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he did not mean should be exercised ? Did he create powers and attractions, for which he did not provide functions ? Did he ever plant a desire or an affinity, which he did not mean should find its answering scope of activity ? I ask you, if Infinite Goodness makes such mistakes, or inflicts such pain upon mortal man ; leaving him not merely now unsatisfied, but forever condemned to be unsatisfied ? Did He ever appoint, that this tantalus-thirst should crave the taste of waters, which yet were ever fleeing from lips forbidden to taste their coolness. No, my friends, God has given the desire, and has given the capacity for exercising all these faculties. Why, the power, the will, and the right to do, are found in the same being ; or else a mistake has been made in the creation.
It is upon this ground, that I deny the power of man to set bounds to woman's sphere. I do not know what woman will do when the largest liberty is granted her. I do not know how many women will come upon the public platform, will enter the legal profession, the Legislative Hall, the chair of Executive power, the bench of the Judge, or the box of the jury. I do not know anything about this, and I do not want to know, in order that I may be able to decide whether I have a right to put a guard against the sex which they cannot pass. But of this I am sure, that just so soon as you concede to woman the largest liberty of choice, in regard to the occupation of her faculties, just so soon you will settle the question in the wisest possible manner, what woman will do, and what woman should do. Her nature will be true to itself, or rather her God will be true to himself, guiding her to that action which will be sure to be right in proportion as it flows from freedom. It is the constraint upon her faculties, which is cramping and distorting her ; and it is that which is justly to be held responsible for any discord, or departure from propriety, here or there, which you may witness.
If you sieze the young tree, when it just begins to put forth to the air, and sunshine, and dews, and bend it in all directions, for fear it will not grow in proper shape, do not hold the tree accountable for its distortion. There is no danger that from acorns planted last year, pine trees will grow, if you do not take some special care to prevent it. There is no danger, that from an apple, will grow an oak, or
from a peach-stone, an elm ; leave nature to work out her own results, or in other words, leave God to work out his own purpose, and be not so anxious to intrude yourselves upon him, and to help him govern the Universe he has made. Some of us have too high an estimation of his goodness and wisdom, to be desirous of thrusting ourselves into his government. We are willing to leave the nature of woman, to manifest itself in its own aptitudes. Try it. Did one ever trust in God and meet with disappointment ? Never! Tyrants always say it is not safe to trust their subjects with freedom. Austria says it is not safe to trust the Hungarian with freedom. Man says woman is not safe in freedom, she will get beyond her sphere.
After having oppressed her for centuries, what wonder if she should rebound, and at the first spring, even manifest that law of reaction somewhat to your inconvenience, and somewhat even beyond the dictates of the wisest judgment. What then? Is the fault to be charged to the removal of the restraint; or is it to be charged to the first imposition of the restraint? The objection of our opponents remind one of the Irishman walking among the bushes just behind his companion, who caught hold of a branch, and passing on, let it fiy back into the face of his friend: "Indade I am thankful to ye !” said the injured man, "for taking hold of that same ; it a’most knocked the brains out of my body as it was, and sure, if ye hadn't caught
, hold of it, it would have kilt me entirely !"
The winds come lashing over your lake, the waters piling upon each other, wave rolling upon wave, and you may say, what a pity we could not bridge the lake over with ice, so as to keep down these billows, which may rise so high as to submerge us. But stand still ! God has fixed the law upon the waters, “thus far shalt thou come ;" and as you watch the ever piling floods, it secures their timely downfall. When they come as far as their appointed limits, the combing crest of the wave tells that the hour of safety has arrived, proving that God was wiser than you in writing down laws for his creation. We need not bridge over woman's nature with the ice of conventionalism, for fear she will swell up, aye, and overflow the continent of manhood. There is no danger. Trust to the nature God has given to humanity, and do not except the nature he has given to this portion of humanity.
But I need not dwell upon such an argument, before an audience who have witnessed the bearing of women in this Convention. It is a cool, aye, insolent assumption, for man to prescribe the sphere of
What is the sphere of woman? Clearly, you say, her powers, her natural instincts, and desires determine her sphere. Who, then, best knows these instincts and desires ? Is it he who has all his knowledge at second hand, rather than she who has it in all her consciousness ? Woman knows woman ; man only hears of her. If woman's nature be broadly and essentially different from man's, then I say the masculine element has no right and no power to fix the development of woman's action. As well require the pound weight to settle the length of the yard stick. Woman must assert and measure woman's rights. But if she is not thus essentially different, then why should her rights and sphere be essentially unlike. If man and woman are essentially identical, then their rights should be identical ; if they are diverse, then she alone is competent to judge of her own rights, and her own sphere of action.
I might confirm this argument by an appeal to facts, and show you the results of an attempt of man to fix the sphere of woman. I might ask you what sort of human beings have grown up under this kind of interference. But I forbear to dwell upon that subject. I can safely leave it to your own reflections. I have no fear that you will not think of a great many things, which some of you have not thought much of, previous to your attendance here. One thing we know, that just in proportion as the sphere of woman has been recognized as wider, just in that proportion has the nature of man revealed itself as nobler. Where do you find the narrowest sphere of woman? Go among the savages. Go to those who send woman to dig the corn patch, or load her with the burden of game which her hunter husband has killed. Do you find woman nobler there, than when advanced to a higher grade in the scale of progression—than where woman finds a larger range of occupations, and a higher posi_ tion with respect to her associates. Do you not find, that as you advance from the savage state to semi-barbarism, and thence to the best civilization yet attained, that where woman is admitted to competition in intellectual pursuits, in authorship, and in what were once
admitted to be exclusively the avocations of the masculine mind; and where woman has come forward in public as a lecturer, and as a singer of sweet songs, which delight the ear and reach the heart—do you not perceive a nobler type of woman? Thus you will ever find that the more you enlarge the scope of woman's activities, the more you enlarge her powers, and the more widely she unfolds herself, because the more each faculty is free to assert its own natural position.
If then, you find in the progress of the race hitherto, that woman has revealed herself pure, true and beautiful, and lofty in spirit, just in proportion as she has enjoyed the right to reveal herself ; if this is the testimony of all past experience, I ask you where you will find the beginning of an argument against the claim of woman to the right to enlarge her sphere yet more widely, than she has hitherto done. Wait until you see some of these apprehended evils, aye, a little later even, than that, until you see the natural subsidence of the reaction from the first out-bound of their oppression, before you tell us it is not safe or wise to permit woman the enlargement of her own sphere.
The argument which I have thus based upon the very nature of man, and of humanity and God, is confirmed in every particular-is most impregnably fortified on every point, by the facts of all past experience, and all present observation ; and out of all this evidence of woman's right and fitness to determine her own sphere, I draw a high prophecy of the future. I look upon this longing of hers for a yet higher and broader field, as an evidence that God designed her to enter upon it.
“Want, is the garner of our bounteous Sire,
Hunger, the promise of its own supply.” I might even add the rest of the passage as an address to woman herself, who still hesitates to assert the rights which she feels to be hers and longs to enjoy ; I might repeat to her in the words of the same poet :
“We weep, because the good we seek not,
Bows to prevailing Hope, its would-be to fulfiil. It can be done. This demand of woman can be nobly and successfully asserted. It can be, because it is but the out-speaking of the divine sentiment of woman. Let us not then tremble, or falter, or despair-I know we shall not. I know that those who have taken hold of this great work, and carried it forward hitherto, against obloquy, and persecution, and contempt, will not falter now. No! Every step is bearing us to a higher eminence, and thus revealing a broader promise of hope, a brighter prospect of success. Though they who are foremost in this cause must bear obloquy and reproach, and though it may seem to the careless looker on; that they advance but little or not at all ; they know that the instinct which impels them being divine, it cannot be that they shall fail. They know that every quality of their nature, every attribute of their Creator, is pledged to their success.
“They never fail who gravely plead for right,
God's faithful martyrs cannot suffer loss.
Heaven's gate swings open on their bloody cross.” Pres. MAHAN.-If I would not be interrupting at all, there are a few thoughts having weight upon my mind which I should be very happy to express
I have nothing to say to excite controversy at all, but there are things which are said, the ultimate bearing of which I believe is not always understood. I have heard during these discussions, things said which bear this aspect—that the relation of ruler and subject, is that of master and slave. The idea of the equality of woman with man, seems to be argued upon this idea. I am not now to speak whether it is lawful for man to rule the woman at all; but I wish to make a remark upon the principles of governor and governed. The