that a woman has got to say, and judge of the evidence before deciding her case as he would in any other? That depends on whether it is explained to her that she may be defended by counsel.
The attack on personal liberty is subject to those usual grounds of protection which the law gives to all parties? It may be so.
In the case, which is not only a possible case but I fear from the evidence we have had the not very uncommon one of disease being communicated to innocent wives and innocent children, would you really trust to the power of divorce as the only remedy in such akcase? shouldkyou not endeavour at least to resort to prevention as being better than trusting to so uncertain a cure? I think that if prevention is to be applied at all, it should be applied to the man, who alone has the power of committing this offence in a direct way. When a woman infects anyone the man must always be a consenting party to running the risk: it is only a man who having been infected himself can communicate infection to an innocent person, and therefore if there is any argument for prevention, it should be for preventive measures applied to men who infect these women, and not to the women themselves.
Do you know or have you ever thought of any process by which prevention could be applied to men? I think that it could. No doubt it would fail very often; but inasmuch as it certainly does happen frequently that women are brought under the operation of these Acts through being watched by the police, and its being ascertained that they frequent certain houses along with men, the police can equally ascertain who the men are who go l with them; and when they find that men have been seen to frequent along with prostitutes houses of this description, those men might be compelled to undergo examination for a certain period afterwards.
Am I to understand you seriously to propose that in this country we should adopt a system of espionage over every man seen going into a brothel, and that men seen to go into a brothel should be subject all alike to personal examination? I am not suggesting espionage; but if it is already in practice on women who go to brothels, with a view of ascertaining whether a woman is a prostitute by her being seen there, I think the woman should not be singled out to be subject to examination, but the men should be subjected to it also, or even if the women were not subjected the men might be, but if the one is, certainly I should say both.
Therefore you do, as I understand, recommend such a system of espionage as I have described? I do not recommend it, because I do not recommend the Acts at all; I do not recommend that there be any espionage practised upon women, and therefore not on men either.
Domyou notmrecommend it to this extent, if any remedy is attempted for the evils complained of, it should be done in that shape? If any preventive measures are to be taken I should say it should be in that shape. But penal measures, or remedial measures by means of hospitals, could be adopted independently of that, increasing the hospitals, and increasing the facilities for admission of those who are diseased, and laying severe penalties on the man who communicates this disease to an innocent woman.
If the Legislature did enact with a view to preventing such cases as this, that the woman affected should have the remedy of divorce, would your knowledge of human nature lead you to the conclusion that that remedy would be resorted to in one case in a hundred, or one case in a thousand? A good many more than that, though probably not the majority.
william nathaniel massey:Are you aware that for a man to give his wife a disease of that description would be adjudged cruelty by the Court of Divorce, and would be a ground for a divorce, at all events a mensa? Yes, but not complete dissolution of the matrimonial tie.
sir john pakington:Would you make it so? Yes.
william nathaniel massey:You would make it a vinculo? Yes, a vinculo, accompanied with heavy pecuniary damages for the benefit of the sufferers, the wife or children.
sir john pakington:We have received very strong evidence before this Commission, that at one, at least, I think more, but at one of the most populous places to which these Acts apply, one result has been that whereas there were previously hundreds of children—when I say children, girls under 13, 14, and 15 years of age—practising habitual prostitution, that since these Acts have passed that class has almost, if not quite, disappeared; now, assuming that evidence to be correct, would it reconcile your mind to the operation of the Acts producing so blessed an effect as that? It would not remove the objections by any means. I have not examined into the statistics of the question, which I have no doubt are very contradictory, because very opposite results are stated at different places, with the effect of creating very great distrust in statistics altogether on that subject. In the experience of those countries where Acts similar to these have been very much longer in operation, it is certainly found that a vast quantity of prostitutes escape the operation of them altogether; that the process to which women are subjected by it is so extremely offensive and odious, that there is a great quantity of clandestine prostitution; and therefore it may well happen—I do not pretend knowledge on the subject—that the introduction of these Acts in places where they have not prevailed before, may be attended with a considerable diminution of avowed prostitution, without any diminution of real prostitution. I may now say, as I did not say it before, that another reason which appears to me very strong against the system of these Acts is, that they have a decided tendency to increase the class of prostitutes. Even if it is only by the fact that a considerable number of them are withdrawn from their profession periodically, the vacancy or gap that is thus made, as the demand calls forth a supply, has a natural tendency to be filled up by additional prostitutes being brought into the profession. That is independent of another argument, which may also be urged, that in so far as the Acts are supposed to afford increased security to the men who frequent these women, it is liable to produce an increased demand for prostitutes, and therefore bring forth in that way an increased supply. But independently of that, which is an argument I have no doubt the Commission are perfectly familiar with—the mere taking away forcibly from the competition of a certain per-centage of the prostitutes for a certain time, naturally tends to have that vacancy filled up by healthy persons from other quarters.
I think I may ask you whether that is not rather a fear than any fact established by proof? As I have already mentioned, I have not studied the details, and cannot say that I know as a matter of fact that it is so, though accounts I have read, and which appear to me reliable, as to what takes place on the Continent, appear to me very strong evidence that that is actually the case there. Whether it is the case here may be matter of dispute. It may perhaps not be the case yet—it may be the case hereafter, though not the case already, or it may be the case without being detected. I know nothing practically about the matter, but it appears to me that there is the tendency, and that the law which produces it is as strong as any law in political economy.
Excuse me saying that I think your answer to my question about children did not quite meet the question. I asked you whether, assuming such to be the case, having first told you the strong evidence we had, whether that fact would reconcile you in any degree to the operation of the Acts, and your answer was that you distrusted such statistics. I did not ask you that, but assuming those to be accurate, whether such an important fact would reconcile you in any degree to the operation of the Acts? If we are to enter into one part of the question only, the degree of efficacy of the Acts for their professed purpose, of course any increased efficacy furnishes an additional argument for the Acts. But no argument that can be produced of that kind, or I believe ever has been produced, would seem to me to overbear the very strong arguments of other kinds against the operation of such Acts, therefore my opinion would not be favourable to the Acts, supposing the circumstances you mention to be finally confirmed.
If the existence of such a fact would not reconcile you to thenprinciplesnof the Acts, would it not at least make you thankful that such a result had ensued? Of course anybody must be thankful for such a result, from whatever cause.
In following up the same part of the subject, may I ask you whether you think it would be inconsistent with due regard to the liberty of the subject, if such young creatures as I have referred to, and you must be aware that such must be the case in all our crowded populations, if the law authorised the detention of such young creatures as I have described, when once convicted of prostitution, in homes or refuges for their subsequent reclamation? I am not prepared to say that might not be a good measure. I perhaps would go further for the protection of extremely young persons than most people would. I should not be adverse to strengthening and extending the laws which at present exist against intercourse of any kind with girls below a certain age. I should not be at all adverse to raising considerably the age below which it should be prohibited.
We have had strong evidence with regard to the moral effects of these Acts, and a number of cases in which through the agency of these Acts, by first being taken into a hospital, where moral effects are produced as well as physical, and then being sent to a refuge, numbers of young women have been reclaimed from vice and restored to a virtuous life, and in many instances married. Would such a fact as that reconcile you to the operation of these Acts? I think otheseo effects might just as well be produced by the mere existence of hospitals, by receiving them into hospitals, having proper hospital accommodation for them, and when there having them attended by those benevolent and excellent people who undertake their reclamation.
Are you now contemplating voluntary hospitals or hospitals supported by the State? Either. I have already stated I should object to hospitals supported by the State for this particular disease exclusively, but if contagious diseases generally were considered a proper subject for the State to take under its charge, I should not object to those being included.
Supposing these abandoned women did not go into them, what would you do then? Suppose they did not go in, I do not see how anything could be done.
Then your remedy would fail? Yes; but the women who would not go in would be those on whom the remedy would be the least likely to be effectual.
Supposing they did go in and would not stay when they were there, what would you do? I should not be prepared to give any compulsory power to detain them.
You would let them come out and spread disease right and left, rather than do good? I do not think it is the business of legislation of this kind to take special care either of the women who practise this profession, or of the men who frequent them. I apprehend that the real object for which these Acts are most defensible, if defensible at all, is the protection of the innocent, and as long as people are not liable to be infected without exposing themselves to it, I should say you do enough for them if you offer them the means of cure provided they accept it.
We have very strong evidence before us to this effect, that the Acts in certain localities have greatly diminished the number of common prostitutes, and have had the effect of raising the lowest and most demoralised portion of that class to a comparatively more decent and more respectable state of life—would not you acknowledge that to be a good effect? Stated as you have stated it, any such effect, however produced, is good pro tanto.
I am only putting to you that which we have before us in evidence. Precisely so, but I should consider, if any effect of that sort is produced, it is produced by a process, not applicable specially to prostitution, but to the criminal and vicious classes, the dangerous classes altogether, all of whom may have some amount of good done them if attention is paid to them by benevolent persons, or, it may be by persons employed by the Government. It would not be beyond the proper function of the State to take means of making these persons understand that they are not considered as totally unworthy of any kind of regard or consideration by the rest of their fellow-creatures, but that it is the object to reclaim them, and do them as much good as their condition makes them susceptible of. Such measures, at all events, might be applied to the dangerous classes generally, much more than ever has been done yet. I should not see the least objection to applying such measures to prostitutes also, but that would not require Acts of this description.
We have before us evidence of such a nature as I think hardly you or anybody else whose attention has not been called to it can imagine, with regard to the state not only of degradation but of physical disease, amounting to absolute rottenness, that the women have been found in in the neighbourhood of our camps, I think if I remember right such a state as almost to lead to the idea of falling to pieces; now looking at the fact of a human being in such a horrible state as this, would you leave those women to rot and die under the hedges, rather than pass such Acts as these to save them? I do not think it is quite fair to put the question exactly in that manner, because I am inclined to think that I should approve very much more decided measures of that sort with regard to the destitute classes generally than are now in practice. I should say, if you found a person in this last stage of consumption, or any other very wretched disease, it might be advisable and right to lay hold of that person and give him or her relief or proper medical treatment, and under proper medical regulation, and whatever relief of that sort I gave to others I would give to these women. What I object to is having special legislation for those women, which would have the effect of singling them out for a special cure, to which persons with other equally bad diseases are not subject.
I apprehend that I may take your answer as being in effect in the affirmative. You would rather leave these women to die and rot under hedges than pass these Acts and save them? I do not think that a fair way of putting the question, because I think they could be just as well saved without these Acts. I would do a great deal for the purpose of affording relief to persons who were found in an extremely bad state of disease, and in a state of destitution. I would not do more for those than others; and certainly the fact that there are such persons would not reconcile me to these Acts, because I think these Acts do a great deal of mischief in other ways, which is not at all necessary to be done for the sake of affording relief to those people, without giving it in common to all others who have an equal claim to it.
I apprehend that I can take that as an affirmative answer. My inference is that you would trust in such a case to the ordinary operation of the poor law?[*] I have not such a very high opinion of the administration of the poor laws as not to think it admits of great improvement in that respect as in others, and such improvement I should be glad to see, though I am not prepared to say exactly what it should be.
But the poor law has long been in operation and has not had the effect of rescuing these poor creatures from suffering, therefore is it not a fair inference that they are insufficient to meet that case? That is a defect in the poor law, but some other means should be in practice for the relief of disease Disease is a proper subject for a special branch of administration.
You would suggest that some remedy should be afforded for so horrible an evil, but you would rather it should not be the remedy we are now trusting to? Precisely.
Though that remedy has been proved signally successful? Yes, but if it has been signally successful, I think it has been by means and in a manner which ought equally to be applied to other diseases, if applied at all, and it would be equally effectual without the Acts.
We have before us evidence to the effect that from the fear of coming under the cognizance of the police, these Acts have had the effect of deterring young women from practising that clandestine prostitution which they previously did. Now assuming this evidence to be consistent with the facts. I would ask you whether you do not consider, that whatever your objections to thepprinciplespof these Acts are, they have produced good results? Undoubtedly that result taken by itself, must be considered a good result by every one. It is, however, to be weighed against the probability that in other cases an opposite result might be produced, for which also strong presumption can be shown.
You stated an opinion, and it is an opinion which other witnesses also strongly stated, that the examination of the persons which is authorised by the Acts is very degrading to those women, that is your opinion? I dare say there are some of them to whom nothing is degrading, they are so degraded already, but there is reason to believe that there are many of them who have a considerable quantity of modesty left, and to whom therefore it is degrading.
Your answer rather anticipates the next question I was going to put to you, which is whether taking the case of a woman who submits herself daily to prostitution in three or four instances, and lives that miserable life, which do you think is the real degradation to that woman; is it the life that she leads, or the fact that she subsequently undergoes examination in order to cure the evils which have arisen from that disgraceful life? I think both are degrading, but degradation for degradation, that which is compulsory seems to me always more degrading in its effects on the character than what is done voluntarily.
Am I to understand from that answer that you think the fact of such an examination is more degrading to such a woman than the debauched life she leads? I think it adds considerably to the degradation already caused by the debauched life.
sir walter james:It is an additional degradation? An additional degradation.
anthony john mundella:If we have evidence before us that many young people have been removed from prostitution in the streets by the operation of the Acts, are you not of opinion that we might also remove those young persons from the streets without subjecting them to this examination and making them healthy for prostitution? Certainly I think so. I think that what removes them from the streets is the moral effect which is produced in their minds, and the chance of producing this effect is likely to be lessened by subjecting them to an offensive and what must be considered a tyrannical operation by the force of law. I should think that must tend in some degree to counteract the good effect which no doubt was produced by the moral influences that were brought to bear on them during their detention, which are no doubt the real cause of reclaiming them so far as they are reclaimed, and therefore they might be applied more effectually without the machinery of the Acts.
You are familiar with the compulsory education which exists on the continent and elsewhere, and have written a good deal on the duties of the State towards young children. Should you think it any interference with personal liberty, if girls under a certain age found practising prostitution were taken up and put into some industrial home? I certainly do not think there would be any objection to that. I think the objection to the interference with personal liberty begins when the age of education, properly so called, ceases. Where a person is under age, and in a position which must counteract very much all the good influences of education, and substitute bad ones, it is always open to the consideration of the State whether they cannot withdraw young persons from those bad influences. I have already mentioned that I would go still further, and be inclined to extend very much the operation of the penal laws which now exist against intercourse with girls under age. I would raise the age below which that is an offence by law, very considerably, though I have not considered up to what point.
I was going to ask you up to what age you would think the State would be justified in interfering to prevent prostitution? I should think certainly up to 17 or 18, up to the age when what is commonly called education ordinarily finishes. Possibly it might be extended with propriety until the girl was legally of age, but on that I would not undertake to give an opinion.
Do you think it any interference with the liberty of the subject to prevent solicitation in the streets? No; I think that is the duty of the police, in order to preserve the order of the streets.
Sir John Pakington has referred to the wretched women who haunt the camps.[*]Do you see any means of clearing the camps from those wretched women, without subjecting them to these examinations and healing them for the purpose of prostitution with soldiers? That is a matter of police and the military discipline of camps, which I am not conversant with. I should think much stronger things than that are justified by military discipline.
As I have understood your evidence, from what I heard in cross-examination, I gather that you would attack this evil of prostitution rather in its cause than deal with its consequences? I would deal with the consequences by means of hospitals, and combat the disease after it has been contracted, only taking care not to do this in such a way as would seem to take the persons who have that disease under the special protection of the State in a degree in which others persons equally diseased were not taken.
If we have evidence before us that brothel-keepers are constantly communicated with by the police, and that beer-houses and public-houses are used as brothels in large numbers, and are well known to the local authorities, do not you think the State would be justified in interfering with that class of persons? Clearly it ought to be a forfeiture of the license of a public-house or beer-house to use it as a brothel.
But suppose it is not a beer-house, would you prosecute brothel-keepers? That is an extremely difficult question, and I would rather not give a positive opinion about it, because so many pros and cons have occurred to me when I have thought about it that I have found it very difficult to make up my mind.
robert applegarth:You conceive it to be the duty of the State to deal with girls and boys up to the age of 16; may I ask you whether you consider it to be the duty of the State to insist that children should be sent to school up to that age? I cannot pretend to say exactly up to what age. I do think the State has a right, and is bound whenever circumstances admit, to insist on all children who are born into the community receiving education up to a certain point, and also to give facilities for educating them still higher.
And I suppose you consider that if the State did its duty in that respect, we should have in addition to better educated people, a higher standard of morality amongst the people? That is one of the greatest reasons for desiring it.
And therefore we should probably have less prostitution? I should think so.
Is it your opinion that sending children to work at a young age instead of to school leads to immoral practices, and ultimately prostitution? I should think it extremely probable from what I have heard and read. I have no knowledge on the subject.
In your opinion, if the laws in existence against seduction and bastardy and in other respects were strengthened and made of real practical use, would it have a tendency to diminish prostitution? I do not know whether it would have a tendency to reduce prostitution, but that is not the only thing to be considered, because it might have a tendency to increase other kinds of illicit intercourse. When the laws relating to bastardy made a greater attempt to enforce the obligation upon the seducer than is the case now, they did produce very demoralizing effects upon many women.[*] I do not mean to give an express opinion as to how far the law might properly go on that subject. At present my feeling is against any attempt, however much it may be agreeable to one’s moral feelings, to restrain illicit intercourse in that way.
Whilst you are opposed to the Acts, I understand you are not opposed to an attempt being made by the State to diminish the amount of disease by providing hospitals? Yes, providing always it is not done with special favour to this class of diseases, but forms part of a general system, such a system as it may be thought advisable by the State to adopt, with a view of getting rid of serious and especially contagious diseases, as far as possible, throughout the community.
And would you advise that there should be provided special Lock Hospitals, or that people suffering from this disease should be treated in lock wards in general hospitals? I should prefer lock wards; because lock hospitals are a special provision for this particular class of disease, and that appears to me to be undesirable.
Do you think providing Lock Hospitals for the treatment of this disease would have a tendency to induce inquiries on the part of young children which parents would be ashamed to answer, and thus produce a bad moral effect? That might be one objection; but the grand objection I have to it is to any measure taken specially with reference to this class of disease. The general impression it would make, however contrary to the intention of those who support it, would be that the State patronises the class of practices by which these diseases are engendered, since it considers those who contract qtheseq diseases as worthy of more attention, and takes more pains to remedy the consequences, than those who have other diseases equally serious.
Is it your opinion that these Acts have done any physical good at all? I have really no means of judging. I am not acquainted with the details. No doubt the evidence taken before this Commission will be expected to throw light on this subject.
Is it your opinion that morally they have done harm? I cannot tell whether they have actually done harm, but it seems to me their natural effect is to do harm.
You think that the tendency of them is to do moral injury? I do think so, because I hardly think it possible for thoughtless people not to infer, when special precautions are taken to make a course which is generally considered worthy of disapprobation safer than it would naturally be, that it cannot be considered very bad by the law, and possibly may be considered as either not bad at all, or at any rate a necessary evil.
ON MARRIAGE (1832–33?)
Holograph MS, Mill-Taylor Collection, British Library of Political and Economic Science, London School of Economics. Untitled and unsigned, but in Taylor’s hand. Dated on physical evidence. Not published. For a description of the MS, and comment on it, see xxx-xxxi and lviii-lix above.
if i could be providence to the world for a time, for the express purpose of raising the condition of women, I should come to you to know the means—the purpose would be to remove all interference with affection, or with any thing which is, or which even might be supposed to be, demonstrative of affection—In the present state of womens minds, perfectly uneducated, and with whatever of timidity and dependance is natural to them increased a thousand fold by their habits of utter dependance, it would probably be mischievous to remove at once all restraints, they would buy themselves protectors at a dearer cost than even at present—but without raising their natures at all, it seems to me, that once give women the desire to raise their social condition, and they have a power which in the present state of civilization and of mens characters, might be made of tremendous effect. Whether nature made a difference in the nature of men and women or not, it seems now that all men, with the exception of a few lofty minded, are sensualists more or less—Women on the contrary are quite exempt from this trait, however it may appear otherwise in the cases of some—It seems strange that it should be so, unless it was meant to be a source of power in demi-civilized states such as the present—or it may not be so—it may be only that the habits of freedom and low indulgence in which boys grow up and the contrary notion of what is called purity in girls may have produced the appearance of different natures in the two sexes—As certain it is that there is equality in nothing, now—all the pleasures such as there are being mens, and all the disagreables and pains being womens, as that every pleasure would be infinitely heightened both in kind and degree by the perfect equality of the sexes. Women are educated for one single object, to gain their living by marrying—(some poor souls get it without the churchgoing in the same way—they do not seem to me a bit worse than their honoured sisters)—To be married is the object of their existence and that object being gained they do really cease to exist as to anything worth calling life or any useful purpose. One observes very few marriages where there is any real sympathy or enjoyment of companionship between the parties—The woman knows what her power is, and gains by it what she has been taught to consider “proper” to her state—The woman who would gain power by such means is unfit for power, still they do use this power for paltry advantages and I am astonished it has never occurred to them to gain some large purpose: but their minds are degenerated by habits of dependance—I should think that 500 years hence none of the follies of their ancestors will so excite wonder and contempt as the fact of legislative restraint as to matters of feeling—or rather in the expressions of feeling. When once the law undertakes to say which demonstration of feeling shall be given to which, it seems quite inconsistent not to legislate for all, and say how many shall be seen, how many heard, and what kind and degree of feeling allows of shaking hands—The Turks is the only consistent mode—
I have no doubt that when the whole community is really educated, tho’ the present laws of marriage were to continue they would be perfectly disregarded, because no one would marry—The widest and perhaps the quickest means to do away with its evils is to be found in promoting education—as it is the means of all good—but meanwhile it is hard that those who suffer most from its evils and who are always the best people, should be left without remedy. Would not the best plan be divorce which could be attained by any, without any reason assigned, and at small expence, but which could only be finally pronounced after a long period? not less time than two years should elapse between suing for divorce and permission to contract again—but what the decision will be must be certain at the moment of asking for it—unless during that time the suit should be withdrawn—
(I feel like a lawyer in talking of it only! O how absurd and little it all is!)—In the present system of habits and opinions, girls enter into what is called a contract perfectly ignorant of the conditions of it, and that they should be so is considered absolutely essential to their fitness for it!—But after all the one argument of the matter which I think might be said so as to strike both high and low natures is—Who would wish to have the person without the inclination? Whoever would take the benefit of a law of divorce must be those whose inclination is to separate and who on earth would wish another to remain with them against their inclination? I should think no one—people sophisticate about the matter now and will not believe that one “really would wish to go.” Suppose instead of calling it a “law of divorce” it were to be called “Proof of affection”—They would like it better then—
At this present time, in this state of civilization, what evil would be caused by, first placing women on the most entire equality with men, as to all rights and privileges, civil and political, and then doing away with all laws whatever relating to marriage? Then if a woman had children she must take the charge of them, women would not then have children without considering how to maintain them. Women would have no more reason to barter person for bread, or for any thing else, than men have—public offices being open to them alike, all occupations would be divided between the sexes in their natural arrangement. Fathers would provide for their daughters in the same manner as for their sons—
All the difficulties about divorce seem to be in the consideration for the children—but on this plan it would be the women’s interest not to have children—now it is thought to be the womans interest to have children as so many ties to the man who feeds her.
Sex in its true and finest meaning, seems to be the way in which is manifested all that is highest best and beautiful in the nature of human beings—none but poets have approached to the perception of the beauty of the material world—still less of the spiritual—and there never yet existed a poet, except by the inspiration of that feeling which is the perception of beauty in all forms and by all the means which are given us, as well as by sight. Are we not born with the five senses, merely as a foundation for others which we may make by them—and who extends and refines those material senses to the highest—into infinity—best fulfils the end of creation—That is only saying—Who enjoys most, is most virtuous—It is for you—the most worthy to be the apostle of all loftiest virtue—to teach, such as may be taught, that the higher the kind of enjoyment, the greater the degree—perhaps there is but one class to whom this can be taught—the poetic nature struggling with superstition: you are fitted to be the saviour of such—
PAPERS ON WOMEN’S RIGHTS (1847–50?)
Holograph MSS, Mill-Taylor Collection, British Library of Political and Economic Science, London School of Economics. The title of the first fragment is in Harriet Taylor’s hand at the end; those of the second, third, and fourth fragments are in Mill’s hand, that of the fifth has been supplied. The MSS are in Mill’s hand (except for a few corrections in pencil by Taylor in the first and fourth, indicated in variant notes, and in repeated parts of the second); however, her title for the first, our knowledge of their working habits, and the apparent status of these fragments as preparatory for her “Enfranchisement of Women” suggest that they should be attributed jointly, if not solely to her. For descriptions of the MSS, and comment on them, see lxxii-lxxiv above.
[[*] ]See Pierre Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais. La folle journee, ou Le mariage de Figaro (1785), in Oeuvres complètes, 7 vols. (Paris: Collin, 1809), Vol. II, p. 274 (V, iii, 13-15).
[[*] ]Homer, The Ihad (Greek and English), trans. A.T. Murray, 2 vols. (London: Heinemann: Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1946), Vol. I, p. 294 (VI, 441-2).
[[†] ]Bertha of Kent and Clotilda of the Franks.
[[*] ]Mill is combining a maxim from Francis Bacon’s “Of Marriage and Single Life” (1612), in Works, Vol. VI, p. 391, with the name, become proverbial, of a character in Thomas Morton’s play, Speed the Plough (London: Longman and Rees, 1800).
[[*] ]See Herodotus (Greek and English), trans. A.D. Godley, 4 vols. (London: Heinemann; New York: Putnam’s Sons, 1926-30), Vol. II, pp. 105-7 (III, 80).
[[*] ]General Treaty between Great Britain, Austria, France, Prussia, Russia, Sardinia and Turkey, for the Re-establishment of Peace, with Three Conventions Annexed Thereto Signed at Paris, March 30, 1856, PP, 1856, Vol. LXI, pp. 1-34, for Russia’s intention to repudiate it, see “The Treaty of 1856. Prince Gortschakoff’s Note.” The Times, 18 Nov., 1870, p. 3.
[[†] ]Edward George Stanley, Speech (4 July, 1867, Lords), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 188, cols. 968-74, with reference to the “Treaty Relative to the Grand Duchy of Luxemburg” (11 May, 1867), PP, 1867, LXXIV, 415-22.
[[*] ]See “Lord Granville’s Answer to the Russian Circular,” The Times, 17 Nov., 1870, p. 9.
[[†] ]François Pierre Guillaume Guizot, Despatch to Metternich on the Incorporation of Cracow (3 Dec., 1846), in La Presse, 4 Dec., 1846, p. 1, the relevant passages are cited from La Presse in The Times, 7 Dec., 1846, p. 4.
[[*] ]29 Victoria, c. 35 (1866).
[a-a]711 , in point of fact [transcriber’s error?]
[[*] ]27 & 28 Victoria, c. 80 (1864), which extended 18 & 19 Victoria, c. 126 (1855).
[d-d]711liability [transcriber’s error?]
[[*] ]See pp. 351 and 352 above.
[[*] ]4 & 5 William IV, c. 76 (1834).
[[*] ]See p. 366 above.
[[*] ]The former laws include 18 Elizabeth, c. 3 (1576), 6 George II, c. 31 (1733), and 49 George III, c. 68 (1809), laws in effect include 4 & 5 William IV, c. 76 (1834), Sects 69-72, and 7 & 8 Victoria, c. 101 (1844).
[q-q]711 those [transcriber’s error?]