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Why divert and distract their thoughts?"
I answer, because the questions are one and the same. We are not
now discussing merely the right of suffrage for the African, or
his status as a new-born citizen. Claiming his rights compels us
to discuss the whole underlying question of government. This is
the case in court. But when the judge shall have given his
decision, that decision will cover the whole question of civil
society, and the relations of every individual in it as a factor,
an agent, an actor....

All over the world, the question to-day is, Who has a right to
construct and administer law? Russia--gelid, frigid Russia--can
not escape the question. Yea, he that sits on the Russian throne
has proved himself a better democrat than any of us all, and is
giving to-day more evidence of a genuine love of God, and of its
partner emotion, love to man, in emancipating thirty million
serfs, than many a proud democrat of America has ever given.
(Applause.) And the question of emancipation in Russia is only
the preface to the next question, which doubtless he as clearly
as any of us foresees--namely, the question of citizenship, and
of the rights and functions of citizenship. In Italy, the
question of who may partake of government has arisen, and there
has been an immense widening of popular liberty there. Germany,
that freezes at night and thaws out by day only enough to freeze
up again at night, has also experienced as much agitation on this
subject as the nature of the case will allow. And when all
France, all Italy, all Russia, and all Great Britain shall have
rounded out into perfect democratic liberty, it is to be hoped
that, on the North side of the fence where it freezes first and
the ice thaws out last, Germany will herself be thawed out in her
turn, and come into the great circle of democratic nations.
Strange, that the mother of modern democracy should herself be
stricken with such a palsy and with such lethargy! Strange, that
in a nation in which was born and in which has inhered all the
indomitableness of individualism should be so long unable to
understand the secret of personal liberty! But all Europe to-day
is being filled and agitated with this great question of the
right of every man to citizenship; of the right of every man to
make the laws that are to control him; and of the right of every
man to administer the laws that are applicable to him. This is
the question to-day in Great Britain. The question that is being
agitated from the throne down to the Birmingham shop, from the
Atlantic to the North Sea, to-day, is this: Shall more than one
man in six in Great Britain be allowed to vote? There is only one
in six of the full-grown men in that nation that can vote to-day.
And everywhere we are moving toward that sound, solid, final
ground--namely, that it inheres in the radical notion of manhood
that every man has a right which is not given to him by potentate
nor by legislator, nor by the consent of the community, but which
belongs to his structural idea, and is a divine right, to make
the laws that control him, and to elect the magistrates that are
to administer those laws. It is universal.

And now, this being the world-tide and tendency, what is there in
history, what is there in physiology, what is there in
experience, that shall say to this tendency, marking the line of
sex, "Thus far shalt thou go, and no farther?" I roll the
argument off from my shoulders, and I challenge the man that
stands with me, beholding that the world-thought to-day is the
emancipation of the citizen's power and the preparation by
education of the citizen for that power, and objects to
extending the right of citizenship to every human being, to give
me the reasons why. (Applause). To-day this nation is exercising
its conscience on the subject of suffrage for the African. I have
all the time favored that: not because he was an African, but
because he was a man; because this right of voting, which is the
symbol of everything else in civil power, inheres in every human
being. But I ask you, to-day, "Is it safe to bring in a million
black men to vote, and not safe to bring in your mother, your
wife, and your sister to vote?" (Applause). This ought ye to have
done, and to have done quickly, and not to have left the other
undone. (Renewed applause).

To-day politicians of every party, especially on the eve of an
election, are in favor of the briefest and most expeditious
citizenizing of the Irishmen. I have great respect for
Irishmen--when they do not attempt to carry on war! (Laughter).
The Irish Fenian movement is a ludicrous phenomenon past all
laughing at. Bombarding England from the shore of America! (Great
laughter). Paper pugnation! Oratorical destroying! But when
wind-work is the order of the day, commend me to Irishmen!
(Renewed laughter). And yet I am in favor of Irishmen voting.
Just so soon as they give pledge that they come to America, in
good faith, to abide here as citizens, and forswear the old
allegiance, and take on the new, I am in favor of their voting.
Why? Because they have learned our Constitution? No; but because
voting teaches. The vote is a schoolmaster. They will learn our
laws, and learn our Constitution, and learn our customs ten times
quicker when the responsibility of knowing these things is laid
upon them, than when they are permitted to live in carelessness
respecting them. And this nation is so strong that it can stand
the incidental mischiefs of thus teaching the wild rabble that
emigration throws on our shores for our good and upbuilding. We
are wise enough, and we have educational force enough, to carry
these ignorant foreigners along with us. We have attractions that
will draw them a thousand times more toward us than they can draw
us toward them. And yet, while I take this broad ground, that no
man, even of the Democratic party (I make the distinction because
a man may be a democrat and be ashamed of the party, and a man
may be of the party and not know a single principle of
democracy), should be debarred from voting, I ask, is an Irishman
just landed, unwashed and uncombed, more fit to vote than a woman
educated in our common schools? Think of the mothers and
daughters of this land, among whom are teachers, writers,
artists, and speakers! What a throng could we gather if we
should, from all the West, call our women that as educators are
carrying civilization there! Thousands upon thousands there are
of women that have gone forth from the educational institutions
of New England to carry light and knowledge to other parts of our
land. Now, place this great army of refined and cultivated women
on the one side, and on the other side the rising cloud of
emancipated Africans, and in front of them the great emigrant
band of the Emerald Isle, and is there force enough in our
government to make it safe to give to the African and the
Irishman the franchise? There is. We shall give it to them.
(Applause). And will our force all fail, having done that? And
shall we take the fairest and best part of our society; those to
whom we owe it that we ourselves are civilized: our teachers; our
companions; those to whom we go for counsel in trouble more than
to any others; those to whom we trust everything that is dear to
ourselves--our children's welfare, our household, our property,
our name and reputation, and that which is deeper, our inward
life itself, that no man may mention to more than one--shall we
take them and say, "They are not, after all, fit to vote where
the Irishman votes, and where the African votes?" I am
scandalized when I hear men talk in the way that men do talk--men
that do not think.

If therefore, you refer to the initial sentence, and ask me why I
introduce this subject to-day, when we are already engaged on the
subject of suffrage, I say, This is the greatest development of
the suffrage question. _It is more important that woman should
vote than that the black man should vote._ It is important that
he should vote, that the principle may be vindicated, and that
humanity may be defended; but it is important that woman should
vote, not for her sake. She will derive benefit from voting; but
it is not on a selfish ground that I claim the right of suffrage
for her. It is God's growing and least disclosed idea of a true
human society that man and woman should not be divorced in
political affairs any more than they are in religious and social
affairs. I claim that women should vote because society will
never know its last estate and true glory until you accept God's
edict and God's command--long raked over and covered in the
dust--until you bring it out, and lift it up, and read this one
of God's Ten Commandments, written, if not on stone, yet in the
very heart and structure of mankind, _Let those that God joined
together not be put asunder_. (Applause.)

When men converse with me on the subject of suffrage, or the
vote, it seems to me that the terminology withdraws their minds
from the depth and breadth of the case to the mere instruments.
Many of the objections that are urged against woman's voting are
objections against the mechanical and physical act of suffrage.
It is true that all the forces of society, in their final
political deliverance, must needs be born through the vote, in
our structure of government. In England it is not so.



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