Page:Life of John Boyle O'Reilly.djvu/267

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HIS LIFE, POEMS AND SPEECHES

O'Reilly called this rebuke "A Blow from a Slipper," and his answer is one of the best ever given to the arguments of the woman suffragists:

We do not surely deserve this harshness. We only agree with Miss Gilmore and Mrs. Parnell, and, if we knew who Miss McCarthy was, we have no doubt that we should agree with her, too.

We are surprised that our e. c. should say so wild a thing as that a woman-poet of fifty years ago was looked upon as an unsexed creature. We need not go into details; the names of a score of brilliant women, in English literature alone, arise without call to smile down the assertion.

We sincerely respect the women who are leading the suffrage movement; but our respect is for the purity and beauty of their characters and lives, and not for their social or political judgment. As socialists, they do not think scientifically or philosophically. As pleaders, they fly to special arguments, and shirk, with amusing openness, the physical distinction which underlies the relations of the sexes.

Miss Gilmore is right; "the ideal women of men" are not practical politicians; and so long as men think as they do, they never will be. Women ought to be fully guarded by law in all rights of property, labor, profession, etc.; but, roughly stated, the voting population ought to represent the fighting population.

A vote, like a law, is no good unless there is an arm behind it; it cannot be enforced. This is a shameful truth, perhaps, but it is true. Women might change the world on paper; but the men would run it just the same, if they wanted to, and then we should only have the law disregarded and broken, and no consequent punishment. And the name of that condition is Anarchy.

Women are at once the guardians and the well-spring of the world's faith, morality, and tenderness; and if ever they are degraded to a commonplace level with men, this fine essential quality will be impaired, and their weakness will have to beg and follow where now it guides and controls.

Woman suffrage is an unjust, unreasonable, unspiritual abnormality. It is a hard, undigested, tasteless, devitalized proposition. It is a half-fledged, unmusical. Promethean abomination. It is a quack bolus to reduce masculinity even by the obliteration of femininity. It would quadruple the tongue-whangers at a convention, without increasing the minds capable of originating and operating legislation. It would declare war on the devil and all wickedness, and leave the citizens in shirts to do the fighting. It would injure women physically. Who shall say that at all times they are equal to the excitements of caucus rows, campaign slanders, briberies, inflammable speeches, torch--