Ratcliffe Hicks.

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to invest ^10,000 in a certain business, but I don't
want to become a partner and risk any more
money." The lawyer advised him that he was
perfectly safe. He paid the lawyer for his ser-
vices, and some few months after that a judg-
ment was rendered against him for ^50,000, and
he walked out of court a penniless beggar. It
is said that the court has been leaning the other
way since they gave that decision, and that if the
case were to be tried again, they would decide

A few years ago the judges of "the Supreme
CovLici o{ Errors" — I have sometimes thought it
was well named — of this State met in consultation,
and the judge who was allotted to write the opinion
brought out his decision and read it as bravely as
a troubadour. One member of the bench said,
"Did we vote to decide this case that way? " and
they all said, " Oh, yes ! " He said, " No ; look at
your notes," and they found he was right ; so the
same man came to the next meeting with his
opinion all written for the other side.

Now, gentlemen, are you going to compel a
fellow-man to intnist the most valuable possession
he holds — his life, so much more valuable, so
much greater than all earthly possessions and
contracts and affairs — to the final decision and


arbitrament of this weak, faulty, erring creature we
so often miscall a court of justice, and who so often
is a travesty on justice? I answer, "No." No
one has a higher respect for an honest and learned
judge than myself, but they are all human and
liable to err.

In fifty years no man has been hung in Rhode
Island, but life and property are safer than in Con-
necticut. In nearly fifty years (I think it is) they
have hung no man in Maine, but life and property
are safe there. I might say the same of Michigan.
I might say the same of that great country of Bel-
gium across the blue ocean, with its thirty millions
of people. Why, in all France, with its forty mil-
lions of people, they execute only two or three men
a year, and they will soon abandon the practice

In no other country are life and property held
at so little value as in the United States, and all
your executions go for nothing. Nowhere does
lawlessness triumph as in America, and nowhere
are so many men executed as here. You used
formerly to hang men for arson, rape, and burglary
and for nearly two hundred different offences.
Does any man claim that the change in the law
has increased those crimes? Remember that it is
the certainty and not the severity of punishment
that prevents crime. The fear of hanging never
did, and never will prevent a single murder. All
murderers are controlled by one of two motives, —



either they act in passion and don't care what be-
comes of themselves, or they expect to hide their
crime and escape punishment.

We are known as the hanging nation of the
world. We stand at the head of the list, and,
as believers in capital punishment, are only sur-
passed by the pig-tailed citizens of the Celestial
Empire, the benighted followers of the world-
renowned heathen teacher, Confucius.

The unchristian, degrading spectacle of keep-
ing a human being in suspense for one round year,
and then filling him with whiskey and slowly drag-
ging him to the gallows, more dead than alive, is
no consolation to the dead, but only a torture to
the living. The Indian is more merciful than the
Christian, for he inflicts his punishment with in-
stant death.

There is no civilized country except the United
States where they hang negroes to lamp-posts,
and bum Catholic orphan asylums, and torture
the negroes with red-hot irons, and break into jails
and murder the inmates, and then make a hero
of the leader of the riot, and name a beautiful park
in his honor, as they did in New Orleans some two
years ago.

Oh, shame ! That the sublime doctrines of the
Christian religion should be so perverted by blind
and misleading teachers as to picket the world with
scaffolds. " An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a
tooth," is a fitting motto to be engraved on the


tombstone of a red-painted Indian devil ; but it
has no place in the accepted tenets of any truly
natural or revealed religion.

One word more, and I have done. A human
life is the creation of an infinite invisible God, and
He alone who created it has the right to terminate
it. A father has no right to kill his child ; and
society has no right to kill one of its members.
The argument which gives society that right is just
the same argument which the North American
Indian uses when he tomahawks a white man,
because he is intruding on the Indian's land, de-
stroying his game and his means of living. It is
sometimes miscalled the law of self-preservation.
The Hottentot has just as good a right to use that
argument when he kills a white missionary whom
he finds piercing the jungles of Africa, and inter-
fering with his hunting-grounds and his God-
given rights to existence and to a livelihood.
Away with all these childish arguments, whether
they come from the mouth of the Christian legis-
lator, the savage Indian, or the nude, man-eating

Remember, when you cannot create a human
life you have no right to take it away. The good
Lord our Master never taught the doctrine that
would warrant the execution of one poor criminal.
Remember that one of the most celebrated English
preachers of this century has boldly proclaimed
the doctrine, and supported it by powerful argu-


ments, that all criminals are partially insane, and
that all sin is the result of partial ignorance.

To the friends of this humane movement I have
only words of cheer. Be ye not discouraged.
Remember that the world moves, that this is an
age of progress, and that, whether we will or no, in
God's good time all the wrongs and errors of so-
ciety will be righted.

And of you, the opponents of this coming re-
form, I beg, not to try to mete out to every man
his full and complete punishment in this world,
but leave something to the final disposition of a
good, kind God, that rules the universe, the loving
arbiter and final judge of all men ; who knows the
secret motives of their hearts, and all the trials and
temptations which beset poor, erring mortals in
their pilgrimage through this tempest-tossed earth.

Christopher Columbus the explorer, George
Washington the patriot, Abraham Lincoln the lib-
erator, William E. Gladstone the statesman, have
taught the world that it cannot live on precedents
or bygone history or in the caves of the dismal
past. They have challenged the attention of civil-
ized men everywhere to the dawning light of some-
thing more glorious and far better, — the immortal
future, so full of promise for the bettering of the
human race.

The inspiration of the hour prompts me to close
with the beautiful lines of the greatest and sweetest
of living English poets, —


•* Since tale was kept of human hopes and fears,
Since first, through mists of eld, we mark Man

From flint and bronze to arts and aims sublime,
Subduing earth and stripping from the sea,
By lordlier might, its power and mystery ;
And gaining, race by race, with painful strife,
Slow steps to Law, and sweeter modes of life."

/ie/'/y to a Critic.

New York, May 26, 1893.

Dear S., — I have received your letter, also the
letter which you enclosed from a distinguished
member of Congress from Massachusetts, criticising
my little speech.

I notice, with sorrow, that for want of a better
argument, he quotes a text from Scripture which
he thinks carries out his idea, to wit : " Whoso
sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be
shed." For eighteen hundred years every heresy
or fanaticism, religious, moral, social, or political,
has tried to bolster up its cause by some perverted
text from the Bible ; and every despot to-day, from
the Czar of Russia to the head of the Mormon
Church, has got some quotation from the Bible to
ding in your ears ; and I for one, am tired of it.


If this little text can be perverted or strained to
the interpretation that this member of Congress
puts upon it, it means also that if a man in a fight
puts another man's eye out, the court shall order
the sheriff to put his eye out ; or if he bites a
man's nose off, the court shall order his nose to
be bitten off; or, if he knocks out a man's tooth,
the Court shall order his tooth to be knocked out.

When we were in good old Brown, we learned
from Wheatley that there was no argument so effec-
tive at times as the " Reductio ad absurdum," and
nothing shows the absurdity of your friend's argu-
ment so much as to apply it literally to eveiy-day
life. Besides, our good Lord and Master never
taught any such abominable doctrine, and no
verse in the New Testament can be found to prove
it to have the divine warrant.

Your distinguished friend says that Harris was
executed, and that he had plenty of money, and
that is an argument against my position. My
answer is simply this : Harris died because he was
poor and penniless and did not have the best
lawyer. His case was badly managed from the
very start to the finish. With Bourke Cochran for
his lawyer, Harris would to-day be walking the
streets of New York as free a man as I am.

In that enlightened and Christian civilization

which we may expect five hundred years from now,

we will look for better men ; but to-day nothing

draws a crowd in America like a dog-fight or a



prize-fight ; in Spain, whose people we are so highly
honoring this year, nothing draws a crowd like a
bull-fight ; and among Africans, our first cousins,
nothing draws so great a crowd as to kill, roast,
and eat a white missionary.

We live in hopes of better times, and you and I
will do our little share toward hastening them on.
For the present we prefer not to be counted with
the " madding crowd."

Without impugning the motives of those persons
who seem to chew their morsel of content over the
ghastly sacrifice of a human life, we will still believe
there is something good in every man, and that the
worst use you can make of a man is to hang him
on the gallows.

Yours very truly,

Ratcliffe Hicks.



Delivered May ii, 1893, in favor of the Woman
Suffrage Bill, giving women the right to vote at
School Elections.

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of

Your committee on Woman Suffrage, to whom
were referred many bills relating to that subject,
have given this question a patient hearing, and, as
a result of their deliberations, have reported with
practical unanimity the bill now pending before
this House.

This is a question which, like the ghost in
Shakspeare's great play, will not down; and if
you do not settle it right to-day, it will come here
to vex every succeeding session of the General
Assembly of Connecticut until it has been settled,
and settled right.

I invoke your serious attention to the Httle I
have to say in favor of the pending bill.

Since the commencement of recorded time,
there has been no period of fifty years in the
history of the world so fruitful of good to the
human race as the last fifty years.


I have not the time to portray, and you have
not the patience to listen to me while I recite,
one-half that has been done in fifty years — in art,
in science, in spreading human comfort, in the de-
veloping of government, and in establishing the
rights and redressing the wrongs of the governed
— in all parts of the civilized world.

No class in the community has welcomed this
progress with greater zeal, no class thanks Heaven
with a prouder heart, and no class has reaped
greater benefits from all this wonderful progress
than the women of this land, — our mothers, our
wives, our sisters, and our daughters. But the tale
is only half told, the book is only half open, the
human race — of mankind and of womankind — is
still in its infancy. Are we to stop where we are?
Are we to make no more progress? Are we to
offer the blessings of a free government to all the
poor and degraded and ignorant of the Old
World, and to refuse it to our own kith and kin?
Are not the women of Connecticut as fit to vote, as
intelligent, as much interested in the fair fame of
Connecticut as the emigrant who lands at Castle
Garden — that Babel of languages and storehouse
for paupers — or as the ignorant and homeless
negro of the South?

The whole theory of our government is that it

depends upon the consent of the governed, and

that every person — white or black, native or foreign

born, Jew or Gentile — who has lived to the age of



twenty-one years and who can comply with certain
educational requirements, shall have a voice in
this government. Why limit it to males? Why
give women no voice in the government under
which they exist, or in the laws you ask them to
obey, or in the taxes you compel them to pay,
or in the control and education of their own
children ?

Either the theory of a Republican government
is wrong, and we should abandon it and establish
some other form of government not depend-
ing upon the consent of the governed, or we
should be just, and carry out our principles to
the end.

I am frank to say, I believe in this system of a
Republican government. I believe in the rule of
the people, and I believe a Republican system is
the grandest achievement of the ages.

I welcome the foreigner, fleeing from the des-
potic military governments of the Old World. I
welcome everybody to a lot and share in the
benign benefits of a free government. There is
room enough in this great Republic for people
of all climes and both sexes, and I hope to live
to see the day when every loyal subject, male and
female, shall have a voice in the affairs of the

This bill recommended by your committee is so
small and so little a concession, that we beheved
it would pass this Legislature unanimously.


Women are now, by law in this State, eligible to
act as members of boards of school visitors, and on
school committees. Why not go one step further ?
If they are competent to act in these positions, why
are they not competent to say who shall fill these
places ?

Women act to-day with men in the management
of churches, hospitals, Sunday-schools, asylums,
and they are filling all sorts of responsible posi-
tions in the educational, commercial, and govern-
mental affairs of the world. They are everywhere
to be found challenging the respect and admiration
of their fellow-men, from the Queen of England,
who has for fifty years ruled with consummate
ability the proudest and most powerful nation ex-
isting to-day, down to the quiet woman who travels
along the humblest walks of daily toil. Their
abilities are being tested on all the battle-fields of
life, and the results of their industry and talents are
among the marvels of the times. Over the centre
arch of the Brooklyn Bridge should stand the figure
of that woman to whose mighty genius it owes its
completion, — the grandest triumph of fifty cen-
turies in civil engineering.

But why should I tarry in this matter? Con-
necticut, slow and conservative as she has always
been, is still lagging in the onward march of
progress. It took her fifty years to learn the
lesson that Thomas Jefferson taught, the separa-
tion of Church and State, and it took her seventy-


five years to learn that a property qualification is
not in harmony with a fi'ee government.

To-day, school suffrage, under various con-
ditions, is allowed to women in the following
States — I beg of you to listen while I read
the list : Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware,
Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Massa-
chusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New
Hampshire, New Jersey, North Dakota, Texas,
Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin. In Arkan-
sas and Missouri women may vote (by not sign-
ing or refusing to sign) on liquor licenses. In
Kansas women may vote in municipal elections.
About 60,000 women voted in 1891, and over
100,000 in 1893, and tolled the knell of crankism
in that State. In New York women may vote at
school elections and on questions of water-works,
paving, grading, draining, street lighting, and minor
local improvements. In Pennsylvania women
vote on local improvements by signing or refusing
to sign petitions therefor.

Thomas W. Palmer, to whose ability as much as
to that of any other living man to-day we owe the
unparalleled success of the Columbian Exposition,
spoke some years ago in the United States Senate
as follows : —

" They cite the physical superiority of man, but offer
no amendment to increase the voting power of a Sulli-
van or a Heenan, or to disfranchise the halt, the
blind, or the sick. They object that many women do
3 33


not desire the suffrage, and that some would not exer-
cise it. It is probably true, as often claimed, that
many slaves did not desire emancipation in 1863, 3-"^
there are men in most communities who do not
vote, but we hear of no freedman to-day who asks
re-enslavement, and no proposition is offered to dis-
enfranchise all men because some neglect their

" They regard the manly head of the family as its
only proper representative, but would not exclude the
adult bachelor sons. They urge disability to perform
military service as fatal to full citizenship, but would
hardly consent to resign their own rights because they
have passed the age of conscription, or question those
of Quakers, who will not fight, or of professional men
and civic officials, who, like mothers, are regarded as
of more use to the State at home. They are dismayed
by a vision of women in attendance at caucuses at late
hours of the night; but, doubtless, enjoy their presence
at routs, balls, and entertainments until the early

" I share no fear of the degradation of women by
the ballot. I believe rather that it will elevate men.
I believe the tone of our politics will be higher, that
our caucuses will be jealously guarded, and our con-
ventions more orderly and decorous. I believe the
polls will be freed from the vulgarity and coarseness
which now too often surround them, and that the poll-
ing booths, instead of being in the least attractive
parts of a ward or town, will be in the most attractive ;
Instead of being in stables and gin-mills, will be in
private houses and counting-rooms. I believe the
character of candidates will be more closely scruti-
nized, and that better officers will be chosen to make



and administer the laws. I believe that the casting of
the ballot will be invested with a seriousness — I had
almost said a sanctity — second only to a religious

The great Liberal party of England, under the
leadership of that man who will go down to history
as the most profound statesman of the nineteenth
century, William E. Gladstone, has brought for-
ward in the British Parliament, within the past
eight weeks, a bill which gives to the women of the
three kingdoms a full and complete voice in the
management of all local affairs.

From the rich mine of English jurisprudence
our fathers gathered the principles of our Consti-
tution; and ever since, in subsequent legislation,
these two great kindred nations have together
girdled the world with the principles of personal
liberty, and the rights of the individual man and
the individual woman. Shall we now part com-
pany with our Queen sister in the race for human
progress and the development of mankind? I
say no.

In closing, I have but this to say. I appeal to
every member of this House. Who taught you the
alphabet ? To whose kind and constant instructions,
more than all else in the world, do you owe the
foundation and possibly the completion of your
education? Who followed you with anxious and
loving heart that you might be educated and fitted
to go out and fight the battles of life and be a man


among men? And who is doing this same work
for your children to-day but a woman?

Give the women what nature fitted them for,
and what should be theirs by every law, human or
divine, — a voice in the control and management of
your schools and in the education of their children,
and you will never regret it.



Delivered June 22, 1893, in favor of the Bill for a
CoJistitutional Convention.

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of
Representatives :

I SHALL not attempt to weary this House to-day
with a long list of statistics to prove the injustice of
the Constitution under which we are living. You
are all familiar with those facts. I shall simply at-
tempt to put the arguments in favor of a Constitu-
tional Convention, upon such broad and generous
principles as will appeal to the intelligence and con-
science of every member of this General Assembly,
be he Republican or be he Democrat.

This question is no party question. It is simply
a question between five hundred foolish men who
think they see a political advantage to themselves
in keeping matters as they are now, and eight
hundred thousand people who are ready and
willing to see the fair thing done.

The Puritan created his State after he had first
established his Church, and every man who par-
took of the communion had an equal voice in all
political matters. As time went on, the Puritan,


Otherwise known as the Congregational, church
created towns of nearly equal inhabitants and ter-
ritory, for the better management of the little local
town affairs, — the poor, the roads, the schools ;
but above all, for the support of the Congregational
church and the dispensing of religious benefits.
These little towns were simply missionary outposts.
In order that there may be no misunderstanding
about this matter, let me read from the most
learned historian who has ever attempted to write
the early history of New England : —

"The Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay settlements
were founded by Congregational pilgrims in 1620 and
1628, and others, a few years afterwards, in Massachu-
setts and Connecticut. Congregationalism gave New
England the distinctive character it bears in history,
and, in return, the development of the New England
churches and the teaching of their pastors gave the
State Congregationalism as its form. From the ear-
liest settlement of New England there was a definite
but peculiar relation between the churches and the
State. It was neither that in which the State rules the
Church, nor that in which the Church rules the State,
but rather a peculiar blending of the two. Townships
were incorporated with a view to ability to maintain a
settled ministry, and to the convenience of the people
in attending public worship. Provision was made by
law for the support of the pastors and for all necessary
church expenses."

The Congregational church — the first, the great-
est, and the truest Democracy known in all history


for more than three thousand years, yea, since the
early days of Roman and Grecian history, before
those ancient people became powerful, corrupt, and
monarchical — never dreamed that these little
territorial boundaries would be the basis of over-
throwing the very principles upon which the
Puritan built his Congregational church, — the
equality of man in every religious or political

He would have no elders, no bishops, no pres-
bytery, no superior class, no overruling authority,
but he trusted everything to the individual man,
and the humblest layman was as powerful as the
most learned and eloquent preacher, and every
little church, however humble, was a republic in

The Puritan fled from the land where the few
governed the many, and where all the honors of
Church and State were monopolized by the few,
to establish on these western shores a pure

As time went on, great inequalities have arisen
in the distribution of population and wealth, until
we are called upon to take up the cause the Puri-
tan batded so nobly for, and won, nearly three
centuries ago.

Now, the very theory and foundation of this
ancient Commonwealth were the equality of man in
making laws, in bearing arms, and in everything that
pertained to the management of political affairs.


Davenport, Hooker, and those heroes who laid

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Online LibraryRatcliffe HicksSpeeches and public correspondence of Ratcliffe Hicks .. → online text (page 2 of 18)