Is Custom Stronger Than Law?
“No written law has ever been more binding than unwritten custom supported by popular opinion,” said Carrie Chapman Catt, who was a persevering fighter for justice, during her speech in 1900 when she was elected president of the National American Women Suffrage Association 10 years after she had become involved in the association.
What seems to be a nonsense now was a usual thing previously. Even uneducated immigrants and practically illiterate men from slums could vote. However, women could not, though some of them were well-educated and cognizant of political affairs. The aim Catt had been pursuing for thirty years was finally achieved in 1920. The result of her work was that the constitutional amendment which gave women the right to vote was adopted.
This situation shows that public opinion is often much stronger than common sense, justice or moral principles, and there are many other examples how far an individual may go being supported by others. For instance, Hitler’s inexplicable charisma and strong leadership encouraged people to do horrible things, and their allegiance emboldened him to go ahead.
Public opinion can make a person a hero and another one a criminal for the same actions. Thus, prejudice is often sounder than the written law.