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MENTAL CAPACITIES OF THE SEXES.
Third Speaker. Sir, I rise to defend the ladies. (Applause.) I admit the ability of my two friends who have preceded me; but I dispute their arguments, and I utterly deny their conclusions. I shall deal with the Opener only, and leave the other gentleman to the tender mercies of succeeding speakers.
Our friend referred us to history; very unfortunately, I think. He spoke of rulers. Where is the female Cæsar ? said he, and the female Alexander ? I am proud to reply - Nowhere. No, sir; the fair sex can claim no such murderers, no such usurpers, no such enemies of mankind. But I will tell my friend what the fair sex can boast : it can boast an Elizabeth, and also a Victoria. (Loud applause.) While the ladies can claim such rulers as these, their male detractors may keep their Cæsars and Alexanders to themselves; and I, for one, shall never reclaim them from their keeping. (Applause.) I had more to say, sir, but I feel that other speakers would occupy your time more profitably, and so I will resume my seat.
Fourth Speaker. Sir, the speaker who has just sat down was scarcely justified in calling his opponents detractors of the ladies; " such an epithet is scarcely fair, and he would prove his point better, by using more moderate language. (Hearl hear!) He has spoken of Elizabeth and Victoria, and I agree in his admiration of at least the latter of those distinguished characters; but I would just remind him that history speaks of a Bloody Mary as well as an Elizabeth -- (hear, hear) —- of a Cleopatra as well as a Victoria. I am not determined, sir, upon which side I shall vote. I wait to be convinced ; and I assure my friends on both sides, that I am quite open to conviction. (Hear! hear!)
Fifth Speaker. Then I, sir, will try to convince my friend. I will try to convince him that he should adopt the cause of the ladies. The fair sex have not yet had justice done them. What is the argument employed to prove their inferiority ? Simply this that they are not such strong rulers, such learnëd law-givers, or such great poets. But suppose I grant this; the sexes may be mentally equal, notwithstanding. For, if I can show that the female sex possess qualities which the male sex do not, qualities which, though widely different from those named, are quite as valuable to the world, -I establish an argument in their favor quite as strong as that against them. (Hear! hear!) And I can prove this. In affection, in constancy, in patience, in purity of sentiment, and in piety of life, they as far surpass men as men surpass them in mere bodily strength. (Applause.) And what qualities are superior to these ? Is strength of intellect superior to strength of heart? Is the ability to make laws superior to the power that wins and keeps affection ? Is a facility in making rhymes superior to sisterly love and maternal solicitude ? I think, sir, that it is unwise and unfair to judge between the two. The spheres of the sexes are different, and require different powers; but, though different in degree, they may be, and I believe they are, fully equal in amount. (Loud applause.)
Sixth Speaker. Mr. Chairman, my speech shall consist of one question. Woman's brain is smaller than man's: now, if, as philosophers tell us, the size of the brain is the evidence of intellectual power, is not woman's intellect necessarily inferior to man's ? (Ilear! hear! and laughter.)
Seventh Speaker. Sir, my friend who has just sat down gave his speech in a question: I will give him another in reply. (Ilear! hear!) If the size of the brain is the proof of intellectual power, how is it that the calf is more stupid than the dog? (Laughter and applause.)
Eighth Speaker. Mr. Chairman, the last speaker's happy reply has saved me the necessity of answering the sagacious question of the gentleman who spoke before him. My friend, the opener of the debate, said, rather plausibly, that as the male sex can boast a Shakspeare, a Milton, and a Byron, and the other sex can not, therefore the male sex must be superior. It is but a poor argument, sir, when plainly looked at. We should recollect that there is but one Shakspeare, but one Milton, but one Byron. Who can say that the female sex may not some day surpass these writers, famous though they be ?
Another gentleman spoke of philosophers. Let me remind him — for he seems to have forgotten, cr not to know that the female sex can produce a De Staël and a Somerville. Not that I would claim for the ladies, for one moment, any merit on this ground. I think that scientific and literary excellence is by no means the choicest laurel for their gathering. Learning does not sit so gracefully on the female as on the masculine brow:-a blue-stocking is proverbially disagreeable. We can tolerate the spectacle of a Newton or a Locke so immersed in study that he plays the sloven ; but the sight of a female — a lady – s0 abstracted as to play the (Cries of Order ! order!) I say, sir, the sight of a lady so abstracted as to forget that her hair is in papers, her dress untidy, or her fingers inky, is simply repulsive. No amount of beauty will reconcile us to the absence of the feminine attribute of neatness. Woman's office, sir, is to teach the heart, not the mind; and when she strives for intellectual superiority, she quits a higher throne than ever she can win. (Applause.)
MENTAL CAPACITIES OF THE SEXES.
Ninth Speaker. Sir, the gentleman who called this a question of difference, not amount of intellect, put the question, to my thinking, in its proper light. I quite agree with the opener of the debate, that in mere mental power, in mere clearness, force, and intensity of intellect, the male sex is unquestionably superior to the female. But, at the same time, I can by no means admit that this proves woman to be inferior to the other sex. . Much of what man has done results from his superior physical strength; and, moreover, if man has done great things visibly and mentally, woman has accomplished great things morally and silently. In every stage of society she has kept alive the conscience, refined the manners, and improved the taste ; in barbarism and in civilization alike, she has gladdened the homes and purified the hearts of those she has găthered round her. Whilst, therefore, I admit that in mental strength woman is not, and can never be, equal to the other sex, I maintain that her superior morality makes the balance at least even. (Applause.)
Tenth Speaker. I am quite ready to concede, sir, with the last speaker, that in the private and domestic virtues the female sex is superior to the male: but I can not go so far with him as to say that man is morally woman's inferior. (Hear! hear!) For which are the highest moral virtues ? Courage, fortitude, endurance, perseverance; and these, I think, man possesses far more prominently than woman. Let the field of battle test his courage: with what heroic boldness he faces certain death! His fortitude again : what shocks he bears, what bereavements he patiently sustains ! Mark his endurance, too. Privation, hunger, cold, galling servitude, heavy labor, these he suffers oftentimes without a murmur. See also how he perseveres! He sets some plan before him. Days, months, years, find it still distant, still unwon : he continues his exertions, and at last he gains the prize. These, sir, I contend, are amongst the highest moral virtues, and I think I have shown that the male sex possesses them more abundantly than the other. (Applause.)
Eleventh Speaker. Sir, I quite agree with the gentleman who spoke last, that courage, endurance, and fortitude, are amongst the highest moral virtues; but I do not agree with him when he says that the female sex possesses them in an inferior degree to the male. True, man shows his courage in the battle-field. He . faces death, and meets it unshrinkingly. But has not woman courage quite as great ? She fights battles, — not a few : oftentimes with want, starvation, and ruin: and bravely indeed does she maintain her ground. Far more bravely than the man, in fact. The first shock overcomes him at once: when attacked by distress, he is in a moment laid prostrate. Then it is, sir, that woman's moral courage, endurance, and fortitude, shine out the most. She sus. tains, she cheers, she encourages, she soothes the other ; nerves him by her example, invigorates him by her tenderness, and directs him by gentlo counsel and affectionate encouragement, to put his shoulder to the wheel of his broken fortune, and restore himself to the position he has lost.
“0, woman ! in our hours of ease,
Uncertain, coy, and hard to please,
A ministering ångel, thou!" Sir, gentlemen have boasted of their Alexanders and their Napoleons ; but I can point them to a spectacle which sends a warmer thrill to the heart than the contemplation of Alexander crossing the Gran'icus, or of Napoleon heading the impetuous onset across the bridge of Lodi. I behold a woman quitting the comforts of an affluent home in England, and standing by the bedside of wounded and plague-stricken soldiers in the hospitals of Constantinople. Sir, if that was not courage, it was something nobler, braver, more divine ; and the name of Florence Nightingale — (interruption of loud applause) — the name of Florence Nightingale, I say, sir, is to my mind crowned with a halo more luminous and admirable than any false glare that surrounds the fame of any conqueror or man-slayer that ever spread desolation through a land.
Sir, let me quote one other instance. When that illustrious French woman and true friend of liberty, Madam Ro-land', in the bloody times of the French Revolution, for the crime of holding adverse political opinions, was dragged to the scaffold by— (Heaven save the mark !) — by men — alas, sir ! men — she, a pure, heroic, lovely, and innocent woman - there sat by her side in the victims cart a man, a stranger, also a prisoner, and, like her, on his way to the guillotine. But, sir, the man wept bitterly with anguish and dismay; while the woman was calm, composed, intrepid. She devoted her last moments to cheering and comforting her male companion. She even made him smile. She seemed to forget her own great wrongs and sufferings in encouraging him. She saw his head fall under the guillotine, and then, stepping lightly up to the scaffold, she uttered those immortal words addressed to the statue of Liberty—“0! Liberty, what crimes are committed in thy name !”. and told the executioner (the man, sir !) to do his duty. The next moment the fair head of this young, fearless, and highly-gifted woman was severed
MENTAL CAPACITIES OF THE SEXES.
from the body, and men stood by to applaud the infernal act. Sir, let us hear no more, after this, of woman's inferiority to man in fortitude, courage, endurance, and all that ennobles humanity. Applause.)
Twelfth Speaker. Mr. Chairman, I can not help thinking that some of the last speakers have wandered a little from the true subject before us. The question was “ Are the Mental Capacities of the Sexes equal ?" and the speakers are now hotly discussing whether the sexes are morally equal, with which point I submit we have nothing to do. To bring back the discussion, therefore, to its proper track, I beg to repeat that which has been yet unanswered, namely, That as the male sex have produced the more remarkable evidences of mental power, the palm of mental superiority is evidently theirs. (Hear! hear!) Much has been said during this debate, but no one has disproved this assertion, or denied the deduction from it: till cause is shown, therefore, why the verdict should not be in favor of the male sex, I submit that we have the right to demand it. (Applause.)
Thirteenth Speaker. Sir, the last speaker has, in a taunting manner, challenged us to deny his assertion, and to disprove his argument. I will do both - at least, attempt to do so and I trust I shall succeed in convincing my bold friend that he has not quite so good a cause as he thinks. (Applause.) In the first place, sir, I will not admit that mental superiority does not involve moral. It is my conviction that it does. I maintain it, sir, there is something wanting in the intellectual mechanism of that man who, while he can write brilliant poetry, or discourse eloquently on philosophical subjects, is morally deficient and unsound.
But, I will not admit that the female sex is outdone by the male. True, the one sex has produced a Shakspeare, a Milton, and a Byron; but the other has a Sappho, a Barbauld, a Hemans, and a Sigourney. I will not, however, pursue the intellectual comparison, for it would be an endless one. (Applause.) But suppose I were to grant what the last speaker claimed, namely, that the female sex has achieved less than the male — what then ? I can show that woman's education has been neglected : if, then, woman has not possessed the advantages conferred upon the other sex, how can you say that she is not naturally man's equal? Till this is answered, nothing has been proved. (Applause.)
Sir, as bearing upon this subject, and eloquently embodying my own views, let me quote, if my memory will allow me, a little poem by Ebenezer Elliott: