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in denouncing it. It remains to be determined whether the reasons which have produced the extension of the franchise to all adult men, do not equally demand its extension to all adult women. If it be necessary for men that each should have a share in the administration of government for his security, and to exclude partiality, as alleged by Godwin, it would seem to be equally, if not more, necessary for women, on account of their inferior physical power: and if, as is persistently alleged by those who sneer at their claims, they are also inferior in mental power, that fact only gives additional weight to the argument in their behalf, as one of the primary objects of government, as acknowledged on all hands, is the protection of the weak against the power of the strong.
I can discover no ground consistent with the principle on which the franchise has been given to all men, upon which it can be denied to women. The principal argument against such extension, so far as argument upon that side of the question has fallen under my observation, is based upon the position that women are represented in the government by men, and that their rights and interests are better protected through that indirect representation than they would be by giving them a direct voice in the government.
The teachings of history in regard to the condition of women under the care of these self-constituted protectors, to which I can only briefly allude, show the value of this argument as applied to past ages; and in demonstration of its value as applied to more recent times, even at the risk of being tedious, I will give some examples from my own professional experience. I do this because nothing adds more to the efficacy of truth than the translation of the abstract into the concrete. Withholding names, I will state the facts with fullness and accuracy.
An educated and refined woman, who had been many years before deserted by her drunken husband, was living in a small village of Western New York, securing, by great economy and intense labor in fine needlework, the means of living, and of supporting her two daughters at an academy, the object of her life being to give them such an education as would enable them to become teachers, and thus secure to them some degree of independence when she could no longer provide for them. The daughters were good scholars, and favorites in the school, so long as the mother was able to maintain them there. A young man, the nephew and clerk of a wealthy but miserly merchant, became acquainted with the daughters, and was specially attentive to the older one. The uncle disapproved of the conduct of his nephew, and failing to control it by honorable means, resorted to the circulation of the vilest slanders against mother and daughters. He was a man of wealth and influence. They were almost unknown. The mother had but recently come to the village, her object having been to secure to her daughters the educational advantages which the academy afforded. Poverty, as well as perhaps an excusable if not laudable pride, compelled her to live in obscurity, and consequently the assault upon their characters fell upon her and her daughters with crushing force. Her employment mainly ceased, her daughters were of necessity withdrawn from school, and all were deprived of the means, from their own exertions, of sustaining life. Had they been in fact the harlots which the miserly scoundrel represented them to be, they would not have been so utterly powerless to resist his assault. The mother in her despair naturally sought legal redress. But how was it to be obtained? By the law the wife's rights were merged in those of the husband. She had in law no individual existence, and consequently no action could be brought by her to redress the grievous wrong; indeed according to the law she had suffered no wrong, but the husband has suffered all, and was entitled to all the redress. Where he was the lady did not know; she had not heard from him for many years. Her counsel, however, ventured to bring an action in her behalf, joining the husband's name with hers, as the law required. When the cause came to trial the defendant made no attempt to sustain the charges which he had made, well knowing they were as groundless as they were cruel; but he introduced and proved a release of the cause of action, signed by the husband, reciting a consideration of fifty dollars paid to him. The defendant's counsel had some difficulty in proving the execution of the release, and was compelled to introduce as a witness, the constable who had been employed to find the vagabond husband and obtain his signature. His testimony disclosed the facts that he found the husband in the forest in one of our northeastern counties, engaged in making shingles, (presumably stealing timber from the public lands and converting it into the means of indulging his habits of drunkenness,) and only five dollars of the fifty mentioned in the release had in fact been paid. The Court held, was compelled to hold, that the party injured in view of the law, had received full compensation for the wrong—and the mother and daughters with no means of redress were left to starve. This was the act of the representative of the wife and daughters to whom we are referred, as a better protector of their rights than they themselves could be.
It may properly be added, that if the action had proceeded to judgment without interference from the husband, and such amount of damages had been recovered as a jury might have thought it proper to award, the money would have belonged to the husband, and the wife could not lawfully have touched a cent of it. Her attorney might, and doubtless would have paid it to her, but he could only have done so at the peril of being compelled to pay it again to the drunken husband if he had demanded it.
In another case, two ladies, mother and daughter, some time prior to 1860 came from an eastern county of New York to Rochester, where a habeas corpus was obtained for a child of the daughter, less than two years of age. It appeared on the return of the writ, that the mother of the child had been previously abandoned by her husband,
who had gone to a western state to reside, and his wife had returned with the child to her mother's house, and had resided there after her desertion. The husband had recently returned from the west, had succeeded in getting the child into his custody, and was stopping over night with it in Rochester on the way to his western home. No misconduct on the part of the wife was pretended, and none on the part of the husband, excepting that he had gone to the west leaving his wife and child behind, no cause appearing, and had returned, and somewhat clandestinely obtained possession of the child. The Judge, following Blackstone's views of husband's rights, remanded the infant to the custody of the father. He thought the law required it, perhaps it did; but if mothers had had a voice, either in making or in administering the law, I think the result would have been different. The distress of the mother on being thus separated from her child can be better imagined than described. The separation proved a final one, as in less than a year neither father nor mother had any child on earth to love or care for. Whether the loss to the little one of a mother's love and watchfulness had any effect upon the result cannot, of course, be known.
The state of the law a short time since, in other respects, in regard to the rights of married women, shows what kind of security had been provided for them by their assumed representatives. Prior to 1848 all the personal property of every woman on marriage became the absolute property of the husband—the use of all her real estate became his during coveture, and on the birth of a living child, it became his during his life. He could squander it in dissipation or bestow it upon harlots, and the wife could not touch or interfere with it. Prior to 1860, the husband could by will take the custody of his infant children away from the surviving mother, and give it to whom he pleased—and he could in like manner dispose of the control of the children's property, after his death, during their minority, without the mother's consent.
In most of these respects the state of the law has undergone great changes within the last twenty-five years. The property, real and personal, which a woman possesses before marriage, and such as may be given to her during coverture, remains her own, and is free from the control of the husband. If a married woman is slandered she can prosecute in her own name the slanderer and recover to her own use damages for the injury. The mother now has an equal claim with the father to the custody of their minor children, and in case of controversy on the subject, courts may award the custody to either in their discretion. The husband cannot now by will effectually appoint a guardian for his infant children without the consent of the mother, if living.
These are certainly great ameliorations of the law; but how have they been produced ? Mainly as the result of the exertions of a few heroic women, one of the foremost of whom is her who stands arraigned as a criminal before this Court to-day. For a thousand years the absurdities and cruelties to which I have alluded have been embedded in the common law, and in the statute books, and men have not touched them, and would not until the end of time, had they not been goaded to it by the persistent efforts of the noble women to whom I have alluded.
Much has been done, but much more remains to be done by women. If they had possessed the elective franchise, the reforms which have cost them a quarter of a century of labor would have been accomplished in a year. They are still subject to taxation upon their property, without any voice as to the levying or destination of the tax; and are still subject to laws made by men, which subject them to fine and imprisonment for the same acts which men do with honor and reward—and when brought to trial no woman is allowed a place on the bench or in the jury box, or a voice in her behalf at the bar. They are bound to suffer the penalty of such laws, made and administered solely by men, and to be silent under the infliction. Give