Front Page Titles (by Subject) Appendix D: Manuscript Drafts of Speech - The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIX - Public and Parliamentary Speeches Part II July 1869 - March 1873
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Appendix D: Manuscript Drafts of Speech - John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIX - Public and Parliamentary Speeches Part II July 1869 - March 1873 
The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIX - Public and Parliamentary Speeches Part II July 1869 - March 1873, ed. John M. Robson and Bruce L. Kinzer (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1988).
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Manuscript Draft of The Westminster Election of 1865  (1865)
MS, Mill-Taylor Collection, M/T II/1/12, draft of No. 6.
it is probable that many here present would wish me to explain why I have, till now, abstained from all the usual practices of a candidate, and only now for the first time appear at a meeting of the electors. My reasons were stated in the letter in which I consented to be made a candidate; but that need not hinder me from repeating them. When I said in my letter that for myself I do not desire to be in Parliament, I meant what I said. I have no personal objects to promote by it, while it would involve a great sacrifice of my tastes and pursuits, as well as of that freedom which I value the more because I have only recently acquired it, after a life passed in the restraints and confinement of a public office. These private considerations, however, I have waved; but there is something which I could not wave; the strongest repugnance to the means by which the suffrages of the electors are ordinarily sought. To be selected by an important body of one’s fellow citizens as the representative of the higher part of their minds—their understandings and consciences—their sincere opinions and their patriotic feelings—is one of the very highest honours which a citizen of a free country can receive. But to get into Parliament as the representative of that portion of the electors, or that part of the electoral mind, which is to be got at by money—or which is to be reached by trickery—by saying one thing and meaning another—by making professions not meant to be acted upon or which, being contrary to one’s own convictions, it would be even more dishonest to keep than to violate—this I regard as no honour at all, but a disgrace. Therefore, when some members of this great constituency made me the most unexpected and most flattering proposal to present me for your suffrages, I answered that if it were so, it should not be by spending £10,000 in corrupting and debauching (by strictly legal means of course) all among you who are corruptible and debauchable; neither should it be by taking a single pledge, except that of being always open and unreserved with you; neither should it be by soliciting your votes, for I look upon the whole system of personal solicitation as a mistake; though I am far from condemning those who merely conform to a bad custom, provided they do nothing to make the custom worse than they found it. But election to Parliament ought not to be a matter of favour. I have no right to ask such favours, nor you to grant them: you are conferring a solemn trust, and you have no right to bestow it on any but the fittest man. This was my reply: and to the honour of Westminster (I may say that much though I am myself concerned) there was found a body of men who had a sufficiently high sense of public principle and of their own honour and that of the constituency to say, Not the man who does these things, but the man who will not do them, is the right man for Westminster, and we will try if the electors of Westminster do not think so too. That, gentlemen, is the reason why I am a candidate. And it would have been quite inconsistent with a candidature grounded on these principles, to have come among you and sought your votes directly and personally. My principles are, that you ought to elect the fittest man: would it have been decent for me to go about among you and say, I am the fittest man? What would you think of a candidate who said, It is your duty to choose a man of merit, Here am I, a man of merit, choose me? I am not here because I propose myself, but because others propose me: and I hope you do not suppose that I think all the fine things about myself which have been said and written about me, with so much exaggeration but with a strength and depth of kind feeling for which I can never be sufficiently grateful, by numbers of people almost all personally unknown to me. You will, I know, excuse what is excessive in these eulogiums, being aware how natural it is for a man to be overpraised, as well as to be unjustly attacked, at a contested election.
Perhaps you will ask, if for these reasons I did not for such a length of time appear before you, why I do so now? I do it for two reasons. In the first place, I was told, by those who had good means of judging, that many of you wished to know more of me than they could learn from what I have written. Now you have a right to an opportunity of judging for yourselves of the man you are asked to vote for. Whatever you want to know about my political opinions, I am bound to tell you—and I pledged myself—it was the only pledge I gave—to tell it you with perfect openness. It would have been as easy for me as for others to have put forth a plausible profession of political faith—not like those colourless and meaningless addresses the newspapers are filled with, which Tory, Whig and Radical might equally sign—which bind them to nothing, and are consistent with almost any vote. I might have made out a long bona fide list of important subjects on which I have the satisfaction of believing that I agree with you—I might have glided gently over all points of difference and kept a discreet silence on every opinion that could startle anybody. Did I do this? I did the very opposite—I issued no address, but engaged to answer any question you chose to ask about my political opinions—and those you did ask, I answered with an unreserve which has been a kind of scandal to the electioneering world. What obliged me to say anything to you about women’s voting or about representation of minorities? Would any of you have thought of questioning me on those points? Not one: but you asked me what were my opinions on reform: and being asked it did not suit with my idea of plain dealing to keep any of them back. By this I lowered myself immensely in the opinion of those who think that the sensible thing for a candidate is to dissemble and finesse, and commit himself as little as possible. How injudicious! cried one. How unpractical! said another. “How can he expect to be elected on such a programme?” was the thought even of sincere friends. In answer to all which, I beg them to consider—First, that perhaps I would rather, if I had to choose, be honest, than be elected. Secondly, that perhaps the electors of Westminster may also have a taste for honesty, and may think that the man who deals honestly with them before he is elected, will be likely to deal honestly by them if elected. One thing I am sure of—that, even though a man may now and then lose an election by it, in the long run there is nothing so practical as honesty; and that this is a lesson politicians will have to learn.
You will scarcely expect me to go through the catalogue of the political topics of the day, and tire you with things which you all know as well as myself. It is better that I should confine myself to giving explanations on any points on which you think that they are needed. All I will attempt now is to give you an idea of the general tendency of my opinions. I am here as the candidate of advanced Liberalism, and I should like to tell you what, to my understanding, that expression means. Mr. Gladstone, in one of those memorable speeches which have taught all sincere reformers in the country to look to him as their future leader, has given us his idea of the difference between Liberalism and Toryism. Liberalism, he says, is trust in the people, limited only by prudence; Toryism is distrust of the people, limited only by fear. This is a true and apt statement of the distinction in one of its practical aspects; but there is a still larger mode of conceiving it. The Liberal is he who looks forward for his principles of government: the Tory looks backward for his. The Tory thinks that the really best model of society and government lies behind us—from which we are departing more and more; consisting in the subjection and dependence of the mass of the community, in temporal matters, to the hereditary possessors of property, in spiritual, to the Church. He accordingly opposes, up to the last moment, whatever carries us further from this model. When beaten, he may sincerely accept his defeat, as a necessity of the age; but he still hankers after the past: he still thinks that good government means the restoration of the feudal principle in some shape, perhaps a shape better adapted to the time; and he continues to resist all further progress in the new direction. The Liberal thinks and does the reverse of this. He thinks that we have not yet arrived at a perfect model of government—but that it is before us, not behind: that we are still too far from it to be even able to see exactly what it is—but that we can clearly see in what direction it lies; not in some new form of dependence but in the emancipation of the dependent classes—more freedom, more equality, more responsibility of each person for himself. That is the first article of my political creed. And this is the second. Believing as I do that society and institutions are and ought to be in a state of progressive improvement—that it is the very nature of progress to lead us to see truths which are not yet seen to be truths—but that by a diligent study of the past, and application of thought to great questions, it is possible to see for a certain distance before us, to perceive some of these truths, and help other people to see them—I therefore think that both in politics and in other matters there are truths which it is already time to proclaim, though in the existing state of opinion the time has not come when they can be carried into practice. That, gentlemen, is what I mean by advanced liberalism. But does it follow, because a person has something to say about the future, that he must be incapable of judging of the present? That if he thinks for tomorrow, he can know nothing about today? The dunces tell you so: but I venture to reverse the proposition. The only person qualified to judge rightly or safely for today, is the one who includes tomorrow in his deliberations: who can see what things we are tending to; which of the tendencies we should favour and which resist; and who will take care that his policy of the moment shall fit us instead unfitting us for the greater good of the future.
I have mentioned one of the reasons why having at first abstained from attending public meetings, I appear before you now. But there is another reason. The contest has changed its character. It is no longer personal to myself. You have not now merely to decide whether you will choose me rather than another man. The question now is, whether the representation of Westminster, hitherto the most honourable seat in the House of Commons, is to be obtained by the honest choice of the electors or by money. That the answer to this should be even doubtful is enough to rouse the strongest feeling of shame in every inhabitant of Westminster who remembers the ancient reputation of his city. We Reformers profess to desire, that the great landed nobility and gentry should no longer be able to hoist their sons and protégés into Parliament over the heads of the constituencies—passing over the minds of the electors, and working through their private interests or their hereditary subserviency. This we object to, and with reason: but what better shall we be, or what will it profit us to weaken the aristocratic influences, if all we gain is that seats in Parliament are put up to auction? What is it but putting them up to auction when they are knocked down to the man who has the longest purse, and is willing to open it widest? Of all existing political nuisances, this is the one which it most concerns all of us to resist; for it is the single one which is increasing, while almost every other is diminishing. The great facilities for moneymaking which arise from the unexampled commercial prosperity of the country, are raising up crowds of persons who have made large fortunes, or whose fathers have made fortunes for them, and whose strongest desire is to make those fortunes the means of purchasing what is called position—in other words, admission into the society of persons higher in rank than themselves. Now there is only one way in which this can be effected by money; namely, through a seat in Parliament. I am the last man to think disparagingly of such persons, or to pretend that they have no business to be in Parliament: many of them have a strong claim, by their knowledge and abilities, to a seat in the House, and are such men as it can ill spare. But the mischief is, that it is precisely those among them who are least capable of getting elected on their merits—who have no chance of making their way into what is called good society by their talents, their education, or their breeding—it is exactly those who are tempted to employ the only other means open to them of obtaining their end, the lavish expenditure of money in corrupting electors. For there is corruption which is not technically bribery. To gain a seat by giving money to the electors is not less corruption because the elector does not receive the money for his vote, but for ostensible services; it makes no moral difference whether a working man is paid for voting, or for putting, for instance, a placard in his window. A candidate who succeeds by these means, like one who opens the public houses, goes to Parliament as the representative of the vices of the constituency. There is no hope that people will be shamed out of these things until they are cut by society for doing them. You cannot prevent such things from being attempted; but you may perhaps prevent them from succeeding. An experiment is being tried on you, the electors of Westminster. An effort is made to bring in a Tory candidate by an expenditure of money more profuse than any Tory ever ventured upon before in this city. Since it is very well known that the majority of the electors of Westminster are not Tories, it is not uncharitable to say that the supporters of the Tory candidate rely chiefly on money. Had they really thought that the electors have turned Conservative; that you have had enough of Reform; that in your opinion enough has been done in the way of constitutional improvement, and you are now anxious to prevent further change, they would have selected for the distinction of this seat one of their foremost men—one of those who are an honour to their party—such a one, let us say, as Lord Stanley. When instead of the man of greatest merit, they offer you the one who is willing to spend most lavishly, they shew plainly in what they put their trust.
Will you suffer this to succeed? The eyes of all England are on you; all lovers of freedom and purity of election are looking to you with anxious hope. And there is another, a very different sort of persons who have their eyes on you too: those (they are very numerous) who cultivate a contempt for the people. All such persons are watching you, hoping to find you worthy of their contempt. They are already chuckling over what they think the probable success of the extraordinary efforts making to debauch you. They are saying that you have it not in you to elect any person but the man who will spend most money among you—that you have not public virtue for it; that public virtue is not to be expected from such people as you are; and they are eagerly waiting to see you justify their opinion of you. I trust you will disappoint them. If you elect me, and I turn out a total failure—if I disappoint every expectation which has been formed of me—you will have nothing to be ashamed of; you will have acted an honest part, and done, at all events, what seemed best for the country. Can the same thing be said if you return the candidate of a party against which Westminster has consistently protested for nearly a century, and if his victory is due to his money? If this constituency should so degrade itself, it will be a deep mortification to all who put faith in popular representation; Westminster will have fallen from her glory, and can no longer hold her head as high as she has done; and the progress of popular principles, which cannot be stopped, will have to go forward for the present without Westminster.
Manuscript Draft of Representation of the People  (1866)
MS, Houghton Library, Harvard University, MS ENG 1105, incomplete version of No. 16.
although the question on which the House will be called on to divide relates ostensibly to the mere order of proceeding, it will scarcely be denied that we are really discussing the main question; and I need make no apology for confining myself to that. When it is maintained that the House ought not to pass the bill which has been proposed to it, until there has been laid before it some other proposal for the improvement of our representative system, the supposition must be that the present measure, if passed without any such supplementary measure, would be injurious. For if it would not be an injurious, but merely an incomplete measure—one after which there would still remain much to be reformed—the mere common-sense rule of doing one thing at a time would fully justify the course which the Government have adopted. Now, although according to the almost universal opinion of Reformers, many important things will remain to be done after this bill has been passed—though we are, I dare say, as sincerely desirous as the noble mover of the amendment that family and pocket boroughs should be extinguished and that the excessive political influence of a few noble and opulent families should be reduced—though in our desire to make it more difficult for wealthy men to buy their way into the House of Commons or to shut the doors of the House against poorer men by their lavish and strictly legal expenditure, I am bold to say that we do not yield to the wealthiest man present—though we are perfectly orthodox on these cardinal points of Conservatism1
quick about it—they concealed their presence so successfully—their votes made such an imperceptible difference—they had all this power of endangering our institutions and so obstinately persisted in not doing it—that honourable gentlemen are quite alarmed, and tremble at the thought of the frightful abyss into which we have not fallen. Well, Sir, it certainly appears that this amount of enfranchisement of the working people has done no harm: but though very useful in many other respects, as a representation of the classes is worth nothing at all: for it makes no difference what absolute number of voters a class has if it is always outvoted. If the working classes mustered 26 per cent in every constituency in the kingdom and no more than that proportion in any, it would be the same thing in a class point of view as not being represented at all. If indeed the mechanism of our electoral system provided any representation of minorities—if those who are outvoted in one place could join their votes with those who are outvoted in another—if any means existed by which 26 per cent of the electors could succeed in returning 26 per cent of the representatives—then indeed the arguments against which I am contending would have a claim to be considered. But as it is, the share of the working classes in the representation is not measured by the number of working men on the register, but by the number of constituencies in which working men are the majority, and even that only shews the extreme limit of the influence which the working men can exercise, not that which they will. It seems there are some half dozen constituencies in which working men are already the majority, and I put it to honourable gentlemen, would anybody ever have suspected it? At the head of these constituencies is Coventry: are the members for Coventry usually very zealous champions of working class ideas? It certainly has been remarked that these gentlemen whatever may be their politics otherwise, usually vote quite correctly on the subject of French ribbons; and as that kind of merit comes most naturally to Conservatives the members for Coventry are often Conservative. But I have not heard that any of them ever proposed a tax on power looms or anything else which might be supposed to promote the class interest of his constituents as working men, apart from their employers. If we look at any of the places where working men possess a considerable number of votes, what manner of men are the candidates for whom those votes are given? Almost always great employers of labour: aI admit that the high character and enlightened opinions of the gentlemen chosen fully justifies the choice buta so far from representing the class interests of working men, they are drawn from the very class between whose immediate or apparent interest and that of working men the principal collisions take place. Considering the innumerable modes of influence to which voters are subject, I cannot but think that even if this bill so far altered the constituency that the working classes by mustering the whole of their strength, had the power of returning by small majorities 200 of the 650 members of this house, there would not be fifty of that number who would represent the feelings and opinions of the working classes or would possess their special confidence. For my own part I should not think the whole 200 too many on the principle of class representation. Even if they were unanimous there would be more than two to one against them when they were wrong: they could never carry any working class object unless they were supported constantly [?] at least by 130 representatives of other classes, and when they obtained this support there would, I think, be a very strong presumption of their being in the right.
It has been asked—and the person who has asked it with greatest emphasis is my right honourable friend the member for Calne—what practical good do we expect from lowering the franchise? What good measures are there which cannot be carried in the present House but which we expect to be able to carry in the Reformed one? Well, Sir, this is a reasonable question, and Reformers ought to be able to answer it; but it is a little unreasonable to expect that it should be answered to the satisfaction of this House. If I understand my right honourable friend correctly, he thinks we ought to come to the House with a catalogue of complaints against itself of wrong things which the House does and ought to be prevented from doing, and good things which it leaves undone, and ought to be compelled to do, and when convinced by our arguments, the House pleads guilty and cries peccavi, then it will be time to bring in a Reform Bill. Sir, my right honourable friend says we ought not to proceed on a priori reasoning but should be practical; I want to know whether this is his idea of being practical. Why, Sir, what he calls a priori reasoning, but which I call the rational probabilities of the case, are the only ground on which this matter can possibly be debated: for if ever we descend to particulars, and point out this or that in the conduct of the House which we should like to see altered, we imply what may be a good argument elsewhere but cannot possibly appear so to the House, for the very reason the House do these things is that they do not think these things wrong; if they did, they would amend them: So that we could not possibly advance our cause by entering into particulars while we should stir up all the most irritating topics in the whole field of politics. Suppose for instance—and I purposely choose a small instance to give the less offence—suppose we were to say that if the working classes had been represented it would not have been found so easy as it has been for honourable gentlemen whose cattle are slaughtered for the public good to get compensation twice over, once by a rate and once by the rise of price? I use the case only for illustration; I lay no stress upon it; but I ask, if the debate on a Reform Bill ought to consist of a series of discussions on such subjects as this, and many others much more irritating still? I will ask one more question. If, when the Reform Bill of 1831 was introduced, its proposers had foretold—which they could not do, for they did not know it themselves—that in consequence of it we should abolish the corn laws—that we should abolish the navigation laws—that we should grant free trade to all foreign nations without reciprocity—that we should reduce the postage on inland letters to a penny—that we should renounce the exercise of any authority over our colonies—and various other things which have come to pass—do honourable gentlemen think that these announcements would have greatly inclined the Parliament of the time towards passing the bill?
Sir, all of us know well that we commit a thousand mistakes and hold a great number of erroneous opinions: but we do not know which of our opinions these are, for if we did, they would not be our opinions. Therefore every reflecting man takes precautions beforehand against his own errors without waiting to have the particular instances pointed out, and if he is a conscientious man as well, if there are things which from the character of his mind or his habits of life he is in danger of not perceiving, he is glad that there should be others who will. Now this is all that I ask honourable gentlemen to concede in the present case. What is the reason why we are so often told that classes should be represented? I apprehend, it is because every class knows some things which are not so well known by other people, and ought to have the opportunity of stating them; and because every class has peculiar interests which require to be protected, and no protection is so effectual as its own. These may be called a priori doctrines, but so is the doctrine that a straight line is the shortest distance between two points: they are as much truths of common sense and common observation as that is, and every person of common sense acts upon them as confidently. Well then, I claim the benefit of these principles for the working classes. They require it more than any other class, for reasons which are obvious. The class of lawyers, for instance, or the class of merchants, are amply represented in this House, although there are no constituencies a majority of which consists of lawyers or of merchants; but it must be remembered that a successful lawyer or merchant easily gets into Parliament by his wealth and social position, and when there is just as good a representative of lawyers and merchants as if he had been elected on purpose; but no working man is ever likely to be returned to Parliament except by a constituency of working men—and not only no working man, but no man who looks at working men’s questions with working men’s eyes. Is there, I wonder, a single member of this House who knows and could explain to the satisfaction of working men, the working men’s view of strikes, for instance? Are there many of us who so thoroughly understand the subject of apprenticeships, let us say, or of the hours of labour, as to have nothing to learn on the subject from intelligent operatives? I know that along with much valuable knowledge and many just ideas you would sometimes find pressed upon you erroneous opinions—mistaken notions of what is for the true interest of the working classes. And if those classes were preponderant in the House, attempts might possibly be made to carry some of those wrong notions into practice. But there is no question at present about making the working classes preponderant in the House: what is asked for them is such a measure of representation as shall ensure that their opinions may have a fair hearing, and may be met by fair arguments addressed to their own understanding, by persons who can enter into their manner of looking at questions and can adapt their arguments to it. This is never done now. When anything at all is said in this House on the questions which are near the hearts of the working men, all the doctrines which they require to be convinced of are taken for granted; or if any reasons are given, they are such as never reach their minds. In general, when people attempt to correct the errors of working people they do it as if they were speaking to babies—any reason is thought good enough. They are so little aware of what is in the mind of a working man that their answers are always wide of the mark. They never touch his real difficulties and merely give him a contemptuous opinion of those who use them. Do not suppose that working men would always be unconvincible by such arguments as ought to convince them. It is not one of the faults of democracy to be obstinate in error. An Englishman who had lived some years in the United States recently expressed his opinion of the Americans by this observation: he said “they are the most teachable people on the face of the earth.” It is not indeed to be expected that an old country should be as teachable as a new one, in which old traditions, and fixed habits have less power; but I believe neverthless, it will be found that the educated artisans, those at least who interest themselves in politics, are more teachable than any other class. There are several reasons why they should be so: for one thing, they are, as a rule, more in earnest than any other class; their opinions are more genuine, less influenced by hopes of personal advancement; and their social position is not such as to breed self-conceit. Above all, there is one thing to which I believe almost every one will testify who has had much to do with them and it is a point of which my own experience supplies very striking examples: there is no class which so well bears to be told of its faults, and to be told even in harsh terms, if they believe that the person who so speaks to them speaks what he thinks, and has no purpose of his own to promote by it. I can hardly conceive a nobler course of national education than the debates of this House will become, when the various notions, right and wrong, which are fermenting in the minds of the working classes, and many of which go down very deep into the principles of the social union, are fairly argued and genuinely discussed in this place. It has been remarked of all classes of persons with what comparative readiness they resign themselves even to the refusal of what they ask, when everything which they could have said for themselves has been said by somebody for them in the course of the discussion. The working classes have never had this tranquillizing assurance—they have always felt that they were judged without being listened to—and it is not in human nature to bear this without deep dissatisfaction.
If I may now be permitted to say, in general terms avoiding all topics that can give offence, in what respect I think the proceedings of this House would be practically improved by the presence in it of a body of persons representing the opinions and wishes of working men, I may refer honourable gentlemen to Tocqueville who is so favourite an authority in our political discussions when2
Manuscript Draft of Women’s Suffrage  (1869)
MS, Mill-Taylor Collection, Vol. XLI, full draft of No. 144.
the first thing which presents itself for us men who have joined this Society—a Society instituted by ladies to procure the protection of the suffrage for women—is to congratulate them on the success of this their first effort in political organisation. The admission of women to the suffrage is now a practical question. What was, not very long ago, a mere protest in behalf of abstract right, has grown into a definite practical aim, seriously pursued by many thousands of active adherents. No sooner did a few ladies of talent and influence, fostered in those principles of justice and believing in those elements of progress which are now renewing the life of every country in the world—no sooner, I say, did a few of these ladies give the signal that the time was come to claim for women a share in those blessings of freedom which are the passion and the glory of every noble nation—than there rallied round them unexpected thousands of women, eager to find expression for aspirations and wishes which we now learn that multitudes of our country women had long cherished in silence. The thousands who have signed the petitions for women’s suffrage, year after year, are evidence that I do not exaggerate when I say this. For my own part, I have all my life held the opinion that women have the same right to the suffrage which men have; and it has been my good fortune to know many ladies much better fitted to exercise it than the majority of the men of my acquaintance. I may say too, to the credit of my own perspicacity, that I have long been of opinion that the disclaimers of all wish for political or any other equality with men, which until quite lately have been almost universal among women, were but a form of that graceful and amiable way of making a virtue of necessity, which always distinguishes women. Nevertheless, I must acknowledge, I did not expect the amount of sympathy, and of more than sympathy—of ardent and zealous support—which this movement has called forth among women and among men also of all opinions and parties. We have had a success, quite out of proportion to our apparent means, and which would be unaccountable were it not for certain potent allies that have been working for us.
The first of these precious auxiliaries is the sense of justice. When not stifled by custom or prejudice, the natural feeling of justice is on our side. We are fighting against privilege on one side, disabilities and disqualifications on the other. We are protesting against arbitrary preferences; against making favorites of some, and shutting the door against others. We are claiming equal chances, equal opportunities, equal means of self-protection, for both halves of mankind. That political suffrage which men are everywhere demanding for themselves as the sole means by which their other rights can be secured to them, we, for the same reason, and in the name of the same principles, demand for women too. We therefore take our stand on natural justice; and to appeal to that, is to invoke a mighty power.
The other auxiliary which is working for us, with ever increasing strength, is the progress of the age; what may be called the modern spirit. All the tendencies which are the boast of the time; all those which are the characteristic features and animating principles of modern improvement—are on our side. There is, first, the growing ascendancy of moral force over physical; of social influences over brute strength; of the idea of right over the law of might. Then, there is the philanthropic spirit; that which seeks to raise the weak, the lowly, the oppressed. There is the democratic spirit; the disposition to extend political rights, and to consider any portion of the community as insufficiently cared for unless it has a voice in choosing those by whom the laws are made and administered. There is the free trade spirit; the desire to take off restrictions; to break down barriers; to set people free to make their own circumstances, instead of chaining them down by law or custom to circumstances made for them. Then there is the force of that which, to the shame of past history, I am obliged to call the new conception of human improvement and happiness; that they do not consist in being passively ministered to, but in active self-development. And over and above these specific practical forces at work in society, we have on our side one of the strongest and best modern characteristics—not pointing, as those do, to a particular course of outward action, but consisting in a general disposition of our own minds: the habit of estimating human beings by their intrinsic worth; by what they are, and by what they do; not by what they are born to, or by the place in which accident or the law has classed them. Those who are fully penetrated with this spirit, cannot help feeling rich and poor, women and men, to be equals before the State, as, from the time of the Christian era they have been proclaimed equal in the sight of God. And this feeling is giving us powerful aid in our attempt to convert that Christian ideal into a human reality.
To shew how unequivocally and emphatically the spirit of the age is on our side, we need only consider the various social improvements which are in course of being attempted, or which the age has fully made up its mind to attempt. There is not one of those improvements which would not help the enfranchisement of women; and there is not one of them which the enfranchisement of women would not help. There is not one of them which can be even tolerably realized unless women, with their moral and intellectual capabilities properly developed, are associated in the work. From the time when society takes upon itself the duties required of it by the present state of civilization, it cannot do without the intelligent cooperation of women: and the pedantic nonsense we now hear about the sphere of women will be felt to be merely ridiculous when pleaded as an excuse for excluding women from the minor matters of politics, when their assistance cannot be dispensed with in the most arduous.
Look at education, for instance: that is almost the one great cry of the day. Statesmen, scholars, public writers, all join in it: great and small, rich and poor, Tories, Whigs, and Radicals, the higher, the middle, and the working classes with one voice declare that the country cannot do without a good system of national education—descending to the very bottom of society, and, allow me to add, ascending also to the top. The best people have been saying this for generations; but the political changes recently made, and the prospect we have of more, have made the necessity manifest to all. Now, then, we ask of rich and poor, Tories, Whigs and Radicals: Are you going to educate a nation without women? Let alone the equal right of women to a share in the benefit; I ask, can it be given to the rest of us without their active help? When once we set about really teaching the children of all classes of the community—it will not be like the merely nominal teaching they mostly now receive—we shall need a vastly greater number of schoolmasters than we can afford to pay if we reject the assistance of half, indeed of much more than half, the available strength. Women are the acknowledged best teachers of young children; and numbers of them are eager both as volunteers and as professionals, to put their hand to the work. The only hindrance to their being equally capable instructors of more advanced pupils, is that they cannot teach what they have not been allowed to learn. They will have to be taught all the more valuable branches of knowledge if only that they may teach them to others. In the country in which there is the widest diffusion of popular instruction, the Northern States of America, a large majority of the teachers are already women; and that, by no means exclusively in the elementary schools: and they are found to be particularly efficient teachers of male pupils. Is it likely, then, that when women find themselves, side by side with the men of the present, teaching and training the men of the future, they will believe in any right of their pupils to political superiority over them? Will they feel themselves less worthy of a vote, think you, or less entitled to it, than the men whom they themselves have taught how to use their votes? And I should like to see the face of the man, so taught, who would stand up and refuse it to them.
Let us turn next to the management of the poor: and by the poor, I mean the recipients of public relief; the pauper population. That formidable difficulty weighs on the spirits of all our thinkers, and of all conscientious public administrators: and the more they think, the more they seem overwhelmed with its arduousness. I venture to predict that this great national, and more than national, this human concern will never be successfully treated until women take their share, and perhaps the leading share in the management of it. A wide experience has taught to thoughtful men, that the only true principle of a poor law is to give relief (unless of a very temporary nature) to adults, nowhere but in public establishments—in workhouses, and, for those who need them, hospitals: and this method has been tried: but the workhouses and the workhouse hospitals have been so execrably managed; the pillage has been so profligate, and the unhappy inmates have been so brutally neglected and ill-used; that the system has broken down, and public feeling shrinks from enforcing it. If this is ever remedied, it will be when pauper establishments are looked after by capable women. As mere visitors, it is to them we in great part owe the discovery of the enormities by which the public have been sickened, and which has escaped the watchfulness of men expressly selected for their fitness to be inspectors of poorhouses. The fittest person to manage a workhouse is the person who knows best how to manage a house. A woman who has learnt to govern her own servants, will know how to do the same thing with workhouse servants. Very few are the male guardians and inspectors sufficiently conversant with details, to be competent to check the dishonesty, to stimulate the zeal, and to overcome the indolence of all those concerned in administering to the wants of any large agglomeration of human beings. Every experienced traveller knows that there are few comfortable inns when there is no hostess. And the gigantic peculations of the commissariats of armies, joined to the dreadful sufferings of the wounded soldiers from the insufficiency of the medical and nursing staffs, all bear testimony to the fact that men do not possess the heaven-born faculty which they arrogate to themselves for doing well on a large scale what they disdain to serve an apprenticeship to doing on a small scale. If home is the natural sphere of women—and I am by no means called upon to contest the assertion—those branches of politics which require faculties that can only be learnt at home, are the natural sphere of women too. But there are great spheres, and little spheres: and some people want women to be always content with the little spheres. I don’t.
In the same manner, in all that concerns the details of the public expenditure: what superintendence and control is comparable to that of an experienced mother of a family, who knows, or has learnt to find out, what things ought to cost, and whose daily business it has been to discover and check malversation and waste in every department of a large household? Few men have had much of this kind of practice; multitudes of women have had it. If we are to meet the demand of the age for a government at once cheap and efficient, which shall cost little, but shall give us all that we ought to have for the money, the most vigilant and capable agents for making the money go as far as it can, would generally be found among women.
One important public function, at least, has devolved on women from the commencement: the nursing of the sick is a privilege which men have seldom denied to women. The nursing of the sick in most public establishments is from the necessity of the case, mainly performed by women: and it is now understood, that they ought to be educated women. No ignorant person can be a good nurse: a nurse requires to know enough of the laws of health and the treatment of disease, to be at least able to observe sanitary rules, and to understand the meaning of symptoms: and much more than this will be required when the prevention and cure of disease become a branch of public administration; a result towards which things are rapidly tending. There are many difficulties in dealing with the poor: many hindrances, both moral and economical, to doing for them all that most of us would wish to do. One thing, however, the nation appears to have fully made up its mind that it will not grudge them: and that is, the use of their health. In this one respect it is felt that the poor law instead of doing too much, does not do nearly enough: the medical staff of our Unions is wretchedly underpaid, and nothing near so numerous as it ought to be. And how is it to be made efficient; how are the localities to afford the expense of providing a sufficient number of persons with the requisite qualifications—if we persist in shutting the door upon those women who are claiming from us medical education in order that they may be fit for such duties as these? Until the medical profession is opened to women there never will be an adequate supply of educated medical practitioners for any but the rich. And, independently of regular practitioners, there are numbers of women who from their domestic occupations, cannot give their whole time, but who would willingly give part of it, either as volunteers or at a small remuneration, for work which would be too costly if paid for at the value of the time of a medical man in good private practice. But when women are entrusted with functions like these, and educated for them, will they be content to be excluded from the common privileges of citizenship? and how long will it be possible to exclude them?
Society is feeling every day more and more, that the services of women are needed for other uses than “to suckle fools and chronicle small beer.” Many are now saying that they ought to be better educated, in order that they may be able to educate men: and truly, if they are to educate men, the education of a well educated man cannot well be denied to them. But these very moderate reformers are falling into the same mistake about women, which was committed about the working classes. People were willing to educate the working men, but expected them, after being educated, to be content with the same treatment which they met with before. They would be quite happy, it was thought, when their improved faculties qualified them to be more useful servants, and would never think of claiming their share of mastership, nor a voice in the choosing of masters. It has not so turned out with the working classes; nor will it so turn out with women. Those who are fit to train men for their work, will think themselves fit to take a share in the work, or, at the lowest, in choosing those who are to direct it. The higher education of women, and their political emancipation, are sure to go forward together.
We are safe, then, in affirming that our cause has a powerful backing; since it has for its allies the great forces which are at work everywhere striving to improve the world. Our success would greatly strengthen all those forces: and they, by their increasing strength, tend to accelerate our success: illustrating the truth, that improvements aid one another; that all good causes are allied; that whoever helps forward one great public object proves in the end to have promoted many more. In the full assurance that it will be so with us, our business is to go on doing what, as a Society, we have hitherto done; to strive for the suffrage, and for the suffrage only. The suffrage, while it is the road to other progress, commits no one as to what other things progress consists in. Let us gain that, and whatever is desirable for women will ultimately follow, without its being necessary at present to define, or even possibly to foresee, all that is desirable. The mere fact of claiming the suffrage has given an impulse such as had never been given before, to all proposals for doing away with any injustice to women. Since the suffrage has been claimed, a bill for allowing married women to be the owners of their own property, which had been laid on the shelf for ten years with other uninteresting trifles, has been reintroduced into Parliament with a good prospect of success: and the movement for the higher education of women is spreading in all directions, with a considerable diversity of means insomuch that women have now a chance of obtaining a really good education almost as soon as men. We of this Society shall best promote these important movements by taking no part in them as a Society, whatever any of us may think it ought to do as individuals; but pressing forward with all our strength what virtually includes them all, the suffrage. With that, we shall in time obtain what is needed, whatever that may be; but until the suffrage is obtained, we have gained nothing which may not be resumed any day at the caprice of our rulers. In these times, the great practical distinction—the line of demarcation between those who can protect themselves and those who are at the mercy of others—is the political franchise: all who have rights to protect now look to that as the only effectual means for their protection. Even in America it was found that to abolish Slavery was not enough: the negroes were not really free until they had the suffrage: representative assemblies in the election of which they had no voice, inflicted or tolerated treatment which would speedily have brought them back to a servitude almost worse than their previous state. In a political age, such as this is, women will never be of equal account with men, will never be felt to be entitled to equal consideration, so long as men have votes and women have not. The wider extension of the suffrage to others, so long as women are excluded from it, is a positive injury to them, for it is rapidly making them the only excluded class—the only people whom the law does not deem worthy of a voice in choosing their rulers, or whom it does not sufficiently care for to extend to them that protection. The suffrage is the turning point of women’s cause; that alone would ensure them an equal hearing and fair play. With it they cannot long be refused any just right, or excluded from any fair advantage: without it, their interests and feelings will always be a minor consideration, and it will be thought of little consequence how much their sphere is circumscribed, or how many modes of using their faculties are denied to them. Let us, then, continue to concentrate all our efforts on the suffrage; inviting all who wish for the higher education of women, all who desire justice to them, in the matter of property and earnings, all who wish for their admission to professions and careers now closed to them, to aid us in our enterprise as the surest means of accelerating the particular improvement in which they feel a special interest.
Manuscript Draft of The Education Bill  (1870)
MS, Houghton Library, Harvard University, Autograph file A.MS.*49M-85, full draft of No. 145.
the resolution which has been moved, relates to a defect which as the Bill was originally framed, was its greatest blot: and even after the large concessions—for they are large concessions—which we may now consider to have been made by the Government, enough of evil is left to call for a strong protest. Though there are many things in the Bill which we wish altered, its other defects are of the nature of shortcomings: what is done we approve, but we wish it were done more thoroughly: the difference between what the Bill gives, and what we desire, is the difference between good and better: but on the point now before us, it is the difference between good and bad. The Bill does not simply halt and hang back in the path of good: it does positive evil; it introduces a new religious inequality. And even the promised attenuations leave a great part of the evil untouched, for they leave the whole of its principle. Teachers are still to be employed and paid by the whole community to teach the religion of a part. True, this is now to be done out of school hours; and I would by no means depreciate the value of this concession. I should be glad to forget as soon as possible what the Bill would have been without it. Though brought in by a government which has gained such high distinction as the destroyer of religious inequality in Ireland, a more effectual scheme could scarcely have been devised by the greatest champion of ecclesiastical ascendancy for enabling the clergy of the Church of England to educate the children of the greater part of England and Wales in their own religion at the expense of the public. Hitherto instruction has only been given to those who asked for it, but we are now going (at least we hope so) to teach every child: and the Bill gave up to the local bodies, which in the rural districts means the squire and the parson, all the neglected children—the children of all who care little about religion, of all who are dependent, all who are under obligations for charitable offices, all who are too timid to risk displeasing their superiors by sending in a solemn refusal in writing to do what they are wanted to do and because the Non Conformists would not stand this, they were told—though, I will do the Government the justice to say, not by them—that their motive could not be religious or political principle but could only be unworthy sectarian jealousy. By the promised concessions this blot is in great part—I wish I could even now say entirely—taken out of the Bill. But the principle remains of teaching the religion of a part with funds levied by taxation from the whole; and a measure infected by this bad principle cannot give satisfaction to any persons but of the dominant creed, nor to impartial persons of any creed.
We may be told, indeed, that Dissenters may teach their own doctrines if they please, and in the School buildings too. They may, if after deducting the school hours and the extra hours for church teaching, sufficient time remains. But they must pay the whole expense and their share of the cost of the Church teaching besides. We are told, again, that in places where the Dissenters are the strongest, it will be they and not the church that are enabled to teach their own doctrines at other people’s expense; as if an injustice in one place could be cured by an injustice in another. But this permission to tyrannize in their turn wherever they are strong enough, the Dissenters are so extremely unreasonable as not to value. It is well known that they do not desire their distinctive doctrines to be taught in schools, indeed there are few places probably where any single denomination is sufficiently numerous to make this practicable. The system deliberately chosen by the Dissenters is that of the British schools, where religious teaching is limited to reading the Bible without note or comment. Besides, we all know that the practical strength of the Dissenters is in the large towns, and districts similar to towns: if they happen to be in a majority anywhere else, we see by the example of Wales how little it avails them. But in the large towns, even where the Dissenters are the strongest, the Church party is sure to be strong enough to reduce them to a compromise, and make the Boards either subsidize existing Church schools, or if they use the power given them by the Bill of founding others, to found a Church school by the side of every unsectarian one. So that the church party will not probably, in a single instance, be in that position of victims, which it is supposed ought to be such a consolation to the Dissenters for being victims in three fourths of the Kingdom.
Another thing we are told: that what we complain of as a new grievance, exists already: by the national grants in aid to denominational schools, we are all of us taxed for teaching religions not our own. Well: there are some of us perhaps who might have a good deal to say against this too, as a permanent institution, and who live in hope of its ultimate absorption into something of which they can more thoroughly approve. But we are not going now to begin this system: it exists: When it was first established nothing better could have been obtained: and it still does good, though we may learn, if we do not know it, from Mr. Mundella’s speech, how sadly the result falls short of the claims made for it. But we do not desire to destroy what we have got until we have replaced it by something better. The worst point in the system, the bigotted refusal of grants in aid to secular schools, is to be abandoned: and the Bill provides that if the Boards, instead of providing new schools, elect to subsidize the old, they shall subsidize all denominations impartially—secular schools, I hope, included. For this the framers of the Bill deserve our cordial thanks; but it is puzzling to find such opposite principles acted on in two different parts of the same Bill, and such different measures meted out to the old schools and the new. It looks like a compromise between two parties in the Government, on the plan of giving something to each: the sort of thing, in short, which makes our legislation the jumble of inconsistencies that it is.
Some have the face to tell us that the ratepayer after all is not taxed for the religious instruction: the rate is so limited by the Bill that he will really pay only for the secular teaching. Indeed! then who does pay for the religious teaching? Do the Church party mean to raise the money by a voluntary subscription? The Times, of Monday, throws out such a suggestion: if one could hope that it would be adopted, I should not have another word to say; except that since, after Mr. Gladstone’s concessions, the religious is no longer to be mixed up with the secular teaching, it may as well be given by a different person altogether, when the impartiality would be complete. But if the expense is not defrayed by subscription, it must be paid by the Privy Council, that is to say by the tax payer: and do not Dissenters pay taxes? Is there any conscience clause against the tax gatherer?
There is one more thing said which might well amaze any one but those who are past being astonished at any of the tricks which can be played with words. We are told that in our care for the conscience of the minority we violate that of the majority, who conscientiously disapprove of schools in which religion is not taught. Now, if what their conscience objects to is sending their own children to such schools, there is no compulsion; they can found schools of their own. It is necessary to say this; for the principal speakers in support of the Bill do not seem to be aware of it; they appear never to have heard of such an idea; they accuse us of expelling religion from the schools, aas if there were no schools to be had but those paid for from the rates;a as if we were attempting to propose to prohibit all schools except secular ones, or to throw some great obstacle in their way: while all we demand is, that those who make use of the religious teaching should pay for it themselves instead of taxing others to do it. So that the conscientious scruple which we are accused of violating, is not a scruple against going without the religious instruction but against paying for it, and their conscience requires them to get it paid for by other people. Is not this a curious spectacle of the richest and most powerful part of the nation, who with two thirds of their expenses sure to be paid by the Privy Council and the School rate, cannot bear to do what the smallest denomination of Dissenters cheerfully does: pay their own religious teachers? But is not this exactly because they are the rich and powerful? It is not the poor and the weak who dream of throwing their personal pecuniary obligations upon the public. It is a privilege only desired by those who do not need it but who think it their right, because they have always had the power of exacting it.
It appears however some of these people have a conscience so extremely delicate that it is wounded not if their own children, but if any other people’s children attend a school in which religion is not taught. The very existence of a secular school within the country at least with aid from the State is a burden on their consciences as the very existence of heretics was on the conscience of the Grand Inquisitor. And we, because we decline to defer to this remarkable conscientious scruple, disregard the rights of conscience. But the rights of conscience do not extend to imposing one’s conscience as a rule upon other people. I dare say we should be told, if it was any one’s interest to do it, that we are no lovers of liberty because we will not allow a king to take the liberty of hanging or guillotining people at his pleasure. But the liberty we stand up for is the equal liberty of all, not the greatest possible liberty of one and slavery of all the rest. There ought to be room in the world for more than one man’s liberty; and there ought to be room in the world for more than one conscience. Let all parties have what religious teaching their conscience approves and they are willing to pay for. But when a man tells me his conscience requires that other people shall have religious teaching whether they like it or not, and shall have it in schools though they would prefer to have it elsewhere, and that they shall not be helped like other people in their secular teaching unless they consent to take religious teaching along with it, I tell him that he is not asserting his own freedom of conscience, but trampling on that of other people. If this is a right of conscience, it was prejudice and bigotry to complain of the persecutions of the Vaudois or of the Protestants. The case is less flagrant, but the principle is the same.
[1 ]Here a page of manuscript is missing.
[a-a][written on verso of previous folio; marked for insertion at this point]
[2 ]The manuscript ends here.
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