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Perhaps it was
because the question was not agitated, and because it did not
particularly concern the males, that they did not turn their
attention to it; but when agitated in the Women's Rights
Conventions that have been so abused and ridiculed throughout the
country, man could no longer shut his eyes to the glaring defects
that existed in our system, and our Legislature has corrected
many of those abuses, and placed the rights of the female upon
infinitely higher grounds than they occupied there thirty years
ago; I believe this remark is as applicable to many other States
as it is to Ohio. I tell you the agitation of these subjects has
been salutary and good; and our male population would no more go
back to divest women of the rights they have acquired, than they
would go back now to slavery itself, in the advance we have
lately made.

What do I infer, then, from all this? Seeing that their rights
rest upon the same foundation and are only kept down by
proscription and prejudice, I think I know that the time will
come--not to-day, but the time is approaching--when every female
in the country will be made responsible for the just government
of our country as much as the male; her right to participate in
the Government will be just as unquestioned as that of the male.
I know that my opinions on this subject are a little in advance
of the great mass, probably, of the community in which I live;
but I am advancing a principle. I shall give a vote on this
amendment that will be deemed an unpopular vote, but I am not
frightened by that. I have been accustomed to give such votes all
my life almost, but I believe they have been given in the cause
of human liberty and right and in the way of the advancing
intelligence of our age; and whenever the landmark has been set
up the community have marched up to it. I think I am advocating
now the same kind of a principle, and I have no doubt that sooner
or later it will become a fixed fact, and the community will
think it just as absurd to exclude females from the ballot-box as
males.

I do not believe it will have any unfavorable effect upon the
female character, if women are permitted to come up to the polls
and vote. I believe it would exercise a most humane and
civilizing influence upon the roughness and rudeness with which
men meet on these occasions, if the polished ladies of the land
would come up to the ballot-box clothed with these rights and
participate in the exercise of the franchise. It has not been
found that association with ladies is apt to make men rude and
uncivilized; and I do not think the reflex of it prevents that
lady-like character which we all prize so highly. I do not think
it has that effect. On the other hand, in my judgment, if it was
popular to-day for ladies to go to the polls, no man would regret
their presence there, and the districts where their ballots were
given would be harmonized, civilized, and rendered more
gentlemanly, if I may say so, on the one side and on the other,
and it would prevent the rude collisions that are apt to occur at
these places, while it would reflect back no uncivilizing or
unlady-like influence upon the female part of the community. That
is the way I judge it. Of course, as it has never been tried in
this country, it is more or less of an experiment; but here in
this District is the very place to try your experiment.

I know that the same things were said about the abolition of
slavery. I was here. Gentlemen know very well that there was a
strong desire entertained by many gentlemen on this floor that
emancipation, if it took place, should be very gradual, very
conservative, a little at a time. I was the advocate of striking
off the shackles at one blow, and I said that the moment you
settled on that the community would settle down upon this
principle of righteousness, justice, and liberty, and be
satisfied with it, but just as long as you kept it in a state of
doubt and uncertainty, going only half way, just so long it would
be an irritating element in our proceedings. It is just so now
with this question. Do not understand that I expect that this
amendment will be carried. I do not. I do not know that I would
have agitated it now, although it is as clear to me as the sun at
noonday, that the time is approaching when females will be
admitted to this franchise as much as males, because I can see no
reason for the distinction. I agree, however, that there is not
the same pressing necessity for allowing females as there is for
allowing the colored people to vote, because the ladies of the
land are not under the ban of a hostile race grinding them to
powder. They are in high fellowship with those who do govern,
who, to a great extent, act as their agents, their friends,
promoting their interests in every vote they give, and,
therefore, communities get along very well without conferring
this right upon the female. But when you speak of it as a right,
and as a great educational power in the hands of females, and I
am called on to vote on the subject, I will vote that which I
think under all circumstances is right, just, and proper. I
shrink not from the question because I am told by gentlemen that
it is unpopular. The question with me is, is it right? Show me
that it is wrong, and then I will withhold my vote; but I have
heard no argument that convinces me that the thing is not right.

There has been something said about this right of voting, as to
whether it is a natural or a conventional right. I do not know
that there is much difference between a natural and a
conventional right. Right has its hold upon the conscience in the
inevitable fitness of things, and whether it springs from nature
or from any other cause right is right, and a conventional right
is as sacred as a natural right. I can not distinguish them; I
know of no difference between them. It certainly does not seem to
me that it would be right now if a new community is about to set
up a government, for one-third of them to seize upon that
government and say they will govern, and the rest shall have
nothing to do with it. It seems to me there is a wrong done to
those who are shut out from any participation in the Government,
and that it is a violation of their rights; and what odds does it
make whether you call it a natural, or conventional, or
artificial right? I contend that when you set up a Government you
shall call every man who has arrived at the years of discretion,
who has committed no crime, into your community and ask him to
participate in setting up that Government; and if you shut him
out without any reason, you do him a wrong, one of the greatest
wrongs that you can inflict upon a man. If it is to be done to me
or to my posterity, I say to you take their lives, but do not
deprive them of the right of standing upon the same foothold,
upon the same platform in their political rights with any other
man in the community. I will compromise no such principles. I
contend before God and man ever, always, that they shall stand
upon the same platform in setting up their governments, and in
continuing them after they are set up, and I will brand it as a
wrong and an injustice in any man to deprive any portion of the
population, unless it be for crime or offence, from participating
in the Government to the same extent that he participates
himself. If they are ignorant, so much the greater necessity that
they have this weapon in their hands to guard themselves against
the strong. The weaker, the more ignorant, and the more liable
they are to be imposed upon, the greater the necessity of having
this great weapon of self-defence in their hands.

I know very well that great prejudices have existed against
colored people; but my word for it, the moment they are admitted
to the ballot-box, especially about the second Tuesday of October
in our State, you will find them as genteel a set of men as you
know anywhere; as much consideration will be awarded to them;
they will be men; they will be courted; their rights will be
awarded to them; they will be made to feel, and it will go abroad
that they are not the subjects of utter contempt that can be
treated as men see fit to treat them; but they will rise in the
scale of the community, and finally occupy a platform according
to their merits, which they never can obtain; and you will never
be able to make anything of any portion of the community black or
white, while you exclude them from the ballot-box.

These, sir, are the reasons why I introduce this bill, and to
vindicate them I have spoken. I know I am not able to set forth
anything new on this subject. Every American citizen has
reflected upon it until his mind is made up, and the thing itself
is so universally approved by our community, that the only wonder
is that when we propose to extend this franchise to all the
people alike anybody is found in opposition to it.

Mr. YATES: Mr. President, I propose to occupy the time of the
Senate for but a few moments by way of explanation of my position
on this subject. Honorable Senators seem to think there is some
little embarrassment in the position in which we are placed upon
this question. There is certainly none whatever to my mind. I
must confess, after an examination of this question, that
logically there are no reasons in my mind which would not permit
women to vote as well as men, according to the theory of our
Government--a Government of the people, by the people, and for
the people.

But, sir, that question as to whether ladies shall vote or not is
not an issue now.



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