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were it not that it introduces us to a circumstance which is not only interesting, but amusing, altogether independently of the question at issue. It is well known that Luther was much more concerned about his own right to have a wife than he was about any extra rights a certain class of women might
' claim. And not only was John Knox no advocate of woman's rights when the two Marys were on the thrones of England and Scotland respectively; no speaker or writer of any age was more zealous and unwearied in his efforts to prove that women were utterly incapable of exercising the sovereign authority. In 1564 he preached in Edinburgh before Lord Darnley, the husband of the Queen of Scots, and boldly proclaimed to the people that " for their sins and ingratitude, in encouraging popery, God had set over them boys and women.” At the beginning of the reign of Philip and Mary, he published his " First Blast on the Trumphet against the monstrous Regiment of Women.” In this performance he maintained, with all the energy of which he was capable, that the rule of a woman was “repugnant to nature, a contumely to God, a thing most contrarious to his revealed will and approved ordinance, and, finally, the subversion of all equity and justice.” This seemed somewhat strange to those who remembered that none had urged the claims of Lady Jane against Mary more zealously than John Knox. He felt persuaded that neither England nor Scotland could have a wiser sovereign than she; but no sooner is she executed than he discovers, in common with the large majority of his brethren, that no female sovereign could govern with either wisdom or justice. The "Blast” we have mentioned was only designed to be the beginning of a series; but when he had the “ Second Blast" nearly finished Mary died, and was succeeded by Elizabeth. This produced another change in his views; one quite as sudden, not to say as unaccountable, as the former; he made it his business to have an early interview with Cecil, and inform him that Elizabeth formed an exception to the general rule laid down in Scripture against the women; that her whole life was a miracle, proving that she had been chosen by God; that the office, unlawful to other women, was lawful to her, &c.*
We have alluded to the pious brethren of Knox as maintaining similar opinions for and against women, according to Scripture. Another preacher named Goodman had pub
lished - Blasts” similar to those of Knox, but he also recanted. Several preachers who were in exile for preaching such doctrines to the people chose Aylmer, one of their number, to get up a “blast” in the opposite direction, in order to propitiate Elizabeth; and in about two weeks that pious and conscientious reformer published “ An Harborowe for faithful and trewe subjects against the late blowne blast concerning the government of women. MDLIX.. Strasborowe, 26
April." Nor was this without its effect, for in about three months after its publication the author had a bishopric. When some of his friends reminded him of his former opinions, he quoted i Cor. xiii., 11 with the air of a saint to whom a new revelation had been made, “ When I was a child, I thought as a child ; but when I became a man, I put away childish things."
Even this brief glance will show what woman's rights and their champions were up to the time of Elizabeth. But nothing in English history is clearer than that in proportion as the nation became enlightened the so-called rights of woman diminished; but need we add that her comfort increased, or that her moral influence improved ?
There is no doubt that woman had a voice in parliament for centuries. The peeresses were not such merely in name, as many authors show. Thus, for example, Joseph Holland tells us, in his Antiquity of the Parliamenis in England, p, 47, that among the earls and barons returned to parliament in the 35th Edward III., are, “ Marie Countesse de Norfilk; Alianor Countesse de Ormone ; Philipp Countesse de March ; Agnes Countesse de Pembroke; and Katherine Countesse de Athell." For centuries the women continued to be summoned by royal writ.* And after this custom ceased the ladies still retained the privilege of sending their husbands to represent them. The evidence of this is to be found in many documents, but suffice it to mention the Dugdale MS. in the Ashmole Museum at Oxford, which contains "A Catalogue of such Noble Persons as have had Summons to Parliament, and there sate in right of their wives.t
Thus a peeress might marry a common squire and send
• The following extract from one of these writs will serve as a specimen: “Rex, etc., Maria Comitissiæ Norfolc, salutem, etc. Vobis in fide et ligeanciâ etc., mandamus quod-aliquem vel aliquos de quibus confidatis apud Westmon, mittabis-ad loquendum nobiscum-super dictis negotiis—et ad faciendum et consentiendem nomine vestro, super hoc quod ibidem contigerit ordinari.” Rot. Claus, 35 Edward III., M. 36, dorso.
† MSS. 6517, T. p. 45.
him to the House of Lords with her own title, privileged to take his seat and vote like any other member; and if he died, and that she chose to marry again, she could send her second husband in a similar manner. A still greater privilege enjoyed by peeresses was that of sending members to the House of Commons; and that they exercised it is beyond question.*
Even in France, where the Salic law is nominally in force against women, the female noblesse not only held peerages, but exercised the judicial functions. But in neither country have they exercised any such functions for the last century. In the British House of Commons they are not permitted to be present at the debates, except some change has taken place in their favor very recently. Nor were they thus excluded without stormy altercations; many a motion had been made against their admission before the old . custom was done away with. We find a very amusing entry on the subject in “ Grey's Debates,” which runs as follows: “Some ladies were in the gallery, peeping over the gentlemen's shoulders. The speaker spying them called out, • What borough do those ladies serve for ?' To which Sir W. Coventry replied, “They are for the speaker's chamber.' Sir Thomas Littleton said, •Perhaps the speaker may mistake them for gentlemen with fine sleeves, dressed like ladies. Says the speaker: 'I am sure I saw petticoats.'” Hatsell makes a note to this, in the second volume of the Debates, in which he says that he recollects one evening when the
* Several instances of this occurs towards the close of the sixteenth century ; but we need only notice one. Thus, in 1572, the return of two members for the borough of Aylesburg, by Lady Parkington, is made as follows :
"To all Christian people to whom this present writing shall come : I, Dame Dorothy Packington, widow, late wife of Sir John Packington, knight, lord and owner of the town of Aylesburg, send greeting : Know ye, me, that said Dame Dorothy Packington to have chosen, named and appointed my truly and wellbeloved Thomas Lichfield and George Burden, esquires, to be my burgesses of my said town of Aylesburg. And whatever the said Thomas and George, burgesses, shall do in the service of the queen's highness in that present parliament to be holden at Westminister, the 8th day of May next ensuing the date hereof, 1, the same Dorothy Packington, do ratify and approve to be my own act, as fully and wholly as if I were or might be present there.
“In witness whereof, to these presents, I have set my seal, this 4th day of May, in the fourteenth year of the eign of our sovereign Lady Elizabeth, by the grace of God, of England, France, and Ireland, queen, defender of the faith," &c.
The curious reader will find this record in Willis' Notitia Parliamentaria, vol. i., and in Brady's Appendix to his History of Boroughs.
† Les femmes sont capable de tenir pairies, ont opinion en jugemens, et y doivent adjournées et appellées comme les autres pairs, pour ce que elles prennent dignitez ayans exercise de justice.-Du Haillan, lib. viii., f. 232.
whole gallery and the seats under the front gallery were filled with ladies; and that Governor Johnstone, being angry that the House was cleared of all the men strangers, amongst whom were some friends he had introduced, insisted that all strangers should withdraw. This produced a violent ferment for a long time; the ladies showed great reluctance to comply with the orders of the house, so that business was interrupted for nearly two hours. Since that time ladies of the highest rank and influence have attempted in vain to gain admittance. The three succeeding speakers-Mr. Cornwall, Lord Sidmouth, and Mr. Manners Sutton-each distinguished for his politeness and gallantry in all other circumstances, persistently refused to readmit the ladies. So strictly was the rule adhered to, that even the celebrated Madame de Staël was refused, .so that in order to gain admission in company with her friend Sir John Macintosh, she had to disguise herself in male apparel.
Because the ladies had originally much more power and influence in the House of Lords than in the House of Commons, they still have some left in the former. The peeresses are yet occasionally admitted to hear the debates of their husbands and friends ; but especially at the opening, prorogation, and dissolution of parliament by the queen or her commissioners. It is only as a matter of courtesy, however, there is no law that entitles them to it. That it was different in former times is evident from a thousand circumstances. In a speech made by Lord Shaftesbury in 1675, upon
the dispute between the two houses on this very question, the following curious and significant passage occurs : “I have heard of twenty foolish models and expedients to secure the justice of the nation, and yet to take this right from your lordships. I must deal freely with your lordships : these thoughts could never have arisen in men's minds, but that there has been some kind of provocation that has given rise to it. Pray, my lords, forgive me if on this occasion I
. put you in mind of committee dinners, and the scandal of it; those droves of ladies that attended all causes : It was come to that. pass that men even hired, or borrowed of their friends, handsame sisters or daughters to deliver their petitions."'*
If any further proof were necessary to show that what is called woman's rights, far from being a new discovery, as pretended by its advocates, is really but a remnant of bar
Lords' Debates, vol. i., p. 165.
barous times, it would be found in the conduct of female sovereigns of the present day as compared with those of past times. Thus, for example, Queen Victoria is the sovereign of one of the most powerful and most extensive empires in the world; but on what occasion has she sought to emulate men in rough masculine work, or in what requires considerable physical strength and power of endurance ? She has no ambition to sit on the bench, much less to put on male apparel and take up her position in the camp or battle-field. Even when she reads the address to Parliament, prepared for her by her ministers, she does so not like a man, but like a modest woman. And who does not respect her all the more on this account? Certainly there is no real friend, or intelligent admirer of the sex who does not. Although the empress of France is not a sovereign in her own right, like Queen Victoria, she has more than once been entrusted with sovereign power by the emperor. But how modestly, and yet how judiciously, has she exercised that power! Her chief object has been, not to make a display of woman's rights, but to do what she thinks will be most agreeable to her husband. Both ladies have been implored to pardon members of their sex sentenced to death, and although weeping bitter tears for their fate have declined to interfere with the course of justice. Sometimes, indeed, each has saved a woman con.demned to death, but only when there were extenuating circumstances in her case ; and need we say that were they to do otherwise, however kind and generous in their intentions, they would, in time, prove themselves not the friends, but the enemies of their sex?
If we are to judge the present by the past—and there is no safer criterion-we are bound to believe that none would treat women worse, if they had the power, than those who clamor most for her “rights.” The most brutal and sanguinary of the miscreants of the French Revolution pretended to regard woman as their idol ; they proclaimed that one of their chief objects was to release her from the cruel bondage under which she had hitherto labored, and elevate her in the social scale. They did, indeed, release her in a good many instances, but it was from the troubles of life; they elevated her, too, but it was to the scaffold! An instance or two will illustrate our remarks on this point: Barruel, one of the most reliable of the historians of the Revolution, tells us that the Princess Lamballe was placed in the prison of La Force, where she could see the sanguinary havoc of others, and note