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“ In witness whereof to these presents, I have set my scal, this 4th day of May, in the fourteenth year of the reign of our sovereign Lady Elizabeth, by the grace of God, of England, France, and Ireland, queen, defender of the faith,” &c.
This record is cited by Brady, in his Appendir to the History of Boroughs; and Willis, (Notitia Parliamentaria, vol. i.) supposes, that the town submitted to the Packington's nomination of the burgesses in parliament, on that family defraying the expenses of the knights, and acquitting the borough of the same. Thus we see that borough-mongering was an ancient trade, for it is not likely that the widow Packington would have been so generous without herself acquiring some return, some quid pro quo.
This is not the only example of female influence in borough affairs. A memorable instance of old English spirit and integrity, is recorded of Lady Anne Clifford, countess of Dorset, Pembroke, and Montgomery, who, by failure of the male line, possessed the great hereditary estates of the Clifford Cumberland family, and the consequent patronage of the borough of Appleby. Sir Joseph Williamson, the profligate minister and secretary of Charles II., wrote to her ladyship, suggesting a candidate for the borough: she returned the following laconic and patriotic answer, worthy a better subject than this bartering of the subject's rights.
“ I have been bullied by an usurper, I have been neglected by a court, but I will not be dictated to by a subject: your man sha'nt stand.
“Anne DorseT, PEMBROKE, AND MONTGOMERY.” Women are still partially represented, as the present state of the election law and franchise will prove, in the following particulars. In several boroughs, marriage with the daughters of freemen confers on the husbands a right of voting for members of parliament of their native towns: and in the case of Great Grimsby, 1802, the vote of Edward Beal was decided to be good by the committee, though he had received parish relief within twelve months, and only married the daughter of a freeman about a fortnight before the election. By the 18 Geo. II. a voter was required to have been twelve months in the possession of his estate before he could exercise his franchise; but by the same statute, an express exception is made in favour of estate by descent, marriage, and marriage settlement; and votes in respect of a wife's freehold have been admitted, in the case of those who married during the election (2 Luders. 426.) The marriage of a freeman's widow also, in some places, acquires the elective franchise. Instances have occurred, in contested elections, where these marriages have been managed for party purposes : the husband, however, is prevented by law from making a convenience of his wife's franchise, to the neglect of his conjugal duties,-for, in cases of desertion of wife or children, and their burthening the parish, the husband's vote has been rejected. (1 Peck. 72.-Ibid. 373.) The husbands of tenants in dower are possessed of an estate of freehold enabling them to vote : this was formerly a matter of doubt, and, in consequence, an express statute (20 Geo. III.c. 17. sec. 12.) was made, providing, “ That where any woman, the widow of any person, tenant in fee, or in tail, shall be entitled to dower or thirds by the common law, out of the freehold estate of which her husband died siezed or possessed of, and shall intermarry with a second husband, such second husband shall be entitled to vote in respect of such dower or thirds, if of the clear yearly value of 40s. or upwards, &c.” Husbands also can vote in right of estates of joint-tenancy and coparcenary: thus by an estate of coparcenary, (arising where a person seized of an inheritance dies, leaving only daughters, sisters, aunts, or other female heirs, in which case the estate descends to such jointly), a whole flight of female representatives is sometimes created by marriage. So much for the female elective franchise, in these particulars : it is also exercised, in gross, in various places under the present borough system, which the right honourable Secretary for Foreign Affairs describes as a system which “ works well” for the “ virtual representation” of all classes and sexes. We allude to the influence of the Duchess of Dorset, at East Grinstead, in Sussex; of the lady of Sir William A'Court, at Heytesbury, in Wilts; Miss Laurence, at Rippon, in Yorkshire; the late Lady Monson, (now Lady Warwick), in divers places; and the Miss Bullers, at the three Cornish boroughs of East-Love, WestLove, and Saltash! These places, we should say, are miss-represented; we mean represented by ladies. To this we might add a catalogue of“ parliamentary interest" acquired by marriage with heiresses; and of some now enjoyed by dowager executrixes, during the minority of sons. But we check ourselves · from treading on this tender ground : we have already said enough to prove, that women have a considerable interest and influence in the parliaments of Great Britain and Ireland ; and that the claim for their franchise is not so vulgar and visionary as supposed, and would certainly be no “ innovation" in the constitution of the country. They already exercise the electoral function in the East India Direction, ruling forty millions of people: in all the great public companies of chartered property, the acts of incorporation specially guarantee to them their votes as share-holders : we see the candidates for the Bank, and other public directories, addressing them," my lords, ladies, and gentlemen;"-in every popular establishment, reli
gious, charitable, and literary, the right is conceded to them. Mr. Fox (Woodfall's Report, 1797,) paid the highest compliments to their intellectual aptitude, and cited their dependance on the other sex as the sole objection to their admission as electors of representatives in parliament.
The office of grand chamberlain is at present filled by two women: the high-constableship has been borne by a woman. The clerkship of the Crown, in the King's Bench, has been granted to the fair sex. The Lady Anne, Countess of Pembroke, was hereditary sheriff of Westmorland. (See Butler's Notes, Co. Littl.) Women have been overseers of the poor, and constables. Lady Broughton was keeper of the Gate House Prison, and a female was governess of the House of Correction at Chelmsford, by order of the Court. We think it a great hardship, therefore, that they should be liable to serve these offices, and debarred the legislative functions of the state.
As we have alluded to the female privileges as spectators in the Upper House, we cannot conclude without mentioning, that the chivalry of the noblesse is superior to the commons, who will not allow women to be present at their debates. In Grey's Debates, vol. iii. p. 222, 1st of June, 1675, is the following amusing entry : “ Some ladies were in the gallery, peeping over the gentlemen's shoulders. The Speaker spying them, called out, “ what borough do those ladies serve for?” to which Sir W. Coventry replied, “ they serve for the Speaker's chamber.” Sir Thomas Littleton said, “ perhaps the Speaker may mistake them for gentlemen with fine sleeves, dressed like ladies.” Says the Speaker, “ I am sure I saw petticoats.” Hatsell, in a note to the 2nd volume of his valuable parliamentary collections, says he recollects, one evening, when the whole gallery, and the seats under the front gallery, were filled with ladies; and that Governor Johnstone being angry that the House was cleared of all the “ men strangers,” ainongst whom were some friends he had introduced, insisted, that “ all strangers” should withdraw. This produced a violent ferment for a long time; the ladies shewing great reluctance to comply with the orders of the House, so that business was interrupted for nearly two hours : but at length they too were compelled to submit. Since that time, ladies, many of the highest rank, have made several very powerful efforts to be again admitted ; but Mr. Cornwall, Lord Sidmouth, and the present accomplished Speaker, Mr. Manners Sutton, have as constantly declined permitting them to come in. Hatsell opposes their admission, on the ground that the smallness of the gallery would then exclude so many young men, reporters and merchants, whose attendance is of so much more real use to the public. We cannot omit here to state, that, some years since, we recollect a rumour in
the gallery, that Madame de Staël was sitting, en habit d'homme, in a surtout and military indescribables, listening to the debate, under the protection of Sir J. Macintosh.
We have now concluded our retrospective review of this interesting subject. We find we have no room for the discussion of the present legal condition of the fair sex, but must refer them to Blackstone, and Coke upon Littleton, if they have the curiosity to delve into the mysteries of the law. We shall state, however, for their comfort, that the old law which gave the husband the power of corporal correction, for some misdemeanours, flagellis et fustibus acriter verberare uxorem, for minor offences, modicam castigationem adhibere, since the politer reign of Charles II., has been tempered by the power given the wife, of security of the peace against her husband, and the salutary discipline of the treadmill, in case of the husband's second breach of politeness. And in answer to many queries which have been put to us for our legal opinion, on the construction of the liturgical promise of obedience, (from the word obey), and its force in the civil law, we beg to state, that from our experience in practice and the world, we consider it ranks among the number of legal “ fictions."
We find we have diverged so far from the text of the curious volumes before us, that we have no room for quotation. The “ Parliament of Ladies” is a witty pamphlet on the “ virtual” influence of certain ladies over the Stuarts and Cavalier party. The reader may find it reprinted in the last edition of the Somers' Tracts, vol. v., with some additions from a manuscript copy in the possession of the editor. A pencil pote in the copy of the original tract now before us, mentions that it was reprinted by Mr. Hollis, as the work of Neville, author of Plato Redivivus. Although rather a licentious, it is an arch comment on the gallantry of the Court, and very wittily satirizes the prevailing powers of female magnetism. Their first act in parliament assembled, is represented to be the choice of a Speaker in the person of the king's mistress :-" The ladies being assembled at Kate's, in Covent Garden, and having spent some time in chusing their Speaker, they at last resolved upon the Lady Isabella Thynne, hoping therely, that their acts might have the greater influence upon the king's majesty.” p. 2. . We had intended to have made several extracts from Mary Wollstonecroft's Rights of Women, with the narrative of some interesting circumstances connected with her early years and life--but must defer it to a future opportunity. The party spirit of the period in which she lived is nearly extinct, and the errors of her conduct will now find pity and extenuation in the hearts of all who can feel for an ardent and ingenuous mind, the creature of early misfortune. Her works are now passed into comparative neglect; but we are bold to say, that they contain many valuable principles of female education, and abound with precepts calculated to elevate the moral dignity of her sex.
We do not wish here to be interpreted as aiding and abetting the manufacture of blue stockings, or encouraging young ladies to soil themselves with old books and musty records, in search of their ancient privileges, instead of attending to their accomplishments and the study of the Cook's Oracle. God forbid that the increasing number of pedants should be swollen by the addition of pedantic wives. An anonymous author, of the sixteenth century, published a little Latin dissertation, to prove that women are not men, in ridicule of the early protestant principle, of admitting no proofs, in logic, but what are taken from Scripture alone. Simon Gediecus, a Lutheran divine, wrote a serious confutation of this piece, in 1595. Erasmus, in one of his letters to Budæus, plunges into the controversy, how far learning and study become the sex? Lud. Vives, in his Institutio Fæmina Christiana, has a chapter expressly on the same subject. Madam Schurman, a German lady, has gone beyond them both, in a treatise on this problem: “ Num fæminæ Christianæ conveniat studium literarum;" and we have heard the subject amply discussed in many salons and conversaziones. We do not meddle, however, with this subject in the present number. But we may say, that the science of education in the elementary instruction of women, as of men, is in its very infancy; and that the means generally used to cultivate the mind, are, frequently, precisely calculated to defeat the developement of the human intellect. Many women, in past and present times, are splendid examples of the exercise of mental power, in works of invaluable and immortal utility. We are convinced, that when the first studies of the sex shall be withdrawn from volumes of gallantry and absurd fiction, to such as exercise the memory, cultivate the taste, and ripen the judgment; when female education is directed to the advancement of the characteristic delicacy, and in some degree to make up for that want of knowledge of, and collision with the world, in which men, from their sexual liberty, must necessarily excel and take the lead,—then will women be capable not only of spelling Greek and Latin, but of appreciating the value of classic lore and of exercising their natural influence in the world—“ the grace, the life, and the ornament of society."