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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. Every
thoughtful person must see that Northern representatives are in
no condition to reconstruct the South until their own State
Constitutions are purged of all invidious distinctions among
their citizens. As the fountain rises no higher than its source,
how can New York press on South Carolina a civilization she has
never tried herself. But say you, we can coerce the South to do
what we have no right to force on a loyal State. Has not each
State a right to amend her own Constitution and establish a
genuine republic within her own boundaries? "Let each man mend
one," says the old proverb, "and the world is mended." Let each
State bring its own Constitution into harmony with the Federal
Constitution, and the Union will be a republic.

We are soon to hold a convention to revise the Constitution of
the State of New York; and it is the duty of the people to insist
that it be so amended as to make all its citizens equal before
the law. Could the Empire State now take the lead in making
herself a genuine republic, all the States would, in time,
follow her example, and the problem of reconstruction be thus
settled to the satisfaction of all. Example is more powerful than
precept in all cases. Were our constitutions free from all class
distinctions, with what power our representatives could now press
their example on the Southern States. Is there anything more
rasping to a proud spirit than to be rebuked for shortcomings by
those who are themselves guilty of the grossest violations of law
and justice? Does the North think it absurd for its women to vote
and hold office, the South thinks the same of its negroes. Does
the North consider its women a part of the family to be
represented by the "white male citizen," so views the South her
negroes. And thus viewing them, the South has never taxed her
slaves; but our chivalry never fails to send its tax-gatherers to
the poorest widow that owns a homestead. Would you press
impartial suffrage on the South, recognize it first at home.
Would you have Congress do its duty in the coming session, let
the action of every State Legislature teach it what that duty is.
The work of this hour is a broader one than the reconstruction of
the Rebel States. It is the lifting of the entire nation into
higher ideas of justice and equality. It is the realization of
what the world has never yet seen, a GENUINE REPUBLIC.

As the ballot is the key to reconstruction, a right knowledge of
its use and power is the first step in the work before us. Hence,
the consideration of the question of suffrage is the duty of
every American citizen.

The legal disabilities to the exercise of suffrage (for persons
of sound mind and body) in the several States, are five--age,
color, sex, property and education. As age depends on a fixed
law, beyond the control of fallible man, viz., the revolution of
the earth around the sun, it must be impartial, for, _nolens
volens_, all men must revolve with their native planet; and as no
Republican or Democratic majority can make the earth stand still,
even for a Presidential campaign, they must in time perform that
journey often enough to become legal voters. As the right to the
ballot is not based on intelligence, it matters not that some
boys of eighteen do know more than some men of thirty. Inasmuch
as boys are not bound by any contract--except marriage--can not
sell a horse, or piece of land, or be sued for debt until they
are twenty-one, this qualification of age seems to be in harmony
with the laws of the land, and based on common sense.

As to color and sex, neither time, money or education can make
black white, or woman man; therefore such insurmountable
qualifications, not to be tolerated in a republican government,
are unworthy our serious consideration. "Qualifications," says
Senator Sumner, "can not be in their nature permanent or
insurmountable. Color can not be a qualification any more than
size, or quality of the hair. A permanent or insurmountable
qualification is equivalent to a deprivation of the suffrage. In
other words, it is the tyranny of taxation without
representation; and this tyranny, I insist, is not intrusted to
any State in the Union."

As to property and education, there are some plausible arguments
in favor of such qualifications, but they are all alike
unsatisfactory, illogical and unjust. A limited suffrage creates
a privileged class, and is based on the false idea that
government is the natural arbiter of its citizens, while in fact
it is the creature of their will. In the old days of the colonies
when the property qualification was five pounds--that being just
the price of a jackass--Benjamin Franklin facetiously asked, "If
a man must own a jackass in order to vote, who does the voting,
the man or the jackass?" If reading and money-making were a sure
gauge of character, if intelligence and virtue were twin sisters,
these qualifications might do; but such is not the case. In our
late war black men were loyal, generous and heroic without the
alphabet or multiplication table, while men of wealth, educated
by the nation, graduates of West Point, were false to their
country and traitors to their flag. There was a time in England's
history, when the House of Lords even, could neither read nor
write. Before the art of printing, were all men fools? Were the
Apostles and martyrs worth $250? The early Christians, the
children of art, science and literature, have in all ages
struggled with poverty, while they blessed the world with their
inspirations. The Hero of Judea had not where to lay His head!!
As capital has ever ground labor to the dust, is it just and
generous to disfranchise the poor and ignorant because they are
so? If a man can not read, give him the ballot, it is
schoolmaster. If he does not own a dollar give him the ballot, it
is the key to wealth and power. Says Lamartine, "universal
suffrage is the first truth and only basis of every national
republic." "The ballot," says Senator Sumner, "is the columbiad
of our political life, and every citizen who has it is a
full-armed monitor."

But while such grand truths are uttered in the ears of the world,
by an infamous amendment of the Federal Constitution, the people
have sanctioned the disfranchisement of a majority of the loyal
citizens of the nation. With sorrow we learn that the Legislature
of New York has ratified this change of the Constitution.

Happily for the cause of freedom, the organization we represent
here to-day, "THE AMERICAN EQUAL RIGHTS ASSOCIATION," has
registered its protest in the archives of the State against this
desecration of the last will and testament of the Fathers. It was
a mistake for you to confirm to-day what Congress proposed a year
ago. Recent debates in the Senate show a hearty repentance for
their past action, and an entire revolution in their opinions on
this whole question. It was gratifying to find in the discussion
of the District Franchise Bill, how unanimously the Senate
favored the extension of suffrage. The thanks of the women of the
Nation are especially due to Senator Cowan for his motion to
strike out the word "male," and to the nine distinguished
Senators who voted for his amendment. It was pleasant to see into
what fraternal relations this question at once brought all
opposing elements. The very able and exhaustive manner in which
both Republicans and Democrats pressed their claims to the
ballot, through two entire sessions of the Senate, is most
encouraging to the advocates of the political rights of women.

In view of this liberal discussion in the Senate, and the recent
action of Congress on the Territories, it is rather singular that
our Republican Governor, in referring to the Constitutional
Convention in his late message, while recommending consideration
of many minor matters, should have failed to call attention to
Art. 2d, Sec. 1, of the Constitution, which denies the
fundamental rights of citizenship. As the executive head of the
party in this State whose political capital is "negro suffrage,"
it would have been highly proper for our worthy Governor to have
given his opinion on that odious $250 clause in the Constitution.
No doubt our judiciary, our criminal legislation, our city
governments need reforming; our railroads, prisons and schools
need attention; but all these are of minor consideration to the
personal and property rights of the man himself. Said Lalor
Shiels, in the House of Commons, "strike the Constitution to the
center and the lawyer sleeps in his closet. But touch the cobwebs
in Westminster Hall and the spiders start from their hiding
places."

I have called your attention, gentlemen, to some of the flaws in
your Constitution that you may see that there is more important
work to be done in the coming Convention than any to which
Governor Fenton has referred in his message. I would also call
your attention to the fact, that while His Excellency suggests
the number of delegates at large to be chosen by the two
political parties, he makes no provision for the representatives
of women and "men of color" not worth $250.



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