The American Sovereign
1888 — delivered as a lyceum speech
Since the earliest ages, when men first organized into systematic societies, there have been disputes among the leading minds of every people as to what ought to constitute an ideal form of government. The opinions, of course, have been very different, but upon our definition of what that government ought to be, the statesmen of every race, and time, and training have been agreed. They have all declared that government will most nearly approach the perfect and ideal, which gives to all its citizens the strongest possible inducement to be virtuous, honest and law-abiding. It has been the ambition of all great nations to so mould their institutions and of all good men and women to so live their lives that they might help that Utopian government to come to be. But as we look back over the long, dark ages past, it would seem no nation yet had ever found the ideal. It would seem, too, that America, representing as she so fondly boasts, the vanguard floodtide of governmental programs has much to do before she can hope to call herself ideal.
In America, instead of an inducement which shall make it easy for her citizens to be virtuous, honest and law-abiding, there are many symptoms to prove that an actual incentive is given rather to encourage dishonesty, bribery and intrigue. Year after year, the statistician sends abroad the alarming report that out of all proportion to our population, despite the fact the millions of dollars are yearly expended upon the education of our youth, ignorance is actually on the increase among us. He calls attention, year after year, to the demand for more and larger penitentiaries, which are intended to enclose the increasing numbers of our criminals, again out of proportion to our population. He points to the rising piles of architecture dotting our fair land in every direction and which is intended to shelter the rapidly increasing numbers of our insane, idiots, and other [illegible] insane. And now he sends out the climax of all these years of startling warnings with the statement that in proportion to her population America is today supporting a larger number of these unfortunates than any other nation in the World.
Why is it so? What does it mean? What is there in the nature of our climate, in the characteristics of our people, in the peculiarities of our government, which should foster and stimulate the growth of these festering ills of humanity. Surely no government will dare to call itself ideal, of which it is said that poverty and crime and ignorance and insanity all constantly on the increase. Yet these are the conditions the statistician declares are ours.
Americans are charged with being boastful. Visiting foreigners have almost universally declared we are all so proud of our past achievements we never stop to look calmly into the face of the future. They say too, we are all certain Americans are the second chose people, whose land is to be divinely guarded from every peril.
¬A few years ago, there was held in Paris a great dinner where a number of distinguished American gentlemen were present. A witty Frenchman was asked to respond to the toast “America.” Knowing the reputation for exaggeration which Americans bore, and wishing to make the guests feel real good, he exclaimed in his [illegible], “Long live America, that land is bounded on the North by the Arctic Ocean, on the South by the Antarctic, on the East by the Atlantic and on the West by the Pacific.” No sooner was he seated and the roars of laughter and applause, than an American gentleman sprang to his feet and begged permission to correct the Geography of the speaker. “America,” said he, “is bounded on the North by the Aurora Borealis, on the South by the Southern Lights, on the East by the Rising and on the West by the Setting Sun.” Another American gentleman sprang to his feet and shouted, “Oh no, America is bounded in the North by the North Star, on the South by the precession of the Equinoxes, on the East by the primeval chaos and on the West by the Day of Judgement.” Indeed it is true, for the principle upon which the American government is founded is as broad as the Universe and as enduring as time.
Yet this national doctor of ours – the statistician, who is employed by the government to feel the public pulse, and report upon the public health sends in year after year, the diagnosis that after all, the Republic is diseased. Not a simple indisposition which time will cure, but a disease which grows more deepseated and dreadful as the years go by; a disease that requires the severest of remedies and the most heroic treatment.
Will the American people then, be content to rest the destiny of this great nation upon its past achievements? Or, like true patriots will they turn their faces toward this new enemy and order of the fight until another victory has been put behind them.
Let us ask why these things are so.
The great indulging principle of the far-famed American liberties, the very foundation of the government itself is that here the will of the majority shall be the law of all. That will is our only ruler, the only sovereign America knows. Take away that sovereign and what kind of government do we possess? Only usurpation of power, despotism or anarchy. Yet in many localities in the U.S. this principle is no longer true. The true sovereign has been deposed and the political adventurer has stolen the scepter of power. Unconsciously, the American Sovereign has dropped his ermine and the political boss has donned the imperial robe.
I have long believed the sublimest piece of cheek on record is that of the man who wrote a letter to Benjamin Franklin when that gentleman was in Paris seeking aid and sympathy for the American cause of Independence. Already the backbone of England’s tyranny had been broken and America had announced herself free and independent. The letter was written with the request that it should be handed to the proper authorities in America. Said the man: The Americans have dismissed their King meaning George the Third. Of course they will want another. I suppose even now they are looking for a suitable person to sit on the American throne. Now, I have behind me a pedigree dating back straight and unbroken to William the Conqueror. Both by birth and training I am an aristocrat. Since the English speaking people have often drawn their Kings from Normandy, I consider that I possess the most emphatic claims to the American throne of anyone living.” Now that man was not a crank. He was simply a good King out of a job. For some reason B. Franklin never sent that letter to America. Perhaps if he had we should have been a monarchy to-day, who knows. In a short time another letter came. He didn’t threaten to go over to America and put himself on the American throne, as they used to do in those days, but he very generously declared that Americans didn’t want his services, he wouldn’t come, but he did insist that they should acknowledge he was the one rightful claimant to the American throne by making him a present of about $150,000 in cash.
The Americans were not willing to pay for that man’s pedigree, but they were willing to expend millions of dollars and sacrifice noble human life that they might put upon that same American throne the will of the American people. Today, there has arisen in America a class of men not intelligent, not patriotic, not moral, nor yet not pedigreed. Men who have not the politeness of their prototypes of old and have forgotten to say, ‘By your leave, gentlemen, I’ll rule this government for you, but they have forcefully seized the reins of government.
In caucuses and conventions, it is they who nominate officials, at the polls through corrupt means, it is they who elect them and by bribery, it is they who secure the passage of many a legislative measure.
Every city has its armies of ignorant un-American voters. Ignorant, they know nothing of our institutions, they have no opinion upon political issues. Many times new comers from the old world they do not comprehend the meaning of a representative government. They do not understand their own interests in this new and strange land but they very soon discover that a vote has a money value and they become the ready tools of these designing and wily politicians.
More than a century ago, when there were few who believed a Republican form of government would ever prove permanent, Lord McCaulay, the great English historian, write and statesman exclaimed: “America will not live long. Whenever a government puts the ballot in the hands of her promiscuous citizens as America has done, it will not be long ere some Caesar or Napoleon among them will seize the reins of government and the Republic become a Monarchy.” These are the evidences, which urge the Am. people to vigorous action, lest the words of Lord McCaulay’s prophecy will yet prove true. The imperial Caesar or Napoleon has not come to turn the Republic backward into a Monarchy, but a new type of the despot has found his way among us.
The political boss has come to be the great autocrat in America. By means of his well disciplined armies of hired and controlled voters, he holds unchallenged sway over the greatest of nations. He knows how to give and to take bribes; to intimidate the cowardly, to terrify the weak, to wheedle the ignorant; to cajole the evil-minded. He knows how to enlist the criminal, the idle, the illiterate in the service of American politics.
Scarcely a city is there which is not under the control of a corrupt political machine. It is these cities which control the nation. Every presidential campaign brings up anew the discussion upon the result in N.Y. for as upon a pivot, the whole election is apt to turn upon that state, but the state of New York is controlled by the city of New York. 88% of whose population is foreign and where it is a notorious fact there has not been held an honest election for years.
Taking the cue from the political bossism everywhere prevalent in the cities, money has come to be the great controlling power in American politics. Does a great railroad company want a new franchise, does a corporation desire any legislative furor, a manufacturer want a new tariff on his goods, money is the lever used to accomplish the object. It may enter into any consideration from a ward caucus to a cabinet council. Many great corporations keep in their constant employ, professional lobbyists whose business it is to look after their legislative interests. These agents always go well provided with that lubricator of legislation American gold. A year or two ago the Brewers’ Association sent a lobbyist into the West with the instructions to take an inventory of all the legislatures and ascertain for what sum each man could be bought. One day one of these men who had imbibed rather more of the commodity he represented than he ought, waxed confidential and showed the list to the Illinois legislature to a friend. The sums for which he estimated they could be bought ranged all the way from $100,000 down to two for a nickel. No one believes he told the truth, yet here, there and everywhere this political corruption crops out in unexpected places. It may be a U.S. senator has brought his way to the highest legislative hall of the land; it may be some unworthy man has been hoisted into a state assembly by a corrupt political machine, or worse than all it may be a judge through dishonest means has found his way to the bench – a man who knows no more of justice than the purity of Heaven and yet in his hands are to be balanced every day the rights and liberties of American citizens.
To be sure there are honest elections, honest legislation, honest politicians. It may be they are yet the rule, but to the influence of these corrupt men and methods is due the result of more legislation than the self-respecting American will care to admit. There is a cheap sort of patriotism in America which cries out in response to any warning of this character whether from platform, pulpit or press, “It is a lie, It is a lie.” But it is true and every intelligent person knows it is true. The man who denies that American politics are not largely under the control of political bossism acknowledges himself to be exceedingly badly informed.
The true American asks himself rather, What connection is there between this growing political corruption and the increase of poverty, ignorance and crime among us? Does ignorance and poverty cause political corruption, or does political dishonesty cause poverty and crime. What does it all mean?
Is there anyone who will say there is any other cause than this: Political bossism is possible because of the cheapness of the American ballot. The gates of our Nationality are opened wide and through them into every port there comes marching an army thousands strong. Every nation has its classes called in modern slang its slums. America has hers, the classes of ignorance, poverty and crime. Deeper and deeper into those classes our European immigration has been dipping each year. Since 1820 the government has kept the most careful and complete statistics of our immigration. For the past twenty years the character of this immigration has experienced a vast and decided change. Today the statistician tells us that it no longer comes from the same localities and classes as in former years, but from those provinces which lie further inland, where poverty is greatest and intelligence is least. There are fewer Germans and Englishmen and more Hungarians and Italians. Fewer Swedes and Danes and more Russian and Polish Jews. I would I could take you with me to the wharves of Ellis Island the new Castle Garden to see those great barges unload their cargoes of future citizens. I would that you could look upon that poverty and degradation and dirt. I would that you look into those faces hardened with crime and stolid with ignorance. Then you, too, would know, as no figures of the statistician could ever make you understand that he has told the truth, when he declares that our immigrants are coming no longer from the fields the factories and business houses of Europe, but from the overcrowded tenement, the work-house, the street. Do not misunderstand me. There are still good people among these immigrants. Men and women whom America gladly welcomes. She still has need of every honest brain and honest muscle; but the fact remains that every year we are receiving fewer good people and more of the slum element. There was a little in the early days of the Republic when every shipload from a foreign shore brought strength and energy and wealth and resources to America – qualities which go to build up a great nation – and every shipload left behind it heavier burdens because these people had come to America. To-day, the tables are turned, and every shipload brings added ignorance and crime and poverty and leaves relief behind it. Here then lies the secret of the increase in ignorance and poverty and crime. The world is making of America a dumping ground for all her evil elements. It is easier to exile criminals than to punish them. It is cheaper to export paupers than to maintain them.
Imagine one of our South American Republics should offer some inducement for new settlers which should compel a great stream of immigration to set out from the U.S. and which should carry with it great numbers of our criminal, ignorant and very poor. Is there any one who does not believe America could furnish enough such people to swamp any Republic in that Southern Continent. And is there any one who does not know such an exodus would bring the strongest relief along every line of our public life? Yet these are the conditions in the United States today.
America is rich and prosperous. America is generous. It may be she is amply able to build asylums for Europes unfortunates, penitentiaries for her criminals, almshouses for her poor. It may be it is her duty to help the Old World bear the burdens which have resulted from her own centuries of mismanagement. It may be true philanthropy that Am. should step from her throne of prosperity and extend the right hand of fellowship to these unfortunate victims of Europe’s tyranny. It is not against aught of this, I would make protest.
But there is a result, a most natural result of this change in the character of our immigration which I say demands the most speedy and careful investigation. For every one of these hundreds of thousands of citizens who yearly find their way to America, no matter what his ignorance, his character or his training, there awaits the crown of the sovereignty of this Nation.
Whether, or not the institution of political bossism would have existed had there been no unfortunate change in our immigration it needs only the most casual observation to prove. It is in those localities and cities where the census of 1890 tells us the population has been most largely swelled by the immigration and where the percent of foreign greatest that political bossism is most notoriously the ruling power. It is in the corrupt wards of these cities almost if not entirely occupied by foreigners where the bosses hold their greatest power. Whether it be the Russian vote, marched in line to the polls in the Dakotas or the Hungarian vote of the Montana and Washington mines, marshalled to vote the ticket they cannot read nor understand, or the ignorant Irish of the corrupt wards of Boston, San Francisco, and N.Y the story is the same. This great class of men with votes in great hands are a temptation to every designing demagogue. Let alone, they would not go near the polls. They know nothing of the issues of the candidates. Years ago the great strife between parties made it a part of campaign work to delegate men to see that these newcomers were familiarized with the issues and were taught how to vote. It was legitimate work and it was honestly done. But as their members grew greater and the passion and strife of partisanship grew more intense there came into being this class of middle men whose only business in life was the work of managing these votes.
Not long ago, I visited the Italian quarters in Boston. In a small square made by the meeting of three streets, was gathered a great crowd of men. The policeman who accompanied me said there were at least a thousand. Few if any, had wives or families in this country. None of them could speak English. None ever applied for work. They employed a middleman – one could speak a little English and who knows a little more of our customs. His business it was to contract these men in railroad or street companies at so much a head, exactly as he would so many horses and out of their wages he received a percent. The middle man is an aristocrat and never stoops to toil. He lives on the earnings of others.
It is precisely the same work these bosses do. They deliver votes at the polls and are paid in money or spoils which can be transferred into money. It is not difficult work. There are great lodging houses where hundreds of men are lodged every night at 10 cts apiece. Great blocks of tenements where whole families live in one small room. Why I visited in Boston a home (I suppose it would be called a home) where a man and his wife and five children lived, ate and slept in a room not more than 10 ft square and every night they fed eleven men boarders! So great is their poverty and so little their intelligence a few cents, a drink, a quid of tobacco a job on the street or in Boston a plate of beans is enough to make sure of a vote.
If there is any man, or woman of foreign birth here, who thinks I am making war upon foreigners, let him not mistake my meaning. A German vote, an Irish vote is as good as an American vote when they are honest votes. I believe a ballot is a priceless possession to whoever will exercise it honestly and put his own opinion in the ballot box. But the moment he has sold it, I believe it becomes a damage to him, a wrong to his fellow citizens and a menace to society. The danger lies not so much in the fact that it is an alien vote as that it is an ignorant and a controlled vote. There American men who stand high in the organization of the political machines. American who sell their votes too, but the great power of the machine lies in the ward bosses who deliver at the polls the strong, solid votes. This is the power which carries elections, dictates terms to political parties, modifies the enactments of legislatures and city councils, selects the men who are to enforce our laws. It is they, this ignorant alient corrupt class, disguise it as we may, who to-day hold the balance of power.
The Republic is in danger. The choicest liberties of the American people are in the clutches of an unrelenting octopus, whose grip grows tighter and tighter as the years go by. The danger which threatens is greater far than that of besieging armies. It is civil treason – a treason that works in the dark and in secret and while great men are trying to settle financial and commercial questions in the interests of the nation is setting the bombs and lighting the fuse which is to destroy the very foundation of the Republic. It is the gravest problem before the American people today – a problem before which all others fade into insignificance. America talks of reforms, of philanthropies, of great issues. Her politicians cry out the warning that if the silver question is not settled correctly, her financial reputation will be ruined and crises and disaster await her; they say if her tariff is tampered with her commerce will be endangered, but of what use is it to try these causes at the bar of public opinion when a great political machine thwarts every effort to secure the correct expression of opinion?
Is this problem before us because of the principle of our government represents a false idea? No, the principle upon which it is founded is as true and noble as when first propounded by the Pilgrim Fathers on the deck of the Mayflower. If all the future were to be revealed before us, there could be discovered no grander, truer principle than that of a whole obeying the honest will of a majority. Under a just administration and a right interpretation of that principle, there is no good, no generosity, no justice which might not be obtained.
The secret of America’s shame lies with the interpretation of her principles, the flaw is in the false basis of her citizenship. Under this system, the government crowns with sovereignty the alien fresh from foreign lands; which bestows upon the idle, the ignorant, the unworthy, the dignity of citizenship; which places the ballot in the polluted hands of the criminal; which grants the franchise to the uncivilized Indian of the Western prairies and the little less barbarous Mexican of the Southmost but all these years has denied it to intelligent American wives and mothers born and bred beneath the stars and stripes. It lies in the inconsistency with which admits to the suffrage, crime and vice and illiteracy when they come as the attributes of men byt refuses admittance to purity and virtue and intelligence and patriotism and honesty of purpose when they crown as the attributes of women.
Cheap as the American ballot has become women have asked in vain to share its privileges with men. They have asked it on grounds of reason, of common sense, of justice of chivalry. They now come asking it on the grounds of expediency.
Here is a great problem before the American people to be met with candor and determination. Women have it in their power to bring the solution. Will America accept it? But cannot good men correct the wrong? No, they tried for years and every year it’s power grows greater. Now and then the better element of a local party clears itself of this oppression. The political boss is dethroned. He loses control of the wires of the machine, his followers forsake him and he sinks into the oblivion from which he came. But the reform is only temporary. Soon there comes another boss more powerful and vindictive than the last. But will not a political party some day make its chief business the correction of this mischief. If so, if a political party great enough to put a plank in its platform declaring it proposed to wage war upon bossism until its every post was routed in the words of a southern politician, “that party would be permitted to walk through a slaughter house into an open grave. Political parties stand powerless and polarized, before the awful power of these political managers with the armies of voters behind them.
No, it is only by the introduction into each political party of enough intelligence and patriotism to outvote this slum influence – an element whose vote and influence must be bid for in platforms and at the polls, exactly as today parties bid for this controlled vote – an element that shall have in its heart the purification of American politics and the perpetuity of the Republic. Where shall we find it? In American women.
It is a demonstrated fact that the evil and arbitrary control of our politics is due to the great number of ignorant foreigners added to our own ignorant American men. But it is a demonstrated fact that during the past twenty years for every three men who have come to America there has been but one woman. It is plain to see the ballot in the hands of women means an element a much greater proportion of which has been born upon our soil, educated in our public schools, familiar with our institutions.
It would seem that the introduction of this class, whose intelligence and patriotism as a whole have been proved, would become a weapon all sufficient to pit against that enemy which threatens the life of the nation. But the danger which threatens is serious and we must make the remedy doubly sure. Men have it in their power to give the ballot to women upon any terms they may prescribe. There are few women to correspond to the men who are making most of the mischief. The rest would be barred out by the educational test. Despite all the efforts of the bosses, they would be outvoted, their power wrested from their hands and America redeemed from this disgrace.
This is not a mere theory. It is a fact which can be demonstrated in all its parts from the figures of the U.S. Census.
Story of mustard plaster.
I think the best thing for us to do is to stir up a big rousing mustard plaster of facts and figures and put it on the back of this rheumaticky old Republic. If she don’t wake up to do justice to women, she may at least see that something is the matter. It wouldn’t be long before she would discover the remedy. It is simple, so plain, so near at hand.
There was once a man who said when “his mind was once made up, he was sot and when he was sot, no meetin’ house was ever sotter.” There are a great many people like that man and they are “sot” against woman suffrage. They couldn’t give you a respectable reason for the faith that is in them but if you get them nailed up in a corner they seem to turn a sort of crank and out at you will pop up some objection they have picked up somewhere. The first one which is sure to be hurled at you is that women don’t know enough to vote. With all due humility I am free to acknowledge there are many women who do not know enough to vote. It was one of George Eliot’s characters who said: “I’m not after denyin the women are foolish. God made ‘em so to match the men.”
Now in all candor don’t you think there is a great deal of ditto about the average woman’s foolishness. Certainly everybody knows there are a great many women who know a great deal more than a great many men. Very well then let us be consistent. When you say some women do not know enough to vote, you mean that the possession of the ballot ought to be based on intelligence. Let us make such a basis then. It would not be unjust, for the door would be left open whereby whoever would could come into citizenship. Do not misunderstand me. Suffragists would never be content to accept the ballot with an educational basis unless eventually the same basis shall be given to men. We believe in consistency. I know it is today a very unpopular theory, but yet I believe I shall live to see the time when every man and woman who comes to vote must be compelled to be able to read the U.S. constitution and to understand what that constitution means. Today there are I believe a million men voting in every state in the union who couldn’t tell you the difference between a constitution and a hay maker. If those who object to woman suffrage upon the ground that some are ignorant, would be consistent and carry it out to its logical conclusion, they would at once urge an educational qualification for all voters. Had we such a basis of citizenship who is there who doubts that the institution of political bossism would fade away like dew before the morning sun?
The objectors say only wicked and debased women would vote and because there are bad women, women as a class are not good enough to vote. Story of Cheyenne women. …Every Good and decent woman in Cheyenne went to the polls to vote against the bad women and the bad men who had hired their votes. They were all so overwhelmingly defeated no party or candidate has every dared to pose as the bad woman’s friend. The bad women do vote sometimes, but they vote exactly as a bad man votes to defend their interests. I stand here to say that if it is right for every species of bad man to vote in order to defend his iniquities, it is equally right for the bad woman to vote to defend her iniquities. But what do you mean when you say women are not good enough to vote? Why you say virtue and uprightness of character ought to be the basis of citizenship. Very well, I will pledge you the faith of every woman suffragist that we will stand by you in any regulation of the ballot which shall bar out every individual, man or woman mind you, who has ever been behind prison bars, who has ever lain drunk in the gutter, who has kept or patronized any gambling den or disreputable house or gives any evidence of debased or immoral character. That would be consistency. If we had such a government as that again the problem of political bossism would be solved.
The objectors tell us women would vote just as their husbands do and nothing would be gained. They would have no opinions of their own and most women could be bribed by the promise of a new dress or an Easter bonnet. Ah, then you mean that independence of thought and action ought to be the basis of citizenship. We will make it so, we will bar out from the privilege of voting every woman who sells her vote for a new dress or a spring bonnet. But at the same time we must be consistent and bar out every man who sold his vote for a cigar or a glass of whiskey or the promise of an office at some future day. Such a basis would not bar out all women I can assure you.
I will remember a case which illustrates this objection. It was the night before the vote was to be taken on the prohibitory amendment. Directly across the street from my boarding house, there was a squalid little hovel where there lived a family any community would be glad to be rid of. There was a large family of children – two of them were idiots and one was a cripple. The mother was a hard working washer-woman and entirely supported the family including, as might be expected, a husband who was in a chronic state of drunkenness. He came home that night at a late hour – long after I had retired and very soon as conversation began which was so loud and boisterous, it not only awakened me, but every word of it came floating across the street. She said he must vote the amendment ticket the next day and he said he wouldn’t. She said he should and he said he shouldn’t. She plead with him as best she knew how and told him she had cared for the family long enough and now she proposed to keep him sober so he could help her and as a means to that end he must vote the amendment ticket. Then he told her it was none of a woman’s business how a man voted. The last I heard of it, after about two hours, she was telling him that if he would not promise to vote for it, she would lock him up and would not let him out all day. If he wouldn’t vote for it, he shouldn’t vote against it. The next morning I saw them walking down the street together and of course I wondered what it meant. I learned later that the woman walked with her husband all the way to the polls and there personally superintended the deposit of an amendment ticket in the ballot box. Of course, according to this objection it should have been the woman who had been enfranchised and the man disfranchised. If we had this basis of citizenship that only those who are willing to vote their own thoughts and feelings shall vote at all, again we have solved this perplexing problem for the secret which makes it possible is that men are influenced and controlled.
But another class of objectors arise and declare this not the reason why women should disfranchised. Of course, women wouldn’t vote as their husbands told them to. They are too contrary everyone and they would all vote the other way and there would quarrels from morning till night. There was once a husband and wife who were always quarreling. One evening they were sitting around the fire and the wife pointed to the cat and dog lying side by side on the hearth and exclaimed “Just see how harmonious they are. Now why cannot we live in peace like that!” “O” growled the husband, “Just tire ’em together once and see how they would scratch and fight.” There are just such men and women and they do get tied together and they do scratch and fight. I know a man who gave his wife a good sound threshing because she signed a petition and I haven’t the slightest doubt that she would repeat the operation were she to vote any sort of a ticket. The meanness is not all confined to men and I know a woman who stole all her husband’s clothes and hid them and kept him in bed in day because he got so independent as to sell a calf without her knowledge. The difficulty was explained by Mrs. Livermore. She was going into Vermont to attend a suffrage convention. She was standing in a station waiting for the train when a little two for a nickel sort of a man peered around the stove at her and asked: “Be you a goin to hat woman’s rights convention.” Yes I am, very calmly replied Mrs. Livermore. “Well said the little man as he drew himself up to the height of all his dignity. If I had a woman what wanted to vote I wouldn’t live with her an hour.” Ah, exclaimed Mrs. L. after surveying him from head to foot. I should think, sir, that would be about 60 minutes longer than any woman who wanted to vote would live with you.” There is the principle of the whole thing. Whenever there is a man so mean and contemptible he isn’t willing to let his wife have an opinion of her own you may depend upon it the kind of a woman who would marry that kind of a man, is one who doesn’t want an opinion. And when you find a woman who is so mean and contemptible she doesn’t want her husband to have an opinion of his own, she has married one of these sissy sort of men who never from the time he was born dared say his soul was his own. So after all, nature makes most matches all right. But we will suppose there are to be some political quarrels. What can be the cause of them? It would certainly be the man trying to coerce the wife into his way of voting or the wife trying to coerce the husband into voting her way, wouldn’t it? That would be intimidation. But a free and untrammelled expression of opinion is the theory of government. We will therefore, have to make another basis of citizenship. We must bar out every woman who intimidates her husband and makes him vote the way he don’t want to. We must bar out the husband who intimidates his wife and won’t let her vote the way she wants to. Then we must be consistent and bar out every employer who won’t let his employees vote the way they want to and every political boss who attempts to compel with bribery or intimidation anybody to vote the way he wants them to. And again we have solved for all time the problem which is crying for attention.
These are but fair specimens of the objections that are urged against woman’s enfranchisement, yet if the objectors were consistent and would apply the same objection to men, we must have a reorganization of our government upon every count.
We are told politics is a dirty mire and good men say they would shield us from its contaminating influence. It is a dirty mire. So much so has it become that no man can be sure any election has been honest, nor can he be sure any act of any legislature has really resulted from the majority of the legislators and not from the influence of the Third House. It is a dirty mire because the government has poured into it ignorance, immorality, dishonesty, crime, unworthiness and all the elements that go to make up a first class mire, and it has kept out of it the moral forces that could could neutralize the effect. Gentlemen if you will put the ballot in the hands of women, I pledge you the faith of every suffragist we will [illegible] into that mire some [illegible] of the very tallest pattern, we will drain off its filth and stench, we will fill it full of the good soil of patriotism and before you know it, you will find it transformed into a fertile field putting forth the pure blossoms of honest legislation again.
That woman suffrage will have this effect, the figures of the 11th Census proves beyond the shadow of a doubt. But if there are those who hesitate because of some fancied cause, I point there for the answer to that doubt to that peerless state of Wyoming. It was that state where for nearly a quarter of a century women have voted upon all questions men have that could produce a brave man, and a constituency to stand behind him, that he might have courage to rise in the halls of the United States Congress and say: Gentlemen: God only knows Wyoming needs statehood. We have thousands of acres which cannot be reclaimed without irrigation. Without statehood we cannot have irrigation and without this land, Wyoming is robbed of its best hope to become a great and powerful state. Yet I am told to say to you, that for all this Wyoming will stay out of the Union a hundred years if it cannot come in with the women too.” None of the dreadful things which everybody said would happen, have happened in Wyoming. On the contrary as we might expect the women have been lifted out of the monotony of the things which make up everyday life by this political responsibility, and we find them on the whole, more intelligent bigger hearted, better informed more individualized than the women of any other state.
H. W. Beecher or Oliver Wendell Holmes, the saying is credited to both, said: “If you want to make the most of yourself, select very carefully your grandfather and grandmother. If it were possible for you to select your grandmother, what kind of a woman would you pick out. Would you select a [illegible] sort of woman who never dared say her soul was her own. We have plenty such women. I know one who never says like other women, where she sees a cloud, “Why it is going to rain.” But she invariably say: “Richard thinks it is going to rain.” Is that the kind of woman you would select, or would you take one of the big hearted philanthropic Wyoming women with a broad outlook on life. If you care anything for the talents and character you would inherit, that is the sort of woman you would select. Then I ask you to give to posterity that kind of a motherhood.
The gravest problem ever presented to the American people for consideration is before them now. The Census of 1890 proves that women hold the Solution in their hands. The beneficence of woman’s influence in politics is proves by the 23 yrs of experience in Wyoming. Then why shall we hesitate to establish this greatest of reforms? All justice and truth and righteousness speak for it. Expediency demands it as the policy which alone can lift our nation from disgrace. I do not ask the ballot for women as a privilege, nor a favor, I ask it as the highest duty which citizen owe to the nation whose best interests they are pledged to defend. I do not ask women to accept it as a privilege or favor. I ask them to take it as a sacred duty of human beings who are responsible to a Divine Maker for the best use of their lives. No one doubts today that woman suffrage will one day be established. The only question is when and how. A statesman was once in the days before the Revolution trying to induce a Tory to join the army. The Tory was standing in the door of his own house and at his feet played a bright haired little boy, “I know said the Tory that some day there must be war. I know America will be free from England and I know when that time comes we will all better off. But O, give me peace in my day. Cried the statesman “Shame shame if war there must be let us have it now, that peace may enter in that boys day!”
If there are any women here, who knowing the additional burden it will be to them to fit themselves for voting and would because of this shirk its responsibility. I too cry “Shame, shame, let us have the work and the burden now, for come it must, that we may give to our daughters the broader opportunities and liberty there is in full political equality.
If America would stay the tide of political corruption which is threatening her very life; if she would redeem her political machinery from the control of political bossism; if she would fill her offices of trust with honest men; if she would introduce into her governmental life the moral forces of the nation; if she would hope to progress toward that ideal government of the future; then she would offer an inducement to virtuous and honest citizenship, then must she prove true to the principles upon which she has been founded. She must lift out the bonds of political servility the half her people who furnish the greatest membership in her churches, informatory and philanthropic societies and who furnish a most meager percent to put in the penitentiaries, into the hands of this great moral army she must put
“That weapon that comes down as still,
As snow flakes fall upon the sod;
But executes a freeman’s will,
As lightning does the will of God;
And from its force, no door nor locks
Can shield you, ‘tis the ballot box.”