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towards securing this end. Their course has not escaped criticism and misinterpretation. Those critics who are of democratic mind have charged them with displaying a narrow and illiberal spirit. They have pointed out that in concentrating upon the demand for sex-equality and disregarding the present franchise conditions, the Suffragists have ignored the existence of voteless men, and have pledged their support to a measure that would enfranchise immediately only a comparatively small number of women. But both these charges are based upon grounds of expediency which have only a superficial value. There are certainly some few men who are not voters. This cannot be denied. But the position of the voteless man differs fundamentally from that of the sex-barred woman. He is denied the right to vote because he is not qualified according to existing law; she, in spite of being so qualified ! The man's inability to pay taxes or to fulfil certain other qualifications of the law prevents him from being a voter ; the woman pays the taxes, fulfils the conditions, and is denied her vote. His votelessness is generally temporary; hers is lifelong. The exclusion of the man does not brand him as of an inferior sex, and does not, therefore, affect so injuriously his other activities in life. In addition to this, both his sex and his class are represented in the making of laws. There is thus no real analogy between the positions occupied by the unqualified man and the qualified but excluded woman. A man's right to vote when qualified is already secured. To bring it within the reach of every man, our anomalous system of registration merely requires to be simplified. But the woman's right is denied. Before any system of registration can benefit her, a specific judicial disqualification must be reversed by a special Act of Parliament.
Upon the second charge brought against the attitude of Women Suffragists is based a plausible appeal to women to agitate for a wider franchise basis. Because of the lower economic position of women and of their dependence, or partial dependence, upon men, they would benefit under the existing franchise much less than men do. A much smaller number of them would satisfy the requirements of existing law. There are seven-and-a-half millions of men voters ; sex-equality established now would place on the register only two millions of women, at the highest estimate. Upon this ground women are asked to throw themselves into the struggle for registration reform or adult suffrage; or to demand, not equal voting rights, but some preferential franchise which would increase the number of the new electorate. The latter course must be condemned at once as both impracticable and dangerous. A preferential franchise of the sort suggested would be based upon favour, and, therefore, not desirable, and
if it were desirable, there is very little likelihood of it ever passing through the British legislature. The conditions of voting at any given time are of secondary importance to those who may not vote at all. They may be good conditions, or they may be bad. But the one who is arbitrarily excluded, whatever the conditions, has no power to alter them. The first thing for such an one to do is to remove the excluding bar. This is the position of women -of all women. They are shut out and declared unfit for political freedom because of their sex. Only when the sex-bar is gone can they come within the pale and enjoy the use of the vote and also the power to determine the conditions upon which it shall be used. So, while it is regrettable that the number of women who would be enfranchised by a measure establishing equal voting rights would number less than one-third of the present male electorate, the remedy does not lie in abandoning the demand for that measure. For, however small may be the immediate practical result of its passing, it would establish for all time the right of women to vote on the same terms as men. This being established, the extension of the right would accompany step by step the extension of the voting right of men.
Undoubtedly the establishment of equal voting rights between men and women will remove the greater of the two obstacles that block the way to Adult Suffrage. The other obstacle, the registrative anomalies, which are rather a series of hindrances to the free use of an existing right than denials of it, is much less important. From every point of view this conclusion is justified. The sex-bar excludes from citizenship one-half of the population-a whole sex--and injuriously affects many of the other half. It is therefore greater in effect. It is bolstered up by far greater ignorance and prejudice than any other existing injustice. To remove it will therefore be a greater achievement. Those who suffer under it are entirely without control of the machinery by which alone it can be remedied. The organisation of a movement so handicapped will require greater effort and time than one that has votes behind it. Because of its greater importance, democrats, who regard the privileges of birth as obnoxious and illogical, must find the sex-bar at least as objectionable as the money basis, and the contradictory administration, of the present franchise rights of men.
The simple measure of Manhood Suffrage," spoken of by certain Liberal politicians as the final goal of franchise reform, cannot satisfy the pledged supporters of national self-government, for all the units of the nation are not men. A Pseudo-Democracy continuing the aristocracy of sex, would redress only a series of trifling grievances, and leave half the nation in political serfdom. So that those whose democracy
is more than political expediency or selfish sentiment must welcome as the most important step towards their goal the removal of the sex-disability.
It would appear that this was recognised in the past, for the policy of the Suffrage Societies was not questioned on the ground of democracy until recent years. Only since the movement has assumed greater proportions, reached the working women, and been re-inspired by rebellious protests, has criticism on this point been at all considerable. As the number of politicians who dare present the old sex-biased arguments against women voting has decreased-because of the public exposure of the absurdity of their assertions—the number of those who oppose the immediate enfranchisement of women as alleged democrats has increased. These opponents—both Liberal and Socialist-take up the position that the sex-bar is no more important than the anomalies of qualification affecting the male electorate, and demand that a clean sweep of all these disabilities shall be made at the same time. Some few of the opponents, more uncompromising than the rest, desire to reform by one comprehensive measure the whole system of government. They hope to abolish the House of Lords and Plural Voting, to secure re-distribution, the second ballot, payment of members, and universal adult suffrage by one omnibus legislative act. Women are asked to risk their chances of political existence on such a measure. The folly of this recommendation needs no comment. Such a course has no precedent that has not ended in smoke or disaster. So far as women are concerned, they have never benefited even for a time from such wholesale revolutionary reconstructions of government as the world has witnessed in past generations.
In contradistinction to this advocacy of wholesale revolution, the promotion of an Adult Suffrage measure is put forward as a practical solution of the problem of representation for both men and women. Of late it has become suspiciously popular among Members of Parliament who were previously remarkable only for their neglect of the general question of franchise reform, and who, if they were not opponents of Women's Enfranchisement, belonged to that silent and inactive body of indifferentists who have strangely enough been designated as “ Women's Suffrage Supporters"!
Within the House of Commons during the life of this Parliament-and without-the speeches of such men have been marked by a sudden enthusiasm for a wider franchise. They have declared themselves not only supporters of women's suffrage, but as especially supporters of the suffrage for working women. In some cases they have waxed eloquent on the evil conditions under
which women live and work, and have assumed a chivalrous pose calculated to make their unthinking listeners forget that if their chivalry had any foundation, it would have been put into practice so long ago as to have prevented women from falling into their present straits. Some of those who have adopted the new rôle are undoubtedly sincere. Their earlier neglect of the needs and claims of women can be explained by the fact that they are superficial thinkers; and their present attitude, by their ignorance of the real issues at stake and by their unfortunate tendency towards judging all things from the point of view of expediency. But, putting aside this section of the opposing democrats, the cry for a more democratic franchise is certainly being used to block the granting of equal voting rights. The late Premier gave his followers a lead in this direction in the early part of the session of 1907 when the Bill to establish sex-equality was introduced for second reading. He announced his acceptance of the principle of Women's Suffrage, and then proceeded to condemn the measure before the House, because, he asserted, it would not give votes to working women. He quoted no figures to prove this statement - he merely made it. How working women were ever to get votes unless their right to vote was first established he did not attempt to explain. Relying upon the ignorance of the masses of the people, whom possibly they hope to flatter, his supporters have followed the lead given, and have taken up a position that is neither honest nor practicable. In the eyes of women, it appears, indeed, that they-as opponents of sex-equality, but advocates of an extended female franchise--are not scrupling to use this position against the interests of the cause they profess to serve. These suspicions have been more recently confirmed by the reply given to the deputation of Liberal members of Parliament that waited upon Mr. Asquith on May 20th of this year. In this reply the present Prime Minister refused to pledge his Government to equalise the franchise as between men and women, and used the arguments of democracy to put back the women's suffrage claim.
But, disregarding entirely these suspicious circumstances, an examination of the course advised shows that it is neither sound, safe, nor expedient for women. At present the woman's demand for the right to vote is recognised by the public as a special issue apart from all other franchise questions. As such, it is being forced steadily to the front. The politician, whether willing or not, has to acknowledge the Suffrage movement as the expression of the woman's demand for political liberty. The injury women suffer through their exclusion from citizen rights is protested against by every section of the societies organised to demand these
rights, apart from any existing or future theories of government. The present policy provides a basis of principle upon which all Suffragists can unite, and is therefore to be recommended. It makes clear that women want votes, and that they demand them on terms of strict equality. But if women were to adopt the policy suggested by the Adult Suffragists, they would immediately introduce new issues, new principles, and new interests. Instead of one simple demand for equal voting rights-a woman's claim for human recognition—they would come before the public as advocates of a measure of universal Adult Suffrage, and thus leave the issue of sex-equality entirely obscured. Sex-equality would be but a part of the whole, and would naturally lose its primary importance. This would be the effect in any case, but in the special circumstances of this case the effect would be overwhelming. Men who have some votes, and women who have none, would be jointly claiming votes for all men and all women. All the weight of the political power of the enfranchised men and the status of unenfranchised men who are potential citizens would strengthen the demand from their side, and the women's demand would be endangered in consequence. For behind the women there would be no votes, and women would be asking more than men. To satisfy their demand, Parliament would have first to institute a right, and then to admit all the adult women of the country to the exercise of it. This, Parliament would not do. So that, both because of their weakness and of their greater needs, the women would be sacrificed inevitably.
This danger of joining hands with the Adult Suffragists is indicated by the facility with which a claim for universal suffrage is translated in current speech and practice into merely Manhood Suffrage. The conclusion that this would be the result in Britain is confirmed by further examination. Against the woman's claim for sex-equality there can be only one section of absolute opponents—those who oppose, openly or covertly, women's right to vote on any terms. To all other sections of politicians the claim makes some appeal. It unites Conservative, Liberal, and Labour representatives, for the principle on which it is based is wider than Party ties or class prejudices. But against an Adult Suffrage measure, promoted to enfranchise all women, as well as the now voteless men, there would be many sections of opponents. There would be immediate cleavage in the ranks of Suffragists themselves. In the House of Commons and in the country, those who were opposed to women's enfranchisement on any terms would be reinforced by those who, while approving women's claims, object to the swamping of the male electorate in such wholesale fashion by untried women voters, by those who oppose any further