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my Burgesses of my said Town of Aylesbury. And whatsoever the said Thomas and John, burgesses, shall do in the service of the Queen's Highness in that present Parliament to be holden at Westminster the 8th day of May next ensuing the date hereof, I, the said Dame Dorothy Packington, do ratify and approve to be my own act, as fully and wholly as if I were, or might be, present myself.” She signed and sealed their indentures, paid them “their wages," and that the Constitution acknowledged a woman's right to return is proved by the fact that these men's names appear on the Parliamentary list of the year.

I have found out many hitherto unknown points concerning the elections to the private Borough of Gatton, Surrey, where the difficulty arose through the recusancy of the owners, but there is no time now to allude to more than the main points. Sir William Shelley, Justice of the Common Pleas, settled the Manor of Gatton on his daughter Elizabeth on her marriage with Sir Roger Copley. During Copley's life he returned the two members allotted to the Borough ; at his death she did so, in 1 and 2 Philip and Mary, and 2 and 3 Philip and Mary. In 7 Ed. VI., doubtless through a recognition of her recusant disabilities, and her desire to elect her son, she returned, along with the other inhabitants, who were seven of her own tenants. Her grandson wanted to go back to the Lord's method of private voting, and the other inhabitants, backed up by the Court, contested the election, and brought forward old indentures. A Committee of the House of Commons, including Sir Edward Coke, affirmed that the election of 7 Ed. VI., in which her name appeared first, was the true and lawful form of indenture, 25th March, 1628. (We know that Sir Edward Coke cannot be held, by those who have studied his works, to be any authority against the woman's right to vote, but in this case, at least, he affirmed it.) No statute, edict, or affirmation of the House has ever taken their right away. But male electors were in a majority, they gradually came to dislike the notion of women voting, and it was only through the unchartered disinclination of men that the Woman's Franchise lapsed, though " in the Franchise there is no loss through desuetude."

Perhaps the man who led the way may be noted. Sir Symond d'Ewes, Clerk of the House of Commons, writes in the Commons Journal of himself that, when Sheriff of Suffolk, at the elections on October 19th and 22nd, 1640, "some singlewomen who were freeholders came to tender their oaths.” But he did not like the notion of letting women vote, so he “instantly sent to forbid the same . . . although in Law they might have been allowed." He knew what we know. This also did Anne Countess of Dorset,

Pembroke and Montgomery, know in her famous battle with the Secretary of State, who wished to nominate a member for the Borough of Appleby, 1668. “Your man shan't stand !” and she nominated another, and said, if he could not stand, she would stand herself. If there had been the slightest possibility of urging any disability in sex, it would have been urged then. But she had her own way; her grandson was elected on her nomination, and her conscience was clear. For her motto was “Preserve your loyalty, defend your rights." Had other women shared her militant courage then, there would have been no struggle to-day.

There were members elected for the Boroughs, as well as for private Boroughs and Counties. It may be difficult to prove that women burgesses exercised their franchise in the boroughs, but it is very much more difficult to prove that they did not. Luders notes, among his“ Controverted Elections,” that of Lyme Regis, 1789. The old Register-book was called for, and the very first three names were the names of women. So they are found in other burgess-lists. Later “ Judges ” have tried to explain these away by suggesting they might have been kept on the books to preserve the franchise for their husbands!

Women have suffered from every Reformation and from every Reform Bill, from that of Henry VIII. in his destruction of the convents, the semi-religious guilds, and the women's schools, down to the Reform Bills of the nineteenth century. The privileges of women, in inverse ratio to those of men, have been narrowed down from precedent to precedent.

In the Reform Bill of 1832, for the first time in the history of the British Islands, the word "male" was inter

was interpolated before persons, and the new Charters, for the first time, excluded women. In 1834 women were deprived of their immemorial right of Dower; in 1835 the Borough Franchise was taken from them, and the chains of the absolute dependence of married women on their husbands were riveted more firmly. Providence sent one of the proscribed sex to the throne in 1837, to show by the Statute of 1 Mary, c. III., that whenever a woman was qualified for any political duty, sex did not count. Through a long and glorious reign she illustrated the political capabilities of women. I know that she was originally against Women's Suffrage, but her mental vision cleared on that point in her later years.

Lord Brougham's Act for shortening the language of Bills passed in 1850, which decided "that words importing the masculine gender shall be held to include females," unless otherwise cxpressly stated. In the Reform Bill of 1867, the phrase

, "male persons was swept away, and the word “man" appeared in


all Charters, without any express exclusion of women. In the light of Lord Brougham's Act, therefore, the wrong done to women in 1832 was remedied. Women all over the country registered. The greatest uncertainty prevailed among revising barristers, some allowed them, and some refused. The largest number registered in Manchester, where the revising barrister threw them out. They consolidated their claim, and appealed against the barrister in the most important case which has ever come before the courts-Chorlton v. Lings. The Times of November 3rd, 1868, wrote: If women are refused the vote, the nation will, no doubt, be formally, and in the light of day, committing itself, through its judicial tribunal, to the dangerous doctrine that representation need not go along with taxation." On November 7th and 9th, 1868, the then Judges of the Court of Common Pleas did “commit the nation " "to the dangerous doctrine" on the arguments that the word “man" did not include

woman”; and that women had never exercised any political office whatever, and suffered from legal incapacity! (Chorlton v. Lings, L.R. 4 C.P., p. 374). The disabilities of women to-day, therefore, do not depend on Constitution or Statute, but on the limited vision of judges who did not know their Constitutional history in 1868. After that the tide turned.

The municipal franchise was restored to women in 1869. The Married Women's Property Acts, going back to ancient practice, somewhat alleviated the conditions of unhappily married women. Various minor amendments were made in the position of women, sops thrown to Cerberus. Women's Suffrage Societies sprang into existence all over the country. The last Constitutional word on the subject was spoken in the Interpretation Act of 1889, which confirms the reading that the word man” includes woman,' except where otherwise expressly stated, in every Act passed since 1850. As this, therefore, overlaps Lord Brougham's Act, it applies to all the Representation of the People's Acts during the period, and either ignores, or annuls, the finding in the Extra-Mural Court of the Queen's Bench in Chorlton v. Lings, 1868; thus practically confirming the Franchise to women. Acting on its rendering, the Local Government Act was passed last August, by which women were made eligible to sit on municipal bodies, reversing the arguments in the decision of the courts in Beresford Hope v. Lady Sandhurst, 1889 (which were based on those of Chorlton v. Lings) (L.R. 23 Q.B.D. 79).


Thus far for the Body of the British Constitution. But even more important than the Letter of the Law is the vaunted Spirit of the British Constitution. This is supposed to secure Liberty, Justice, and Protection to all who live under its sway. Patriots are never weary of singing Britons never, never

shall be slaves." Of course, they should not be so. But they forget that every Briton, who happens to be born a woman, is, according to the definition, doomed to be a slave. “Slavery consists in having to obey laws in the making of which one has no voice.” Therefore, all British women are slaves to-day. Their payments are not the taxes of a free people, but the tribute of a conquered and subject race.

A sad, unconsidered result of this state of affairs is that no man born of a slave-woman can be really free himself until his mother is emancipated.

The British Constitution is also supposed to command justice. The figure of Justice is not, however, represented as really blind, but with a handkerchief tied over her eyes. The justice of this land always moves the handkerchief over one eye to see whether the petitioner be a man or a woman.

It is well known that there are many laws, especially in relation to inheritancemarriage, divorce, custody of children, all moral laws, and labour laws--notoriously unjust to women. If the majority of men were not enormously better than the laws allow them to be, social life would be impossible. Justice is not always found by women even in the execution of decisions. There is always a large latitude allowed to judges and officials in the translation of laws, and even to the jury; and as these are always men, often filled with sex-prejudice, it is clear that women are not sure of justice, at Jeast, until after they are murdered outright. Then they become qualified as human beings, and their murderer is hanged.

The British Constitution is also supposed to ensure protection. But all principles are worked out by instruments.

The only means by which it is, or can be, safe-guarded, is by means of a cote. As all women, however good or useful they may be, are denied this protection, allowed to most men, however weak or bad, there is little wonder that in every department of life they suffer from neglect and delay in redress of their grievances, and over-activity in pushing forward injurious legislation. As all reforms come through Parliament; as the members of that supposed-to-be-representative-of-the-people body are responsible only to their electors, and these electors are only male, it follows that if these electors decide to under-pay or sweat women, or make life otherwise for them impossible, there is no protection for

voteless women, except that which is granted as a grace or charity, through the sympathy or sentiment of law-makers. Such protection only differs in degree, not in kind, from that accorded to animals. Until women secure the vote to protect themselves there is no protection ensured for them. And, until that is done, the spirit of the British Constitution is not realised.


Why is there so much more excitement about Women's Suffrage to-day than there ever has been? The causes are complex, and may be taken in almost any order. (1) The spread of education. Primary education is now compulsory, and facilities are instituted for continuing it. Even poor women, when they have a few spare moments, can read good and thought-compelling books, and sometimes they do. Coincident with the Reform Bill of 1867, the Universities commenced to give higher education to women. They did not wait, as the Government proposes to delay the franchise, until every woman wanted admission, but they opened their doors when some women proved they did so. Women in the Universities have adequately proved that intellect is of no sex. We may take it as granted that every woman who has distinguished herself in the Universities (except perhaps in the Classics, where the shadow of Roman thought convinces her she belongs to the “worser gender ”), every woman who through either the Universities or through other intellectual opportunities has trained her mind to its full power, wants a vote. Yet, though they may have beaten the record of any man, and may sit on the Senate, they are held unfit to record a vote for their University member, while 70,000 illiterates (therefore criminals in disobeying the laws for compulsory education), because males, can vote, and help to determine laws for their coercion. With the spread of education have spread discussion societies, in which facts are presented which cause conviction-such facts, as I have above stated, expanded, as they well may be, more fully. (2) Every new extension of the Suffrage to men alone has been recognised as a direct injury to women. They have learned to appreciate the disadvantages of “many masters." They have done at least their own share towards the prosperity of the State. They have borne and brought up all its native inhabitants; they have toiled, at unequal wages, to keep themselves and those dependent on them out of pauperism ; they have often toiled in their own homes, for disproportionate hours, at no wages at all, receiving only the returns made to slave-labour in the necessities of life. For it is one of the fallacies of modern economics that

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