Produced by Juliet Sutherland, David Widger and PG Distributed Proofreaders
AMONG THE BRETHREN.
“Josiah Allen’s Wife”
It wuz Deacon Garven and he wuz a close communion Baptist by perswaision, and a good man, so fur as firm morals and a sound creed goes.
Some things he lacked: he hadn’t no immagination at all, not one speck. And in makin’ him up, it seems as if he had a leetle more justice added to him to make up a lack of charity and pity. And he had a good deal of sternness and resolve gin him, to make up, I spoze, for a lack of tenderness and sweetness of nater.
A good sound man Deacon Garven wuz, a man who would cheat himself before he would cheat a neighber. He wuz jest full of qualities that would hender him from ever takin’ a front part in a scandel and a tragedy. Yes, if more men wuz like Deacon Garven the pages of the daily papers would fairly suffer for rapiners, embezzlers, wife whippers, etc.
Wall, he wuz in his office when I tackled him. The hired girl asked me if I come for visitin’ purposes or business, and I told her firmly, “business!”
So she walked me into a little office one side of the hall, where I spoze the Deacon transacted the business that come up on his farm, and then he wuz Justice of the Peace, and trustee of varius concerns (every one of ’em good ones).
He is a tall, bony man, with eyes a sort of a steel gray, and thin lips ruther wide, and settin’ close together. And without lookin’ like one, or, that is, without havin’ the same features at all, the Deacon did make me think of a steel trap. I spoze it wuz because he wuz so sound, and sort o’ firm. A steel trap is real firm when it lays hold and tries to be.
[Illustration: “THE DEACON DID MAKE ME THINK OF A STEEL TRAP.”]
Wall, I begun the subject carefully, but straight to the pint, as my way is, by tellin’ him that Ralph S. Robinson wuz a-layin’ at death’s door, and his life depended on his gettin’ sleep, and we wuz afraid the bells in the mornin’ would roust him up, and I had come to see if he would omit the ringin’ of ’em in the mornin’.
“Not ring the bells!” sez he, in wild amaze. “Not ring the church bells on the Sabbath day?”
His look wuz skairful in the extreme, but I sez–
“Yes, that is what I said, we beg of you as a Christian to not ring the bells in the mornin’.”
“A Christian! A Christian! Advise me as a _Christian_ to not ring the Sabbath bells!”
I see the idee skairt him. He wuz fairly pale with surprise and borrow. And I told him agin’, puttin’ in all the perticilers it needed to make the story straight and good, how Ralph S. Robinson had labored for the good of others, and how his strength had gin out, and he wuz now a-layin’ at the very pint of death, and how his girl and his sister wuz a-breakin’ their hearts over him, and how we had some hopes of savin’ his life if he could get some sleep, that the doctors said his life depended on it, and agin I begged him to do what we asked.
But the Deacon had begin to get over bein’ skairt, and he looked firm as anybody ever could, as he sez: “The bells never hurt anybody, I know, for here I have lived right by the side of ’em for 20 years. Do I look broke down and weak?” sez he.
“No,” sez I, honestly. “No more than a grannit monument, or a steel trap.”
“Wall,” sez he, “what don’t hurt me won’t hurt nobody else.”
“But,” sez I, “folks are made up different.” Sez I, “The Bible sez so, and what might not hurt you, might be the ruin of somebody else. Wuz you ever nervous?” sez I.
“Never,” sez he. And he added firmly, “I don’t believe in nerves. I never did. There hain’t no use in ‘m.”
“It wuz a wonder they wuz made, then,” sez I. “As a generel thing the Lord don’t make things there hain’t no use on. Howsumever,” sez I, “there hain’t no use in disputin’ back and forth on a nerve. But any way, sickness is so fur apart from health, that the conditions of one state can’t be compared to the other; as Ralph S. Robinson is now, the sound of the bells, or any other loud noise means torture and agony to him, and, I am afraid, death. And I wish you would give orders to not have ’em rung in the mornin’.”
“Are you a professor?” sez he.
“Yes,” sez I.
“What perswaision?” sez he.
“Methodist Episcopal,” sez I.
“And do you, a member of a sister church, which, although it has many errors, is still a-gropin’ after the light! Do you counsel me to set aside the sacred and time honored rules of our church, and allow the Sabbath to go by unregarded, have the sanctuary desecrated, the cause of religion languish–I cannot believe it. Think of the widespread desolation it would cause if, as the late lamented Mr. Selkirk sung:
“‘The sound of the church-going bells, These valleys and hills never heard.'”
“No church, no sanctuary, no religius observances.”
“Why,” sez I, “that wouldn’t hinder folks from goin’ to church. Folks seem to get to theatres, lectures, and disolvin’ views on time, and better time than they do to meetin’,” sez I. “In your opinin’ it hain’t necessary to beat a drum and sound on a bugle as the Salvation Army duz, to call folks to meetin’; you are dretful hard on them, so I hear.”
“Yes, they make a senseless, vulgar, onnecessary racket, disturbin’ and agrivatin’ to saint and sinner.”
“But,” sez I, “they say they do it for the sake of religion.”
“Religion hain’t to be found in drum-sticks,” sez he bitterly.
“No,” sez I, “nor in a bell clapper.”
“Oh,” sez he, “that is a different thing entirely, that is to call worshippers together, that is necessary.”
Sez I, “One hain’t no more necessary than the other in my opinion.”
Sez he, “Look how fur back in the past the sweet bells have sounded out.”
“Yes,” sez I candidly, “and in the sweet past they wuz necessary,” sez I. “In the sweet past, there wuzn’t a clock nor a watch, the houses wuz fur apart, and they needed bells. But now there hain’t a house but what is runnin’ over with clocks–everybody knows the time; they know it so much that time is fairly a drug to ’em. Why, they time themselves right along through the day, from breakfast to midnight. Time their meals, their business, their pleasures, their music, their lessons, their visits, their visitors, their pulse beats, and their dead beats. They time their joys and their sorrows, and everything and everybody, all through the week, and why should they stop short off Sundays? Why not time themselves on goin’ to meetin’? They do, and you know it. There hain’t no earthly need of the bells to tell the time to go to meetin’, no more than there is to tell the time to put on the tea-kettle to get supper. If folks want to go to meetin’ they will get there, bells or no bells, and if they don’t want to go, bells hain’t a-goin’ to get ’em started.
“Take a man with the Sunday _World_ jest brung in, a-layin’ on a lounge, with his feet up in a chair, and kinder lazy in the first place, bells hain’t a-goin’ to start him.
“And take a woman with her curl papers not took down, and a new religeus novel in her hand, and a miliner that disapinted her the night before, and bells hain’t a-goin’ to start her. No, the great bell of Moscow won’t start ’em.
[Illustration: “BELLS HAIN’T A-GOIN’ TO START HIM.”]
“And take a good Christian woman, a widow, for instance, who loves church work, and has a good handsome Christian pasture, who is in trouble, lost his wife, mebby, or sunthin’ else bad, and the lack of bells hain’t a-goin’ to keep that women back, no, not if there wuzn’t a bell on earth.”
“Oh, wall, wavin’ off that side of the subject,” sez he (I had convinced him, I know, but he wouldn’t own it, for he knew well that if folks wanted to go they always got there, bells or no bells). “But,” sez he wavin’ off that side of the subject, “the observance is so time honored, so hallowed by tender memories and associations all through the past.”
“Don’t you ‘spoze, Deacon Garven,” sez I, “that I know every single emotion them bells can bring to anybody, and felt all those memorys and associations. I’ll bet, or I wouldn’t be afraid to bet, if I believed in bettin’, that there hain’t a single emotion in the hull line of emotions that the sound of them bells can wake up, but what I have felt, and felt ’em deep too, jest as deep as anybody ever did, and jest es many of ’em. But it is better for me to do without a upliftin’, soarin’ sort of a feelin’ ruther than have other people suffer agony.”
“Agony!” sez he, “talk about their causin’ agony, when there hain’t a more heavenly sound on earth.”
[Illustration: “A-LEANIN’ OVER THE FRONT GATE ON A STILL SPRING MORNIN’.”]
“So it has been to me,” sez I candidly. “To me they have always sounded beautiful, heavenly. Why,” sez I, a-lookin’ kinder fur off, beyond Deacon Garven, and all other troubles, as thoughts of beauty and insperation come to me borne out of the past into my very soul, by the tender memories of the bells–thoughts of the great host of believers who had gathered together at the sound of the bells–the great army of the Redeemed–
‘Some of the host have crossed the flood, and some are crossin’ now,’
thinks I a-lookin’ way off in a almost rapped way. And then I sez to Deacon Garven in a low soft voice, lower and more softer fur, than I had used to him,
“Don’t I know what it is to stand a-leanin’ over the front gate on a still spring mornin’, the smell of the lilacs in the air, and the brier roses. A dew sparklin’ on the grass under the maples, and the sunshine a-fleckin’ the ground between ’em, and the robins a-singin’ and the hummin’ birds a-hoverin’ round the honeysuckles at the door. And over all and through all, and above all clear and sweet, comin’ from fur off a-floatin’ through the Sabbath stillness, the sound of the bells, a-bringin’ to us sweet Sabbath messages of love and joy. Bringin’ memories too, of other mornin’s as fair and sweet, when other ears listened with us to the sound, other eyes looked out on the summer beauty, and smiled at the sound of the bells. Heavenly emotions, sweet emotions come to me on the melody of the bells, peaceful thoughts, inspirin’ thoughts of the countless multitude that has flocked together at the sound of the bells. The aged feet, the eager youthful feet, the children’s feet, all, all walkin’ to the sound of the bells. Thoughts of the happy youthful feet that set out to walk side by side, at their ringin’ sounds. Thoughts of the aged ones grown tired, and goin’ to their long dreamless sleep to their solemn sound. Thoughts of the brave hero’s who set out to protect us with their lives while the bells wuz ringin’ out their approval of such deeds. Thoughts of how they pealed out joyfully on their return bearin’ the form of Peace. Thoughts of how the bells filled the mornin’ and evenin’ air, havin’ throbbed and beat with every joy and every pain of our life, till they seem a part of us (as it were) and the old world would truly seem lonesome without ’em.
“As I told you, and told you truly, I don’t believe there is a single emotion in the hull line of emotions, fur or near, but what them bells have rung into my very soul.
“But such emotions, beautiful and inspirin’ though they are, can be dispensed with better than justice and mercy can. Sweet and tender sentiment is dear to me, truly, near and dear, but mercy and pity and common sense, have also a powerful grip onto my right arm, and have to lead me round a good deal of the time.
“Beautiful emotion, when it stands opposed to eternal justice, ort to step gently aside and let justice have a free road. Sentiment is truly sweet, but any one can get along without it, take it right along through the year, better than they can without sleep.
“You see if you can’t sleep you must die, while a person can worry along a good many years without sentiment. Or, that is, I have been told they could. I don’t know by experience, for I have always had a real lot of it. You see my experience has been such that I could keep sentiment and comfort too. But my mind is such, that I have to think of them that hain’t so fortunate as I am.
“I have looked at the subject from my own standpoint, and have tried also to look at it through others’ eyes, which is the only way we can get a clear, straight light on any subject. As for me, as I have said, I would love to hear the sweet, far off sound of the bells a-tremblin’ gently over the hills to me from Jonesville; it sounds sweeter to me than the voices of the robins and swallers, a-comin’ home from the South in the spring of the year. And I would deerly love to have it go on and on as fur as my own feelins are concerned. But I have got to look at the subject through the tired eyes, and feel it through the worn-out nerves of others, who are sot down right under the wild clamor of the bells.
“What comes to me as a heavenly melody freighted full of beautiful sentiment and holy rapture comes to them as an intolerable agony, a-maddenin’ discord, that threatens their sanity, that rouses ’em up from their fitful sleep, that murders sleep–the bells to them seem murderus, strikin’ noisily with brazen hands, at their hearts.
[Illustration: “TOSSIN’ ON BEDS OF NERVOUS SUFFERIN’.”]
“To them tossin’ on beds of nervous sufferin’, who lay for hours fillin’ the stillness with horror, with dread of the bells, where fear and dread of ’em exceed the agony of the clangor of the sound when it comes at last. Long nights full of a wakeful horror and expectency, fur worse than the realization of their imaginin’s. To them the bells are a instrument of torture jest as tuff to bear as any of the other old thumb screws and racks that wrung and racked our old 4 fathers in the name of Religion.
“I have to think of the great crowd of humanity huddled together right under the loud clangor of the bells whose time of rest begins when the sun comes up, who have toiled all night for our comfort and luxury. So we can have our mornin’ papers brought to us with our coffee. So we can have the telegraphic messages, bringing us good news with our toast. So’s we can have some of our dear ones come to us from distant lands in the morning. I must think of them who protect us through the night so we can sleep in peace.
“Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of these, our helpers and benafacters, work all night for our sakes, work and toil. The least we can do for these is to help ’em to the great Restorer, sleep, all we can.
“Some things we can’t do; we can’t stop the creakin’ sounds of the world’s work; the big roar of the wheel of business that rolls through the week days, can’t be oiled into stillness; but Sundays they might get a little rest Sunday is the only day of rest for thousands of men and wimmen, nervous, pale, worn by their week’s hard toil.
“The creakin’ of the wheels of traffic are stopped on this day. They could get a little of the rest they need to carry on the fight of life to help support wife, child, father, husband; but religeon is too much for ’em–the religeon that the Bible declares is mild, peacible, tender. It clangs and bangs and whangs at ’em till the day of rest is a torment.
“Now the Lord wouldn’t approve of this. I know He wouldn’t, for He was always tender and pitiful full of compassion. I called it religeon for oritory, but it hain’t religeon, it is a relict of old Barberism who, under the cloak of Religeon, whipped quakers and hung prophetic souls, that the secrets of Heaven had been revealed to, secrets hidden from the coarser, more sensual vision.”
Sez Deacon Garven: “I consider the bells as missionarys. They help spread the Gospel.”
“And,” sez I, for I waz full of my subject, and kep him down to it all I could, “Ralph S. Robinson has spread the Gospel over acres and acres of land, and brung in droves and droves of sinners into the fold without the help of church or steeple, let alone bells, and it seems es if he ortn’t to be tortured to death now by ’em.”
“Wall,” he said, “he viewed ’em as Gospel means, and he couldn’t, with his present views of his duty to the Lord, omit ’em.”
Sez I, “The Lord didn’t use ’em. He got along without ’em.”
“Wall,” he said, “it wuz different times now.”
Sez I, “The Lord, if He wuz here to-day, Deacon Garven, if He had bent over that form racked with pain and sufferin’ and that noise of any kind is murderous to, He would help him, I know He would, for He wuz good to the sick, and tender hearted always.”
“Wall, _I_ will help him,” sez Deacon Garven, “I will watch, and I will pray, and I will work for him.”
Sez I, “Will you promise me not to ring the bells to-morrow mornin’; if he gets into any sleep at all durin’ the 24 hours, it is along in the mornin’, and I think if we could keep him asleep, say all the forenoon, there would be a chance for him. Will you promise me?”
“Wall,” sez he kinder meltin’ down a little, “I will talk with the bretheren.”
Sez I, “Promise me, Deacon Eben Garven, before you see ’em.”
Sez he, “I would, but I am so afraid of bringin’ the Cause of Religeon into contempt. And I dread meddlin’ with the old established rules of the church.”
Sez I, “Mercy and justice and pity wuz set up on earth before bells wuz, and I believe it is safe to foller ’em.”
But he wouldn’t promise me no further than to talk with the bretheren, and I had to leave him with that promise. As things turned out afterwuds, I wuz sorry, sorry es a dog that I didn’t shet up Deacon Garven in his own smoke house, or cause him to be shet, and mount a guard over him, armed nearly to the teeth with clubs.
But I didn’t, and I relied some on the bretheren.
Ralph wuz dretful wild all the forepart of the night. He’d lay still for a few minutes, and then he would get all rousted up, and he would set up in bed and call out some words in that strange tongue. And he would lift up his poor weak right arm, strong then in his fever, and preach long sermons in that same strange curius language. He would preach his sermon right through, earnest and fervent as any sermon ever wuz. I would know it by the looks of his face. And then he would sometimes sing a little in that same singular language, and then he would lay down for a spell.
But along towards mornin’ I see a change, his fever seemed to abate and go down some–very gradual, till just about the break of day, he fell into a troubled sleep–or it wuz a troubled sleep at first–but growin’ deeper and more peaceful every minute. And along about eight o’clock he wuz a-sleepin’ sweet for the first time durin’ his sickness; it wuz a quiet restful sleep, and some drops of presperation and sweat could be seen on his softened features.
We all wuz as still, almost, as if we wuz automatoes, we wuz so afraid of makin’ a speck of noise to disturb him. We kep almost breathless, in our anxiety to keep every mite of noise out of his room. But I did whisper to Rosy in a low still voice–
[Illustration: “THE LORD BE PRAISED, WE SHALL PULL HIM THROUGH.”]
“Your father is saved, the Lord be praised, we shall pull him through.”
She jest dropped onto her knees, and laid her head in my lap and cried and wept, but soft and quiet so’s it wouldn’t disturb a mice.
Miss Timson wuz a-prayin’, I could see that. She wuz a-returnin’ thanks to the Lord for his mercy.
As for me, I sot demute, in that hushed and darkened room, a-watchin’ every shadow of a change that might come to his features, with a teaspoon ready to my hand, to give him nourishment at the right time if he needed it, or medicine.
When all of a sudden–slam! bang! rush! roar! slam! slam! ding! dong! bang!!! come right over our heads the wild, deafening clamor of the bells.
Ralph started up wilder than ever because of his momentary repose. He never knew us, nor anything, from that time on, and after sufferin’ for another 24 hours, sufferin’ that made us all willin’ to have it stop, he died.
And so he who had devoted his hull life to religeon wuz killed by it. He who had gin his hull life for the true, wuz murdered by the false.
[Illustration: “AND I THOUGHT HE WUZ PRONOUNCIN’ A BENEDICTION ON THE SAVAGES.”]
His last move wuz to spread out his hands, and utter a few of them strange words, as if in benediction over a kneelin’ multitude. And I thought then, and I think still, that he wuz pronouncin’ a benediction on the savages. And I have always hoped that the mercy he besought from on High at that last hour brought down God’s pity and forgiveness on all benighted savages, and bigoted ones, Deacon Garven, and the hull on ’em.
The very next day after I got home from Miss Timson’ses, we wimmen all met to the meetin’ house agin as usial, for we knew very well that the very hardest and most arjuous part of our work lay before us.
For if it had been hard and tuckerin’ to what it seemed the utmost limit of tucker, to stand up on a lofty barell, and lift up one arm, and scrape the ceilin’, what would it be, so we wildly questioned our souls, and each other, to stand up on the same fearful hites, and lift _both_ arms over our heads, and get on them fearful lengths of paper smooth.
I declare, when the hull magnitude of the task we had tackled riz before us, it skairt the hull on us, and nuthin’ but our deathless devotion to the Methodist meetin’ house, kep us from startin’ off to our different homes on the run.
But lovin’ it as we did, as the very apples in our eyes, and havin’ in our constant breasts a determinate to paper that meetin’ house, or die in the attempt, we made ready to tackle it.
[Illustration: “WE HAD TO WAIT FOR THE PASTE TO BILE.”]
Yet such wuz the magnitude of the task, and our fearful apprehensions, that after we had looked the ceilin’ all over, and examined the paper–we all sot down, as it were, instinctivly, and had a sort of a conference meetin’ (we had to wait for the paste to bile anyway, it wuz bein’ made over the stove in the front entry). And he would lift up his poor weak right arm, strong then in his fever, and preach long sermons in that same strange curius language. He would preach his sermon right through, earnest and fervent as any sermon ever wuz. I would know it by the looks of his face. And then he would sometimes sing a little in that same singular language, and then he would lay down for a spell.
But along towards mornin’ I see a change, his fever seemed to abate and go down some–very gradual, till just about the break of day, he fell into a troubled sleep–or it wuz a troubled sleep at first–but growin’ deeper and more peaceful every minute. And along about eight o’clock he wuz a-sleepin’ sweet for the first time durin’ his sickness; it wuz a quiet restful sleep, and some drops of presperation and sweat could be seen on his softened features.
[Illustration: “WE ALL SET AND LAID ON OUR PLANS, AND CUT THE EDGES OFFEN THE PAPER.”]
We all wuz as still, almost, as if we wuz automatoes, we wuz so afraid of makin’ a speck of noise to disturb him. We kep almost breathless, in our anxiety to keep every mite of noise out of his room. But I did whisper to Rosy in a low still voice–it middlin calm, and Miss Gowdy offered to be the one to carry it back to Jonesville, and change it that very afternoon–for we could not afford to buy a new one, and we had the testimony of as many as twenty-one or two pairs of eyes, that the handle didn’t come out by our own carelessness, but by its own inherient weakness–so we spozed he would swap it, we spozed so. But it wuz arrainged before we disbanded (the result of our conference), that the next mornin’ we would each one on us bring our offerin’s to the fair, and hand ’em in to the treasurer, so’s she would know in time what to depend on, and what she had to do with.
And we agreed (also the result of our conference) that we would, each one on us, tell jest how we got the money and things to give to the fair.
And then we disbanded and started off home but I’ll bet that each one on us, in a sort of secret unbeknown way, gin a look on that lofty ceilin’, them dangerus barells, and that pile of paper, and groaned a low melancholy groan all to herself.
[Illustration: “THE HANDLE COME OUT.”]
I know I did, and I know Submit Tewksbury did, for I stood close to her and heard her. But then to be exactly jest, and not a mite underhanded, I ort mebby to say, that her groan may be caused partly by the fact that that aniversery of hern wuz a-drawin’ so near. Yes, the very next day wuz the day jest 20 years ago that Samuel Danker went away from Submit Tewksbury to heathen lands. Yes, the next day wuz the one that she always set the plate on for him–the gilt edged chiny with pink sprigs.
But I’ll bet that half or three quarters of that low melancholy groan of her’n wuz caused by the hardness of the job that loomed up in front of us, and the hull of mine wuz.
Wall, that night Josiah Allen wuz a-feelin’ dretful neat, fer he had sold our sorell colt for a awful big price.
It wuz a good colt; its mother wuz took sick when it wuz a few days old, and we had brung it up as a corset, or ruther I did, fer Josiah Allen at that time had the rheumatiz to that extent that he couldn’t step his foot on the floor for months, so the care of the corset come on me, most the hull on it, till it got big enough to run out in the lot and git its own livin’.
Night after night I used to get up and warm milk for it, when it wuz very small, for it wuz weakly, and we didn’t know as we could winter it.
[Illustration: “I WOULD MEANDER OUT THERE IN A ICY NIGHT TO FEED IT.”]
We kep it in a little warm shed offen the wood house for quite a spell, but still I used to find it considerable cold when I would meander out there in a icy night to feed it. But jest as it is always the way with wimmen, the more care I took on it, the more it needed me and depended on me, the better I liked it.
Till I got to likin’ it so well that it wuzn’t half so hard a job for me to go out to feed it in the night as it would have been to laid still in my warm bed and think mebby it wuz cold and hungry.
So I would pike out and feed it two or three times a night.
That is the nater of wimmen, the weaker it wuz and the humblier it wuz, and the more it needed me, the more I thought on it.
And as is the nater of man, Josiah Allen didn’t seem to care so much about it while it wuz weak and humbly and spindlin’.
He told me time and agin, that I couldn’t save it, and it never would amount to anythin’, and wuzn’t nothin’ but legs any way, and lots of other slightin’ remarks. And he’d call it “horse corset” in a kind of a light, triflin’ way, that wuz apt to gaul a woman when she come back with icy night-gown and frosty toes and fingers, way along in the night.
[Illustration: “BEEN OUT TO TEND TO YOUR ‘HORSE CORSET,’ HAVE YOU?”]
He’d wake up, a-layin’ there warm and comfortable on his soft goose feather piller and say to me: “Been out to tend to your ‘horse corset,’ have you?”
“_Horse corset_! ‘Wall, what if it wuz?”
Such language way along in the night, from a warm comfortable pardner to a cold one, is apt to make some words back and forth.
And then he’d speak of its legs agin, in the most slightin’ terms–and he’d ask me if didn’t want its picter took–etc., etc., etc.
(I believe one thing that ailed Josiah Allen wuz he didn’t want me to get up and get my feet so cold).
But, as I wuz a-sayin’, though I couldn’t deny some of his words, for truly its legs did seem to be at the least calculation a yard and a half long, specilly in the night, why they’d look fairly pokerish.
And though I knew it wuz humbly still I persevered, and at last it got to thrivin’ and growin’ fast. And the likelier it grew, and the stronger, and the handsomer, so Josiah Allen’s likin’ for it grew and increased, till he got to settin’ a sight of store by it.
And now it wuz a two-year-old, and he had sold it for two hundred and fifteen dollars. It wuz spozed it wuz goin’ to make a good trotter.
Wall, seem’ he had got such a big price for the colt, and knowin’ well that I wuz the sole cause of its bein’ alive at this day, I felt that it wuz the best time in the hull three hundred and sixty-five days of the year to tackle him for sunthin’ to give to the fair. I felt that the least he could do would be to give me ten or fifteen dollars for it. So consequently after supper wuz out of the way, and the work done up, I tackled him.
He wuz jest a-countin’ out his money prior to puttin’ it away in his tin box, and I laid the subject before him strong and eloquent, jest the wants and needs of the meetin’ house, and jest how hard we female sisters wuz a-workin’, and jest how much we needed some money to buy our ingregiencies with for the fair.
He set still, a-countin’ out his money, but I know he heard me. There wuz four fifty dollar bills, a ten, and a five, and I felt that at the very least calculation he would hand me out the ten or the five, and mebby both on ’em.
But he laid ’em careful in the box, and then pulled out his old pocket-book out of his pocket, and handed me a ten cent piece.
[Illustration: “HANDED ME A TEN CENT PIECE.”]
I wuz mad. And I hain’t a-goin’ to deny that we had some words. Or at least I said some words to him, and gin him a middlin’ clear idee of how I felt on the subject.
Why, the colt wuz more mine than his in the first place, and I didn’t want a cent of money for myself, but only wanted it for the good of the Methodist meetin’ house, which he ort to be full as interested in as I wuz.
Yes, I gin him a pretty lucid idee of what my feelin’s wuz on the subject–and spozed mebby I had convinced him. I wuz a-standin’ with my back to him, a-ironin’ a shirt for him, when I finished up my piece of mind. And thought more’n as likely as not he’d break down and be repentent, and hand me out a ten dollar bill.
But no, he spoke out as pert and cheerful as anything and sez he:
“Samantha, I don’t think it is necessary for Christians to give such a awful sight. Jest look at the widder’s mit.”
I turned right round and looked at him, holdin’ my flat-iron in my right hand, and sez I:
“What do you mean, Josiah Allen? What are you talkin’ about?”
[Illustration: “WHAT DO YOU MEAN, JOSIAH ALLEN? WHAT ARE YOU TALKIN’ ABOUT?”]
“Why the widder’s mit that is mentioned in Scripter, and is talked about so much by Christians to this day. Most probable it wuz a odd one, I dare persume to say she had lost the mate to it. It specilly mentions that there wuzn’t but one on ’em. And jest see how much that is talked over, and praised up clear down the ages, to this day. It couldn’t have been worth more’n five cents, if it wuz worth that.”
“How do you spell mit, Josiah Allen?” sez I.
“Why m-i-t-e, mit.”
“I should think,” sez I, “that that spells mite.”
“Oh well, when you are a-readin’ the Bible, all the best commentaters agree that you must use your own judgment. Mite! What sense is there in that? Widder’s mite! There hain’t any sense in it, not a mite.”
And Josiah kinder snickered here, as if he had made a dretful cute remark, bringin’ the “mite” in in that way. But I didn’t snicker, no, there wuzn’t a shadow, or trace of anything to be heard in my linement, but solemn and bitter earnest. And I set the flat-iron down on the stove, solemn, and took up another, solemn, and went to ironin’ on his shirt collar agin with solemnety and deep earnest. “No,” Josiah Allen continued, “there hain’t no sense in that–but mit! there you have sense. All wimmen wear mits; they love ’em. She most probable had a good pair, and lost one on ’em, and then give the other to the church. I tell you it takes men to translate the Bible, they have such a realizin’ sense of the weaknesses of wimmen, and how necessary it is to translate it in such a way as to show up them weaknesses, and quell her down, and make her know her place, make her know that man is her superior in every way, and it is her duty as well as privilege to look up to him.”
And Josiah Allen crossed his left leg over his right one, as haughty and over bearin’ a-crossin’ as I ever see in my life, and looked up haughtily at the stove-pipe hole in the ceilin’, and resoomed,
“But, as I wuz sayin’ about her mit, the widder’s, you know. That is jest my idee of givin’, equinomical, savin’, jest as it should be.”
“Yes,” sez I, in a very dry axent, most as dry as my flat-iron, and that wuz fairly hissin’ hot. “She most probable had some man to advise her, and to tell her what use the mit would be to support a big meetin’ house.” Oh, how dry my axent wuz. It wuz the very dryest, and most irony one I keep by me–and I keep dretful ironikle ones to use in cases of necessity.
“Most probable,” sez Josiah, “most probable she did.” He thought I wuz praisin’ men up, and he acted tickled most to death.
“Yes, some man without any doubt, advised her, told her that some other widder would lose one of hern, and give hers to the meetin’ house, jest the mate to hern. That is the way I look at it,” sez he “and I mean to mention that view of mine on this subject the very next time they take up a subscription in the meetin’ house and call on me.”
But I turned and faced him then with the hot flat-iron in my hand, and burnin’ indignation in my eys, and sez I:
“If you mention that, Josiah Allen, in the meetin’ house, or to any livin’ soul on earth, I’ll part with you.” And I would, if it wuz the last move I ever made.
But I gin up from that minute the idea of gettin’ anything out of Josiah Allen for the fair. But I had some money of my own that I had got by sellin’ three pounds of geese feathers and a bushel of dried apples, every feather picked by me, and every quarter of apple pared and peeled and strung and dried by me. It all come to upwerds of seven dollars, and I took every cent of it the next day out of my under bureau draw and carried it to the meetin’ house and gin it to the treasurer, and told ’em, at the request of the hull on ’em, jest how I got the money.
And so the hull of the female sisters did, as they handed in their money, told jest how they come by it.
Sister Moss had seated three pairs of children’s trouses for young Miss Gowdy, her children are very hard on their trouses (slidin’ down the banesters and such). And young Miss Gowdy is onexperienced yet in mendin’, so the patches won’t show. And Sister Moss had got forty-seven cents for the job, and brung it all, every cent of it, with the exception of three cents she kep out to buy peppermint drops with. She has the colic fearful, and peppermint sometimes quells it.
Young Miss Gowdy wuz kep at home by some new, important business (twins). But she sent thirty-two cents, every cent of money she could rake and scrape, and that she had scrimped out of the money her husband had gin her for a woosted dress. She had sot her heart on havin’ a ruffle round the bottom (he didn’t give her enough for a overshirt), but she concluded to make it plain, and sent the ruffle money.
And young Sister Serena Nott had picked geese for her sister, who married a farmer up in Zoar. She had picked ten geese at two cents apiece, and Serena that tender-hearted that it wuz like pickin’ the feathers offen her own back.
[Illustration: “SHE HAD PICKED TEN GEESE AT TWO CENTS APIECE.”]
And then she is very timid, and skairt easy, and she owned up that while the pickin’ of the geese almost broke her heart, the pickin’ of the ganders almost skairt her to death. They wuz very high headed and warlike, and though she put a stockin’ over their heads, they would lift ’em right up, stockin’ and all, and hiss, and act, and she said she picked ’em at what seemed to her to be at the resk of her life.
But she loved the meetin’ house, so she grin and bore it, as the sayin’ is, and she brung the hull of her hard earned money, and handed it over to the treasurer, and everybody that is at all educated knows that twice ten is twenty. She brung twenty cents.
Sister Grimshaw had, and she owned it right out and out, got four dollars and fifty-three cents by sellin’ butter on the sly. She had took it out of the butter tub when Brother Grimshaw’s back wuz turned, and sold it to the neighbors for money at odd times through the year, and besides gettin’ her a dress cap (for which she wuz fairly sufferin’), she gin the hull to the meetin’ house.
There wuz quite dubersome looks all round the room when she handed in the money and went right out, for she had a errent to the store.
And Sister Gowdy spoke up and said she didn’t exactly like to use money got in that way.
But Sister Lanfear sprunted up, and brung Jacob right into the argument, and the Isrealites who borrowed jewelry of the Egyptians, and then she brung up other old Bible characters, and held ’em up before us.
But still we some on us felt dubersome. And then another sister spoke up and said the hull property belonged to Sister Grimshaw, every mite of it, for he wuzn’t worth a cent when he married her–she wuz the widder Bettenger, and had a fine property. And Grimshaw hadn’t begun to earn what he had spent sense (he drinks). So, sez she, it all belongs to Sister Grimshaw, by right.
Then the sisters all begin to look less dubersome. But I sez:
“Why don’t she come out openly and take the money she wants for her own use, and for church work, and charity?”
“Because he is so hard with her,” sez Sister Lanfear, “and tears round so, and cusses, and commits so much wickedness. He is willin’ she should dress well–wants her to–and live well. But he don’t want her to spend a cent on the meetin’ house. He is a atheist, and he hain’t willin’ she should help on the Cause of religeon. And if he knows of her givin’ any to the Cause, he makes the awfulest fuss, scolds, and swears, and threatens her, so’s she has been made sick by it, time and agin.”
“Wall,” sez I, “what business is it to him what she does with her own money and her own property?”
I said this out full and square. But I confess that I did feel a little dubersome in my own mind. I felt that she ort to have took it more openly.
And Sister Grimshaw’s sister Amelia, who lives with her (onmarried and older than Sister Grimshaw, though it hain’t spozed to be the case, for she has hopes yet, and her age is kep). She had been and contoggled three days and a half for Miss Elder Minkley, and got fifty cents a day for contogglin’.
She had fixed over the waists of two old dresses, and contoggled a old dress skirt so’s it looked most as well as new. Amelia is a good contoggler and a good Christian. And I shouldn’t be surprised any day to see her snatched away by some widower or bachelder of proper age. She would be willin’, so it is spozed.
Wall, Sister Henn kinder relented at the last, and brung two pairs of fowls, all picked, and tied up by their legs. And we thought it wuz kinder funny and providential that one Henn should bring four more of’em.
But we wuz tickled, for we knew we could sell ’em to the grocer man at Jonesville for upwerds of a dollar bill.
[Illustration: “SUBMIT TEWKSBURY DID BRING THAT PLATE.”]
And Submit Tewksbury, what should that good little creeter bring, and we couldn’t any of us hardly believe our eyes at first, and think she could part with it, but she did bring _that plate_. That pink edged, chiny plate, with gilt sprigs, that she had used as a memorial of Samuel Danker for so many years. Sot it up on the supper table and wept in front of it.
Wall, she knew old china like that would bring a fancy price, and she hadn’t a cent of money she could bring, and she wanted to do her full part towerds helpin’ the meetin’ house along–so she tore up her memorial, a-weepin’ on it for hours, so we spozed, and offered it up, a burnt chiny offerin’ to the Lord.
Wall, I am safe to say, that nothin’ that had took place that day had begun to affect us like that.
To see that good little creeter lookin’ pale and considerble wan, hand in that plate and never groan over it, nor nothin’, not out loud she didn’t, but we spozed she kep up a silent groanin’ inside of her, for we all knew the feelin’ she felt for the plate.
It affected all on us fearfully.
But the treasurer took it, and thanked her almost warmly, and Submit merely sez, when she wuz thanked: “Oh, you are entirely welcome to it, and I hope it will fetch a good price, so’s to help the cause along.”
And then she tried to smile a little mite. But I declare that smile wuz more pitiful than tears would have been.
Everybody has seen smiles that seemed made up, more than half, of unshed tears, and withered hopes, and disappointed dreams, etc., etc.
Submit’s smile wuz of that variety, one of the very curiusest of ’em, too. Wall, she gin, I guess, about two of ’em, and then she went and sot down.
And now I am goin’ to relate the very singulerist thing that ever happened in Jonesville, or the world–although it is eppisodin’ to tell on it now, and also a-gettin’ ahead of my story, and hitchin’, as you may say, my cart in front of my horse. But it has got to be told and I don’t know but I may as well tell it now as any time.
Mebby you won’t believe it. I don’t know as I should myself, if it wuz told to me, that is, if it come through two or three. But any way it is the livin’ truth.
That very night as Submit Tewksbury sat alone at her supper table, a-lookin’ at that vacent spot on the table-cloth opposite to her, where the plate laid for Samuel Danher had set for over twenty years, she heard a knock at the door, and she got up hasty and wiped away her tears and opened the door. A man stood there in the cold a-lookin’ into the warm cosy little room. He didn’t say nothin’, he acted strange. He gin Submit a look that pierced clear to her heart (so they say). A look that had in it the crystallized love and longin’ of twenty years of faithfulness and heart hunger and homesickness. It wuz a strange look.
Submit’s heart begun to flutter, and her face grew red and then white, and she sez in a little fine tremblin’ voice,
“Who be you?”
And he sez,
“I am Samuel Danker.”
And then they say she fainted dead away, and fell over the rockin’ chair, he not bein’ near enough to ketch her.
And he brung her to on a burnt feather that fell out of the chair cushion when she fell. There wuz a small hole in it, so they say, and the feather oozed out.
I don’t tell this for truth, I only say that _they say_ thus and so.
[Illustration: “I AM SAMUEL DANKER.”]
But as to Samuel’s return, that I can swear to, and so can Josiah. And that they wuz married that very night of his return, that too can be swore to. A old minister who lived next door to Submit–superanuated, but life enough in him to marry ’em safe and sound, a-performin’ the ceremony.
It made a great stir in Jonesville, almost enormus.
But they wuz married safe enough, and happy as two gambolin’ lambs, so they say. Any way Submit looks ten years younger than she did, and I don’t know but more. I don’t know but she looks eleven or twelve years younger, and Samuel, why they say it is a perfect sight to see how happy he looks, and how he has renewed his age.
The hull affair wuz very pleasin’ to the Jonesvillians. Why there wuzn’t more’n one or two villians but what wuz fairly delighted by it, and they wuz spozed to be envius.
And I drew severel morals from it, and drew ’em quite a good ways too, over both religous and seckuler grounds.
One of the seekuler ones wuz drawed from her not settin’ the table for him that night, for the first time for twenty years, givin’ away the plate, and settin’ on (with tears) only a stun chiny one for herself. How true it is that if a female woman keeps dressed up slick, piles of extra good cookin’ on hand, and her house oncommon clean, and she sets down in a rockin’ chair, lookin’ down the road for company.
[Illustration: “THEY DON’T COME!”] _They don’t come!_
But let her on a cold mornin’ leave her dishes onwashed, and her floors onswept, and put on her husband’s old coat over her meanest dress, and go out (at his urgent request) to help him pick up apples before the frost spiles ’em. She a-layin’ out to cook up some vittles to put on to her empty shelves when she goes into the house, she not a-dreamin’ of company at that time of day.
Another moral and a more religeus one. When folks set alone sheddin’ tears on their empty hands, that seem to ’em to be emptied of all hope and happiness forever. Like es not some Divine Compensation is a-standin’ right on the door steps, ready to enter in and dwell with ’em.
Also that when Submit Tewksbury thought she had gin away for conscience’ sake, her dearest treasure, she had a dearer one gin to her–Samuel Danker by name.
[Illustration: “THEY COME.”]
Also I drew other ones of various sizes, needless to recapitulate, for time is hastenin’, and I have eppisoded too fur, and to resoom, and take up agin on my finger the thread of my discourse, that I dropped in the Methodist meetin’ house at Jonesville, in front of the treasurer.
Wall, Submit brought the plate.
Sister Nash brought twenty-three cents all in pennys, tied up in the corner of a old handkercif. She is dretful poor, but she had picked up these here and there doin’ little jobs for folks.
And we hadn’t hardly the heart to take ’em, nor the heart to refuse takin’ ’em, she wuz so set on givin’ ’em. And it wuz jest so with Mahala Crane, Joe Cranes’es widder.
She, too, is poor, but a Christian, if there ever wuz one. She had made five pair of overhawls for the clothin’ store in Loontown, for which she had received the princely revenue of fifty cents.
She handed the money over to the treasurer, and we wuz all on us extremely worked upon and wrought up to see her do it, for she did it with such a cheerful air. And her poor old calico dress she had on wuz so thin and wore out, and her dingy alpaca shawl wuz thin to mendin’, and all darned in spots. We all felt that Mahala had ort to took the money to get her a new dress.
[Illustration: “SISTER ARVILLY LANFRAR, CANVASSIN’ FOR A BOOK.”]
But we dasted none on us to say so to her. I wouldn’t have been the one to tell her that for a dollar bill, she seemed to be so happy a-givin’ her part towerds the fair, and for the good of the meetin’ house she loved.
Wall, Sister Meachim had earned two dollars above her wages–she is a millinner by perswasion, and works at a millinner’s shop in Jonesville. She had earned the two dollars by stayin’ and workin’ nights after the day’s work wuz done.
And Sister Arvilly Lanfear had earned three dollars and twenty-eight cents by canvassin’ for a book. The name of the book wuz: “The Wild, Wicked, and Warlike Deeds of Man.”
And Arvilly said she had took solid comfort a-sellin’ it, though she had to wade through snow and slush half way up to her knees some of the time, a-trailin’ round from house to house a-takin’ orders fer it. She said she loved to sell a book that wuz full of truth from the front page to the back bindin’.
As for me I wouldn’t gin a cent for the book, and I remember we had some words when she come to our house with it. I told her plain that I wouldn’t buy no book that belittled my companion, or tried to–sez I, “Arvilly, men are _jest_ as good as wimmen and no better, not a mite better.”
And Arvilly didn’t like it, but I made it up to her in other ways. I gin her some lamb’s wool yarn for a pair of stockin’s most immegictly afterwerds, and a half bushel of but’nuts. She is dretful fond of but’nuts.
[Illustration: “OLD MISS BALCH.”]
Wall, Sister Shelmadine had sold ten pounds of maple sugar, and brought the worth on it.
And Sister Henzy brung four dollars and a half, her husband had gin her for another purpose, but she took it for this, and thought there wuzn’t no harm in it, as she laid out to go without the four dollars and a halt’s worth. It was fine shoes he had gin the money for, and she calculated to make the old ones do.
And Sister Henzy’s mother, old Miss Balch, she is eighty-three years old, and has inflamatery rheumatiz in her hands, which makes ’em all swelled up and painful. But Sister Henzy said her mother had knit three pairs of fringed mittens (the hardest work for her hands she could have laid holt of, and which must have hurt her fearful). But Miss Henzy said a neighbor had offered her five dollars fer the three pairs, and so she felt it wuz her duty to knit ’em, to help the fair along. She is a very strong Methodist, and loved to forwerd the interests of Zion.
She wuz goin’ to give every cent of the money to the meetin’ house, so Sister Henzy said, all but ten cents, that she _had_ to have to get Pond’s Extract with, to bathe her hands. They wuz in a fearful state. We all felt bad for old Miss Balch, and I don’t believe there wuz a woman there but what gin her some different receipt fer helpin’ her hands, besides sympathy, lots and lots of it, and pity.
Wall, Sister Sypher’ses husband is clost, very clost with her. She don’t have anythin’ to give, only her labor, as well off as they be. And now he wuz so wrapped up in that buzz saw mill business that she wouldn’t have dasted to approach him any way, that is, to ask him for a cent.
Wall, what should that good little creeter do but gin all the money she had earned and saved durin’ the past year or two, and had laid by for emergincies or bunnets.
She had got over two dollars and seventy-five cents, which she handed right over to the treasurer of the fair to get materials for fancy work. When they wuz got she proposed to knit three pairs of men’s socks out of zephyr woosted, and she said she was goin’ to try to pick enough strawberrys to buy a pair of the socks for Deacon Sypher. She said it would be a comfort for her to do it, for they would be so soft for the Deacon’s feet.
Wall, Sister Gowdy wuz the last one to gin in dress gin to her by her uncle out to the Ohio. It wuz gin her to mourn for her mother-in-law in.
And what should that good, willin’ creeter do but bring that dress and gin it to the fair to sell.
We hated to take it, we hated to like dogs, for we knew Sister Gowdy needed it.
But she would make us take it; she said “if her Mother Gowdy wuz alive, she would say to her,
“Sarah Ann, I’d ruther not be mourned for in bombazeen than to have the dear old meetin’ house in Jonesville go to destruction. Sell the dress and mourn fer me in a black calico.”
_That_ Sister Gowdy said would be, she knew, what Mother Gowdy would say to her if she wuz alive.
And we couldn’t dispute Sarah Ann, for we all knew that old Miss Gowdy worked for the meetin’ house as long as she could work for anything. She loved the Methodist meetin’ house better than she loved husband or children, though she wuz a good wife and mother. She died with cramps, and her last request wuz to have this hymn sung to her funeral:
[Illustration: “I LOVE THY KINGDOM, LORD.”]
“I love thy kingdom, Lord,
The house of thine abode,
The church our dear Redeemer bought With His most precious blood.”
The quire all loved Mother Gowdy, and sung it accordin’ to her wishes, and broke down, I well remember, at the third verse–
“For her my tears shall fall,
For her my prayers ascend,
For her my toil and life be given, Till life and toil shall end.”
The quire broke down, and the minister himself shed tears to think how she had carried out her belief all her life, and died with the thought of the church she loved on her heart and its name on her lips.
Wall, the dress would sell at the least calculation for eight dollars; the storekeeper had offered that, but Sarah Ann hoped it would bring ten to the fair.
It wuz a cross to Sarah Ann, so we could see, for she had loved Mother Gowdy dretful well, and loved the uncle who had gin it to her, and she hadn’t a nice black dress to her back. But she said she hadn’t lived with Mother Gowdy twenty years for nothin’, and see how she would always sacrifice anything and everything but principle for the good of the meetin’ house.
Sister Gowdy is a good-hearted woman, and we all on us honored her for this act of hern, though we felt it wuz almost too much for her to do it.
Wall, Sister Gowdy wuz the last one to gin in her testimony, and havin’ got through relatin’ our experiences we proceeded to business and paperin’.
Sister Sylvester Bobbet and I had been voted on es the ones best qualified to lead off in the arjeous and hazerdous enterprize.
And though we deeply felt the honor they wuz a-heapin’ on to us, yet es it hes been, time and agin, in other high places in the land, if it hadn’t been fer duty that wuz a-grippin’ holt of us, we would gladly have shirked out of it and gin the honor to some humble but worthy constituent.
Fer the lengths of paper wuz extremely long, the ceilin’ fearfully high, and oh! how lofty and tottlin’ the barells looked to us. And we both on us, Sister Sylvester Bobbet and I, had giddy and dizzy spells right on the ground, let alone bein’ perched up on barells, a-liftin’ our arms up fur, fur beyond the strength of their sockets.
[Illustration: “WE FELT NERVED UP TO DO OUR BEST.”]
But duty wuz a-callin’ us, and the other wimmen also, and it wuzn’t for me, nor Sister Sylvester Bobbet to wave her nor them off, or shirk out of hazerdous and dangerous jobs when the good of the Methodist Meetin’ House wuz at the Bay.
No, with as lofty looks as I ever see in my life (I couldn’t see my own, but I felt ’em), and with as resolute and martyrous feelin’s as ever animated two wimmen’s breasts, Sister Sylvester Bobbet and I grasped holt of the length of paper, one on each end on it, Sister Arvilly Lanfear and Miss Henzy a-holdin’ it up in the middle like Aaron and Hur a-holdin’ up Moses’ses arms. We advanced and boldly mounted up onto our two barells, Miss Gowdy and Sister Sypher a-holdin’ two chairs stiddy for us to mount up on.
Every eye in the meetin’ house wuz on us. We felt nerved up to do our best, even if we perished in so doin’, and I didn’t know some of the time but we would fall at our two posts. The job wuz so much more wearin’ and awful than we had foreboded, and we had foreboded about it day and night for weeks and weeks, every one on us.
The extreme hite of the ceilin’; the slipperyness and fragility of the lengths of paper; the fearful hite and tottlin’ness of the barells; the dizzeness that swept over us at times, in spite of our marble efforts to be calm. The dretful achin’ and strainin’ of our armpits, that bid fair to loosen ’em from their four sockets. The tremenjous responsibility that laid onto us to get the paper on smooth and onwrinkled.
It wuz, takin’ it altogether, the most fearful and wearisome hour of my hull life.
Every female in the room held her breath in deathless anxiety (about thirty breaths). And every eye in the room wuz on us (about fifty-nine eyes–Miss Shelmadine hain’t got but one workin’ eye, the other is glass, though it hain’t known, and must be kep).
Wall, it wuz a-goin’ on smooth and onwrinkled–smiles broke out on every face, about thirty smiles–a half a minute more and it would be done, and done well. When at that tryin’ and decisive moment when the fate of our meetin’ house wuz, as you may say, at the stake, we heard the sound of hurryin’ feet, and the door suddenly opened, and in walked Josiah Allen, Deacon Sypher, and Deacon Henzy followed by what seemed to me at the time to be the hull male part of the meetin’ house.
But we found out afterwerds that there wuz a few men in the meetin’ house that thought wimmen ort to set; they argued that when wimmen had been standin’ so long they out to set down; they wuz good dispositioned. But as I sez at the time, it looked to us as if every male Methodist in the land wuz there and present.
They wuz in great spirits, and their means wuz triumphant and satisfied.
They had jest got the last news from the Conference in New York village, and had come down in a body to disseminate it to us.
They said the Methodist Conference had decided that the seven wimmen that had been stood up there in New York for the last week, couldn’t set, that they wuz too weak and fraguile to set on the Conference.
And then the hull crowd of men, with smiles and haughty linements, beset Josiah to read it out to us.
So Josiah Allen, with his face nearly wreathed with a smile, a blissful smile, but as high headed a one as I ever see, read it all out to us. But he should have to hurry, he said, for he had got to carry the great and triumphant news all round, up as fur as Zoar, if he had time.
[Illustration: “THE METHODIST CONFERENCE HAD DECIDED THAT WIMMEN WUZ TOO WEAK TO SET.”]
And so he read it out to us, and as we see that that breadth wuz spilte, we stopped our work for a minute and heard it.
And after he had finished it, they all said it wuz a masterly dockument, the decision wuz a noble one, and it wuz jest what they had always said. They said they had always known that wimmen wuz too weak, her frame wuz too tender, she was onfitted by Nater, in mind and in body to contend with such hardship. And they all agreed that it would be puttin’ the men in a bad place, and takin’ a good deal offen their dignity, if the fair sex had been allowed by them to take such hardships onto ’em. And they sez, some on ’em, “Why! what are men in the Methodist meetin’ house for, if it hain’t to guard the more weaker sect, and keep cares offen ’em?”
And one or two on ’em mentioned the words, “cooin’ doves” and “sweet tender flowerets,” as is the way of men at such times. But they wuz in too big a hurry to spread themselves (as you may say) in this direction. They had to hurry off to tell the great news to other places in Jonesville and up as fer as Loontown and Zoar.
But Sister Arvilly Lanfear, who happened to be a-standin’ in the door as they went off, she said she heard ’em out as fer as the gate a-congratilatin’ themselves and the Methodist Meetin’ House and the nation on the decesion, for, sez they,
“Them angels hain’t strong enough to set, and I’ve known it all the time.”
And Sister Sylvester Gowdy sez to me, a-rubbin’ herachin’ armpits–
“If they are as beet out as we be they’d be glad to set down on anything–a Conference or anything else.”
And I sez, a-wipin’ the presperatin of hard labor from my forwerd,
“For the land’s sake! Yes! I should think so.”
And then with giddy heads and strainin’ armpits we tackled the meetin’ house agin.
[Illustration: The End]
In view of the frequent reference, in this work, to the discussion in and preceding the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church of 1888, in regard to the admission of women delegates, the publishers have deemed it desirable to append the six following addresses delivered on the floor of the Conference during the progress of that discussion.
The General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church is the highest legislative body of that denomination. It is composed of delegates, both ministerial and lay, the former being elected by the Annual Conferences, and the latter by Lay Electoral Conferences. The sessions of the General Conference are held quadrennially.
Prior to the session held in May, 1888, in New York City, women delegates were elected, one each, by the four following Lay Electoral Conferences–namely, The Kansas Conference, The Minnesota Conference, The Pittsburgh Conference, and The Rock River Conference. Protest was made against the admission of these delegates on the ground that the admission of women delegates was not in accord with the constitutional provisions of the Church, embodied in what are termed the Restrictive Rules. A special Committee on the Eligibility of Women to Membership in the General Conference was appointed, consisting of seventeen members, to whom the protest was referred. On May 3d the Committee reported adversely to the admission of the four women delegates, the report alleging “that under the Constitution and laws of the Church as they now are, women are not eligible as lay delegates in the General Conference.” From the discussion following this report, and lasting several days, the following six addresses, three in favor of and three against the admission of the women delegates, are selected and presented, with a few verbal corrections, as published in the official journal of the Conference.
ADDRESS OF REV. DR. THEODORE L. FLOOD.
I am in accord, in the main, with Dr. Potts and Dr. Brush in what they have said on this question, unless it may be where my friend who last spoke said that these ladies, these elected delegates to this body, ought to be admitted. My judgment and my conscience before the Discipline of the Methodist Episcopal Church and the Restrictive Rules is that these women elected by these Electoral Conferences are in this General Conference.
Their names may not have been called when the roll was called, and yet it was distinctly stated by the Bishop presiding that morning that they would be called, and the challenges presented with their names; and afterward demanded it, the names of these delegates who were not enrolled with the others were called, and the protests were read. Their names have been called as members of this body, and they are simply here as “challenged” members. From that standpoint this question must be discussed, and any disposition of this case under the circumstances must be in this direction. These women delegates must be put out of this General Conference if they are not granted the rights and privileges of members here. It is not a question of “admitting” them. Before this report, before the bar of history, we stand, and will be called upon to vote and act, and millions of people will hold us responsible, and I dare say that our votes will be recorded as to whether they shall be “put out” or “stay in.”
Why, sir, the government of the Methodist Episcopal Church exists for the ministry and membership of the Church. The ministry and the membership of the Church do not exist for the government. The world was made for man, and not man for the world. That is the fundamental idea in the government of God, as He treats us as human beings. That is the fundamental idea in the government of the Methodist Episcopal Church, as we are enlisted in the support of that government as ministers and members of the Church. Now under this system of ecclesiastical government a time came in our history when we submitted a grave question to the membership of the Church. It was not a question simply of petition, asking the membership to send petitions up to the General Conference. On the contrary, it was submitting a constitutional question not simply to the male members of the Church, for that grand and noble man of the Methodist Church, Dr. David Sherman of the New England Conference, moved himself to strike out the word “male” from the report of the Committee on Lay Delegation. It came to a vote, and it was stricken out, two to one in the vote. When that was done, then the General Conference of our Church submitted to the membership of the Church the question of lay delegation. But back of the question of lay delegation was as grave a question, and that was granting the right of suffrage to the women of the Church. The General Conference assumed the responsibility of giving to the women the right to vote. It may be questioned this way; it may be explained that way; but the facts abide that the General Conference granted to the women of the Church the right to vote on a great and important question in ecclesiastical law. Now if you run a parallel along the line of our government–and it has often been said that there are parallels in the government of the United States corresponding to lines of legislation and legislative action in the government of the Church–you will find that the right of suffrage in the country at the ballot-box has been a gradual growth. One of the most sacred rights that a man, an American citizen, enjoys is the right to cast a ballot for the man or men he would have legislate for him; and for no trivial reason can that right, when once granted to the American citizen, be taken away from him. Go to the State of Massachusetts, and trace the history of citizen suffrage, and you find it commenced in this way: First, a man could vote under the government there who was a member of the Church. Next, he could vote if he were a freeholder. A little later on he could vote if he paid a poll-tax. In the government, and under the legislation of our Church, first the women were granted the right to vote on the principle of lay delegation, not on the “plan” of lay delegation, but on the “principle” of lay delegation. That was decided by Bishop Simpson in the New Hampshire Conference, and by Bishop Janes afterward in one of the New York Conferences. On the principle of lay delegation, the women of the Church were granted the right of suffrage; presently they appeared in the Quarterly Conference, to vote as class-leaders, stewards, and Sunday-school superintendents; and it created a little excitement, a feverish state of feeling in the Church, and the General Conference simply passed a resolution or a rule interpreting that action on the part of women claiming this privilege in the Quarterly Conference as being a “right,” and it was continued. Presently, as the right of suffrage of women passed on and grew, they voted in the Electoral Conferences, and there was no outcry made against it. I have yet to hear of any Bishop in the Church, or any presiding elder, or any minister challenging the right of women to vote in Electoral Conferences or Quarterly Conferences; and yet for sixteen years they have been voting in these bodies; voting to send laymen here to legislate; to send laymen to the General Conference to elect Bishops and Editors and Book Agents and Secretaries. They come to where votes count in making up this body; they have been voting sixteen years, and only now, when the logical result of the right of suffrage that the General Conference gave to women appears and confronts us by women coming here to vote as delegates, do we rise up and protest. I believe that it is at the wrong time that the protest comes. It should have come when the right to vote was granted to women in the Church. It is sixteen years too late, and as was very wisely said by Dr. Potts, the objection comes not so much from the Constitution of the Church as from the “constitution of the men,” who challenge these women.
Now, sir, another parallel. You take the United States Government just after the war, when the colored people of the South, the freedmen of our land, unable to take care of themselves, their friends, that had fought the battles of the war, in Congress determined that they should be protected, if no longer by bayonets and cannon, that they should be protected by placing the ballot in their hands, and the ballot was placed in the hands of the freedman of the South by the action of the National Congress, Congress submitting a constitutional amendment to the legislatures of the States; and when enough of them had voted in favor of it, and the President had signed the bill, it became an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, granting to the people of the South, who had been disfranchised, the right of suffrage.
Now, what does the right of suffrage do? It carries with it the right to hold office. Where women have the privileges of voting on the school question, they are granted the privilege of being school directors, holding the office of superintendents, and the restriction on them stops at that point under statute law. If you go a little further you will find that when the freedmen were enfranchised, and they sent men of their own color to the House of Representatives, did that body say “stop!” “we protest, you cannot come in because of illegality”? No. They were admitted on the face of their credentials because they had first been granted the right of suffrage. When men of their color went to the United States Senate and submitted their credentials, they were not protested against, but they were admitted as members of the United States Senate on the face of their credentials. And why? Because the right of suffrage granted to the freedmen of the South under a constitutional amendment of the nation, carried with it the right of the men whom we fought to free, and did free, in an awful war, to hold office in the nation. Now, sir, you must interpret the law somewhat by the spirit of the times in which you live. That is a mistaken notion to say that you must always go to the men that made the law to get the interpretation of it. If that were true, would it not always be wise for legislators to give their affidavits and place on file their interpretation of the law they had confirmed, and placed on the statute books? There are legal gentlemen in this body who will tell you that it goes for very little when you come to interpret law. And yet you will find this to be true, that a law must be interpreted somewhat by the spirit of the time in which you live. Why, twenty years ago, when the General Conference handed the question of lay delegation down to the Annual Conferences, and the members of our Church, there was not a woman practising law in the Supreme Court of the United States. Go back through the history of jurisprudence of this country and in England, and you will find that it had never been known that a woman practised law in the Supreme Court of this country or England. But to-day women have been admitted to practise law in the Supreme Court of the United States. No amendment to the Constitution of the United States had to be adopted in order to secure this privilege for them. But this is true, that the judges of the Supreme Court, by a more liberal interpretation of the Constitution of the United States, said, “Women may be officers of the Supreme Court, and may practise law there.” The same kind of a spirit, in interpreting the Discipline and the Restrictive Rules of the Discipline of the Church, will place these women delegates in this body where they have been sent. The same thing is true of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania and in the Courts of Philadelphia. There is no way out, as my judgment sees, and as my conscience tells me, since before the government of God man and woman are equally responsible. There is no way out of this dilemma for this General Conference, but to say that these women delegates shall sit in this body, where they have been sent, and where their names have been called.
Why, take the missionary operations. The Woman’s Missionary Society is to-day raising more money and doing more missionary work than the Parent Missionary Society did fifty years ago. And yet men legislate concerning the missionary operations of women, and give them no voice directly in this body.
We bring up the temperance question here against license and in favor of Prohibition, and we pass our resolutions after we have given our discussions, and yet the Methodist Church has the honor of having in the ranks of her membership–(Time called.)
ADDRESS OF REV. DR. JAMES M. BUCKLEY.
Mr. President, while the last speaker was on the floor, a modification of a passage of Scripture occurred to me, “The enemy cometh in like a flood, but I will lift up a standard against him.” It is somewhat peculiar that he should begin by making a statement about one of the most honored names in American Methodism, a statement that has been published in the papers, and that nine tenths of this body knew as well as he did. It must have been intended as a part of his argument, and I regard it as of as much force as anything he said after it. But in point of fact the question does not turn upon the person, but upon the principle. I have received an anonymous letter containing the following among other things, “Beware how you attack the holy cause of woman. Do you not know that obstacles to progress are rem-o-o-v-e-d out of the way?” The signature of that letter is ingenious. I cannot tell whether it was a man or a woman, for it reads as follows, “A Lover of your Soul and of Woman.” Now, Mr. President, the only candlestick that ought to be removed out of its place is the candlestick that contains a candle that does not burn the pure oil of truth. And I believe, sir, that with the best of intentions the three speakers who have appeared have given us three chapters in different styles of a work of fiction, and it is my duty to undertake to show where they have slipped. The Apocrypha says, “An eloquent man is known far and near; but a man of understanding discerneth where he slippeth.” I have no claim to eloquence; never pretended to have any; but I have a claim to some knowledge of Methodist history, to some ability to state my sentiments, and to be without any fear of the results, either present or prospective.
Now, Mr. President, you notice from my friends that if they cannot command the judgment of the Conference they propose to say the women are in, and defy us to put them out. I am sorry that my friend did not take in the full significance of that. And they say that everybody who has a certificate in form is in until he is put out. Why, they do not discriminate between ordinary contested cases and a case where the constitutional point is involved. If these women have a right here, they have had it from the beginning by the Constitution. It is not a contested case as to whether John Smith was voted for by the people who ought to vote for him, or in the right place. Now, they talk of bringing up documents here. I wrote to the Hon. George F. Edmunds, the most distinguished member of the United States Senate, and simply put this question, If a certificate of election in the Senate shows anything that would prove the person unworthy of a seat, would he be seated pending an investigation or not? He did not know what it referred to, and I read it _verbatim_. I never mentioned the name of Methodist, and I read _verbatim_ from his letter:
“No officer of the Senate has any right to decide any such question, and, therefore, every person admitted to a seat is admitted by, in fact, a vote of the Senate. The ordinary course in the Senate is, when the credentials appear to be perfectly regular, and there is no notorious and undisputed fact or circumstance against the qualifications and election of a senator, to admit him at once and settle the question of his right afterward. But there have been cases in which the Senate declined to admit a claimant holding a regular certificate upon the ground that enough was known to the Senate to justify its declining to receive him until an inquiry should be had. Very truly yours,
“GEORGE F. EDMUNDS.”
Now, Mr. President, all this twaddle about the women being in is based upon the pretence that one woman is there now. The certificate shows that they were women, though as yet no action has been taken in regard to them at all. If they were in, they were in with a constitutional challenge. I champion the holy cause of women. I stand here to champion their cause against their being introduced into this body without their own sex having had the opportunity of expressing their opinion upon the subject. I stand here to protect them against being connected with movements without law or contrary to law, and those who wish to bring them in and those who say it is the constitution of the man and prejudice (my friend, Dr. Potts, said prejudice), they are persons, indeed, to stand up here as, _par excellence_ the champions of women! Is it the constitution of the men? Have you read the letter of Mrs. Caroline Wright in the _Christian Advocate_, one of our most distinguished American Methodist women? She does not wish to see them here. It is the constitution of the woman in that case, and I am opposed to their being admitted until the general sentiment of the women and the men of our Church have an opportunity of being heard upon it.
Now, Mr. President, note these facts…. This is not a fact, but my opinion. I solemnly believe that there was never an hour in the Methodist Episcopal Church when it was in so great danger as it is to-day, not on account of the admission of these women, two of whom I believe to be as competent to sit in judgment on this question as any man on this floor. That is not the question, as I propose to show. I assert freely, here and now, if the women are in under the Restrictive Rules, no power ought to put them out. If they are not in under the Restrictive Rules, nothing has been done since, in my judgment, bearing upon it. I am astounded that these brethren fancy that this question has no bearing at all on the meaning of that rule. That is a wonderful thing. But we affirm that when the Church voted to introduce lay delegation, it not only did not intend to introduce women, but it did intend to fill up the whole body with men. That is what we affirm. If we can prove it, it is a tower of help to us. If we cannot prove it, we cannot make out our case. But our contention is, that the Church did not undertake to put women in, and it did undertake to fill up the capacities and relations of the body with men. Now, look at it. No man goes to the dictionary to find the meaning of the word “layman.” There is not a man that can find out the meaning of our Restrictive Rules from the dictionary. No living man can make out the meaning of a word in the Restrictive Rules from Webster’s dictionary. You must get it from the history of the Church. Who is the “General Superintendent” by Webster or Worcester? The Methodist Episcopacy is the thing that is protected by the Restrictive Rules. The dictionary does not tell how the Chartered Fund shall be taken care of. Now they talk about laymen. They do not seem, I think, to understand the history of the thing. Some of them do not appear to understand the history of the English language. Why was the word “layman” ever introduced? Because there was a separate class of clergy men in the world, but there was not a class of clergywomen in the world. If there had been, there would have been a term for laywomen and for clergywomen. And the word was invented to distinguish the laymen from the _clergy_men. Had there been clergywomen, there would have been laywomen. The “laity” means all the people, men, women, and children. A woman is one of the laity, and so is every child in the country or in the Church one of the laity. But when you speak of man acting as a unit he is a layman, but you never say a laywoman. You say: a woman. Abraham Lincoln said, “All these things are done and suffered, that government of the people, for the people, and by the people should not perish from the earth.” Now, people, the dictionary says, are men, women, and children. Did Abraham Lincoln mean that any women or children can take any part in the government of the nation? No, no, no! He meant this. When he stood up and delivered his inaugural speech, he said this, “The intent of the lawmaker is the law.”
I give them something from one of the greatest lawyers that ever lived to think of awhile–John Selden: “The only honest meaning of any word is the intent of the man that wrote it.” At the time that the plan of lay delegation was adopted, there was not a single Conference of the Church on this wide globe, not one that distinguished between the ministry and the laity that allowed women to take any part in its law-making body. Some one will talk about the Quakers. But they deny the existence of the Church, the sacraments of the Church, and make no distinction between the ministry and the laity. Let them get up and show that there was ever one Church in the world worthy of the name that allowed women to make its laws. There is not one to-day. Let them name a Church, let them name one that has allowed women in its law-making body; and yet such is the blinding power of gush that men will say that our fathers all understood it and proposed to put women in. The fact is, that they only proposed to allow them to put us in. As soon as the General Conference adjourned the women made an appeal in a public statement. They were asked to vote for lay delegation, and were told that then they could set the Church right. The opponents appealed to them to vote against it on the ground that it would not make any difference to them. James Porter, Daniel Curry, Dr. Hodgson (Professor Little thinks he was the greatest of them all) wrote a series of articles in the _Advocate_, and it never occurred to them that the women could come into the General Conference. Lay delegation was only admitted by 33 votes. Had there been a change of 33 votes they would not have come in. Every member of the New York East Conference knows that Dr. Curry’s influence was so powerful that he could almost get a majority against it. And they know if any one had set up an opposition to it on this ground, the whole Conference would have voted against the movement, and that if it had not been for Bishop Ames and Bishop Janes, who went to the Wyoming Conference where the majority was opposed to lay delegation, and by their influence there converted my friend Olin and others, he knows that if this matter of the women had been in or understood, the whole Conference would have been against it. It would not have been possible. Dr. Potts says that it is prejudice. Nothing of the kind. Do you know there are 12,000 Methodist ministers that are ciphers all the time except when they vote for delegates? Are you going to presume that when the Church has a multitude of members, that it is going to sit here and change, by an interpretation, a Restrictive Rule, or put in what was never in, and never understood to be in? The Restrictive Rule fills up the ministerial delegates. Every time you put a woman in, you put a man out. This subject has never come up here before. The question is this, Do those Restrictive Rules mean anything? If they do, you cannot put in anything that the fathers did not put in. And if you put in women as lawmakers; if you can read those Rules and put them in there, you can change any one of the Restrictive Rules by a majority of one. And I want to say to you, that if you do it, you will prove to the Methodist Episcopal Church that the sole protection we have against the caprice of a majority of the General Conference is not worth the paper it is written on. All you have to do is to get a majority of the Conference against the Episcopacy, and then put any interpretation, and then you get a few women admitted, and this you call the progress of the age. Mr. Chairman, I believe in progress, and when the Church progresses far enough, it can change this law in a constitutional way. But it has not yet gone far enough. These men believe that the Church has never done it, or that it is best. Dr. Flood said that they must be brought in in the light of progress. I affirm that Dr. Flood’s arguments all point in that direction–they must be interpreted in the light of progress. When you do that you have got a despotism. I want to go back to my constituents and say this: I exercise all the power that our Charter gives me. But at the moment that anything is proposed, and we put in what the fathers did not have before their eyes, at that moment I stop and say, Thus far, but no farther. A despotism is a despotism, whether it is a despotism without restraint, the Czar with his wife, the Czar without his wife. You will turn this house into a despotism, and you will find it difficult to defend Methodism by its peculiar Constitution before the American people.
If you want women in, there is another way to bring them in. Send the question around as you did for lay delegation. There was only a doubt in the General Conference of 1868, and yet they had a sense of candor. John M’Clintock fought in favor of taking them in. But he said, “I think it best to send the question around.” True progress is not gained in any other way. Some prefer a shorter cut. Let me say to you, “He that cometh in by the door,” the same hath a right to come in; but he that cometh in another way, is not as respectable as in the other case.
ADDRESS OF REV. DR. A.B. LEONARD.
Mr. Chairman, unfortunately for me, I have received no anonymous letters. And so I have nothing either sensational or startling with which to introduce my speech. I shall not speak this morning under any fear of being removed as an obstruction, or of having my future prospects blasted. It is my privilege, therefore, to speak to you this morning upon this subject calmly and dispassionately, having no motive to either suppress or exaggerate the truth. The party who wrote Dr. Buckley, threatening to remove him as an obstruction, must be highly gratified to know that that obstruction has already been removed. Brother Hughey removed the obstruction, extinguished the candle, and destroyed the candlestick.
We are to approach this question this morning, to discuss it purely upon its merits. The ground of constitutional law was traversed thoroughly yesterday morning in the opening speech by Dr. Potts, a speech that, though he did not hear it himself, was heard by this body, and will be heard through the length and breadth of the Church everywhere. It remains for us who follow him simply to turn on a few side-lights here and there, or to give an opportunity of viewing this question from a new point of view. And, first, there is a line of argument that may be helpful to some that has already been presented in part touching the administration of our law and the interpretation of terms that is worthy, I think, of still further consideration.
Dr. Buckley said in the New York _Christian Advocate_ of March 15th, 1888:
“The question of eligibility turns, first, upon whether the persons claiming seats are laymen; secondly, whether they have been members of the Church for five years consecutively, and are at least twenty-five years of age; and, thirdly, upon whether they have been duly elected. If women are found to be eligible under the law, they would stand upon the same plane with men, in this particular, that they must be twenty-five years, etc.”
Now, then, is a woman legally qualified to sit in the General Conference as a lay delegate? Is she a layman in the sense of that word in the Discipline? If she be not in, she cannot be introduced contrary to law by a mere majority vote of the General Conference. The Doctor sometimes writes more clearly than he speaks, and it was so in the occasion of writing this article. Over against this we have one of (as Dr. Hamilton would say) the “subtle insinuations” of the Episcopal Address, which declares that no definition of “layman” settles the question of eligibility as to any class of persons. For many are classed as laymen for the purposes of lay representation, and have to do with it officially as laymen, yet themselves are ineligible as delegates. Well, in this case, we have the Episcopal Board over against the editor. Both are right and both are wrong. The editor is right when he said of a woman, if she be a lay member her right is clear as that of any duly elected man. But he is wrong when he denies to her a right to a seat in this body as a layman. The Episcopal Address is wrong when it says that “no definition of the word ‘layman’ settles the question of eligibility.” But it is right when it says, “Many are classed as laymen for purposes of lay representation, and have to do with it officially as lay members who are not themselves eligible as delegates.”
In the practical work of the Church, and in the administration of its laws, women have been regarded as laymen from the beginning until now. They pay quarterage. If they did not pay quarterage some of our salaries would be very short. They contribute to our benevolent collections, and if it were not for their contributions, we would not to-day be shouting over the “Million dollars for Missions.” They pray and testify in our class-meetings and prayer-meetings, and but for their presence among us, many of those meetings would be as silent as the grave. They are amenable to law, and must be tried by the very same process by which men are tried. They are subject to the same penalty. They may be suspended; they may be expelled. In all these respects they have been regarded as laymen from the beginning. Indeed, we have never recognized more than two orders in our Church. We have laymen and ministers. Up to 1872 but one of these orders was represented in this General Conference. This General Conference was strictly a clerical organization. But in 1872 we marked a new epoch in Methodist history, and a new element came into this body, and has been in all our sessions since that date. The first step, as has been mentioned here before, was taken in 1868, when the question of lay delegation was sent down to the members of the Church over twenty-one years of age, and to the Annual Conferences. Dr. Queal, if I understood him, made what is, in my judgment, a fatal concession on this question. He distinctly stated, if I understood him correctly, and I have not had time to refer to the report of his speech (if I misinterpret him he will correct me), that when the motion to strike out the word “male” was made, it was done for the purpose of putting a “rider” on the motion and cause its defeat, and when that fact was made known to those in favor of lay delegation, they said they would accept it then with that interpretation, and the interpretation was that the amendment would let women into the General Conference.
Now, that being true, all this talk about the idea of the “women coming in” being never entertained until very recently falls to the ground. It was present on that occasion. It was understood by those that opposed lay delegation, and that favored it, that if they passed this amendment and the laymen were allowed to come in, it would open the door to allow women to come in also.
L. C. Queal said:
I think I am entitled now to correct this putting of the case.
Are you misrepresented?
L. C. Queal:
I am misrepresented in this, that while I stated that Dr. Sherman put that on as a “rider,” with a view to defeating the bill, that immediately after thinking so I thought it might be the occasion of securing the approval of the principle in the laity of the Church. That is all I stated. All the rest of Dr. Leonard’s statement is his own inference–a misconstruction of the fact. A.B. Leonard:
I understood Dr. Queal as I stated. I have not had time to refer to the speech he made. I leave his statement with you, and you have the privilege of consulting his speech as it is printed this morning, in reference to this matter. It came to my thought very distinctly that the idea of the possibility of women coming in was then lodged in the minds that were both in favor of and opposed to lay delegation.
Now, then, this vote that was taken, in accordance with the order of 1868, laid the foundation stone for the introduction of women into this body. That sent the question of lay delegation down to be voted on by the laity of the Church. If the women were not to be recognized as laity here, why allow them to vote on the question of the laity at all? And, having allowed them to vote on the question of the laity, settling the very foundation principle itself, with what consistency can we disallow them a place in this General Conference, when by their votes they opened the way for the laymen coming into this General Conference? Do you not remember that we had a vote previously, and the men only voted, and that the lay delegation scheme was defeated, and the _Methodist_, that was published in this city, being the organ of the lay delegationists, said that “votes ought to be weighed, not counted”? And then the question was sent back to be voted upon by both the men and the women? And let the laymen of this General Conference remember that they are in this body to-day by reason of the votes of the women of the Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1880 we went still further. We went into the work of construing pronouns. There had been women in the Quarterly Conferences previously to that date; but there was a mist in the air with regard to their legality there. The General Conference by its action did not propose to admit women to the Quarterly Conferences. It simply proposed to clear away the mist and recognize their legal right to sit in the Quarterly Conference. Being in the Quarterly Conference, and in the District Conference, they have the right to vote on every question that comes before such bodies. They vote to license ministers, to recommend ministers to Annual Conferences, to recommend local preachers for deacons’ and elders’ orders. They vote on sending delegates to our Lay Electoral Conferences, and they vote in elections for delegates to Lay Electoral Conferences, and they vote in elections for delegates from Lay Electoral Conferences to this General Conference. And there are men on this floor to-day that would not be in this at all if they had not received the support of women in Lay Electoral Conferences. Now, brethren, let it be remembered that the votes of the women to send delegates to the Lay Electoral Conferences were never challenged until they came here asking for seats. They were good enough to elect laymen to this body, but not good enough to take seats with laymen in this body. With what consistency can laymen accept seats by the votes of the women and then deprive women of their seats? I am surprised at some of the “subtle insinuations” of the Episcopacy concerning constitutional law. Allow me to say at this point that, having introduced into the Quarterly Conference these women, and having given them a right to vote there, and in the District Conferences, and in the Lay Electoral Conferences, in all honesty we must do one of two things, if we would be consistent, we must go back and take up that old foundation of lay delegation that we laid in 1868, or we must go forward and allow these women to have their seats. In a word, we must either lay again the “foundation of repentance from dead work, or go forward to perfection.” And I am not in favor of going back.
If it is true that the body of the Constitution is outside of the Restrictive Rules, and cannot be changed except in the way prescribed for altering the Restrictive Rules, then I say that this General Conference has again and again been both lawless and revolutionary. Every paragraph of the chapter, known as the Constitution, beginning with Sec.63, and closing with Sec.69, was put into that Constitution without any voice from an Annual Conference of this foot-stool. Not one single one of them was ever submitted to an Annual Conference; Sec.20, ¶183, stood for many years in the Constitution of the Church, but was transferred bodily from that Constitution by the General Conference to the position it now occupies. You come and tell us to-day that we cannot change the Constitution outside of the Restrictive Rules without going down to the Annual Conferences; it is too late in the day to say that. We have made too much history on that point. The present plan of lay delegation was not submitted to the Annual Conferences. Bishop Simpson definitely stated when he reported to the General Conference the result of the vote ordered in 1868 that the question simply of the introduction of the laity into the General Conference was presented to be voted upon by the laity and by the Annual Conferences, but the “plan” was not submitted to either to be voted upon, and the “plan” for lay delegation by which these lay brethren occupy their seats here this morning was made in every jot and tittle by the General Conference without any reference to the Annual Conferences at all.
I want to know, then, by what propriety we come here in this General Conference to say that there can be no change of Part I. of the Constitution outside of the Restrictive Rules. The General Conference cannot alter our articles of faith, it cannot abolish our Episcopacy; it cannot deprive our members of a right to trial and appeal. These come under the Restrictive Rules, and cannot be touched by this body without the consent of the Annual Conferences; but all else has been from beginning, and is now in the hands of the General Conference. Let it be remembered that this General Conference is a unique body. It is at once a legislative and a judicial body; in the former capacity it makes law; in the latter capacity it has the power to construe law.
It is at once a Congress, if you please, to enact law, and a supreme court to interpret law. Now, then, in admitting women to our General Conference, we are simply construing the Constitution, and not changing the Constitution. The Supreme Court of the United States gives decisions on the construing of the Constitution, and who ever heard of a decision of the Supreme Court being sent down to be ratified by the State Legislatures? The Supreme Court of the United States construes the Constitution, without any reference to the State Legislatures, and so we construe law without any reference to the Annual Conferences. If we touch the law inside of the Restrictive Rules, we must go down to the Annual Conferences. Outside we are free to legislate as we may.
What is the Constitution for? The Constitution is designed simply to limit the powers of the Legislature. In my own State of Ohio, for illustration, we have an article in our Constitution that forbids our Legislature to license the liquor traffic, but our legislators give a license under the guise of taxing, but they cannot give us a license law in form. The Constitution prevents it. There are States that have Constitutions that have no word to say about the liquor traffic at all, while they may either tax, license, or prohibit.
This is a fact that is well settled, that the Constitution is a limitation of legislative power, and where there is no such limitation there is no restriction.
ADDRESS OF REV. DR. ALFRED WHEELER.
Mr. President, it will be well for us, so far as we have progressed in this discussion, to see how near and how far we agree. It is admitted by the friends of the report, or by the committee, that this is a question of law, and to be decided exclusively upon principles of law. So far as those who are opposed to the report have spoken, they conceive, as I understand it, that the position taken by the committee is taken by those who are advocating its adoption. Then we are agreed that it is not a matter of sentiment, it is not a matter of chivalry. There is no place for knighthood, or any of its laws, or any other of the principles that dominated the contests of the knights of old. If it were a matter of knighthood there is not a man on this floor that would deem it necessary to bring a lance into this body. All would be peace and quiet.
There are none that would hail with more joy and gladness the women of the Church to a seat in this body than those of us who now, under the circumstances, oppose their coming in.
It is not either a matter of progressive legislation regarding the franchise of colored men, or of anybody else in the country. It is a question of law, Methodist law, and Methodist law alone.
Now, so far as the intention is concerned of those who made the law, I do not see how those who have kept themselves conversant with the history of lay delegation can for a moment claim that it was even the most remote intention of those who introduced lay delegation into the General Conference to bring in the women, and for us to transfer the field now toward women, in view of their magnificent work in the last ten or fifteen years, back to twenty years, is to commit an anachronism that would be fatal to all just interpretation of law.
I myself was in the very first meeting that was ever called to initiate the movement that at last brought in lay delegation. I voted for it; I wrote for it; I spoke for it in the General Conference and in the Annual Conferences. I was a member of the first lay committee, or Committee on Lay Delegation, that was appointed here by the General Conference in 1868. And during all these various processes of discussion, so far as I know, the thought was never suggested that under it women would come in to represent the laity, nor was it ever suggested that it was desirable that they should; so that the intention of the law-maker could never have embraced this design–the design of bringing women into the General Conference. I leave that.
Now, I claim that the General Conference has no legal authority to admit them here. We are not an omnipotent body. I know that the Supreme Court of the United States, in that contest between the Northern Church, or the Methodist Episcopal Church, and the Church South, decided that the General Conference was the Methodist Episcopal Church. I used that argument myself upon the Conference floor in 1868, that the General Conference could, without any other process, by mere legislation, introduce the laity into this body. I claimed there and then that, according to that decision, the Methodist Episcopal Church was in the General Conference. The General Conference refused to accept that endorsement of that Court, or that proposition concerning the prerogatives of this body. And through all the processes that have been ordered concerning the introduction of lay delegation that interpretation of the constitution of the Church has been repudiated. The Church herself rejected the interpretation that the Supreme Court placed upon her constitution, and as a loyal son of the Church I accepted her interpretation of her own constitution, so that now I claim that the General Conference has no authority whatever to change the _personnel_ of the General Conference without the vote of the Annual Conferences. Before it can be done constitutionally, you must obtain the consent of the brethren of the Annual Conferences, and I am in favor of that, and of receiving an affirmative vote on their part. But until this is done I do not see how they can come in only as we trample the organic law of our Church under our feet. And to do this, there is nothing but peril ahead of us.
A simple body may disregard law with comparative impunity, but an organic body that is complicated, complex in its nature, will find its own security in adhering earnestly, strictly, and everlastingly, to the law that that body passes for the government of its own conduct.
Let us see, now, with regard to this Restrictive Rule. As I have said, it has been admitted all along that the action of the Annual Conferences must be secured. Here comes in the decision of the General Conference of 1872. I do not need to recite it. But let us bear in mind two facts. One is, that this General Conference is a legislative body, and that it is also a judicial body. As a judicial body, it interprets law; as a legislative body, it makes law. The General Conference of 1872 interpreted law, and the General Conference may reverse itself with just as much propriety as a court can reverse itself. And if it be the judgment of this General Conference that that interpretation was incorrect, it is perfectly competent for this Conference to say so, and have its action correspond with its own decision.
There is another point. The case that was before the General Conference of 1876 was a specific case. It was the case of the relation that local preachers sustain to the Church, a particular case. This is the principle of all decisions in law, that when a particular case is decided in general terms, the scope and comprehension of the decision must be limited to the particular case itself. And if a court in its decision embraces more than was involved in the particular case, it has no force whatever. And as this was a particular case submitted to the General Conference, and the decision was in general terms, it comprehends simply the case that was before it, and cannot be advanced to comprehend more. And the reason of this is very obvious; for if it was not the case, then cases might be brought before the court for its decision that had never occurred.
There is another point I wish to notice. The General Conference of 1880 did not see the effect that legislation would have by admitting women to certain offices. Certain affirmative legislation is also negative legislation. When saloons are permitted to sell in quantities of one gallon, it forbids to sell in quantities of less than one gallon; when it says you can sell in quantities of one barrel, it forbids them to sell in quantities of two. When the General Conference of 1880 decided that women should be eligible in the Quarterly Conferences as superintendents of Sunday-schools, class-leaders, and as stewards, by that very affirmative conclusion, the subject was passed upon about their taking any other position. That, I think, must be regarded as sound, and a just interpretation of the law.
But suppose it is not; the General Conference of 1880 certainly did not understand the matter as the General Conference of 1872 did. For if it had, there would have been no necessity for legislation at all, there would have been no need for putting in the law as it now stands, that the pronoun “he,” wherever employed, shall not be considered as prohibiting women from holding the offices of Sunday-school Superintendent, Class Leader, and Steward.
Now, for this reason, and for the further reason that it is a matter of immense importance that we guard against despotism, I oppose changing the _personnel_ of the General Conference without my Annual Conference has a right to vote upon it, and it is voted upon. Despotism is a suitable term. A General Conference may become a despot, and just as soon as it goes outside of its legitimate province, then it usurps, and so far as it usurps, it becomes despotic, and is a despot; and you and I, so far as our Annual Conferences are concerned, do well to regard with a deep jealousy an infringement upon our organic rights. The only safety of the Church is the equipoise that is constituted by the relation the Annual Conferences sustain to the General Conference, and far safer is it for us to bring these women of the Church, elect, honorable women, into the General Conference of the Church by the same way that their husbands and brothers are here.
There is another thought that I wish to suggest. What are the possibilities with regard to lay delegation, supposing the design of those who wish to bring women in without further action is successful? You make lay delegation a farce in this body. The presiding elders and pastors of the Church may act in co-operation, and they can elect their own wives as delegates to this General Conference, and thus lay delegation comes to be a farce. Some of you may laugh at this suggestion, but it is an _in posse_, and it may easily be made an _in esse_. It is important to us that the laity should hold the place they have by the regulations we have, and they should be changed only to make them more perfect.
No body is safe without adherence to law. We may set lightly by law; we may regard it as a thing to be laid aside at the command of excitement or passion, but the nation that does that is a doomed nation, and the Church that does that has its history already written. The only safe course for us to pursue is to pursue the wise, careful, judicious, and conservative–I mean every word–and conservative course we have heretofore pursued through all our history. When we boast of what Methodism has done, or what she is going to do, let us remember it is because of her firm adherence to law.
It is with her as it is with the German nation and the Anglo-Saxon race–everywhere our glory is in our adherence to wise laws, and if we pass unwise laws, in repealing them in the same wise.
ADDRESS OF GENERAL CLINTON B. FISK.
Mr. President and Brethren, to an onlooker of this remarkable scene, this great debate now in the third day of its progress must be suggestive of some of the marvellous plays, woven into song, which have made the hearts of the thronging multitudes who have crowded this place of meeting in the past throb alternately with emotions of hope and fear as to the outcome of the parties involved in plot and counterplot. The visitors to this General Conference, seated in their boxes and in the family circle, Will say surely these honored men of God who have been called as Superintendents of the affairs of our great conquering Church, these chosen ministers of reconciliation and peace, these _male_ laymen called by their brethren to their high places in this General Conference, whose names at home are the synonym of chivalrous goodness–surely all these of rank and talent and authority, whose able and eloquent words have been ringing through the arches and dome of this temple of music on the wrong side of the question, are but simply acting the parts assigned them. In the final scene they will join hands around the eligible women elect, who, in obedience to the call of the laity in their several Conferences, are in their seats with us, and say, “Whom God hath joined, let not _male_ put asunder.” My brothers, let us briefly restate the case. Five noble women of the laymen of the Methodist Episcopal Church have been chosen as delegates to this General Conference under the Constitution and by the forms prescribed by the laws of the Church. As they enter, or attempt to enter, the portals of this great assemblage they hear a voice from the platform, in words not to be misunderstood, “Thou shalt not,” and voices from all parts of the house take up the prohibitory words, and supplement the voices of the Bishops, “Thou shalt not.” And one would think, from the vehement oratory of the resisting delegates of this General Conference, that the foundations of the Church were in imminent peril by the presence of these “elect ladies” among us.
Let us turn back a moment, and review the history of the rise, progress, and triumph of the cause of lay representation. I claim to know a little something about it, as I was on the skirmish line in the conflict, and in all its battles fought until the day of victory.
In 1861, to the male members of the Church, was submitted the question of lay representation. It failed of securing a majority vote. Had it carried, there would have been plausibility in the argument this day made against the eligibility of women to seats in this General Conference. The evolution of the succeeding eight years lifted woman to a higher appreciation of her position in the Methodist Church, and her rights and privileges became the theme of discussion throughout the bounds of the Church. Among the champions for woman was that magnificent man, that grand old man, Dr. Daniel D. Whedon, who, in discussing this question, said:
“If it is _rights_ they talk of, every competent member of the Church of Christ, of either sex and of every shade of complexion, has equal original rights. Those rights, they may be assured, when that question comes fairly up, will be firmly asserted and maintained.”
And in answer to the expected fling, “But you are a woman’s rights man,” he replied:
“We are a human rights man. And our mother was a human being. And our wives, sisters, and daughters are all human beings. And that these human beings are liable as any other human beings to be oppressed by the stronger sex, and as truly need in self-defence a check upon oppression, the history of all past governments and legislation does most terribly demonstrate. What is best in the State is not indeed with us the question; but never, with our consent, shall the Church of the living God disfranchise her who gave to the world its divine Redeemer. When that disfranchisement comes to the debate, may the God of eternal righteousness give us strength equal to our will to cleave it to the ground!”
The General Conference of 1868, after full discussion, submitted the question of Lay Representation to a vote of all the members of the Church, male and female, thus recognizing the women as laymen, as belonging to the great body of the laity, and as vitally interested in the government of the Church, and having rights under that government. During the debate on the report of the Committee on the plan for submitting the question as in 1861, to the male members, Dr. Sherman moved to strike out the word “male.” While that motion was under consideration, Dr. Slicer, of Baltimore, said, “If it were the last moment I should spend, and the last articulate sound I should utter, I should speak for the wives, mothers, and daughters of the Methodist Episcopal Church…. I am for women’s rights, sir, _wherever church privileges are concerned_.”
Dr. Sherman’s motion was carried by a vote of 142 to 70, and the question of lay representation was submitted to all the members of the Church over twenty-one years of age. The General Conference did not ask women to vote on a proposition that only male members of the Church should be represented in the General Conference, and it did not then enter the thought of any clear-headed man that women were to be deprived of their rights to a seat in the General Conference. There were a few noisy, disorderly brethren who cried out from their seats, “No, no,” but they were silenced by the presiding Bishop and the indignation of the right thinking, orderly delegates.
What does the Rev. Dr. David Sherman, the mover of the motion to strike out the word “male,” now say of the prevailing sentiment on that day of great debate? I have his freshly written words in response to an inquiry made a few weeks ago. On March 21st he made this statement:
“Some of us believed that women were laymen, that the term ‘men’ in the Discipline, as elsewhere, often designated not sex, but genus; and that those who constituted a main part of many of our churches should have a voice in determining under what government they would live. We believed in the rightful equality of the sexes before the law, and hence that women should have the same right as men to vote and hold office. The Conference of 1868 was a reform body, and it seemed possible to take these views on a stage; hence the amendment was offered, and carried with a rush and heartiness even beyond my expectations….The latter interpretation of the Conference making all not members of Conferences laymen, fully carried out these views, as they were understood at the moment by the majority party. Some, to be sure, cried out against it, but their voices were not heard amid the roar of victory. Who can go back of the interpretation of the supreme court of the Church?”
It is amazing that brethren will stand here to-day and utterly ignore the decision of our Supreme Court in defining who are laymen. Could the utterances of any Court be more definite and clear than those of the General Conference when it said, “The General Conference holds that in all matters connected with the election of lay delegates the word ‘laymen’ must be understood to include all the members of the Church who are not members of the Annual Conferences”? This decision must include women among the laity of the Church. I know it is said that this means the classification of local preachers. We respond that that only appears from the debate. The General Conference was settling a great principle in which the personal rights and privileges of two thirds of the membership of our Church were involved. Surely, our Supreme Court would have made a strange decision had they, in defining laymen, excepted women. Let us see how it would look in cold type had they said, “The General Conference holds that in all matters connected with the election of lay delegates the word laymen must be understood to include all the members of the Annual Conferences, _and who are not women_.” We would have become the laughing-stock of Christendom had we made such an utterance. The Church universal in all ages has always divided its membership into two great classes, and two only, the clergy and the laymen, using the terms laity and laymen synonymously and interchangeably. See Bingham’s “Antiquities,” Blackstone’s “Commentaries,” Schaffs “History,” and kindred authorities. It is sheer trifling for sensible males to talk about a distinction between lay_men_ and lay_women_.
Women were made class-leaders, stewards, and Sunday-school superintendents, and employed in these several capacities long before the specific interpretations of the pronouns were made. They were so appointed and employed in Saint Paul’s Church in this city during the pastorate of that sainted man, John M’Clintock, in 1860, and could the voice of that great leader and lover of the Church reach us to day from the skies it would be in protest against the views presented in this debate by the supporters of the committee’s report and its amendment.
It is a well-established and incontrovertible principle of law that any elector is eligible to the office for which said elector votes, unless there be a _specific enactment discriminating against the elector_. Our law says that a lay delegate shall be twenty-five years of age, and five years a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church. It does not say that a delegate must not be a woman, or must be a man.
Women are eligible to membership in this General Conference. Women have been chosen delegates as provided by law. They are here in their seats ready for any duty on committees, or otherwise, as they may be invited. We cannot turn them out and slam the door on their exit. It would be revolutionary so to do by a simple vote of this body. It would be a violation of the guarantees of personal liberty, a holding of the just rights of the laity of the Church. We cannot exclude them from membership in the General Conference, except by directing the Annual Conferences to vote on the question of their exclusion. Are we ready to send that question in that form down to the Annual Conferences for their action? I trust that a large majority of this General Conference will say with emphasis we are not ready for any such action. The women of our Methodism have a place in the heart of the Church from which they cannot be dislodged. They are our chief working members. They are at the very front of every great movement of the Church at home or abroad. In the spirit of rejoicing consecration our matrons and maids uphold the banner of our Lord in every conflict with the enemy of virtue and righteousness. Looking down upon us from these galleries, tier upon tier, are the magnificent leaders of the Woman’s Foreign and the Woman’s Home Missionary Societies. Our women are at the front of the battle now waging against the liquor traffic in our fair land, and they will not cease their warfare until this nation shall be redeemed from the curse of the saloon. God bless all these women of our great conquering Church of the Redeemer.
Twenty years ago Bishop Hurst accompanied me on a leisurely tour of continental Europe. In the old city of Nuremberg we wandered among the old churches and market-places, where may be seen the marvellous productions of that evangel of art, Albert Durer. In an old schloss in that city may be found the diary of Albert Durer, almost four centuries old. In it you may read as follows: “Master Gebhart, of Antwerp, has a daughter seventeen years old, and she has illuminated the head of a Saviour for which I gave a florin. It is a marvel that a woman could do so much.” Three and a half centuries later Rosa Bonheur hangs her master-piece in the chief places of the galleries of the world, and Harriet Hosmer’s studio contributes many of the best marbles that adorn the parlors of Europe and America, and no one wonders that a woman can do so much. From that day when Martin Luther, the protesting monk, and Catherine Von Bora, the ex-nun, stood together at the altar and the twain became one, woman has by her own heroism, by her faith in her sex and in God, who made her, fought a good fight against the organized selfishness of those who would withhold from her any right or privilege to which she is entitled, and has lifted herself from slavery and barbarism to a place by the side of man, where God placed her in paradise, his equal in tact and talent, moving upon the world with her unseen influences, and making our Christian civilization what it is to-day. Let not our Methodism in this her chiefest council say or do ought that shall lead the world to conclude that we are retreating from our advanced position of justice to the laity of the Church. Let us rather strengthen our guarantee of loving protection of every right and privilege of every member of our Church, without distinction of race, color, or sex. Amen and Amen.
ADDRESS OF JUDGE Z. P. TAYLOR.
Mr. President and Gentlemen, when elected a delegate I had no opinion on the constitutional question here involved. But I had then, and I have now, a sympathy for the women, and a profound admiration of their work. No man on this floor stands more ready and more willing to assist them by all lawful and constitutional means to every right and and to every privilege enjoyed by men.
But, sir, notwithstanding this admiration and sympathy, I cannot lose sight of the vital question before the General Conference now and here.
That question is this: Under the Constitution and Restrictive Rules of the Methodist Episcopal Church are women eligible as lay delegates in this General Conference? If they are, then this substitute offered by Dr. Moore does them an injustice, because it puts a cloud upon their right and title to seats upon this floor. If they are not, then this body would be in part an unconstitutional body if they are admitted.
It follows that whoever supports this substitute either wrongs the elect ladies or violates the Constitution. If they are constitutionally a part of this body, seat them; if they are not, vote down this substitute, and adopt the report of the committee, with the amendment of Dr. Neely, and then let them in four years hence in the constitutional way. After the most careful study of the vital question in the light of history, ecclesiastical, common, and constitutional law, it is my solemn and deliberate judgment that women are not eligible as lay delegates in this body.
Facts, records, and testimonials conclusively prove that in 1868, when the General Conference submitted the matter of lay delegation to the entire membership of the Church, the idea of women being eligible was not the intent. The intent was to bring into the General Conference a large number of men of business experience, who could render service by their knowledge and experience touching the temporal affairs of the Church. When the principle of admitting lay delegates was voted upon by the laity, this idea, and no other, was intended. When the Annual Conferences voted for the principle and the plan, this and this only was their intent.
When the General Conference, by the constitutional majority, acted in favor of admitting the lay delegates provisionally elected, this idea, and none other, actuated them. It was not the intent then to admit women, but to admit men only, and the intent must govern in construing a Constitution.
Dr. Fisk said Judge Cooley is a high authority on constitutional law. I admit it, and am happy to say that I was a student of his over a quarter of a century ago, and ever since then have studied and practised constitutional law, and I am not here to stultify my judgment by allowing sentiment and impulse to influence my decision.
Those opposing the report of the committee, with few exceptions, admit that it was not the intent and purpose, when the Constitution and Restrictive Rules were amended, to admit women as lay delegates. They claim, however, that times have changed, and now propose to force a construction upon the language not intended by the laity, the Annual Conferences, or the General Conference at the time of the amendment. Can this be done without an utter violation of law? I answer, No.
In the able address read by Bishop Merrill, containing the views of the Board of Bishops, he says:
“For the first time in our history several ‘elect ladies’ appear, regularly certified from Electoral Conferences, as lay delegates to this body. In taking the action which necessitates the consideration of the question of their eligibility, the Electoral Conferences did not consult the Bishops as to the law in the case, nor do we understand it to be our duty to define the law for these Conferences; neither does it appear that any one is authorized to decide questions of law in them. The Electoral Conferences simply assumed the lawfulness of this action, being guided, as we are informed, by a declarative resolution of the General Conference of 1872, defining the scope of the word ‘laymen,” in answer to a question touching the classification and rights of ordained local and located ministers. Of course, the language of that resolution is carried beyond its original design when applied to a subject not before the body when it was adopted, and not necessarily involved in the language itself. This also should be understood, that no definition of the word ‘laymen’ settles the question of eligibility as to any class of persons, for many are classed as laymen for the purposes of lay representation, and have to do with it officially as laymen, who are themselves not eligible as delegates. Even laymen who are confessedly ineligible, who are not old enough to be delegates, or have not been members long enough, may be stewards, class-leaders, trustees, local preachers and exhorters, and, as such, be members of the Quarterly Conference, and vote for delegates to the Electoral Conference without themselves being eligible.
“The constitutional qualifications for eligibility cannot be modified by a resolution of the General Conference, however sweeping, nor can the original meaning of the language be enlarged. If women were included in the original constitutional provision for lay delegates, they are here by constitutional right. If they were not so included, it is beyond the power of this body to give them membership lawfully, except by the formal amendment of the Constitution, which cannot be effected without the consent of the Annual Conferences. In extending to women the highest spiritual privileges, in recognizing their gifts, and in providing for them spheres of Christian activity, as well as in advancing them to positions of official responsibility, ours has been a leader of the Churches, and gratefully do we acknowledge the good results shown in their enlarged usefulness, and in the wonderful developments of their power to work for God, which we take as evidences of the divine approval of the high ground taken. In all reformatory and benevolent enterprises, especially in the Temperance, Missionary, and Sunday-school departments of Church-work, their success is marvellous, and challenges our highest admiration. Happily no question of competency or worthiness is involved in the question of their eligibility as delegates. Hitherto the assumption underlying the legislation of the Church has been that they were ineligible to official positions, except by special provision of law. In harmony with this assumption, they have been made eligible, by special enactment, of the offices of steward, class-leader, and Sunday-school superintendent, and naturally the question arises as to whether the necessity for special legislation, in order to their eligibility to those specified offices, does not indicate similar necessity for special provision in order to their eligibility as delegates, and if so it is further to be considered that the offices of steward, class-leader, and Sunday-school superintendent may be created and filled by simple enactments of the General Conference itself; but to enter the General Conference, and form part of the law-making body of the Church, requires special provision in the Constitution, and, therefore, such provision as the General Conference alone cannot make.”
Now, sir, this language moves forward with a grasp of logic akin to that used by Chief Justice Marshall, or that eminent jurist, Cooley, from whom I beg leave to quote. Cooley, in his great work on “Constitutional Limitations,” says:
“A Constitution is not made to mean one thing at one time, and another at some subsequent time, when the circumstances may have changed as perhaps to make a different rule in the case seem desirable. A principal share of the benefit expected from written Constitutions would be lost, if the rules they establish were so flexible as to bend to circumstances, or be modified by public opinion.
“The meaning of the Constitution is fixed when it is adopted, and is not different at any subsequent time.”
This same great author says:
“Intent governs. The object of construction applied to a written constitution is to give effect to the intent of the people in adopting it. In the case of written laws it is the intent of the lawgiver that is to be enforced.
“But it must not be forgotten in construing our constitutions that in many particulars they are but the legitimate successors of the great charters of English liberty whose provisions declaratory of the rights of the subject have acquired a well understood meaning which the people must be supposed to have had in view in adopting them. We cannot understand these unless we understand their history.
“It is also a very reasonable rule that a State Constitution shall be understood and construed in the light, and by the assistance of the common law, and with the fact in view that its rules are still in force.
“It is a maxim with the Courts that statutes in derogation of the common law shall be construed strictly.”
Here, sir, we have the language of Judge Cooley himself. It is as clear as the noonday’s sun, and he utterly repudiates the pernicious doctrine that the Constitution can grow and develop so as to mean one thing when it is adopted, and something else at another time. You can never inject anything into a Constitution by construction which was not in it when adopted. And you are bound, according to all rules of construction, to give it the construction which was intended when adopted. No man of common honesty and common sense dares to assert on this floor that it was the intent when the Constitution was amended to admit women as lay delegates. It follows inevitably that they are not constitutionally eligible, and to admit them is to violate the Constitution of the Church, which, as a Court, we are in honor bound not to do.
It has been asserted with gravity that the right to vote for a person for office carries with it the right to be voted for unless prohibited by positive enactment. This proposition is not true, and never has been. We have seen, when the Constitution and Restrictive Rules were amended, the intent was to admit men only as lay delegates. No General Conference can, by resolution or decision, change the Constitution and Restrictive Rules. Grant, if you please, that the General Conference, by its action in 1880, had power to make women eligible in the Quarterly Conference as stewards and class-leaders, this could not qualify her to become a lay delegate in the law-making body of the Church. The qualifications of lay delegates to this body must inhere in the Constitution and Restrictive Rules, according to their intent and meaning when adopted. It is fundamental law that where general disabilities exist, not simply by statute, but by common law, the removal of lesser disabilities does not carry with it the removal of the greater ones.
Legislation qualifying women to vote in Wyoming and elsewhere had to be coupled also with positive enactments qualifying her to be voted for, otherwise she would have been ineligible to office. This is so, and I defy any lawyer to show the contrary.
Sec.3, Article I, Constitution of the United States, reads:
“The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof for six years. No person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the age of thirty years, and been nine years a citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an inhabitant of the State for which he shall be chosen.”
These and no other qualifications are worded or found in the Constitution of the United States touching the qualification of Senators. Is there a layman on this floor who will dare assert that under the Constitution of the United States women are eligible as Representatives or Senators? Words of common gender are exclusively used as applied to the qualification of Senators. The words persons and citizens include women the same as they include men. Nevertheless, in the light of the past, I am bold to assert, that any man who would dare stand in the Senate of the United States, and contend that women are eligible to the office of United States Senators, would be regarded by the civilized world as a person of gush and void of judgment.
Article 14, United States Constitution, Sec.1:
“All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States, wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the _privileges_ or _immunities_ of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, _nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws_.”
(Tax case and what was decided.) (Mrs. Minor _vs_. Judges of Election. 53 Mo. 68.)
The first case indicates that the word citizen when affecting property rights includes corporations.
The second, that the word person, when it relates to the woman claiming the right to vote, does not confer upon her that right.
The language is: No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of any citizen of the United States. Nevertheless, a Republican Circuit Judge held this language did not entitle Mrs. Minor to vote. A democratic Supreme Court of Missouri held the same, and the Supreme Court of the United States, in an able opinion written by men known as the friends of women, conclusively demonstrated that these constitutional guarantees did not confer upon woman the right to vote. Why? Because, from time immemorial, this right had not obtained in favor of woman, and these words of common gender should not be so construed as to confer this right, since it was not intended when made to affect their status in this regard.