Women's Temperance Movement

By Mark Twain
The Ladies Repository 14 (July 1874).

"Would you consider the conduct of these crusaders justifiable, I do -- thoroughly justifiable. They find themselves voiceless in the making of the laws, and the election of officers to execute them. Born with brains, born in the country, educated, having large interests at stake, they find their tongues tied and their hands fettered, while every ignorant, whisky-drinking, foreign-born savage in the land may hold office, help to make the laws, degrade the dignity of the former, and break the latter at his own sweet will. They see their fathers, husbands, and brothers, sit inactive at home, and allow the scum of the country to assemble at the 'primaries,' name the candidates for office from their own vile ranks, and, unrebuked, elect them. They live in the midst of a country where there is no end to the laws, and no beginning to the execution of them. And when the laws intended to protect their sons from destruction by intemperance lie torpid and without sign of life, year after year, they recognize that there is a matter that interests them personally, a matter which comes straight home to them. And since they are allowed to lift no legal voice against the outrageous state of things they suffer under in this regard, I think it is no wonder that their patience has broken down at last, and they have tried to persuade themselves that they are justifiable in breaking the law of trespass, when the laws that should make the trespass needless are allowed by the voters to lie dead and inoperative.

"The present Crusade will, doubtless, do but little work against intemperance that will be really permanent; but it will do what is as much, or even more, to the purpose, I think. I think it will suggest to more than one man that if women could vote they would vote on the side of morality, even if they did vote and speak rather frantically and furiously; and it will also suggest that when the women once made up their minds that it was not good to have the all-powerful 'primaries' in the hands of loafers, thieves, and pernicious little politicians, they would not sit indolently at home, as their husbands and brothers do now, but would hoist their praying banners, take the field in force, pray the assembled political scum back to the holes and slums where they belong, and set some candidates fit for human beings to vote for. I dearly want the women to be raised to the political altitude of the negro, the imported savage, and the pardoned thief, and allowed to vote. It is our last chance, I think. The women will be voting before long; and then if a B. F. Butler can still continue to lord it in Congress; if the highest offices in the land can still continue to be occupied by perjurers and robbers; if another Congress, like the forty-second, consisting of fifteen honest men and two hundred and ninety-six of the other kind, can once more be created, it will at least be time, I fear, to give over trying to save the country by human means, and appeal to Providence. Both the great parties have failed. I wish we might have a woman's party now, and see how that would work. I feel persuaded that, in extending the suffrage to women, this country could lose nothing, and might gain a great deal. For thirty centuries history has been iterating and reiterating that, in a moral fight, woman is simply dauntless; and we all know, even with our eyes shut upon Congress and our voters, that, from the day that Adam ate of the apple and told on Eve, down to the present day, man, in a moral fight, has pretty uniformly shown himself to be an arrant coward."

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