List Of Contents | Contents of Female Suffrage, by Susan Fenimore Cooper
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so much lately, vanishes into the "baseless fabric of a vision." If the
right were indeed inalienable, it should be granted, without regard to
consequences, as an act of abstract justice. But, happily for us,
none but the very wildest theorists are prepared to take this view of
the question of suffrage. The advocates of female suffrage must,
therefore, abandon the claim of inalienable right. Such a claim can
not logically be maintained for one moment in the face of existing
facts. We proceed to the third point.

told, must be the inevitable results of what is called the
emancipation of woman, the entire independence of woman through
the suffrage.

Here we find ourselves in a peculiar position. While considering the
previous points of this question we have been guided by positive
facts, clearly indisputable in their character. Actual, practical
experience, with the manifold teachings at her command, has come
to our aid. But we are now called upon, by the advocates of this
novel doctrine, to change our course entirely. We are under orders to
sail out into unknown seas, beneath skies unfamiliar, with small
light from the stars, without chart, without pilot, the port to which
we are bound being one as yet unvisited by mortal man--or woman!
Heavy mist, and dark cloud, and threatening storm appear to us
brooding over that doubtful sea. But something of prophetic vision is
required of us. We are told that all perils which seem to threaten the
first stages of our course are entirely illusive--that they will vanish
as we approach--that we shall soon arrive in halcyon waters, and
regions where wisdom, peace, and purity reign supreme. If we
cautiously inquire after some assurance of such results, we are told
that to those sailing under the flag of progress triumph is inevitable,
failure is impossible; and that many of the direst evils hitherto
known on earth must vanish at the touch of the talisman in the hand
of woman--and that talisman is the vote.

Now, to speak frankly--and being as yet untrammeled by political
aspirations, we fearlessly do so--as regards this flag of progress, we
know it to be a very popular bit of bunting; but to the eye of
common-sense it is grievously lacking in consistency. The flag of our
country means something positive. We all love it; we all honor it. It
represents to us the grand ideas by which the nation lives. It is the
symbol of constitutional government, of law and order, of union, of a
liberty which is not license. It is to us the symbol of all that may be
great and good and noble in the Christian republic. But this vaunted
flag of progress, so alluring to many restless minds, is vague in its
colors, unstable, too often illusive, in web and woof. Many of its
most prominent standard-bearers are clad in the motley garb of
theorists. Their flag may be seen wandering to and fro, hither and
thither, up and down, swayed by every breath of popular caprice; so
it move to the mere cry of "Progress!" its followers are content. To-
day, in the hands of the skeptical philosopher, it assaults the
heavens. Tomorrow it may: float over the mire of Mormonism, or
depths still more vile. It was under the flag of progress that, in the
legislative halls of France, the name of the Holy Lord God of Hosts,
"who inhabiteth eternity," was legally blasphemed. It was under the
flag of progress that, on the 10th of November, 1793, Therese
Momoro, Goddess of Reason, and wife of the printer Momoro, was
borne in triumph, by throngs of worshipers, through the streets of
Paris, and enthroned in the house of God.

Beyond all doubt, there is now, as there ever has been, an onward
progress toward truth on earth. But that true progress is seldom
rapid, excepting perhaps in the final stages of some particular
movement. It is, indeed, often so slow, so gradual, as to be
imperceptible at the moment to common observation. It is often
silent, wonderful, mysterious, sublime. It is the grand movement
toward the Divine Will, working out all things for eventual good. In
looking back, there are for every generation way-marks by which the
course of that progress may be traced. In looking forward no mortal
eye can foresee its immediate course. The ultimate end we know,
but the next step we can not foretell. The mere temporary cry of
progress from human lips has often been raised in direct opposition
to the true course of that grand, mysterious movement. It is like the
roar of the rapids in the midst of the majestic stream, which, in the
end, shall yield their own foaming waters to the calm current moving
onward to the sea. We ask, then, for something higher, safer, more
sure, to guide us than the mere popular cry of "Progress!" We dare
not blindly follow that cry, nor yield thoughtless allegiance to every
flag it upholds.

Then, again, as regards that talisman, the vote, we have but one
answer to make. We do not believe in magic. We have a very firm
and unchangeable faith in free institutions, founded on just
principles. We entirely believe that a republican form of government
in a Christian country may be the highest, the noblest, and the
happiest that the world has yet seen. Still, we do not believe in
magic. And we do not believe in idolatry. We Americans are just as
much given to idolatry as any other people. Our idols may differ from
those of other nations; but they are, none the less, still idols. And it
strikes the writer that the ballot-box is rapidly becoming an object of
idolatry with us. Is it not so? From the vote alone we expect all
things good. From the vote alone we expect protection against all
things evil. Of the vote Americans can never have too much--of the
vote they can never have enough. The vote is expected by its very
touch, suddenly and instantaneously, to produce miraculous changes;
it is expected to make the foolish wise, the ignorant knowing, the
weak strong, the fraudulent honest. It is expected to turn dross into
gold. It is held to be the great
educator, not only as regards races, and under the influence of time,
which is in a measure true, but as regards individuals and classes of
men, and that in the twinkling of an eye, with magical rapidity. Were
this theory practically sound, the vote would really prove a talisman.
In that case we should give ourselves no rest until the vote were
instantly placed in the hands of every Chinaman landing in California,
and of every Indian roving over the plains. But, in opposition to this
theory, what is the testimony of positive facts known to us all? Are
all voters wise? Are all voters honest? Are all voters enlightened?
Are all voters true to their high responsibilities? Are all voters
faithful servants of their country? Is it entirely true that the vote has
necessarily and really these inherent magical powers of rapid
education for individuals and for classes of men, fitting them, in
default of other qualifications, for the high responsibilities of
suffrage? Alas! we know only too well that when a man is not
already honest and just and wise and enlightened, the vote he holds
can not make him so. We know that if he is dishonest, he will sell
his vote; if he is dull and ignorant, he is misled, for selfish purposes
of their own, by designing men. As regards man, at least, the vote
can be too easily proved to be no talisman. It is very clear that for
man the ballot-box needs to be closely guarded on one side by
common-sense, on the other by honesty. A man must be endowed
with a certain amount of education and of principle, before he
receives the vote, to fit him for a worthy use of it. And if the vote be
really no infallible talisman for man, why should we expect it to work
magical wonders in the hands of woman?

But let us drop the play of metaphor, appropriate though it be when
facing the visions of political theorists. Let us look earnestly and
clearly at the positive facts before us. We are gravely told that to
grant the suffrage to woman would be a step inevitably beneficial
and elevating to the whole sex, and, through their influence, to the
entire race, and that, on this ground alone, the proposed change in
the constitution should be made. Here, so far at least as the
concluding proposition goes, we must all agree. If it can be clearly
proved that this particular change in our institutions is one so
fraught with blessings, we are bound to make it at every cost. The
true elevation of the whole race: that is what we are all longing for,
praying for. And is it indeed true that this grand work can effectually
be brought about by the one step we are now urged to take? What
says actual experience on this point? The whole history of mankind
shows clearly that, as yet, no one legislative act has ever
accomplished half of what is claimed by the advocates of woman's
suffrage as the inevitable result of the change they propose. No one
legislative act has ever been so widely comprehensive in its results
for good as they declare that this act shall be. No one legislative act
has ever raised the entire race even within sight of the point of
elevation predicted by the champions of what is called the
emancipation of woman. Hear them speak for themselves: "It is
hardly possible, with our present experience, to raise our
imaginations to the conception of so great a change for the better as
would be made by its removal"--the removal of the principle of the
subordination of the wife to the husband, and the establishment of
the entire independence of women, to be obtained by female
suffrage. These are not the words of some excited woman making a
speech at a public meeting. The quotation is from the writings of Mr.
Stuart Mill. The subordination of the wife to the husband is declared
by Mr. Mill to be "the citadel of the enemy." Storm the citadel,
proclaim the entire independence of the wife, and our feeble
imaginations, we are told, are utterly incapable of conceiving the
glorious future of the race consequent upon this one step. This is a
very daring assertion. It is so bold, indeed, as to require something
of positive proof ere we can yield to it our implicit belief. The citadel
we are urged to storm was built by the hand of God. The flag waving
over that citadel is the flag of the Cross. When the Creator made
one entire sex so much more feeble in physical powers than the
other, a degree of subordination on the part of the weaker sex
became inevitable, unless it were counteracted by increase of mental
ability, strengthened by special precept. But the mental ability, so
far as there is a difference, and the precept, are both on the side of
the stronger sex. The whole past history of the race coincides so
clearly with these facts that we should suppose that even those who
are little under the influence of Christian faith might pause era they
attacked that citadel. Common-sense might teach them something of
caution, something of humility, when running counter to the whole
past experience of the race. As for those who have a living belief in
the doctrines of Christianity, when they find that revealed religion,
from the first of the Prophets to the last of the Apostles, allots a
subordinate position to the wife, they are compelled to believe
Moses and St. Paul in the right, and the philosophers of the present
day, whether male or female, in the wrong. To speak frankly, the
excessive boldness of these new theories, the incalculable and
inconceivable benefits promised us from this revolution from the
natural condition of things in Christendom--and throughout the world
indeed--would lead us to suspicion. Guides who appeal to the
imagination when discussing practical questions are not generally
considered the safest. And the champions of female suffrage are
necessarily compelled to take this course. They have no positive
foundation to rest on. Mr. Stuart Mill has said in Parliament, in
connection with this subject, that "the tyranny of established custom
has entirely passed away." Nothing can be more true than this
assertion. As a rule, the past is now looked upon with doubt,
with suspicion, often with a certain sort of contempt, very far from
being always consistent with sound reason. The tyranny of the
present day--and it may be just as much a tyranny as the other--is
radically opposite in character. It is the tyranny of novelty to which
we are most exposed at present. The dangers lie chiefly in that
direction. There will be little to fear from the old until the hour of
reaction arrives, as it inevitably must, if the human mind be strained
too far in a new direction. At present the more startling an assertion,
the farther it wanders from all past experience, the greater are its
chances of attracting attention, of gaining adherents, of achieving at
least a partial and temporary success. In the age and in the country
which has seen the development of Mormonism as a successful
religious, social, and political system, nothing should surprise us.
Such is the restlessness of human nature that it will often, from
mere weak hankering after change, hug to its bosom the wildest
theories, and yield them a temporary allegiance.

Let us suppose that to-day the proposed revolution were effected;
all women, without restriction, even the most vile, would be
summoned to vote in accordance with their favorite theory of
inalienable right. That class of women, and other degraded classes
of the ignorant and unprincipled, will always be ready to sell their
votes many times over--to either party, to both parties, to the
highest bidder, in short. They will sell their vote much more readily
than the lowest classes of men now do. They will hold it with greater
levity. They will trifle with it. They will sell their vote any day for a
yard of ribbon or a tinsel brooch--unless they are offered two yards
of ribbon or two brooches. They will vote over again every hour of
every election day, by cunning disguises and trickery. And thus, so
far as women are concerned, the most degraded element in society
will, in fact, represent the whole sex. Nay, they will probably not
unfrequently command the elections, as three colored women are
said once to have done in New Jersey. A hundred honest and
intelligent women can have but one vote each, and at least fifty of
these will generally stay at home. If, which God forbid, it actually
comes to female voting, a very small proportion of the sex will, at
common elections, appear at the polls. Avocations more urgent,
more natural to them, and in which they are more deeply interested,
will keep them away. The degraded women will be there by the
scores, as tools of men, enjoying both the importance of the hour,
the fun, and THE PAY. Fifty women, known to be thieves and
prostitutes, will hold, at a moderate calculation, say two hundred
votes. And, as women form the majority of the resident population in
some States, that wretched element of society will, in fact, govern
those States, or those who bribe them will do so. Massachusetts,
very favorable to female suffrage now, will probably come round to

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