Document 1: "Judge Bromwell’s Minority Report on Suffrage: Read, Ordered Printed, and Laid on the Table for Future Consideration," 8 February 1876, pp. 1-9, Records of the Colorado Constitutional Convention (1875-1879), -M1599, Western History Collection, The Denver Public Library, Denver, Colorado.

Introduction

       The question of whether to extend the right of suffrage to women arose at the Colorado Constitutional Convention, held in 1875-1876. A majority opposed votes for women, with some arguing it risked alienating the federal government and making the achievement of statehood more difficult. But two men were pro-suffrage: Henry P. H. Bromwell, a judge and Republican representing Denver, and Agapita Vigil, a Spanish-speaking rancher and Democrat from southern Huerfano and Las Animas counties. For Bromwell, a former member of Congress from Illinois and a Radical Republican, woman suffrage was not a new issue, but for Vigil, hailing from an anti-suffrage area, it was. Although woman suffrage failed at the convention by a vote of 24 to 8, the Colorado Constitution did guarantee women the right to vote in school elections, and Article 7, Section 2 provided a means by which woman suffrage could be achieved through popular referendum.

       In their minority report, Bromwell and Vigil set forth their case for the enfranchisement of women, making connections to the issue of Black male suffrage and arguments based on both women’s equality and difference.

JUDGE BROMWELL’S MINORITY REPORT ON SUFFRAGE: READ, ORDERED PRINTED, AND LAID ON THE TABLE FOR FUTURE CONSIDERATION.

Denver, Colorado, Feb. 8, 1876.

To the Honorable President of the Constitutional Convention:

       The undersigned, a minority of the committee on “Rights of Suffrage and Elections,” respectfully beg leave to submit to the Convention, the views of the minority of said committee upon the subject submitted to them.

       This minority of said committee respectfully submit that the report made by the majority of said committee, contains one provision which cannot be reconciled with justice and equal rights among the citizens of the State.

       Said provision is in the form of a limitation upon the right of Suffrage, confining that right to less than one half of the citizens of the State over the age of twenty-one years.

*   *   *

       On what principles is our Government founded? The principles following in the bill of rights, which are, among other things these: “That all government of right originates from the people.”

       What people? The whole people of Colorado, who are of years of maturity.

*   *   *

       How then can this Convention proclaim that Bill of Rights, so admirably framed to set forth the “true principles” of this government, and yet begin at the very next step by declaring that half the people are not any part of the government power, whose will originates all government?

       But aside from the universally recognised principles of the Bill of Rights, what right has any one class of the citizens to sit in judgement on allowing to others the exercise of their rights? Nobody can, and we believe no one does, deny that one citizen has just as much right as another. This proscription, then, is an actual taking away, or preventing of the exercise of the very first right possible to a member of a commonwealth.

       Therefore, this Minority refuses to join in said Report. But aside from abstract rights, and aside from contradiction between the parts of this organic law, the practical effect of disenfranchising any portion of the citizens of a republic is to create a sense of inferiority on their part, and of contempt for them on the part of the favored class.

       It may be stated as a rule applicable to every species of republic, that depriving any class of the right of Suffrage, invites contempt of that class, and in fact produces it.

       Further, in a republic the right of Suffrage is part of the means of wellfare of any person, or class of persons. Experience has shown abundantly, that the right to vote is concerned with securing food and raiment.

       No man who has examined the subject doubts that the enfranchisement of the Colored people put bread and butter into the mouths of their children.

*   *   *

       How is it with Woman?

       In the city of New York alone, more than forty thousand women are making vests and shirts at ten cents apiece, toiling with bleeding fingers and weary eyes at late hours, to find a scanty support for their children.

       In all the Union there are doubtless near a million of such cases. They represent perhaps three millions of children. There are today thousands in Colorado. In the near future there will be ten thousand. Can any one suppose that if these women had the right to vote their interests would not be looked after by the politicians of all classes?

*   *   *

       All the arguments, (if sneering and cracking jokes are to be called arguments)--brought against the exercise of universal Suffrage, are the very same urged by the favored class one hundred years ago, against the right of just such men as now compose this Convention.

       Then was heard the cry, that in order to vote a man must be identified with the government by something of great value to preserve to himself and family. Primogeniture, and entailment, and other means of forcing a family distinction and perpetuity, all conspired to accumulate power in the hands of a favored few. We have torn all these badges of king-craft and aristocracy to shreds, dignified labor, established freedom, and in part emancipated humanity. But here we stopped half-way, as if some magic worked a spell on us. We stand dazzled like the buck by the glare of the night hunter’s torch, and fail to look at or percieve what is behind the prejudice which disables our intellectual eyes.

       All the arguments based on superiority are false in two respects.-First, it makes no difference who is superior. We do not classify our present voters in that way. The most inferior clown in the whole country is protected in his vote, because it is his right. He is a shareholder in the government. The unconvicted thief votes without hindrance. Secondly it is false that Woman is inferior to Man. Any such assumption is false on its face, and falsified by history.

       This capacity of Woman to govern has been shown. There is hardly a kingdom or empire…which does not point to a reign when the sceptre was held by a woman, as the most illustrious period of its history, either in war or in peace. It stands undisputed, and today it is found throughout the land, that the best governors in the school-room are these natural governors of our infancy and youth, women.

       The truth is, we are a human race. Part of us are men, part of us are women; both equal, each superior, and each inferior; each is part and parcel of the same humanity.

*   *   *

       The true office of the Law-giver is to make the Law the exponent of Justice.

       In order that this be done, the undersigned respectfully submit, that an article be adopted, the same in all respects as that reported by this Committee, save the one word “male” in the first section, to be stricken out, to follow that other word “white”, (lately expunged from thirty-seven constitutions, to the same charnal-house of ancient abuses; and that the organic law, so perfected, be adopted, as the foundation of government in the Centennial State: then the body of our Constitution will conform to its own first principles. . . .

*   *   *

Respectfully Submitted,

   

H.P.H. Bromwell.

AGAPITA VIGIL.

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