Against Women’s Suffrage

Robert Dabney Against Women’s Suffrage & the Suffragettes

What then, in the next place, will be the effect of this fundamental change when it shall be established? The obvious answer is, that it will destroy Christianity and civilization in America. Some who see the mischievousness of the movement express the hope that it will, even if nominally successful, be kept within narrow limits by the very force of its own absurdity. They “reckon without their host.” There is a Satanic ingenuity in these Radical measures which secures the infection of the reluctant dissentients as surely as of the hot advocates. The women now sensible and modest who heartily deprecate the whole folly, will be dragged into the vortex, with the assent of their now indignant husbands. The instruments of this deplorable result will be the (so‑called) conservative candidates for office. They will effect it by this plea, that ignorant, impudent, Radical women will vote, and vote wrong; whence it becomes a necessity for the modest and virtuous women, for their country’s sake, to sacrifice their repugnance and counterpoise these mischievous votes in the spirit of disinterested self-sacrifice. Now a woman can never resist an appeal to the principle of generous devotion; her glory is to crucify herself in the cause of duty and of zeal. This plea will be successful. But when the virtuous have once tasted the dangerous intoxication of political excitement and of power, even they will be absorbed; they will learn to do con amore what was first done as a painful duty, and all the baleful influences of political life will be diffused throughout the sex.

What those influences will be may be learned by every one who reverences the Christian Scriptures, from this fact, that the theory of “Women’s Rights” is sheer infidelity. It directly impugns the authority and the justice of these Scriptures. They speak in no uncertain tones. “The husband is the head of the wife” (Eph. v. 23). “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands, as to the Lord” (v. 22). “The man is not for the woman, but the woman for the man” (I. Cor. ii. 9). “Let the woman learn in silence, with all subjection: but I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence: for Adam was first formed, then Eve: and Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression” (I. Tim. 2: 11‑14). They are to be “discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands,” etc. (Titus ii. 5). How utterly opposed is all this to the levelling doctrine of your Radical. Women are here consigned to a social subordination, and expressly excluded from ruling offices, on grounds of their sex, and a divine ordination based by God upon a transaction which happened nearly six thousand years ago! The woman’s sphere is expressly assigned her within her home, and she is taught that the assumption of publicity is an outrage against that nature with which she is endowed. Now the politics which denounce all this as a natural injustice and self-evident folly cannot be expected to reverence these Scriptures; they must and will flout their whole authority. We must then make up our minds in accepting Women’s Rights to surrender our Bibles, and have an atheistic Government. And especially must we expect to have, presiding over every home and rearing every group of future citizens, that most abhorrent of all phenomena, an infidel woman; for of course that sex, having received the precious boon of their enfranchisement only by means of the overthrow of the Bible, must be foremost in trampling upon this their old oppressor and enemy. Its restoration to authority is necessarily their “re-enslavement,” to speak the language of their party.

Second: these new excitements and temptations will utterly corrupt the character and delicacy of American women. It is indignantly asked, “Why should politics corrupt the morals of women more than of the `lords of creation’?” Suppose now we reply: American politics have corrupted the morals of the men? Suppose we argue that the retort is so true and just and the result has actually gone to so deplorable an extent, that were the female side of our social organization as corrupt as the male side has already become, American society would crumble into ruin by its own putrescence? It is better to save half the fabric than to lose all. And especially is it better to save the purity of the mothers who are, under God, to form the characters of our future citizens, and of the wives who are to restrain and elevate them, whatever else we endanger. Is it argued that since women are now confessedly purer than men, their entrance into politics must tend to purify politics? We reply again that the women .of the present were reared and attained this comparative purity under the Bible system. Adopt the infidel plan, and we shall corrupt our women without purifying our politics. What shall save us then?

But there is another reply to this retort. Political excitements will corrupt women tenfold more than men; and this, not because women are naturally inferior to men, but because they are naturally adapted to a wholly different sphere. When we point to the fact that they are naturally more emotional and less calculating, more impulsive and less self-contained, that they have a quicker tact but less logic, that their social nature makes them more liable to the contagion of epidemic passions, and that the duties of their sex make it physically impossible for them to acquire the knowledge in a foreign sphere necessary for political duties, we do not depreciate woman; we only say that nature has adapted her to one thing and disqualified her for the other. The violet would wither in that full glare of midsummer in which the sunflower thrives: this does not argue that the violet is the meaner flower. The vine, left to stand alone, would be hurled prone in the mire by the first blasts of that history. In the case of the Amorites there was also this wise wind which strengthens the grasp of the sturdy oak upon its bed: still the oak may yield no fruit so precious as the cluster of the vine. But the vine cannot be an oak; it must be itself, dependent, clinging, but more precious than that on which it leans or it must perish. When anything, animate or inanimate, is used for a function to which it is not adapted, that foreign use must endamage it, and the more the farther that function is from its own sphere. So it will be found (and it is no disparagement to woman to say it) that the very traits which fit her to be the angel of a virtuous home unfit her to meet the agitations of political life, even as safely as does the more rugged man. The hot glare of publicity and .passion will speedily deflower her delicacy and sweetness. Those temptations, which her Maker did not form her to bear, will debauch her heart, developing a character as much more repulsive than that of the debauched man as the fall has been greater. The politicating woman, unsexed and denaturalized, shorn of the true glory of her femininity, will appear to men as a feeble hybrid mannikin, with all the defects and none of the strength of the male. Instead of being the dear object of his chivalrous affection, she becomes his importunate rival, despised without being feared.

This suggests a third consequence, which some of the advocates of the movement even already are bold enough to foreshadow. “Women’s Rights” ,mean the abolition of all permanent marriage ties. We are told that Mrs. Cady Stanton avowed this result, proclaiming it at the invitation of the Young Men’s Christian Association of New York. She holds that woman’s bondage is not truly dissolved until the marriage bond is annulled. She is thoroughly consistent. Some hoodwinked advocates of her revolution may be blind to the sequence; but it is inevitable. It must follow by this cause, if for no other. that the unsexed politicating woman can never inspire in man that true affection on which marriage should be founded. Men will doubtless be still sensual; but it is simply impossible that they can desire them for the pure and sacred sphere of the wife. Let every woman ask herself: will she choose for the lord of her affections an unsexed effeminate man? No more can man be drawn to the masculine woman. The mutual attraction of the two complementary halves is gone forever. The abolition of marriage would follow again by another cause. The divergent interests and the rival independence of the two equal wills would be irreconcilable with domestic government, or union, or peace. Shall the children of this monstrous no-union be held responsible to two variant co-ordinate and supreme wills at once? Heaven pity the children! Shall the two parties to this perpetual co-partnership have neither the power to secure the performance of the mutual duties nor to dissolve it? It is a self-contradiction, an impossible absurdity. Such a co-partnership of equals with independent interests must be separable at will, as all other such co-partnerships are. The only relation between the sexes which will remain will ,be a cohabitation continuing so long as the convenience or caprice of both parties may suggest; and this, with most, will amount to a vagrant concubinage.

And:

Indeed, as De Tocqueville predicted, innovations in the direction of extensions of suffrage will always be successful in America, because of the selfish timidity of her public men. It is the nature of ultra democracy to make all its politicians time servers; its natural spawn is the brood of narrow, truckling, cowardly worshippers of the vox populi, and of present expediency. Their polar star is always found in the answer to the question, “Which will be the more popular?” As soon as any agitation of this kind goes far enough to indicate a possibility of success, their resistance ends. Each of them begins to argue thus in his private mind: “The proposed revolution is of course preposterous, but it will be best for me to leave opposition to it to others. For if it succeeds, the newly enfranchised will not fail to remember the opponents of their claim at future elections, and to reward those who were their friends in the hour of need.” Again: it has now become a regular trick of American demagogues in power to manufacture new classes of voters to sustain them in office. It is presumed that the gratitude of the newly enfranchised will be sufficient to make them vote the ticket of their benefactors. But as gratitude is a very flimsy sort of fabric among Radicals, and soon worn threadbare, such a reliance only lasts a short time, and requires to be speedily replaced. The marvelous invention of negro suffrage (excogitated for this sole purpose) sufficed to give Radicalism a new four years lease of life; but the grateful allegiance of the freedmen to their pretended liberators. is waxing very thin; and hence the same expedient must be repeated, in the form of creating a few millions of female votes. The designing have an active, selfish motive for pushing the measure; but its opponents will without fail be paralyzed in their resistance by their wonted cowardice; so that success is sure.

~~Robert Lewis Dabney. Women’s Rights Women

(Please note that I am not a racist. I am a sexist. White men created civilizations in Europe, red men created them in the Americas, yellow men in the Orient, black men in Africa. Men everywhere have shown that they can build civilizations. Women have demonstrated that all they can do is destroy them.)

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