Debate On Woman Suffrage In The Senate Of The United States, - 2d Session, 49th Congress, December 8, 1886, And January 25, 1887
by Henry W. Blair, J.E. Brown, J.N. Dolph, G.G. Vest, Geo. F. Hoar.
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Then the Republicans went to Chicago, and they did just the same thing. They said the Government bonds must be paid in precisely the currency specified by the Congressional enactment, and Talleyrand himself could not have devised how not to say anything better than the Republicans did at Chicago on that question. Then they nominated a man who had not any financial opinions whatever, and who was not known, except for his military record, and they went into the campaign. Both those parties had this petition from us.

I met a woman in Grand Rapids, Mich., a short time ago. She came to me one morning and told me about the obscene shows licensed in that city, and said that she thought of memorializing the Legislature. I said, "Do; you can not do anything else; you are helpless, but you can petition. Of course they will laugh at you." Notwithstanding, I drew up a petition and she circulated it. Twelve hundred of the best citizens signed that petition, and the lady carried it to the Legislature, just as Mrs. Wallace took her petition in the Indiana Legislature. They read it, laughed at it, and laid it on the table; and at the close of the session, by a unanimous vote, they retired in a solid body to witness the obscene show themselves. After witnessing it, they not only allowed the license to continue for that year, but they have licensed it every year from that day to this, against all the protests of the petitioners. [Laughter.]

SENATOR EDMUNDS. Do not think we are wanting in respect to you and the ladies here because you say something that makes us laugh.

MISS ANTHONY. You are not laughing at me; you are treating me respectfully, because you are hearing my argument; you are not asleep, not one of you, and I am delighted.

Now, I am going to tell you one other fact. Seven thousand of the best citizens of Illinois petitioned the Legislature of 1877 to give them the poor privilege of voting on the license question. A gentleman presented their petition; the ladies were in the lobbies around the room. A gentleman made a motion that the president of the State association of the Christian Temperance Union be allowed to address the Legislature regarding the petition of the memorialists, when a gentleman sprang to his feet, and said it was well enough for the honorable gentleman to present the petition, and have it received and laid on the table, but "for a gentleman to rise in his seat and propose that the valuable time of the honorable gentlemen of the Illinois Legislature should be consumed in discussing the nonsense of those women is going a little too far. I move that the sergeant-at-arms be ordered to clear the hall of the house of representatives of the mob;" referring to those Christian women. Now, they had had the lobbyists of the whisky ring in that Legislature for years and years, not only around it at respectful distances, but inside the bar, and nobody ever made a motion to clear the halls of the whisky mob there. It only takes Christian women to make a mob.

MRS. SAXON. We were treated extremely respectfully in Louisiana. It showed plainly the temper of the convention when the present governor admitted that woman suffrage was a fact bound to come. They gave us the privilege of having women on the school boards, but then the officers are appointed by men who are politicians.

MISS ANTHONY. I want to read a few words that come from good authority, for black men at least. I find here a little extract that I copied years ago from the Anti-Slavery Standard of 1870. As you know, Wendell Phillips was the editor of that paper at that time:

"A man with the ballot in his hand is the master of the situation. He defines all his other rights; what is not already given him he takes."

That is exactly what we want, Senators. The rights you have not already given us; we want to get in such a position that we can take them.

"The ballot makes every class sovereign over its own fate. Corruption may steal from a man his independence; capital may starve, and intrigue fetter him, at times; but against all these, his vote, intelligently and honestly cast, is, in the long run, his full protection. If, in the struggle, his fort surrenders, it is only because it is betrayed from within. No power ever permanently wronged a voting class without its own consent."

Senators, I want to ask of you that you will, by the law and parliamentary rules of your committee, allow us to agitate this question by publishing this report and the report which you shall make upon our petitions, as I hope you will make a report. If your committee is so pressed with business that it can not possibly consider and report upon this question, I wish some of you would make a motion on the floor of the Senate that a special committee be appointed to take the whole question of the enfranchisement of women into consideration, and that that committee shall have nothing else to do. This off-year of politics, when there is nothing to do but to try how not to do it (politically, I mean, I am not speaking personally), is the best time you can have to consider the question of woman suffrage, and I ask you to use your influence with the Senate to have it specially attended to this year. Do not make us come here thirty years longer. It is twelve years since the first time I came before a Senate committee. I said then to Charles Sumner, if I could make the honorable Senator from Massachusetts believe that I feel the degradation and the humiliation of disfranchisement precisely as he would if his fellows had adjudged him incompetent from any cause whatever from having his opinion counted at the ballot-box we should have our right to vote in the twinkling of an eye.


Mrs. SPENCER. Congress printed 10,000 copies of its proceedings concerning the memorial services of a dead man, Professor Henry. It cost me three months of hard work to have 3,000 copies of our arguments last year before the Committee on Privileges and Elections printed for 10,000,000 living women. I ask that the committee will have printed 10,000 copies of this report.

The CHAIRMAN. The committee have no power to order the printing. That can only be done by the order of the Senate. A resolution can be offered to that effect in the Senate. I have only to say, ladies, that you will admit that we have listened to you with great attention, and I can certainly say with very great interest. What you have said will be duly and earnestly considered by the committee.

Mrs. WALLACE. I wish to make just one remark in reference to what Senator Thurman said as to the popular vote being against woman suffrage. The popular vote is against it, but not the popular voice. Owing to the temperance agitation in the last six years the growth of the suffrage sentiment among the wives and mothers of this nation has largely increased.

Mrs. SPENCER. In behalf of the women of the United States, permit me to thank the Senate Judiciary Committee for their respectful, courteous, and close attention.

Mr. HOAR. Mr. President, I do not propose to make a speech at this late hour of the day; it would be cruel to the Senate; and I had not expected that this measure would be here this afternoon. I was absent on a public duty and came in just at the close of the speech of my honorable friend from Missouri [Mr. VEST]. I wish, however, to say one word in regard to what seemed to be the burden of his speech.

He says that the women who ask this change in our political organization are not simply seeking to be put upon school boards and upon boards of health and charity and upon all the large number of duties of a political nature for which he must confess they are fit, but he says they will want to be President of the United States, and want to be Senators, and want to be marshals and sheriffs, and that seems to him supremely ridiculous. Now I do not understand that that is the proposition. What they want to do and to be is to be eligible to such public duty as a majority of their fellow-citizens may think they are fitted for. The majority of public duties in this country do not require robust, physical health, or exposure to what is base or unhealthy; and when those duties are imposed upon anybody they will be imposed only upon such persons as are fit for them. But they want that if the majority of the American people think a woman like Queen Victoria, or Queen Elizabeth, or Queen Isabella of Spain, or Maria Theresa of Hungary (the four most brilliant sovereigns of any sex in modern history with only two or three exceptions), the fittest person to be President of the United States, they may be permitted to exercise their choice accordingly.

Old men are eligible to office, old men are allowed to vote, but we do not send old men to war, or make constables or watchmen or overseers of State prisons of old men; and it is utterly idle to suppose that the fitness to vote or the fitness to hold office has anything to do with the physical strength or with the particular mental qualities in regard to which the sexes differ from each other.

Mr. President, my honorable friend spoke of the French revolution and the horrors in which the women of Paris took part, and from that he would argue that American wives and mothers and sisters are not fit for the calm and temperate management of our American republican life. His argument would require him by the same logic to agree that republicanism itself is not fit for human society. The argument is the argument against popular government whether by man or woman, and the Senator only applies to this new phase of the claim of equal rights what his predecessors would argue against the rights we now have applied to us.

But the Senator thought it was unspeakably absurd that a woman with her sentiment and emotional nature and liability to be moved by passion and feeling should hold the office of Senator. Why, Mr. President, the Senator's own speech is a refutation of its own argument. Everybody knows that my honorable friend from Missouri is one of the most brilliant men in this country. He is a logician, he is an orator, he is a man of large experience, he is a lawyer entrusted with large interests; yet when he was called upon to put forth this great effort of his this afternoon and to argue this question which he thinks so clear, what did he do? He furnished the gush and the emotion and the eloquence, but when he came to any argument he had to call upon two women, Mrs. Leonard and Mrs. Whitney to supply all that. [Laughter.] If Mrs. Leonard and Mrs. Whitney have to make the argument in the Senate of the United States for the brilliant and distinguished Senator from Missouri it does not seem to me so absolutely ridiculous that they should have or that women like them should have seats here to make arguments of their own. [Manifestations of applause in the galleries.]

The joint resolution was reported to the Senate without amendment.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. If no amendment be proposed the question is, shall the joint resolution be engrossed for a third reading?

Mr. COCKRELL. Let us have the yeas and nays.

Mr. BLAIR. Why not take the yeas and nays on the passage?

Mr. COCKRELL. Very well.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The call is withdrawn.

The joint resolution was ordered to be engrossed for a third reading, and was read the third time.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Shall the joint resolution pass?

Mr. COCKRELL. I call for the yeas and nays.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Upon this question the yeas and nays will necessarily be taken.

The Secretary proceeded to call the roll.

Mr. CHACE (when his name was called). I am paired with the Senator from North Carolina [Mr. RANSOM]. If he were present I should vote "yea."

Mr. DAWES (when his name was called). I am paired with the Senator from Texas [Mr. MAXEY]. I regret that I am not able to vote on this question. I should vote "yea" if he were here.

Mr. COKE. My colleague [Mr. MAXEY], if present, would vote "nay."

Mr. GRAY (when Mr. GORMAN'S name was called). I am requested by the Senator from Maryland [Mr. GORMAN] to say that he is paired with the Senator from Maine [Mr. FRYE].

Mr. STANFORD (when his name was called). I am paired with the Senator from West Virginia [Mr. CAMDEN]. If he were present I should vote "yea."

The roll-call was concluded.

Mr. HARRIS. I have a general pair with the Senator from Vermont [Mr. EDMUNDS], who is necessarily absent from the Chamber, but I see his colleague voted "nay," and as I am opposed to the resolution I will record my vote "nay."

Mr. KENNA. I am paired on all questions with the Senator from New York [Mr. MILLER].

Mr. JONES, of Arkansas. I have a general pair with the Senator from Indiana [Mr. HARRISON]. If he were present I should vote "nay" on this question.

Mr. BROWN. I was requested by the Senator from South Carolina [Mr. BUTLER] to announce his pair with the Senator from Pennsylvania [Mr. CAMERON], and to say that if the Senator from South Carolina were present he would vote "nay." I do not know how the Senator from Pennsylvania would vote.

Mr. CULLOM. I was requested by the Senator from Maine [Mr. FRYE] to announce his pair with the Senator from Maryland [Mr. GORMAN].

The result was announced—yeas 16, nays 34; as follows:


Blair, Bowen, Cheney, Conger, Cullom, Dolph, Farwell, Hoar, Manderson, Mitchell of Oreg., Mitchell of Pa., Palmer, Platt, Sherman, Teller, Wilson of Iowa.


Beck, Berry, Blackburn, Brown, Call, Cockrell, Coke, Colquitt, Eustis, Evarts, George, Gray, Hampton, Harris, Hawley, Ingalls, Jones of Nevada, McMillan, McPherson, Mahone, Morgan, Morrill, Payne, Pugh, Saulsbury, Sawyer, Sewell, Spooner, Vance, Vest, Walthall, Whitthorne, Williams, Wilson of Md.


Aldrich, Allison, Butler, Camden, Cameron, Chace, Dawes, Edmunds, Fair, Frye, Gibson, Gorman, Hale, Harrison, Jones of Arkansas, Jones of Florida, Kenna, Maxey, Miller, Plumb, Ransom, Riddleberger, Sabin, Stanford, Van Wyck, Voorhees.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Two-thirds have not voted for the resolution. It is not passed.

Mr. PLUMB subsequently said: I wish to state that I was unexpectedly called out of the Senate just before the vote was taken on the constitutional amendment, and to also state that if I had been here I should have voted for it.


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