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Does the honorable gentleman think,
therefore, that women only should make the laws?

It is true, Mr. Chairman, that, in the ordinary and honorable
sense of the words, women are represented. Laws are made for them
by another class, and upon the theories which that class, without
the fear of political opposition, may choose to entertain, and in
direct violation of the principles upon which, in their own case,
they tenaciously insist. I live, sir, in the county of Richmond.
It has a population of some 27,000 persons. They own property,
and manage it. They are taxed, and pay their taxes; and they
fulfill the duties of citizens with average fidelity. But if the
Committee had introduced a clause into the section they propose
to this effect, "Provided that idiots, lunatics, persons under
guardianship, felons, inhabitants of the county of Richmond, and
persons convicted of bribery, shall not be entitled to vote,"
they would not have proposed a more monstrous injustice, nor a
grosser inconsistency with every fundamental right and American
principle, than in the clause they recommend; and in that case,
sir, what do you suppose would have been my reception had I
returned to my friends and neighbors, and had said to them, "The
Convention thinks that you are virtually represented by the
voters of Westchester and Chautauqua"?

Mr. Chairman, I have no superstition about the ballot. I do not
suppose it would immediately right all the wrongs of women, any
more than it has righted all those of men. But what political
agency has righted so many? Here are thousands of miserable men
all around us; but they have every path opened to them. They have
their advocates; they have their votes; they make the laws, and,
at last and at worst, they have their strong right hands for
defense. And here are thousands of miserable women pricking back
death and dishonor with a little needle; and now the sly hand of
science is stealing that little needle away. The ballot does not
make those men happy nor respectable nor rich nor noble; but they
guard it for themselves with sleepless jealousy, because they
know it is the golden gate to every opportunity; and precisely
the _kind_ of advantage it gives to one sex, it would give to the
other. It would arm it with the most powerful weapon known to
political society; it would maintain the natural balance of the
sexes in human affairs, and secure to each fair play within its
sphere.

But, sir, the Committee tell us that the suffrage of women would
be a revolutionary innovation; it would disturb the venerable
traditions. Well, sir, about the year 1790, women were first
recognized as school-teachers in Massachusetts. At that time, the
New England "school-marm" (and I use the word with affectionate
respect) was a revolutionary innovation. She has been abroad ever
since, and has been by no means the least efficient, but always
the most modest and unnoticed, of the great civilizing influences
in this country. Innovation!--why, sir, when Sir Samuel Romilly
proposed to abolish the death-penalty for stealing a
handkerchief, the law officers of the crown said it would
endanger the whole criminal law of England. When the bill
abolishing the slave-trade passed the House of Lords, Lord St.
Vincent rose and stalked out, declaring that he washed his hands
of the ruin of the British empire. When the Greenwich pensioners
saw the first steamer upon the Thames, they protested that they
did not like the steamer, for it was contrary to nature. When, at
the close of the reign of Charles II., London had half a million
of people, there was a fierce opposition to street-lamps,--such
is the hostility of venerable traditions to an increase of light.
When Mr. Jefferson learned that New York had explored the route
of a canal, he benignly regarded it, in the spirit of our
Committee, as, doubtless, "defensible in theory"; for he said
that it was "a very fine project, and might be executed a century
hence." And, fifty-six years ago, Chancellor Livingston wrote
from this city, that the proposition of a railroad, shod with
iron, to move heavy weights four miles an hour, was ingenious,
perhaps "theoretically defensible"; but, upon the whole, the road
would not be so cheap or convenient as a canal. In this country,
sir, the venerable traditions are used to being disturbed.
America was clearly designed to be a disturber of traditions, and
to leave nobler precedents than she found. So, a few months ago,
what the committee call a revolutionary innovation was proposed
by giving the ballot to the freedmen in the District of Columbia.
The awful results of such a revolution were duly set forth in one
of the myriad veto messages of the President of the United
States. But they have voted. If anybody proposed to disturb the
election, it was certainly not the new voters. The election was
perfectly peaceful, and not one of the presidential pangs has
been justified. So with this reform. It _is_ new in the extent
proposed. It is as new as the harvest after the sowing, and it is
as natural. The resumption of rights long denied or withheld
never made a social convulsion: that is produced by refusing
them. The West-Indian slaves received their liberty, praying upon
their knees; and the influence of the enfranchisement of women
will glide into society as noiselessly as the dawn increases into
day.

Or shall I be told that women, if not numerically counted at the
polls, do yet exert an immense influence upon politics, and do
not really need the ballot. If this argument was seriously urged,
I should suffer my eyes to rove through this chamber and they
would show me many honorable gentlemen of reputed political
influence. May they, therefore, be properly and justly
disfranchised? I ask the honorable Chairman of the Committee,
whether he thinks that a citizen should have no vote because he
has influence? What gives influence? Ability, intelligence,
honesty. Are these to be excluded from the polls? Is it only
stupidity, ignorance and rascality which ought to possess
political power?

Or, will it be said that women do not want the ballot and ought
to be asked? And upon what principle ought they to be asked? When
natural rights or their means of defense have been immemorially
denied to a large class, does humanity, or justice, or good sense
require that they should be registered and called to vote upon
their own restoration? Why, Mr. Chairman, it might as well be
said that Jack the Giant Killer ought to have gravely asked the
captives in the ogre's dungeon whether they wished to be
released. It must be assumed that men and women wish to enjoy
their natural rights, as that the eyes wish light or the lungs an
atmosphere. Did we wait for emancipation until the slaves
petitioned to be free? No, sir, all our lives had been passed in
ingenious and ignominious efforts to sophisticate and stultify
ourselves for keeping them chained; and when war gave us a legal
right to snap their bonds, we did not ask them whether they
preferred to remain slaves. We knew that they were men, and that
men by nature walk upright, and if we find them bent and
crawling, we know that the posture is unnatural whether they may
think so or not. In the case of women we acknowledge that they
have the same natural rights as ourselves--we see that they hold
property and pay taxes, and we must of necessity suppose that
they wish to enjoy every security of those rights that we
possess. So when in this State, every year, thousands of boys
come of age, we do not solemnly require them to tell us whether
they wish to vote. We assume, of course, that they do, and we say
to them, "Go, and upon the same terms with the rest of us, vote
as you choose." But gentlemen say that they know a great many
women who do not wish to vote, who think it is not ladylike, or
whatever the proper term may be. Well, sir, I have known many men
who have habitually abstained from politics because they were so
"ungentlemanly," and who thought that no man could touch pitch
without defilement. Now what would the honorable gentlemen who
know women who do not wish to vote, have thought of a proposition
that I should not vote, because my neighbors did not wish to?
There may have been slaves who preferred to remain slaves--was
that an argument against freedom? Suppose that there are a
majority of the women of this State who do not wish to vote--is
that a reason for depriving _one_ woman who is taxed of her equal
representation, or one innocent person of the equal protection of
his life and liberty?

Shall nothing ever be done by statesmen until wrongs are so
intolerable that they take society by the throat? Did it show the
wisdom of British Conservatism that it waited to grant the Reform
bill of 1832 until England hung upon the edge of civil war? When
women and children were worked sixteen hours a day in English
factories, did it show practical good sense to delay a "short
time" bill until hundreds of thousands of starving workmen agreed
to starve yet more, if need be, to relieve the overwork of their
families, and until the most pitiful procession the sun ever
shone upon, that of the factory children, just as they left their
work, marched through the streets of Manchester, that burst into
sobs and tears at the sight? Yet if, in such instances, where
there was so plausible an adverse appeal founded upon vested
interests and upon the very theory of the government, it was
unwise to wait until a general public outcry imperatively
demanded the reform, how wholly needless to delay in this State a
measure which is the natural result of our most cherished
principles, and which threatens to disturb or injure nothing
whatever.



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