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The amendment proposes no compulsion like the old New
England law, which fined every voter who did not vote. If there
are citizens of the State who think it unladylike or
ungentlemanlike to take their part in the government, let them
stay at home. But do not, I pray you, give them authority to
detain wiser and better citizens from their duty.

But I shall be told, in the language of the Report of the
Committee, that the proposition is openly at war with the
distribution of functions and duties between the sexes.
Translated into English, Mr. Chairman, this means that it is
unwomanly to vote. Well, sir, I know that at the very mention of
the political rights of women, there arises in many minds a
dreadful vision of a mighty exodus of the whole female world, in
bloomers and spectacles, from the nursery and kitchen to the
polls. It seems to be thought that if women practically took part
in politics, the home would be left a howling wilderness of
cradles, and a chaos of undarned stockings and buttonless shirts.
But how is it with men? Do they desert their workshops, their
plows, and offices, to pass their time at the polls? Is it a
credit to a _man_ to be called a professional politician? The
pursuits of men in the world, to which they are directed by the
natural aptitude of sex, and to which they must devote their
lives, are as foreign from political functions as those of women.
To take an extreme case: there is nothing more incompatible with
political duties in cooking and taking care of children than
there is in digging ditches or making shoes, or in any other
necessary employment, while in every superior interest of society
growing out of the family, the stake of women is not less than
men, and their knowledge is greater. In England, a woman who owns
shares in the East-India Company may vote. In this country she
may vote as a stockholder upon a railroad from one end of the
country to another. But if she sells her stock, and buys a house
with the money, she has no voice in the laying out of the road
before her door, which her house is taxed to keep and pay for.
And why, in the name of good sense, if a responsible human being
may vote upon specific industrial projects, may she not vote upon
the industrial regulation of the State? There is no more reason
that men should assume to decide participation in politics to be
unwomanly than that woman should decide for men that it is
unmanly. It is not our prerogative to keep women feminine. I
think, sir, they may be trusted to defend the delicacy of their
own sex. Our success in managing ours has not been so conspicuous
that we should urgently desire more labor of the same kind.
Nature is quite as wise as we. Whatever their sex incapacitates
women from doing they will not do. Whatever duty is consistent
with their sex and their relation to society, they will properly
demand to do until they are permitted.

The reply to the assertion that participation in political power
is unwomanly, and tends to subvert the family relation, is simple
and unanswerable. It is that we can not know what is womanly
until we see the folly of insisting that the theories of men
settle the question. We know now what the convenience and
feelings of men decide to be womanly. We shall know what _is_
womanly in the same sense that we know what is manly, only when
women have the same equality of development and the same liberty
of choice as men. The amendment I offer is merely a prayer that
you will remove from women a disability, and secure to them the
same freedom of choice that we enjoy. If the instincts of sex, of
maternity, of domesticity, are not persuasive enough to keep them
in the truest sense women, it is the most serious defect yet
discovered in the divine order of nature. When, therefore, the
Committee declare that voting is at war with the distribution of
functions between the sexes, what do they mean? Are not women as
much interested in good government as men? There is fraud in the
Legislature; there is corruption in the courts; there are
hospitals, and tenement-houses, and prisons; there are
gambling-houses, and billiard-rooms, and brothels; there are
grog-shops at every corner, and I know not what enormous
proportion of crime in the State proceeds from them; there are
40,000 drunkards in the State, and their hundreds of thousands
of children--all these things are subjects of legislation, and
under the exclusive legislation of men the crime associated with
all these things becomes vast and complicated. Have the wives,
and mothers, and sisters of New York less vital interest in them,
less practical knowledge of them and their proper treatment, than
the husbands and fathers? No man is so insane as to pretend it.
Is there then any natural incapacity in women to understand
politics? It is not asserted. Are they lacking in the necessary
intelligence? But the moment that you erect a standard of
intelligence which is sufficient to exclude women as a sex, that
moment most of the male sex would be disfranchised. Is it that
they ought not to go to public political meetings? But we
earnestly invite them. Or that they should not go to the polls?
Some polls, I allow, in the larger cities, are dirty and
dangerous places; and those it is the duty of the police to
reform. But no decent man wishes to vote in a grog-shop, nor to
have his head broken while he is doing it, while the mere act of
dropping a ballot in a box is about the simplest, shortest, and
cleanest that can be done. Last winter Senator Frelinghuysen,
repeating, I am sure thoughtlessly, the common rhetoric of the
question, spoke of the high and holy mission of women. But if
people, with a high and holy mission, may innocently sit
bare-necked in hot theatres to be studied through
pocket-telescopes until midnight by any one who chooses, how can
their high and holy mission be harmed by their quietly dropping a
ballot in a box? What is the high and holy mission of any woman
but to be the best and most efficient human being possible? To
enlarge the sphere of duty and the range of responsibility, where
there are adequate power and intelligence, is to heighten, not to
lessen, the holiness of life.

But if women vote, they must sit on juries. Why not? Nothing is
plainer than that thousands of women who are tried every year as
criminals are not tried by their peers. And if a woman is bad
enough to commit a heinous crime, must we absurdly assume that
women are too good to know that there is such a crime? If they
may not sit on juries, certainly they ought not to be witnesses.
A note in Howell's State Trials, to which my attention was drawn
by one of my distinguished colleagues in the convention, quotes
an ancient work, "Probation by Witnesses," by Sir George
Mackenzie, in which he says: "The reason why women are excluded
from witnessing must be either that they are subject to too much
compassion, and so ought not to be more received in criminal
cases than in civil cases; or else the law was unwilling to
trouble them, and thought it might learn them too much
confidence, and make them subject to too much familiarity with
men and strangers, if they were necessitated to vague up and down
at all courts upon all occasions." Hume says this rule was held
as late as the beginning of the eighteenth century. But if too
much familiarity with men be so pernicious, are men so pure that
they alone should make laws for women, and so honorable that they
alone should try women for breaking them? It is within a very few
years at the Liverpool Assizes in a case involving peculiar
evidence, that Mr. Russell said: "The evidence of women is, in
some respects, superior to that of men. Their power of judging of
minute details is better, and when there are more than two facts
and something be wanting, their intuitions supply the
deficiency." "And precisely the qualities which fit them to give
evidence," says Mrs. Dall, to whom we owe this fact, "fit them to
sift and test it."

But, the objectors continue, would you have women hold office? If
they are capable and desirous, why not? They hold office now most
acceptably. In my immediate neighborhood, a postmistress has been
so faithful an officer for seven years, that when there was a
rumor of her removal, it was a matter of public concern. This is
a familiar instance in this country. Scott's "Antiquary" shows
that a similar service was not unknown in Scotland. In "Notes and
Queries," ten years ago (Vol. II., Sec. 2, 1856, pp. 83, 204),
Alexander Andrews says: "It was by no means unusual for females
to serve the office of overseer in small rural parishes," and a
communication in the same publication (First Series, Vol. II., p.
383) speaks of a curious entry in the Harleian Miscellany (MS.
980, fol. 153): "The Countess of Richmond, mother to Henry VII.,
was a Justice of the Peace. Mr. Atturney said if it was so, it
ought to have been by commission, for which he had made many an
hower's search for the record, but could never find it, but he
had seen many arbitriments that were made by her. Justice Joanes
affirmed that he had often heard from his mother of the Lady
Bartlett, mother to the Lord Bartlett, that she was a Justice of
the Peace, and did set usually upon the bench with the other
Justices in Gloucestershire; that she was made so by Queen Mary,
upon her complaint to her of the injuries she sustained by some
of that county, and desiring for redress thereof; that as she
herself, was Chief-Justice of all England, so this lady might be
in her own county, which accordingly the Queen granted.



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