Carrie Chapman Catt

An Appeal For Liberty - July 4, 1915

Carrie Chapman Catt
July 04, 1915— New York
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This appeal, signed by Catt and others, was addressed to the men of New York State and read immediately following the reading of the Declaration of Independence at every Fourth of July celebration in New York State in 1915.

One hundred and thirty-nine years ago today the Declaration of American Independence was adopted. That document, sacred to every true American, and honored by the entire world as one of the greatest documents of history, contains two immortal maxims:

"Taxation without representation is tyranny"

"Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed."

They have been the slogans which have led every victorious movement for self-government since 1776. By the unanswerableness of these two axioms, class after class, has been admitted to the franchise in the Empire State, until in 1915 no taxpayer is denied representation and no person is denied consent to the government he obeys, except minors, aliens, criminals, bribers and women.

The minor receives his freedom at 21, the alien may be naturalized in 5 years, the criminal and the briber may be pardoned and thus all except from the dishonored class of the State's disfranchised, except women. For them there is no open door to political liberty.

On the contrary without remorse, apology, or apparent regret the State tyrannically continues to tax women property holders and to expend the vast sum so derived lavishly and often without due economy.

It continues to make and to enforce laws not only without regard to the wishes or opinions of its women citizens but often in direct opposition to the known views of the majority of them.

Against this outrageous oppression hundreds of thousands of women have protested in vain during the last three generations. At last after sixty years of ceaseless struggle, the question has been referred to the voters of New York. We therefore appeal to you, in the name of justice and fair play, for relief from the intolerable position in which we are placed. We protest that no government is just which taxes and governs half its people without their consent.

We protest that no government is efficient which is guilty of so absurd a discrimination as that of putting a vote in the hand of male paupers and denying that privilege to at least a third of its taxpayers; of counting the opinion of illiterate males, and denying that count to the 51,000 women teachers of the State.

We protest that no government is sound which pretends to secure the highest welfare to its people yet pays no heed to what half its people want.

We protest that no government is logical which elevates half its people regardless of qualifications to sovereignty and condemns the other half to political subjection.

To you, favored voters of the Empire State, on this the one hundred and thirty-ninth anniversary of the proclamation of our immortal American principles, we appeal in the name of their truth, soundness, and logic, for the right of consent to the laws we are compelled to obey.

We appeal in the name of our foremothers who, side by side with our forefathers, and with equal courage, faced death on the ocean, and death in the wilderness, to carve new homes for the oppressed of the old world.

We appeal in the name of those women who unmurmuring bore the hardships of colonial life, who kept their high courage despite the wild beast and the savage lurking ever near their door, and planted the noble American ideal deep in the hearts of their children.

We appeal in the name in the name of those women of revolutionary days who kept the fire of freedom burning in their breasts, who fed, clothed, nursed, and inspired the men who won liberty for our country, who even fought side by side with them; in the name of the women who in the dark hour of civil strife were loyal to the nation and with their great leaders put aside their work for enfranchisement to labor for the soldiers and thus forming the nucleus of that great band of noble workers the Red Cross, who carry the blessing of America's brotherly love wherever there is suffering.

And, lastly, in the name of the women of today who now that you men with your machines have taken the work out of our homes have been forced to follow that work into your factories, yet have no voice in the regulation of the conditions under which they work; in the name of the 1,000,000 women dedicated in clubs that are working for the uplift of humanity; in the name of the mothers who must send their children out into a world over which they have no control, we appeal to you.

Justice gave you the vote. In the name of that same great virtue, we ask you to give it to us.

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