Carrie Chapman Catt

The New Time - July 4, 1905

Carrie Chapman Catt
July 04, 1905
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This transcript housed at the New York Public Library is undated, but Catt gave a speech called "The New Time" on July 4, 1905, at NAWSA's national convention in Portland, Oregon. Source: Walker, L. C. (1950). The speeches and speaking of Carrie Chapman Catt [Unpublished dissertation]. Northwestern University.

This the 4th of July. In every city and village and hamlet throughout our country to-day, orators to-day have recounted the strange and picturesque story of the birth and marvelous growth of this greatest of nations. Tonight, around banquet boards, still other orators, in gayer and more festive humor are extolling the glories of our Republic. (Throughout the civilized world as well, wherever there is a band of revolutionists, or evolutionists, men and women who would extend to their fellow countrymen something more of opportunity or privilege than they have known before, our 4th of July is honored today. This is not because it is the natal day of American Independence but because it is recognized the whole world over as the birth day of the whole idea of modern human liberty, equality and fraternity.)

It was only 3 centuries ago that scientists began to experiment with steam. Until then no one thought it could have any other use than the cooking of a dinner. Who can measure its service today?

With steamships plying oceans and rivers and lakes; and steam engines drawing their trains of cars over railroads which now form a network over all the continents, all hurrying hither and thither with their cargoes of food and clothing and utilities. With great smokestacks of factories appearing upon every land which are producing these commodities and comforts and luxuries; our 20th Century bears little relation to the slow going times of the Father of his country, when it took a month for the news of his election to travel from Washington to New York, and when the members of the first Congress, proceeded to the seat of their official duty by stage coach.

Electricity too, caught out of the clouds by Franklin has been tamed and mastered and holds a close second, to steam as a commercial power. The three t’s, the telephone the telegraph and the typewriter have transformed the offices of modest business concerns into such activity that might well astound Alexander Hamilton, who as Secy of the Treasury in Washington’s first Cabinet, performed all his correspondence by hand, and sent out important messages by men on horseback.

Meanwhile a population of 2 millions and a half, sparsely fringing the Atlantic seaboard, has swelled into 80 millions and has swarmed over the whole continent dotting it with cities and villages and farms. Great smoke stacks of factories and the buzz and whirr of busy machinery are seen and heard upon every land, giving evidence of enterprise and prosperity. As a nation, we have grown rich and powerful. From a weak colony, we have developed into a powerful nation, the equal of other great nations even in the estimate of conservative and prejudiced foreign aristocrats. As a nation, we possess most of the factors of strength of other great nations; and alas many factors of their weakness. We have gained some points of superiority over other nations, but we have produced some mighty and serious problems, which no other nation ever had.

With mighty fortunes compared to which Croesus would feel poor; with riotous luxury which even the magnificence of the French Louis’ [sentence cuts off]

So phenomenal has been the rapidity of progress in our generation, that we are wont to be a little confused as to its real significance. It is perhaps well that we pause to remind ourselves, that it is not because of American commerce, or business, or invention, or wealth, or power, not account of the achievements of our armies or navies, satisfying as all these things are, that we celebrate this day. The 4th of July commemorates the birth of a great idea.

Throughout the civilized world today [sentence cuts off]


Every protest against oppression, every struggle for freedom of any kind throughout the centuries had brought mankind nearer to it.

Self government, based upon the broad claim of individual liberty and individual regret, although its evolution may reach far back through the centuries may justly be claimed as a new idea. The world had been [sentence cuts off]

The above paragraph can be found on page 15 of the original document and is rephrased on a second page 15. The paragraph that follows is that second page 15.

Self-government based upon the broad claim of individual liberty, altho its origin may be traced far back through the centuries is even yet a new idea. It is difficult to say when or where it was first conceived, or who was its author. Perhaps it had been tossed from generation to generation ever since the days of Plato. Perhaps it had been discussed before his day. It first found clear, uncompromised expression [sentence cuts off]

[Page 16] …clear, succinct unconfused expression in the Declaration of Independence. The world had been making long and successful preparation for the departure from old ideals. De Tocqueville, in writing of the American Republic, declared that “for seven centuries aristocracies and class privileges had been steadily dissolving” and John Stuart Mill added in comment, “The noble has been gradually going down the social ladder and the commoner has been gradually going up. Every half century has brought them nearer to each other.”

Certainly every protest against oppression every struggle for freedom, strengthened men for the new order of things. (1 address)

During the centuries in which the repressive customs of Feudalism were gradually receding into the past, while commerce was uniting men closely the destinies of Nations, while education was surely substituting understanding and reason for faith and superstition, while wars for conquest were becoming less common and periods of peace were frequent and of longer duration, during all these centuries there was slowly but steadily growing in the minds of men, a self respect, a self reliance, and individuality which would sooner or later ask why some men should be born to rule and others to obey.

That question was most naturally formulated by the American Colonists. These pioneers formed a population picked from among the sons and daughters of men and women who had protested against oppression in the old world.

The austere Pilgrim driven from England to Holland, and Holland to Mass, rejoiced in his religious liberty, yet in his inmost heart, he yearned for the paternal protection of a great nation. The Huguenot, denied the privilege of public and even private worship in France, watched spied upon there, had stolen out of the harbor of his native land in the night and had set his face toward the New West. He hated his oppressors; he abhorred their law, yet his homesick heart carried the ideal of Nation he could never know again; and he carved upon the first fortress of his new home in So. Carolina, the beloved lilies of his lost France.

The doughty Dutch of New York, who were impregnated with love of liberty, the inheritance of the tragic centuries of their history; the quiet Quakers of Penn, ambitious only to live and worship God according to their own way; the stern Swede of Delaware the Catholic of Maryland, the Cavalier of Virginia all dreamt of a Nation, like that each had known in the old home, but yet a new Nation, whose corner stone should be individual liberty.

The time was ripe for the new idea. It was but natural that to this people, especially prepared by the evolution of long centuries it should come as a clear In two simple sentences they crystalized their clear thought the indefinite yet vision.

Taxation without representation is tyranny.

How simple it is, yet how forceful. Nations have trembled at it, parliaments have lashed themselves into a fury over it, political parties have been torn asunder over it; yet no man could ever find a logical answer to it.

It is tyranny; it always was tyranny; it always will be tyranny and that too, whether the taxed are men, or women.

Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. How axiomatic, how beautiful it is. All the essence of the Golden Rule, the Sermon on the Mount, the sum of all justice is crystalized in that simple sentence.

For a hundred years America stood as the sole teacher of democratic principles, the exponent of individual liberty in government.

Plain as their meaning and logic seem to us today; it was otherwise 130 years ago. Nearly a quarter of a century after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Edmund Burke, then one of the greatest statesmen, leaders and orators of England, discussing these same principles in Parliament exclaimed. “Should such ideas be planted in English soil, not a true Englishman is there who would not truly offer his fortune and his life to uproot them. No never shall we permit England to pass under the hoofs of swinish multitude.” Yet the philosophy of Tom Paine and Thomas Jefferson, has triumphed over that of Burke.

The little band of Americans who initiated the modern movement would never have dared to predict that within a century “Taxation without representation is tyranny,” would have been written into the fundamental law of all the monarchies of Europe, except Russia and Turkey, and that even there self government should obtain in the municipalities. The most optimistic seer among them would not have prophesized that Mongolian Japan, then tightly shutting her gates against the commerce of the world, and jealously guarding her ancient customs, would before the century closed, have welcomed Western Civilization and have established universal suffrage for its men. He would not have dreamed that every inch of the great Continent of South America, then chiefly an unexplored region over which bands of savages roved at will, would be covered by written constitutions guaranteeing self-government to men, based upon Declarations of Independence similar to their own; that the settlements in Mexico and Central America and many islands of the Ocean would grow into republics, and least of all that the island Continent of Australia with its associates of New Zealand and Tasmania, then unexplored wilderness, would become great democracies which would out Americanize America in their liberality.

Yet this has come about in a hundred years. It is true kings and queens still occupy thrones in Europe, but they are robbed of the power which belonged to their predecessors, and the power behind every throne is the voice of the people. No careful observer can doubt that real monarchical and aristocratic power have gone forever. Wherever self government for men exists it will stay; and where it does not exist it will come.

Even now the greatest political problem in Germany Austria Belgium and Denmark, where the suffrage is based on taxation, is “one man one vote.” Who can doubt the outcome?

This is why we celebrate. A great idea was born on American soil of American parentage. Its truth and its practicality was demonstrated by American government and the whole civilized world has adopted its principles as its own.

Hard upon the track of the man-suffrage movement presses the movement for woman suffrage, a logical step onward. It has come as inevitably and as naturally as the flower unfolds from the bud, or the fruit develops from the flower. Why should woman suffrage not come. Men throughout the world hold their suffrage by the guarantee of these [illegible] American principles, and for these reasons only.

One, “Taxation without representation is tyranny,” who dares deny it – and are not women taxed? In the days before married women were permitted to control their own property, few women’s names were known on the tax rolls. Today, they not only pay taxes upon billions of dollars worth of property but in many a town women as a whole pay a larger tax than men as a whole. To deny them representation is as much a tyranny today, as when old King George denied it to the American colonists.

The other, “Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.” And are not women governed? Before the logic of these two simple sentences, the most cherished of ancient prejudices have yielded. Can their logic fail at last? We might as well put our [illegible].

In the soul of the primitive man, ages ago there was planted “A nameless longing, a vague interest which compelled him to struggle for something better than he had known. From that moment man began to climb upward. We look backward and we see an imposing line of humanity, its beginning lost in the obscurity of past, never ceasing, never pausing, but continually marching upward the heights – which to every generation have ever appeared, like the Star of the East just beyond. What were those heights – the civilization of today of which we are a part? Yes, but not that alone. All humanity, for untold ages has been marching, as we are marching today, toward the civilization that is to come!! Surely, the march of events in the future will be no less majestic than in the past.

The motto of last century man’s creation God created men, of this one God created men and women. What makes progress? What is the impelling power which forces human society onward, whether it wills or wills not? History answers: It is the eternal conflict between new ideas and old ones; a battle royal, always going on, between new ideals, untried theories, and established custom which has no better reason for existing than that it always has.

A traveler related of the Dyaks [Dayaks] an aboriginal tribe of Borneo. A man felled a tree by cutting horizontal wedge shaped chips as a civilized woodsman would do. He did it purely by accident, for it had always been the custom among his people to fell trees by long vertical strokes. By the new method the man had felled the tree in half the time required by the old way. Did his fellows hail him as a benefactor and begin at once to fell trees as he had done? Not at all. They tied him to a tree and burned him alive and burnt him alive. Then later by slow degrees, they adopted his method and felled trees as he had done. By such methods humanity has made its progress.

A Psychological Journal the other day propounded a list of questions which its readers were requested to put to themselves. Among them was this one “If you were to meet a new idea in the dark, would you shy?” Alas, we all do shy. We all seem to have something of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in us. There is that which makes long for something better, but there is also that within us which fill us with fear when that something better appears. Perhaps we have inherited some of the traits of the horse. We might say that all men are divided into two classes both possessing horsey attributes. One shies at the new idea, then approaches, looks it over, smells of its, flies away again, snorts a little, kicks a little, then comes again to smell of it, shakes its main, stamps its feet then sniffs again, snorts a bit longer and then swallows the new idea for its very own. The other is seized with spasms of combined rage and fear at the sight of the new idea. It never comes near enough to smell of it. It rares, it kicks, it jumps, it trembles, it foams at the mouth, it neighs or brays, and whenever it comes within sight of the new idea, there is a repetition of this hysterical emotion. The new idea never ceases to be an object of genuine terror.

This is happily the minority class. Yet the public is often deceived by the great noise and vociferous clamor it makes, into thinking it is the majority. Some of this class edit newspapers; some preach in public; some go to legislatures, some even to Congress and some undoubtedly live in Oregon.

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