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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. I see no reason why it should not
be done. The change has been constant already from the very
rudest forms to the forms which we now have, and which I am sorry
to say, are sufficiently rude to disgrace the civilization of the
age. Why not further amelioration and adaptation? Are we to have
no progress in the modes of government among men? Are we and
future generations to be ever imprisoned in the uncouth
alternative of monarchical or democratic forms as they now
obtain? I can not believe it. For five years past we have had
revolution enough among us to satisfy even the most conservative
that the present is no ultimatum, either of form or substance in
political or social affairs. I will go further and venture to
say, that there are now seething underneath all the forms of this
Government, revolutions still more striking than any one of us
have yet witnessed. Beneath all these methods and appliances of
administrations and controls among men, I believe there is under
our very feet a heaving, unsteady ocean of aroused questioning in
which many modes now practiced will sink to rise no more, and out
of which other adaptations will emerge that will render far more
perfect the reflection of the will of the people; that will
perhaps represent minorities as well as majorities; that will
disarm corruptions by dispensing with party organizations. It is
the very witching hour of change.

And, sir, I do not dread change. Why should we? Is not change the
primal condition on which all life is permitted to exist? Change
is the very essence of all things pure, the sign and token of the
divinity that is within us, and conservatism _per se_ is
infidelity against the ordination of God. When, therefore, we see
such change in all things that are around us, in fashions and
customs and laws and recognitions and intellectualities, even to
the supremest generalizations of science, in all things save the
elemental principles of our being and by consequence of our
rights, why shall we say that these forms into which we have cast
administration and government, shall not obey the great law of
development and take upon themselves ameliorations better suited
to the changing society of mankind, to the wants of a more
truthful representation, to the participation by all in the
Government that is over all. Mr. President, I am of those who
believe that they will. When I look around on the incongruities
and corruptions that surround our present system, when I see what
politics and government and administration actually are, if I
believed there was to be no progress in that direction I should
be bereft of all hope and desolate of faith. On the contrary,
methinks I can see in the adown vista of the future the golden
apples hanging on the tree of promise. It seems to me that the
light of the morning is already streaming in upon us that shall
illuminate further advancements in the science of government. And
why should not even Republican government take to itself other
modes of administration without infraction of its fundamental
liberties? Why should not large reductions transpire in those
opportunities that invite the most sinister combination for
offices and spoils? Is there any reason why the emoluments of
place should more than repay the labor it calls for? Is there any
reason why large abolitions of executive patronage may not
transpire; why Government may not generate through examining
commissioners, best agencies of its own for the functional work
it is called to perform, leaving appeals to the community to pass
rather upon controlling measures and general policies and
legislative functionaries? Is there any reason why that should
not take place? Sir, already, if I mistake not, in the large
cities of this land, which are the local points of your domestic
political system, the necessity for such a change is being felt
and acted upon, and large branches of executive work and
supervision are being necessarily put in commission. Mr.
President, I think what I have said sufficiently shows that the
argument which is advanced, that the present surroundings are
such that woman could not properly participate in your elections,
is an argument that does not go to the right of the woman, but
does go to the wrong of the man. It is a criticism, perhaps a
satire upon the civilization of your political system, not a
justification for any exclusions practiced under it.

There is one other line of remark that has been indulged in, and
only one other so far as I have heard, which calls for any
special rejoinder, and that affirms the precedents of the past to
be all against any such proposition as that now submitted. It is
said that there is no precedent, that it is not customary in any
of our governments, that it is not one of the recognitions of our
society, that it has never been signified as such in the past. I
do not know that such an argument amounts to anything at best,
but I do know that the allegation itself has no foundation in
fact. I know that in many cases and on many occasions this
impassable barrier that is now set forth as dividing the natural
rights of man and woman has been broken down and trampled upon,
and that, too, without any injury to the society from so doing.
Perhaps I can best illustrate this point by what an accomplished
lady, who has given much thought and research to the subject, has
presented. I read from a contribution she has made to one of our
leading public prints. She says:

So long as political power was of an absolute and hereditary
character women shared it whenever they happened, by birth,
to hold the position to which it was attached. In Hungary,
in some of the German States, and in the French Provinces to
this day, certain women, holding an inherited right, confer
the franchise upon their husbands, and in widowhood empower
some relative or accredited agent to be the legislative
protector of their property. In 1858, the authorities of the
old university town of Upsal granted the right of suffrage
to fifty women owning real estate, and to thirty-one doing
business on their own account. The representative that their
votes elected was to sit in the House of Burgesses. In
Scotland, it is less than a century since, for election
purposes, parties were unblushingly married in cases where
women conveyed a political franchise, and parted after the
election. In Ireland, the court of Queen's Bench, Dublin,
restored to women, in January, 1864, the old right of voting
for town commissioners. The Justice, Fitzgerald, desired to
state that ladies were also entitled to sit as town
commissioners, as well as to vote for them, and the
chief-justice took pains to make it clear that there was
nothing in the act of voting repugnant to their habits.

In November, 1864, the Government of Moravia decided that
all women who were tax-payers had the right to vote. In the
Government of Pitcairn's Island, women over sixteen have
voted ever since its settlement. In Canada, in 1850, a
distinct electoral privilege was conferred on women, in the
hope that thereby the Protestant might balance the Roman
Catholic power in the school system. I lived where I saw
this right exercised by female property holders for four
years. I never heard the most cultivated man, not even that
noble gentleman, the late Lord Elgin, object to its results.
In New Jersey, the Constitution adopted in 1776, gave the
right of suffrage to all inhabitants, of either sex, who
possessed fifty dollars in proclamation money. In 1790, to
make it clearer, the Assembly inserted the words "he or
she." Women voted there till 1838, when, the votes of some
colored women having decided an election, the prejudice
against the negro came to the aid of lordly supremacy, and
an act was passed limiting the right of suffrage to "free
white male citizens." In 1852, the Kentucky Legislature
conferred the right on widows with children in matters
relating to the school system. The same right was conferred
in Michigan; and full suffrage was given to women in the
State constitution submitted to Kansas in 1860.

I think that is a list of illustrations sufficient to dispose of
any argument that may arise on such a score. And now, Mr.
President, permit me to say, in concluding the remarks I have
felt called upon to make here, that I have spoken rather as
indicating my assent to the principle than as expecting any
present practical results from the motion in question. In the
earliest part of my political life, when first called upon to
represent a constituency in the General Assembly of Missouri, in
looking around, after my arrival at the seat of Government at
those matters that seemed to me of most importance in
legislation, I was struck with two great classes of injustices,
two great departments in which it seemed to me the laws and the
constitutions of my State had done signal wrong.



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