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“When Women Do Military Duty”: The Civil War’s Impact on Woman Suffrage

Exercise 1: The Natural Rights Tradition

The founders of the United States were familiar with the political tradition of natural rights, expounded by John Locke in the late seventeenth century. Locke argued that all people had certain rights—life, liberty, and property. People formed governments, giving up some of their liberty, to protect those rights. When governments become abusive, however, people have a right of revolution, to dissolve those government, and form new ones. Thomas Jefferson incorporated Lockean natural rights into the Declaration of Independence. The natural rights tradition continued to influence United States politics, including during the Civil War discussion of expanding the suffrage.


How does the Declaration of Independence embody the Lockean philosophy of natural rights?

How are the rights listed in the Declaration of Independence political?

How did African Americans and women use the Declaration of Independence to protest their lack of the vote?

Compare the address of the Convention of the Colored People of Ohio to the Seneca Falls Declaration and Lucy Stone’s testimony. How are they alike or different in their arguments?


Excerpt from the Declaration of Independence, 1776. https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/declaration-transcript

Excerpt from “Address to the Citizens of Ohio,” Convention of the Colored People of Ohio, Aug. 10–12, 1843 (Columbus, Ohio) Palladium of Liberty, Dec. 27, 1843. https://omeka.coloredconventions.org/items/show/1593

Declaration of Sentiments, 1848. https://www.nps.gov/wori/learn/historyculture/declaration-of-sentiments.htm “Speech of Mrs. Lucy Stone before Judiciary Committee of the Massachusetts Senate, on the Memorial of a Committee of the National Woman’s Rights Convention, Asking That the Rights of Suffrage May Be Granted to Woman, in the Representative’s Hall, March 6, 1857.” https://crowd.loc.gov/campaigns/blackwells-extraordinary-family/lucy-stone-speeches-and-writings/mss1288001964/mss1288001964-20/