Speech Before the Southern Exposition of Louisville, (14 October 1884) Louisville, KY

Speech Text

[1] Gentlemen and Ladies of the Commonwealth of Kentucky—I am overwhelmed with the cordiality of your reception, and am wondering why a plain, homely woman, who has no gift of song or dance, has been called to grace your banquet; and, as I look around upon all these wonderful products of nature, thought and art, gathered here under this vast roof, the product of your industry and your genius, then upon this vast concourse of cultured men and women, gathered for interchange of thought and art, gathered for new inspiration and aspiration, I am asking myself what I shall add from my workshop of thought; from the endless labyrinth of law; from the political pool into which I have lately been plunged, partly, I suppose, because I have grown so callous in the rough knocks the world has given me for daring to cull my living outside the beaten track, that I have consented to be caricatured as Lydia Pinkham or any other man; and to have my name, which I have hitherto held sacred, bondied about with such women as Blaine, Butler, Cleveland, and St. John.

[2] I now remember that I have been in your beautiful city once before. Then as now, you had a wonderful Exposition. Then as now, we were on the eve of a great Presidential election. I bore aloft the standard and flung to the breeze the flag of the unfortunate Horace Greeley, who succumbed during that ever memorable campaign to the stinging and poisoned shafts of the caricaturist. I protest against this inhuman and uncivilized warfare, but to-day I see the same ghouls at work, striving to dig graves for other victims. I have seen a nest of bees sting a noble horse until he writhed in the agonies of death. I have tried to call an armistice—hold out a flag of truce, as it were, and draw the sting from the poisoned arrows; but the mad work goes on, and characters are tossed to the wind and made the sport of fortune. The name of President, the Executive Chair and the ermine are tarnished and desecrated.  We are proud of our journalism—proud of our free press, but when freedom degenerates into license it is to be deprecated.

[3] You are met here irrespective of parties and tastes unmindful of the turmoil without; partly because every true American has faith in his country and his people, and partly because there are no great political issues between the two rival political parties who have controlled the interests of the country for the last 20 years, except the much-mooted and much-talked-of tariff, upon which more ink and brains have been wasted than would suffice to run the Government for the next four years, without either side having enlightened the people as to what their true interests are in the premises.

[4] In this campaign the Republican party is making large bids for the vote of the manufacturer and the laborer by shaking in their faces the brilliant flag of high protection as the only means of giving and securing work to the workingman, and profit to the manufacturer—of encouraging home production—without reflecting or stating that this same high protection has a tendency to shut out imports and to divert the trade of the East and South into other channels, and especially the lucrative commerce of the Central and South American States.

[5] The Democratic party, on the other hand, are clamoring for free trade, willing to compete with the toiling millions of other lands, or to support a tariff for revenue only; while its manufacturers, North and South, want protection, its importers free trade, and its politicians such a modification of the two extremes as will secure the greatest possible number of votes. There is no great moral issue between these parties, and the great political issue is whose candidate will be elected, who will have the distribution of the offices and the money, who will rule and who will be ruled. They have sounded no battle cry that involves the liberties of the people, or any steps in progress sufficient to rouse an interest in foe or constituency, but have presented to us in this canvas the same old platitudes upon which they have been drumming for the last twenty years, and by and through which the present incumbents in office have raised themselves to place and to power, and who to-day are thinking more of how to perpetuate their own rule than of preserving the Union intact, alleviating the condition of the laboring classes; enfranchising the country from the thralldom and disabilities of sex, and rescuing our people from a financial panic with which the industries of the country are to-day threatened by the contraction of the national currency and the insecurity of the national banks; the mutterings of which are now heard from the lakes to the gulf, and from the “Hub” to the Golden Gate.

[6] The hum of the mill in New England, the click of the miner’s pick in Pennsylvania, and the hammers of the forges in your own beautiful State are being silenced by over-production and by a lack of a sufficiently expansive and reliable circulating medium, and the laborers of the country are being thrown out of employment, strikes are being engendered for the want of a system of harmony, or of arbitration, between capital and labor, by and through which the interests and rights of both capitalists and laborers should be fostered and respected.

[7] We want a restoration of the inter-commerce of States, a revival of our merchant marine; encouragement of our foreign commerce, especially with the Central and South American States, whose rich productions have long been attracting the commerce of England and France to the exclusion of our own.

[8] Capital and labor are not by nature, and should never be by custom, antagonistic. Capital is the machinery that has made it possible to populate this beautiful land with an honest yeomanry of 52,000,000. It has leveled her forests, it has bridged her streams, it has tunneled her mountains, it has tilled the fertile acres and has belted the country with railroads, telegraphs and telephones until Boston and San Francisco are to you to-day almost as provincial towns, while South America, Europe and the Orient are near neighbors. It has built your splendid palaces, your manufactories, your magnificent steamship lines; it has smelted your ores; it has unearthed your vast coal deposits, opened the spouting oil wells, and has made of our young republic the wealthiest, the happiest, and the freest nation under the sun.

[9] Labor has been the motive power of the machinery, everywhere putting in force the latent possibilities of our surroundings and chiseling out what mind and capital have devised, and everywhere capital has lightened the labors and increased the comforts of the laboring man. Labor and capital are the supplements of each other, to each is due the other’s success, mixing and mingling and blending, when nicely adjusted, so as to form in every prosperous community an harmonious whole.

[10] If capital takes too much, labor suffers and groans and strives to resist the imposition. If labor takes too much, capital must inevitably be crushed, and assignments and collapses follow. But do not forget that they are parts of the same whole, the one living and prospering on the prosperity of the other. Our only effort must be to keep the equipoise, the nice adjustment that regulates the balance-wheel of society and keeps its machinery smoothly rolling on.

[11] The price of liberty and the prosperity of a republic is eternal vigilance.

[12] The true solution of the difficulties at present existing between capital and labor will doubtless ultimately be found in an extensive system of cooperation. In a country like ours, without nobility or aristocracy, co-operation is especially adapted to the wants of the people.

[13] So with protection and free trade. What they want is the careful regulation of master minds—of statesmen who have hearts as well as heads, and who care more for the common weal than the probabilities of their several constituencies again returning them to the Senate and the House. It is possible for us to be so much protected as to ruin our foreign commerce. It is possible for us to have trade so free as to ruin the infant industries of the country. Therefore, after mature deliberation, after studying the best interests of every section of the country, our Equal Rights party—the party of the people—have decided to avoid the two extremes, i.e. “a high protective tariff on the one hand, and free trade on the other.” We propose to disturb as little as possible the present condition of the country, and to make changes only when such changes will seem for the best good of all concerned.

[14] As to the principles or issues involved in the Anti-Monopoly Labor party, they have seemed to have such a changing horoscope that I have been perplexed to discover just what their platform means and on which end of the great political lever they intend to adjust themselves. I am an unswerving friend to the laboring man, but I want a platform broad enough for the laboring woman—broad enough for the wives and daughters of the manufacturer, broad enough for every adrift woman in the land: a platform in which the rights of the woman are respected as well as the rights of the man; a platform in which courtesy as well as justice and right will not only be cultivated, but expected and exacted.

[15] But the platform of this party is very extensive, and also very wordy, as written out, and when it comes to the anti-monopoly plank, its first and strongest foothold, it declares that “monopoly is not authorized by the Constitution.” If this be true, and I reassert it, then for a 100 years and more, my brothers, you have been running the Government of the United States on a policy diametrically opposed to the Constitution; for in all these years a grand aristocracy known as the men of the country have insisted on and have succeeded in monopolizing all of the offices of the Government, and in distributing all of the public money. Ladies and gentlemen, I am opposed to that sort of monopoly, and the grand and new Equal Rights party, to whom I have the honor to belong, and whom I am proud to represent, have girded on their armor, and with a resistless force (for it is a moral power) will sweep over the country, awakening our people to new and living issues, determined to break up this gigantic hide-bound monopoly or aristocracy based on sex, which makes most of the women of the country paupers, checks and strangles in her at birth inspiration and aspiration, and makes of every male child born half a tyrant and half a freeman. This oppression is rapidly deteriorating the mental and physical power of the race. Only a grand free woman, with the fresh blood of inspiration flowing through her veins and proud of her motherhood, can bear a child fit to govern a republic. You can not foster a dissolute manhood and at the same time hope to preserve a pure womanhood; or of systems steeped in rum and tobacco on the one side and opiates and tonics on the other, produce children with either a proper moral or physical development.

[16] We are progressive people, an educated people, a thinking people, whose life and vitality, whose freedom and prosperity, are in the onward march of free thought, and in the dissemination of the views of true republicanism. Our life is, in word, due to progression and to activity. To stand still is to retrograde. To be assured of a life-time position, irrespective of merit and work, is to create torpor and stupidity, neglect of duty, indifference to the public weal.

[17] A republic is a government by the people; and in the vigorous canvass now going on by the contending parties for the coming election all over the land, is raised the question, Who are the people of these United States? Does it mean the men and the women, or the men only? Are women persons; are they citizens? May they be freeholders? Can they contract, sue and be sued? Have we come up out of the barbarism and the tyranny of the old Common Law of England, which denied all of these rights to women, priests and idiots?

[18] I come to you to-day as the herald of a new dispensation; as the temporary mouth-piece of the new “Equal Rights party,” and we fling that banner to the breeze with our motto inscribed, “for our country and our homes,” unfurled with new issues, and those that virtually concern every man, woman and child in the whole country, and which to-day are thrilling the pulses of this people from the North to the South, and from the East to the West. With these issues, which will make this country free, and put it upon a sound financial business, we will revivify and rehabilitate the old political parties of the country, or they will be left to die of their own inanitation and be buried under the corruptions which they have themselves engendered, while the women of the country, with a new Democracy and a new Republicanism, fling their banners to the breeze, and march on to liberty and to victory!

[19] But the ideas that we promulgate are as old as the republic, and, like “The Fathers,” we start out with the pronunciamento that “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are born free and equal, with certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

[20] “That Governments are instituted among men and derive their just powers by the consent of the governed, and that whenever they become subversive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish them.” But we give to the terms “people” and “men” a broader and a grander catholicity than the political parties of this country for the past one hundred years have chosen to give them. Our learned lexicographers have always defined “man” and “men” as comprehensive, and generic terms embracing woman, while our legislative and judicial powers have never failed to make it cover her under any statute that deprived her of property or carried with it a penalty. But whatever may have been the intent or the conception of the fathers in their wording of their Bill of Rights or the Constitution, we are willing to hold them to-day to the strict letter of their wording, and to declare that the Government of the United States, as it is being administered, is not by the consent of the governed.

[21] At the last Presidential election, with a census return of 50,000,000 of people, only 9,000,000 votes were cast; and those votes elected the 372 Electors who formed the Electoral College, and in whose hands is placed the power of electing the President and Vice President of the nation. The present estimate of male votes that will be polled at the coming election is 10,-500,000; but the census return of the present year gives 12,000,000 of adult tax-paying women in the country—taxed without representation; compelled to obey laws in which they have no voice; deprived to a large extent of the emoluments of office, and we are to-day demanding their enfranchisement or the privilege of voting for Presidential electors.

[22] We declare that the government as at present administered is not by the consent of the governed. That the tax-paying women of the country outnumber the men (so-called) by one million and a half (1,500,000), the ranks of the male voters having been largely decimated by the late civil war—a war brought about by the tenacity and pugnacity of the male politician. We state also that in many instances the Constitution of the United States has been violated by Congressional legislation; that its provisions have not been preserved intact; that the government that the women of the country have so long tacitly permitted the men of the country to usurp has not been sacredly preserved; and that now, in accordance with the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, ratified by the Bill of Rights of the several States, it has become the privilege of the women of this country, and the noble men who are standing shoulder to shoulder with them, either to alter or abolish the Constitution of the United States, or to make a bold and persistent demand for equal political privileges under it.

[23] For more than 200 years, or since the ushering in of the Sixteenth century, we have been under a civilization born of force, in which the motto has been “might makes right,” “to the victor belongs the spoils,” “ those who vote must bear arms,” “only a voter can be a freeholder.” Nominally civilized and Christian, we have been really heathen. Our forefathers saw a glimpse of the light when they fled from religious persecution to the rock-bound shores of New England, but they persecuted in turn those who did not adopt their religious faith; hung women for witches, drove the Baptists out of Connecticut, while Virginia denied civil and religious privileges to the Catholics, and Maryland persecuted the Quakers.

[24] Like a child who has outgrown its swaddling clothes, the United States of America has outgrown the civilization of the past. The colored man is free—a citizen and a voter—the Indian subdued; internal dissensions have been settled; the public debt so far wiped out that it is no longer a bug-bear; the resumption of specie payment an established fact, and we have no menacing foe without, while our free public schools, our schools of literature, medicine, law, theology, have sent forth into the arena of life their countless multitudes of cultured men and women who have made and are making their impressions upon the body politic, until the civilization of to-day is one of moral instead of physical force; one in which the brain development is stronger than the arm; one in which the pen wields more power than the sword. In this new dispensation, this new civilization, this recognized force, the woman of today is bearing her responsibilities, fulfilling her mission and doing her share of the physical and mental work of the republic. Hitherto she has been the slave or the doll, but with her help you populated this country with 52,000,000 of people; have made the country blossom as a rose, and have patched and poulticed over the scars of the late civil war, which forced her against her will into the arena of public life, and developed in her so much of individuality, so much of brain power; so much of possibility, that it is now too late to relegate her back to the cradle and the kitchen; while the genius of our inventors, male and female, have caught up the raveled thread of her weary, never-ending humdrum work, and with their skilled mechanism and labor-saving machinery have buried in oblivion household drudgery, and the full fledged American woman stands before you to-day ready for the workshop, the pulpit, the forum or the political arena, demanding equal political rights under the Constitution, and equal civil rights before the law.

[25] It is not the inspiration of a fanatic, or the scheme of designing women with a desire to be seen or heard; or a conspiracy for the overthrow of old-time traditions and former institutions of Government, but a unanimous, simultaneous uprising of the men and women of our country who believe in the fairness and justice of our cause, who can no more be turned backward and suppressed than you can check the ebb and flow of the two oceans that wash our coasts. The principles and the platform of the Equal Rights party have their foundation in human rights as distinguished from woman’s rights on the one side or man’s rights on the other. It claims for every American citizen the inalienable right of citizenship and all of the privileges thereunto attached.

[26] But, my hearers, if these assertions fail to convince you of the unjust, dangerous and impolite position of the two great, but now disintegrating political parties of this country, Democrats and Republicans, let me call your attention for a few moments to another danger which is creeping insidiously upon us and must be met, although with singular stoicism and I may say stupidity, has not been touched by any politician in this remarkably diversified campaign; although it is hardly possible that another twelve months can roll around before this issue is upon us. I refer to the present financial condition of the country and the state of the national banks.

[27] Congress, a short time ago, reduced the tax on certain articles, so as to relieve the burdens of the people and diminish the volume of money flowing into the Treasury. The statistics of the country for the next succeeding year showed that notwithstanding this reduction there had been such an increase in the business of the country that the volume of money flowing into the Treasury was still undiminished, and larger vaults had to be built to hold the treasure. And this surplusage of revenue still continues, although other rebates have been made, and a reduction in our national postage, and to-day we have in the Treasury $150,000,000 of surplus revenue, put there by too much protection. The law requires that the Secretary of the Treasury shall apply such surplus to the reduction of the national debt, and the modus operandi is as follows: When the Secretary finds that he has such surplus on hand, he at once calls upon the United States Treasury to give him a list of Government bonds to be redeemed. In this procedure it has been discovered that these bonds are not, as has generally been supposed, held largely by the general public; but at least three-fourths of them form the security and are the property of the National banks of the country, and are held in trust by the Government as pledges for their circulation. Each one of these bonds, property of the National banks, is quoted at from $1.20 to $1.22, covering a slight marketable fluctuation, and represents that value to the banker. When the Government redeems this bond, the banker receives only one dollar for it, and he feels that he has thus lost the premium of 20 or 22 per cent. What does he do now? Replace the security? No. This would cost him from 20 to 22 per cent more than the value of his circulation.

[28] But just in proportion as the National banks of the country are having their securities redeemed, they are retiring and canceling their circulation; and here we have a glimpse of the gradual extinction of the National banks by the liquidation of Government bonds in the payment of the national debt. As the business of the country has been built up and is being conducted by and through the National bank currency, what is to-day the financial outlook for the people of the country? And what provision have either of the two great political parties, who have been shaping the legislation of the country for the past ten years, made to avert this calamity? Nothing.

[29] The object of our Equal Rights party is to give relief, to make men happier and better. How can this be done?

[30] First—Reconcile and harmonize capital and labor.

[31] Second—Give to the women of the land equal civil and political rights and make them producers.

[32] Third—Fix the banking system of the country on a secure and reliable basis.

[33] Fourth—Increase the amount of the circulating medium, and by encouraging liberal as well as reasonable expenditures, on the part of the Government as well as individuals, give constant employment with good wages, to the laboring men and women of the country.

[34] The money passing through the Treasury of the United States belongs to the whole people. It is a fund collected from one person and paid out to another. The expenditures of a government can, and should be, liberal up to a point where taxation begins to be burdensome.

[35] The very knowledge that a large sum of money must daily pass from the vaults of the United States Treasury into the hands of the people would of itself serve as a great incentive to businesses, and would be in that regard like the governor to a steam engine in the regulation of trade. We propose to inaugurate a system which encourages the capitalist to invest his money with confidence in business enterprises and ensures the workingman certain pay, steady employment and such protection as will lift off his heart that dread of want which to-day crushes out his life and energy.

[36] But there are those who will tell you that a woman can not be President of the republic under the Constitution, but I quote from that immortal document to show to you that the brains that conceived it and the hand that penned it builded better than they knew. It excludes no woman from the emoluments of office, and the Fourteenth amendment distinctly declares that “all persons shall be entitled to the ballot,” and, fairly interpreted, grants suffrage to every woman of the republic. But were this not so, the preamble of the Constitution—its very soul, in fact—is clear as to what was originally intended. So far as rights are concerned, natural or civil, man has no more authority to be the done of them than woman. Both are persons, both are people, both go to make up what is known as the Commonwealth—the body politic.

[37] The fifth section of article second of the Constitution defines the qualifications of a President of the United States as follows: “No person except a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that office who shall not have attained to the age of thirty-five years, and been fourteen years a resident within the United States.” The only other qualification for President is that he or she shall have the greatest number of electoral votes.

[38] Another bugbear that some astute person has conceived and promulgated is “that no resident of a Territory of the United States is eligible to the Presidency.” This doubtless arose from the fact that the citizens of the several Territories have no electoral vote. There is nothing in the Constitution or its several amendments that tends to render a citizen of a Territory or a State or a woman citizen of the Republic ineligible to the Presidency.

[39] So I desire to say to you all, gentlemen and ladies, that you may safely cast your ballots for me at this election, and we will vote this Exposition a success and President Young a gentleman and a scholar.