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The great usurpation is now affirmed, legalized, by the decree of the Judicial Department of this government! More than 20,000,000 of the people of this Nation have been declared without the pale of political rights secured to them by the Const.i.tution of the fathers. This decision indorses the disfranchis.e.m.e.nt of every female in the land, so long endured by her. Her citizenship, which the National Const.i.tution makes evidence of her copartnership, or tenancy in common, or proprietorship in the Government, is worthless--is only a name; and does not enable her to exercise the privileges and immunities of our system of self-government which that Const.i.tution declares this government to be--a government by and for its citizens. Woman can not now exercise her const.i.tutional right--she is only a cipher, important once in a decade, in numbering the people--she is only a political slave, a helpless Helot. Make ready, adorn your person, O woman, to celebrate the coming centennial of the Declaration of American Independence of the British throne! Mark! a woman sits upon that throne and wears the royal crown! But, glorious parchment is that old Declaration. That instrument marks an epoch in government and political philosophy. It certifies the rights of the human race. Its truths sounded in American ears on every fourth of July, for one hundred years, save one, have, nevertheless, failed in their realization, and, to-day, one half the population of this Nation can not exercise a political right. How happens this state of affairs?--not that the Const.i.tution hinders woman and prevents her partic.i.p.ation in matters of government, for it is abundant in its provisions in her behalf. Let me examine and try to ascertain the point of difficulty. I copy from the Const.i.tution a provision which covers the entire question of woman's right of suffrage:
"The House of Representatives shall be composed of members chosen every second year, by the people of the several States; and the electors in each State shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the State Legislature."--[_Art._ 1. _Sec._ 2.]
The law and logic of woman's right--her political right--to vote for members of Congress, President and Vice-President, appear thus in argument: These officers are to be chosen "by the people of the several States"--that is by the men and women of the Nation. The personality of the people, by the creative fiat, is distinguished by difference of s.e.x, male and female. The choosers, the people of the several States, are required to have certain qualifications to enable them to choose, and these qualifications are to be subject to State regulations. The right to vote for these officers of the United States is anch.o.r.ed in the Const.i.tution--no State may nullify that right--it can only regulate its exercise:--for example, prescribe, as qualifications for access to the ballot-box, that the chooser or voter shall be twenty-one years old, a resident of the State for one year, of the county or town for thirty days, etc.--these are properly qualifications and such as the Const.i.tution intends. Every State Const.i.tution limits the right to a part only of the people, which is denial of right to the other portion of the people, and not regulation or the right by way of adjective qualifications, as ill.u.s.trated above.
Can s.e.x either qualify or disqualify a chooser, one of the people to cast a ballot for President? All the States, in unchecked nullification, p.r.o.nounce in the affirmative and write it in their const.i.tutions--the masculine qualifies, the feminine disqualifies--and this has just now been echoed by the Supreme Court of the United States! My mind and reason forbid my acceptance of such postulate.
The term "people" comprehends and includes female persons as well as male persons. It is impossible, therefore, that s.e.x, either the one or the other, is contemplated by the Const.i.tution as a qualification or disqualification for suffrage. There must be National officers, President, etc., else no government; they are to be chosen--this calls for choosers or voters; the "people" are to choose--the people are a majority of persons--these persons are, some male, some female--no limitation is indicated as to which shall belong the right to vote; s.e.x, it seems, is out of the question, as the people are of both s.e.xes, so both male and female must vote or choose at the polls. Let the States regulate the approaches to the ballot-box, but not deny the right of user, by the people of the Nation. The Const.i.tution exacts all this--it is plain, it is positive--there is no hint in the same that there shall be had at the polls any preference on account of s.e.x.
Expulsion of woman from the polls by State nullification is a gigantic wrong--a villainous usurpation.
Again, some things carry in their very face the absurd, the incongruous, the ridiculous; States enacting laws and forming const.i.tutions which are interpreted as warrants of right to vote--the masculine gender, this qualifies for voting--the feminine, this disqualifies the voter. How ridiculous! Virility the distinguishing qualification of voters in the United States! How queer this looks and sounds. s.e.x is elemental--inherent in all the people, and should never be deemed ground of qualification or disqualification to vote, any more than the height or weight of person. But the Supreme Court of the United States wink at the wickedness of the States as nullifiers, and allow the masculine usurpation to remain. Perhaps this grave body of learned Justices look upon the question of qualification in a broader or other sense than that taught by Dr. Webster. Their decision, it seems, turns upon the use and meaning of that word. This, then, is the solemn conclusion of the embodied justice of the land--_qualification to vote_, MASCULINE GENDER!--and not things in common belonging to every person of the entire population, no matter what the s.e.x; such as age, residence, etc.
Madam, you have no available political rights--the Const.i.tution intends you shall have and exercise them, and it has made provisions accordingly--but the false interpretations of the courts, and the trespa.s.sing State Const.i.tutions have hitherto hindered you. But I believe a day of revolution, call it reckoning if you please, is at hand--fast approaching. President Lincoln liberated by proclamation, three or four millions of chattel slaves. President Grant has the power, Const.i.tutional power, to liberate, to-day, twenty millions of political slaves, of which, I am sorry to say, you are one. Let politicians and political parties beware how they treat this question of woman suffrage. What became of the old Whig Party, in consequence of its alliance with chattel slavery. _Illium fuit._
Sincerely yours, etc., HORACE DRESSER.
[The Toledo _Sunday Journal._]
The New York _Evening Post_ has a long article relative to the decision of the Supreme Court regarding the right of women to vote under the Const.i.tution of the United States, coinciding in the decision. It closes by saying: "The advocates of woman suffrage will scarcely be disappointed by this judgment. We do not believe that sincere friends of the proposed reform will regret the failure to secure it by trickery."
There are few who have maintained that the XIV. and XV. Amendments secured suffrage to women as well as to colored men, who would be willing to admit that they desired to obtain suffrage through trickery? Either it is, or is not, conveyed through the Const.i.tution and the Amendments. Certainly if it is, they have a right to avail themselves of it; and even if it is not, it is nevertheless, a right.
The woman suffragists believe that the withholdal from women of the right of suffrage is a fraud and an imposition. To secure them what is already their right, can not involve trickery. Every day and every hour that the right of suffrage is withheld from women, a monstrous wrong is practiced upon them. As long as there were no women who demanded the ballot, and by tacit consent it was relinquished, the fraud practiced by debarring them from it was merely of a negative character--but the privilege should have been left open; but from the moment that one woman demanded it, an outrage was practiced upon her by the entire people in denying it her, and the plea that it is not woman's sphere, which is sometimes made, is the most shallow subterfuge of any, for it is not for men, but for woman alone, to determine what that sphere is, or is not.
 Alvin Stewart, one of the n.o.ble pioneers in Anti-Slavery.