Against Woman Suffrage

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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.

Lysander
Spooner
(1808–1887) was a lawyer, writer, entrepreneur,
and libertarian activist.

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