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First Convention in Washington-First hearing before Congress-Delegates Invited from
Every State-Senator Pomeroy, of Kansas-Debate between Colored Men and Women -Grace Greenwood's Graphic Description-What the Members of the Convention Saw and Heard in Washington-Robert Purvis- A Western Trip-Conventions in Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Springfield and Madison-Editorial Correspondence in The Revolution--Anniversaries in New York and Brooklyn-Conventions in Newport and Saratoga.
In the Autumn of 1868 a call* was issued for the first Woman Suffrage Convention ever held in Washington. It was a period of intense excitement, as many important measures of reconstruction were under consideration. The XIV Amendment was ratified, the XV was still pending, and several bills were before Congress on the suffrage question. Petitions and protests against all amendments to the Constitution regulating suffrage on the basis of sex were being sent in by thousands in charge of the Washington Association, of which Josephine S. Griffing was President. A large number of persons from every part of the Union were crowding into the Capital. Many Southerners being present to whom the demand for woman suffrage was new, the arguments were listened to with interest, while the tracts and documents were eagerly purchased and distributed among their friends at home. All these things combined to make this Convention most enthusiastic and influential, not only in its immediate effect on those present, but from the highly complimentary reports of the press scattered over the nation. We find a brief summing up of the Convention in letters to The Revolution.
WASHINGTON, JANUARY 22, 1869. DEAR REVOLUTION :—The first National Woman's Suffrage Convention ever held in Washington, closed on Wednesday night. There were repre
* A NATIONAL WOMAN'S SUFFRAGE CONVENTION will be held in Carroll Hall, Washing. top, D. C., on the 19th and 20th of January, 1869. All associations friendly to Woman's Rights are invited to send delegates from every State. Friends of the cause are invited to attend and take part in the discussions.
Committee of Arrangements.-Josephine 8. Griffing, William Hutchinson, Lydia S. Hall, John H. Crane, Mary T. Corner, George F. Needham, James K. Wilcox. Vol. II.-23.
sentatives from about twenty States, and the deepest interest was manifested through all the sessions, increasing to the end.* On the morning of the Convention the business committee assembled in the ante-room of Carroll Hall, to discuss resolutions, officers, etc. As Senator Pomeroy, of Kansas, was present, it was decided that he should open the meeting and preside as long as his public duties would permit. This gave us assurance of a healthy repose in the chair, which greatly helps to take off the chill in opening a convention. After a grave discussion of resolutions, permanent officers, etc., Mr. Pomeroy led the way to the platform, called the meeting to order, and made an able speech, taking the broad ground that as suffrage is a natural, inalienable right, it must, of necessity, belong to every citizen of the republic, black and white, male and female. Mrs. Mott was chosen President, resolutions were reported, and when everything was in fine working order (except the furnace) Mr. Pomeroy slipped off to his senatorial duties, to watch the grand Kansas swindle now on the tapis, and to protect, if possible, the interests of the people.
Whatever elements or qualities combine to render any popular convention every way successful, were most felicitously blended in this gathering in Washington. In numbers, interest, earnestness, variety and especially ability, there was surely little left to be desired. As to numbers in attendance, from Maine, California, and all the way between, it is sufficient to say that although the first session was most encouragingly large, there was a constant increase till the last evening, when the spacious hall was crowded in every part, until entrance was absolutely impossible, long before people ceased coming. Of the interest in the proceedings, it may be said that it was proposed to hold three sessions each day, with a brief recess at noon. But twelve o'clock and all o'clock were forgotten, and the day session continued until after four; the only regret seeming then to be that there were not more hours, and that human nature had not greater power of endurance.
The harmony that prevailed was all that could reasonably have been expected (if not even desired), considering the nature of the questions in hand, and the large number and variety of opinions entertained and expressed in the different sessions. On the one vital point, that suffrage is the inalienable right of every intelligent citizen who is held amenable to law, and is taxed to support the government, there was no difference expressed. The issue that roused the most heated debate was whether the colored man should be kept out of the right of suffrage until woman could also be enfranchised. One young, but not ineffectual speaker, declared he considered the women the bitterest enemies of the negro; and asked, with intense emotion, shall they be permitted to prevent the colored man from obtaining his rights? But it was not shown that women, anywhere, were making any effort toward that result. One or two women present declared they were
* Specches were made by Mrs. Griffing and Miss Clara Barton of Washington, Mrs. Wright and Susan B. Anthony of New York, Mr. Edward M. Davis and Mr. Robert Purvis of Pennsylvania, Dr. Charles Purvis, Mr. and Mrs. Stebbins, Mr. Wilcox, Mrs. Julia Archibald, Col. Hinton and Mr. George T. Downing of Washington, Mrs. Starrett, Dr. Root and Mrs. Archibald of Kansas, Mr. Wolff of Colorado, Mrs. Kiugsbury of VincJand, New Jersey, Mrs. Dr. Hathaway of Massachusetts, Mrs. Minor of Missouri, and others.
Interview with Senator Conkling.
unwilling that any more men should possess the right of suffrage until women had it also. But these are well known as most earnest advocates of universal suffrage, as well as the long-tried and approved friends of the colored race.
The discussion between colored men on the one side and women on the other, as to whether it was the duty of the women of the nation to hold their claims in abeyance, until all colored men are enfranchised, was spicy, able and affecting. When that noble man, Robert Purvis of Philadelphia, rose, and, with the loftiest sense of justice, with a true Roman grandeur, ignored his race and sex, rebuked his own son for his narrow position, and demanded for his daughter all he asked for his son or himself, he thrilled the noblest feelings in his audience. Is has been a great grief to the leading women in our cause that there should be antagonism with men whom we respect, whose wrongs we pity, and whose hopes we would fain help them to realize. When we contrast the condition of the most fortunate women at the North, with the living death colored men endure everywhere, there seems to be a selfishness in our present position. But remember we speak not for ourselves alone, but for all womankind, in poverty, ignorance and hopeless dependence, for the women of that oppressed race too, who, in slavery, have known a depth of misery and degradation that no man can ever appreciate.
That there were representatives of both political parties present, was very apparent, and sometimes forms of expression betrayed a little unnecessary partisan preference; but there was not one who bore any part in the long and intensely exciting discussions, who could be justly charged with any wish, however remote, to hold personal prejudice or party preference above principle and religious regard to justice and right. There was one feature in the convention that we greatly deplore, and that was an impatience, not only with the audience, but with some on the platform whenever any man arose to speak. We must not forget that men have sensibilities as well as women, and that our strongest hold to-day on the public mind is the fact that men of eloquence and power on both continents are pleading for our rights. While we ask justice for ourselves, let us at least be just to the noble men who advocate our cause. It is certainly generous in them to come to our platforms, to help us maintain our rights, and share the ridicule that attends every step of progress, and it is clearly our duty to defend their rights, at least when speaking in our behalf.
We had a brief interview with Senator Roscoe Conkling. We gave him a petition signed by 400 ladies of Onondaga County, and urged him to make some wise remarks on the subject of woman's suffrage when he presented it. We find all the New York women are sending their petitions to Senator Pomeroy. He seems to be immensely popular just now. We think our own Senators need some education in this direction. It would be well for the petitions of the several States to be placed in the hands of their respective Senators, that thus the attention of all of them might be called to the important subject. It is plain to see that Mr. Conkling is revolving this whole question in his mind. His greatest fear is that coarse and ignorant women would crowd the polls and keep the better class away.
Parker Pillsbury's speech on “The Mortality of Nations," was one of the best efforts of his life, and as grand an argument on the whole question of Republican government as was ever made on the woman suffrage platform. Although he had been one of the earliest and most enthusiastic Abolitionists, yet the enfranchisement of woman had always in his mind seemed of equal importance to that of the black man. In Mr. Pillsbury's philosophy on both questions, the present was ever the time for immediate and absolute justice.
One great charm in the convention was the presence of Lucretia Mott, calm, dignified, clear and forcible as ever. Though she is now seventy-six years old, she sat through all the sessions, and noted everything that was said and done. It was a satisfaction to us all that she was able to preside over the first National Woman's Suffrage Convention ever help at the Capitol. Her voice is stronger and her step lighter than many who are her juniors by twenty years. She preached last Sunday in the Unitarian Church to the profit and pleasure of a highly cultivated and large audience. We were most pleased to meet ex-Governor Robinson, the first Governor of Kansas, in the convention. He says there is a fair prospect that an amendment to strike out the word "male" from the Constitution will be submitted again in that State, when, he thinks, it will pass without doubt. Mrs. Minor, President of the Woman's Suffrage Association of Missouri, and Mrs. Starrett of Lawrence, Kansas, gave us a pleasant surprise by their appearance at the convention. They took an active part in the deliberations, and spoke with great effect. Senator Wilson was present, though he did not favor us with a speech. We urged him to do so, but he laughingly said he had no idea of making himself a target for our wit and sarcasm. We asked him, as he would not speak, to tell us the “wise, systematic, and efficient way” of pressing woman's suffrage. He replied, “You are on the right track, go ahead.” So we have decided to move “ on this line" until the inauguration of the new administration, when, under the dynasty of the chivalrous soldier, “our ways will, no doubt, be those of pleasantness, and all our paths be peace.” New Jersey was represented by Deborah Butler of Vineland, the only live spot in that benighted State, and we thought her speech quite equal to what we heard from Mr. Cattell in the Senate. During the evening sessions, large numbers of women from the several departments were attentive listeners. Lieutenant-Governor Root of Kansas read the bill now before Congress demanding equal pay for women in the several departments where they perform equal work with the men by their side. He offered a resolution urging Congress to pass the bill at once, that justice might be done the hundreds of women in the District, for their faithful work under government.
Mrs. Stanton's speech the first evening of the convention gave a fair statement of the hostile feelings of women toward the amendments; we give the main part of it. Of all the other speeches, which were extemporaneous, only meagre and unsatisfactory reports can be found.
Mrs. STANTON said :-A great idea of progress is near its consummation, when statesmen in the councils of the nation propose to frame it into statutes and constitutions; when Reverend Fathers recognize it by a new interpretation of their creeds and canons; when the Bar and Bench at its comArguments in Favor of Woman Suffrage. 349 mand set aside the legislation of centuries, and girls of twenty put their heels on the Cokes and Blackstones of the past.
Those who represent what is called “the Woman's Rights Movement," have argued their right to political equality from every standpoint of justice, religion, and logic, for the last twenty years. They have quoted the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, the Bible, the opinions of great men and women in all ages; they have plead the theory of our government; suffrage a natural, inalienable right; shown from the lessons of history, that one class can not legislate for another; that disfranchised classes must ever be neglected and degraded; and that all privileges are but mockery to the citizen, until he has a voice in the making and administering of law. Such arguments have been made over and over in conventions and before the legislatures of the several States. Judges, lawyers, priests, and politicians have said again and again, that our logic was unanswerable, and although much nonsense has emanated from the male tongue and pen on this subject, no man has yet made a fair, argument on the other side. Knowing that we hold the Gibraltar rock of reason on this question, they resort to ridicule and petty objections. Compelled to follow our assailants, wherever they go, and fight them with their own weapons; when cornered with wit and sarcasm, some cry out, you have no logic on your platform, forgetting that we have no use for logic until they give us logicians at whom to hurl it, and if, for the pure love of it, we now and then rehearse the logic that is like a, b, c, to all of us, others cry out—the same old speeches we have heard these twenty years. It would be safe to say a hundred years, for they are the same our fathers used when battling old King George and the British Parliament for their right to representation, and a voice in the laws by which they were governed. There are no new arguments to be made on human rights, our work to-day is to apply to ourselves those so familiar to all; to teach man that woman is not an anomalous being, outside all laws and constitutions, but one whose rights are to be established by the same process of reason as that by which he demands his own.
When our Fathers made out their famous bill of impeachment against England, they specified eighteen grievances. When the women of this country surveyed the situation in their first convention, they found they had precisely that number, and quite similar in character; and reading over the old revolutionary arguments of Jefferson, Patrick Henry, Otis, and Adams, they found they applied remarkably well to their case. The same arguments made in this country for extending suffrage from time to time, to white men, native born citizens, without property and education, and to foreigners; the same used by John Bright in England, to extend it to a million new voters, and the same used by the great Republican party to enfranchise a million black men in the South, all these arguments we have to-day to offer for woman, and one, in addition, stronger than all besides, the difference in man and
Because man and woman are the complement of one another, we need woman's thought in national affairs to make a safe and stable government.
The Republican party to-day congratulates itself on having carried the Fifteenth Amendment of the Constitution, thus securing “manhood suffrage " and establishing an aristocracy of sex on this continent. As several