“Gentlemen, these are your laws! Your English ancestors made them! Your fathers brought them across the water and planted them here, where they flourish like a green bay tree. You robbed that wife of her right to devise her own property—that husband is simply your agent.”
Lucretia Mott and Mary A. Grew, of Philadelphia, labored assiduously for the same object, and in the session of ’47 and ’48, the legislature of Pennsylvania secured to married women the right to hold property.
Soon after the passage of the bill, William A. Stokes said to me: “We hold you responsible for that law, and I tell you now, you will live to rue the day when you opened such a Pandora’s box in your native state, and cast such an apple of discord into every family in it.”
His standing as a lawyer entitled his opinion to respect, and as he went on to explain the impossibility of reconciling that statute with, the general tenor of law and precedent, I was gravely apprehensive. The public mind was not prepared for so great a change; there had been no general demand for it; lawyers did not know what to do with it, and judges shook their heads. Indeed, there was so much doubt and opposition that I feared a repeal, until some months after Col. Kane came to me and said:
“There is a young lawyer from Steubenville named Stanton who would like to be introduced to you.”
I was in a gracious mood and consented to receive the young lawyer named Stanton. As he came into the room and advanced toward me, immediately I felt myself in the presence of a master mind, of a soul born to command. When introduced he gravely took my hand, and said:
“I called to congratulate you upon the passage of your bill. It is a change I have long desired to see.”
We sat and talked on the subject some time, and my fears vanished into thin air. If this man had taken that law into favor it would surely stand, and as he predicted be “improved and enlarged.” I have never been so forcibly impressed by any stranger. His compactness of body and soul, the clear outlines of face and figure, the terseness of his sentences, and firmness yet tenderness of his voice, were most striking; and as he passed down the long room after taking leave my thought was:
“Mr. Stanton you have started for some definite point in life, some high goal, and you will reach it.”
This was prophetic, for he walked into the War Department of this nation at a time when it is probable no other man in it, could have done the work there which freedom demanded in her hour of peril, for this young man was none other than Edwin M. Stanton, the Ajax of the great Rebellion.
THE PITTSBURG SATURDAY VISITER.