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The right
to bread was not among them--for he was fed and clothed. The
rights that were taken away were the rights inherent in all human
beings to the results of their own labor, to the freedom of the
body and the mind. And when the country once became aroused to
the full significance of this slavery question, the heart of
every mother in the land throbbed in sympathy with the enslaved.
At last War said to us, "These people have not been remembered in
their bonds, and our sons and brothers are now called from us,
and we must offer them upon the altar of sacrifice!" And,
wondering, we read anew the Declaration of Independence, and
swore fealty to its precepts, now to be written with a pen of
iron dipped in the hearts' blood of our sons. It is past, and all
men are free and equal in America.

But there is one thing yet to be done in order that our country
may come fully within the provisions of the well-nigh inspired
expression of our forefathers, "Governments derive their just
powers from the consent of the governed." The women of America
pay taxes for the support of the Government, and their consent
should be had in matters affecting their welfare and their lives.
We have been making our work known for years, but it has been to
no purpose, and we have come to the conclusion that the only way
to remedy the evil is to get the ballot.... There is nothing to
be asked for now but the ballot. I shall never ask for anything
less than that while I live.

Rev. HENRY WARD BEECHER, the President, then addressed the
Convention. Ladies and Gentlemen:--We expect that every great
movement in the community will, from various reasons, meet with
ridicule and depreciation, as well as plain, honest resistance.
Nor are we indisposed to take our share in the merriment that is
made. We are, however, indisposed to have it said that this is a
complaining movement on the part of women. For, although there
may be occasions of single outbursts of this kind, this movement
has no such parentage, and it is progressing under no such
motives. It has long been in the hearts of many that women should
be raised to an equality in civil affairs with men, but that
great discussion which aroused and instructed the conscience of
the nation, and, above all, that issue of war which brought men
down to the very foundations of their belief, has been fruitful
in raising a multitude of questions which are advancing now and
which are to be consummated. Among these is the question, "Are
women equal with men?" You might as well ask, "Are all men equal
to each other?" For you adjudicate no questions in this country
on the ground of superiority or inferiority of classes among men.
It makes no difference, therefore, in regard to this question,
whether women be superior or inferior. The question is simply
this: have they not, before the law, the same rights that men
have, and ought they not to have, in the administration of public
interests, precisely the same power that men have? Now, in
arguing this question--in urging it upon the community, I find a
fear first, lest woman's nature should deteriorate. Kings were
always afraid that if their nobles got power it would make them
dissolute and reckless and grasping, and the nobles were always
afraid of the burgher class, that if they should get political
honor, it would only puff them up and make them unmanageable, and
the burgher class, when they have obtained their political
privileges, were afraid to extend a share in these privileges to
the yeomanry, the peasantry. You never saw one upper class who
held a prerogative that could ever be made to see any reason why
the inferior class should have a share of it. It is the universal
law of the superior class to keep the privileges to themselves,
and the privileges have usually had to be wrested from them.

In the first place, what has been the effect upon woman of
enlarging the sphere of her influence? There can be no question
that from generation to generation since the introduction of
Christianity the sphere of woman has been enlarging. She has been
growing up in the scale of power; has she been going down in the
scale of moral character? You know as well as I do that they are
better, and that, instead of deteriorating their character, it
has improved them and augmented the volume of their being, and
they are women still.

But it is said that "in politics it is different." In what way is
it different? Do you hesitate to say, "Jane, on your way to
school please take these letters and drop them into the
letter-box at the corner," and your daughter does it. There is
much more trouble in doing that than to drop a ballot in the
ballot-box. Nobody thinks anything of it, although there are men
there, too. Is a woman demeaned by dropping her ballot into the
box? Does the act injure her? "Oh, no; it is not the act--it is
the scenes that she would have to meet. Go to the polls, and see
what voting means." Yes; go and see what bachelor voting means.
It is exactly the thing that we want to improve. Did you ever see
a crowd of men, the rudest in the world, who, when a lady walked
among them, did not open spontaneously and let her pass through
as if she was an angel? It is asked sometimes, "Would you like to
have your wife or daughter go to the polls and vote?" Yes--on my
arm; yes. I venture to say that there is not a precinct in the
city where well-bred ladies will not only be allowed to vote
themselves, but would carry peace in the exercise of the right to
others. "Would you have a woman participate in the scenes
preliminary to an election?" I will tell you that the moment that
women begin to vote there will be no scenes "preliminary" in
which women may not appear. It is this very jointure of the
family influence that we look to as a part of the influence that
should bring reformation into our politics; for if our politics
are to be masculine forever I despair of the republic. No!
whatever thing on God's earth a woman's conscience tells her to
do, she can do it, though she stood in the gates of hell, and be
every particle a woman just as much. Is there anything in this
world that has so great a reputation for lawlessness as a camp?
And yet, when our armies went into this conflict, how many
hundreds of women went, not as companions, but to minister to the
boys. They went down into the camps, and through the whole war
consorted with the rudest of men, and not one single syllable did
they ever hear from the lips of those men that a pure ear should
not hear. They ate the soldiers' fare--they performed the most
menial services; but it was love that inspired and sustained them
in their toils. And will any man say that after these four years
had passed, and these ministers of mercy came back again, that
because they had been mixed up with this rabble crew, they were
the less women? Were they not the more women? These are sisters
of charity--these are heroines without a record in any human
literature. Have they been injured by mixing with the rude
affairs of war in camps and among soldiers? When women take upon
themselves such necessary duties they take vulgarity from
vulgarity, and coarseness becomes refined, for it is the heart of
woman that brings life among men, and restores Paradise.

But it is said that it would do women no good to have the vote,
because they would vote as their husbands would. Well, I am very
glad to hear that you are all so happily mated. I have a pretty
large flock, and my observation has been that there was not such
perfect unanimity. The tidings brought to me are that there are
women who have minds of their own, and I don't think a woman
would make up her mind to vote with her husband unless she
conscientiously believed that he voted the right way. It is said
again that it would introduce division into the family, and that
a division about politics is the most bitter thing in the world.
No; there is one thing in which a difference is more bitter than
politics. What? Religion. There is no such diverging influence in
this world as a difference in religion. Yet when I look into
these matters I find that families all through the community are
divided on the subject of religion. I have known scores and
scores of families in which there were Baptists and persons of
other denominations, and they found no trouble in getting along.
You will always find where husband and wife can not agree, they
will peaceably differ. There is no danger of their ever
disturbing the family relations by that.

We are still holding, it seems, the old barbaric notion of the
inferiority of woman. Every higher class preaches, preaches,
preaches--about the inferiority of everything and everybody below
it. All the world believes that the nation in which the man is
born is the highest nation in the world. Why, we believe that we
Americans are the biggest people in the world, the Englishman
believes the English people to be the highest in the world. There
is not the least doubt in the mind of a Frenchman that he was God
Almighty's first favorite, and so on, nation by nation. So it is
with classes. So, also, it seems to be with man. All the men in
the world join hands together and agree that whatever may be the
classification as between man and man, all men are infinitely
superior to woman. Now I hold that in some things woman is
inferior to man, and in some things greatly superior to man, and
that in the general average she is fully his equal.



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