Josephine Butler to [Miss Priestman]

Archive Unit
  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 106 3JBL/08/46
  • Former Reference
      GB 106 3329
  • Dates of Creation
      9 Jun 1874
  • Physical Description
      1 item

Scope and Content

Fragment of a letter. Speaks of their Agent working in Liverpool 'an immense help in this huge town'. She will be in York on the 25th for a little Conference on repeal. She has heard from an American friend that a Bill is before Congress similar to 'our CD Acts' and she was asked to send pamphlets and write letters. 'I have had therefore rather a heavy postage to America'.

Administrative / Biographical History

[meeting at York 2nd week / middle Jun 1874 i.e. 9 Jun 1874]

'We are to have a little conference of repeal friends at York on the 25th'

We read in JB's 'Personal Reminiscences' (p 108): 'On the 25 Jun 1874 ... a few friends of the Abolitionist cause met together at York' - At this meeting it was decided to open correspondence with opponents of the Regulation system abroad, which resulted in JB's noteworthy visit to Paris in the winter of 1874/5 and finally the foundation of the International Federation for Abolition

'a Bill is now before Congress similar to our CD Acts'

There was a close tie between the American anti-Regulationists a number of whom were the old abolitionists of anti-slavery days, and their English counterparts. Early in 1876 HJ Wilson and JP Gledstone were sent to America to help with the campaign against the threatened imposition in other cities of Regulations imposed in St Louis 1870-1874.

Biog: Mrs Henry Richardson; H Bligh (Agent); [Burgess] (Agent)

CONFERENCE OF FRIENDS OF REPEAL held at York on 25 Jun [1874]. HJ Wilson in the chair

At that Conference JB drew attention to the fact that promoters and supporters of the CD Acts maintain active interchange and intercourse of ideas with promoters of regulated vice in foreign countries and that it was therefore desirable that friends of Repeal should follow this example and promote union by means of more frequent and regular correspondence. A Resolution to this effect passed. JB arranged for Mr Collingwood's paper to be sent to many friends accompanied by a letter from her.

Letter to accompany Mr Collingwood's paper:

She pointed out that the friends of legalised prostitution 'rejoice in the fact that the English have taken the step, hitherto unattempted by any country of passing an Act of Parl for the regulation of vice and that upon the bold attitude thus assumed by our Govt they found their hopes of redoubled activity abroad and of a worldwide extension of the wicked and oppressive systems' ('Shield' Aug 1874 p 157)

They are already receiving support (sympathy and useful information) from their friends on the Continent

'among several letters lately received from the Continent suggesting concerted action, I may mention one from the Countess de Gasparin in which she urges that all Christian people throughout Europe should league themselves together to get rid of this 'patented leprosy' the regulation and protection of prostitution; and she appeals first to the Women of England to inaugurate this movement (p 157-8)

I believe that a time is coming when it will be apparent that the principle for which we are contending - the unity of the moral law and the quality of all human souls before God - is the most fruitful and powerful revolutionising principle which the world has ever known, and that we shall achieve a victory, in the course of years, and through much tribulation, which will make our present efforts seem trivial for the attainment of so great an end' (p 58)

Some remarks on a recent contribution to the literature of regulated and supervised immorality; Being a Paper read at a Conference of Opponents of the CD Acts, held at York on Thursday 25 Jun 1874 by the Rev CS Collingwood 'De la Prostitution dans les grands villes au 19ieme siecle, et de l'extinction des maladies Venergiennes par le docteur J Jeaunnel 2me ed Baillieu, Paris

The 1st ed of this work was published in 1868. This 2nd ed brings the subject down to its latest developments and is the most recent contribution to the literature of regulated and supervised immorality

The author has long been connected with the medical supervision of prostitution at Bordeaux and is a warm advocate of the system ... he is a reasonably fair and honest writer, clear headed to a certain extent ... the system of supervision could hardly have a more respectable advocate

Two leading principles run through the work:

* That prostitution is a necessity and supplies and want which unsupplied would produce worse evils

* That duty and right are correlatives, or that the performance of duties constitutes the claim to rights, and hence the prostitute not performing her duties has no rights. (See 'Shield' Aug 1874 pp163-4)

He thinks that France and Continental Europe have discovered a way of reconciling expediency with principle. The State has merely to lay down a few general objects to be kept in view by the police and to leave the executive to frame rules and regulations for itself as to the modus operandi. The whole question is one of police and the States have no distasteful responsibility

Dr J 'admits the utter inefficiency of the method used at present and ascribes it to numberless defects both in its completeness and in its execution. Clandestine vice is one of the great impediments to any real success. He demands larger powers, more centralised operations, international treaties and thus bring about a perfect system which will succeed as more has hitherto succeeded.

Summary of what Dr J wishes: Clearer authority given to the police; A general system of surveillance throughout France, nay, the civilised world; The suppression of clandestine vice; Universal supply of hospital accommodation in the large towns and seaports and where the State has power inspection of men as well as women i.e. among soldiers, sailors, and State employees of the working class

'The preface is very noteworthy because the author therein sets forth with true French clearness and precision the scope of purpose of his book and of the studies of his life. Unlike the English supporters of State regulation of vice, he is far too logical to pretend that the diminution of prostitution is in any way contemplated by the systems he advocates

1st part treats of prostitution among the ancients especially at Rome

2nd part treats at the present day and the extinction of VD

3rd part comprehends all general prophylactic methods - ven hospitals, special dispensaries, houses of refuge and consultations gratis; also the prophylactic methods applicable to soldiers, sailors and to working men of the civil population

'He is not to prove that the men of the mercantile marine are 'true propagators of syphilis over the whole world' and he proposes a series of new measures to dry up this immense and indefinite source of infection' ('Shield' Jun 1874 p 129)