A B C D E F
G H I J K L M 

Total read books on site:
more than 10 000

You can read its for free!


Text on one page: Few Medium Many
I am among those who believe that slavery
will never die, until all laws are so constructed as to hold
all mankind as equal before the law.

SUFFRAGE IN THE DISTRICT.

The PRESIDENT _pro tem._: The unfinished business is the bill (S.
No. 1) to regulate the elective franchise in the District of
Columbia which is now before the Senate as in Committee of the
Whole. The pending question is on the motion of the Senator from
Pennsylvania [Mr. Cowan], to amend the amendment reported by the
Committee on the District of Columbia, by striking out in the
second line of its first section the word "male" before "person."
Upon this question the Senator from Missouri is entitled to the
floor.

Mr. BROWN: Mr. President, I do not believe that the pending
amendment to the bill extending the franchise to women in the
District of Columbia, offered by the Senator from Pennsylvania,
was designed to be carried out into practical legislation at this
time or in this connection. I think it was rather intended to
elicit an expression of opinion from members of the Senate upon
the general proposition involved. If it were to go into practical
effect, I am one of those who believe that it would be necessary
to accompany it by a good deal of other legislation to prevent it
from degenerating into abuse, and perhaps corrupting many of
those it designs to advance in position and influence. But
accepting the matter in the light which I have stated, for one I
am willing to express an opinion very freely on the subject. I
have to say then, sir, here on the floor of the American Senate,
I stand for universal suffrage, and as a matter of fundamental
principle do not recognize the right of society to limit it on
any ground of race, color, or sex. I will go further and say that
I recognize the right of franchise as being intrinsically a
natural right; and I do not believe that society is authorized to
impose any limitation upon it that does not spring out of the
necessities of the social state itself. These may seem, Mr.
President, extreme views, but they conform to the rigid logic of
the question, and I defy any Senator here who abides that logic
to escape that conclusion. Sir, I have been shocked, yes,
shocked, during the course of this debate at expressions which I
have heard so often fall from distinguished Senators, and
apparently with so little consideration of what the heresy
irresistibly leads to, saying in substance that they recognize in
this right of franchise only a conventional or political
arrangement that may be abrogated at will and taken from any;
that it is simply a privilege yielded to you and me and others by
society or the Government which represents society; that it is
only a gracious boon from some abstract place and abstract body
for which we should be proud and thankful; in other words, that
it is not a right in any sense, but only a concession. Mr.
President, I do not hold my liberties by any such tenure. On the
contrary, I believe that whenever you establish that doctrine,
whenever you crystalize that idea in the public mind of this
country, you ring the death-knell of American liberties. You take
from each, what is perhaps the highest safeguard of all, the
conviction that there are rights of men embracing their liberty
in society, and substitute a skepticism on all matters of
personal freedom and popular liberties which will lay them open
to be overthrown whenever society shall become sufficiently
corrupted by partyism or whenever constitutional majorities shall
become sufficiently exasperated by opposition.

Mr. President, so important, yea, so crucial, so to speak, do I
deem this position, that I trust I may be pardoned by the Senate
if I refer to the abstract grounds, the invincible agreement upon
which I deem it to rest. I do this the more readily because in my
belief the metaphysical always controls ultimately the practical
in all the affairs of life. Now, what are abstract rights? And
are there any intrinsic necessary conditions that go to
constitute liberty in society? I believe that there are, and that
those conditions are as determinable as the liberties they
protect. The foundation upon which all free government rests, and
out of which all natural rights flow as from a common center, has
been well stated by Mr. Herbert Spencer in a late work on "Social
Statics," to be "the liberty of each limited by the like liberty
of all." As the fundamental truth originating and yet
circumscribing the validity of laws and constitutions, it can not
be stated in a simpler form. As the rule in conformity with which
society must be organized, and which distinguishes where the
rightful subordination terminates, and where tyranny, whether of
majorities or minorities, begins, it can not be too much
commended. "Every man has freedom to do all that he wills,
provided he infringes not the equal freedom of any other man," is
stated as the law of just social relationships, and in it the
rights of individual liberty of thought, of speech, of action,
find their complete expression. It will be observed that equality
is the essence of it all. In fact, any recognition of an
inequality of rights is fatal to liberty.

Observe, furthermore, that those rights inhere in the individual,
are part of his existence, and not the gift of any man or
aggregation of men. If they were, equality under a despotism
might find its justification in the postulate just as well as
equality under a republic. Cęsarean Democracy could claim like
paternity with American Democracy. The assumption, then, that
freedom in any of its forms is a privilege conceded by society is
utterly unwarrantable, because society itself is a concession
from the individual--the liberty of each limited by the like
liberty of all--and such limitation is what society or Government
represents. And it is in this sense, and flowing from this axiom,
that the rights of franchise originally appertain to all alike;
for franchise is in itself nothing more than a mode of
participating in the common Government, and represents only the
interest each has therein. That limitations may attach thereto,
just as they attach to freedom of speech or freedom of action, is
perfectly true; but they must be equal limitations, applicable to
all alike, growing out of the social relation, and not leveled at
the inherent right of any individual or class. Thus the exclusion
of criminals from the franchise, the designation of terms of
minority as connected with the exercise of political duties, the
regulation of the admission to citizenship of persons coming from
foreign countries, find their justification in a principle which,
so far from recognizing in Government or society a purely
arbitrary control of the rights and exercise of self-government
or personal liberty, brings it down within rigid and narrow
limits of equality and necessity.

There are those, and I am sorry some such have arisen in the
Senate to-day, who seek to escape this conclusion, and put the
blush upon all free government by affirming, as I have said, that
the right of franchise is a purely political right, neither
inherent nor inalienable, and may be divested by the citizen or
the State at will. The consideration mentioned, that the right of
franchise is neither more nor less than the right of
self-government as exercised through a participation in the
common government of all, shows, however, that if it be not a
natural right it will be difficult to say in what a natural right
consists. Indeed, it is perhaps the most natural of any of our
rights, inasmuch as its denial is the denial of all right to
personal liberty, for how can such latter right exist when the
right to maintain it among men and the societies of men is
denied? Again, if the right to share in the joint government is
not inherent, from whence does it come? Who can give the right to
govern another? and how can any give what he has not got? Society
is but the aggregate of individuals, and in its authority
represents only the conceded limitations on all, not any
reservoir of human rights, otherwise human rights would vary with
every changing association. Still again, if the right of a man as
regards Government can be divested either by himself or
Government at will, then Government has no limit to its rightful
tyranny--it may divest not only one man, but a hundred or a
thousand; indeed, why not all but the chosen few or the imperial
one, thus arriving logically at oligarchic or despotic rule. And
if a man may divest himself of this right, what right is sacred
from his renunciation? That a man may refuse to exercise any
right is true, and that in changing his abode he may sever his
political and social relations is equally true; but these facts
only prove that his natural rights inhere in his person, go with
him in his movement, subject always to be exercised under the
conditions and limitations before recited. After all, to
demonstrate the utter falsity and pernicious consequence of the
idea that the right to share in the common Government (which is
only a synonym for the right of franchise) is a privilege to be
farmed out by Government at discretion and to whom it chooses, it
is only necessary to ask, if that be so, whence comes the right
to representation? Wherein is the foundation for any democratic
society, predicated on the rights of individuals?



Pages: | Prev | | 1 | | 2 | | 3 | | 4 | | 5 | | 6 | | 7 | | 8 | | 9 | | 10 | | 11 | | 12 | | 13 | | 14 | | 15 | | 16 | | 17 | | 18 | | 19 | | 20 | | 21 | | 22 | | 23 | | 24 | | 25 | | 26 | | 27 | | 28 | | 29 | | 30 | | 31 | | 32 | | 33 | | 34 | | 35 | | 36 | | 37 | | 38 | | 39 | | 40 | | 41 | | 42 | | 43 | | 44 | | 45 | | 46 | | 47 | | 48 | | 49 | | 50 | | 51 | | 52 | | 53 | | 54 | | 55 | | 56 | | 57 | | 58 | | 59 | | 60 | | 61 | | 62 | | 63 | | 64 | | 65 | | 66 | | 67 | | 68 | | 69 | | 70 | | 71 | | 72 | | 73 | | 74 | | 75 | | 76 | | 77 | | 78 | | 79 | | 80 | | 81 | | 82 | | 83 | | 84 | | 85 | | 86 | | 87 | | 88 | | 89 | | 90 | | 91 | | 92 | | 93 | | 94 | | 95 | | 96 | | 97 | | 98 | | 99 | | 100 | | 101 | | 102 | | 103 | | 104 | | 105 | | 106 | | 107 | | 108 | | 109 | | 110 | | 111 | | 112 | | 113 | | 114 | | 115 | | 116 | | 117 | | 118 | | 119 | | 120 | | 121 | | 122 | | 123 | | 124 | | 125 | | 126 | | 127 | | 128 | | 129 | | 130 | | 131 | | 132 | | 133 | | 134 | | 135 | | 136 | | 137 | | 138 | | 139 | | 140 | | 141 | | 142 | | 143 | | 144 | | 145 | | 146 | | 147 | | 148 | | 149 | | 150 | | 151 | | 152 | | 153 | | 154 | | 155 | | 156 | | 157 | | 158 | | 159 | | 160 | | 161 | | 162 | | 163 | | 164 | | 165 | | 166 | | 167 | | 168 | | 169 | | 170 | | 171 | | 172 | | 173 | | 174 | | 175 | | 176 | | 177 | | 178 | | 179 | | 180 | | 181 | | 182 | | 183 | | 184 | | 185 | | 186 | | 187 | | 188 | | 189 | | 190 | | 191 | | 192 | | 193 | | 194 | | 195 | | 196 | | 197 | | 198 | | 199 | | 200 | | 201 | | 202 | | 203 | | 204 | | 205 | | 206 | | 207 | | 208 | | 209 | | 210 | | 211 | | 212 | | 213 | | 214 | | 215 | | 216 | | 217 | | 218 | | 219 | | 220 | | 221 | | 222 | | 223 | | 224 | | 225 | | 226 | | 227 | | 228 | | 229 | | 230 | | 231 | | 232 | | 233 | | 234 | | 235 | | 236 | | 237 | | 238 | | 239 | | 240 | | 241 | | 242 | | 243 | | 244 | | 245 | | 246 | | 247 | | 248 | | 249 | | 250 | | 251 | | 252 | | 253 | | 254 | | 255 | | 256 | | 257 | | 258 | | 259 | | 260 | | 261 | | 262 | | 263 | | 264 | | 265 | | 266 | | 267 | | 268 | | 269 | | 270 | | 271 | | 272 | | 273 | | 274 | | 275 | | 276 | | 277 | | 278 | | 279 | | 280 | | 281 | | 282 | | 283 | | 284 | | 285 | | 286 | | 287 | | 288 | | 289 | | 290 | | 291 | | 292 | | 293 | | 294 | | 295 | | 296 | | 297 | | 298 | | 299 | | 300 | | 301 | | 302 | | 303 | | 304 | | 305 | | 306 | | 307 | | 308 | | 309 | | 310 | | 311 | | 312 | | 313 | | 314 | | 315 | | 316 | | 317 | | 318 | | 319 | | 320 | | 321 | | 322 | | 323 | | 324 | | 325 | | 326 | | 327 | | 328 | | 329 | | 330 | | 331 | | 332 | | 333 | | 334 | | 335 | | 336 | | 337 | | 338 | | 339 | | 340 | | 341 | | 342 | | 343 | | 344 | | 345 | | 346 | | 347 | | 348 | | 349 | | 350 | | 351 | | 352 | | 353 | | 354 | | 355 | | 356 | | 357 | | 358 | | 359 | | 360 | | Next |

N O P Q R S T
U V W X Y Z 

Your last read book:

You dont read books at this site.