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Popular Science Monthly/Volume 36/February 1890/Correspondence

< Popular Science Monthly‎ | Volume 36‎ | February 1890

CORRESPONDENCE.
 

GRANT ALLEN ON THE WOMAN QUESTION.

Editor Popular Science Monthly:

IT is gratifying to know that so able an advocate as Mr. Grant Allen has come forward to champion the cause of the real emancipation of woman, in claiming for her the right to be exempt from the burden of her own support. To meet with success as a bread-winner in these days of severe competition requires the best energies of the best years of life—just the time when a mother should be giving the best energies of life to the care of her children. The difference between a well-mothered child and an ill-mothered one, in morals, conduct, intelligence, and teachableness, is so great as to warrant the assertion that, next to heredity, a child's home training is the most important factor in the evolution of its character. Nature has ordained that for this training it shall look to the mother, and hence it is a self-evident fact that her own education should be such as will best fit her for the task. It is about what constitutes the proper training to this end that opinions differ. The average man thinks that to know how to make pies and sew on buttons is enough, while we "advanced" women believe that a "wise" and "sane" mother should be able to meet the moral and intellectual requirements of her children as well as administer to their physical wants. We believe that she should know enough of science to give reasonable answers to her children when they question her about the phenomena of nature, and not to object to the study of botany as improper for girls (which I heard a model mother of the good old school do, the other day) because it talks about the ovaries! We believe that her literary taste should be sufficiently cultivated for her to take pleasure in reading something above the inane fiction which constitutes the chief intellectual pabulum of the average woman of to-day; and even if she should have a taste for anything so dreadful as the higher mathematics, we see no great harm in her indulging it, if it gives her pleasure to do so; the worst that can possibly result being to give her children inherited aptitudes in the same direction. Indeed, we see no danger to the established order of the universe in her cultivating intellectual tastes simply for her own pleasure, if she chooses. It is only when a woman has to add the drudgery of bread-winning to the natural duties of her sex that she need be condemned to intellectual atrophy.

In dealing with this part of the subject, Mr. Grant Allen seems to have lost his usual clear-headedness when he mistakes the aim of "the woman's movement" for an "endeavor to put upon the shoulders of women, as a glory and a privilege, the burden of their own support." Now, I feel safe in affirming that there is not one among us, even of the most "advanced," who would not gladly welcome Mr. Allen's ideal civilization, in which all the labor should be done by men—and we won't even grudge them the cooking and the washing, which I can assure them is labor just as real as buying cotton futures or watering railroad stocks. The "woman's movement" does not aim to force upon women the burden of their own support, but merely to fit them, when that burden is forced upon them, to bear it successfully. Recognizing, as we do, the fact that, with our advancing civilization, a large and ever-increasing proportion of women must be self-supporting, we believe it is unjust and cruel that they should have to engage in the struggle handicapped by ignorance, hampered by conventional prejudices, and oppressed by political disabilities that deny us a vote even on the whisky question—a subject of such vital importance to us. In disposing of a large proportion of the 700,000 superfluous females of the United Kingdom as "infants, lunatics, sisters of charity, unfortunates, and ladies of eighty," Mr. Allen "explains" his statistics on one side only, and forgets to offset his incapables by at least an equal proportion of infants, lunatics, priests, octogenarians, convicts, drunkards, and other ineligibles of the opposite sex, to say nothing of that vast mass of incompetents who must rank away down below zero as husbands, and have to be supported by their wives or sisters. The existence of these negative quantities on the other side is one of the "deplorable accidents" that men are prone to overlook in considering this question, but it is one which enlarges so enormously the number of necessarily self-supporting women as to make it an open question whether they do not constitute a majority of the sex instead of a minority. Now, I am not arguing that this is right, but it is a deplorable fact all the same; and since we can not force the wicked men to support us, the bravest and strongest of us (instead of sitting down and crying about it) are claiming the modest right to at least support ourselves—and too often the men who ought to be supporting us into the bargain, or the children whose bread they are spending for whisky. And while we are thus relieving society of its "potential" paupers, can the witty philosopher think of no better return than to consign us, with a stroke of his graceful pen, to everlasting confusion as mere paltry accidents? Oh fie, Mr. Grant Alien!

One more word, as to the supposed effect of the higher education in deterring girls from marriage. I have been engaged in dispensing the higher education to girls for a good many years, and have yet to meet the first one who was the least averse to matrimony; on the contrary, to quote from a composition on "Girls," written by a little friend of mine not long ago, "I think it is the nature of girls to have sweethearts, whether they are little or whether they are big."

The only influence that education can have in "cornering" the matrimonial market is by making girls more fastidious, and this is not likely to have any practical effect except in the case of a few ugly girls. While I do not doubt that all women are just as willing to look pretty as they are to get married, the "factors of organic evolution," which have taken the place of our old-fashioned "providence," have not improved at all upon its methods, but have dealt so unfairly with a large proportion of the sex that, when told by Mr. Grant Allen that their first business is to look pretty, they feel very much as that philosopher probably does when blandly requested by the photographer to "assume a pleasant expression."

Now, as marriage means survival of the prettiest, rather than survival of the fittest (unless we take a purely masculine view of the case and assume that the prettiest are the fittest), all the matrimonial plums fall into the laps of the pretty girls, and the ugly ones have no chance at all but to take everybody's leavings. Of course, I know it is very unreasonable for an ugly girl to ask for any of the plums out of life's pudding; but then, women will be unreasonable, to the end of time—that is one of the factors of the woman question with which we shall always have to reckon. Moreover, the ugly girl sometimes has the presumption to be exceedingly clever, and feels that she can do much better for herself than marry a scrubby little clerk on forty dollars a month. Under the old régime, when marriage was the only possible solution for a woman of the problem of life, she had no choice but to take any man she could get; but now she naturally declines to give up a hundred-dollar salary for a fifty-dollar man. I do not pretend to decide the question whether the general good does not demand that she should still be forced to sacrifice herself in a distasteful marriage, rather than remain single to swell the number of "deplorable accidents" that so weigh upon Mr. Grant Allen's mind. From a human point of view it is undoubtedly for the general good that lobsters should be boiled, but we shall hardly get the lobster to look at it in that light.

E. F. Andrews.
Wesleyan College, Macon, Ga., December 9, 1889.
 

 
DECADENCE OF FARMING IN ENGLAND.

Editor Popular Science Monthly:

I was very much interested in "The Decadence of Farming," which you published in November from the pen of Joel Benton. The picture which he draws of the destruction of the farming interest, both East and West, is a vivid one, and deserves the studied consideration of economists. I do not now say that the statements of facts are overdrawn, that the conclusions drawn are illogical and strained, nor that the condition of affairs, as depicted, can be logically and naturally explained in antagonism to Mr. Benton's conclusions; nor do I stop to point out, now, the facts which his article contains, which, if reasonably interpreted, will nullify his conclusions. My purpose in this letter is to present another picture, not so artistically drawn, it may be, but as true to life, I think, as Mr. Benton's picture.

The daily papers of November 30, 1878, contained a news-telegram from London, dated the 29th. After noticing the condition of trade, the closing of factories, and the reduction of wages, it continued: "Kentish hop-growers say, 'As the general depression of agriculture and commerce is largely caused by the protective tariffs of other countries, the duties on foreign productions should be revived.'"

I do not know the political views of the reporter of that dispatch; but the Associated Press reports are presumed to be nonpartisan.

The New York correspondent of the Cincinnati "Enquirer," under date of December 12, 1878, sends to his paper the report of an interview with Mr. Armour, the noted dealer and packer of meats, of Chicago, who had just returned from an extended tour in Great Britain. In the reported interview Mr. Armour said: "The manufacturers are running behind, the tenants can not pay their rents, real estate has shrunk in value and can not be sold at any price... . The shrinkage is awful... . The hard times," he said, "will end in a dreadful depreciation of real estate."

I do not know the politics of Mr. Armour; the "Enquirer" represents the theory of "free trade."

The Chicago "Tribune" of July 8, 1879, reprinted from the New York "Herald" an editorial in regard to English affairs, in which the "Herald" said, "The agricultural depression in Great Britain has been felt for a long time very severely by the tenant farmers." The "Herald" then quoted from the "Pall Mall Gazette" that "the prevalent belief as to the severity of the depression existing in English agriculture will be confirmed by figures recently produced before the Devizes Union Assessment Committee."

The three papers mentioned in this paragraph represent free-trade ideas.

The London "Telegraph," of March 26, 1881, as cited by several American journals, said that, according to a correspondent of a provincial contemporary, "the depression in the agricultural districts is fully as great as it was represented by many of the speakers in the debate in the House of Commons on Wednesday... . Thousands of acres," it said, "are lying unproductive, because without tenants, in various parts of England; and a clergyman, writing from Nottinghamshire, gives a doleful account of affairs in that district. There seems, he says, to be a better state of things in towns than in the country. Here general bankruptcy seems imminent. Hundreds of farms are to be let and few farmers seem to have any capital left to take them." No reform of more urgent interest could possibly be taken in hand by any ministry than the raising of British agriculture from its present drooping condition.

Under date of January 10, 1881, consular clerk Charles F. Thirion, of Liverpool, reported to the State Department some facts concerning English agriculture. The comparisons, when not stated otherwise, are between 1870 and 1879. The report shows a decrease of arable area, 33 per cent; of corn land, 3·1 per cent; of wheat land, 163 per cent; of barley land, 138 per cent; of oat land, 4·4 per cent; a comparison of 1879 with 1874 shows a decrease in the number of sheep of 1,414,000, a little more than 7 per cent.

The Chicago "Tribune" of June 21, 1881, reprinted from the New York "Tribune" an article upon English estates. In that article the "Saturday Review" is quoted as saying, "A state of things has undoubtedly existed for some time, and still exists, which justly awakens great anxiety for the future of the country, and profound sympathy for the sufferers.".. . The advertisements in the London 'Times' bear eloquent testimony to this state of things. Columns are filled with notices of old country residences, broad demesnes, wooded parks, and snug country-houses to be sold... . Ninety-five per cent of the small estates are mortgaged, often for one third or two thirds of their value."

The New York "Tribune" represents protective ideas the other two papers are free-traders.

A telegram from "Washington to the St. Louis "Globe-Democrat," dated August 1, 1882, stated that a communication had been received at the State Department from the consul at Liége. As reported by the telegram, that communication contained this summary: "In one year, the falling off in English agriculture was 42 per cent; for six consecutive years it was 20 per cent."

The "Globe-Democrat" is recognized as a protective organ of a very conservative type.

The Chicago "Inter-Ocean" (protection) of September 27, 1889, reprints this excerpt from the London "World": "An example of the ruinous depreciation of agricultural land in Lincolnshire was recently afforded when a farm with houses and buildings, in the neighborhood of Alford, was offered for sale, and the highest bid was £2,100, although the property cost £6,700 eighteen years ago, and a considerable sum has since been expended in improvements." The same Chicago journal quotes from the London "Times" that "fifty per cent of the dock laborers, including perhaps the permanent men, are agricultural laborers in point of origin."

The startling likeness of the two pictures must be remarked. The one is fuller, decked off with more rhetoric, than the other, but the essential features are the same: the heavy mortgages; the depreciation in value to one third of the cost; laborers abandoning the farms for town and city; the abandoned (at least uncultivated) lands; unprofitable farming; decrease in productions and of sheep. I have given the character of my witnesses, when known. If Mr. Benton had admitted that his principal witness on the wool question, Hon. John E. Russell, was a free-trader and interested in free wool (which I understand to be facts), the value of his "opinion" would be heavily discounted. The pertinent question that must arise here is, If the protective tariff of the United States has destroyed the agricultural interests of this nation, did the free-trade policy of Great Britain cause the great depression in the agriculture of that nation? In other words, does agriculture prosper any more under free trade than under protection?

M. B. C. True.
Edgar, Neb., December 1, 1889.
 

 
THE TEST OF INSANITY.

Editor Popular Science Monthly:

Some parts of the paper by Dr. Sir James Crichton-Browne, in the November number of your journal, are open to serious criticism. I refer especially to his remarks "on the insufficiency of the definition or test of insanity laid down by British and American courts, and on an amended test which would commend itself to medical experience."

It is admitted by the learned writer that the accepted legal test—a knowledge of right and wrong in reference to the criminal act—is satisfactory in most cases; but he holds that there are certain morbid states of the emotions and will which constitute insanity, although connected with a sound intellect. Now, the vast majority of medical men with experience of the insane have no knowledge of such cases. For myself, I have never seen a case of this kind in the examination of several thousand lunatics, and I have never heard of any mark by which these can be distinguished from cases of vice and crime. Dr. Crichton-Browne commends the test of Lord Bramwell, contained in the questions: "Could he help it? Was the lunatic free to choose, or under the duress of disease?" And there is no doubt that the power of self-control is an essential element in the question of responsibility. We may even admit that "impairment of will or loss of self-control, more or less pronounced, is the first, last, and universal element in insanity." But impairment of will is found in all human beings, the sane and the insane. A heathen poet has confessed: "Video meliora probogue, deteriora sequor." [I perceive the better things, and approve them; I follow the worse.] And a sacred writer declares: "The good that I would, I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do." Loss of self-control, then, is not at all peculiar to insanity, and the degree of this loss has no measure in medical science. Plainly, the proposed test is quite without value, and, indeed, is no test at all.

Again, it is proposed to make "a condition of insanity" the test of responsibility. But the term insanity is so extremely vague and indefinite, even as used by medical men and experts, that it is worthless for such a purpose. It is applied to every kind and degree of chronic mental disorder, without reference to the element of responsibility. About fifty years ago a law was enacted by the Legislature of New York in these words: "No act done by a person in a state of insanity can be punished as an offense." But Chief-Judge Beardsley (in the Freeman case, 4 Denio, p. 27) held that the natural construction of this act "would indeed be a mighty change in the law, and afford absolute impunity to every person in an insane state." He refused, therefore, so to construe it, and held to the principle of the English law, which has ever since been adhered to by our courts.

It is plain, indeed, that insanity may exist in a degree calling for medical treatment, and even for confinement in an asylum, without bringing with it irresponsibility for crime. In the case of Speirs, a patient set fire to the Utica Asylum to revenge a wrong done him by the authorities. The act was found to be a sane one, and the lunatic was sentenced to a long term in the State prison. It is safe to say that in most asylums there will be found at least ten per cent whose degree of insanity is less than that of the notorious Guiteau. But the jury were able, under the common-law test, to find that Guiteau's motive was a vicious one, and that he had the power to refrain from his crime.

So indefinite, however, is the line between sanity and insanity, and so hard to be drawn in cases made still more difficult by passion and prejudice, that the plan of a permanent commission, of lawyers and physicians, to visit those who have escaped punishment on the ground of insanity, and report, from time to time, on their condition, should be commended to our Legislature. In this way, perhaps, some light may be thrown on the question of a legal test of insanity, and upon the true value of expert evidence. At present, in view of the law which forbids a physician to disclose on the witness-stand any information acquired by him in a professional capacity, thus often withholding facts of the utmost importance, the necessity of expert testimony in lunacy cases must be admitted. It remains, however, to define more exactly who are experts, by whom they shall be called, and what questions they shall answer. Upon these points, also, the suggestions of Dr. Crichton-Browne are most practical and valuable.

L. A. Tourteillot, M. D.
Utica, N.Y., November 30, 1889.