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Physical Force In Politics
by [?]

The late discussion on the possibility or expediency of maintaining governments at the South which had no physical force at their disposal has not failed to attract the attention of the friends of woman suffrage. They see readily what, indeed, most outsiders have seen all along, that the failure of the numerical majority in certain Southern States to hold the power to which the law entitled them simply because they were unable or unwilling to fight, has a very important bearing on the fitness of women to participate in the practical work of government, and a well-known writer, “T. W. H.,” in a late number of the Woman’s Journal, endeavors to show that what has happened at the South is full of encouragement for the woman suffragists. His argument is in substance this: You (the opponents) have always maintained as the great objection to the admission of women to the franchise, that if women voted, cases might arise in which the physical force of the community would be in the hands of one party and the legal authority in those of the other, and we should then witness the great scandal of a majority government unable to execute the laws. We have just seen at the South, however, that the possession of physical force is not always sufficient to put the majority even of the male voters in possession of the Government. In South Carolina and Louisiana the Government has been seized and successfully held by a minority, in virtue of their greater intelligence and self-confidence. To use his own language:

“The present result in South Carolina is not a triumph of bodily strength over weakness, but, on the contrary, of brains over bodily strength. And however this reasoning affects the condition of South Carolina–which is not here my immediate question–it certainly affects, in a very important degree, the argument for woman suffrage. If the ultimate source of political power is muscle, as is often maintained, then woman suffrage is illogical; but if the ultimate source of political power is, as the Nation implies, ‘the intelligence, sagacity, and the social and political experience of the population,’ then the claims of women are not impaired. For we rest our case on the ground that women equal men on these points, except in regard to political experience, which is a thing only to be acquired by practice.

“So the showing of the Nation is, on the whole, favorable to women. It looks in the direction of Mr. Bagehot’s theory, that brains now outweigh muscle in government. Just in proportion as man becomes civilized and comes to recognize laws as habitually binding, does the power of mere brute force weaken. In a savage state the ruler of a people must be physically as well as mentally the strongest; in a civilized state the commander-in-chief may be physically the weakest person in the army. The English military power is no less powerful for obeying the orders of a queen. The experience of South Carolina does not vindicate, but refutes, the theory that muscle is the ruling power. It shows that an educated minority is more than a match for an ignorant majority, even though this be physically stronger. Whether this forbodes good or evil to South Carolina is not now the question; but so far as woman suffrage is concerned, the moral is rather in its favor than against it.”

What is singular in all this is, that the writer is evidently under the impression that the term “physical force” in politics means muscle, or, to put the matter plainly, that the fact that the South Carolina negroes, who unquestionably surpass the whites in lifting power, could not hold their own against them, shows that government has become a mere question of brains, and that as women have plenty of brains, though they can lift very little, they could perfectly well carry on, or help to carry on, a government which has only moral force on its side.