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Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
IN SENATE, March 18, 1878.
The Committee on Woman Suffrage, to whom was referred the petition of William Lloyd Garrison and others, and divers other petitions, praying for Woman Suffrage, as to so much of said petitions as relates to an amendment to the Constitution report the accompanying Resolve.
Of the Senate.
Of the House.
• The undersigned dissent from the opinion of a majority of the committee upon the general question of woman suffrage, and present the following statement of their views upon the subject. It is proper to say, that there is no substantial difference of opinion among the members of the committee as to the question of municipal suffrage accompanied by a property qualification for women; but, in order more fully to present the whole subject, our views upon that branch of it are included.
It will be convenient to consider first the petition of Mrs. Sarah S. Russell and others, praying for the passage of a law which shall confer upon tax-paying women the right to vote for town and city officers, and to take part in the management of municipal affairs. Although this petition is general in its terms with reference to the amount of taxed property which the petitioners consider should entitle the holders thereof to vote, yet the bill presented by the petitioners at the hearing limits the right to women who shall have within two years previously paid taxes upon property not less than one thousand dollars in value, and the arguments at the hearing were based upon the ground of a substantial property qualification. The argument of the petitioners is, that it is unjust and improper that ladies possessed of wealth, owning, it may be, a large portion of the property of a community, should have no voice in the objects or amounts for which this property should be taxed, while they are surrounded by men owning no property, and paying a poll-tax merely, by whose votes among others both the nature and amount of all municipal expenditures to be provided for by taxation are determined. Thus it is said that men without property have liberty to vote away the money of women who are themselves without a vote. One woman, it is said, as an instance, within eight miles of the state house, is possessed of as much
property as three hundred of her neighbors; and yet they determine the character of the town hall for the town in which she lives, the question whether the town's money shall be used in aid of railroads, the limit which shall be set upon expenditures for schools, and all other questions of municipal expenditure, while she has no power in the determination of these questions.
In this connection, the spectacle is presented to us of towns whose indebtedness exceeds a proper percentage upon their valuation, and whose affairs are said to be controlled by the non-tax-paying class. Schedules are presented of such tovns; and we are asked to draw the inference, that, if the property-holding women in such towns were allowed to vote, their vote would neutralize the vote of the irresponsible, and therefore extravagant, portion of the community. And, if sach inference is found to be correctly drawn, we are asked to apply this as the proper remedy.
If this is a correct ground on which to place suffrage, it will apply equally in principle, and nearly in the same degree, to males. Doubtless equally striking instances of apparent hardship can be found arising from the power possessed by the many who are without property to control by their votes municipal appropriations which must be provided by taxation upon the property of a few men who are rich. And, if the principle of a property qualification is a correct one to adopt at all as the remedy for irresponsible voting, there is no ground on which to say that it should not be adopted among men as well as among women. If it is a proper remedy for the evil complained of, and ought to be applied, then the same discrimination should be made in favor of property-holding men which the petitioners seek to have applied in favor of property-holding women; so that the Lower to control appropriations would be limited to propertv-bolders of both sexes, and denied to non-property-holders of each sex.
But upon what ground would the petitioners deny to the equally intelligent and capable but less fortunate members of their own sex, who may not possess the requisite property qualification, the right to vote in municipal affairs ? As an Example, the female school-teachers of Massachusetts are not Usually possessed of property; they would, by a large majority, fall short of the proposed property qualification : yet both their intelligence, and the effect of their labors in the benefit of the race, will compare favorably with that of any other portion of the community. For what reason are they not as well qualified to vote in municipal affairs, which involve the whole school question, as any other ladies in the Commonwealth ?
Shall the right to vote be put upon a property qualification? The nature of our institutions, our growth in enlightenment, our improvement in character and virtue, all point in the opposite direction. It is true, that during the transition through which the character of our population has passed within the last thirty years, affected by the evils inseparably following a long and bitter conflict of arms, the stability of our institutions has been tested in many instances severely, and the safety of the popular ballot sometimes doubted by wise men.' But the very strength with which our institutions have in most instances resisted the shock, and the integrity with which they have generally passed through it, prove that the instances of a contrary character are the exceptions to the rule, and not exanıples of the rule itself. If, then, the suffrage should be accorded to women, it should not be to a portion of the women on the ground of their property qualification. Let the evils under which the holders of property suffer in taxation from the votes of those who are not property-holders be remedied by the spread of intelligence, the increase of probity, and the effect of the natural desire of all persons to acquire and possess property, aided by the growing homogeneity of our people, and that community of interests which a common ballot inspires. The ability to participate in political duties makes better citizens, and is in itself one of the strongest educational forces towards a proper exercise of the ballot.
The remaining petitions ask,
First, For a resolve which shall submit to the people an amendment to the constitution, securing to women, upon the same conditions of age, residence, educational qualification, and otherwise, as apply to men, and with the same exceptions of paupers, and persons under guardianship, the power to vote in all elections for governor, lieutenant-governor, senators, representatives, and other officers not municipal, and