Gambar halaman
PDF
ePub

them the ballot, and, although I do not suppose that any great revolution will be produced, or that all political evils will be removed, (I am not a believer in political panaceas,) but if I mistake not, valuable reforms will be introduced which are not now thought of. Schools, almshouses, hospitals, drinking saloons, and those worse dens which are destroying the morals and the constitutions of so many of the young of both sexes, will feel their influence to an extent now little dreamed of. At all events women will not be taxed without an opportunity to be heard, and will not be subject to fine and imprisonment by laws made exclusively by men for doing what it is lawful and honorable for men to do.

It may be said in answer to the argument in favor of female suffrage derived from the cases to which I have referred, that men, not individually, but collectively, are the natural and appropriate representatives of women, and that, notwithstanding cases of individual wrong, the rights of women are, on the whole, best protected by being left to their care. It must be observed, however, that the cases which I have stated and which are only types of thousands like them, in their cruelty and injustice, are the result of ages of legislation by these assumed protectors of women. The wrongs were less in the men than in the laws which sustained them, and which contained nothing for the protection of the women.

But passing this view, let us look at the matter historically and on the broader field. If Chinese women were allowed an equal share with the men in shaping the laws of that great empire, would they subject their female children to torture with bandaged feet, through the whole period of childhood and growth, in order that they might be cripples for the residue of their lives? If Hindoo women could have shaped the laws of India, would widows for ages have been burned on the funeral pyres of their deceased husbands? If Jewish women had had a voice in framing Jewish laws, would the husband, at his own pleasure, have been allowed to "write his wife a bill of divorcement and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house''! Would women in Turkey or Persia have made it a heinous, if not capital, offense for a wife to be seen abroad with her face not covered by an impenetrable veil? Would women in England, however learned, have been for ages subjected to execution for offenses for which men, who could read, were only subjected to burning in the hand and a few months' imprisonment ?

The principle which governs in these cases, or which has done so hitherto, has been at all times and everywhere the same. Those who succeed in obtaining power, no matter by what means, will, with rare exceptions, use it for their own exclusive benefit. Often, perhaps generally, this is done in the honest belief that such use is for the best good of all who are affected by it. A wrong, however, to those upon whom it is inflicted, is none the less a wrong by reason of the good motives of the party by whom it is inflicted.

The condition of subjection in which women have been held is the result of this principle; the result of superior strength, not of superior rights, on the part of men. Superior strength, combined with ignorance and selfishness, but not with malice. It is a relic of the barbarism in the shadow of which nations have grown up. Precisely as nations have receded from barbarism the severity of that subjection has been relaxed. So long as merely physical power governed in the affairs of the world, the wrongs done to women were without the possibility of redress or relief; but since nations have come to be governed by laws, there is room to hope, though the process may still be a slow one, that injustice in all its forms, or at least political injustice, may be extinguished. No injustice can be greater than to deny to any class of citizens not guilty of crime, all share in the political power of a state, that is, all share in the choice of rulers, and in the making and administration of the laws. Persons to which such share is denied, are essentially slaves, because they hold their rights, if they can be said to have any, subject to the will of those who hold the political power. For this reason it has been found necessary to give the ballot to the emancipated slaves. Until this was done their emancipation was far from complete. Without a share in the political powers of the state, no class of citizens has any security for its rights, and the history of nations, to which I briefly alluded, shows that women constitute no exception to the universal. ity of this rule.

Great errors, I think, exist in the minds of both the advocates and the opponents of this measure in their anticipation of the immediate effects to be produced by its adoption. On the one hand it is supposed by some that the character of women would be radically changed—that they would be unsexed, as it were, by clothing them with political rights, and that instead of modest, amiable and graceful beings, we should have bold, noisy and disgusting political demagogues, or something worse, if anything worse can be imagined. I think those who entertain such opinions are in error. The innate character of women is the result of God's laws, not of man's, nor can the laws of man affect that character beyond a very slight degree. Whatever rights may be given to them, and whatever duties may be charged upon them by human laws, their general character will remain unchanged. Their modesty, their delicacy, and intuitive sense of propriety, will never desert them, into whatever new positions their added rights or duties may carry them.

So far as women, without change of character as women, are qualified to discharge the duties of citizenship, they will discharge them if called upon to do so, and beyond that they will not go. Nature has put barriers in the way of any excessive devotion of women to public affairs, and it is not necessary that nature's work in that respect should be supplemented by additional barriers invented by men. Such offices as women are qualified to fill will be sought by those who do not find other employment, and others they will not seek, or if they do, will seek in vain. To aid in removing as far as possible the disheartening difficulties which women dependent upon their own exertions encounter, it is, I think, desirable that such official positions as they can fill should be thrown open to them, and that they should be given the same power that men have to aid each other by their votes. I would say, remove all legal barriers that stand in the way of their finding employment, official or unofficial, and leave them as men are left, to depend for success upon their character and abilities. As long as men are allowed to act as milliners, with what propriety can they exclude women from the post of school commissioners when chosen to such positions by their neighbors ? To deny them such rights, is to leave them in a condition of political servitude as absolute as that of the African slaves before their emancipation. This conclusion is readily to be deduced from the opinion of Chief Justice Jay in the case of Chisholm v. Georgia,8b although the learned Chief Justice had of course no idea of any such application as I make of his opinion.

The action was assumpsit by a citizen of the State of South Carolina, and the question was, whether the United States Court had jurisdiction, the State of Georgia declining to appear. The Chief Justice, in the course of his opinion, after alluding to the feudal idea of the character of the sovereign in England, and giving some of the reasons why he was not subject to suit before the courts of the kingdom, says:

"The same feudal ideas run through all their jurisprudence, and constantly remind us of the distinction between the prince and the subject. No such ideas obtain here. At the revolution the sovereignty devolved on the people; and they are truly the sovereigns of the country, but they are sovereigns without subjects (unless the African slaves

86 2 Dall., 419-471.

among us may be so called), and have none to govern but themselves; the citizens of America are equal as fellowcitizens, and as joint tenants in the sovereignty."

Now I beg leave to ask, in case this charge against Miss Anthony can be sustained, what equality and what sovereignty is enjoyed by the half of the citizens of these United States to which she belongs? Do they not, in that event, occupy, politically, exactly the position which the learned Chief Justice assigns to the African slaves ? Are they not shown to be subjects of the other half, who are the sovereigns! And is not their political subjection as absolute as was that of the African slaves? If that charge has any basis to rest upon, the learned Chief Justice was wrong. The sovereigns of this country, according to the theory of this prosecution, are not sovereigns without subjects. Though two or three millions of their subjects have lately ceased to be such, and have become freemen, they still hold twenty millions of subjects in absolute political bondage.

If it be said that my language is stronger than the facts warrant, I appeal to the record in this case for its justification.

As deductions from what has been said, I respectfully insist, first, That upon the principles upon which our government is based, the privilege of the elective franchise cannot justly be denied to women. Second. That women need it for their protection. Third. That the welfare of both sexes will be promoted by granting it to them.

Having occupied much more time than I intended in showing the justness and propriety of the claim made by my client to the privileges of a voter, I proceed to the consideration of the present state of the law on that subject.

It would not become me, however clear my own convictions may be on the subject, to assert the right of women, under our Constitution and laws as they now are, to vote at presidential and congressional elections, is free from

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »