Christine de Pizan

Christine de Pizan
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Monday, July 20, 2015

Seneca Falls Convention: Day Two

Seneca Falls Convention (second day, 20 July 1848)



The second day of the Seneca Falls convention saw the unanimous approval of the Declaration of Sentiments. Before the vote, the abolitionist Frederick Douglass spoke, as did other men, particularly to the question of women's property rights.

One of the interesting questions raised was whether men's signatures should be included--ultimately it was decided that their names should be included, but that there would be two sections, with women's signatures listed first.

The resolutions were again read and discussed, with the ninth--the one about women's voting rights--being regarded by some as the most problematic. Douglass argued that he, as a black man, would not accept the vote if women could not vote. 

For the rest of today's post, I'll include the text of the resolutions (I've set in boldface the controversial resolution on women's suffrage: 
WHEREAS, The great precept of nature is conceded to be, that "man shall pursue his own true and substantial happiness." [Sir William] Blackstone in his Commentaries [on the Laws of England] remarks, that this law of Nature being coeval with mankind, and dictated by God himself, is of course superior in obligation to any other. It is binding over all the globe, in all countries and at all times; no human laws are of any validity if contrary to this, and such of them as are valid, derive all their force, and all their validity, and all their authority, mediately and immediately, from this original; therefore,
Resolved, That such laws as conflict, in any way, with the true and substantial happiness of woman, are contrary to the great precept of Nature and of no validity, for this is "superior in obligation to any other."
Resolved, That all laws which prevent woman from occupying such a station in society as her conscience shall dictate, or which place her in a position inferior to that of man, are contrary to the great precept of Nature, and therefore of no force or authority.
Resolved, That woman is man's equal—was intended to be so by the Creator, and the highest good of the race demands that she should be recognized as such.
Resolved, That the women of this country ought to be enlightened in regard to the laws under which they live, that they may no longer publish their degradation by declaring themselves satisfied with their present position, nor their ignorance, by asserting that they have all the rights they want.
Resolved, That inasmuch as man, while claiming for himself intellectual superiority, does accord to woman moral superiority, it is pre-eminently his duty to encourage her to speak and teach as she has opportunity, in all religious assemblies.
Resolved, That the same amount of virtue, delicacy, and refinement of behavior that is required of woman in the social state, should also be required of man, and the same transgressions should be visited with equal severity on both man and woman.
Resolved, That the objection of indelicacy and impropriety, which is so often brought against woman when she addresses a public audience, comes with a very ill-grace from those who encourage, by their attendance, her appearance on the stage, in the concert, or in feats of the circus.
Resolved, That woman has too long rested satisfied in the circumscribed limits which corrupt customs and a perverted application of the Scriptures have marked out for her, and that it is time she should move in the enlarged sphere which her great Creator has assigned her.
Resolved, That it is the duty of the women of this country to secure to themselves their sacred right to the elective franchise.
Resolved, That the equality of human rights results necessarily from the fact of the identity of the race in capabilities and responsibilities.
Resolved, therefore, That, being invested by the Creator with the same capabilities, and the same consciousness of responsibility for their exercise, it is demonstrably the right and duty of woman, equally with man, to promote every righteous cause by every righteous means; and especially in regard to the great subjects of morals and religion, it is self-evidently her right to participate with her brother in teaching them, both in private and in public, by writing and by speaking, by any instrumentalities proper to be used, and in any assemblies proper to be held; and this being a self-evident truth growing out of the divinely implanted principles of human nature, any custom or authority adverse to it, whether modern or wearing the hoary sanction of antiquity, is to be regarded as a self-evident falsehood, and at war with mankind.

As Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Matilda Joslyn Gage, and Ida Husted Harper would write in their four-volume History of Woman Suffrage, published in 1881:
The only resolution that was not unanimously adopted was the ninth, urging the women of the country to secure to themselves the elective franchise. Those who took part in the debate feared a demand for the right to vote would defeat others they deemed more rational, and make the whole movement ridiculous.
But Mrs. Stanton and Frederick Douglass seeing that the power to choose rulers and make laws, was the right by which all others could be secured, persistently advocated the resolution, and at last carried it by a small majority.
  

If you're looking for an overview on the Seneca Falls Convention, I recommend the excellent entry in West's Encyclopedia of American Law, available by clicking here.