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Wright, one of the most judicious and clear-sighted women in
the movement, was elected president. A large number of letters[160]
was received from nearly every State in the Union.

On May 28th, 1874, while the bill to establish the Territory of
Pembina was pending in the Senate, Mr. Sargent, of California, moved
to add "sex" to line 10 of section 5, which would make the clause
read:

_Resolved_, That the Legislative Assembly shall not, at any time,
abridge the right of suffrage, or to hold office, on account of
sex, race, color, or previous condition of servitude of any
resident of the Territory.

Mr. SARGENT.--In the same connection I move in the first line of
section 5 to strike out the word "male," so as to read "every
inhabitant of the United States."

The PRESIDENT _pro tempore_.--The question is on the amendment of
the Senator from California.

Mr. SARGENT.--At the time when the last National Convention of
the Republican party assembled in Philadelphia, which nominated
General Grant for his second term, there was assembled a body of
able, respectable ladies of the United States, who urged upon
that convention a consideration of the subject involved in the
amendment which I propose; and as a concession to the demand made
by those persons, a plank was inserted in the platform whereby it
was declared that the Republican party would treat with
consideration the claims of women to be admitted to additional
rights. Since that time, although the Republican party has had a
two-thirds majority in both Houses of Congress and elected the
President of its choice, and now has full power and has had ever
since the assembling of this Congress to carry out this promise,
not one step has been taken in this direction. It has not been
for want of petition or solicitation. It certainly has not been
because the matter has not been called to the attention of both
Houses of Congress, for petition after petition has been
presented, and no action has been taken except adverse action in
the other House, the committee reporting back those petitions
with the recommendation that the prayer be not granted. In the
Senate we have not yet been favored with the views of the
committee to whom those petitions were referred. Considering that
a great constitutional question was involved, it might be assumed
that these subjects would receive very early attention at the
hands of the committees of the Senate; but up to this time we
have had no light on the matter.

I believe, Mr. President, that the amendment which I offer to
this bill is justified by the organic law of the United States,
and in fact required by that law. Before the adoption of the XIV.
and XV. Articles of Amendment to the Constitution of the United
States women were hedged from the ballot-box by the use of the
word "male." Since that time another rule has been prescribed by
the organic law, giving to all citizens of the United States the
right to exercise this highest privilege of a citizen. By the
XIV. Article of Amendment it is provided that "all persons born
or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the
jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of
the State wherein they reside." This most important declaration
is now the organic law of the United States. It does not say "all
males born or naturalized in the United States," but "all
persons," and it can not be contended successfully that a woman
is not a person, and not a person within the meaning of this
clause of the Constitution.

This being the status of all individuals, male and female, they
being citizens of the United States, it is provided that "no
State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the
privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor
shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property,
without due process of law." Of course if any State is prohibited
from doing this, any Territory should be prohibited from doing
it, because no Territory can constitutionally do that which a
State itself can not do. Then, if women are citizens of the
United States, and there is no right to abridge the privileges
and immunities of citizens of the United States, as proclaimed by
the supreme law of the land, what are these privileges and
immunities? Grant White, in his able work on "Words and Their
Uses," defines, on page 100, the privileges and immunities of
citizens, and among them gives the right to vote and the right to
hold office. Webster gives the same definition of the word
"citizen" and so does Worcester, and Bouvier's Law Dictionary
speaks expressly of these rights of citizens of the United States
to vote and hold office; and there is little adverse authority to
these definitions.

The Constitution, if it needs construction at all--and it would
hardly seem to need it in a case so plain as this--must be
construed by the ordinary and authoritative use of the words
contained in it; and here is both the ordinary and the
authoritative use of those words. This matter has not been
without judicial construction. In the Circuit Court Reports (4
Washington, 371), it was held that these privileges and
immunities included the right to hold office and to exercise the
elective franchise; and this view was adopted by Chancellor Kent
in his Commentaries, volume II., page 71. So that both by United
States courts and the best and highest commentary upon the laws
of the United States the construction which I contend for of the
XIV. Amendment is insisted upon and ably illustrated. The
considerations which I have urged address themselves not merely
to Republicans, they address themselves with great force to my
Democratic friends who are such sticklers for the Constitution.
Although that is true, nevertheless the Republican party has
pledged itself especially to a respectful consideration of these
demands in its last national platform, and it has control of both
Houses of Congress and of the executive department.

Passing from that consideration, we have all persons born or
naturalized in the United States declared by the Constitution to
be citizens; and we have the meaning of the word "citizen" given
by our courts, by our lexicographers, by our law commentators; we
have further their "privileges and immunities" settled by all
these authorities to include the right to vote and the right to
hold office. In consonance with this organic law, the policy of
which is not open to discussion because it has been adopted
according to all the legal forms by the people of the United
States, I offer this amendment.

Were this the time and place, and were not the discussion
foreclosed by the considerations which I have already advanced, I
might speak at some length upon the advantage which there would
be in the admission of women to the suffrage. I might point with
some pride to the experiment which has been made in Wyoming,
where women hold office, where they vote, where they have the
most orderly society of any of the Territories, where the
experiment is approved by the executive officers of the United
States, by their courts, by the press, and by the people
generally; and if it operates so well in Wyoming, where it has
rescued that Territory from a state of comparative lawlessness to
one of the most orderly in the Union, I ask why it might not
operate equally well in the Territory of Pembina or any other
Territory? I hope the time is not far distant when some of the
older States of the Union like New York, or Massachusetts, or
Ohio may give this experiment a fuller chance. But so far as it
has gone, the experiment has been entirely in favor of
legislation for admitting women to the ballot-box. And I do not
believe that in putting these higher responsibilities upon women
we degrade their character, that we subject them to uncongenial
pursuits, that we injure their moral tone, that we tarnish their
delicacy, that we in any way make them less noble and admirable
as women, as wives, and mothers. I believe that by realizing the
intention of the Constitution, which uses words that are so fully
explained by our courts and by our writers upon the uses of
words, we simply open a wider avenue to women for usefulness to
themselves and to society. I think we give them an opportunity,
instead of traveling the few and confined roads that are open to
them now, to engage more generally in the business of life under
some guarantee of their success. I believe that, instead of
driving them to irregular efforts like those which they recently
have made in many of the States to overthrow liquor selling, it
will give them an opportunity through the ballot-box to protect
their families, to break up the nefarious traffic and purify
society. As it is now, their energies in this direction are
repressed, and sometimes in order to have force are compelled to
be exercised even in opposition to law. I would give them an
opportunity to exercise them under the forms of law, and I would
enforce the law by the accession of this pure element. I do not
think that they would be corrupted by it, but rather that society
and politics would be purified by admitting them to the
ballot-box and giving them this opportunity.

I therefore trust that, in the spirit of the pledge that was made
by us as Republicans, in the spirit of the adhesion to the
Constitution professed by our democratic friends, there may be an
assent to this amendment, and that the United States will engraft
this feature in the organic law of this new Territory.



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