In the 17th century, Europe and other nations, believedthat for nation prosperity, individual effort and public effort wherevery important. The individual effort brought forth the classdivision in the society. Since the work was to be subdivided. Theindividual effort therefore meant that labor would be subdividedamong the people in the society. Though this was not the case as it’sseen that some groups dominated the other groups. As Sieyes put it,there was unequal division of labor, as the third estate ended updoing most of the work and benefited the least1.The third estate did all the work from extracting of the raw materialto processing and transportation, while this class of people did notquiet benefit from all their endeavor, but other special class ofpeople which consisted of distinguished group of professional. Thethird estate did not have a say in the society, they were theoppressed majority and they did not have much freedom overthemselves, ‘whatever may be your services, whatever may be yourabilities, you shall go thus far’’. This clearly showed how muchthe people were oppressed.
The European government did not have the third estate interest atheart, the government cared and gave priority to the individualpeople in the government, neglecting the citizens. The third estategroups were faced by unemployment, poor social amenities amongothers. The European government clearly had individual interest intheir way of governing. There was hierarchal difference in deliveryof government services, while those who worked more lived insuffering, special group of professionals and the ruling class livedin plenty.
The people absolutely lacked enlightment, they could not reason ontheir own, they knew very well they were suffering despite the effortthey put in their day to day work, but they could not speak out. Thethird estate group was the puppets of the elite class in Europeduring this period of time. They accepted their position in life,they would work in the mine, process the raw material, transport itfor consumer use and at the end of it all, lived in abject poverty.This is the state of being which Kent is referring as the individuallack of enlightment2.The third estate could not reason independently, they relied on theruling class to give them direction.
Inability to reason on oneself renders a person as a slave to otherpeople who take advantage of this position. This is the reason whythe ruling elite in Europe during this time misused the third estategroup. This group of people had been made cowards, they could notcomplain about their state of life. Kent, says when a person cannotreason independently they are taken advantage of and ruled by thestronger group, until such a time when a person comes out of thisstate of mind and decides to speak, this can happen.
As people begun getting enlightened, a group of people in the societyfelt that majority in the society were being oppressed and unequallytreated. There rose people who spoke up against what was going on,thus public enlightment according to Kent. The government begungetting unpopular with the people and around the world. Due tohierarchal class order in Europe during this period of time, whenthere were serious class division in the society, and the governmenteven favoring a certain group of people, this made the relationshipof Europe and other nation unpopular.
As people begun to get enlightened of their human rights, the Frenchgovernment came up with the rules regulating human rights known as‘Declaration of the Rights of Man and citizen’ according to DeGouges3.This rules stated the right and privileges that every person wasentitled to in the country. The human universal rights laws, thoughwere challenged by people, who felt that they were just there to beread and were not applicable to all. Marquisde Condorcet4,felt that women were not benefiting from the said universal rights,yet the rights were meant to apply to all human beings. In hisarticle he argues that women were not being given privileges such aspolitical rights to hold political offices and be involved inpolitical duties, yet in the universal rights all human being were toenjoy equal human rights, for instance men enjoyed the politicalrights. Kent said that when one individual gets unlighted and speaksout their mind, the rest of the likeminded follow. Marquis, wrote hisnewspaper article complaining of the inequality treatment women got,the other likeminded individual too wrote and spoke about it. This ofcourse made the government unpopular, because it was not applying theuniversal human right to all.
The campaign on women equality was not successful it went on forsome time and stopped. This is because as Kent said, people can beput into a state of mind whereby they can think that, their rightsare not necessary after all. This is what the Europe governments hadmade its vast majority to believe, whereby one becomes a coward andget even lazy of think for themselves. Marquis, still felt that womenhad been made to believe that, it was okay for them not to have thepower and will to exercise their political rights. When people arenot enlightened as Kent put it, the guardians take advantage overthem, which is the reason why the government felt it was not easy togrant the women their rights.
The universal human right by French legislators, clearly gave allpeople right to be included in the law making process, yet as Marquisnoted in his article, women were not given the opportunity toparticipate in the law making process.
‘’Law is the expression of the general will. Every citizen has aright to participate personally, or through his representative, inits foundation. It must be the same for all, whether it protects orpunishes. All citizens, being equal in the eyes of the law, areequally eligible to all dignities and to all public positions andoccupations, according to their abilities, and without distinctionexcept that of their virtues and talents.’’ Marquis deCondorcet5,
The above legislation by French legislators, was never followed,because if all citizen were equal in the eyes of law and wereeligible to all public positions, this was not applicable to thewomen. In Europe during this period of time there was classsegregation as well as gender inequality. As noted that some peopleenjoyed certain rights over the others in terms of class theybelonged to and gender. This was among the contributions that led tochange of Europe relation and the world.
The freed and enlightened people in the society, despite the failureof the initial campaign to accord women their rights, continued withthe same agitations. Marie Gouze(1748–93) came up with another legislation document known as ‘TheDeclaration of the Rights of Woman’. This was addressed to thequeen, he was not afraid of the ruling class or the guardians, sincehe was the unlighted fellow. According to MarieGouze, the rights gave the women the freedom to:
‘Mothers, daughters, sisters, female representatives of the nationask to be constituted as a national assembly. Considering thatignorance, neglect, or contempt for the rights of woman are the solecauses of public misfortunes and governmental corruption, they haveresolved to set forth in a solemn declaration the natural,inalienable, and sacred rights of woman: so that by being constantlypresent to all the members of the social body this declaration mayalways remind them of their rights and duties so that by beingliable at every moment to comparison with the aim of any and allpolitical institutions the acts of women`s and men`s powers may bethe more fully respected and so that by being founded henceforwardon simple and incontestable principles the demands of thecitizenesses may always tend toward maintaining the constitution,good morals, and the general welfare.’’
Marie Gouze, criticized previous regimes, which clearly allowedgender inequality to prevail. In those regimes, for a woman to getany privilege in the society, she had to use her beauty and body forsex. Women were subjected to slavery and men could just impregnate awoman and leave her without any support.
According to Marie Gouze legislations, he advocated for men and womensigning agreement whereby they could all be aware of each other’srights as they lived together. Marie, Kent and Sieyes had earliersighted that the elite, clergy and government did not practice whatwas their own free will, but what they had been told to say, hence inthis agreement signing a women would be at a position to defendherself from what the ‘hypocrites,prudes the clergy, and all the hellish gang’ would object her to.
In Europe during this period, people faced racial discriminationapart from gender and class discrimination. In the article‘This Earth of Mankind’6,where by Minke because he is not of European decent is disliked byhis mates who are of European origin, Minke is bright but because ofhis origin he is not a favorite. This goes a long way to show howmuch biological difference was at play. In the book things fallApart, women are not given any right over their children either.
Women continue being mistreated, as the case ofNyai Ontosoroh, who was a concubine of a Dutch man. Concubines wereviewed as people of low status and mostly were not of Europeanorigin, and who did not deserve any right. This is a classic exampleof how people were treated differently in line with their biologicalorigin or race so to say. Nyai Ontosorohhas children with the Dutch man, but due to her status and origin hehas no right over own children, the father had the right to legallyacknowledge them. The book says ‘their children had uncertainlegal status – either considered illegitimate "natives"with a corresponding lack of legal rights’7
As noted earlier, women were facing massive discrimination in thesociety then, as the case of the concubine she is just being used andhas no say over that. The women could not have legal rights overtheir own children, yet the universal laws gave all people equalrights despite of their origin, race, color, sex and age. In thearticle, ‘Kingdomof this World’8,women are facing all sorts of mistreatment rape, slavery andcommercial sex.this shows gender inequality and class segregation,
Nyai Ontosoro was suffering because of herstatus as a concubine and lack of rights. She knew this was wrongsignificantly, just as Kent, says people knew of their own rights butcannot help the situation but just let norm of their suffering go on, since the guards have made them silent. Though she believededucation is the route by which her basic humanity could beacknowledged. But she had no chance of attaining the educationeither. Due to her origin she did not attain the right to education,there was serious he racial, gender and biological discrimination inEurope at that time.
Europe in the 17thcentury, experienced, biological differences between Europeansand non-Europeans, like the case of NyaiOntosoro who was mistreated as concubine and the fact that she was awoman of a different origin. She was not privileged to have formaleducation, rights over her children among other humanrights. Minke too suffered discrimination on the grounds ofbiological difference where by his mates disliked him because he wasof European origin despite him being so bright.
Racial segregation was yet another problem in Europe at the time, asnoted earlier, the people who were not of European origin belonged tothe third estate group, who were really suffering. There wasindustrial revolution according to Chadwick (1842), which wascharacterized by people being involved in a lot of labor work, womendid a lot of mining and they were really suffering, working for longhours in the mine and being mums and wives. At times the women wouldbe beaten by their husbands and they had no say over that. At thistime of industrial revolution, there was lots of suffering for theminority groups.
There was time of French revolution when the government tried comingup with, rules giving all people equal rights, though the rights wereargued as not benefiting all the people, especially the women. During this period, though people begun to understand their rightsthey could not enjoy the rights as ought to be. It was during thistime of revolution when more people begun getting enlightened andspeaking up against the social injustices going on in Europe. Peoplelike Marquis, had courage to come up with legislation parallel to theFrench government on women and send them to the queen.
In this period Europe had a view on race, gender and class which wascommonly practiced all over. However, other people in other parts ofthe world begun getting uncomfortable with the status quo, and begunagitating for change through writing and campaigns.
1 Abbé Sieyes: What is the Third Estate?
2 Modern history source book: Emmanuel Kent.
3 De Gouges: "Declaration of the Rights of Woman"
4 Marquis de Condorcet, "On the Admission of Women to the Rights of Citizenship"
5 Marquis de Condorcet, "On the Admission of Women to the Rights of Citizenship"
6 This Earth of Mankind
7 This Earth of Mankind
8 Kingdom of the world.
Abbe Sieyes: "What is the Third Estate?" http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/sieyes.html
Chadwick, (1842). Report on Sanitary Conditions
Emanuel Kant, 1784. "What is Enlightenment?" http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/kant-whatis.asp
Jules, Ferry. (1832-1893) Modern History Sourcebook. On French Colonial Expansion
Marquis de Condorcet, "On the Admission of Women to the Rights of Citizenship" http://chnm.gmu.edu/revolution/d/292/
Modern History Sourcebook: Women Miners in the English Coal Pits. From Great Britain Parliamentary Papers, 1842, Vol XVI, pp. 24, 196.
The French National Assembly, "The Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen" http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/rightsof.asp