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Have not the women of
the republic an equal interest with yourselves in the government,
in free institutions, in progressive ideas, and in the success of
the most liberal political measures? Remember, in your last
election, the republican majority in this State was only fourteen
thousand, all told. If you would not see the liberal party
swamped in the next Presidential campaign, treble your majority
by enfranchising those classes who would support it in all just
and merciful legislation....

The extension of suffrage is the political idea of our day,
agitating alike the leading minds of both continents. The
question of debate in the long past has been the rights of races.
This, in our country, was settled by the war, when the black man
was declared free and worthy to bear arms in defense of the
republic, and the last remnants of aristocracy were scattered
before our northern hosts like chaff in the whirlwind. We have
now come to the broader idea of _individual_ rights. An idea
already debated ably in Congress and out, by Republicans,
Democrats and Abolitionists, who, in common with the best writers
and thinkers of the day the world over, base all rights of
society and government on those of the individual. Each one of
you has a right to everything in earth and air, on land and sea,
to the whole world of thought, to all that is needful for soul
and body, and there is no limit to the exercise of your rights,
but in the infringement of the rights of another; and the moment
you pass that limit you are on forbidden ground, you violate the
law of individual life, and breed disorder and confusion in the
whole social system. Where, gentlemen, did you get the right to
deny the ballot to all women and black men not worth $250? If
this right of suffrage is not an individual right, from what
place and body did you get it? Is this right of franchise a
conventional arrangement, a privilege that society or government
may grant or withhold at pleasure? In the Senate of the United
States, in the recent discussion on the "bill to regulate the
elective franchise in the District of Columbia," GRATZ BROWN
said:

Mr. President, I say 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 or sex. I will go farther
and say, that I recognize the right of franchise as being
intrinsically a natural right. I do not believe that society
is authorized to impose any limitations upon it that do not
spring out of the necessities of the social state itself.
Sir, I have been shocked, in the course of this debate, to
hear Senators declare this right only a conventional and
political arrangement, a privilege yielded to you and me,
and others; not a right in any sense, 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 crystallize that idea in the public
mind of this country, you ring the death-knell of American
liberties!!

The demand we to-day make, is not the idiosyncrasy of a few
discontented minds, but a universal movement. Woman is everywhere
throwing off the lethargy of ages, and is already close upon you
in the whole realm of thought--in art, science, literature and
government. Everything heralds the dawn of the new era when moral
power is to govern nations. In asking you, Honorable Gentlemen,
to extend suffrage to woman, we do not press on you the risk and
responsibility of a new step, but simply to try a measure that
has already proved wise and safe the world over. So long as
political power was absolute and hereditary, woman shared it with
man by birth. In Hungary and some provinces of France and
Germany, women holding this inherited right confer their right of
franchise on their husbands. In 1858, in the old town of Upsal,
the authorities granted the right of suffrage to fifty women
holding real estate, and to thirty-one doing business in their
own name. The representative their votes elected was to sit in
the House of Burgesses. In Ireland, the Court of Queen's Bench,
Dublin, restored to women, in 1864, the old right of voting for
town commissioners. In 1864, too, the government of Moravia
decided that all women who are tax-payers had the right to vote.
In Canada, in 1850, an electoral privilege was conferred on
women, in the hope that the Protestant might balance the Roman
Catholic power in the school system. "I lived," says a friend of
mine, "where I saw this right exercised for four years by female
property holders, and never heard the most cultivated man, even
Lord Elgin, object to its results." Women vote in Austria,
Australia, Holland and Sweden, on property qualifications. There
is a bill now before the British Parliament, presented by John
Stuart Mill, asking for household suffrage, accompanied by a
petition from eleven thousand of the best educated women in
England.

Would you be willing to admit, gentlemen, that women know less,
have less virtue, less pride and dignity of character under
Republican institutions than in the despotisms and monarchies of
the old world? Your Codes and Constitutions savor of such an
opinion. Fortunately, history furnishes a few saving facts, even
under our Republican institutions. From a recent examination of
the archives of the State of New Jersey we learn that, owing to a
liberal Quaker influence, women and negroes exercised the right
of suffrage in that State thirty-one years--from 1776 to
1807--when "white males" ignored the constitution, and
arbitrarily assumed the reins of government. This act of
injustice is sufficient to account for the moral darkness that
seems to have settled down upon that unhappy State. During the
dynasty of women and negroes, does history record any social
revolution peculiar to that period? Because women voted there,
was the institution of marriage annulled, the sanctity of home
invaded, cradles annihilated, and the stockings, like Governor
Marcy's pantaloons, mended by the State? Did the men of that
period become mere satellites of the dinner-pot, the wash-tub, or
the spinning-wheel? Were they dwarfed and crippled in body and
soul, while their enfranchised wives and mothers became giants in
stature and intellect? Did the children, fully armed and equipped
for the battle of life, spring, Minerva-like, from the brains of
their fathers? Were the laws of nature suspended? Did the sexes
change places? Was everything turned upside down? No, life went
on as smoothly in New Jersey as in any other State in the Union.
And the fact that women did vote there, created so slight a
ripple on the popular wave, and made so ordinary a page in
history, that probably nine-tenths of the people of this country
never heard of its existence, until recent discussions in the
United States Senate brought out the facts of the case. In
Kansas, women vote for school officers and are themselves
eligible to the office of trustee. There is a resolution now
before the Legislature of Ohio to strike the words "white male"
from the Constitution of that State. The Hon. Mr. Noel, of
Missouri, has presented a bill in the House of Representatives to
extend suffrage to the women of the District of Columbia.

I think, Honorable Gentlemen, I have given you facts enough to
show that you need not hesitate to give the ballot to the women
of New York, on the ground that it is a new thing; for, as you
see, the right has long ago been exercised by certain classes of
women in many countries. And if it were a new thing, and had
never been heard of before, that would be no argument against the
experiment. Had the world never done a new thing, Columbus would
not have discovered this country, nor the ocean telegraph brought
our old enemy--Great Britain--within friendly speaking distance.
When it was proposed to end slavery in this country, croakers and
conservatives protested because it was a new thing, and must of
necessity produce a social convulsion. When it was proposed to
give woman her rights of property in this State, the same classes
opposed that on the same ground; but the spirit of the age
carried both measures over their heads and "nobody was hurt."

You Republicans can not oppose our demand on that ground, for
your present party-cry "negro suffrage" is a new thing, and
startling too, in the ears of the Southern States, and a very
inconsistent thing, so long as the $250 qualification remains in
your Constitution. "If you would know your faults," says Cicero,
"ask your enemies." Hear his Excellency Andrew Johnson, in his
veto on the District of Columbia Bill; he says: "It hardly seems
consistent with the principles of right and justice, that
representatives of States where suffrage is either denied the
colored man or granted to him on qualifications requiring
intelligence or property, should compel the people of the
District of Columbia to try an experiment which their
constituents have thus far shown an unwillingness to try for
themselves." Senator Sumner, a leading radical, expresses the
same opinion. In the debate on the admission of Nebraska, he
says: "When we demand equal rights of the Southern States, we
must not be so inconsistent as to admit any new State with a
constitution disfranchising citizens on account of color.
Congress must be itself just, if it would recommend it to others.
Reconstruction must begin at home." Consistency is a jewel.



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