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(1860) Elizabeth Cady Stanton, “A Slave's Appeal”

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There are certain natural rights as inalienable to civilization as are the rights of air and motion to the savage in the wilderness. The natural rights of the civilized man and woman are government, property, the harmonious development of all their powers, and the gratification of their desires. There are a few people we now and then meet, who, like Jeremy Bentham, scout the idea of natural rights in civilization, and pronounce them mere metaphors, declaring there are no rights aside from those the law confers. If the law made man too, that might do, for then he could be made to order, to fit the particular niche he was designed to fill. But inasmuch as God made man in his own image, with capacities and powers as boundless as the universe, whose exigencies no mere human law can meet, it is evident that the man must ever stand first -- the law but the creature of his wants -- the law-giver but the mouthpiece of humanity. If, then, the nature of a being decides its rights, every individual comes into this world with rights that are not transferable. He does not bring them like a pack on his back, that may be stolen from him, but they are a component part of himself -- the laws which insure his growth and development. The individual may be put in the stocks, body and soul, he may be dwarfed, crippled, killed outright, but his rights can no man get -- they live and die with him.

Though the atmosphere be forty miles deep all round the globe, no man can do more than fill his own lungs. No man can see, or hear, or smell, but just so far; and though hundreds are deprived of these senses, his are not the more acute. Though rights have been abundantly supplied by the good Father, no man can appropriate to himself those that belong to another. A citizen can have but one vote, fill but one office, though thousands are not permitted to do either. These axioms prove that woman"s poverty does not add to man"s wealth, and if, in the