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Deny Women the Vote!

Now, before you get your panties all in a bunch, keep reading. It may not be entirely what you think. John T. Kennedy found something. Just because I like it so damn much, I’m posting the whole thing here. It’s not very long. Indulge yourself in some classical liberalism for five minutes.

Against Woman Suffrage
by Lysander Spooner
New Age, February 24, 1877

Women are human beings, and consequently have all the natural rights that any human beings can have. They have just as good a right to make laws as men have, and no better; AND THAT IS JUST NO RIGHT AT ALL. No human being, nor any number of human beings, have any right to make laws, and compel other human beings to obey them. To say that they have is to say that they are the masters and owners of those of whom they require such obedience.

The only law that any human being can rightfully be compelled to obey is simply the law of justice. And justice is not a thing that is made, or that can be unmade, or altered, by any human authority. It is a natural principle, inhering in the very nature of man and of things. It is that natural principle which determines what is mine and what is thine, what is one man’s right or property and what is another man’s right or property. It is, so to speak, the line that Nature has drawn between one man’s rights of person and property and another man’s rights of person and property.

This natural principle, which we will call justice, and which assigns to each and every human being, is, I repeat, not a thing that has made, but is a matter of science to be learned, like mathematics, or chemistry, or geology. And all the laws, so called, that men have ever made, either to create, define, or control the rights of individuals, were intrinsically just as absurd and ridiculous as would be laws to create, define, or control mathematics, or chemistry, or geology.

Substantially all the tyranny and robbery and crime that governments have ever committed—and they have either themselves committed, or licensed others to commit, nearly all that have ever been committed in the world by anybody—have been committed by them under the pretence of making laws. Some man, or some body of men, have claimed the right, or usurped the power, of making laws, and compelling other men to obey; thus setting up their own will, and enforcing it, in place of that natural law, or natural principle, which says that no man or body of men can rightfully exercise any arbitrary power whatever over the persons or property of other men.

There are a large class of men who are so rapacious that they desire to appropriate to their own uses the persons and properties of other men. They combined for the purpose, call themselves governments, make what they call laws, and then employ courts, and governors, and constables, and, in the last resort, bayonets, to enforce obedience.

There is another class of men, who are devoured by ambition, by the love of power, and the love of fame.

They think it a very glorious thing to rule over men; to make laws to govern them. But as they have no power of their own to compel obedience, they unite with the rapacious class before mentioned, and become their tools. They promise to make such laws as the rapacious class desire, if this latter class will but authorize them to act in their name, and furnish the money and the soldiers necessary for carrying their laws, so called, into execution.

Still another class of men, with a sublime conceit of their own wisdom, or virtue, or religion, think they have a right, and a sort of divine authority, for making laws to govern those who, they think are less wise, or less virtuous, or less religious than themselves. They assume to know what is best for all other men to do and not to do, to be and not to be, to have and not to have. And they conspire to make laws to compel all those other men to conform to their will, or, as they would say, to their superior discretion. They seem to have no perception of the truth that each and every human being has had given to him a mind and body of his own, separate and distinct from the minds and bodies of all other men; and that each man’s mind and body have, by nature, rights that are utterly separate and distinct from the rights of any and all other men; that these individual rights are really the only human rights there are in the world; that each man’s rights are simply the right to control his own soul, and body, and property, according to his own will, pleasure, and discretion, so long as he does not interfere with the equal right of any other man to the free exercise and control of his own soul, body, and property. They seem to have no conception of the truth that, so long as he lets all other men’s souls, bodies, and properties alone, he is under no obligation whatever to believe in such wisdom, or virtue, or religion as they do, or as they think best for him.

This body of self-conceited, wise, virtuous, and religious people, not being sufficiently powerful of themselves to make laws and enforce them upon the rest of mankind, combined with the rapacious and ambitious classes before mentioned to carry out such purposes as they can all agree upon. And the farce, and jargon, and Babel they all make of what they call government would be supremely ludicrous and ridiculous, if it were not the cause of nearly all the poverty, ignorance, vice, crime, and misery there are in the world.

Of this latter class—that is, the self-conceited, wise, virtuous, and religious class—are those woman suffrage persons who are so anxious that women should participate in all the falsehood, absurdity, usurpation, and crime of making laws, and enforcing them upon other persons. It is astonishing what an amount of wisdom, virtue, and knowledge they propose to inflict upon, or force into, the rest of mankind, if they can but be permitted to participate with the men in making laws. According to their own promises and predictions, there will not be a single natural human being left upon the globe, if the women can but get hold of us, and add their power to that of the men in making such laws as nobody has any right to make, and such as nobody will be under the least obligation to obey. According to their programme, we are to be put into their legislative mill, and be run through, ground up, worked over, and made into some shape in which we shall be scarcely recognized as human beings. Assuming to be gods, they propose to make us over into their own image. But there are so many different images among them, that we can have, at most, but one feature after one model, and another after another. What the whole conglomerate human animal will be like, it is impossible to conjecture.

In all conscience, it is not for us even to bear the nearly unbearable ills inflicted upon us by the laws already made,–at any rate it is not better for us to be (if we can but be permitted to be) such simple human beings as Nature made us,–than suffer ourselves to be made over into such grotesque and horrible shapes as a new set of lawmakers would make us into, if we suffer them to try their powers upon us?

The excuse which the women offer for all the laws which they propose to inflict upon us is that they themselves are oppressed by the laws that now exist. Of course they are oppressed; and so are all men—except the oppressors themselves—oppressed by the laws that are made. As a general rule, oppression was the only motive for which laws were ever made. If men wanted justice, and only justice, no laws would ever need to be made; since justice itself is not a thing that can be made. If men or women, or men and women, want justice, and only justice, their true course is not to make any more laws, but to abolish the laws—all the laws—that have already been made. When they shall have abolished all the laws that have already been made, let them give themselves to the study and observance, and, if need be, the enforcement, of that one universal law—the law of Nature—which is “the same at Rome and Athens”—in China and in England—and which man did not make. Women and men alike will then have their rights; all their rights; all the rights that Nature gave them. But until then, neither men nor women will have anything that they can call their rights. They will at most have only such liberties or privileges as the laws that are made shall see fit to allow them.

If the women, instead of petitioning to be admitted to a participation in the power of making more laws, will but give notice to the present lawmakers that they (the women) are going up to the State House, and are going to throw all the existing statute books in the fire, they will do a very sensible thing,–one of the most sensible things it is in their power to do. And they will have a crowd of men—at least all the sensible and honest men in the country to go with them.

But this subject requires a treatise, and is not to be judged of by the few words here written. Nor is any special odium designed to be cast on the woman suffragists; many of whom are undoubtedly among the best and most honest of all those foolish people who believe that laws should be made.

Comments are most definitely open. Come on. Give it your best shot.

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More

24 Comments

  1. Richard Nikoley on May 6, 2006 at 16:13

    Irene:

    Seriously. Did you even read the article before you "opened your mouth?"

  2. prying1 on May 6, 2006 at 15:20

    I remember a term sometimes used, "Man's inhumanity to man." Did I miss something or was the premise missing from the above diatribe?

    This does not seem to allow for the fact that some people are just plain mean and nasty and need to be controlled by those who are not.

    Hey! I managed to say that with out mentioning the sin nature religion speaks about.

  3. Richard Nikoley on May 7, 2006 at 01:12

    Irene:

    Well, if not explicitly stated, there is at least a tongue-in-cheek implication as to such in Spooner's article–though I don't know how you petition the government to do anything when it has no moral rights in the first place.

    Certainly Spooner advocates that neither man nor woman have any right to vote, make laws, or impose anything on anyone else. As do I, which, of course, is why I post the article in the first place.

    And, of course, since I have no interest in either a 1 in 270,000,000th say in my own affairs and have no right to any say in yours, I don't vote–nor would I ever hold any public office of any kind that involved enforcing positive obligations on people.

  4. Irene on May 6, 2006 at 19:42

    Richard Nikoley:

    Now, now. No reason to get snarky. I did read it, actually. And I think my question is a valid one, because of what the article actually says (like, "And they will have a crowd of men—at least all the sensible and honest men in the country to go with them"). If you were going to respond at all you could at least have answered that simple little question: shouldn't men be petitioning against their own right to vote?

    Also, writing "opened your mouth" just looks silly.

    Seriously.

  5. Irene on May 6, 2006 at 13:42

    In that case, shouldn't men be petitioning against their right to vote?

  6. Richard Nikoley on May 7, 2006 at 08:49

    "If we chuck all the rules…"

    Who said anything about doing that? Spooner talked about the one fundamental rule–a natural rule–justice. Laws fall into two categories: either they uphold justice, in which case they are superflous, confusing, obfuscating, or they violate natural justice which is laid out quite adequately in his article.

  7. Kyle Bennett on May 7, 2006 at 09:42

    Cara,

    I'm impressed, but not surprised, to see so many bad ideas compressed into so few words. Every single idea in your comment is flat out wrong.

    "Humanity" does not do best at imposing itself on others. It has always been a small minority who have done so, and always they are able to do it because they have been able to convince everyone else of the very ideas that you express. It is the beliefs you hold that have allowed it to happen, and nothing else.

    People are naturally good, human nature is inherently good. But humans are capable of doing bad, and will do so when guided by the ideas you hold.

    Cultures, as you say, have always given the rule making power to those who they think will do so altruistically, and for the good of the whole, and that is the root evil that allows those who crave power to succeed at doing just the opposite.

    What will it take to get you, and everyone else who shares your beliefs, that what they believe to be the good is exactly that which allows the evil to win: altruism, the good of the whole, and delegating the pursuit of your own interests to others (leaving you only the power to wait, tremble and fear)? And it all flows from the acceptance of original sin – even if you don't believe in the Bible, the concept is there whenever you say that people are not good by nature.

    Cara, the more you seek to propogate your ideas, the more you contribute your little part to the pain and misery in the world.

  8. John T. Kennedy on May 6, 2006 at 20:17

    Irene,

    Spooner is talking about women who are already engaging in political activism and suggesting a better use of their energy. Nobody is morally obliged to take positive action against political crimes; nobody is obliged to petition against anything.

    And of course men have no right to vote.

  9. Billy Beck on May 7, 2006 at 12:32

    I thought Irene's first line was a scream.

    It should be beaten into shape for a t-shirt.

  10. Cara on May 7, 2006 at 08:37

    He's right and he's not right. True, we have no right to impose ourselves on others but that is what humanity does best, either we do it selfishly with cruelty, pain and suffering or we do it with a form of altruism, attempting to bind the whole by rules that should benefit the whole. If we chuck all the rules we assume that everyone will be good and nice on their own, that it is the "rules fault" that people do bad things. I really don't think people are naturally good, we try, but often fail. Throughout history cultures have tried to give the rule making to people they assume will best serve their interests, it is with great hope, fear and trembling that we wait to see if they will serve the good of the whole or the few. This is the act that all people should participate in, including women, something nobel and true.

  11. Richard Nikoley on May 7, 2006 at 21:36

    "I want to know where Richard Ramirez and Ted Bundy (amongst others) fit into this?"

    I don't know. Let me know what they've done to you and we can start there, K?

    It is funny, though. Propose a society in which there are no formal laws and people will object on the following two grounds: 1) crime won't be punished and 2) people won't receive due process.

    Well, which is it?

  12. prying1 on May 7, 2006 at 17:58

    I want to know where Richard Ramirez and Ted Bundy (amongst others) fit into this?

  13. Richard Nikoley on May 8, 2006 at 07:41

    "Ahead of his time! Lets all go to Washington and burn shit! There will be a new renaissance."

    In the post subsequent to this one, I used that word to refer to a rebirth of reason, which is its proper usage. I believe you're referring to "revolution" by which is typically meant the establishment of one form of government over another. I doubt spooner ever advocated such a thing, nor do I.

    This is why I loath the term "American Revolution." It was the "War for Independence."

  14. John T. Kennedy on May 7, 2006 at 18:49

    What, you want them voting?

  15. David Krueger on May 8, 2006 at 04:04

    Ahead of his time! Lets all go to Washington and burn shit! There will be a new renaissance. I am 33 years old and myself and people of my generation or younger (those of us who survive) will see a very different world!

  16. Richard Nikoley on May 8, 2006 at 22:52

    "Will there be no one to protect the underdog?"

    Perhaps you?

    "All I read in Spooners silly disertation was anarchy which would only work…"

    "Work" for whom?

  17. prying1 on May 8, 2006 at 21:49

    "I want to know where Richard Ramirez and Ted Bundy (amongst others) fit into this?"

    I don't know. Let me know what they've done to you and we can start there, K?

    That is RIGHT! you do not know!

    Ok! Everyman (and woman) for themselves and the last one standing wins.

    Will there be no one to protect the underdog?

    Only those who are selfless and will die before the underdog.

    All I read in Spooners silly disertation was anarchy which would only work if every man woman and child on the face of the earth were absolutely NOT self centered.

  18. John T. Kennedy on May 9, 2006 at 05:17

    Prying1,

    How does government improve people?

  19. Richard Nikoley on May 16, 2006 at 08:43

    Prying1:

    How would you go about "abolishing government?"

  20. prying1 on May 16, 2006 at 08:20

    You're right. Let's abolish all governments and let mankind run free like the deer and the antelope.

  21. prying1 on May 18, 2006 at 22:16

    Don't ask me. It was Spooners stupid idea.

  22. Richard Nikoley on May 19, 2006 at 05:46

    Prying1:

    But Spooner never advocated "abolishing government." Does that make it your "stupid" idea? I don't know, but it's at minimum ignorant.

  23. prying1 on May 21, 2006 at 20:56

    – Quote – If the women, instead of petitioning to be admitted to a participation in the power of making more laws, will but give notice to the present lawmakers that they (the women) are going up to the State House, and are going to throw all the existing statute books in the fire, they will do a very sensible thing,–one of the most sensible things it is in their power to do. And they will have a crowd of men—at least all the sensible and honest men in the country to go with them. – end quote –

    I suppose you will say that is only promoting abolishing of laws and not government. Since the government only rules by laws how else could they exist. To throw out all the laws would be to throw out the current government.

    How many times are governments overthrown and the first thing that is done is their constitution is thrown out and a new one written. As stated before all I see in spooners disertation is anarchy. Throw out the laws and the first time one person kills another there would be the start of a new set of laws.

  24. Richard Nikoley on May 22, 2006 at 07:51

    "I suppose you will say that is only promoting abolishing of laws and not government."

    No, I'll say what it is, which is individuals declaring their independence from such laws. Ring a bell?

    "As stated before all I see in spooners disertation is anarchy."

    You don't say. I guess you know nothing about Spooner. Well, don't expect to get any mileage around here tossing out the word 'anarchy' as a scary pejorative. This is an anarchist's blog, dillweed.

    I didn't address the comments about what horrors happen when you throw out the laws. I got tired of addressing those silly objections 15 years ago.

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