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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. The
Senators may possibly argue that if women vote at all, the right
should not be exercised before the age of twenty-one; that they
are generally married at or before that age, and that when
married, they become, or ought to become, merged in their
husbands; that the act of one must be regarded as the act of the
other; that the good of society demands this unity for purposes
of social order; that political differences should not be
permitted to disturb the peace of a relation so sacred. The
honorable Senators will be able to find authority for this
position, not only in the common law, approved as it is by the
wisdom and experience of ages, but in the declaration of the
first man, on the occasion of the first marriage, when he said,
"This is now bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh." It may be
answered, however, that the wife, though one with her husband, at
least constitutes his better half, and if the married man be
entitled to but one vote, the unmarried man should be satisfied
with less than half a vote. [Laughter]. Having some doubts,
myself, whether beyond a certain age, to which I have not yet
arrived, such a man should be entitled to a vote or even half a
vote, I leave the difficulty to be settled by my friend from
Massachusetts and the fair petitioners. The petitioners claim,
that as we are proposing to enfranchise four million emancipated
slaves, equal and impartial justice alike demands the suffrage
for fifteen million women. At first view the proposition can
scarcely be met with denial, yet reasons "thick as blackberries"
and strong as truth itself may be urged in favor of the ballot in
the one case, which can not be urged in the other.

Mr. SAULSBURY: I rise to a point of order. My point of order is,
that a man who has lived an old bachelor as long as the Senator
from Missouri has, has no right to talk about women's rights.
[Laughter].

The PRESIDENT _pro tem._: The chair moves that is not a point of
order; and the Senator from Missouri will proceed.

Mr. HENDERSON: I had no idea that that was a point of order, sir.
Whatever may be said theoretically about the elective franchise
as a natural right, in practice at least, it has always been
denied in the most liberal States to more than half the
population. It is withheld from those whose crimes prove them
devoid of respect for social order, and generally from those
whose ignorance or imbecility unfits them for an intelligent
appreciation of the duties of citizens and the blessings of good
government. To women the suffrage has been denied in almost all
Governments, not for the reasons just stated, but because it is
wholly unnecessary as a means of their protection. In the
government of nature the weaker animals and insects, dependent on
themselves for safety and life, are provided with means of
defense. The bee has its sting and the despised serpent its
deadly poison. So, in the Governments of men, the weak must be
provided with power to inspire fear at least in the strong, if
not to command their respect. Political power was claimed
originally by the people as a means of protecting themselves
against the usurpations of those in power, whose interests or
caprices might lead to their oppression. Hence came the
republican system. But it was never thought the interests or
caprices of men could lead to a denial of the civil rights or
social supremacy of woman. People of one race have always been
unjust to those of another. The ignorant and sordid Jew despised
the Samaritan and scoffed at the idea of his equality. To him the
learned and accomplished Greek was a barbarian, and all rights
were denied him except those simple rights accorded to the most
degraded Gentile. Chinamen, to-day, believe as firmly in the
superiority of the celestial race as Americans do in the
superiority of the Anglo-Saxon. All races of men are unjust to
other races. They are unjust because of pride. That very pride
makes them just to the women of their own race. There may be men
who have prejudice against race; they are less than men who have
prejudice against sex. The social position of woman in the United
States is such that no civil right can be denied her. The women
here have entire charge of the social and moral world. Hence she
must be educated. First impressions are those which bend the mind
to noble or ignoble action, and these impressions are made by
mothers. To have intelligent voters we must have intelligent
mothers. To have free men we must have free women. The voter from
this source receives his moral and intellectual training. Woman
makes the voter, and should not descend from her lofty sphere to
engage in the angry contests of her creatures. She makes
statesmen, and her gentle influence, like the finger of the angel
pointing to the path of duty, would be lost in the controversies
of political strife. She makes the soldier, infuses courage and
patriotism in his youthful heart, and hovers like an invisible
spirit over the field of battle, urging him on to victory or
death in defense of the right. Hence woman takes no musket to the
battle-field. Here, as in politics, her personal presence would
detract from her power. Galileo, Newton, and La Place could not
fitly discuss the laws of planetary motion with ignorant rustics
at a country inn. The learned divine who descends from the
theological seminary to wrangle upon doctrinal points with the
illiterate, stubborn teacher of a small country flock must lose
half his influence for good. Our Government is built as our
Capitol is built. The strong and brawny arms of men, like granite
blocks, support its arches; but woman, lovely woman, the true
goddess of Liberty, crowns its dome.

Mr. YATES: I wish to ask the Senator from Missouri a question. I
understand that he has introduced a resolution to amend the
Constitution of the United States so that there shall be no
distinction on account of color. Will the gentleman accept an
amendment to that resolution that there shall be no distinction
in regard to sex?

Mr. HENDERSON: I have given my views, I think, very distinctly,
as the Senator would have found if he had listened, in the latter
part of what I have just stated in reference to the question of
voting. In reply to what he has said, I will say that I do not
think that on the mere presentation of a petition it is in order
to discuss the merits of the petition. I hope, therefore, that
the Senator will not insist upon entering into a question of that
sort now.

Mr. YATES: I shall not do so. I only wish to say that I am not
proposing to amend the Constitution. I simply desire to give
rights to those who have rights under the Constitution as it has
been amended. When I propose to amend the Constitution then the
question will come up whether I will allow women to vote or not.

Mr. SUMNER: Before this petition passes out of sight I wish to
make one observation, and only one. The Senator from Missouri
began by an allusion to myself and to a remark which fell from me
when I presented the other day a petition from women of the
United States praying for the ballot. I took occasion then to
remark that in my opinion the petition at that time was not
judicious. That was all that I said. I did not undertake to
express my opinion on the great question whether women should
vote or should not vote. I did venture to say that in my opinion
it was not judicious for them at this moment to bring forward
their claims so as to compromise in any way the great question of
equal rights for an enfranchised race now before Congress. The
Senator has quoted a letter suggesting that I did not present the
petition in a creditable way. I have now to felicitate my
excellent friend on the creditable way in which he has performed
his duty. [Laughter].

Mr. YATES: Allow me to say that I think the two gentlemen, one of
whom has arrived at the age of forty-nine and the other
sixty-three, have no right to discuss the question of women's
rights in the Senate. [Laughter].

The PRESIDENT _pro tem._: Will the Senator from Missouri suggest
the disposition he wishes made of this petition?

Mr. HENDERSON: Let it lie on the table.

The PRESIDENT _pro tem._: That order will be made.

The wriggling, the twisting, the squirming of the Republicans at this
crisis under the double fire of the Democrats and the women, would
have been laughable, had not their proposed action been so
outrageously unjust and ungrateful. The tone of the Republican
press[53] was stale, flat, and unprofitable. But while their journals
were thus unsparing in their ridicule and criticism of the loyal women
who had proved themselves so patriotic and self-sacrificing, they
would grant them no space in their columns to reply.[54]

The second session of the Thirty-ninth Congress is memorable for an
able debate in the Senate on the enfranchisement of woman, on the
bill[55] "to regulate the franchise in the District of Columbia,"
which proposed extending the suffrage to the "males" of the colored
race. On Monday, December 10, 1866, Senator Cowan, of Pennsylvania,
moved to amend the amendment by striking out the word "male" before
the word person. This debate in the Senate lasted three entire days,
and during that time the comments of the press were as varied as they
were multitudinous.



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