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Stanton, ever on the watch-tower for legislation
affecting women, were the first to see the full significance of the
word "male" in the 14th Amendment, and at once sounded the alarm, and
sent out petitions[48] for a constitutional amendment to "prohibit
the States from disfranchising any of their citizens on the ground of
sex."[49]

Miss Anthony, who had spent the year in Kansas, started for New York
the moment she saw the propositions before Congress to put the word
"male" into the National Constitution, and made haste to rouse the
women in the East to the fact that the time had come to begin vigorous
work again for woman's enfranchisement.[50] Mr. Tilton (December 27,
1865) proposed the formation of a National Equal Rights Society,
demanding suffrage for black men and women alike, of which Wendell
Phillips should be President, and the _National Anti-Slavery Standard_
its organ. Mr. Beecher promised to give a lecture (January 30th) for
the benefit of this universal suffrage movement. The _New York
Independent_ (Theodore Tilton, editor) gave the following timely and
just rebuke of the proposed retrogressive legislation:

A LAW AGAINST WOMEN.

The spider-crab walks backward. Borrowing this creature's mossy
legs, two or three gentlemen in Washington are seeking to fix
these upon the Federal Constitution, to make that instrument walk
backward in like style. For instance, the Constitution has never
laid any legal disabilities upon woman. Whatever denials of
rights it formerly made to our slaves, it denied nothing to our
wives and daughters. The legal rights of an American woman--for
instance, her right to her own property, as against a squandering
husband; or her right to her own children, as against a malicious
father--have grown, year by year, into a more generous and just
statement in American laws. This beautiful result is owing in
great measure to the persistent efforts of many noble women who,
for years past, both publicly and privately, both by pen and
speech, have appealed to legislative committees, and to the whole
community, for an enlargement of the legal and civil status of
their fellow-country women. Signal, honorable, and beneficent
have been the works and words of Lucretia Mott, Lydia Maria
Child, Paulina W. Davis, Abby Kelly Foster, Frances D. Gage, Lucy
Stone, Caroline H. Dall, Antoinette Brown Blackwell, Susan B.
Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and many others. Not in all the
land lives a poor woman, or a widow, who does not owe some
portion of her present safety under the law to the brave
exertions of these faithful laborers in a good cause.

Now, all forward-looking minds know that, sooner or later, the
chief public question in this country will be woman's claim to
the ballot. The Federal Constitution, as it now stands, leaves
this question an open one for the several States to settle as
they choose. Two bills, however, now lie before Congress
proposing to array the fundamental law of the land against the
multitude of American women by ordaining a denial of the
political rights of a whole sex. To this injustice we object
totally! Such an amendment is a snap judgment before discussion;
it is an obstacle to future progress; it is a gratuitous bruise
inflicted upon the most tender and humane sentiment that has ever
entered into American politics. If the present Congress is not
called to legislate _for_ the rights of women, let it not
legislate _against_ them.

But Americans now live who shall not go down into the grave till
they have left behind them a Republican Government; and no
republic is Republican which denies to half its citizens those
rights which the Declaration of Independence, and which a true
Christian Democracy make equal to all. Meanwhile, let us break
the legs of the spider-crab!

While the 13th Amendment was pending, Senator Sumner wrote many
letters to the officers of the Loyal League, saying, "Send on the
petitions; they give me opportunity for speech." "You are doing a
noble work." "I am grateful to your Association for what you have done
to arouse the country to insist on the extinction of slavery." And
our petitions were sent again and again, 300,000 strong, and months
after the measure was carried, they still rolled in from every quarter
where the tracts and appeals had been scattered. But when the
proposition for the 14th Amendment was pending, and the same women
petitioned for their own civil and political rights, they received no
letters of encouragement from Republicans nor Abolitionists; and now
came some of the severest trials the women demanding the right of
suffrage were ever called on to endure. Though loyal to the Government
and the rights of the colored race, they found themselves in
antagonism with all with whom they had heretofore sympathized. Though
Unionists, Republicans, and Abolitionists, they could not without
protest see themselves robbed of their birth-right as citizens of the
republic by the proposed amendment. Republicans presented their
petitions in a way to destroy their significance, as petitions for
"universal suffrage," which to the public meant "manhood suffrage."
Abolitionists refused to sign them, saying, "This is the negro's
hour."[51] Colored men themselves opposed us, saying, do not block
our chance by lumbering the Republican party with Woman Suffrage.

The Democrats readily saw how completely the Republicans were
stultifying themselves and violating every principle urged in the
debates on the 13th Amendment, and volunteered to help the women fight
their battle. The Republicans had declared again and again that
suffrage was a natural right that belonged to every citizen that paid
taxes and helped to support the State. They had declared that the
ballot was the only weapon by which one class could protect itself
against the aggressions of another. Charles Sumner had rounded out one
of his eloquent periods, by saying, "The ballot is the Columbiad of
our political life, and every citizen who holds it is a full-armed
monitor."

The Democrats had listened to all the glowing debates on these great
principles of freedom until the argument was as familiar as a, b, c,
and continually pressed the Republicans with their own weapons. Then
those loyal women were taunted with having gone over to the Democrats
and the Disunionists. But neither taunts nor persuasions moved them
from their purpose to prevent, if possible, the introduction of the
word "male" into the Federal Constitution, where it never had been
before. They could not see the progress--in purging the Constitution
of all invidious distinctions on the ground of color--while creating
such distinctions for the first time in regard to sex.

In the face of all opposition they scattered their petitions
broadcast, and in one session of Congress they rolled in upwards of
ten thousand. The Democrats treated the petitioners with respect, and
called attention in every way to the question.[52] But even such
Republicans as Charles Sumner presented them, if at all, under
protest. A petition from Massachusetts, with the name of Lydia Maria
Child at the head, was presented by the great Senator under protest
as "most inopportune!" As if there could be a more fitting time for
action than when the bills were pending.

During the morning hour of February 21st, Senator Henderson, of
Missouri, presented a petition from New York.


SUFFRAGE FOR WOMEN.

Mr. HENDERSON: I present the petition of Mrs. Gerrit Smith and
twenty-seven other ladies of the United States, the most of them
from the State of New York, praying that the right of suffrage be
granted to women. Along with the petition I received a note,
stating as follows:

I notice in the debates of to-day that Mr. Yates promises,
at the "proper time" to tell you why the women of Illinois
are not permitted to vote. To give you an opportunity to
press him on this point I send you a petition, signed by
twenty-eight intelligent women of this State, who are
native-born Americans--read, write, and pay taxes, and now
claim representation! I was surprised to-day to find Mr.
Sumner presenting a petition, with an apology, from the
women of the republic. After his definition of a true
republic, and his lofty peans to "equal rights" and the
ballot, one would hardly expect him to ignore the claims of
fifteen million educated tax-payers, now taking their places
by the side of man in art, science, literature, and
government. I trust, sir, you will present this petition in
a manner more creditable to yourself and respectful to those
who desire to speak through you. Remember, the right of
petition is our only right in the Government; and when three
joint resolutions are before the House to introduce the word
"male" into the Federal Constitution, "it is the proper
time" for the women of the nation to be heard, Mr. Sumner to
the contrary notwithstanding.

The right of petition is a sacred right, and whatever may be
thought of giving the ballot to women, the right to ask it of the
Government can not be denied them. I present this petition
without any apology. Indeed, I present it with pleasure. It is
respectful in its terms, and is signed by ladies occupying so
high a place in the moral, social, and intellectual world, that
it challenges at our hands, at least a respectful consideration.
The distinguished Senators from Massachusetts and from Illinois
must make their own defense against the assumed inconsistency of
their position. They are abundantly able to give reasons for
their faith in all things; whether they can give reasons
satisfactory to the ladies in this case, I do not know.



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