« НазадПродовжити »
is in the near approach of the prices of rude products and finished commodities, and consequent increase in the value of man and land, we are to find the most conclusive evidence of advancing civilization. With every stage of approximation, the middlemen class, whether soldiers or sailors, traders or politicians, diminishes in its proportions, with correspondent decline in its power to control and direct the societary movement. With each, the circulation becomes more rapid — agriculture tends more to become a science — and woman tends more towards occupying her proper place, that of man's first and nearest friend—stimulating him into activity, and heightening his enjoyments, while ever ready to administer consolation in his afflictions.” Reasoning d priori, such would seem to be the necessary effect upon the future of the sex, resulting from that diminution in the proportion of the merely appropriating classes which follows, necessarily, the closer approximation of the consumers and producers of the world.—How far the facts of history tend towards proving that such has been the course of events, we may now inquire.
§ 2. The Spartan institutions, tending as they did towards the prevention of association, and the perpetuation of the relation of master and slave, were essentially barbarous — their result exhibiting itself in consolidation of land and demoralization of man. As a consequence, the true woMAN finds little place in Spartan history — her place being occupied by females racing, naked, in the arena, before assembled thousands; by wives who profited of the law which authorized the substitution of lovers for husbands; and by sisters who found an excuse for incest in a desire for improving the physical proportions of the race. Need we wonder, then, that Sparta has left behind her scarcely any trace of her existence 2
Wisdom, love, chastity, poetry, history, the liberal arts, and even Athens herself, were typified by female figures — Minerva, Venus, Diana, and the Muses, having been the objects of divine worship among the people who had looked to Solon for their institutions and their laws. When, however, we look to the interior of the Athenian family, we find, as in all cases of semi-barbarism, the home to have had no real existence, the wife having been a mere drudge, whose sphere of action was limited to the perpetuation of the family and the superintendence of the household—the husband, meanwhile, finding the best society the city could supply, in the dwelling of his mistress. Neglected as she was, chastity was then, nevertheless, the characteristic of the Athenian matron. When, however, Athens had become mistress of 1000 cities; when centralization had been fully carried out; when trade, war, and politics, had become the sole pursuits of Athenian men; and when tyranny, rapacity, and pauperism, had become universal; we find Socrates lending his wife to his friend, while Pericles scarcely surprises his fellow-citizens when presenting to them Aspasia, his own mistress, and the mistress of so many others, as his legitimate wife — the class of haelerae then constituting the most distinguished feature in the highly civilized society which had Attica for its home.
* It may be said, however, that the earlier periods of society exhibit women occupying higher positions than would be now assigned them, as in the cases of Semiramis, Boadicea, Fredegonda, and others. Inequality is, however, the constant attendant upon barbarism and semi-barbarism. The sex at large, in those days, occupied a position that was little, even where at all, superior to that of the negro slave of the present day.
In the earlier centuries of Rome, when land was divided, and when men like Cincinnatus cultivated their own little farms, woman was, in general, treated as being little better than a mere chattel; and yet, in the inheritance of property, the son and daughter stood together—sharing their patrimony between them. To that period, the world stands now indebted for Lucretia, Virginia, and Volumnia, and for the fact, that thus far, the attention of Roman courts had never once been called to the question of divorce. Later, we find a city abounding in pauperism, and a land cultivated by slaves; Catos who sell the privilege of cohabitation with chattels that they, perhaps, have themselves begotten; and a State that wrests from the weaker sex, the single privilege it thus far had enjoyed, –the female right of inheritance being then abolished by the Voconian law, after an existence of more than 600 years. Licentiousness becoming universal, the sanctity of the marriage tie, and the chastity of the sex, are found to have disappeared together — Pompey and Caesar distinguishing themselves by violations of the one, while Messalina and Aggrippina, Poppaea and Faustina, stand before the world as fitting specimens of the other.
France, perpetually engaged in foreign and domestic wars, presents to view, at home, during many centuries, contrasts in the condition of the sex which are very striking — the depression and poverty of the laboring many, being in precise accordance with the magnificence of the few who live by the exercise of their powers of appropriation. As the feudal system was extended, as land became consolidated, and as the smaller proprietors disappeared, the homes of wives and daughters became less and less secure— the right of jambage and cuissage becoming, at length, so universally asserted, and so generally exercised, as to cause the eldest son of the tenant to be held more honorable than his brothers, because of his highly probable relation to the lord.—Abroad, her history is one of unceasing interferences with the rights of others— Italy and Spain, the Netherlands and Germany, Russia and Egypt, America and India, presenting the various scenes of action. In all of these, towns and cities have been ruined, husbands and sons have, by hundreds of thousands, been deprived of life, while wives and mothers have been compelled to endure the last indignity to which their sex is liable, and daughters have been driven to prostitution as affording the only means of obtaining food. Educated abroad in the career of rape and murder, her sons have practised at home what they so well had learned — the domestic history of no country of Europe exhibiting so total a disregard of female rights or honor as may there be found, from the days of Charles the Bold and his bons bouchers, to those of the noyades, and the guillotine, of the Revolution.
With every stage, however, in the consolidation of the land, we find individual women become more and more the controllers of their - country's destinies—the history of that country, from the days of Fredegonda and Brunechild, to those of Maintenon, Pompadour, and Du Barré, exhibiting the subjection of a nation to female influence, such as is unparalleled, elsewhere, in the history of the world.—With the final adoption of the system of Colbert, however, there came a change — land thereafter becoming divided— the feudal rights disappearing—and the small proprietor, capable of defending the honor of his wife and daughters, gradually taking the place that had, so recently, been so fully occupied by the nobles and the Church. Further division coming, as a consequence of revolution, the class of free proprietors has steadily
increased — millions of people whose predecessors had been little better than mere serfs, now having lands, houses, and homes of their own, of which the wife is chief director.” Here, however, as every where, we find political centralization counteracting the influence of that social decentralization which looks to elevating the condition of all the people of the State, whether male or female. Enormous taxation aids in building up the central city, at the cost of the rural districts — enabling the few who divide among themselves the spoils, to live in affluence, while wives and mothers, elsewhere, suffer for want of the commonest necessaries of life. Throughout Central and Northern Europe, the tendency is, every where, in the same direction—land becoming divided—men becoming more free — and woman assuming a higher place in the social scale, as, with the growing power to command the use of steam and other forces, the taste and skill, the eyes and fingers, of the weaker sex, are substituted for the mere muscular powers of the stronger man. Such is now the tendency in Sweden and Denmark, Belgium, Northern Germany, and Russia, all of which follow in the lead of Colbert and of France. — In all of these, Russia, perhaps, excepted, the right of the wife to the ownership of separate property, as well as her claim upon the husband's estate, in case of death, is fully recognized. In none, however, does woman yet occupy her true position—the eye of the traveller being perpetually offended by the sight of women carrying burdens wholly disproportioned to their strength, and engaged in other occupations that would more appropriately fall to the lot of sons or husbands.
* “The other circumstance which strikes the traveller is the condition and appearance of the female sex, as it is affected by the distribution of land among the laboring class. None of the women are exempt from field-work, not even in the families of very substantial peasant proprietors, whose houses are furnished as well as any country manse with us. All work as regularly as the poorest male individual. The land, however, being their own, they have a choice of work, and the hard work is generally done by the men. The felling and bringing home wood for fuel, the mowing grass generally, but not always, the carrying out manure on their backs, the handling horses and cows, digging, and such heavy labor, is man's work; the binding the vine to the pole with a straw, which is done three times in the course of its growth, the making the hay, the pruning the vine, twitching off the superfluous leaves and tendrils, these lighter yet necessary jobs to be done about vineyards or orchards, form the women’s work. But females, both in France and Switzerland, appear to have a far more important rôle in the family, among the lower and middle classes, than with us. The female, although not exempt from out-door work, and even hard work, undertakes the thinking and managing department in the family affairs, and the husband is but the executive officer. The female is, in fact, very remarkably superior in manners, habits, tact, and intelligence, to the husband, in almost every family of the middle or lower classes in Switzerland. . . . In France, also, the female takes her full share of business with the male part of the family, in keeping accounts and books, and selling goods, and, in both countries, occupies a higher and more rational social position certainly than with us. This seems to be the effect of the distribution of property, by which the female has her share and interest as well as the male, and grows up with the same personal interest and sense of property in all around her.”—LAING: Notes of a Traweller, p. 172.
What is needed, however, to be determined, is, not the actual condition of any people, but the point towards which society is tending, however gradual may be the movement. In all these countries, the condition of the laborer has but recently been nearly allied to that of serfage—the change we now observe, having occurred within the present century. With a single exception, all of them have, at various times, been overrun by foreign armies, while wars at home have largely contributed towards preventing accumulation of the wealth required for enabling man to take his true position in reference to nature. Germany, in particular, has suffered greatly from both foreign and domestic wars, and most especially in the half century which preceded the formation of the Zoll-Verein. Seeing all these things, the real cause of wonder is, that so much has been effected in so brief a period.*
§ 3. In the days of the Plantagenets, Saxon women were sent abroad to be sold as slaves—Scotch and Irish men becoming purchasers. With the growth of wealth and population, however, their condition gradually improved; and yet, even so late as the days of Blackstone, the common people, as he says, claimed and exercised the privilege, secured to them by the older law, of giving their wives “domestic chastisement,” in “moderation.” The little proprietors, however, then numbered 200,000– each having, for his wife and children, one of those homes which Adam Smith so much admired, and so well described.
Nevertheless, so far as regards any private right in property, the position of English women has been a steadily deteriorating one — the one now occupied being far inferior to that
* For Chevalier Bunsen's view of the effects of war, as exhibited in Germany and Russia, see ante, vol. ii., p. 146.