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I would, therefore,
suggest to your honorable body that you provide for the election
of an equal number of delegates at large from the disfranchised
classes. But a response to our present demand does not
legitimately thrust on you the final consideration of the whole
broad question of suffrage, on which many of you may be
unprepared to give an opinion. The simple point we now press is
this: that in a revision of our Constitution, when the State is,
as it were, resolved into its original elements, ALL THE PEOPLE
should be represented in the Convention which is to enact the
laws by which they are to be governed the next twenty years.
Women and negroes, being seven-twelfths of the people, are a
majority; and according to our republican theory, are the
rightful rulers of the nation. In this view of the case,
honorable gentlemen, is it not a very unpretending demand we
make, that we shall vote once in twenty years in revising and
amending our State Constitution?

But, say you, the majority of women do not make the demand. Grant
it. What then? When you proclaimed emancipation, did you go to
slaveholders and ask if a majority of them were in favor of
freeing their slaves? When you ring the changes on "negro
suffrage" from Maine to California, have you proof positive that
a majority of the freedmen demand the ballot? On the contrary,
knowing that the very existence of republican institutions
depends on the virtue, education and equality of the people, did
you not, as wise statesmen, legislate in all these cases for the
highest good of the individual and the nation? We ask that the
same far-seeing wisdom may guide your decision on the question
now before you. Remember, the gay and fashionable throng who
whisper in the ears of statesmen, judges, lawyers, merchants,
"_We have all the rights we want_," are but the mummies of
civilization, to be brought back to life only by earthquakes and
revolutions. Would you know what is in the soul of woman, ask not
the wives and daughters of merchant princes; but the creators of
wealth--those who earn their bread by honest toil--those who, by
a turn in the wheel of fortune, stand face to face with the stern
realities of life.

"If you would enslave a people," says Cicero, "first, through
ease and luxury, make them effeminate." When you subsidize labor
to your selfish interests, there is ever a healthy resistance.
But, when you exalt weakness and imbecility above your heads,
give it an imaginary realm of power, illimitable, unmeasured,
unrecognized, you have founded a throne for woman on pride,
selfishness and complacency, before which you may well stand
appalled. In banishing Madame De Stael from Paris, the Emperor
Napoleon, even, bowed to the power of that scepter which rules
the world of fashion. The most insidious enemy to our republican
institutions, at this hour, is found in the aristocracy of our
women. The ballot-box, that great leveler among men, is beneath
their dignity. "_They have all the rights they want._" So, in his
spiritual supremacy, has the Pope of Rome! But what of the
multitude outside the Vatican!!!

This speech was published in full by the Metropolitan press and many
of the leading journals[93] of the State, with fair editorial
comments.

On June 4th, 1867, the Constitutional Convention assembled in Albany,
and on the 10th Mr. Graves of Herkimer, moved "that a committee of
five be appointed by the chair to report at an early day whether the
Convention should provide that when a majority of women voted that
they wanted the right of suffrage, they should have it," and on the
19th the President, William A. Wheeler, appointed the committee[94] on
the "right of suffrage, and the qualifications for holding office."

The first petition brought before the committee in favor of suffrage
for women was presented by George William Curtis, of Richmond Co.,
sent by the friends of Human Progress from their Annual meeting at
Waterloo.

Martin I. Townsend next presented a petition from William Johnson,
Chairman of the "Colored Men's State Committee," praying for "equal
manhood suffrage." Similar petitions, without any concert of action
between the parties, were presented simultaneously whenever any
discussion arose on the suffrage question. But in this Convention the
demands made by the women were more pressing and multitudinous.

Mr. GRAVES, June 21st, 1867, moved to take up his resolution,
"That a committee of five be appointed by the chair to report to
the convention at as early a day as possible, whether, in their
opinion, a provision should be incorporated in the Constitution
authorizing the women in this State to exercise the elective
franchise, when they shall ask that right by a majority of all
the votes given by female citizens over twenty-one years of age,
at an election called for that purpose, at which women alone
shall have the right to vote."

Mr. GRAVES said:--Mr. President. I do not desire at this time to
discuss the merits of the resolution; but allow me to suggest
that there are four classes of persons interested in the
questions involved in it. The first class is what is
opprobriously known as "strong-minded women," who claim the right
to vote upon the ground that they are interested and identified
with ourselves in the stability and permanency of our
institutions, and that their property is made liable for the
maintenance of our Government, while they have no right to choose
the law-makers or select the persons who are to assess the value
of their property liable to taxation. They claim that they are
not untaught in the science of government to which the right of
administration is denied to them.

The second class includes both males and females who sympathize
with the first class, and who claim that there is no disparity in
the intellect of men and women, when an equal opportunity is
afforded by education for progress and advancement. They also
claim that our country is diminishing all the time in moral
integrity and virtue, and ask that a new element be introduced
into our governmental affairs by which crime shall be lessened
and the estimate of moral virtue be made higher.

The third class urges that there should be no distinction between
males and females in the exercise of the elective franchise, and
they claim that it is anti-democratic that there should be a
minority in this country to rule its destinies.

There is a fourth class who believe that the right to exercise
the elective franchise is not inherent, but permissive, and that
the people are the Government, and that this power of the
elective franchise is under their immediate control, and they
claim the right to become part and parcel of the Government which
they help to support and maintain.

Now these four classes, differing in opinion upon this great
question, constitute a very large body of worthy, high-minded,
and intelligent men and women of this State who have long sought
to enlarge the elective franchise, and they claim the deliberate
consideration of this body upon the ground of equality, as their
innumerable petitions[95] to this Convention fully show. This
resolution gives to women themselves the power of discussing and
comparing of minds to settle the question whether they will avail
themselves of the desired right to exercise the power of voting.
And as it differs from all other questions which have originated
here with reference to this right of women to vote, I submit it
is a proper resolution to be referred to a select committee to be
appointed for that purpose.

Mr. Graves' resolution was referred to the Committee on Suffrage.

June 27th Mrs. Stanton and Miss Anthony were granted a hearing[96]
before the Convention, and at the close of their addresses were asked
by different members to reply to various objections that readily
suggested themselves. Among others, Mr. Greeley said: "Ladies, you
will please remember that the bullet and ballot go together. If you
vote, are you ready to fight?" "Certainly," was the prompt reply. "We
are ready to fight, sir, just as you fought in the late war, by
sending our substitutes." The colloquy between the members and the
ladies, prolonged until a late hour, was both spicy and
instructive.[97] On the 10th of July a hearing was granted to Lucy
Stone,[98] which called out deep interest and consideration from the
members of that body. Later still, George Francis Train[99] was most
cordially received by the Convention.

C. C. DWIGHT, June 26th, offered a resolution that "The Standing
Committee on the Right of Suffrage be instructed to provide for
women to vote as to whether they wanted the right to vote after
the adoption of the New Constitution.

Mr. MERRITT, July 11th, moved that "The question of Woman
Suffrage be submitted at the election of 1868 or 1869. Referred
to the Committee of the Whole.

Horace Greeley, Chairman of the Committee, in his report, after
recommending universal "manhood suffrage," said:

Having thus briefly set forth the considerations which seem to us
decisive in favor of the few and moderate changes proposed, we
proceed to indicate our controlling reasons for declining to
recommend other and in some respects more important innovations.
Your committee does not recommend an extension of the elective
franchise to women. However defensible in theory, we are
satisfied that public sentiment does not demand and would not
sustain an innovation so revolutionary and sweeping, so openly at
war with a distribution of duties and functions between the sexes
as venerable and pervading as government itself, and involving
transformations so radical in social and domestic life.



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