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Then we might find out what he knows and cares for
our real and relative value in the Government.

Without some act of Congress regulating suffrage for women as
well as black men, women citizens of the United States who, in
Washington, Utah, and Wyoming Territories, are voters and jurors,
and who, in the State of Kansas, vote on school and license
questions, would be denied the exercise of their right to vote in
all the States of the Union, and no naturalization papers,
education, property, residence, or age could help them. What an
anomaly is this in a republic! A woman who in Wyoming enjoys all
the rights, privileges, and immunities of a sovereign, by
crossing the line into Nebraska, sinks at once to the political
degradation of a slave. Humiliated with such injustice, one set
of statesmen answer her appeals by sending her for redress to
the courts; another advises her to submit her qualifications to
the States; but we, with a clearer intuition of the rightful
power, come to you who thoughtfully, conscientiously, and
understandingly passed that Amendment defining the word
"citizen," declaring suffrage a foundation right. How are women
"citizens" from Utah, Wyoming, Kansas, moving in other States, to
be protected in the rights they have heretofore enjoyed, unless
Congress shall pass the bill presented by Mr. Butler, and thus
give us a homogeneous law on suffrage from Maine to Louisiana?
Remember, these are citizens of the United States as well as of
the Territories and States wherein they may reside, and their
rights as such are of primal consideration. One of your own
amendments to the Federal Constitution, honorable gentlemen, says
"that the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall
not be denied or abridged by any State on account of race, color,
or previous condition of servitude." We have women of different
races and colors, as well as men. It takes more than men to
compose peoples and races, and no one denies that all women
suffer the disabilities of a present or previous condition of
servitude. Clearly the State may regulate, but can not deny the
exercise of this right to any citizen.

You did not leave the negroes to the tender mercies of the courts
and States. Why send your mothers, wives, and daughters
suppliants at the feet of the unwashed, unlettered, unthinking
masses that carry our elections in the States? Would you compel
the women of New York to sue the Tweeds, the Sweeneys, the
Connollys, for their inalienable rights, or to have the scales of
justice balanced for them in the unsteady hand of a Cardozo, a
Barnard, or a McCunn? Nay, nay; the proper tribunal to decide
nice questions of human rights and constitutional
interpretations, the political status of every citizen under our
national flag, is the Congress of the United States. This is your
right and duty, clearly set forth in article 1, section 5, of the
Constitution, for how can you decide the competency and
qualifications of electors for members of either House without
settling the fundamental question on what the right of suffrage
is based? All power centers in the people. Our Federal
Constitution, as well as that of every State, opens with the
words, "We, the people." However this phrase may have been
understood and acted on in the past, women to-day are awake to
the fact that they constitute one half the American people; that
they have the right to demand that the constitution shall secure
to them "justice," "domestic tranquillity," and the "blessings of
liberty." So long as women are not represented in the government
they are in a condition of tutelage, perpetual minority, slavery.

You smile at the idea of women being slaves in this country.
Benjamin Franklin said long ago, "that they who have no voice in
making the laws, or in the election of those who administer them,
do not enjoy liberty, but are absolutely enslaved to those who
have votes and to their representatives." I might occupy hours in
quoting grand liberal sentiments from the fathers--Madison,
Jefferson, Otis, and Adams--in favor of individual
representation. I might quote equally noble words from the
statesmen of our day--Seward, Sumner, Wade, Trumbull, Schurz,
Thurman, Groesbeck, and Julian--to prove "that no just government
can be formed without the consent of the governed"; that "the
ballot is the columbiad of our political life, and every man who
holds it is a full-armed Monitor." But what do lofty utterances
and logical arguments avail so long as men, blinded by old
prejudices and customs, fail to see their application to the
women by their side? Alas! gentlemen, women are your subjects.
Your own selfish interests are too closely interwoven for you to
feel their degradation, and they are too dependent to reveal
themselves to you in their nobler aspirations, their native
dignity. Did Southern slaveholders ever understand the
humiliations of slavery to a proud man like Frederick Douglass?
Did the coarse, low-bred master ever doubt his capacity to govern
the negro better than he could govern himself? Do cow-boys,
hostlers, pot-house politicians ever doubt their capacity to
prescribe woman's sphere better than she could herself? We have
yet to learn that, with the wonderful progress in art, science,
education, morals, religion, and government we have witnessed in
the last century, woman has not been standing still, but has been
gradually advancing to an equal place with the man by her side,
and stands to-day his peer in the world of thought.

American womanhood has never worn iron shoes, burned on the
funeral pile, or skulked behind a mask in a harem, yet, though
cradled in liberty, with the same keen sense of justice and
equality that man has, she is still bound by law in the swaddling
bands of an old barbarism. Though the world has been steadily
advancing in political science, and step by step recognizing the
rights of new classes, yet we stand to-day talking of precedents,
authorities, laws, and constitutions, as if each generation were
not better able to judge of its wants than the one that preceded
it. If we are to be governed in all things by the men of the
eighteenth century, and the twentieth by the nineteenth, and so
on, the world will be always governed by dead men. The exercise
of political power by woman is by no means a new idea. It has
already been exercised in many countries, and under governments
far less liberal in theory than our own. As to this being an
innovation on the laws of nature, we may safely trust nature at
all times to vindicate herself. In England, where the right to
vote is based on property and not person, the _feme sole_
freeholder has exercised her right all along. In her earliest
history we find records of decisions in courts of her right to do
so, and discussions on that point by able lawyers and judges. The
_feme sole_ voted in person; when married, her husband
represented her property, and voted in her stead; and the moment
the breath went out of his body, she assumed again the burden of
disposing of her own income and the onerous duty of representing
herself in the Government. Thus England is always consistent;
property being the basis of suffrage, is always represented. Here
suffrage is based on "persons," and yet one-half our people are
wholly unrepresented.

We have declared in favor of a government of the people, for the
people, by the people, the whole people. Why not begin the
experiment? If suffrage is a natural right, we claim it in common
with all citizens; if it is a political right, that the few in
power may give or take away, then it is clearly the duty of the
ruling powers to extend it in all cases as the best interests of
the State require. No thinking man would admit that educated,
refined womanhood would not constitute a most desirable element
and better represent the whole humanitarian idea than a
government of men alone.

The objections to Mr. Butler's bill, extending the provisions of
the enforcement act to women, all summed up, are these:

1st. This is too short a cut to liberty. It is taking the nation
by storm. The people are not ready for it. The slower process of
a XVI. Amendment would be safer, surer, and do more toward
educating the people for the final result. To all of which I
answer, the women at least are ready and as well prepared for
enfranchisement as were the slaves of the Southern plantation.
There could have been no plan devised to educate the people so
rapidly as the startling announcement in the Woodhull Memorial
that women already had the right to vote. It has roused wise men
to thought on the question, stirred the bar and bench of the
nation, with the prospect of a new and fruitful source of
litigation; it has inspired woman with fresh hope that the day of
her enfranchisement is at hand, given the press of the country
solid arguments for their consideration, and changed the tone of
the speeches in our conventions from whinings about brutal
husbands, stolen babies, and special laws, to fundamental
principles of human rights.

This question has been up for discussion in this country over
thirty years; it split the first anti-slavery society in two, was
a firebrand in the world's convention, and has been a disturbing
element in temperance, educational and constitutional conventions
ever since, and it is high time it took a short cut to its final
consummation.



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