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Should we
prove to be in error on this head, the Convention may overrule us
by changing a few words in the first section of our proposed
article.

Nor have we seen fit to propose the enfranchisement of boys above
the age of eighteen years. The current ideas and usages in our
day, but especially in this country, seem already to set too
strongly in favor of the relaxation, if not total overthrow of
parental authority, especially over half-grown boys. With the
sincerest good-will for the class in question, we submit that
they may spend the hours which they can spare from their labors
and their lessons more usefully and profitably in mastering the
wisdom of the sages and philosophers who have elucidated the
science of government, than in attendance on midnight caucuses,
or in wrangling around the polls.

ALBANY, June 28, 1867.

HORACE GREELEY, _Chairman_, WM. H. MERRILL,
LESLIE W. RUSSELL, GEO. WILLIAMS.

Mr. Cassidy presented a minority report urging a separate submission
of the question of negro suffrage, in which he said:

If the regeneration of political society is to be sought in the
incorporation of this element into the constituency, it must be
done by the direct and explicit vote of the electors. We are
foreclosed from any other course by the repeated action[100] of
the State.... It would be unfair to the people to declare that
whereas they have again and again refused to accept this change,
therefore we will incorporate it into the Constitution, and
compel them either to repeal that instrument, or to accept this
measure.... As to the extension of suffrage to women, the
undersigned reserve, for the present, any expression of opinion.

WILLIAM CASSIDY,
JOHN G. SCHUMAKER.

The petitions[101] for woman suffrage were presented in the Convention
until they reached in round numbers 20,000. The morning Mr. Greeley
gave his report the galleries were crowded with ladies, and every
member present, Democrat as well as Republican, was supplied with a
petition. As it had been rumored about that Mr. Greeley's report would
be against suffrage for women, the Democrats entered with great zest
into the presentation. George William Curtis, at the special
request[102] of the ladies, reserved his for the last, and when he
arose and said: "Mr. President, I hold in my hand a petition from Mrs.
Horace Greeley and three hundred other women citizens of Westchester,
asking that the word 'male' be stricken from the Constitution," the
sensation throughout the house was as profound as unexpected. Mr.
Greeley's chagrin was only equaled by the amusement of the other
members, and of the ladies in the gallery. As he arose to read his
report, it being the next thing in order, he was evidently embarrassed
in view of such a flood of petitions from all parts of the State; from
his own wife, and most of the ladies in his immediate social circle,
by seeming to antagonize the measure.

After Mr. Greeley's report, Mr. Graves made several efforts to get his
resolution adopted in time for the women to vote upon it in the spring
of 1868. Mr. Weed, of Clinton, also desired that the vote for the
measure should consist of the majority of the women of the State. The
great event of the Convention was the speech of George William Curtis
on the report of the "Committee on the right of suffrage and the
qualifications to hold office."

GEORGE WILLIAM CURTIS offered the following amendment:[103]

"In the first section, strike out the word 'man'; and wherever in
that section the word 'he' occurs, add 'or she'; and wherever the
word 'his' occurs, add 'or her.'"

Mr. CURTIS said: In proposing a change so new to our political
practice, but so harmonious with the spirit and principles of our
Government, it is only just that I should attempt to show that it
is neither repugnant to reason nor hurtful to the State. Yet I
confess some embarrassment; for, while the essential reason of
the proposition seems to me to be clearly defined, the objection
to it is vague and shadowy. From the formal opening of the
general discussion of the question in this country, by the
Convention at Seneca Falls in 1848, down to the present moment,
the opposition to the suggestion, so far as I am acquainted with
it, has been only the repetition of a traditional prejudice, or
the protest of mere sentimentality; and to cope with these is
like wrestling with a malaria, or arguing with the east wind. I
do not know, indeed, why the Committee have changed the phrase
"male inhabitant or citizen," which is uniformly used in a
constitutional clause limiting the elective franchise. Under the
circumstances, the word "man" is obscure, and undoubtedly
includes women as much as the word "mankind." But the intention
of the clause is evident, and the report of the Committee makes
it indisputable. Had they been willing to say directly what they
say indirectly, the eighth line and what follows would read,
"Provided that idiots, lunatics, persons under guardianship,
felons, women, and persons convicted of bribery, etc., shall not
be entitled to vote." In their report, the Committee omit to tell
us why they politically class the women of New York with idiots
and criminals. They assert merely that the general
enfranchisement of women would be a novelty, which is true of
every step of political progress, and is therefore a presumption
in its favor; and they speak of it in a phrase which is intended
to stigmatize it as unwomanly, which is simply an assumption and
a prejudice. I wish to know, sir, and I ask in the name of the
political justice and consistency of this State, why it is that
half of the adult population, as vitally interested in good
government as the other half, who own property, manage estates,
and pay taxes, who discharge all the duties of good citizens, and
are perfectly intelligent and capable, are absolutely deprived of
political power, and classed with lunatics and felons. The boy
will become a man and a voter; the lunatic may emerge from the
cloud and resume his rights; the idiot, plastic under the tender
hand of modern science, may be moulded into the full citizen; the
criminal, whose hand still drips with the blood of his country
and of liberty, may be pardoned and restored; but no age, no
wisdom, no peculiar fitness, no public service, no effort, no
desire, can remove from woman this enormous and extraordinary
disability. Upon what reasonable grounds does it rest? Upon none
whatever. It is contrary to natural justice, to the acknowledged
and traditional principles of the American Government, and to the
most enlightened political philosophy. The absolute exclusion of
women from political power in this State is simply usurpation.
"In every age and country," says the historian Gibbon, nearly a
hundred years ago, "the wiser or at least the stronger of the two
sexes has usurped the powers of the State, and confined the other
to the cares and pleasures of domestic life."

The historical fact is that the usurping class, as Gibbon calls
them, have always regulated the position of women by their own
theories and convenience. The barbaric Persian, for instance,
punished an insult to the woman with death, not because of her
but of himself. She was part of him. And the civilized English
Blackstone only repeats the barbaric Persian when he says that
the wife and husband form but one person--that is the husband.
Sir, it would be extremely amusing, if it were not tragical, to
trace the consequences of this theory on human society and the
unhappy effect upon the progress of civilization of this morbid
estimate of the importance of men. Gibbon gives a curious
instance of it, and an instance which recalls the spirit of the
modern English laws of divorce. There was a temple in Rome to the
goddess who presided over the peace of marriages. "But," says the
historian, "her very name, Viriplaca--the appeaser of
husbands--shows that repentance and submission were always
expected from the wife," as if the offense usually came from her.
In the "Lawe's resolution of Women's Rights," published in the
year 1632, a book which I have not seen, but of which there are
copies in the country, the anonymous and quaint author says, and
with a sly satire: "It is true that man and woman are one person,
but understand in what manner. When a small brooke or little
river incorporateth with Rhodanus, Humber, or the Thames, the
poor rivulet looseth her name; it is carried and recarried with
the new associate--it beareth no sway--it possesseth nothing
during coverture. A woman as soon as she is married is called
_covert_--in Latine, _nupta_--that is, veiled; as it were
overclouded and shadowed; she hath lost her streame. I may more
truly, farre away, say to a married woman, her new self is her
superior; her companion her master.... See here the reason of
that which I touched before--that women have no voice in
Parliament; they make no laws; they consent to none; they
abrogate none. All of them are understood either married or to be
married, and their desires are to their husbands."

From this theory of ancient society, that woman is absorbed in
man; that she is a social inferior and a subordinate part of man;
springs the system of laws in regard to women which in every
civilized country is now in course of such rapid modification,
and it is this theory which so tenaciously lingers as a
traditional prejudice in our political customs.



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