Stanton seems to be saying the same thing as Henry Thoreau and Martin Luther King, Jr. about the laws of the United States that are concerned with the rights and liberties of women. In her “Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions,” Stanton declares that even men and women are equal the laws that govern them are not (Stanton, Par. 2). It was written in 1848 and during these times, women are not yet given the right to vote by the law.
The law limits their participation in society and this causes injustice to women. Aside from this, the laws of the 1800’s do not give women the opportunities for higher education and public participation in church. When a woman marries, she becomes “dead” in the eyes of the law because it is only her husband who is acknowledged in legal documents. She also cannot have property for herself. The laws during the 1800’s are discriminatory to women and thus do not serve as the arms of justice to women.
They limit the lives of women to objects and wives; to a half-human or a child who do not have the capacity to act or think on their own. The women of the 1800’s who do not fight to alleviate their oppression are like the government officials and soldiers of the US-Mexican war who continue to obey US policy even if the policy is not just. Stanton echoes Thoreau’s urging that if the law in unjust, it should not be obeyed and the government should be tolerated:
We hold these truths to be self – evident: that all men and women are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights governments are instituted, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of those who suffer from it to refuse allegiance to it (Par. 1). Instruments of Justice Aside from being inhumane and discriminatory, there are laws that force people to be instruments of injustice.
Because of this, instead of creating justice, some laws produce more injustice to society. This is the reason why Thoreau is opposed to blind obedience to the law. Instead of just following whatever law is shoved at his face, Thoreau looks at his conscience and makes it the barometer for his actions: It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right. It is truly enough said that a corporation has no conscience; but a corporation of conscientious men is a corporation with a conscience.
Law never made men a whit more just; and by means of their respect for it even the well-disposed are daily being made the agents of injustice (Thoreau, Part 1 Par. 4). This is a revolutionary idea from Thoreau. What he is saying here is that since laws do not serve justice but instead force people to be agents of injustice, then, the laws should not be the guiding factor in the actions of the citizens. For Thoreau, the government officials and members of the military and the legislative who implement unjust laws should resign from the government so that they will not be agents of injustice.
For the part of the citizens, they should not fight violently but they should not also retaliate when they are being forced to be instruments of injustice. They should hold their ground and peacefully boycott the unjust laws created by the government. In expressing her sentiments to the injustice that women are suffering during the 1800’s, Stanton also bravely contends that if the government that they have do not work hard to provide equal liberty for women, then that government should not exist: