Militarism versus Feminism by C. K. Ogden & Mary Sargant Florence. London: Allen & Unwin, 1915.
– This online edition is dedicated –
|in honour of peace activist |
|and in memory of her son|
Army Sgt. Sherwood Baker
|Photo by Theo Rigby|
"Nothing could be more timely in 1915 than insistence on the lesson that Militarism involves the subjection of women."
MRS. H. M. SWANWICK.
Demonstrating that Militarism involves the Subjection of Women.
LONDON: GEORGE ALLEN & UNWIN, LTD.
RUSKIN HOUSE, 40 MUSEUM STREET, W.C.
The following pages, in so far as they do not deal with purely historical questions, look forward to a time when the Women's Movement will once more be able calmly to take stock of its position. As regards the nations now at war, effective action on the lines suggested is hardly to be expected at present; but in neutral countries the situation is already being seriously faced. Apart from the Dutch invitation for an International Congress, the Women's Peace Movement in the USA, under the presidency of Miss Jane Addams, is winning the unanimous support of American suffragists, who realise the extent to which their own cause is threatened by the European situation.
All who are interested in the practical problems of organisation thus raised will find a full and reliable record in Jus Suffragii1 which, as the organ of the International Suffrage Alliance, has proved itself invaluable as a source of information since the events of August, 1914. Portions of the present investigation have already appeared in its columns, and in those of The Common Cause and The Cambridge Magazine, and are here reproduced by kind permission of the Editors. As stated on page 9 it is hoped that a larger volume may later take the place of this necessarily brief survey, and anyone willing to supply further evidence or suggestions, or to point out errors, is earnestly invited to communicate with the authors, c/o Messrs. Allen and Unwin.
It is hard indeed, at a time like the present, to detach oneself even for a moment from the duties which the common danger has imposed on us all–men and women in every country. But, sooner or later, our attitude to certain fundamental questions must be decided, lest the critical moment come upon us unprepared. Every movement that stands for progress raises such questions, and none is more important than the future of the women's movement in relation to war and militarism. Will–or should–its course be modified in the light of recent events? It is hardly too early to discuss this question, for the advocates of militarism are already busy in our midst, and it is easy to take a wrong turning or a short view. Opinions within the movement are divided. Yet it seems probable that there would be less disagreement if once the results of militarism were clearly understood.
We are faced by issues on which it seems not improbable that the ideals of most men are different from those of most women.. The difference has usually been obscured in feminist propaganda: the argument so often has to run, and quite truly, that on the majority of questions there will be no great split of society into two halves, the men wanting one thing and the women another. But militarism, as such, raises different problems.
For Feminism history has only one message on the question of war, and it is this:–
Militarism has been the curse of women, as women, from the first dawn of social life. Owing to the turmoil in which it has kept every tribe and every nation almost without exception, mankind has seldom been able to pause for a moment to set social affairs in order–and the first and most crying reform has ever been the condition of woman. Violence at home, violence abroad; violence between individuals, between classes, between nations, between religions; violence between man and woman: this it is which, more than all other influences, has prevented the voice of woman being heard in public affairs until almost yesterday. War has created Slavery with its degrading results for women, and its double standard of morality from which we [Page 4] are not yet completely free: War, and the consequent enslavement of women, has been the main inducement to Polygamy, with its conception of women as property, and its debasement of love to physical enjoyment: War has engendered and perpetuated that dominance of man as a military animal which has pervaded every social institution from Parliament downwards. In War man alone rules: when War is over man does not surrender his privileges. Militarist ethics have perverted the peaceful and individualising tendencies of Industry to which woman owes so much. Industry has united with competition to produce Industrial Warfare: Commerce has combined with Imperialism for the capture of markets and the exploitation of the lower races. Militarism has ruined Education with its traditions of discipline and its conception of history. Militarism has even left its blighting imprint on Religion–on Mohammedanism the religion of conquest with its depreciation of woman; on the religion of the Prince of Peace, so that the Churches can say what they are not ashamed to say to-day. War, and the fear of War, has kept woman in perpetual subjection, making it her chief duty to exhaust all her faculties in the ceaseless production of children that nations might have the warriors needed for aggression or defence. She must not have any real education–for the warrior alone required knowledge and independence; she must not have a voice in the affairs of the nation, for War and preparation for War were so fundamental in the life of nations that woman, with her silly humanitarianism, must not be allowed to meddle therewith! And so War, which the influence of women alone might have prevented, was used as the main argument against enfranchisement, as it had been the main barrier to emancipation in the past. The circle is complete.
War, Militarism, Imperialism; in every form they have proved her undoing, and yet women hesitate to-day on which side to throw their influence! Over and over again the greatest statesmen have said that peace was Utopian only because public opinion was not ready for it; and no one has said it more emphatically than Sir Edward Grey. But who is to create the new public opinion? Have women no better answer than hatred or despair? Over and over again Suffragists have seen that it was from militarists that their ideals met with the most bitter opposition. They have never been tired of pointing to the baleful influence on our social life of ex-Viceroys and of men accustomed to the military despotism of the East. Is it purely by chance that it is the countries which, by position or circumstances, have been most free from military domination and constant preparation for war that have felt able to listen to the [Page 5] demands of women? The United States, New Zealand, Norway, Finland, Iceland, and the rest–they are countries in which war plays but a small part. The conscriptionist countries, on the other hand, have always looked askance at women's claims, and who has not heard German women complain "It's all very well for you to talk, but you don't know what it means to live in a country where everything is secondary to the training of the warrior male"? On February 5th, Mr. Cloudesley Brereton wrote in The Common Cause, "Germany stands forth as the chief exponent of the patriarchal conception." But, and let us not be led astray, only as the chief exponent; and from her faults let us learn. All Europe, as we show in Chapter III, is constantly menaced by similar tendencies. The Bernhardis of all nations are the danger; and, incidentally, we may note the following in The Fortnightly for January, 1915:–
"Later, I heard from the Countess that women were not much higher than the 'four-footed animal kingdom' for Bernhardi; that he loudly contradicted his wife, even at hotel tables when they travelled together; that he always walked ahead in the streets; and pushed past her or even other ladies (if strangers to him) in order to go first through a doorway."
It is hard to write without danger of misrepresentation, and it is especially important to make it clear that nothing is here implied as regards individuals. As far as our argument goes the majority of men who compose the armies of Europe at the present moment might be ardent supporters of women's rights! The indictment is against militarism. Since the war broke out every woman's paper has been full of complaints as to the way in which women have been treated–quite apart from atrocities and sufferings, and the break down of the theory that women are 'protected,' so admirably exposed in The Englishwoman, January 1915.
Yet war does but bring out tendencies suppressed in times of peace–the latent legacies of previous wars–and throughout history, as we show in Chapters II and III, it is in warlike ages and in warlike countries that women have fared worst. The age of mother-right, of which we hear so much to-day, was an age of peace, of agricultural communities whose women were not yet reduced to the subjection of the fighting patriarchal era which followed, and which with its organisation and traditions has survived even unto this day. Amongst primitive peoples, it is where peaceable conditions prevail that social and domestic arrangements accord to women the greatest liberty. The same [Page 6] is true of ancient Egypt, as Mrs. Hartley and others have shown. In Greece, the woman's movement (so badly needed in the Athens of Aristophanes) had already become the butt of the comedian when the warlike ambitions of Macedonia gave the death-blow to every effort of social reform. In a Rome worn out by ceaseless fighting, women were slowly attaining influence and liberty when the inroads of the barbarians again dashed their hopes to the ground. For centuries the battling hordes moved to and fro, and every forward movement amongst women had to contend in addition with the patriarchal system of marriage prescribed by the militarist legislators of the Old Testament, whose influence was now embedded in Christianity. And in modern times it has been the same, until in countries where the din of battle was no longer heard, and weapons of defence could at length be discarded in civil life, woman as woman dared to claim a share in directing those social affairs which concerned her so nearly.
For fifty years Great Britain had rested in peace at home after the exhaustion of the Napoleonic Wars, when John Stuart Mill first gave adequate expression to the murmurings of the centuries. Since then the movement has gathered impetus day by day; but side by side with it Militarism and Imperialism have also raised their head. And so far Militarism has prevailed! Its latest triumphs are now exposed even to the naked eye! Nor is the process merely unconscious. We have but to remember the ex-Viceroys mentioned above. We have but to think of the effect on women of the Code Napoleon, the foundation of legislation in Latin countries, to see how the arch-militarist of modern Europe deliberately worked with military ends in view to subject and degrade women in social life. Consider the record of Mohammedanism in India; consider the blood-drenched past of China, with its foot-bound millions; consider Japan to-day–where are the New Women finding their chief opponents? And soon America too may realise to her cost the meaning of that military influence which her suffragists are suddenly straining every nerve to overcome. To the crowning example of modern Burma we have devoted a separate chapter. Is there any exception in the world's history? And if some apparent exception should present itself, would anyone challenge the main contention, neglected though it has been by suffragists in the past? In vain will England have fought against Militarism to-day if, when the moment comes for diverting our national energies from the single task which now confronts us, women, who must stand apart from the conflict but suffer none the less, neglect an opportunity which may not occur again for centuries [Page 7] of directing public opinion satiated, as it will be, with the horrors of war, but impotent to escape for lack of vision.
To sum up: One of the possible, even probable consequences of this war will be an increase in the power of Militarism, not only in the nations now fighting, but also in neutral countries overcome by the epidemic of international distrust. The only antidote to developments so inimical to women is the existence of an organised body of public opinion, fully conscious both of the great social ideals which the settlement might serve to promote and of the disastrous retrogression which would result from the establishment of an armed peace more threatening even than that of which this war was the outcome. The greatest hope for the formation of such a public opinion lies in the suffrage organisations whose aims and aspirations would be frustrated by the victory of the advocates of armaments and conscription. Men, as men, are powerless to move. Here is the prerogative of woman. Let her now take the lead. Already in America the most prominent feminist speakers and writers have recognised both the danger and the remedy. When their programme is ripe, will the women of Europe be ready to carry it through? Will they, in making their decision, forget the lesson of history? Militarism has been their curse for centuries; its ideals have ever stood in the way of women's rights. Militarism will not change in the future. It must always produce an androcentric society, a society where the moral and social position of women is that of an essentially servile and subordinate section of the community. In each single nation, taken for itself, men will be able to make a really good case for Militarism, if the movement to educate public opinion does not become international. For this reason above all others, it is the duty as well as the obvious interest of women to make clear their views with no uncertain voice. All other international bonds have been burst asunder by the war. Science, labour, religion, all have failed; but that silent half of humanity, permanently non-combatant, on whom the horrors of war fall with equal severity in all nations alike, bringing to all the same sorrows and the same sufferings, may through these very sorrows and sufferings find a new and real bond of unity for the redemption and regeneration of the civilised world. Here at last it is clear that the higher ideals and aspirations of women coincide with the future welfare of the whole of humanity. In them is the hope of man.
A LAND OF PEACE.
"A married Burmese woman is much more independent than any European, even in the most advanced states."–SIR J. G. SCOTT.
It will be the object of the following pages to show how the subjection of women, both now and in past ages, is essentially due to Militarism, to the prevalence of war, and to the institutions and customs which are the legacies of war. In order the more strongly to emphasise this contention we have first selected the one country in the world in which at the present time women admittedly live as the equals of men, and where this equality is part of the traditions of the people. By showing that these advantages are essentially due to peace, and to the absence of martial institutions and customs, we shall also have done much to establish and illustrate our main proposition.
The example of Burma to which we are referring is all the more striking in view of the degraded position of women in the East as a whole–a degradation which if space allowed 2 could in every case be traced directly to the influence of militarism or the reign of violence and bloodshed, which still prevails. In India, in China, and in Japan–the records of war are everywhere the same, and everywhere the desperate position of women is only too evident, as readers of Mrs. Chapman Catt's report to the International Suffrage Alliance in 1913 will be aware. The one exception is Burma. "The freest women in Asia," said Mrs. Catt, "are the Burmese. In that land rights for men and women are practically equal." And the same view is expressed by the Burmese lady who wrote (in Buddhism, September, 1903):–
"I have travelled in various countries, in West and East alike; have seen something of the lives the women of those countries lead; have heard something of their sorrows, of their [Page 10] ambitions, of their desires. And there is one thing I know, better than aught else in life–that I would sooner be a Burmese woman than one of any other land; sooner live the sweet and happy life of the Burmese village girl than that of the proudest nation of the West."
And to what does she attribute this freedom?
"For myself I think that the secret of our happiness lies in our devotion to our beautiful Religion."
But we can say more than this; though first of all we must understand something of the religion to which M. M. Hla Oung here refers. We must go back to the days when Gautama the Buddha dwelt in a little kingdom in the north-east of India.
No Buddha was he in those days: only a Prince, the Sakya Prince, Siddartha Gautama. He was strong, we are told, he was handsome and a famous athlete. A wife had he still and fair women to dance before him, and a joyful son withal. His future was full of all power, might, majesty, and dominion; and his father looked forward to the time when he should become a leader of armies, should lead his subjects against the neighbouring kings, and in time create for himself a world-wide Empire.
Then it came to pass that on a day the Prince saw a Dead Man, that he learnt of death and suffering, that he saw the mystery of life, and saw too the vanity of Empire for which men murder one another. Straightway he sought for the laws that should lead mankind to the Great Peace.
Straightway the Prince Gautama forsook his dancing women, forsook his three palaces, the palace for the time of rains, the palace for the flower time and the palace for the fruit time. He forsook his wife and his son–that the wives and the sons of other men might have Peace. He the supreme Pessimist! He whose Optimism saw that the world might be ruled by righteousness, that the world might cease from strife and from the sin of battles, and might be at Peace with itself.
And the world–did it learn his wisdom? Once. Nearly.
* * *
A few years ago an Englishman who knew the East, as few Europeans have known it, gave to the Western world an interpretation of the life and thought of an Eastern country which made Europe feel that here was something new and strange. "I wanted," he said, "to write only what the Burmese themselves thought"; and the result was that for a moment the barrier which separates East and West seemed to be broken down. [Page 11]
The veil was lifted, and we saw the happiest people in the world; without nobles, without landowners, without bankers, without merchants. A people enamoured of freedom, a people amongst whom all is open, a people where all men are brothers. The Burman does not care to be rich; he has learnt to despise wealth. He is overflowing with charity. He wants and he has love and companionship, fresh air and sunshine, and the great thoughts that come to you in the forest. He wants friends, he wants sympathy, he wants the joy of children. He believes that happiness is the best of all things. As we read of him we can breathe quietly in sheer delight; for here is he who toils hard and who is poor, but to whom life is one great festival, longer and larger than those wherein his joy is publicly celebrated.
"When you see the Burmese at their festivals, speeding the hours with song and dance and merriment, when you see the pleasure they take in bright clothes, in gaiety of demeanour, in the pleasanter things of life, you will laugh too."
And what of the women?
In Burma women have equal rights with men. They are free, they have the same rights to property, they have equal opportunities for work. They have succeeded in imposing on the people generally many ideas which elsewhere are confined to the women alone.
What ideas are these? They are those for which the Prince Gautama forsook his wife and his son that the world might learn the law of peace.
That the command of the Buddhist faith over the Burmese people is due to the ascendancy of the women and women's ideas is very clear.
Again we ask. How was this possible? And a third time the answer comes without qualification. It is due to peace, to freedom from war.
The ascendancy of women was due to the secluded life the nation lived.
We have put three questions, and all of them we have been able to answer in the very words of the author of those two great interpretations of Eastern life The Soul of a People and A People at School. Let us learn from Mr. Fielding Hall yet a little more of this strange people, and let us also learn how they are to be purged of their misguided follies.
First of all as to the ultimate cause of Burmese happiness. There can be no doubt about it. We are told so again in other words, [Page 12] "In Burma here, living their sheltered lives, never forced back by the rude blasts of an invading world, women gained a great ascendancy. They assumed a freedom unknown elsewhere." This freedom and this ascendancy, possible only in the absence of war, the women turned to good account. The Buddha had taught the law of Happiness, had shown the way to the Great Peace–the Peace of the Soul; and his religion told that the Peace of the Soul was not possible if man should murder man in war. "Its tenets and beliefs are women's tenets; they come easily to women's hearts, who believe by nature in the milder virtues; religion such as Buddhism is to them an evident truth."
And the evident truth is this, "Thou shalt take no life." There is no exception to that at all, not even to a patriot fighting for his country. "Thou shalt not take the life of even him who is the enemy of the king and nation." If a man goes to the monks they can but say, "See the law, there is no good thing but peace; no sin but the strife of war." Buddhism, we learn, never bent to popular opinion, never made itself a tool in the hands of worldly fashion.
No soldier could be a true Buddhist; no nation of Buddhists could be good soldiers. No ravished country has ever borne witness to the prowess of the followers of the Buddha; no murdered men have poured out their blood on their hearthstones killed in his name; no ruined women have cursed his name to high Heaven. No Psalm has been sung in his temples to honour the warrior that taketh the foeman's children and dasheth them against the stones. Never has the Sun stood still that his people might not cease from the slaughtering of their enemies. He was the preacher of the Great Peace, of love, of charity, of compassion; and so clear is his teaching that it can never be misunderstood.
Yet the Burmese are like other men. They are but men, and men will fight. They have been surrounded by warlike tribes: they have been led astray by ambitious kings: and in their wars they have even been cruel–like other nations. They have fought in Siam, in Assam, and in Pegu: and above all they have fought against the English. But they have never fought in the name of their faith. The Burman can be very brave. When he is wantonly attacked, sometimes the animal within him leaps out and he cannot suppress his human bravery. But he sins with his eyes open; he makes no excuses; he looks for no reward. The foeman's sword is no key to open to him the gates of Paradise; his monks do not come near to close his dying eyes with murmurs of the justice of his cause. Yes, he can be very brave. In Buddhism there is no fear of death. [Page 13]
But the instinct of pugnacity has been tamed; the miracle has been performed. Let us once more quote verbally that there may be no mistake:–
His instincts make him like hunting, lead him to kill noxious beasts and reptiles. But in every home the mother and wife enforce the prohibition against taking life.
This influence of women is surely the most precious and wonderful thing in history, and the picture of Burmese women, of women in the only country which has ever known the meaning of peace, is indeed one at which we may pause. Peace has meant everything to them. They knew no limits but their own disinclination, and their weaknesses were little handicap to them. They came and went as freely as the men did, seeking for escort only where there were dangers to be feared, wild beasts or floods; of men they had little fear. The dangers that await women elsewhere when alone in fields or forests were small in Burma. The men respected the women, and the latter could defend themselves. The result is that she has been bound by no ties, and had no frozen ideals of a long dead past, no hoary patriarchal traditions, held up to her as eternal copies. She has looked after herself, and the marks of this freedom and of this development are seen everywhere. Thus the administration of the law in all that concerns sex is the same for man and woman; marriage, inheritance, divorce, criminal law–all alike show no partiality. Nor is it surprising to learn how strange it is, talking to Burmese girls, to see how much they know and understand of the world about them. It is to them no great mystery, full of unimaginable good and evil, but "a world that they are learning to understand, and where good and evil are never unmixed." They have no "accomplishments," for very few Burmese girls are left with superfluous time on their hands. And of the children we are told "they grow up little merry naked things, sprawling in the dust of the gardens, sleeping in the sun with their arms round the village dogs, very sedate, very humorous, very rarely crying."
* * *
If this were all we might merely close with the remark, "Very imaginative, very pretty," and forget about it as soon as possible in order to be free to subscribe to some Burmese Mission. But that is not quite all; for there is the future to consider.
We have quoted Mr. Fielding Hall. We are aware that some writers disagree with him–but whether or no his picture be accurate, it is important to discover the steps which so enlightened and sympathetic a writer advocates in order [Page 14] to preserve for the world this wonderful social heritage–this model for the advocates of women's rights in all lands. It may be that he has idealised the Burmese. That is no concern of ours. He has at least given us an ideal which they may strive to attain if they have in fact failed to reach it. What are the author's own views for the future? They are all the more significant because Mr. Hall was recently a government official, and went through the Burmese war, obtaining as Political Officer, 1887-91, a medal and two clasps. His opinion must carry considerable weight, and to judge from his writings will be decidedly more liberal than that of most administrators and officials in the East. Indeed, we may gather this from a discussion of the doctrine of Peace set forth above with a soldier friend. "What is the use," asks the friend, "of this religion that we see so many signs of? What do these monks do? I never see them in a fight, never hear that they are doing anything to organise the people. What is the use of Buddhism?" He was a brilliant soldier, comments Mr. Hall, and a religion was to him a sword, a thing to fight with. That was one of the first uses of a religion. He knew nothing of Buddhism; he cared to know nothing but whether it would fight. If so it was a good religion in its way. If not, then not.
So much for the opinion of the soldier. Now for the administrator. He has described the country. He has described its ideal–the Great Peace. Into this country, as he tells us, has come the British Government with sword and rifle preaching another faith. How it came does not concern us directly. It is a terrible tale. Let us remain silent. The religion of Burma delivers the country bound to its enemies. The conquest was not difficult. The Burmese were goaded to sin against their faith and offered some small resistance. "But to-day," says Mr. Hall, "the laws are ours, the power, the authority. We govern for our own objects, and we govern in our own way. Our whole presence here is against their desires."
Great Britain has power to do what she will. She can encourage or destroy the faith that has made for peace. She can allow the capitalist system to undermine the position of women, or she can prevent it from doing so. What is being done? What ought to be done? The question is of interest to women as well as to men. She that hath an ear to hear let her hear.
There are two things, we are told, wrong with the Burmese:–
"I can imagine nothing that could do the Burmese so much good as to have a regiment of their own to distinguish itself in our wars. It would open their eyes to new views of life." A People at School p. 264.
"It has never been good for women to be too independent."
"It improves a man to have to work for his wife; it makes a man of him." A People at School p. 266.
We may open our eyes in amazement and horror: but there it is. All that is good in Burma comes from its religion of peace and from the equality of man and woman. But they must be taught that "the world is a man's world." They have not realised the great truth. Why?
"Their Faith stands in the way, and their Women."
Such are Mr. Hall's words: and the arguments by which he establishes his conclusions are most instructive.
First of all as to the Faith which stands in the way. That is to be cured not by another Faith but by War. When the missionaries from Europe tell the Burmese Buddhist that our success is due to our Faith, the Burmese Buddhist laughs. He reads the Sermon on the Mount and reflects. He turns upon the missionary and says, "Your faith denounces war, but you attack and subject us; your faith denounces riches but you pursue them all day long; your faith preaches humility, but there are none so proud as you. You succeed because you do not believe, not because you do."
But what the Burman wants is, Mr. Hall thinks, not Christianity or any other Faith. He already has too much faith. He has been nursed and cosseted and preached at too much. He must get up and fight. "He must throw off his swaddling bands of faith and find the natural fighter underneath. He must learn to be savage if necessary, to destroy, to hurt and push aside without scruple. He must learn to be a man."
No wonder Mr. Hall could write that amazing sentence–"It must never be forgotten that their civilisation is relatively a thousand years behind ours." Perhaps it will be some consolation to them to observe how much the present War will throw [Page 16] us back. For hitherto they had failed to realise the futility of peace. The eternal verity that the world belongs to the strongest, the Burmese had forgotten. "In their great valley between the mountain ranges and the sea, free from all invaders, with a kindly earth yielding food in ample quantities, it had fallen into the second place. The manly nature had sunk into disrepute, rusted by disuse, unsharpened by the clash with the weapons of others." Poor misguided creatures, they valued their ideal of Peace too high. They had made a Religion thereof to establish it the more securely; "Religion," says Mr. Hall, "which is true only when second to the truths of life, was exalted into the first place. The greater truth may be when rightly understood, the more false its falsehood when it is misplaced. And in Burma Buddhism had risen to that place."
But foul as are the horrors of peace, the high position of women has had even more disastrous results. We have seen how the women repressed the natural fighting propensities of the males. So sheepish did men become under this regime that their instincts no longer served them in the choice of good and evil. "That hunting was a grand and brave sport, that war was a pleasure and a glory never occurred to them."
Yet strange to tell "the men are not effeminate." Rather, they are naturally courageous; and when roused by the British invasion they fought long and bravely. No, it is on other grounds that they must be taught to fight and introduced to the glories of war. It is on other grounds that women must surrender their liberty. Hear, O ye nations:–
Men are Men and Women are Women!
This great truth and its inevitable consequences are set forth as follows. "What man can do best it is best he should do. If it brings him great power, greater authority, it also gives him greater responsibility. Such is best for both." It may, we are told, be pleasant for a girl to be the equal heiress of her brother. But it is not the way to make the best either of law or money. Nor does it make the best men or women. It is not good for a man to be feminised. It is not good for him to feel that he has no greater right than a woman, for he immediately and rightly infers that he has no greater responsibilities. It is not good for him to have woman's ideals. A woman may say, 'I am afraid.' It is her right. Courage is not a virtue that the world wants from woman. But for a man to be a coward and to openly confess and without shame that he is so is a sad thing. Now the Burmese generally are no cowards. They are naturally courageous. Yes, here we have [Page 17] it. It is the business of a man to fight, "and an army keeps alive the cult of bravery and discipline, of self-denial, of cohesion." To-day, alas "there is no army at all . . . Even if a man be brave now and energetic, he has no scope for showing his qualities. To see a brave soldier rise to honour, to hear and see brave deeds done by one's own people is more ennobling to a nation than any wealth or any learning. The Burmese in their sheltered valleys learnt this virtue very little; they have now none of it. It is a loss. I do not see how a people worth anything can be made without it." The miserable Burmese think only of peace, of friendship, of joy, of sunshine and of happiness: they refuse to fight properly: "The regiments we have tried to raise have not succeeded. It is a pity. They may, however, succeed later. I can imagine nothing that could do the Burmese so much good as to have a regiment of their men distinguish itself in our wars. It would open their eyes to new views of life. But their faith stands in their way, and their women."
It was worth repeating this considered recommendation in order to be quite sure of the real meaning of Mr. Hall's proposals. Militarism in the East is a terrible thing. Think of the circular memorandum (quoted on pp. 17-19 of The Queen's Daughters in India) sent to all the cantonments of India by Quartermaster-General Chapman in the name of the then Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army (Lord Roberts), and beginning "In the regimental bazaars (i.e. in the chalka or brothel) it is necessary to have a sufficient number of women, to take care that they are sufficiently attractive, etc." Think of the hideous record of militarism revealed in the article "Militarism, Prostitution and Disease," in The Shield for January 1915. To all this Burma is to be exposed for the good of its soul!
We have, however, thus reached the conclusion we desired: and, in conformity with the new ideal, the Burmese are already being taught to kill animals. War itself will soon cure them of their peaceful habits. "What the surgeon's knife is to the diseased body that is the soldier's sword to the diseased nations."
Again we must remember "the world is not a hospital but a battlefield. The gospel of progress, of knowledge, of happiness ... is taught not by book and sermon but by spear and sword." "Buddhism with its feminine ideals and its cult of peace, was never fitted to be leader of a race." We have seen the utter inadequacy of a religion that makes light of war. "To declare, as Buddhism does, that bravery is of no account; to say to them, as the women did, you are no better and no more than we are, and should have the same code of life; could [Page 18] anything be worse?" It is terrible: but ethnology here comes to our aid. "Men and women are not sufficiently differentiated yet in Burma. It is the mark of a young race. Ethnologists tell us that. In the earliest people the difference was very slight. As a race grows older the difference increases." So no doubt they will grow out of their absurd habits. In time they may even take to war, and learn their deficiencies from the glorious history of Europe.
In the meantime there is every hope that women will rapidly be reduced to the condition of their sisters elsewhere in the East. An alien denomination and its influences are already threatening their position in many ways. Their means of livelihood is being taken from them. Hitherto they have been independent and powerful because they could live by their own efforts. To-day home industries are being killed as they have already been killed in Europe, and European institutions and methods are taking their place. "In Rangoon the large English stores are undermining the Bazaars where the women used to earn an independent livelihood." Everywhere trade "is falling into stronger hands, as elsewhere in the world." Nothing is being done to counteract these tendencies. Nor should anything be done. Indeed we are told it is absolutely essential "that the laws of marriage and inheritance must be modified. All the changes are to the detriment of the position of the woman as it now stands."
Down, down, she goes: and Mr. Hall faces her degradation with complete equanimity.
"With her power of independence will disappear her free-will and her influence. When she is dependent on her husband she can no longer dictate to him. When he feeds her, she is no longer able to make her voice as loud as his is. It is inevitable that she should retire ...... The nations who succeed are not the feminine nations, but the masculine. Women's influence is good provided it does not go too far. Yet it has done so here. It has been bad for the man, bad too for the woman. It has never been good for women to be too independent, it has robbed them of many of their virtues. It has never been good for men to feel that their women-folk were independent of their help. It improves a man to have to work for his wife and family, it makes a man of him. It is demoralising for both if the woman can keep herself and if necessary her husband too."
Why is it demoralising? Because the world is a man's world, and for no other reason! Burmese women must understand the new conditions. They must surrender their liberty in the interests of men. In return, however, they will receive [Page 19] safety, and the blessing of dependence. They will be able to rely upon their fathers, their husbands, their sons, more than they do now, and if the men are to have more power they must be ready to accept more responsibility. Women rule us in our youth, and in our age. But in the prime of life, it is the men who lead. The Burmese, as we have seen, have the characteristics which (as ethnologists tell us) belong to a young nation. And happily for them they are also a rising nation. "It is the mark of rising nations that men control and women are not seen."
* * *
There have been many causes which have contributed to the degradation or subjection of woman in the past, but the most fundamental and universal of all are war and martial ideals. Some proof of this we have offered above, and the statement holds of Europe at the present time. no less than of earlier centuries. The connection has sometimes been obscured but it is always there; in Burma its reality is revealed in the clearest form. To-day a great Empire is fighting for its existence; fighting, it claims, for liberty. For fifty years the women within that Empire have struggled for their liberty–and but few have yet attained it. The future of their cause is bound up with the future of militarism which has dominated the world in the past. Soon peace will come again, and with peace a parting of the ways: on the one side those who would perpetuate the old militarism and international pugnacity: on the other side the advocates of co-operation, with whom will be found the true followers of Christ not less than the disciples of Gautama. On which side will the women be found who now gaze helplessly at the slaughter, and whose own ideals, though they may not realise it, hang in the balance? The example and possible fate of Burma may not be without value to those whose minds are not yet made up; for apart from the lesson of that example it is on the decision and future of the women's movement in Europe and America that the future of women, not only in Burma but in the East generally, now largely depends.
When the Western world has settled its present differences, there is yet one more danger to face. East is East and West is West; but how many are striving to bring them together? Alliances and Governments alone can do but little here: often they may work directly, if unwittingly, towards further disunion. Knowledge, understanding and sympathy are necessary, and above all public opinion. Our story has shewn that even [Page 20] with the best of intentions men are not likely of their own accord to realise in which direction progress lies! At the moment perhaps little can be done. But sooner or later an attempt will have to be made to form this public opinion: indeed, whilst these pages were passing through the press Sir William Wedderburn in a letter to The New Statesman came forward to advocate the immediate entry of women into this wide field of reconciliation and understanding which he contended was closed to the official male. Women have done much in the past to modify the ideals of men. It is perhaps not unreasonable to hope that in this matter, where their interests are so clearly identical all the world over and so clearly harmonise with those of civilisation as a whole, their united and conscious efforts might succeed where all else would fail.
* * *
Let us, however, return from this larger question, and from the contemplation of the advantages which peace can confer, to the study of the record of militarism as it is revealed in history.
THE LESSON OF HISTORY–I.
"Nothing could be more timely in 1915 than insistence on the lesson that Militarism involves the Subjection of Women."–MRS. H. M. SWANWICK.
Though the effects of militarism have been the same in East and West alike as far as women are concerned, in what follows we may most profitably concentrate our attention on the problems of Europe alone, which affect the immediate future more nearly. And, furthermore, it will be well to begin at the beginning.
Not many years ago when the word 'matriarchy' came into popular use it was often assumed that in primitive times women enjoyed a freedom and a superiority which in a later age she lost. The cry was thus at once raised by suffragists that so far from the present subjection of women being natural and necessary, history shows on the contrary that male despotism is a comparatively late growth; a more or less casual excrescence with little foundation in natural tendency other than the determination of man to retain what chance has cast in his way. Hence right up to the outbreak of the war all attention was concentrated on the vote, the symbol of political equality, and at times when suffrage propaganda flagged little else seemed worth attention.
Such a view, in spite of all the admitted evidence against it, is still widely held, and has probably contributed not a little to the failure of so many women to grasp the significance for their cause of the events of 1914 and the national rivalries which led up to those events. But it is a view which is both erroneous and unnecessarily unjust to men. It is absolutely essential to effective action in the future that the historical development of the movement should be clearly understood; and as a first step towards such an understanding it cannot be too frequently pointed out (as Professor Hobhouse, above all others, has now so clearly demonstrated) that an imagined matriarchy, or rule of the mother, has nothing whatever to do with the mother-right [Page 22] which does, as a matter of fact, exist in primitive society. Though the wife remains a member of her own family; though the children take the mother's name, and belong to her; though property passes in the mother's name, or even to her–all this leaves it "perfectly possible for the position of women to be as low as the greatest misogynist could desire."3 In a word, it is now a matter of almost universal agreement among sociologists that whatever advantages the matrilinear system may have secured for women, only in a few cases can the system be in any way correlated with power or emancipation.
In the primitive promiscuous group which anthropologists postulate in the pre-agricultural world,4 women were of course in a sense the pivot of society, because paternity, whether as a social or a physiological fact, was as yet unrecognised. But as the family evolves, the central position of women is modified by countless new developments, and attempts to explain the facts now at our disposal as regards her subsequent social evolution have hitherto been singularly inconclusive. One high authority urges vaguely that the husband's power is greater amongst those peoples who reckon kinship through the father, than among those who reckon kinship through the mother only (Steinmetz). Another writer declares that the condition of women depends mainly on the abundance or lack of food (Hales). A third contends that any early power women possessed was doomed through the rise of property and the connection of a property value with the women themselves (Mrs. Hartley), and so on.
But is it not obvious that all these questions are subordinate to something far more fundamental which, perhaps precisely because it is so obvious, is perpetually overlooked by nearly every writer on the subject? Westermarck, for instance, attributes the subjection of women throughout history to such general causes as the lack in women of the qualities of body and mind that are essential for personal independence, prevalent ideas and religious prejudices about the nature of women, the father's power over his daughter, whereby his authority is later transferred to the husband, and the narrowing influence of systems of society which may be contrasted with the complexity and wider interests of what we are pleased to term modern civilisa- [Page 23] tion.5 Such influences may no doubt have contributed their share, but it is strange that no mention should be made of the significance of war–of the influence which the reign of violence and the appeal to armed force as the deciding factor in every dispute, must have had on those whose virtue it is to possess "qualities of body and mind" that are certainly ill adapted to secure "personal independence" under such conditions.
* * *
With a few exceptions it is probably true to say that woman has been subject to man in the past, and is still far from attaining complete emancipation, because in the past the fundamental fact in social life has been its open parade of physical violence. Wherever this background of physical violence has been temporarily obscured, there women have asserted their claim to equality with man. Whenever a country by natural advantages or social conditions has been able for a while to turn its thoughts to constructive efforts, and to the establishment of a system of justice, there, on the whole and in the long run, the cause of women's emancipation has advanced. In other cases her apparent freedom has been illusory or easily traced to some unusual transient circumstance. Wars and rumours of wars have been her undoing in the past, and they remain the chief obstacle to her progress in the future.
* * *
From this point of view let us examine the lesson of history. First of all let us consider once more the conditions of primitive life, and ask if it is not a little significant that Veblen,6 the latest sociologist to review the whole body of evidence now at our disposal, finds himself forced to the view that in neolithic times (or throughout the whole age when woman occupied the position of honour to which we have referred above) mankind enjoyed a period of comparative peace and prosperity.7 From the modern standard of emancipation the value of the benefits which women [Page 24] then enjoyed can, as we have shown, easily be exaggerated; but for the age in question such a degree of consideration on the part of men is hard to explain by any other hypothesis than that of Veblen. Only in virtue of comparative peace would primitive man have become an agriculturist, and have domesticated those animals and crop plants which date from neolithic times. Only in a peaceful age in which women were naturally associated with all that concerns fertility and growth could a religion have been evolved in which the deities were prevailingly female.
An instance of such tendencies developing in a direction more than usually favourable to the independence of women is to be found amongst the Khasis, on the borders of Assam. Sir Charles Lyall describes them as a vigorous and sturdy race. The mother is the head and source, and only bond of union of the family; she is the only real owner of property. The powers of sickness and death are all female, and the increase of the population is comparatively slow, this latter fact being probably due to "the independence of the wife, and the facilities which exist for divorce." They are a people cheerful in disposition, good tempered, and light-hearted by nature: fond of music: content to sit still and contemplate nature. "The women are specially cheerful." Finally, as one might expect, it is expressly recorded that the Khasis have enjoyed an unusual isolation from surrounding tribes, and are conspicuously "devoid of anything approaching a martial spirit."8
The real advantages of mother-right as such may not always have been great. In all probability they were greater according to the degree in which peaceful habits of life could be established, and the point to note is that such benefits as did affect women were possible only where war and martial ideals were forced to take a secondary place in the life of the people.
Given an agricultural community, and given the equipment of ideas with which primitive man works, an organisation of the family on the basis of mother-right is sufficiently natural; but, as we have seen, the mere existence of such a family system by no means ensures even the equality of women with men in the affairs of every day life. On the other hand the beneficial influence of peace and, vice versa, the detrimental influence exercised by warfare as such on the position of women is remarkably well-supported by the actual facts. Thus it is instructive to find that Herbert Spencer, after an independent investigation of the evidence as regards the social condition of primitive societies, feels himself constrained to remark that while the [Page 25] status of women is habitually very low in tribes given to war and in modern militarist nations, "it is habitually very high in these primitive peaceful societies. The Bodo and the Dhimals, the Kocch, the Santals, the Lepchas, are monogamic, as were also the Pueblos; and along with their monogamy habitually goes a superior sexual morality." The behaviour to women is extremely good. The Santal treats the female members of his family with respect,9 the Bodo and the Dhimals treat their wives and daughters with confidence and kindness.10 Moreover, we are told concerning sundry of these unwarlike peoples that the status of children is also high; and there is none of that distinction of treatment between boys and girls which characterises militarist societies.11
It is, in fact, amazing how the two factors of war and the position of women are invariably correlated in this manner in all accounts. Thus amongst the Eskimos warfare is practically unknown. Ross "could not make the people of Baffin's Land understand the meaning of battles."12 Of the Western Eskimos we read, "it not infrequently happens that the woman is the chief authority in the house,"13 or elsewhere (Point Barrow) "the women appear to stand on a footing of perfect equality with the men, both in the family and in the Community." 14 With the Todas of India women "hold a position in the family quite unlike what is ordinarily witnessed among Oriental nations"–says one writer. Why? "The Todas," we learn from another source, "have the character of being most pacific."
Exactly how peaceful was the primitive society in which mother-right originated and exactly how valuable the privileges it conferred may remain open questions, but there can certainly be no doubt as to the causes of the positive oppression of woman which have everywhere followed the rise of the patriarchal system. For this is essentially the product of a fighting age when men take active command of affairs. Population had multiplied and cattle increased sufficiently to give occasion or excuse for wanderings to and fro. A sufficient quantity of portable goods had been accumulated to tempt aggression when any tendency [Page 26] to collisions between groups was manifested. Society was reconstituted for aggression and defence rather than primarily for life, and above all (as regards historical development) the resulting capture of females by the victorious groups led to that institution of a permanent class of female slaves which has had so disastrous an influence for the degradation of women in every age and in every country where slavery has since prevailed. Mother-right can no longer flourish when warriors enter on the scene. But when Mrs. Gasquoine Hartley remarks on the change that "It was no more possible for society to be built up on mother-right alone than it is possible for it to remain permanently based on father-right," 15 it is clear that she has omitted to consider the inevitable consequence of war, a neglect which vitiates her theory of the evolution of the women's movement in common with so many others. It is absolutely essential that we should realise that it is possible for society to remain permanently based on father-right, and that it certainly will remain so based as long as and wherever wars and preparations for wars are an essential feature of civilisation.
The earliest and most usual source of slavery was war, just as subjection in later times is based on physical force. In China the slave class is composed primarily of prisoners of war. In ancient Egypt every early Pharaoh records the employment of prisoners of war as slaves. In Chaldaea there was a class of slaves largely consisting of captives from foreign races and their descendants, reinforced by native children sold by their fathers and women sold by their husbands.16 Among the Hebrews the slave class consisted largely of captives taken in war (Deut. xx. 14.). Mohammedan slaves are chiefly captives and the same is true of ancient India, Greece and of Rome, where it was officially justified as a mitigation of the horrors of war.
The effect of slavery on women in ancient times can best be gathered by recalling what it meant in Christian America less than 100 years ago. The master could, whenever he liked, separate husband and wife; he could, if he pleased, commit adultery with the wife and was the absolute owner of all the children borne by her. The common rules of morality were not enforced on slaves, and even in Puritan New England female slaves in ministers' and magistrates' families bore children black and yellow without marriage; no one inquired who their fathers were, and nothing more was thought of it than the breeding of sheep or swine. And concerning the plantation [Page 27] slave quarters, Westermarck further records the universal testimony that "the sexes were herded together promiscuously like beasts." Under such circumstances–where morality and human life were valued so low–women could hope for little permanent improvement in their position. The double standard of morality which resulted, and the incentive which such a system has always given to tyranny and cruelty, have left an indelible mark wherever slavery has prevailed. Against its traditions women are still struggling, and it is important that the part here played by war should not be overlooked.
For largely due to the influence of war, and of its creation, slavery, is the practice of polygamy.17 Men may be tortured, eaten, sacrificed or simply killed, but women and children are more usually carried off as slaves; not as ordinary slaves, but as household slaves, the slaves of the harem, with its almost universal characteristics, the conception of women as property, the extinction of the emotions of love as opposed to those of physical enjoyment, and the degradation thereby entailed. Warlike religions have always preserved these features, and the case of Mohammedanism is typical of the class.
In early times Arab women occupied a relatively high position, for Arab culture early reached a stage of civilisation associated, as Professor Robertson Smith has told us, with ideas of peaceful opulence. In this period it is significant that women had rights and were respected; the veil and the harem system were unknown before Mohammed. But with the breakdown of their primitive culture an era of chronic inter-tribal warfare was inaugurated,18 and by the time of Mohammed women had become mere chattels. "A man can bear anything but the mention of his wives" is recorded as a representative male utterance of the period. There is a difference of opinion as to the actual change effected by Mohammedanism. Mohammed's own view of the part played by women is interesting, "I have not left any calamity more hurtful to man than women"19 and it is universally admitted that Mohammedanism (pre-eminently the religion of conquest) gives women a lower position than any other creed of modern times. Among the pirates who infested the Mediterranean, for instance, none were worse than the Moors. They are fanatical Mohammedans; cruel, revengeful and blood-thirsty. [Page 28] The chief amusement of adult Moors is the "powder-play," which consists of a type of military tournament. Slavery and slave auctions conducted like those of mules are a regular feature of their warlike life. The position of women is little better than a pampered slavery, and a striking indication of their general status may be found in the fact that young girls, much as amongst the warriors of Tahiti, are stuffed like chickens with paste-balls mixed with honey, or with spoonfuls of olive-oil and sesame, to give them the corpulence which sensuality requires.
Yet apart from their militarism there is nothing in the life of the Moors to lead to such degradation. Your typical Moor is a handsome fellow, characterised by marked dignity of demeanour, and distinctly intellectual. Whenever social conditions have given him a chance to free himself from perpetual savagery and bloodshed, he has shewn that bestiality and oppression of women is no more essential to his happiness than to that of other men. For nearly eight centuries, under her Mohammedan rulers, Spain set to all Europe a shining example of a civilised and enlightened state. Art, literature and science prospered as they prospered nowhere else in Europe. The surgeons and doctors of these Spanish Moors led the world in their art; women were encouraged to devote themselves to serious study, and a lady doctor was not unknown among the people of Cordova.20 The Saracens in Spain had the merit of letting women share freely in their culture of all kinds.21 They were in fact gradually losing their bellicose propensities and cultivating the gentler virtues, when their tendencies towards constitutionalism, and the refinement they had attained, gradually put them at the mercy of their Christian foes. They were forced not only to retain their military habits, but to call to their aid the fanatical Almovarides from Barbary–after which of course the social and intellectual life of Saracen Spain went the way of other civilisations which militarism without has successfully overwhelmed.22
In Turkey and in India the effect of militant Mohammedanism on women has been equally disastrous, but it will be more profitable to devote a few pages to the study of Militarism and Feminism in the East, and in Egypt, Greece, and Rome, before we proceed to discuss the similar features presented by [Page 29] the history of modern Europe. For the astonishing persistence with which the profound influence of militarism on the status and freedom of women has been ignored hitherto makes it desirable to collect the historical evidence over as wide a field as possible, and to make it accessible to all who are themselves in doubt, or who, being already convinced, may desire to convince others of the truth of their views.
Let us first consider the great civilisations of antiquity. Will anyone contest the verdict of that penetrating sociologist, Mr. Havelock Ellis, that "in their early stage, the stage of growth, as well as in their final stage, women tend to occupy a favourable position; while in their middle stage, usually the stage of predominating military organisation on a patriarchal basis, women occupy a less favourable position."23 But is it not equally clear that in the stage of growth the relatively favourable position of women is explained by the obvious fact that growth implies a people with something better to occupy its attention than quarrelling with its neighbours; while, in the final stage, though national organisation is based ultimately on the possibility of war, this potential pugnacity is generally obscured by complex institutions? So long as it is latent the emancipation of women, as we shall see, can never proceed very far. 24
From this point of view it will at once be clear why in ancient Egypt women enjoyed a freedom and dignity higher than in other states of antiquity. "It is the glory of Egyptian morality," says Amélineau,25 "to have been the first to express the Dignity of Woman." And the Egyptians, as Mrs. Hartley has pointed out, "were an agricultural and a conservative people. They were also a pacific race. They would seem not to have believed in that illusion of younger races–the glory of warfare ... Through the long centuries of civilisation they devoted their energies to the building up and preserving of their social organisation." The italics are ours, and sufficiently emphasise our contention. Yet the same writer, like almost all others, does not press home her point, and entirely fails to grasp its significance for modern times. The high position of Egyptian women must clearly be connected with these peaceful propensities. "From the beginning," says Mr. Perris in his History of War and Peace, "the Egyptian appears the least martial of men," with the result that the freedom of the women was a source of perpetual astonish- [Page 30] ment to the warlike Greeks from Herodotus to Diodorus. But the peaceful instincts of the people were overcome by their rulers, and it is significant that during the age of the martial Pharaohs Egypt was much like other militarist countries. It was only when the natural desire for peace could assert itself that women benefited. As Mr. Gallichan has remarked, "When the Egyptians became pacific, women enjoyed the social, civic and domestic advantages which were denied to them during the militant period."26
As in the earlier instance of mother-right, it is not that the position of women in Egypt would necessarily give the modern champions of emancipation much ground for satisfaction; and, of course, there was no lack of warfare even in the land of the Pharaohs: but relatively to the age such honour as she allowed was a blessing of this comparative peace. This is all equally applicable to Babylon if we remember that the Babylonians were as a whole a less peaceful people than the Egyptians. In the earliest times women had equal rights with men; the code of Hamurabi shows these rights as circumscribed in the military age; while in Neo-Babylon, where war had receded into the background, equality again appears.27
Not less clear than the lesson of Egypt is the evidence of Greece and Rome. In the former, civilised woman reached her nadir as wife and mother. No other European civilisation has witnessed so complete a segregation of women for breeding purposes; while for companions the Athenians turned invariably to foreign courtesans throughout the whole military period. The Greek of history is, as we shall see, the most warlike of men, and his women suffer accordingly wherever military ideals prevail.
It is somewhat surprising that Sparta is sometimes regarded as an exception to this suppression. People who so regard her must be exceedingly ignorant either of the state of affairs there prevailing, or of the meaning which women attach to the word freedom. In Sparta no one was free, as Dr. Donaldson has so well shown in his Woman in Ancient Greece and Rome. There was no regard for the individual. Men and women alike were subservient to one great military ideal. That was the price which woman had to pay in the only country in the world where she has been accorded an equal right with man to such physical and mental development as the nation could realise. How great [Page 31] was the sacrifice that Sparta made to militarism is shown by her failure to produce a single contribution to the thought of the world; but that her women were at least not more unhappily circumscribed than her men is so much to her credit. Such an ideal of a military stud farm is, happily, impossible of realisation in modern times, when celibates can no longer be placed under the ban of society, the age of marriage fixed, and all children who meet with the disapproval of the town council within whose jurisdiction they are born quietly put out of the way.28
Aristotle tells us that the superiority of the Greeks to the barbarians was shown, amongst other things, in the fact that the Greeks did not, like other nations, regard their wives as slaves–and slavery in ancient days was the symbol of warlike dominion. Happily, in Athens, the warrior's primal right was not rigidly enforced, but the degraded position of women on which Athenian culture was based is inexplicable, if the military organisation of the city state is left out of account. And it is important that we should realise this, for it is the Athenian social ideal which is still held up in education before the eyes of the ruling classes of Europe!
This brings us to a factor in the historical situation which we have already encountered in the case of mother-right–the tendency for traditions, and the customs and ideas in which traditions crystallise, to linger for centuries after the circumstances out of which they arose have passed away. The recognition of such survivals which impose themselves either through institutions or education on a people or a generation to which they do not properly belong is very necessary, if we are to understand the forces which assist in keeping women in their present position in modern times.
These forces include in all European countries for the last 1500 years first that quintessential relic of military morality, the Hebrew patriarchal ideal embedded in Christianity. The principle of crystallised traditions, for which we have to thank military necessities, is of course of very wide application. For instance, it will be objected to those who accuse militarism of having been the main cause of the degradation of women in every age, that priests no less than soldiers have conspired to effect her subjection. Thus our foremost living sociologist considers that "religion has probably been the most persistent cause of the wife's subjection to her husband's rule."29 In reply to this we may quote the opinion of a famous modern militarist for what [Page 32] it is worth. He is answering the question: To what do we owe the establishment and maintenance of religious dogmas and a priestly caste? "I suggest," he says, "that the origin of priestly power is really to be sought in the necessity of finding some means powerful enough to compel tribes to combine for purposes of self-defence. It was absolutely necessary to create a 'hell' to have somewhere for the cowards to go to, and a 'heaven' of course was the necessary antithesis."30 The italics are ours. But whether this generalisation can be substantiated or not, the influence of Hebrew ideas on Christianity is both marked and disastrous. The Hebrew idea of women is the idea of that primitive militarist, the patriarchal nomad. Professor J. A. Cramb31 rightly remarks that "If ever there were a race which seemed destined to found a world-empire by the sword it is the Hebrew. They make war with Roman relentlessness and with more than Roman ideality ... and march to music beside which all other war songs appear of no account–'Let my sword-hand forget, if I forget thee, O Jerusalem!'" We may or may not approve of Lecky's remarks in his History of European Morals on that "common oriental depreciation of women" which the Jews shared; the fact remains that Judaism is in its original essence a militarist religion, the religion which conquered Canaan for its God of Battles.
"Of the cities of these peoples which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save nothing alive that breatheth." There are few records in history more revolting than the account in Numbers xxxi. of the wrath of Moses with the children of Israel for saving the women of Midian alive, and the subsequent slaughter of married women; or that in I Chronicles xx. of how David and Joab at Rabbah "brought forth the people that were therein, and cut them with saws, with harrows of iron, and with axes," and thus did they unto all the cities of the children of Ammon. On these two occasions women did not even have the advantage of the Divine command–"The women and the little ones and the cattle shalt thou take for a prey unto thyself." The warmest eulogy of a woman in the Old Testament is that bestowed on her who, with circumstances of the most aggravated treachery, had murdered the sleeping fugitive who had taken refuge under her roof. It was the combined influence of these Jewish writings, and the conception (reinforced, we must remember, by the primitive mythology of Genesis) of women as the chief source of temptation to man which produced those fierce [Page 33] invectives against females in the early fathers, from whom official Christianity has since borrowed so much in the matter of moral precept.
Secondly, there is the exclusively masculine ideal which runs through the whole of ancient literature, and which, as pointed out above, is impressed on the youth of both sexes to-day. They read (without realising the omission) of a man-made civilisation, of its wars, of its religion, of its love. It all seems quite natural; and hence the world to-day is not so very different, for are we not all alike thus inoculated for feminine ideals? The supreme beauty of the art of the warlike Greeks is, as Winckelmann first pointed out, "rather male than female." The virtues of antiquity are the male virtues of courage, self-assertion, magnanimity, "and above all," as Lecky has reminded us, "patriotism."32 Women were illustrious, not for their corresponding feminine virtues, but because they imitated their warrior males, as the Amazon, the Spartan mother, the Mother of the Gracchi–women who fought, or who bore and sacrificed husbands and sons for battle. And the youth of modern Europe have not yet learned to reverence any other ideal.
These two influences have moulded the thought of modern Europe almost to the exclusion of others, as far as national ethics are concerned. The result has been clearly pointed out by Principal Graham in his brilliant exposure of Militarism–Evolution and Empire. "It is the custom for those who have imbibed their ideas of war between nations at school from the Classics and from the Old Testament, and who have not thought it necessary to revise their conceptions ... to consider that some foreign nation may be our foe, as an individual may have an individual enemy." From these two sources come their conception of war as natural and inevitable; and hence, too, significantly enough, they derive their ideas of the proper sphere of woman. And bearing in mind these facts let us briefly summarise the story of the epoch whence the influences in question arise.
First of all as to the military foundations of social life in those ancient Empires whose ideals are still so largely our own. "Ancient civilisations appear to us as an immense battlefield, a vast cemetery of peoples," says the Italian historian Ferrero. Tribes, nations, great empires and small states only emerge in order to destroy the tribes, peoples, empires and states that preceded them, to be in their turn destroyed by other rivals. Nations seemed only born to die a violent death; their lives [Page 34] generally began with a victory and ended with a defeat, which entailed, in most cases, not merely the effacing from history of the name of a state, but the physical destruction of an entire society. Every work of art, of science, of politics appears to have had no other object in the distant past than that of fostering war, of covering the earth with costly ashes. A few exceptions there may be. Egypt was one, but as regards Greece and Rome the above description holds good. Think of the case of Athens who by her pride and cupidity provoked a conflict with Sparta, in which she obstinately persevered, always attempting new military undertakings, till after the Sicilian campaign she found herself ruined and undone.33
But in Athens, as in the centres of many other powerful Empires, warlike preoccupations were slowly beginning to exert a diminishing influence on the weary populace, and social affairs (including the women's movement, of which we hear so much in Aristophanes), to gain more serious consideration, when all hopes of peaceful development were suddenly shattered by the bellicose activities of Macedonia. From the earliest dawn of their history the Greeks, except for this one brief moment, and in certain isolated areas, never gave woman a chance. War followed war in unending succession. In fact, as Professor William James has remarked, "Greek history is a panorama of war for war's sake ... of the utter ruin of a civilisation which in intellectual respects was perhaps the highest the earth has ever seen." In Rome the "Pax Romana" allowed signs even more hopeful for women to make their appearance; but in Rome, as in Greece, women were once more baulked by wars. War had followed war for century after century, and now, finally, the Hebrew marriage system, embedded, as a survival from the age of militaristic patriarchs, in the practical ethics of Christianity 34 combined with the renewed inroads of warriors from the East, who ranged over Europe for the dark centuries which followed, to blast the hopes of peace and of women until yesterday.
* * *
Can anyone doubt that the prevalence of war has been fundamentally responsible for the subjection of women in every [Page 35] age? Ideas, prejudices–but these are for the most part crystallisations of earlier warlike traditions, reinforced by the promptings of fear–fear that the fighting strength of the nation might be diminished if softer pleadings were heard. So hopeless, so foolish, did the thought of emancipation seem that hardly a voice was raised against the customs that prevailed. Violence between nations or within a nation settled all collective disputes, and each individual relied ultimately on his physical force to solve his own problems with his equals, or to keep his inferiors in their proper place. In such a world woman simply sinks and remains submerged. In such a world there was no hope for a movement of emancipation. It is needless to seek for other causes.
THE LESSON OF HISTORY–II.
"Authentic tidings of invisible things; . . . |
And central peace subsisting at the heart
Of endless agitation."–WORDSWORTH.
Between the final stage of Roman civilisation and the rise of anything approaching the degree of freedom which women had there attained, it is necessary to leap over considerably more than 1,000 years of warfare so perpetual that the idea of emancipation scarcely arises.35 But in modern times the influence of militarism, wherever found, has been precisely the same as in ancient days. From the mass of evidence available from every country let us take one example, whose lesson is so obvious, and whose effects so far-reaching, that it admirably typifies the rest. It also has the advantage of allowing us not to get too near home, and so relieves us from the necessity of discussing the views of Lord Curzon or Wilhelm II. as to the true function of women in the social order!
Nowhere is the influence of militarist ideas on women seen more clearly than in the work of Napoleon, which even to this day remains at the foundation of so much that is evil in Europe. "Glory abroad, efficiency at home" was Napoleon's motto, and everything was made subservient to the requirements of a military policy. The whole social organisation of the Consulate is based on such a policy, for in all his state-craft Napoleon, as a recent authority has strongly insisted, "was following his own inclinations as a military commander, used to rigid discipline.""36 Hence he was led to undo much of the legislation of the Revolution. The ideal of the revolutionists was individual liberty. "They had sought to make of the family a little Republic, founded on the principles of liberty and equality, but in the new code the paternal authority reappeared ... The family was thenceforth modelled on the idea dominant in the State, that authority and responsible action pertained to a single individual."37 [Page 37] The father controlled everything, and the customs thus established by Napoleon in the interests of a military organisation have, as Dr. Rose points out, "had a mighty influence in fashioning the character of the French, as of the other Latin peoples, to a ductility that yields a ready obedience to local officials, drill-sergeants, and the central government." Again the italics are ours, and show the ideals which animated Napoleon in his determination of the part women were to play in the social life of France. In every respect he used his mighty influence deliberately to depress her legal status, and he prescribed a formula of obedience to be repeated by the bride to her husband. In this respect the views of Napoleon were, as Ostrogorski emphatically puts it,38 "those of an Oriental despot. In his capacity of a man of war, he added to the duties of women that of furnishing soldiers to the army." "A husband," said Napoleon, "ought to have an absolute control over the actions of his wife. He has a right to say to her, 'Madam, you shall not go out,' or 'Madam, you belong to me body and soul.'" Even the drawing up of the article providing that the "wife owes obedience to her husband" did not appear to Napoleon sufficiently striking. The presiding official must be clothed in imposing garb, and speak in solemn actions to invest the maxim with an awful and unforgettable authority. The laws of divorce which had been gradually relaxed in favour of women were re-established in the strictest form; while in matters of social morality the disastrous enactments of the Code Napoleon are too well known to need enumeration here.39 Such was the spirit of the system whereby France was remodelled, and Professor Esmein records that in addition to France Belgium has preserved it; the Rhine provinces only ceased to be subject to it on the promulgation of the civil code of the German Empire. Numerous more recent codes have taken it as a model–Dutch, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Central and South American. And thus its influence remains, a monument of military masculinity, and a menace to feminism wherever it has appeared.
In France itself the tradition of Napoleon was dominant throughout the whole of the last century. And the military ideals thus impressed on the whole nation can alone explain the insignificant part played in the social system of French [Page 38] public life by women who are in certain respects the most advanced in Europe. "The study of French militarism serves to acquaint us with the life and structure of this social system," as Ferrero has pointed out in his brilliant essay on Militarism and Caesarism in France40; and, writing of the state of affairs prevailing in the nineties, he goes on to show that essentially military ideas are still most popular in France, more especially with the cultured classes. Although war between civilised nations is coming to be considered by many as only tolerable when urged in defence of some principle, "the general sentiment amongst educated Frenchmen is favourable to war, and little tempered by moral considerations." They deem it a great thing, per se, for a nation to conquer; political and military supremacy are regarded as the first factors in the superiority of a civilisation. Hence a conquered nation that has not yet taken revenge must necessarily consider its civilisation in decadence. The policy which aims at the annexation of fresh territories in Europe, Asia, or Africa, is considered excellent in itself, as by increasing the area of an empire its glory and power is also increased, wherefore the cost in men and money is held of small account.
Thus, concludes Ferrero, the cultured classes, if not the whole nation, accept in silence ideals which correspond so ill to the requirements of the age. "Military traditions are transmitted from generation to generation, and fossilised into integral parts of the administration." The majority does not and cannot rule in France; the various coteries and small minorities, who from time to time come into power, take no trouble to reform the Government. "The only aim of a ministry is to satisfy the clients which raised it to power. All the rest, the reform of abuses and so forth, except what is brought about by the force of circumstances, is treated by the various Governments with a very Mussulman indifference." The word Mussulman is strikingly appropriate here, for the subjection of women is essentially one of those abuses which the religion of conquest has persistently regarded with supreme indifference.
But in the last two decades a great change had come over France, and militarism was already on the decline. More and more attention was being directed towards social abuses, and a feminist movement was yearly gaining in strength. In the 20th century it is rather Germany that has openly sacrificed social welfare to the consolidation of military power, with results even more disastrous to feminism than those we have already recorded. [Page 39]
Finally, as regards Great Britain herself. Throughout the centuries it has been the same story. The position of women has risen or fallen according as war or peace was in the ascendant, not contemporaneously, perhaps, but the connection can always be traced. In general, England has been spared the continuous and demoralising warfare of her continental neighbours, and on the whole the position of women has been higher in England than on the continent. But that it could never be very high is clear from even a few instances. Let us recall for instance that in 1379 "Sir John Arundel's squadron was overtaken by a storm and sixty women who were on board were thrown into the waves to lighten the vessels. Some of these women had willingly accompanied the fleet; others had been forcibly carried to sea."41 Consider the social conditions here implied–especially by the final words italicised. Of what value is it to quote the names of high-born ladies who attained a certain influence and power in centuries when military domination could be manifested in actions like this? Of what value is it to refer to the system of "chivalry" which men often speak of as something to which women should look back with pride and gratitude, if the greatest power of Europe had learnt no better manners than these at its close? It is thus that we must explain the late appearance of women's demand for equality–that it seemed to her mere folly to dream of it in the midst of the violence generated by ceaseless wars. It is thus that we must explain the denial of education to women in all ages–that it seemed folly to give education to anyone who could not bear arms. Exceptions there were–abbesses, royal ladies, even queens; but what use were these to women as a whole? Are there not queens to-day?
* * *
Has anyone really made us understand the true reasons why the political emancipation of women, after a full fifty years of agitation and propaganda since its first intrusion into practical politics in 1865, is still unrealised? The movement, as will be generally agreed, first raised its head when a period of profound peace had allowed a recovery from the exhaustion of the Napoleonic Wars, and the development of industrialism to an extent which had temporarily obscured the militaristic basis of social organisation. What prevented the speedy realisation of women's ideals? Many reasons have been advanced, and in most of them there is no doubt a substratum of truth. But is [Page 40] there not a special significance in the discovery of Herbert Spencer, whose practised eye detected another growing movement and the simultaneous progress of other ideals? Side by side with the movement for emancipation he saw the rise of military spirit which counteracted it, and which to-day threatens to strangle its rival as on so many occasions in the past. In 1876 Spencer noted in the first volume of his Sociology that militarism was reviving in Britain. In 1882 he returned to the subject (in Vol. III, p. 590) with a reference to "the revival of military activity which has of late been so marked that our illustrated papers are, week after week, occupied with little else than scenes of warfare. Within the military organisation itself we may note the increasing assimilation of the volunteer forces to the regular army, now going to the extent of proposing to make them available abroad, so that instead of defensive action, for which they were created, they can be used for offensive action," and so forth; a most instructive analysis and worthy of serious study.
Were Spencer alive to-day he would have been surprised even at his own foresight, though he did not go on to show the connection between militarism and the failure of the women's movement with which we are here concerned. Is it not only too evident that the chief retarding factor has been perpetually neglected by advocates of women's rights? We have been deceived by the veneer of industrialism that had obscured the real danger. We had forgotten that pregnant passage in which Spencer elsewhere casually grants the main position we are here concerned to establish. He is dealing with peaceful peoples, and contrasting them with warrior races. In the peaceful tribes, he remarks, there is a marked superiority both in social and domestic relations. He instances, as we have already instanced, the superior position of women amongst such peoples as are not addicted to war; and he turns to investigate the facts in more modern times. What is the effect of industrialism on the position of the individual? The answer is complicated by the fact that "we encounter the difficulty that the personal traits proper to industrialism, are like the social traits, mingled with those proper to militancy. It is manifestly thus with ourselves. A nation which, besides its occasional serious wars, is continually carrying on small wars with uncivilised tribes; a nation which is mainly ruled in Parliament and through the press by men whose school discipline led them during six days in the week to take Achilles for their hero, and the seventh to admire Christ; a nation which, at its public dinners, habitually toasts its army and navy before toasting its legislative bodies; [Page 41] cannot allow the characteristics proper to industrialism to be shown with clearness. In independence, in honesty, in truthfulness, in humanity, its citizens are not likely to be the equals of the uncultured but peaceful peoples above described. All we may anticipate is an approach to those moral qualities appropriate to a state undisturbed by international hostilities; and this we find."
This we find! This we shall always find. And one of the things we always thus find–and some day perhaps the women's movement will be reunited by the realisation of the discovery–is that these international hostilities are much the most dangerous enemy of emancipation with which women have to struggle. One day perhaps a woman who does not actively work for peace will become as anomalous as the Christian who is content to take his ethical guidance chiefly from the Mosaic dispensation. But the New Gospel has not yet found its apostles. We are still waiting for the leaders.
* * *
In the meantime we may learn not a little from the progress that has already been made. Two great steps have been taken. Violence between individuals has ceased; men no longer carry swords; and it is possible for women to walk abroad in towns (though not everywhere in the country), provided it is broad daylight, without an armed escort! That has made it possible for her to raise her voice in public, and to appear freely in public places, whereas while swords were necessary it was not possible. And secondly, violence as between masters and their slaves has ceased. Thereby a great incentive to the degradation of woman has been removed.
Militarism itself, as it seemed to some, had vanished except as a survival; and the woman's movement arose as the world slumbered in apparent security. But militarism was there all the while, as women are realising to their cost. Will they realise fully and in time? On which side will the united efforts of the most hopeful movement the world has yet seen be thrown? The war can have many results, but nothing is inevitable. Nothing save the downfall of woman's hopes if militarism should finally emerge triumphant.
"When nations were devoted to continual warfare the duties of men were defined, and, while the women were left behind to care for the children and perform the baser services, the men went forth to war, or took upon them the affairs of the State. This distinction has been preserved. No moral or intellectual progress has been sufficient to shake it. All pretensions to equality have been contradicted by the treatment of women, by their exclusion from the most honourable forms of labour, and by withholding from them social, civil, and political rights."–PROFESSOR LESTER F. WARD.
In some respects it must be regarded as an unfortunate feature of the modern women's movement that its origins date from a period when, almost more than at any time either before or since, the true significance of militarism was obscured by economic and scientific developments and by the insular character of the land where it first gained a propagandist force.
Since the publication of Mill's Subjection of Women the whole course of female emancipation may be traced in an unbroken line down to the present day. Mill summed up the opinions of feminists in the middle of the nineteenth century in language so clear that even to-day, to the latest historian of the movement, "its popularity is likely to increase rather than to diminish."42 Hence it is of considerable importance to appreciate the atmosphere in which it was written in order that we may not be led into a position of false security by the important omission which can be detected at certain points in Mill's analysis. Nowhere is this omission more clearly seen than in his statement that "the social subordination of women stands out an isolated fact in modern social institutions; a single relic of an old world of thought and practice, as if a vast temple of Jupiter Olympius occupied the site of St Paul's and received daily worship."
Had Mill written to-day he would certainly have revised this judgment, just as the woman's movement will be forced to revise its official statements of the conditions of progress [Page 43] in the future, by the recognition of that other legacy from ages when the fittest found it so difficult to survive–militarism and international pugnacity. The connection between warfare and male domination in the past would be granted by many who imagine that this connection nevertheless ceased at some moment when modern history is supposed to begin. But unfortunately their nebulosity cannot be justified. Militarism and an androcentric culture go hand in hand; and together they oppose that ideal of social co-operation on which the women's movement must ever base itself. And that this is so is not only the lesson of history, but is clear from general considerations.
Our standard authorities whose works still mould the thought of the rising generation have been far too ready to use phrases implying that war and its accompaniments were a thing of the past. But none of those few who have troubled to study the social effect of warlike habits is more instructive than Bagehot, who goes so far as to ask tentatively whether "the spirit of war does not still colour our morality far too much." But so intent is he on the softer growths that "have now half-hidden the old and harsh civilisation which war made" that he allows himself to imply, as these last words do imply, that war no longer determines the essentials of social structure. Events are proving him wrong; but just because war is now revealed as a more fundamental factor in modern life than Bagehot supposed, his estimate of the effects of militarist organisation is all the more valuable as an impartial analysis.
All that may be called "grace" as well as virtue, he tells us,43 is not nourished by war and preparations for war; humanity, charity, a nice sense of the rights of others, it certainly does not foster; insensibility to human suffering is an essential part of the legacy of war to the world. The trained warrior does not readily revolt from the things of war, and one of the principal [Page 44] of these is human pain. Men have become more tender to one another not because they have improved but because there are fewer soldiers: for soldiers as such, soldiers educated simply by their trade, such thoughts and feelings are too hard to understand. But the essential point is reached when we are told of the "contempt for physical weakness and for women which marks early society. The non-combatant population is sure to fare ill during the ages of combat." Belgium, Poland, Galicia, Scarborough, to say nothing of Cardiff–it is a pity that Bagehot is not alive to bring his analysis up to date!
But it is not only by its insensibility to that human suffering and cruelty against which women for ever revolt, and by its contempt for physical weakness, that war stands in the way. Such an atmosphere is fatal to the reform of social abuses. But militarism goes further and creates the institutions whereby such an evil is crystallised. It creates by its own natural requirements that nucleus of exclusively male professions and of exclusively male direction which is the most formidable barrier opposed to women to-day. It is formidable because of its long tradition, for it is rooted in the necessities which primitive warfare created. The characteristic institution whereby the primitive warrior secured control of affairs and set the tone of society was the Man's House.
"Over the greater part of the world," we have been told by an anthropologist, 44 "from the South Pacific Islands, through Australia, Melanesia, Polynesia, Africa and America, an institution has been observed common to nearly all savage tribes called the 'Man's House.' The savage, instead of living a simple domestic life with wife and child, lives a double life. He has a domestic home and a social home. In the domestic home are his wife and family; in the Man's House is passed all his social civilised life.
"To the Man's House he goes when he attains maturity. It is his public school, his university, his club, his public-house. Even after marriage, it is in the Man's House he mainly lives. For a woman to enter the Man's House is usually tabu; the penalty is often death."
But what is most significant from our point of view is its military aspect:
"The entertainment of strangers, all contact with news from the outside world, is reserved for the Man's [Page 45] House. There he discusses the affairs of the tribe, there holds his parliament; in a word, a Man's House is 'the House' and has all its 'inviolable sanctity.'"
The Man's House still exists, but it has added new buildings to its once simple structure. In it a nation's affairs are still discussed, and it also succeeds in finding room for Law, Medicine, Education, Church. And why this persistence and this extension? Because that body which had supreme control of the affairs of war in the tribe, and whose business it was to provide money for war in the nation which succeeded to the tribe, has slowly and consistently extended its sphere of influence to all departments of human life. The state is still constituted primarily as if for war. When the noise of battles cannot for the moment be heard, this military foundation is obscured by a myriad mushroom social growths, and even women dare to raise their heads and demand that voice in affairs which taxation or oppression seems to necessitate. But at the sound of the martial trump the graves are once more opened, and the reforms and aspirations of peace laid peaceably to rest.
The androcentric bias which military organisation creates is seen in the development of those exclusively male professions into which women are still trying to force an entry. The direction or control of all these by men alone has gained and still gains colour and sanction from the exclusively male control, which, in its own sphere, war demands. And not war alone, but that fear of war which directs much of our social life in times of peace. But the Man's House has not only multiplied its functions; it has extended its activities in a new and unexpected direction. Though still dominated by considerations of military expediency–army and navy estimates, foreign policy, and the flag which trade shall follow–it is forced more and more to interfere with the affairs of the family and in particular with the life and work of woman. To the authority of man inside the home is added the external authority of the Man's House as such–that house which women may not enter, since war and preparation for war which still determine its action in so many ways are the concern of man alone.
From these direct and inevitable characteristics of a state organised for war, let us turn to the perversion by militarism of the forces which might be expected to work for peace. In modern times the hope of women has lain in the industrial developments of the past two centuries. Industrial development which like the movement for emancipation not only demands peace in its own interests but is itself directly conducive to a pacific mode of life. Industry has been woman's special [Page 46] sphere whether in its origins45 or in the later ages when she made in the house itself46 the soap, candles, beer, bread, sheets, blankets, boots, clothes, with which she has since migrated to the factory. The independent wage which she there earned encouraged her to think of an independent life; the discarding of weapons of aggression and defence in civil life and the victory of internal order over personal violence enables her to live alone. Industrialism flourishes on peace–and industrialism it was which gave birth to the idea of emancipation. Industrialism of itself encourages the forces which make for peace–the smooth working of the industrial machine abhors the inroads of violence; the exchange of goods implies a mutual understanding, production and salesmanship, an appreciation of the interest and desires of others which work directly against the military conceptions of forcible appropriation and the hostility of groups; in a word those patient and peaceful habits of industrious construction give a value to the work of man's hands which is entirely alien to the habits of the warriors who ply their trade of destruction as we know it in history. It has been well said that in marketing47 woman is in her element, but the "marketing" of war is to requisition, to commandeer, to billet.
Industry and commerce thus taken in and for themselves tend in the direction of peace, but this peaceful tendency is only too often overshadowed so long as the traditions of militarism prevail. "England indeed grew ever more warlike as she grew more commercial," says Sir John Seeley. "Commerce in itself may favour peace, but when commerce is artificially shut out by a decree of government from some promising territory, then commerce just as naturally favours war."48 Thus we cannot look for any permanent improvement from the operation of economic forces alone. As long as public opinion is not convinced on other grounds of the sacrilegious folly of war, so long will the opportunity of war engender war itself: for men trained in the ethics of imperialism will apply that ethic to the advancement of their individual interests in the business world. We do not need to attribute the whole of the spirit of capitalistic competition to the influence of military ideals in order to acknowledge the great part which the [Page 47] latter have played in directing the industrial development in the past two centuries. Is not Admiral Mahan the evangelist of all Sea Powers of both the New World and the Old? Are his works not held up to the admiration of every Public School boy in England to-day–and have they not profoundly influenced the military preparation not only of England and America but in an even more striking manner of Germany and Japan? And what is his gospel? "Governments," he emphatically declares, "are corporations, and corporations have no souls ... they must put first the rival interests of their own people. Predominance forces a nation to seek markets, and where possible to control them to its own advantage by preponderating force, the ultimate expression of which is possession . . . an inevitable link in a chain of logical sequences: industry, markets, control, navy bases." Precisely, and already in his teens the businessman unconsciously applies the lesson. Business firms are corporations ... no souls ... ultimate expression ... inevitable link ... logical sequences: and we wonder why the harsh ideals of barbarism survive in the modern world where national militarism has been reinforced by that industrial militarism which deserves no better name. Is it not here significant that the only point at which women have hitherto seriously impinged on the scene of strife is in the "Women's Co-operative Guild"? Perhaps Miss Llewellyn Davies will one day be known as the Florence Nightingale of Industrial Warfare.
But marked as is the domination of the industrial world by military ideals, industry is not more unfortunate than other tendencies which make for peace and favour emancipation. In spite of all that Christianity has done to soften the heart of the world it is doubtful whether any body of ethical teaching has so often been adapted to meet the requirements of militarists as that contained in the Gospels. "The Lord Jesus Christ is not only the Prince of Peace, He is the Prince of War too," wrote Charles Kingsley in order to justify the Crimean War; "He is the Lord of Hosts, the God of armies, and whoever fights in a just war has Christ for his Captain and his Leader." And since no people as a whole ever yet fought in a war which they did not conceive to be just, the Sermon on the Mount does not in itself allow us to hope that official Christianity will refrain from subjecting its behests to a modern interpretation. And apart from this general disadvantage we must remember that militarism is quite capable of using the purest religious motives deliberately for its own purposes. "The soldier knows no law but force," said Napoleon, "sees nothing but force and measures everything by force. The civilian only looks to the [Page 48] general welfare. The characteristic of the soldier is to wish to do everything despotically." What was Napoleon's religion? A Christian may well hesitate to answer this question, but there is no doubt as to the way in which the Patron Saint of all who "do everything despotically" conceived of religion in the interests of the military ideal. In 1807 Napoleon thus formulated his ideals on a sound useful education for girls. "We must begin with religion in all its severity. Do not admit any modification of this. We must train up believers, not reasoners. The weakness of women's brains, the unsteadiness of their ideas, their function in the social order . . . all can only be attained by religion." They were to learn a little geography and history but no foreign language; above all to do plenty of needlework.49 From the Code Napoleon (cf. 37) we know what is meant by "their function in the social order". But it is only from his biographers that we can learn the part which religion may be made to play in a militarist world: and the actual effect of Napoleon's ideas on the movement for the emancipation of women will be clear to anyone who remembers the prominent share taken by women during the revolution, and compares it with the scanty activities (cf. p. 38 above) of women in the social life of France during the century which followed.
Similar instances could be given from every country, and one of the most instructive is to be found in the writings of Colonel F. N. Maude, C.B., England's leading military writer, whose standpoint is well indicated by the quotation which we reproduce on page 60. In his War and the World's Life he frankly faces the problem how to win the Churches to his point of view. He remarks (p. x.) "It is not easy to suggest how the clergy are to be approached in such a matter–it is too largely a question of the individual employed" on such propaganda! He adds, "But much has been done in the past few years."
The instance of Napoleon has already introduced us to the perversions which education may similarly suffer; and here the effect of militarism is even more marked.
From earliest childhood the modern infant is nurtured in an atmosphere of war. Its very cradle is loaded with popguns, leaden soldiers, drums, and trumpets, the forerunners of the forts which it storms when it can scarcely walk, and of the rifle and [Page 49] sword bigger than itself which glorify the nursery on the first available Christmas Day. As soon as it can be trusted to appreciate differences of clothing, the uniform of Dragoon and Hussar make their appearance, or a cocked hat, which does duty as a symbol of Nelson or Napoleon. Then come the histories where the military exploits of an Alexander, a Cæsar, a Turenne, or a Marlborough gradually dwarf in the infant mind even the ever-present warriors of the Old Testament–the heroes for whom the God of Battles made the sun stand still, while, like others in later times, the edge of their sword imposed a higher civilisation on the hapless tribes of Canaan! History proper begins when lists of warriors and dates of battles can first conveniently be memorised. About 90 per cent. of the population escape with a few such lists, and leave school at thirteen or fourteen with a vague memory of a few outstanding national warriors and of martial exploits chronologically arranged. A few go further and perfect this knowledge, and of these again a small proportion pass on to those abodes of learning–the universities. What knowledge is assumed in the average student of history when he enters the university? Let the late Regius Professor of History at Cambridge reply. For years his duty was to inspire the best of them, and there is little evidence that matters have improved since his day. This is how he used to open his lectures to these youths already entered on manhood:–
"Hitherto perhaps you have learned names and dates, lists of kings, lists of battles and wars! The time now comes when you are to ask yourselves, to what end? For what practical purpose are these facts collected and committed to memory?" (Seeley, op. cit. p. 3).
At the age of nineteen then it is at length permissible to ask, Why have I learnt this list of battles? But when we remember how infinitesimal a proportion of the community are privileged to continue their studies to this advanced age, it is clear that in the country as a whole the story of national wars and their makers forms practically the whole historical equipment of the voter. The slight improvement which was at length becoming discernible had, however, made but little headway. The average voter, the average municipal councillor, even–we may surely add–the average member of parliament, still thinks of the past in terms of warriors and battles; and since it is largely from his ideas of the past that he judges the present, it is small wonder that the male ideal prevails. And as in Parliament, so in the school. The men who write the histories are obsessed with this point of view, and so long as national rivalries loom [Page 50] so large there is little hope of change. All reformers, men and women alike, will have constantly to struggle with the traditions imposed on them in early years: and for women the case is aggravated by the fact that men for the most part still monopolise the writing of history which women must read, and men still direct the examinations by which the course of reading is so largely determined. It is small wonder therefore to find Mrs. Charlotte Wilson complaining of the utter inadequacy of existing histories as far as an understanding of the position of women is concerned. She explains, though without any reference to the influence of war, that as the individual man gradually emerged as a responsible, economically independent citizen from tribal and mediaeval corporate life, with its concomitants of slavery and of serfdom, the woman remained the adjunct of the man. "She was his belonging; a creature attached civically and economically to him and under his control, and industrial history does not deal with her except incidentally. Her work, and its relation to her means of subsistence, are taken for granted and practically ignored by our historians. Consequently at every stage in our national economic development research into original contemporary sources must be made to discover facts about women as workers and consumers. With all deference to Rogers, Ashley, Toynbee, Hasbach and Cunningham, the economic history of this country from the point of view of the workers, to say nothing of the women workers, has yet to be written."
The italics are ours, and they reveal what one might have expected from the foregoing discussion. The influence of militarism on education is a grievous legacy, with far-reaching consequences. And its workings are all the more insidious because when all have been impregnated alike it is particularly hard to inaugurate a change.
The whole organisation of our educational system is influenced by the obsessions of military administration. Children in the elementary school are for the most part still literally drilled in the various subjects scheduled by the Educational Headquarters Staff. "Blind, passive, unintelligent obedience is the basis on which the whole system of Western education has been reared," says Mr. Edmond Holmes.50 Why? Not entirely owing to the Doctrine of Original Sin, as Mr. Holmes would have us believe. There have been other reasons. Take the case of that glorious warrior, Frederick the Great–to come no nearer to modern times! He was under no illusions as to [Page 51] Original Sin. But he knew the value of obedient soldiers: as a great educationalist has pointed out, "He used the elementary school to make the masses stupid and to drill obedient subjects." Almost all that was taught in the schools was the repetition of tags from the Bible, of Hymns and of the Catechism, though Frederick himself declared that "religion was made to deceive men."51 Such instances can be multiplied all over the world.
And in the higher schools the cloven hoof is seen even more clearly. The Battle of Waterloo may or may not have been won on the playing fields of Eton, but if not, it was hardly the fault of Etonian organisation. Society itself begins by breaking children in to a game of killing before their minds act independently. It smears the blood of the dead fox or mutilated otter on the cheek of the little boy or girl who is in at the death for the first time. It goes on at Eton, half a century after Arnold abolished it at Rugby, to accustom him to the callous fun of the hare-hunt. He maims more than he kills, and the creatures which give him the best sport are precisely those that die hardest, after the longest struggle with terror and exhaustion. The English public schools are designed to turn out an imperial race, a race of warriors, and it is not without significance that they are constructed on the barracks system, and that their sport is all mimic warfare. Organised games, of which for many reasons England is justly proud, were the product of the fifties, and this is how those who supported their introduction defended them–"In these hard contested matches will be found by no means the worst competitive examinations for those of our gallant youth who, from a more favoured development of body than of brain, will and must take to the profession of arms. Many a fine fellow who would fail lamentably in extracting a cube-root will, in after life, face an enemy's square, and break it effectually."52 We may compare with this a passage in one of the latest and most popular public school novels53 which by the best authorities is acknowledged to give a true picture of the atmosphere of such schools to-day, where the hero's bosom friend remarks: "The Head says a fellow who plays the brute at school, often turns out a ripping good chap afterwards. If he gets into the Army I daresay he'd make a first-rate officer." We are left in doubt as to whether this is intended as a compliment to the army or is merely an attempt [Page 52] to justify bullying. That there may however be some connection between the two is seen in the observation of a writer in the Daily News during the correspondence which followed the publication of the book, that "bullying in my opinion forms an essential and valuable feature of the public school system."
In any case the success of sport has also been its Nemesis, and shortly before the war broke out the Headmaster of Dulwich was actually urging that "the best thing is to find some substitute for an overpowering desire to excel in games, and some rival for them in a young man's esteem"–and his remedy is compulsory military service in schools and colleges! A similar demand has been made by the late Lecturer in Military History at Manchester, that soldiers should be appointed elementary schoolmasters in order that "from the very first the children may be taught to look up to and respect the wearers of the King's uniform" and that in the schools "the youth of both sexes should learn what the Empire really means and is." The learned writer is appalled by the problem of "how to bring home to the millions of the working classes, from whom ultimately our fighting men are derived, the idea that their country, as they see it, is a conception worth dying for." To be willing to die in this manner they need to be fairly sensible, "sensible enough to answer to the verbal appeal of some straightforward soldierly chaplain"–therefore in addition to a sound religion a sound education is of course essential. We may well look forward with anxiety to the spirit which is to dominate the schools of the future. For there are two spirits abroad. One we have allowed to speak for itself: the other may be compressed into a few words and they are the words of a woman–the greatest of modern teachers–"How many times social problems centre about the necessity of rousing man from a state of 'obedience' which has led him to be exploited and brutalised."54
Such then are the characteristics of militarism in all ages, and such the false standards it has set up and is still preserving. In every country in the world it still proves itself, whether it threatens within or without, the greatest foe of progress.
In England, as we have seen (p. 40), the reality of its power was obscured, and it is impossible to lay too much emphasis on the influences which have enabled the British Isles to enjoy a century of peace at home and yet to retain the warrior spirit untarnished. For as a nation Britain has been perpetually at war. We have the surprising fact that though during the Chartist riots "it became absolutely unsafe for an officer in [Page 53] uniform to be seen alone in the streets," so that uniform was even discarded for a time for safety's sake, the nation has never for a moment entirely lost that underlying militarism which ever and anon has demonstrated its potent effect on social organisation. The reason is to be found in the picturesque phrase of the military historian who so often throws light on dark places. "India and the colonies still kept alive the sacred flame. India particularly proved our true salvation."55 India in fact could always be relied upon to provide first-rate fighting practice! To India has gone the flower of the nation's manhood and of its administrative ability: and trained in the same school were the men who have in reality controlled the social destinies of the nation. Apart from such distant warfare we must also remember that the warrior spirit of England has been able to spend itself fruitfully and unobtrusively on the high seas, and to defend the island nucleus from war's alarms. So at home there was peace in actuality; and, as we have seen, Mill himself wrote in the midst of peace. But, contemporaneous with the rise of the woman's movement, there rose the new imperialism. The Crimea and the Mutiny had aroused the public mind: there followed the Volunteer movement, Sir John Seeley, Admiral Mahan, the Navy League, National expansion and an International jealousy in which all countries emulously participated until the great Day of Reckoning arrived–1914, and the women of England still without even their votes.
But England was able to make a start, in virtue of comparative peace at home: for certainly the spirit of continental Europe late into the nineteenth century was not such as to encourage women to take an active part in national life. Colonel Maude preserves for us a military chorus which he says is characteristic of the spirit of pre-seventy times. It runs:–
So leben wir, so leben wir, so leben wir alle da;
Des Morgens bei dem Brantwein, des Mittags bei dem Bier,
Des Abends bei der Maedle in die Nacht Quartier.
His comment is instructive: "It may be imagined what a cheery time the smart, well set-up soldier was able to provide for himself, at the expense of anxious matrons, and particularly of housekeepers." In fact the cheeriness of it was all-pervasive: and we can even detect a touch of pride in the Colonel's further testimony that "the civilian had no chance in the competition [Page 54] for women compared with the soldier, nor could he always keep one even after he had married her."
And as in England so in other countries where martial needs have been less pressing and martial ideals less potent. The status of women is highest in those European countries which by position or circumstance have been free from the desire or necessity of straining every nerve for imperialist or defensive ends. And, other things being equal, the converse also holds. Take the case of Finland, "one of the happiest, most enlightened, and prosperous countries in Northern Europe," as Mr. Dover Wilson described her at the end of 1914. In Finland men and women have equal rights, and on the page opposite to that on which her virtues are recorded the same author remarks quite casually: "Without army, court, or aristocracy, and consequently without the traditions which these institutions carry with them, she presents the greatest imaginable contrasts to the Empire with which she is irrevocably linked." Here in a word we have the main cause of Finland's progress. Is it true that her fate is irrevocably sealed?
The same facts may be observed elsewhere, and already the women of the United States and of New Zealand are beginning to realise what they owe to the peace their countries have enjoyed and to the absence of those Armies and Navies which so many would like to see them possess. Mrs. Archibald Colquhoun tells us, in her vigorous attack on feminism, The Vocation of Woman, that she has "heard an eminent Colonial ex-statesman, who is a prominent supporter of votes for women, base his argument on the hypothesis that we have as an Imperial race passed through the stage of acquisition, in which man must play a predominant part, and are now in the stage of organisation where the sexes are equal." If this were indeed assured the future of women would be bright indeed, but there are other voices. Listen to that of Mr. Sinclair Kennedy in his recent book advocating the federation of the English-speaking peoples as a world power, The Pan-Angles. It is thus that he speaks of America whose women owe so much to the peace their country has enjoyed: "We think we are a peaceful people and deprecate as bad form the huge expenditures made by European nations for military and naval preparations. Some Americans contemplate their small army as though their nation were by that proved virtuous, much as though the learned Babu, contemplating the fur-clad Eskimo should pride himself on his own tropical attire. Like the sons of wealthy shopkeepers who disdain to demean themselves by trading, we [Page 55] Pan-Angles forget sometimes on what harsh foundations was laid our present exemption from harshness."
And for the future, he declares, the harshness is again inevitable: though the writer admits that social progress (including of course female suffrage, which he does not mention) is largely due to peace. "Since the throes of the eighteenth century, North America has been developed, and Australia and New Zealand have prepared themselves for large populations–all undisturbed by fear of invasions. In these newer countries have been nurtured many of the ideals of the race . . . And it is well for us that this reign of peace has continued so long . . . because of the strength it allows to accumulate for struggles to come. That this long peace is unusual, that struggles will come, history teaches." The italics, as above, are ours and they serve to make clear the fate which awaits these ideals that peace has nurtured–a fate towards which in our blindness we may easily allow them to drift.
* * *
There are many causes which underlie the contentions here set forth, but there is one consideration in particular of such primary importance that it ought not to be omitted from any historical study. "Time was and still is," says Olive Schreiner56, "amongst almost all primitive and savage folk, when the first and all-important duty of the female to her society was to bear much and to bear unceasingly!" The welfare of the tribe or of the nation has clearly depended in warlike ages on the number of adult males capable of bearing arms that it could mobilise for every tribal or national emergency. The ceaseless destruction wrought by war or acts of personal violence, and the decimating ravages of the pestilence or famine which these wars generally brought in their train, made it all important that woman should employ her creative power to its very uttermost limits if the race were not to dwindle and die out. "May thy wife's womb never cease from bearing" is still to-day the highest expression of good will on the part of a native African chief to his departing guest.
This state of affairs prevailed throughout the ancient world with few exceptions, and throughout the Middle Ages, and down almost to our own day the demand for continuous, unbroken child-bearing on the part of the woman as her loftiest social duty has been hardly less imperious. Martin Luther wrote: "If a woman becomes weary or at last dead from bearing, that matters [Page 56] not; let her only die from bearing, she is there to do it." There was no dissentient voice, and the militarist ideal of a fruitful nation which should overrun its enemies by sheer force of numbers, has remained down to the present day. In theory the demand has ceased; in theory we accept the warning of Malthus; in theory we point to emigration as the sign and the remedy of over population. But in fact the ideals of militarism remain the same. Think of the finger of scorn which was pointed at the prudent working classes of France by their military neighbours. It is in tones of triumph that Bernhardi turns arithmetician.57 "No further increase in these figures (a total army of 2,300,000) is possible, since in France 90 per cent. of all those liable to serve have been called up, and the birth-rate is steadily sinking." So France herself felt. And instead of asking how far such decrease was wise from a social as opposed to a military point of view, the world calmly assumed that the day of France was over. She had decided no longer to continue in the struggle to provide food for cannon. She had put the question of social well-being first in the scale. Therefore her hour had come. And in every country this dread of being left behind in the ceaseless and unconsidered production of babies, with its persistent degradation of so many women to the position of beasts of burden, leads militarist governments to oppose every effort to reduce the birth-rate. It is in vain that eugenists and social reformers alike have deplored this blind worship of numbers, regardless of quality, regardless of the social squalor which large families entail. Even in 20th century Europe this first requirement of woman's freedom, the claim to be something more than a domestic animal, is vigorously denied by every state that is organised for war. The right to a share in controlling her own married life is still largely a privilege which has to be won. "To stunt one's brain in order that one may bear a son does not seem to me a process essentially sacred or noble in itself," says Miss Cicely Hamilton, in a book which is slowly creating a revolution of thought on the subject in England, "yet millions of others have instructed their daughters in foolishness so that they, in turn, might please, marry and beget children."58 And Miss Hamilton rightly points out "such improvement as has already been effected in the status of the wife and mother is to a great extent the work of the formerly contemned spinster." And she might, had she realised it, have pointed out that the modern spinster is a product of peace in a double sense–of the peace which allowed the industrial revolution to establish both [Page 57] itself and the possibility of economic independence; of the peace which so far obscured the implications of war that an unmarried woman might claim her place in respectable society.
Similarly as regards Miss Hamilton's assertion that "the various explanations which have been given for woman's existence may be narrowed down to two–her husband and her child. Male humanity has wobbled between two convictions–the one, that she exists for the entire benefit of contemporary mankind; the other, that she exists for the entire benefit of the next generation. The latter is at present the favourite. One consideration only male humanity has firmly refused to entertain–that she exists in any degree whatsoever for the benefit of herself."59 Here, again, she neglects to emphasise the lesson of history; for in all ages a third reason has been given for woman's existence. Militarists have openly avowed that Heaven is on the side of the big battalions, and except perhaps in very primitive ways they never imagined that the battalions in question dropped straight from Heaven itself. "Be fruitful and multiply" has been the warrior-statesman's command, "and conquer the earth."
The lesson is clear enough: for everywhere people are being forced to realise the influence which militarism exerts on moral standards and in every case in a direction unfavourable to women. But hitherto feminist writers have been content to refer casually to this fundamental obstacle to the progress of their ideals. "The service of mother," wrote Ellen Key in The Woman Movement, "must receive the honour and oblation that the state now gives to military service"; but no particular emphasis is laid on the false standards which militarism creates, no mention made of the interest which women, simply as women, ought to take in the furtherance of peace ideals. Yet when the war broke out Ellen Key was amongst the first to voice the horror and distress with which feminists all over the world greeted its denial of their aspirations.
It has not been that the leaders of the movement decided to concentrate first of all on political enfranchisement in order thus to exert a peaceful influence from within their nations. They have repeatedly thrown themselves into many schemes which bore only indirectly on the political ends they had in view. They have constantly written and agitated for other ideals of womanhood than those which they have kept immediately before their supporters. They neglected the danger of militarism which threatened even their own immediate ends. [Page 58] Olive Schreiner, for instance, in that fine passage in Woman and Labour, where she contrasts the ideals of man and woman in relation to war and the destruction of life, deals with one side of the question only. "The relations of the female," she says, "towards the production of human life influence undoubtedly even her relation towards animal and all life. It is a fine day, let us go out and kill something! cries the typical male of certain races, instinctively. There is a living thing, it will die if it is not cared for, says the average woman, almost equally instinctively." And she goes on to remark that "War will pass when intellectual culture and activity have made possible to the female an equal share in the control and governance of modern national life; it will probably not pass away much sooner; its extinction will not be delayed much longer ... it is we especially, who in the domain of war, have our word to say, a word no man can say for us. It is our intention to enter into the domain of war and to labour there till in the course of generations we have extinguished it." And in the meantime?
"For the vast bulk of humanity, probably for generations to come, the instinctive antagonism of the human childbearer to reckless destruction of that which she has at so much cost produced, will be necessary to educate the race to any clear conception of the bestiality and insanity of war."
Herein lies the error. Instinctive antagonism is not enough: for war itself constitutes the main obstacle to that equal share in the control and governance of national life which is to inaugurate the era of peace and reasonableness. If women were to apply the same argument to political enfranchisement and to rely on their instinctive antagonism to tyranny and oppression as a method of securing the vote what would be their position to-day? Unfortunately we must realise the value of organisation and propaganda as the necessity of modern times. We must keep a definite end in view: and side by side with the abolition of Sex-inequality in the exercise of the political rights, the feminist movement must declare its active opposition to Militarism as the menace of all women in all nations. Side by side with the forces that are working actively against the perpetuation of warfare in the future women, as women, must take their part, in their own interests primarily but also for the benefit of humanity. The task may be tremendous, but success cannot be doubtful, for where the interest and the instinct of half the human race are united in a determined effort it is hard to believe that mere tradition, however bestial, will find it possible to survive. Such an effort, and not the wars against which it is directed, is the real "indispensable necessity of human progress."
"We have abolished duelling between individuals, and War, which is but a duel between nations, must go. What have we to substitute for Competition? Only Co-operation."–
MISS JANE HARRISON.
"War is an indispensable necessity of human progress."
COLONEL F. N. MAUDE, C.B.
"War is a manifestation of the world-spirit in the most sublime form."
PROFESSOR J. A. CRAMB.
"On this one point, and on this point almost alone, the knowledge of woman, simply as woman, is superior to that of man; she knows the history of human flesh; she knows its cost; he does not."
It has been said by a leading American feminist that "In warfare, per se, we find maleness in its absurdest extremes." Here, we are told, is to be studied the whole gamut of basic masculinity, from the initial instinct of combat, through every form of glorious ostentation, with the loudest possible accompaniment of noise. War shows us that men are very far from the civilisation they profess, certainly; but if that were all there would be good reason for surprise that with the advent of more rational habits of thought and action such methods of settling disputes have not long ago passed into oblivion. But that is not all, and it is precisely on our understanding this fact that the hopes of the future are based.
War is the prerogative of man in a special sense, and it is because he feels this so strongly that the difficulty of gaining a hearing for views which tend fundamentally to disparage the value of war is so great. For to men war involves that element of sacrifice, of giving up one's life for others in a noble cause, that has made argument with the martyr an impossibility in all ages. To a man it is the basest treachery that anyone should [Page 60] breathe a word in opposition to the cause he has undertaken to defend. To do so would be to minimise the chances of success, to weaken the something which gives him driving power, and to encourage the warriors against whom he is pitted. Hence it is that as far as men are concerned it is impossible to conceive the hypothesis, so long as war lasts, that one's own side may not be entirely in the right; and hence it is that the realisation of the true position of one's adversary which might so often lead to an early cessation of hostilities is inconceivable to each and all of the nations concerned in any struggle.
But the spirit of sacrifice involves more than the unflinching course from which the martyr must look neither to the right hand nor to the left. It involves an enthusiasm which no amount of argument can overcome: a denial of self which it would be unjust to depreciate. To obey the call of King and Country is to many a duty as sacred as that a man should lay down his life for a friend: it is superior to reason: it can brook no counter considerations. In a word, as far as man is concerned the outbreak of war implies the immediate closing of every opening through which the possibility of a rapprochement might contrive to enter, and the war is left to pursue its horrible course unless some powerful neutral intervenes to separate the embittered combatants–an improbable and dangerous proceeding. All works with the inevitability of fatalism, and any suggestion of a possible alternative is regarded as the highest treason.
Meanwhile the millions of non-combatants look on aghast. Some cheer–and these form "public opinion": all hope their own side will win, for in case of victory they will at least come in for the minimum of personal misfortune and share in the honour and glory–and in the pickings. It would be high treason, as aforesaid, to do otherwise, for that is the male code of honour in war time. And in war time only men matter.
Such, at any rate, has been the view hitherto: and to a large extent such is the view to-day. It is true that in primitive times warfare frequently had as its ultimate object the capture of females; but, for all that, women in war time are a negligible factor. They just lapse, except for camp problems, and in so far as something must be found for some of them to do. Men must preserve a discreet silence: what women say or think nobody really cares. It is a terrible confession, yet this is a prerogative of woman of which she may well be proud to-day.
It is terrible, yet it is the symbol and token of woman's greatness. She has neither part nor share in the slaughter of humanity, and she may speak where man dare not. In the [Page 61] past she had no voice to raise: she was not conscious of her power. To-day, if she will but realise it, the redemption of civilisation rests with her, and perhaps with her alone. Woman has but to become conscious of her power, of her privilege; has but to realise that after all more than half the world, were every nation at war, is permanently non-combatant; and that now, when so many nations are looking on at the carnage in amazement and horror, the value of public opinion is all-important. There is no question here of stopping the present war immediately, but of the attitude of mind which may in the near future make war an impossibility, and may even now hasten the end of this war or enable the final settlement to be in the direction of lasting peace.
For in this question men are by nature, by habit, and by tradition powerless to act, for the reasons we have set forth, and the latest and greatest confession of failure is to be found in that giant of European thought, to whom France to-day looks as her spiritual leader–the author of Jean Christophe. Solitary and despairingly, Romain Rolland, in an article in the Journal de Genève, raises his voice above the tumult of battle in his noble appeal. "O young men," he cries to the young French conscripts, and joins to them in his generous sympathy the youth of all nations, friend and foe, "O young men that shed your blood with so generous a joy! O heroism of the world! What a harvest for destruction to reap! Young men of all nations, brought into conflict by a common ideal, making enemies of those who should be brothers; all of you marching to your death are dear to me."
The supreme sacrifice of man! And before his eyes there pass the armies of those to whom he had been as a father-confessor, the interpreter of their dreams, the poet of their highest imaginings. "Slavs hastening to the aid of your race; Englishmen fighting for honour and right; intrepid Belgians who dared to oppose the Teutonic colossus, and defend against him the Thermopylae of the West; Germans fighting to defend the philosophy and the birthplace of Kant against the Cossack avalanche; and you, above all, my young compatriots, in whom the generation of heroes of the Revolution lives again; you, who for years have confided your dreams to me, and now, on the verge of battle, bid me a sublime farewell."
And what have their elders done for these young men, what ideal has set them one against another? "A maddened Europe ascending its funeral pyre, and, like Hercules, destroying itself with its own hands." Such is the final achievement of man: pell-mell they rush on one another–souls and bodies of all colours. [Page 62]
"Is our civilisation so solid that you do not fear to shake the pillars on which it rests? Can you not see that all falls in upon you if one column be shattered? Could you not have learned to love one another, or, if that were impossible, at least to tolerate the great virtues and the great vices of the others? Was it not your duty to attempt–you have never attempted it in sincerity–to settle amicably the questions which divided you–the problem of peoples annexed against their will, the equitable division of productive labour and the riches of the world? Must the stronger for ever darken the others with the shadow of his pride, and the others for ever unite to dissipate it? Is there no end to this bloody and puerile sport, in which the partners change about from century to century–no end, until the whole of humanity is exhausted thereby?" And then Rolland begins his burning indictment. He confesses it. We are all to blame. "Again the venerable refrain is heard: 'The fatality of war is stronger than our wills.' The old refrain of the herd that makes a god of its feebleness and bows down before him. Man has invented fate, that he may make it responsible for the disorders of the universe, those disorders which it was his duty to regulate. There is no fatality! The only fatality is what we desire; and more often, too, what we do not desire enough. Let each now repeat his mea culpa. The leaders of thought, the Church, the Labour parties did not desire war. That may be; what, then, did they do to prevent it? What are they doing to put an end to it? They are stirring up the bonfire, each one bringing his faggot.... There is not one amongst the leaders of thought in each country who does not proclaim with conviction that the cause of his people is the cause of God, the cause of liberty, and of human progress. And I, too, proclaim it."
Rolland against Hauptmann! Yes: we all read it aghast. And here comes Rolland, repentant as it were, seeking with whom he may join hands. Labour has failed. Christianity has worse than failed: it has denied itself. "You Christians to-day would not have refused to sacrifice to the gods of Imperial Rome; you are not capable of such courage. You also are undismayed by bullets and shrapnel yet tremble before the dictates of racial frenzy–that Moloch that stands higher than the Church of Christ." Et propter vitam, vivendi perdere causas! But worse than this is the unutterable despair of his fellow-men which drives Rolland to his final confession of all. There is none left to hear! "I know that such thoughts have little chance of being heard to-day. Young Europe, lusting for battle, will smile contemptuously and show its fangs like a young wolf." [Page 63] It is a useless struggle! He speaks merely for the sake of speaking. "I do not speak to convince others, I speak but to solace my own conscience."
Thus the greatest mind of Europe–the supreme message of man to man, A.D. 1914. There is none to hear! "I speak but to solace my own conscience!" Young men, old men, working-men, diplomatists, priests, imperialists–they will not hear. But it is always of men he thinks. Not a mention of women, of the women that hear him gladly, in whose hearts his words find a ready echo, his noble words: "Our duty it is to rise above tempests, and thrust aside the clouds; to build higher and stronger, dominating the injustice and hatred of nations, the walls of that city wherein the souls of the whole world may assemble."
This is the cry that women may take up: the cry that men will not and dare not hear. To such ideals the press of all the world is closed, the platforms of all the world are silent. But in print and in speech women may already help forward these ideals, and none will say them nay. For the times have changed, but the nature of woman cannot change, as some of her enemies have most truly declared. Woman, because to her has fallen the task of bringing into the world those human souls and bodies which in war are but food for cannon, is able to realise what man is not able. "For such a purpose," she might well say now that she has attained self-consciousness, "I will not bring more human life into the world." And man would neither understand nor would he be greatly shocked. It matters not to him what women are saying or thinking, for women are but women.
Yet a public opinion must be created, and how can that be if the voice that is privileged fails to make itself heard? "Women of all nations unite!"; that should be the new cry–not "Woman has no country!" but "Woman must have every country!" And whoever raises such a cry may be sure that it will not solace an individual conscience alone. Such a cry, already heard, though in far-off muffled tones, in every branch of the women's movement, must wake an echo in the hearts of millions who will pass it on to others. It will not seem treachery to a cause: it will not seem the coward's mean appeal; for it will be but the voice of Nature driven to rebellion by the horrors of violence and destruction. Not that woman has yet realised her mission of peace, the privilege that her imagined weakness has bestowed. Many women, perhaps most women, are still caught in the meshes in which the tradition of long years of subjection has enveloped them. They gaze blindly at the [Page 64] carnage or hasten to staunch the blood that flows–as ministering angels, to heal the wounds that the heroism of man has dealt to his brother. And rightly, for this is their duty in such a time. But it is clearly not enough to be content to do one's duty here. The blood flows too fast, it is only some drops that are staunched–the wounds gape too wide, it is only the scratches that are healed; and meanwhile the bodies are piled higher and higher, the graves are dug deeper and deeper.
But if woman climbed up to the clearer air above the battlefield and cried aloud in her anguish to her sisters afar off: "These things must not be, they shall never be again!" would man indeed say, "Down with her!"? Would he not allow her prerogative? Would he not even wish to climb up, too?
* * *
Yet it is not on this note that we would conclude, for the issues involved reach far beyond the present, with its trials and its dilemmas. Whatever may be possible at the moment, it is clear that on these issues depends the whole future of Woman. When Peace is finally declared, whether through the exercise of her Prerogative or because the destructive energies of man shall have spent their force, a new international organisation must be formed. It must weld together in its higher ideal–the substitution of co-operation and understanding for violence between nations–the groups which nationally, and even within each nation, are split asunder by diverse conditions, by method, and by language. The practical next steps must be the concern of others. Ours has been the humbler task of strengthening their arguments and of rousing their less active supporters.
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1 Jus Suffragii, 7. Adam Street, Adelphi, W.C. Monthly. (4./ post free, per annum)
2 It is hoped that the present studies may be followed in due course by a larger volume, where the evidence for much that must necessarily be omitted here will be fully adduced.
3 Hobhouse, Morals in Evolution, Vol. I., p. 161.
4 Sir L. Gomme in his Folklore as an Historical Science, marshals the latest evidence on this subject.
5 Westermarck, Origin and Development of Moral Ideas. Chapter on "The Subjection of Wives," Vol. I., pp. 657-669.
6 Veblen, The Instinct of Workmanship.
7 Even those who would not accept the theory of a "peaceful stage" are driven to adopt the hypothesis of a peaceful "lowland" population, perennially being "eaten up" by warlike "hillsmen," as, for instance, in the account of primitive warfare in Colonel Maude's War and the World's Life, pp. 3-5.
8 Col. Gurdon, The Khasis, especially pp. 5 and 25.
9 Hunter, Annals of Rural Bengal, I., 217.
10 Hodgson, Miscellaneous Essays, I., 150.
11 Spencer, Principles of Sociology, II. p. 633.
12 Reclus, Primitive Folk, p. 108.
13 Seemann, Narrative of the Voyage of the "Herald," II., p. 66.
14 Murdoch, Ann. Rep. Bur. Ethn., IX., p. 413.
15 The Truth about Women, p. 170.
16 Westermarck, op. cit., pp. 683-4.
17 Walter M. Gallichan, Women under Polygamy, p. 16 and Hobhouse, op. cit., I., p. 252.
18 C. Thatcher, Enc. Brit. art. Arabia.
19 Lane-Poole, Speeches of Mohammed, p. 161.
20 J. M. Robertson, The Evolution of States, p. 151.
21 Prescott, History of Ferdinand and Isabella, pp. 187, 188.
22 Dozy, Histoire des Musulmans d'Espagne. Vol. III.
23 Studies in Psychology of Sex, Vol. VI., p. 393.
24 See also Mrs. Archibald Colquhoun's remarks in The Vocation of Woman, p. 172.
25 La Morale Egyptienne, p. 194.
26 Gallichan, Women under Polygamy, p. 36.
27 Revillout, Journal Asiatique, 1906, p. 57.
28 Donaldson, Op. cit., p. 28.
29 Westermarck, Origin and Development of Moral Ideas, I., 669.
30 Colonel F. N. Maude, C.B., War and the World's Life, p. 243.
31 Origins and Destiny of Imperial Britain, p. 117.
32 History of European Morals, Vol. II., p. 383.
33 cf. Ferrero, Militarism, pp. 93 and 134.
34 "No society which preserves any tincture of Christian institutions is likely to restore to married women the personal liberty conferred on them by the middle Roman Law," says Sir Henry Maine (Ancient Law, p. 158). Cf. Charles Kingsley's dictum: "There will never be a good world for women until the last remnant of the Canon Law is civilised off the earth."
35 cf. Havelock Ellis, loc. cit., p. 397.
36 Albert L. Guerard, French Civilisation in the XIXth Century, p. 65.
37 J. Holland Rose, Napoleon, Vol. I., 291.
38 The Rights of Women, p. 209.
39 "It was left to the genius of Napoleon to establish the system of 'maisons de tolérance' which had so great an influence over modern Europe during a large part of the last century."–Havelock Ellis, loc. cit., p. 249.
40 Militarism, pp. 201-237.
41 Social England, Vol. II., p. 193.
42 Blease, The Emancipation of Englishwomen, p. 138.
43 Physics and Politics, p. 78. It is significant that Dr. McDougall, one of the few modern psychologists who has written on the social psychology of war, refers to Bagehot's "brilliant essay" (McDougall, Social Psychology, p. 283, on the Instinct of Pugnacity); while Professor J. Shield Nicholson writing during the war (Economic Journal, Dec. 1914, p. 548) refers in unqualified terms to Bagehot's "perennial freshness." Bagehot, like Mill, is of importance as having influenced two generations of University thought. Physics and Politics is still a sine qua non for any youth who aspires to an Oxford scholarship!
44 Miss Jane Harrison in Homo Sum.
45 Sir. L. Gomme, Op. cit., p. 257.
46 Ethel Snowden, Feminism, p. 38.
47 Und ueberhaupt das Parlamentieren, worin the Frau Meisterin ist (Mueller-Lyer, Phasen der Liebe, p. 190).
48 The Expansion of England, p. 128. The same thing has been pointed out by Dean Inge recently with even more force.
49 J. Holland Rose, Life of Napoleon, I., p. 291. Five pages earlier Dr. Rose informs the youth of England that Napoleon "united in his own person the ablest qualities of the statesmen and the warrior!" De Tocqueville puts it more clearly–"He was as great as a man could be without virtue."
50 What Is and What Might Be, p. 50.
51 Robert Seidel in The Cambridge Magazine, Nov. 15, 1913.
52 Quarterly Review, October, 1857.
53 Hugh Rendal, by Lionel Portman.
54 Montessori, The Montessori Method, p. 363.
55 Colonel Maude, op. cit. The italics are ours.
56 Woman and Labour, p. 56.
57 Germany and the next War, p. 131.
58 Marriage as a Trade, p. 47.
59 Marriage as a Trade, p. II.
The authorship of Militarism versus Feminism is discussed at length in Militarism versus Feminism: Writings on Women and War, edited by Margaret Kamester and Jo Vellacott, London: Virago Press, 1987. They have identified Ogden and Florence as two of the authors, though others may have been involved as well.
Footnotes have been moved from the bottom of the pages on which they appeared in the original book, to the end of the online edition. Instead of using the original markers, they have been numbered to reflect their order in the book.