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Doc. 6. the ladies' National Covenant.

On the second day of May, 1864, a society of women was formed at Washington, D. C., whose object was to abolish the use of foreign silks, satins, laces, indeed the whole family of millinery and feminine adornments, with a view to keep the gold in the country. The Rev. Dr. McMurdy and Miss Lizzie M. Baker were made Secretaries of the meeting, and the objects briefly stated.

Mrs. Senator Lane then moved the appointment of a committee of seven to prepare an address to the women of America, and report a constitution for the proposed organization, which was unanimously adopted. The President appointed Mrs. Senator Lane, of Indiana; Mrs. Ann S. Stephens, New York; Mrs. Senator Wilson, Massachusetts; Mrs. Loan, of Missouri; Mrs. Pike, of Maine; Mrs. S. A. Douglas; Mrs. Ingersoll, of the district.

Mrs. Spaulding, of Ohio, moved the appointment of a committee of five to nominate officers for the society. Adopted. Mrs. Spaulding, of Ohio; Mrs. Woodbridge, of Vermont; Mrs, Hughes, of Indiana; Mrs. Choate, of the district, and Mrs. Morris, of the navy, were appointed.

The Committee on the Constitution reported the following:

Articles of Association.

article I:--of the name and object.

Sec. 1. The name of this association shall be “The ladies' National Covenant.”

Sec. 2. The object shall be to unite the women of the country in the earnest resolution to purchase no imported articles of apparel where American can possibly be substituted, during the continuance of the war.

article II:--of the officers.

Sec. 1.--The officers of the National Covenant shall be a President, Vice-President, Corresponding and Recording Secretaries, and an Advisory and Organizing Committee of two from each State and Territory within Federal lines.

Sec. 2. The President shall preside at the meeting of the Covenant, and at the meetings of the Executive Committee. She shall provide for all vacancies in the offices.

Sec. 3. The Vice-President, in the absence or death of the President, shall act in her place. She shall be a member of the Executive Committee, [20] and shall assist the President in her duties at her request.

Sec. 4. The Corresponding Secretaries shall enlist the press in behalf of the object of the Covenant, and correspond with ladies and societies in various parts of the country, in promotion of the purposes of the organization.

The number of Corresponding Secretaries shall be ten, which number may be augmented at the pleasure of the Executive Committee.

Sec. 5. The Recording Secretaries shall preserve an official record of the names and places of residence pledged to the Covenant, and perform such other duties as are implied in the nature of their office.

The number of Recording Secretaries shall be two, and this number may be increased at the pleasure of the President.

Sec. 6. The Advisory and Organizing Committee shall consist of two from each State and territory within Federal lines, which number may be indefinitely increased, by the two members from the State or territory, by appointments, at their pleasure, of persons within said State or territory, for the purposes of this association, in the said State or territory. This organizing committee shall report monthly, as far practicable, to the President of the National Covenant, the number of persons pledged in their respective States to the covenant, and make such suggestion as they may deem expedient to perfect the success of this society.

Sec. 7. The executive committee shall consist of the President, Vice-President, and Corresponding and Recording Secretaries. This committee shall transact all business necessary to the purposes of the league. Said committee shall meet at their pleasure, and adopt any by-laws for their government not inconsistent with the object of the National Covenant.

Sec. 8. The time and place of the meetings of the National Covenant shall be determined by the President, with the advice and consent of the Executive Committee.

art. III.--of the pledge or Covenant.

The pledge or covenant shall be as follows: “For three years, or for the war, we pledge ourselves to each other and the country to purchase no imported article of apparel.”

On motion of Mrs. Loan, the constitution was adopted.

On motion of Mrs. Nininger, of Oregon, the address was unanimously adopted, and its universal publication asked.

The Committee on Nominations made their report, which, on motion of Mrs. Hatch, of Washington, D. C., was unanimously adopted, and the officers elected as follows:


the Executive Committee.

President--Mrs. General James Taylor.

Vice-President--Mrs. Stephen A. Douglas.

Recording Secertaries--Miss Rebecca Gillis, Miss Virginia Smith.

Corresponding Secretaries--Mrs. M. Morris, Mrs. B. B. French, Mrs. S. Bowen, Mrs. H. C. Ingersoll, Mrs. Z. C. Robbins, Mrs. Professor Henry, Mrs. Chittenden, Mrs. Captain Kidden, Miss Williams, Miss Matilda Bates.

Address to the Women of America:

In the capital of our country we have this day organized a central society for the suppression of extravagance, the diminution of foreign imports and the practice of economy in all our social relations. To this society we have given the name of “The ladies' National Covenant.” Its object is a good and generous one, which should inspire a spirit of patriotism worthy of women who are the glory of a great nation. For this society we have an example and precedent at once august and encouraging.

In 1770 the women of Massachusetts, actutated by the same impulse that inspires us, assembled in the city of Boston, as we have met here, and resolved to serve the country by an effort of self-sacrifice far greater than we are called upon to make.

On the ninth of February, three hundred matrons, each the mistress of a household, met as we do now, and signed a pledge to abstain from the use of tea, the greatest luxury of the time, and the very life of all the social gatherings for which our New England ancestors were so famous. Three days later, twice that number of blooming young girls met in the same place and signed like pledges; from that brave assemblage of women non-importation societies sprang up, that produced an effect upon the mother country almost equal to that created by the success of our revolutionary armies. During all the terrors of the war these noble women held firmly to their pledges, and by their earnestness awoke the sympathy and co-operation of every sister colony in the land. The spirit thus aroused extended itself to imported goods of all kinds, and every hearthstone was turned into an independent manufactory. Thus it was that the flax-wheel, the hatchel, and the hand-loom became sublime instruments of freedom in the hands of American women. The house-mothers of ‘76 not only kept their pledge of non-importation, but with their own-bands wrought from the raw material the garments which clothed themselves, their husbands, and children. The pledge which they took, and kept so faithfully, evoked not only great self-sacrifice, but hard, hard toil, such as the women of the present day scarcely dream of. Had they not endured and labored while their husbands fought, we should have had no mighty Union to pray and struggle for now.

We, the women of ‘64, have the same object to attain and the same duties to perform which were so nobly accomplished by the women of ‘76. Shall we not follow their example, and take up, cheerfully, the lesser burdens that the welfare of our country demands? They gave up the very comforts of life without a murmur; [21] can we refuse when a sacrifice of feminine vanity is alone required? Can we hesitate to yield up luxuries that are so unbecoming when the very earth trembles under our feet from the tread of armed men going down to battle, and almost every roof throughout the land shelters some mother lamenting the son who has fallen gloriously with his face to the foe, or a widow whose husband lies buried so deeply among the masses of slain heroes, that she will never learn where to seek for his grave!

When the wife of a great prince, whose husband was absent at the siege of Troy, was urged by her friends to put on her royal robes and be cheerful, she answered: “My husband is under the walls of Troy; shall I adorn my hair while he wears a helmlet? Shall I dress in new robes while he carries arms? No I my raiment shall be like his hard labors, and in sadness will I pass the time of this mournful war.” Patriotism is beautiful in all eyes, and was shared alike by the lady of classic story and the mother of the Revolution, clad in her homespun dress, and steadily performing more than household duties. Compare the spirit of these women with the reckless extravagance which has marked the duration of this terrible struggle for the Union, and the contrast is indeed humiliating. Still, the women of America are not unworthy of their ancestors. Thoughtless they may be, and luxuriously extravagant from long habits of prosperity, but cruel and unjust never I Appeal to their reason and gentle feelings, and the women of this day will prove themselves capable of as noble deeds as ever marked the struggles of the Revolution. Convince them of the evils their thoughtlessness is producing, and the remedy is certain.

It has not yet been sufficiently impressed upon them that the encouragement of extravagant importations is injurious to the public good. To impress this vital truth upon the women of the Union, we have entered into this solemn covenant, not only lending ourselves to a general system of economy in our persons, but holding it as a duty to impress upon others how unwomanly it is to make outward display a paramount subject of thought, when the nation is in the throes of a rebellion such as the world never saw. Gathered here in the centre of the nation, a handful of women, intent on a single object, anxious only for the good of the country, we appeal to the patriotism and intelligence of our sister women throughout the length and breadth of the land. Let it be well understood, that every ounce of gold that goes from the country detracts from the pay of the soldier who is fighting for our salvation, and diminishes the wages of our sister women, who toil for their bread, into a miserable pittance that scarcely suffices to keep them from starvation. The precious metal that flows from this country to Europe for the luxuries we do not need increases the price of gold here, depreciates the value of our national currency, and helps to sweep the necessaries of life beyond the reach of the working man.

It is a painful truth, for which we shall yet learn to blush, that the importations of the most expensive goods manufactured in Europe have been far greater during the war than at any time in the history of our country. The importations last week at the New York Custom House alone amounted to five millions of dollars; and all that week — which will yet find its ignoble record in history — the streets of Washington were blocked up with weary soldiers, marching through mud, rain, or dust, down to the Army of the Potomac, which now lies with bated courage waiting for the carnival of death which is almost flinging its crimson shadow over us.

For the good of our country and the honor of our sex, let us redeem ourselves from this reproach of wanton extravagance. Let us prove by cheerful retrenchment that the women of the country are not so wedded to luxurious self-indulgence that they cannot fill a glorious page in the history of this war, and yet retain all that is retiring and beautiful in womanhood. In all humane works they have proved themselves charitable, kind, and munificent. Let these comprehend that self-abnegation will accomplish more than works of charity, and they will not be less earnest to sacrifice than they have been to act. It must not be said of us that we have been willing to give up our husbands, sons, and brothers to fight or die for the Union, and yet refuse to renounce our laces, silks, velvets, and diamonds. That thought would cover us with shame before the nations of the earth. No; our women of the Union only lack knowledge of the means by which they can prove themselves true helpmates of the heroes who are fighting our battles. Impress it upon them that in discouraging excessive importations, and adopting goods manufactured at home, they keep gold in the country, reduce the rates of exchange, and establish confidence in the Government, and they will prove how far patriotism can rise above feminine vanity in the hearts of American women.

In order to invoke this spirit of self-sacrifice, it is important that the great object of the covenant we have made should be broadly circulated and thoroughly understood. It discourages profligate expenditures of any kind, recommends the use of domestic fabrics wherever they can be substituted for those of foreign make, and advises simplicity of attire, both as a matter of policy and good taste. It asks the great sisterhood of American women to aid in this reform before it is too late.

Thank God! science has given us the means of reaching thousands on thousands in a single hour. While we make this covenant, the thought that thrills our hearts may tremble in fire along the telegraph, and awake kindred inspiration throughout the entire land. By every means of communication in our power, let us urge the necessity of prompt action. In every town and village throughout the Union, some woman who loves her country is implored to establish an auxiliary society, and forward the names of the [22] ladies invited to act for the State in which her duty lies. We ask simultaneous action, earnest work, and generous self-sacrifice, at the hands of sister women. With their ardent help, a work will be accomplished so important in its results that the woman who shares in it may, hereafter, leave the emblem of our object as the richest jewel that she can leave to posterity.

Opinions of the press.

To the Editor of the Boston Transcript:
In view of the high price of gold, the women of America desire to form an association for the practice of economy in dress and living, upon the broad basis of love of country. The premium on gold, we are told, is an evidence of the Government's want of money, or, in other words, of the demand being greater than the supply. To meet this deficiency the Government must increase the national debt, an expedient which, if persisted in, threatens to cause a depreciation of the currency, and tends towards national bankruptcy. The only efficient, permanent remedy for this state of things is, we are told, taxation. The country is reputed able and willing to pay a tax of three or four hundred millions, but Congress hesitates to impose such a tax from the fear of the Government becoming unpopular at home and abroad. In this state of affairs, with a Government daily out of pocket, and a Congress hesitating to tax, cannot the women of the country do a great good in an unpretending way? The first step seems to be, if we wish to diminish the demand for gold, to find out what becomes of it. We are told that it is partly hoarded by the “rich and poor,” “the timid and disloyal;” partly consumed in the manufacture of plate, articles of ornament; partly in the payment of duties; but mainly sent out of the country in payment of the excess of our imports over our exports. Of these foreign imports some forty millions must be set down to woman's account; she consuming the main part of the silks and jewelry and all the laces, embroideries, flowers, etc. Five-sixths of the gross imports are said to be paid for in corn, wheat, cotton, etc., leaving an excess of about fifty millions to be paid for in gold. Cannot so earnest an appeal be made to the conscience and practical wisdom of the women of America, as to induce them cheerfully to forego the purchase of a large portion of these foreign commodities, so as to help bring gold down at par? Here is a plain, homely duty required to be done by some one, from the pure motive of love of country, and to the end of bringing the balance of trade in our favor, sustaining the national credit, and triumphantly ending the war. Are we strong enough to do it? It is very weak and not wholly just to reply: “Men consume as much and more of foreign luxuries, in the way of tobacco, wine, and spirits, as we do.” It is unworthy of a woman to give so poor a reason for the neglect of a duty as to say that the obligation is equally binding upon some one else, who fails to perform it. Let us rather joyfully sacrifice our taste and convenience in a cause so glorious as our country's welfare, and wish that it was as easy to know what were good to do for one's country as it is to do it. Two plans are proposed. One is to make an earnest appeal to the conscience upon the duty of simple and sober living, but to leave the individual to make the practical application of the principle to her own expenditure. The other is to specify certain foreign commodities, the disuse of which will involve the least practical inconvenience, and which the association shall be pledged “to do without” during the war. That plan is the best which will insure the greatest and most permanent reduction in the amount of imports. The same plan proposes that the association shall voluntarily pledge itself to forego buying during the war, web-velvets and plushes, satins, white and black thread laces, foreign embroideries, foreign artificial flowers and feathers, ermine, camel's hair shawls, French hats, bonnets, caps, and head-dresses, silk and velvet cloaks, sacks and mantillas, diamonds and other jewelry, bronzes, ormolu, and fancy ornamental goods, foreign silks of all descriptions ; to give up trimming the skirts of dresses, and to abolish champagne from entertainments. This movement originates in no spirit of asceticism; a spirit which looks upon beautiful and expensive dress at any time as necessarily a mark of frivolity or self-indulgence. Dress has a claim to rank as a fine art, and, if low in the scale, it is still a round in the ladder by which humanity is helped up to higher things. Neither do we charge any one class of the community with excessive expenditure. Extravagance is a relative term, and thousands of families, no doubt, who consume the most expensive of these luxuries, can honestly pay for them, and at the same time give munificently to the support of the war. Still less would we sneer at any set of men or women whose uncounted wealth takes to itself such dazzling wings. We expect a wholesome degree of ridicule, and to be asked once a day, “Are we to dress in bed-sacks?” To such we reply, that bed-sacks are not so bad after all on Newport beach, and that there are eyes in which a delaine or alpaca dress, unostentatiously worn from love of country, has a lustre which the Lyons looms fail to give to their costliest fabrics.

We ask thoughtful women to give their opinion as to which of the two plans suggested is the most practical and practicable, to suggest changes in, or additions to, the list of prohibited articles, or any general intelligent criticism.


To the Editor of the Washington Chronicle:
I am glad to see you leading off in advocating ladies' leagues. Persevere; do not give up so good a work. I do not wish to say anything disparaging of our women, but indeed I should think vastly more of them if they would show [23] that they think more of the country than of dress. I am old enough to have had a mother who was a young woman during the Revolutionary war; and I have heard her, many a time, describe how the women then took a pride in wearing dresses manufactured wholly by themselves or in their families, and how it was considered discreditable for any one to appear in a dress made of any foreign fabric. Let this spirit animate the women of the North as it does the women of the South, to their credit be it spoken, and I am very sure we shall regard them with ten-fold admiration, and our brave soldiers in the field will feel more like fighting, and will fight with more ardor. I know some silly, unpatriotic women, have sneered at this idea of dressing plainly, and have declared that they would dress just as much as they pleased, and wear just as costly silks as they could afford to buy, in spite of all such leagues. But; let it be once understood that respectable ladies are to be known by the plainness of their attire, and the work will be done. The women can do more to stop excessive and ruinous importations than all the tariffs Congress can manufacture.


From the Washington Union.

A female, signing herself “Senex,” has a communication in this morning's Chronicle relative to the idea of ladies dressing plainly. She and all other ladies have a right to dress as they please; but she has no right to force their fashions down the throats of those who are not inclined to dress as they want. A linsey-woolsey gown would be no discredit to any one, and those who desire to wear quarter calicoes have a perfect right to do so; but if a lady dresses in two-dollar silk, her character must not be impugned. This lady, “Senex,” in winding up her effusion, says: “But let be once understood that respectable ladies are to be known by the plainness of their attire, and the work will be done.” She takes very broad ground relative to respectability, and we presume that if she gave out that females must wear breeches, they would not be considered respectable if they did not at once coincide with her. Her doctrines are like the abolitionist's — no one is loyal but a negro-worshipper.

From the New York Commercial Advertiser.

There is a movement on foot in this city among thoughtful and patriotic woman, to quietly but resolutely reduce the consumption of imported goods and other luxuries, and to check the extravagant and wasteful expenditure which is so rampant in these days, and which has overlaid that sweet simplicity supposed to be characteristic of the good old days, when Knickerbocker and New England kitchens were ordinary features in every-day life.

A meeting attended by ladies from the most influential circles in society, has already been held, and another will be called for an early day, when a liberal representation of the ladies of New York is expected. It is felt that in the midst of a calamitous war, the prevalent luxury and extravagance the idle round of pleasure and gaiety, are inconsistent with the claims of duty to the country, and that the sufferings and sacrifice of a million of armed men drawn from the homes of the people, demand something like a response from the general public. There is a patriotism, too, profound enough to be willing to imitate the example of our fathers, who under so great privations fought the war of the Revolution. The women of the land are to be commended for this effort to raise economy to the level of a practical virtue, and the men will most assuredly welcome any reform that they may thus initiate, if for no other reason than that they will have smaller bills to pay.

Washington Correspondence of the Detroit Tribune.

Washington ladies, as you will probably see by the papers, are making an effort at retrenchment in the way of dress, to prevent the ruinous importation of goods, which so enhances the price of gold and embarrasses the Government. It is very well that they have thought of it even at this late hour. All winter they have been dragging the price of the soldier's life along our pavements, till, weary with that disgusting process, they invented a system of pulleys to be worn under the dress, by which the skirt could be elevated at will; but, finding that this is too troublesome, they have recently resorted to hooking it up. Every day ladies, I suppose they are ladies, may be seen on the avenue with heavy silk skirts richly trimmed, made from a quarter to a half yard too long for the wearer, and the surplus hooked up at each seam, giving a most ridiculous, baggy appearance to the costume; and the heavy, unwieldy mass over the swaying hoops adds anything but grace to the motions of the walker. It is very appropriate that such ladies should begin to think of curtailing.

However, I must say, that from what I have heard of the splendor of former seasons here, the extravagance of the past winter has been very moderate in comparison. It has been sneeringly spoken of by some as due to the influx of Northern commonplace people, who did not understand the arts and elegances of dress as practiced by the aristocratic Southerners under democratic rule. Be that as it may, there is room for improvement in simplicity and economy even now. They are going to organize a Ladies' Union League, to bind themselves for three years or during the war, not to buy or use imported goods where it is possible to substitute those of domestic manufacture. I think the gentlemen ought to be bound over to good behavior in this matter, too. Their fine broadcloths and brandies certainly have some effect on importations.

From the Philadelphia Daily News.

Whilst every one is complaining of the high cost of living and the speculation in gold, the [24] ladies of Washington are adopting practical measures, with a view to remedy at least a portion of the evil. On Monday last, as we learn from the Star, nearly three hundred of the most prominent ladies of the city assembled in Dr Sunderland's church, and formed a society, the object of which is to check the importation and consumption of foreign goods. A constitution was adopted, and the society was named the “Covenant.” The constitution, which is to be signed by each member, contains the following pledge: “For three years or the war we pledge ourselves to purchase no foreign article or apparel when American articles can possibly be substituted.” This is a good pledge, but might be made better. It will do, however, as a beginning; and if the men and women in all parts of the country will but act on the principle involved in it, much good will be accomplished. Economy should be the watchword in such times as these. There is no family that cannot reduce the consumption of goods now purchased for its use at least one-third, and this with entire regard to the health and comfort of all. Ignore the butterman when he demands an exorbitant price for it; reduce the supply of milk; substitute something else for coffee; live on plain food, and discard all luxuries ; stop off one fire in the winter; watch the cook, that he or she does not waste; and in a thousand other ways pursue a system of strict and careful economy, and much, very much, will be done towards breaking down the conspirators who are robbing the people and the Government.

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