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But Congress may,
by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability."

* * * * *

Section 5. "The Congress shall have power to enforce, by
appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article."


FIFTEENTH AMENDMENT, MARCH 30, 1870.

Section 1. "The right of citizens of the United to vote shall not
be denied or abridged by the United States, or by any State, on
account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude."

Section 2. "The Congress shall have power to enforce this article
by appropriate legislation."

The women understood the principles involved in these amendments, and
accepted the logical conclusions. Under the first they applied to
Congress for protection against the tyranny of the States in depriving
them of the right of suffrage, but they were remanded to the States,
and were told that Congress had no jurisdiction in the matter. Under
the second, when women claimed the rights of citizens as tax-payers
who helped to support the Government, they were told that neither the
fathers nor their sons ever thought of women in framing their
Constitutions, and that some special legislation was needed before
their rights of citizenship could be recognized or accorded.

During the prolonged debates on these amendments, those who watched
the progress of political sentiment and understood the drift of
events, struck the key-note of reconstruction in "universal suffrage
and universal amnesty," but they were speedily silenced or condemned.
Abraham Lincoln saw that this was the true policy, and counseled it
in private. But he was influenced by those who misjudged the signs of
the times, and for the success of his party and his own re-election,
he yielded to weak counselors. Horace Greeley, with the suffering and
humiliation of the South, as well as the guilt and selfishness of the
North before him, declared "universal suffrage and universal amnesty"
to be the true basis of reconstruction, but a few cracks of the party
whip brought him into line. Henry Ward Beecher foreshadowed the same
policy in an able letter, which called down upon him the nation's
scorn and denunciation, for which he was stabbed by the friends of his
own household. He was the one leading man in the nation who, in all
his public speeches, demanded universal suffrage in the
reconstruction. And by universal suffrage Mr. Beecher meant political
equality for all, without distinction of race, color, or sex. Women
would have been dull scholars indeed had they not readily seen that
the watchword "universal suffrage" stripped of the limitations that
lay in the minds of party politicians, included women also.

Under Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment they saw that being
"persons" and born in the United States, they were "citizens," whom
the National Government was bound to protect against the tyranny of
the State.

Section 2 called their attention to another principle of justice, that
those who were counted in the basis of representation should have a
voice in the rulers whose election their numbers helped to secure. To
be sure, the word "male" thrown in seemed to nullify all applications
of the several amendments to one sex, nevertheless the women
understood the breadth of the principle, and made their demands for an
equal recognition on the ground that they too were counted in the
basis of representation.

Again, in the discussion on removing the "political disabilities" of
those who had made war on the Government, when the injustice of taxing
that large class denied the suffrage was pointed out and the exercise
of that right demanded for thousands of rebels, the women saw the
application of that principle to themselves, and echoed the old
war-cry in our first Revolution, "taxation without representation is
tyranny." In the exhaustive discussions on the emancipation and
enfranchisement of the black man and the restoration of the rebels to
political equality, the fundamental principles of republican
government were more clearly comprehended by the American people than
ever before. Hence, it was in harmony with the order of events that
educated women, appreciating the genius of our institutions, with
their interest in politics intensified by all the complications of
the war, should think and reason and express their opinions on all
these great questions of popular thought. They saw that "universal
suffrage and universal amnesty" was the broad, safe foundation for the
new republic. They saw that the enfranchisement of the women of the
South would not only double the vote, but give a new impulse to
thought and education throughout the Southern States, and mitigate the
hostility they would naturally feel in seeing their slaves suddenly
made their political superiors, their rulers, law-makers, judges, and
jurors! They saw that with the incoming tide of ignorant voters from
Southern plantations and from the nations of the Old World, that the
Government needed the intelligent votes and moral influence of woman
to outweigh the ignorance and vice fast crowding round our polling
booths.

Seeing all this, they pressed with earnestness the well-considered
demand for woman's enfranchisement, not from any selfish or personal
considerations, but for the elevation of all womankind, and to
vindicate the principles that underlie republican government. They who
have the responsibility of action are usually more timid in counsel
than those who can exert only an indirect influence. Hence the
statesmen of that period did not dare to trust their own principles to
their logical results, and instead of the broad demand of equal rights
for all, they proposed reconstruction on the basis of "manhood
suffrage"; a half-way measure that satisfied nobody, glossed over by
the party in power as "universal suffrage," "equal suffrage,"
"impartial suffrage," until compelled to call the proposition by its
true name, "manhood suffrage."

Having served the Government during the war in such varied capacities,
and taken an active part in the discussion of its vital principles on
so many reform platforms, women naturally felt that in reconstruction
their rights as citizens should be protected and secured. They who had
so diligently rolled up petitions for the emancipation and
enfranchisement of the slaves now demanded the same liberties, not
only for the white women of the nation, but for the newly made
freed-women from Southern plantations, who had borne more grievous
burdens and endured keener sufferings in the flesh and far more
aggravating humiliations in spirit, than the man slave could ever
know. And yet Abolitionists who had drawn their most eloquent appeals
for emancipation from the hopeless degradation of woman in slavery,
ignored alike the African and the Saxon in reconstruction, and refused
to sign the petition for "woman suffrage." Even such just and liberal
men as Gerrit Smith and Wendell Phillips, in their haste to see the
consummation of the black man's freedom, to which they had devoted
their life-long efforts, lost sight of the ever-binding principles of
justice, and accepted an amendment to the National Constitution that
made all men rulers, all women subjects. Gerrit Smith, who had often
said, "It is always safe to do right"; "now is the time for action,
you can not be sure of to-morrow"; "speak the truth though the heavens
fall," acted from policy rather than principle in refusing to sign the
following petition:

_To the Senate and House of Representatives in Congress
assembled_:

The undersigned, citizens of the State of New York, earnestly but
respectfully request, that in any change or amendment of the
Constitution you may propose to extend or regulate suffrage,
there shall be no distinctions made between men and women.

PETERBORO, Dec. 30, 1868.

MY DEAR SUSAN B. ANTHONY:--I this evening received your earnest
letter. It pains me to be obliged to disappoint you. But I can
not sign the petition you send me. Cheerfully, gladly can I sign
a petition for the enfranchisement of women. But I can not sign a
paper against the enfranchisement of the negro man, unless at the
same time woman shall be enfranchised. The removal of the
political disabilities of race is my first desire--of sex, my
second. If put on the same level and urged in the same connection
neither will be soon accomplished. The former will very soon be,
if untrammeled by the other, and its success will prepare the way
for the accomplishment of the other.

With great regard, your friend, GERRIT SMITH.

To which letter Mrs. Stanton replied in _The Revolution_ Jan. 14,
1869:

The above is the petition to which our friend Gerrit Smith, as an
abolitionist, can not conscientiously put his name, while
Republicans and Democrats are signing it all over the country. He
does not clearly read the signs of the times, or he would see
that there is to be no reconstruction of this nation, except on
the basis of universal suffrage, as the natural, inalienable
right of every citizen. The uprising of the women on both
continents, in France, England, Russia, Switzerland, and the
United States, all show that advancing civilization demands a new
element in the government of nations. As the aristocracy in this
country is the "male sex," and as Mr. Smith belongs to the
privileged order, he naturally considers it important for the
best interests of the nation, that every type and shade of
degraded, ignorant manhood should be enfranchised, before even
the higher classes of womanhood should be admitted to the polls.
This does not surprise us. Men always judge more wisely of
objective wrongs and oppressions, than of those in which they are
themselves involved. Tyranny on a Southern plantation is far more
easily seen by white men at the North than the wrongs of the
women of their own households.

Then, again, when men have devoted their lives to one reform,
there is a natural feeling of pride, as well as an earnest
principle, in seeing that one thing accomplished.



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