Letter from Alexander Graham Bell to Mabel Hubbard Bell, March 28, 1901
In the interest of the republican form of government and in the interest of the community at large it is surely unwise to draw lines of any sort limiting the exercise of that which is a RIGHT. Exclude women, and exclude men who have only an imperfect education, and what have you left? A MINORITY OF THE POPULATION, and where is your republican form of government if a minority rules. You have an olegarchy and not a republic.
If only the educated can vote, they not only rule the uneducated, but have the power to prevent the latter from being educated — a dangerous power to place in the hands of a class. If women are excluded men not only rule the affairs of women, but have the power to PREVENT women from ever getting a franchise unless THEY (the men) choose — an equally dangerous power.
To have a right and to exercise it are two very different things. I may have a right to keep fire arms in my own house for my own defence, and yet I may not possess a gun or a pistol. I may not care to own a gun or a pistol and you may not care to have me but suppose that a legislature should decide by law that I must not own a gun or a pistol, or have — in my own house — any means of — myself — defending my own life and property — then I say they infringe my private right to defend myself: And, as sure as Equity is higher than Law so surely will self defense be no