Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/575

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ON THE EQUALITY OF THE SEXES.

which I think are implied in or may be collected from the extracts given above. They are as follows:

1. Justice requires that all people should live in society as equals.

2. History shows that human progress has been a progress from a "law of force" to a condition in which command and obedience become exceptional.

3. The "law of the strongest" having in this and one or two other countries been "entirely abandoned" in all other relations of life, it may be presumed not to apply to the relation between the sexes.

4. The notorious facts as to the nature of that relation show that in this particular case the presumption is, in fact, well founded.

I dissent from each of these propositions. In the present letter I shall examine the first and the fourth, which may be regarded as an illustration of the first. On a subsequent occasion I shall consider the second and third. First, as to the proposition that justice requires that all people should live in society as equals. I have already shown that this is equivalent to the proposition that it is expedient that all people should live in society as equals. Can this be proved? for it is certainly not a self-evident proposition.

I think that if the rights and duties which laws create are to be generally advantageous, they ought to be adapted to the situation of the persons who enjoy or are subject to them. They ought to recognize both substantial equality and substantial inequality, and they should from time to time be so moulded and altered as always to represent fairly well the existing state of society. Government, in a word, ought to fit society as a man's clothes fit him. To establish by law rights and duties which assume that people are equal when they are not is like trying to make clumsy feet look handsome by the help of tight boots. No doubt it may be necessary to legislate in such a manner as to correct the vices of society, or to protect it against special dangers or diseases to which it is liable. Law in this case is analogous to surgery, and the rights and duties imposed by it might be compared to the irons which are sometimes contrived for the purpose of supporting a weak limb or keeping it in some particular position. As a rule, however, it is otherwise. Rights and duties should be so moulded as to clothe, protect, and sustain society in the position which it naturally assumes. The proposition, therefore, that justice demands that people should live in society as equals may be translated thus: "It is inexpedient that any law should recognize any inequality between human beings."

This appears to me to involve the assertion, "There are no inequalities between human beings of sufficient importance to influence the rights and duties which it is expedient to confer upon them." This proposition I altogether deny. I say that there are many such differences, some of which are more durable and more widely extended than others, and of which some are so marked and so important that, un-