aiders and abettors of the movement among the members of the

press, the clergy, the medical faculty, the bar. We think that if the investigation be impartially made, and extended in this manner, it will be found, in nine cases out of ten, that those who are in favor of woman's rights, are, or have been, equally in favor of various other visionary projects. Those who consult the work of Sainte-Hilaire will see that the sex of an individual may be even doubtful; and yet he or she may possess a certain kind of talent, especially a talent for speech-making, and making a general noise in the world; nature being disposed to make amends in this way for her carelessness in arranging, or rather disarranging, certain details. Some may think that because they have a family they are entitled to exemption from examinations of this kind; but although such a plea would seem a very plausible one, science has proved, in a hundred instances, as the reader may ascertain, that it is by no means conclusive!

If, upon the other hand, we inquire who are opposed to “woman's rights," we shall have to place in that category the greatest women, as well as the greatest men of all ages and countries. The great philosopher, the great poet, the great soldier, the great scientific discoverer, the great jurist, the great divine—those who love woman bestand esteem her most-are all equally opposed to woman's rights. In short, those who would be the first to die, if necessary, in defence of woman, would be the last to concede those rights, precisely because they are too precious of her to expose her to what would inevit. ably degrade her, even though no rude or lascivious hand should ever be laid upon her in her competition with men.

It is needless to enter into particulars on this point; the most short sighted can see for themselves, that, in accordance with the scientific facts just glanced at, it is the women who are most like men, and the men who are most like women, that in ninetynine cases out of a hundred are advocates of woman's rights. Hence it is that when some of our journalists compare a woman ambitious to vote, to hold political office, and to reform her male neighbors by her public speeches — to a crowing hen, he' does not merely perpetrate a joke, or indulge in well merited satire; for if the crowing hen were placed in the hands of any competent comparative anatomist, it would be found that if


the poor feathered biped imitated some of the performances of the male of its species, it was not without substantial reason.

But, assuming that anatomy has nothing to do with the matter-an assumption which is certainly not justified by the facts - it requires but very little research and reflection to ascertain that the woman's rights doctrines confer no credit on either the men or the women who advocate them.

A great many think that those doctrines have, at least, the merit of novelty; but we will show that such is not the case. Thus, for example, there is not a single "right" claimed at the present day by the most unblushing of our fair orators, but was claimed and enjoyed by the women of Sparta, nearly three thousand years ago.

Now let us pause for a moment, and learn what we can from this fact, for it is fully attested by the most reliable historians. Those authors tell us what the Spartan women were before and after those "rights” were conceded to them. They tell us that before they had any more rights than the women of other countries, they were equally distinguished for their industry and virtue; nor were there any more baautiful women of their time. In short, they were just such as those daughters of America are now, who worthily maintain the national character of the sex; for we hold that, if the woman's rights advocates be regarded as exceptions --- what they really are — there are no women that possess the best and noblest characteristics of the sex, in a higher degree than our own. But what was the character of the Spartan women, after they had obtained their rights? what did they gain by their emancipation from the tyranny of man? It matters little which of the historians who relate the facts we consult; all bear testimony to the degradation brought on those excellent women by that very “equality before the laws" which is now so clamorously demanded by the advocates of woman's rights. The Spartan women had been at least as good as the women of any of the other Grecian states before they obtained their rights in the manner indicated; and so early as the time of Homer, the Grecian women had manners and customs which would do no discredit to the most refined and most virtuous ladies of our own time. The Homeric ladies wanted no rights; they enjoyed all they desired, and were content; and Thucydides assurses us* that the modesty and deli. cacy so admirably and fully portrayed by the poet had subsisted in Greece for ages. Homer represents no indecent scenes in the relations of the sexes; on the coutrary, the state of manners which he describes has never been surpassed. Andromache, Nausicæ, and Penelope were but types of the women of the better class; yet they are regarded as models by the best modern and christian authorities. Certainly no women could be more feminine or more modest. Full of solicitude as Andromache is for the safety of Hector, in no instance does she attempt to go to see him without being accompanied by her maid; and never does her husband come home, but he finds her surrounded by her maids. Even Helen is everywhere represented by Homer as the victim of violence: nowhere as a depraved or faithless woman; and she never alludes to her abduction herself, but with expressions of deep regret and shame, and often bitter tears. Much as the suitors of Penelope are condemned in the Odyssey, they make no indecent proposals to the wife of Ulyssees; they merely urge her to marry; and they do so solely on the ground that her husband is dead, and that there is no hope of his return. The very fact that all the states of Greece combined to make war upon Troy, to avenge the abduction of Helen, and compel her return, shows, at once, the high respect in which woman was held, and the odium with which "free love" was regarded.

The best authority on the manners and customs of the Spartans is Plutarch; indeed there is no better authority on any historical or biographical subject which he has treated. Plutarch agrees with all other ancient authors as to the exemplary character of the Spartan women before they got too many rights; and he tells us plainly how they lost this character. “They had, indeed,” he says,

“ assumed great liberty and power on account of the frequent expeditions of their husbands, during which they were sole mistresses at home, and so gained undue influence and improper titles.”+ Aristotle informs us that when the women, once so exemplary that they were eagerly sought in marriage by the young men of all the neighboring nations, found themselves in the possession of

• Lib. 1. c. 3.

† Plut., in Lycurgus.

their rights, even Lycurgus had to desist from the effort of bringing them under sober rules.* We have interesting evidence, in various forms, that they exercised quite as much power in the time of Pericles, as our own woman's rights ladies so loudly and persistently demand at the present day. Thus the historian informs us, that on Gorgo, the wife of Leonidas, being asked by a woman of another country how it was that those of Sparta were the only women in the world that ruled the men, her answer was: “We are the only women that bring forth men.”+

It is to this ascendancy, on the part of the women, that the Stagirite alludes, when he remarks that the surest sign of the decline of a nation is, to find its women ruling the men. But let us glance at some of the means by which this state of things was produced in Lacedæmon. Thus, for example, we are informed that “in order to take away the excessive tenderness and delicacy of the sex, the consequence of a recluse life, the virgins were accustomed to be seen occasionally naked, as well as the young men, and to dance and sing in their presence on certain festivals.”+

Lest it might not be sufficient for the young virgins to appear naked among the naked young men, and dance and sing in their company, the former were also encouraged to “indulge in a little raillery upon those that had misbehaved themselves.”S In short, both young and old of the ruder sex had to submit with as good a grace as they could to whatever treatment the ladies thought proper to give them.

But be it remembered that we cannot blame the Spartans for having deliberately agreed to their own degradation; that the "revolution” had been accomplished during their absence, when there were none to oppose the revolutionists but the non-combatants--all the varieties of the Miss Nancy fraternity—who, for various reasons, were as anxious for the change as the women themselves. Some will say, that at all events, the Spartan women must have gained courage in this manner, according as they lost the more feminine virtues; and that the service they must have rendered the state, in time of war, should be taken into account. To the casual observer * Politics, lib. ii., c. ix. 1 Plut., in Lycurg.

| 10.

§ 10.

this may seem plausible ; but we have the most satisfactory testimony that this is the best that could be said in its favor. It will be admitted that Aristotle is good authority on the subject; and what does he tell us ?_"And as this boldness of the women can be of no avail in any matters of daily life, if it was ever so, it must be in war; but we find that the Lacedæmonian women were of the greatest disservice in this respect, as was proved at the time of the Theban invasion, when they were of no use at all, as they are in other cities, but made more disturbance than even the enemy."*

There is no modern nation, need we say, in which women are treated with more deference than in the United States ; not only are all our women “ladies,” but a large proportion of our men are quite willing even to wash the dishes for them. Yet a great deal of progress, if such it may be called, has yet to be made before our people look upon their wives and sweethearts as such superior beings as the Spartan women became at one time in the eyes of the Spartan men. It was the latter who were in need of rights in Lacedæmon; only those who behaved themselves satisfactorily were allowed to keep company with the female members even of their own household. Even when a man got married, he could only expect to enjoy the society of his wife on particular occasions. Thus, we are told, that when the bridegroom staid a short time in his wife's apartment, on the night of his marriage, “he modestly retired to his usual apartment, to sleep with the other young men, and observed the same conduct afterwards, spending the day with his companions and reposing with them at night, not even visiting his bride but with great caution and apprehension of being discovered by the rest of the family.”+ Thus it was the men who were supposed to have modesty in the model republic of the ancient world, and not the women, after the latter had obtained their rights! It may be said that this timidity, or high deference, on the part of the men, is not incompatible with delicacy or virtue, on the part of the women, although the naked exhibitions alluded to above may justify some

• Aristotle's Politics, b. ii., c. ix. p. 65.

Plut. in Lycurg.

« VorigeDoorgaan »