The Grumblers of 1870

The Revolution, a weekly women’s rights newspaper, was the official publication of the National Woman Suffrage Association formed by feminists Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony to secure women’s enfranchisement through a federal constitutional amendment. Published between January 8, 1868 and February, 1872, it was edited by Stanton and Parker Pillsbury.

Our Grumblers

By Virginia F. Townsend

I do not mean to imply by my title that this large class of individuals is simply a product of our own times. On the contrary, the chronic Grumbler has existed in all ages, and had work to do in every political phase which human affairs have exhibited.

What is more, the Grumbler will not cease to be, before we strike the millennium—that golden noontide hour toward which the years swing us slowly through all their burdens of sorrow and wrong—for hindering and fault-finding, instead of helping and encouraging, is the work in which the soul of the chronic Grumbler takes chiefest delight.

That vampire-instinct, which makes the inborn Grumbler fasten on whatever is weakest and worst among his contemporaries and his era, makes him also blind to whatever is best and noblest in either. Take, for instance, this nineteenth century—now among the waning of its decades.

We have scrambled out – we of the present generation—breathless and sunburnt, and toil-worn on its heights: “Other heights for other years. God willing.” but here we are, in such glad sunlight, with such fresh coolness of winds playing about us, that when we turn and look down from our Table-land on the wilderness of the centuries which have gone before, it seems as though in this year of our Lord, eighteen hundred and seventy, our souls could only find room for grateful psalm and swelling pn over our present state. Say that in the tenth of your chronic Grumblers. Why, how many a man and woman, too, there lives to-day from whose lips you and I have heard the solemn ration, that the world hadn’t moved a rood that the old tunes were as good if not better than the present, in short, that there has been very little real advance made in the comfort happiness of freedom of the human race for centuries.

This item, and others like it, can be found in Accessible Archive’s Women’s Suffrage Collection. We can provide access to fully searchable newspapers by and for women including The Lily (1849-1856), National Citizen and Ballot Box (1878-1881), The Revolution (1868-1872), The New Citizen (1909-1912), The Western Woman Voter (1911-1913), The Woman’s Tribune (1883-1909) and the antisuffrage newspaper, The Remonstrance (1890-1913).

Now, think of any man of woman sensible enough in other respects, talking stuff of that kind, in the face of history too

It is no excuse for these sorts of people to say they do not know any better. No human being has any business to be in such blank ignorance, with the sources on all sides to enlightenment. It may not be within the reach of your possibilities to be a profound scholar but every grown man and woman has had in in the course of his on her natural life the power to give a few days to the study of the facts; enough no at least to them right on the main point.

The trouble is they don’t want to know They “fatten on that” of grumbling and detraction

Yet, the ingratitude, after all in the main feature which strikes one, listening to those who take pleasure in decrying the present.

When one calls to mind what an awful price has been paid by the long array of noble men who for ourselves breasted the flood-tide of bigotry, selfishness, power and cruelty, this calumny of the present takes on an added shade of baseness.

Just pause and think now, what they were doing three hundred years ago, this very summer, in the foremost nations of the earth. There was not a corner of the world, saving, perhaps, some ill-defined portion of Germany, where a man could literally say “his soul was his own.”

That belonged to mitre or monarch, as the case might be; and if a man had the pluck to assert his inherent right to it, and to form opinions and have standards of his own in matters which most vitally concerned him, he found a short road to the dungeons of the Inquisition, to the fagots of the stake, or the more merciful knife of the executioner.

Good old times, indeed! Did you ever think, oh, grumbling, dissatisfied mortal, as you listened to the morning bells ringing all over the land through the sweetness of our summer Sabbaths, what rivers of blood, what sweat of torture through long centuries had paid the price of those blessed sounds?

Do you know that your Bible lies, with none to molest or make afraid, on your table to-day, only because noble souls went up first to God in clouds of fire?

There was Tyndale, wandering through long years a homeless, hunted fugitive in strange lands, that he might pour the burning Hebrew or beautiful Greek into the dear old Anglo-Saxon vernacular—there was Garret, watching, trembling, on the shores, for the first. English Bibles, as they ted in the vessels of the Stillwater merchant up the Thames—there were Barnes and Bilney and Hooper and Cranmer, and hosts of others, all entering into Heaven by that same fiery gateway of Martyrdom.

Good old times, indeed? With its whipping-posts and stocks and gibbets, with its slitting of noses and tweaking of ears, and slashing of hands and branding of foreheads!

Good old times, indeed! Why, the Editor of this very number of the REVOLUTION, the printer that print it, you that read this article, and I that wrote it, would, a good deal less than three hundred years ago, have all had short shrift to the scaffold.

It is a pity, oh, Grumbler of the nineteenth century, that you can’t be sent back for a little while into the sixteenth, with the “divine right of kings,” its statutes that gave husbands the power to beat their wives, and plenty more of legalized barbarisms in consonance with these.

But, despite its Grumblers, the world moves and carries them along with it, and they stand to-day with closed eyes and thankless hearts in the broad ripe harvest-field which other generations have sown, and we have entered into their labors.

Source: The Revolution – June 9, 1870

All images included in blog posts are from either Accessible Archives collections or out of copyright public sources unless otherwise noted. Common sources include the Library of Congress, The Flickr Commons, Wikimedia Commons, and other public archives.

Related Posts


Stay Connected

Connect with Accessible Archives on Twitter, Facebook, or Linkedin to stay up to date on news and blog posts or get our latest blog posts by email.

Positive SSL