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questions of which, perhaps, the speakers in their calmest moments would be incompetent to judge, are decided with all the rashness of ignorance ; exaggerated statements are unhesitatingly made, expressions used originally in a different or a limited sense are caught up and made the watchwords of party ; temper is lost, reason unheeded, for the disputants will hear no reasons but their own, and believe no facts which tell against them; and this melancholy exbibition of prejudice, ignorance, and folly generally ends at last with the avowal, (which, if made at first, would have saved the whole discussion,) that the question is one of personal feeling with the speakers, against which, of course, argument is unavailing.
Such exhibitions should make every woman who values the influence and character of her sex determine to avoid the causes which lead to them, and to cultivate the love of truth, and the habits of candor and impartiality, which shall save her from being the blind instrument of party prejudices. Were such habits more general, many questions of the first importance, which now seem doomed to remain the eternal objects of religious or political strife, might meet with a calm and just solution, and our country would be spared the numerous and great evils which result from the preference of party to truth.
The most difficult exercise of justice remains to be considered, namely, that which is needed to decide, not between the conflicting claims or opinions of others, but between those claims and opinions and our own; to see the right which interferes with what we would assume, or have perhaps long assumed, as our own right; and to judge a question in which we are personally concerned, upon its abstract merits, with the same rigid exclusion of biasing motives that we should practise in any indifferent case. It is truly lamentable to see how few persons are in this sense really just; and one great cause may be found in the want of habitual self-scrutiny. We must be in the constant habit of examining our own motives and actions, and striving to cultivate that impartiality which leaves conscience unobscured by passion, or we cannot expect, when the claims of another are brought forward, and our wishes or self
ish passions are roused by opposition, to be able to feel how far these should be repressed, and the wishes or objects of another admitted as prior in right.
It is only the daily habit of viewing our own conduct and principles, as we might suppose another would view them, that will make us capable of judging another as we would judge ourselves The questions, “ What is right?
» 66 What is true?” must be habitually supreme, and arise almost spontaneously before
any desires or affections are listened to, if we would maintain ourselves in that frame of mind which can hold the even balance between our claims and those preferred against them. In this form of justice, at least, women are less deficient than
Saved from the evil influence of that systematic selfishness in which the latter are in general trained from childhood, they are more free from one great source of partiality and injustice. Even while blind, perhaps, to the reason and justice of claims or rights urged against prepossessions or prejudices, in which their feelings are strongly enlisted on the side of one or the other of the contending parties, their own unselfish nature, unused to struggle proudly even for just rights, is more easily brought to acknowledge the fairness of what opposes only its own will and interest.
Injustice in this respect arises as often perhaps from mere want of thought as from selfishness, and many a mind which would revolt from the least infringement of the rights of others, if proposed in a form sufficiently striking to induce reflection, has gone on year after year, without intentional departure from integrity or good feeling, in a systematic course of injustice to which long habit has blinded it. Look through the long history of the oppression of one class by another, of one sex by the other, of one nation by another, and who can doubt that many among the oppressors, among the unfairly privileged, among the conquering race, among domestic despots, and among slave. owners themselves, have been men of upright intentions and good feeling, but who, from want of scrutinizing their position and its duties, and their own principles of action, — from want of considering what they themselves would feel under certain
conditions, — have persevered in a course of injustice which serious reflection would have made abhorrent to them. There arises a feeling almost of awe when we turn to examine ourselves, after contemplating in others such instances of the effect of custom and thoughtlessness, in perverting our better nature.
Integrity of mind, which comprehends all the moral results of love of truth, determines the character of a woman's influ
We need scarcely point out its value in the education of children, for how, but by a mother's daily example, shall they be inspired with the love of truth, and with that confidence in virtue which is the best foundation for its future practice? If the child's implicit trust in his mother be deceived, the man's faith in all integrity is dangerously shaken, and between disbelief in virtue and indulgence of vice there is but one short and easy step.
The wife's influence depends no less than the mother's on her integrity. It will save her from the practice of petty artifices and the love of petly mysteries, which must irritate her husband, weaken his confidence, and thereby endanger conjugal happiness. Influence properly exerted is the triumph of moral power; when abused, it is the victory of artifice over moral weakness. Its possession, therefore, without some guarantee for its proper exercise, is alike dangerous to those who wield and those who obey it, and this guarantee exists only in the integrity of its possessor. Artifice and cunning are too often regarded as the lawful arms of the weak, but
wife should remember that her real and only lasting power lies in moral influence, and that this is lessened by whatever lowers her character or shakes her husband's confidence. If she desires to be regarded as a wife, not as a mistress, if she prefers being valued as his friend and helpmate to being flattered and trifled with as his toy, she will be careful to use no influence but that of reason and goodness, to let no artifice degrade the playful tenderness which in itself has so winning a charm, and to preserve unsullied the integrity on which depends his confidence and esteem.
Having fully admitted the faults of women in these respects, their partiality and tendency to dissimulation, it is but fair to point out how these faults are fostered by the position in which they are placed. That position depends not on their own merits, not on any acknowledged rights, but on the character of the men they happen to be connected with. As this character is amiable or the reverse, they meet with kindness, with lavish indulgence, or with every degree of harshness and ill-usage ; but simple justice is never awarded them. Whether in the laws of the country, in the conventional rules of society, or in the habits of domestic life, the just claims of women are never taken into consideration, and the gradual ameliorations in their condition, which have raised them from household slaves to their present position, have been always regarded as concessions made by more indulgent and civilized masters, not as the acknowledgment of actual rights. While the caprice of a husband or father is the sole arbiter of a woman's happiness or misery, it is hard to tax her with the want of that keen sense of justice, which, if she had it, would perhaps make her life intolerable.
The habit of yielding to feeling, which is the source of so much female partiality, is also fostered by the very men who censure so severely the faults which result from it. In men's portraiture of female character, we generally find that their beau-ideal of female excellence is the mere creature of feeling, and that even the weaknesses into which that uncontrolled feel. ing betrays her are more amiable in their eyes than virtues of a sterner kind. In their horror of female independence, they are apt to represent strength of mind, judgment, and decision as unfeminine ; no wonder that women, thus practically taught that the admiration and devotion of the other sex are won by any thing rather than the nobler qualities of heart and intellect, should be found deficient in them ! When women shall have generally a keen sense of justice, and a contempt for the petty arts which wheedle a man into granting as an indulgence that which ought to have been conceded as a right, much else around them must also be changed.
We do not say these things in the mean spirit of recrimination, which tries to palliate a fault by accusing another; we
say them to prove the necessity of raising women's own estimate of their position, and of their moral equality with men, which will gradually raise them in the eyes of the latter; for the best argument for the concession of a right is to show that the claimants are worthy to exercise it. We say them also because the remedy is in great measure in women's own hands. Let them cultivate in themselves the love of truth, the spotless integrity which shall raise them above suspicion ; let them train their sons by their own example to that high sense of justice which shall insure the protection of the weak, and the next generation will cease to hear of the oppression of the one sex, or the artifice and partiality of the other,