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SPRAGUE: I know the Senate is impatient for a vote. I know
they are determined to vote favorably. When it is necessary that
women shall vote for the support of liberty and equality I shall
be ready to cast my vote in their favor. The black man's vote is
necessary to this at this time....

Mr. BUCKALEW: I desire to say before the vote is taken on this
amendment that I shall vote in favor of it because of the
particular position which it occupies. A vote given for this
amendment is not a final one. I understand it to pronounce an
opinion upon the two propositions which have been undergoing
consideration in the Senate, in a comparative manner, if I may
use the expression. In voting for this proposition I affirm
simply that the principles and the reasonings upon which the bill
itself, as reported by the committee, is based, would apply with
equal, if not increased force, to the particular proposition
contained in the amendment. If that be affirmed, then recurs the
question whether it is proper, whether it is expedient at this
time to increase, and very extensively increase, suffrage in this
country. I do not understand that the general argument on that
question is involved in the present motion. I do not understand
that it comes up of necessity in considering the proposition
covered by the amendment of my colleague which stands simply in
contrast with that contained in the bill. I presume there are
several gentlemen, members of this body, who will vote with
reference to this consideration and who will reserve their
opinion, either openly or in their own consciousness, upon the
general or indirect question of the extension of suffrage to the
females of the United States.

But the occasion invites some remarks beyond the mere statement
of this point. The debates which have been going on for three
days in this Chamber will go out to the country. They will
constitute an element in the popular discussions of the times and
awaken a large amount of public attention. This is not the last
we shall hear of this subject. It will come to us again; and I am
persuaded that one reason why it will come again is that the
arguments against the proposed extension of suffrage have not
been sufficient; they have been inadequate; they have been placed
upon grounds which will not endure debate. Those who are in favor
of the extension of suffrage to females can answer what has been
said in this Chamber, and they can answer it triumphantly; and
you will eventually be obliged to take other grounds than those
which have been here stated. From the beginning of this debate
there has been either an open or an implied concession of the
principle upon which the extension of suffrage is asked; and that
is, that there is some natural right or propriety in extending it
further than it was extended by those who formed our State and
Federal Constitutions; that there is some principle of right or
of propriety involved which now appeals powerfully to us in favor
of extended and liberal action in behalf of those large classes
who have been hitherto disfranchised; upon whom the right of
suffrage has not been heretofore conferred.

Having made this concession upon the fundamental ground of the
inquiry, or at all events intimated it, the opponents of an
extended franchise pass on to particular arguments of
inconvenience or inexpediency as constituting the grounds of
their opposition.

Now, sir, I venture to say that those who resist the extension of
suffrage in this country will be unsuccessful in their
opposition; they will be overborne, unless they assume grounds of
a more commanding character than those which they have here
maintained. This subject of the extension of suffrage must be put
upon practical grounds and extricated from the sophisms of
theoretical reasoning. Gentlemen must get out of the domain of
theory. They must come back again to those principles of action
upon which our fathers proceeded in framing our constitutional
system. They lodged suffrage in this country simply in those whom
they thought most worthy and most fit to exercise it. They did
not proceed upon those humanitarian theories which have since
obtained and which now seem to have taken a considerable hold on
the public mind. They were practical men, and acted with
reference to the history and experience of mankind. They were no
metaphysicians; they were not reformers in the modern sense of
the term; they were men who based their political action upon the
experience of mankind, and upon those practical reflections with
reference to men and things in which they had indulged in active
life. They placed suffrage then upon the broad common-sense
principle that it should be lodged in and exercised by those who
could use it most wisely and most safely and most efficiently to
serve the great ends for which Government was instituted. They
had no other ground than this, and their work shows that they
proceeded upon it, and not upon any abstract or transcendental
notion of human rights which ignored the existing facts of social
life.

Now, sir, the objection which I have to a large extension of
suffrage in this country, whether by Federal or State power, is
this: that thereby you will corrupt and degrade elections, and
probably lead to their complete abrogation hereafter. By pouring
into the ballot-boxes of the country a large mass of ignorant
votes, and votes subjected to pecuniary or social influence, you
will corrupt and degrade your elections and lay the foundation
for their ultimate destruction. That is a conviction of mine, and
it is upon that ground that I resist both negro suffrage and
female suffrage, and any other proposed form of suffrage which
takes humanity in an unduly broad or enlarged sense as the
foundation of an arrangement of political power.

Mr. President, I proposed before the debate concluded, before
this subject should be submitted to the Senate for its final
decision, to protest against some of the reasoning by which this
amendment was resisted. I intended to protest against particular
arguments which were submitted; but I was glad this morning that
that duty which I had proposed to myself was discharged, and well
discharged by the Senator from Missouri [Mr. Brown]. For
instance, the argument that the right of suffrage ought not to be
conferred upon this particular class because they did not or
could not bear arms--a consideration totally foreign and
irrelevant, in my opinion, to the question which we are
discussing.

But, sir, passing this by, I desire to add a few words before I
conclude upon another point which was stated or suggested by the
Senator from Missouri, and that is the question of reform or
improvement in our election system; I mean in the machinery by
which or plans upon which those elections proceed. After due
reflection given to this subject, my opinion is that our
electoral systems in this country are exceedingly defective, and
that they require thorough revision, that to them the hand of
reform must be strongly applied if republican institutions are to
be ultimately successful with us.

I would see much less objection to your extension of the right of
suffrage very largely to classes now excluded if you had a
different mode of voting, if you did take or could take the sense
of these added classes in a different manner from that which now
obtains in popular voting. You proceed at present upon the
principle or rule that a mere majority of the electoral community
shall possess the whole mass of political power; and what are the
inevitable results? First, that the community is divided into
parties, and into parties not very unequal in their aggregate
numbers. What next? That the balance of power between parties is
held by a very small number of voters; and in practical action
what is the fact? That the struggle is constantly for that
balance of power, and in order to obtain it, all the arts and all
the evil influences of elections are called into action. It is
this struggle for that balance of power that breeds most of the
evils of your system of popular elections. Now, is it not
possible to have republican institutions and to eliminate or
decrease largely this element of evil? Why, sir, take the State
of Pennsylvania, whose voice, perhaps, in this Government is to
give direction to its legislation at a given time and take a
pecuniary interest in the country largely interested in your
laws, looking forward upon the eve of a hotly contested election
to some particular measures of Government which shall favor it,
with what ease can that interest throw into the State a pecuniary
contribution competent to turn the voice of that powerful State
and change or determine the policy of your Government. And why
so? It is only necessary that this corrupt influence should be
exerted very slightly indeed within that State from abroad in
order to turn the scale, because you are only to exert your
pernicious power upon a small number of persons who hold the
balance of power between parties therein. Sir, that organization
of our system which allows such a state of things to occur must
be inherently vicious. Instead of this being a Government of the
whole people, which is our fundamental principle, which is our
original idea, it is a Government, in the first place, of a
majority only of the people; and in the next place, it is in some
sort a Government of that small number of persons who give
preponderance to one party over another, and who may be
influenced by fanaticism, corruption, or passion.

This being our political state at present with reference to
electoral action, what do you propose?



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