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APPEAL OF LADY GRADUATES. "PERSON 1 ' DOES NOT INCLUDE .WOMEN. "Person" includes "women." In these three words, which she wrofe in a strong, firm hand, Miss Chrystal Macmillan, Bachelor of Science of the University of Edinburgh, expressed her disagreement with, and her defiance of. the Lord Chancellor. Lord Lorebum had delivered judgment (referred to briefly in a cable message published in the Post last month) dismissing in uncompromising terms the appeal of Miss Macmillan on her own behalf and on behalf of four other laxly graduates of Edinburgh and Si. Andrews, against the refusal of the University authorities to allow them to vote with the men students in the election of a member of Parliament, or even to serve them with voting papers. When she heard the Lord Chancellor's ruling, Miss Macmillan, who was accompanied by Miss Frances H. Simson, M.A., of Edinburgh, was obviously dsappointed and alinoyed, and, seizing a quill, she wrote the words quoted. Afterwards to a Daily Chronicle representative Miss Macmillan acknowledged deleat in a quite cheerful spirit. "I don't suppose," she said, "that there is anything more to be done just now, but we shall live to fight another day." THE JUDGMENT. There were only five occupants on the crimson-covered benches of the House of Lords yesterday when judgment was given. ,One was the Bishop of Bangor, who throughout has taken a great interest in the lady students' claim. The others were Lord Lorebum, Lord Ashbourne, Lord Robertson, and Lord Collins, all of whom concurred in the Lord Chancellor's decision. Miss Macmillan and Miss Simson, with some of their friends, occupied seats at the Bar of the House. The Lord Chancellor, who alone wore his robe and wig, advanced from the woolsack and stood beside the clerks' table while he read his judgment. The main point in the appellants' case, said Loreburn, was that they were entitled to vote for the election of a member to serve in Parliament. Their second point was that at all events they were entitled to receive voting papers. Their claim was contested by the University authorities, and the Scottish Court of Session had decided that women graduates had not the right to vote in the election of the University member. IN ANCIENT TIMES. With regard to the alleged right to vote, the appellants asserted that, if ancient records were explored, there was evidence of women having enjoyed this right. They also asserted that the Representation of the People (Scotland) Act of 1868, taken with the University (Scotland) Act, 1889, conferred the right to vote upon women, if they complied with the requirements. It might be that, in. th"c vast mass of venerable documents of the past some authority would be found for cases of some women taking pa,rt in Parliamentary elections, but there was no authentic or plain case in support of the appellants' claim. Old authorities were silent on the subject, and, except that Lord Coke referred to women having no disqualification, the disability of women had been taken for granted. It was, indeed, incomprehensible to him that any one acquainted with the laws of the country could think that there was any room for argument on such a point. It, was notorious that this right of voting had been, confined to men. From the earliest times down to the present day this had been the constant practice and the ancient tradition of this country, and only the strongest proof of the existence in ancient times of a different state of things — namely, of the right of women to vote — could be allowed. He need hardly remind their lordships that in the whole body of common law there was no other foundation than this, and he would not enter upon a subject which had been very fully discusecd m the opening stages of the case. If the legal disability of women in this respect ■were to bo removed, it muBC be done by Act of Parliament. The appellants maintained that this had been done. They argued that in tne Act of 1868 and the University Act of 1889 different language was adopted, men being specified in one section, while in section 27 the word "cereon" was U£ed. WHAT IS A PERSON? "I agree," added his lordship, "that the word 'person' would prima facie include women, but, in dealing with this case, we must not overlook the words that follow — 'not subject to any legal incapacity.' I cannot doubt that by this limitation the Legislature intended to exclude all such pensons as might toe excluded from voting under common law." Womqn, in his opinion, were so excluded under Section 27 of the Act. The whole case of the appellants proceeded upon "che supposition thafc the .word "person" in the Act did include vvomen^ although women were not then given tite right to graduate at the Scottish Universities, nor were they admitted to degrees. It would require very convincing demonstration to satisfy him that Parliament intended to make a constitutional change so momentous and far-reaching as to confer the franchise on women, when they admitted them to the universities. It was a dangerous assumption to propose that the Legislature foresaw such an event as the admission of women to the Universities ■when the Act of 1868 was paseed. "With regard to the appellants' second point, that they are entitled to receive voting papers, in my opinion," concluded the Lord Chancellor, emphatically, "they are not so entitled, because the Act says that only voters are to receive papers, and they are not voters. I dismiss this appeal." FRANCHISE FOR MEN ONLY. "I entertain no doubt," said Lord Aehbourne, "that 'person' in the Act of 1868 means a male person. The Parliamentary franchise has always been given to men, and. the word 'person' cannot be held to have been prophetically used as applying to women in the caee of a statute passed many years later. "It is to my mind impossible to imagine that the Legislature meant to delegate to the University Commissioners the power to extend the franchise to a new class, or, by devolution, to pass on that power to the University Courts, a power which the Legislature has always jealously kept in its own hands. Having reached this conclusion, I must hold that there is no substance in the argument that the appellants were entitled to receive voing papers. It is true that voting papers were sent to voters, but the appellants are not voters." Lord Robertson held that theie vwu» no reason for the view that the appellants were entitled to what his lordship described as "so exceptional a privilege" as the. one they were claiming. It was tiue that in the Act of 1868, upon which the appellants based their claim, the word "pcrfon" was used to d-escribe a voter, but in thao year the universities did not receive women as students, and did not confer degrees iipon them. The franchise for the Scottish graduates was undoubtedly meant for men only. Lord Collins contented himself with 6aying; "I am of the sam« opinion." The Lord Chancellor thon> formally pronounced the appeal dismissed with costs. I

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Bibliographic details

NO EIGHT TO VOTE., Evening Post, Volume LXXVII, Issue 18, 22 January 1909

Word Count

NO EIGHT TO VOTE. Evening Post, Volume LXXVII, Issue 18, 22 January 1909