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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? That various
mixed Governments do undertake to limit the franchise to the few
as a privilege coming from the body-corporate, has nothing to do
with the question, for I am discussing now rights, not practices;
republics, not aristocracies.

Such I believe, Mr. President, to be the principles on which our
personal rights, our liberties in society repose. It is true the
argument carries us very far, but not farther, I apprehend, than
republican government must go whenever it undertakes to conform
its practice to its logic. And having examined the general
reasoning that controls the whole question of franchise, let me
now advert more particularly to the bearing of that argument upon
the proposition submitted by the Senator from Pennsylvania. I
know that many affirm that the results to which such reasoning as
that I have adduced would lead are themselves conclusive against
its force. But that is scarcely a fair mode of judging of the
strength and invincibility of any argument, far less one touching
interests so momentous in character. To give the objection its
greatest force it may be said, "If suffrage be the right of all
men, why is it not also the right of all women, of all children?"
"Are they not equally interested in good government, and are they
not equally capable of expressing through a vote their wish in
relation to public affairs?" "Do they not come within the
category, the equal liberty of each limited by the like liberty
of all, and if so, can the infringement of their liberty by
disfranchisement be justified!" To such questions, and, in fact,
to the whole inquiry, it may be replied that as freedom finds the
expression of its limits in the social relation itself, so long
as the marital and paternal state remain as they are now,
essential parts to that social relation, so long will there be
more or less of constraint involved in their expression through
governmental forms. And it may be added also that in so far as
marriage and paternity establish an identity of interest between
husband and wife, or parent and child, so far the participation
of the one in the Government is virtually the participation of
both, the franchise of one the franchise of both. Such identity
is not always true or equable, but it nevertheless approximates
truth, and is therefore the more readily accepted as such in
practical affairs.

That the rights of women, however, are intrinsically the same
with those of men, may not be consistently denied; and that all
the advance of modern civilization has been toward according them
greater equality of condition is attested by the current history
of every nation within its pale. Rights of married women and
minors are constantly finding new expression in our laws and new
force in our public opinion, which is only law in process of
formation. While it will not be necessary, therefore, to go into
those deeper and anterior questions of social life involving the
substitution of voluntary for compulsory modes which are
agitating so profoundly the intellect of this age, it is
important to note that of the three great departments of control
in human affairs, namely, morals or conscience, manners or
society, governments or laws, the two former have been
unreservedly conceded to the full and equal participation of
women. And furthermore, I venture to affirm with all confidence,
that although the social relation, as it embraces a recognition
of family dependence, may present obstacles to an equal influence
under present forms of government and to the full exercise of
citizen rights on the part of women, yet that the purity, the
refinement, the instinctive reading of character, the elegant
culture of the women of our land, if brought to bear upon the
conduct of political affairs, would do much to elevate them in
all their aims, and conform them to higher standards of justice.

Mr. President, I have listened in vain for the argument on which
is predicated the assertion that sex alone affords a rightful
ground for exclusion from the rights of franchise. I do not find
anything to justify that view, even in the position of those who
contend that franchise is a mere political privilege and not
founded in any right, for that would apply to men equally as to
women, and does not touch the question of relative rights. The
position would still remain to be established why the franchise
should be given to the one and not to the other. It would remain
still to present grounds of principle on which that right as such
may be denied to her and not denied to him. I have heard reasons
of policy, reasons of sentiment, reasons of precedent advanced to
justify this exclusion; but in all frankness, and with no
disrespect intended, I must say that those which have been
presented during this debate seem to me trivial, illogical, and
contradictory of one another.

First, it has been said that if women are entitled to the rights
of franchise they would correspondingly come under the obligation
to bear arms. But, sir, I do not know that there is any necessary
connection between the right of franchise and the requirement of
service in your army. On the contrary, I do know that all
Governments which have existed among men do now recognize the
fact that there is no necessary connection between the two; and I
do know that no Government has more distinctly recognized this
position than the Government of the United States. Are there not
large classes even among men in this country who are exempt from
service in our armies for physical incapacity and for other
reasons? And if exemptions which appertain to males may be
recognized as valid, why not similar exemptions for like reason
when applied to females? Does it not prove that there is nothing
in the argument so far as it involves the question of right?
There are Quakers and other religious sects; there are ministers
of the gospel--persons having conscientious scruples; indeed, all
men over a certain age who under the laws of many of the States
are released from service of that character. Indeed, it is the
boast of the republic that ours is a volunteer military
establishment. Hence I say there is nothing in the position that
because she may not be physically qualified for service in your
army, therefore you have the right to deny her the franchise on
the score of sex. It might be an inquiry of very great interest
and worthy of being pursued much further than I have the time or
the ability to pursue it just now, how far, if the ballot should
be extended to all the women in this land, it would go to modify
existing opinion and action and relationship among States so as
to obliterate in a great degree the very necessity for your army
and navy. I believe, sir, that a very large majority of the wars
that have been waged in this world have been wars that were
condemned by the moral sense of the nations on both sides; wars
that would have been terminated forthwith if that moral sense
could have had its rightful influence in controlling the affairs
of Government; and I say it is a question that is worthy of
consideration how far such an element introduced into your
political control would go to obviate these barbarous resorts to
force which you now deem essential and which we all deplore, but
which it is a folly, if not a crime, to say constitute a reason
woman should be denied any right to which she would be otherwise
entitled.

Mr. President, a second objection has been taken to any extension
of the franchise in this direction, and it is one that perhaps
has more seeming force in it than the other. It has been said
with a great deal of pathos by the Senator from New Jersey: what,
would you have your wives and your daughters mingle in the scenes
at the election-booths, go into the riotous demonstrations that
attend upon the exercise of the ballot, and become participants
in the angry and turbulent strifes that are so characteristic of
our political modes. I say with frankness that I would not have
wife or daughter mingle in any such scene; I would be loth to
have their purity and their virtue exposed to such demoralized
surroundings, surroundings that are only too apt to corrupt even
the males that mingle in the political arena. But, sir, I contend
that that is an argument against the ballot and the hustings and
the polling-booths, and not against the rights of woman. It is an
argument against those corruptions that you have permitted to
grow and fasten upon your political methods and appliances, and
not an argument against her rights as contrasted with the rights
of man. What! usurp an exclusive control--then degrade the modes
of exercising power, and after that say the degradation is reason
why the usurpation should continue unchallenged. What profanation
of the very powers of thought is that! On the contrary, I am
prepared to say that I see no reason, I never have seen any
reason, why there might not be changes introduced in your modes
of taking the sense of the community, of ascertaining public
opinion upon public measures, of making selection even of its
individuals for important offices, that would conform them far
more to those refinements and those elevations which should
characterize and control them, purifications that must render
them appropriate for participation in by the most refined of the
land, whether male or female.



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