The History of Woman Suffrage Volume III Part 71

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The legislature of 1807 departed from this wise and just precedent, and pa.s.sed an arbitrary act, in direct violation of the const.i.tutional provision, restricting the suffrage to white male adult citizens, and this despotic ordinance was deliberately endorsed by the framers of the State const.i.tution which was adopted in 1844. This was plainly an act of usurpation and injustice, as thereby a large proportion of the law-abiding citizens of the State were disfranchised, without so much as the privilege of signifying their acceptance or rejection of the barbarous fiat which was to rob them of the sacred right of self-protection by means of a voice in the government, and to reduce them to the political level of the "pauper, idiot, insane person, or person convicted of crime."

If this flagrant wrong, which was inflicted by one-half the citizens of a free commonwealth on the other half, had been aimed at any other than a non-aggressive and self-sacrificing cla.s.s, there would have been fierce resistance, as in the case of the United Colonies under the British yoke. It has long been borne in silence. "The right of voting for representatives," says Paine, "is the primary right, by which other rights are protected. To take away this right is to reduce man to a state of slavery, for slavery consists in being subject to the will of another, and he that has not a vote in the electing of representatives is in this condition." Benjamin Franklin wrote: "They who have no voice nor vote in the electing of representatives do not enjoy liberty, but are absolutely enslaved to those who have votes and to their representatives; for to be enslaved is to have governors whom other men have set over us, and be subject to laws made by the representatives of others, without having had representatives of our own to give consent in our behalf."

This is the condition of the women of New Jersey. It is evident to every reasonable mind that these unjustly disfranchised citizens should be renstated in the right of suffrage. Therefore, we, your memorialists, ask the legislature at its present session to submit to the people of New Jersey an amendment to the const.i.tution, striking out the word "male" from article 2, section 1, in order that the political liberty which our forefathers so n.o.bly bestowed on men and women alike, may be restored to "all inhabitants" of the populous and prosperous State into which their brave young colony has grown.

[Ill.u.s.tration: Cornelia Collins Hussey]

With but a slight change of officers and arguments, these conventions were similar from year to year. There were on all occasions a certain number of the clergy in opposition. At one of these meetings the Rev. Mr. McMurdy condemned the ordination of women for the ministry. But woman's fitness[279] for that profession was successfully vindicated by Lucretia Mott and Phebe A. Hanaford. Mrs. Portia Gage writes, December 12, 1873:

There was an election held by the order of the towns.h.i.+p committee of Landis, to vote on the subject of bonding the town to build shoe and other factories. The call issued was for all legal voters. I went with some ten or twelve other women, all taxpayers. We offered our votes, claiming that we were citizens of the United States, and of the State of New Jersey, also property-holders in and residents of Landis towns.h.i.+p, and wished to express our opinion on the subject of having our property bonded. Of course our votes were not accepted, whilst every _tatterdemalion_ in town, either black or white, who owned no property, stepped up and very pompously said what he would like to have done with his property. For the first time our claim to vote seemed to most of the voters to be a just one. They gathered together in groups and got quite excited over the injustice of refusing our vote and accepting those of men who paid no taxes.

In 1879, the Woman's Political Science Club[280] was formed in Vineland, which held its meetings semi-monthly, and discussed a wide range of subjects. Among the n.o.ble women in New Jersey who have stood for many years steadfast representatives of the suffrage movement, Cornelia Collins Hussey of Orange is worthy of mention. A long line of radical and brave ancestors[281] made it comparatively easy for her to advocate an unpopular cause. Her father, Stacy B. Collins, identified with the anti-slavery movement, was also an advocate of woman's right to do whatever she could even to the exercise of the suffrage. He maintained that the tax-payer should vote regardless of s.e.x, and as years pa.s.sed on he saw clearly that not alone the tax-payer, but every citizen of the United States governed and punished by its laws, had a just and natural right to the ballot in a country claiming to be republican. The following beautiful tribute to his memory, by Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, is found in a letter to his daughter:

LONDON, July 27, 1873.

My last letter from America brought me the sad intelligence of your dear father's departure from amongst you; and I cannot refrain from at once writing and begging you to accept the sincere sympathy and inevitable regret which I feel for your loss. The disappearance of an old friend brings up the long past times vividly to my remembrance--the time when, impelled by irresistible spiritual necessity, I strove to lead a useful but unusual life, and was able to face, with the energy of youth, both social prejudice and the hindrance of poverty. I have to recall those early days to show how precious your father's sympathy and support were to me in that difficult time; and how highly I respected his moral courage in steadily, for so many years, encouraging the singular woman doctor, at whom everybody looked askance, and in pa.s.sing whom so many women held their clothes aside, lest they should touch her. I know in how many good and n.o.ble things your father took part; but, to me, this brave advocacy of woman as physician, in that early time, seems the n.o.blest of his actions.

Speaking of the general activity of the women of Orange, Mrs.

Hussey says:

The Women's Club of Orange was started in 1871. It is a social and literary club, and at present (1885) numbers about eighty members. Meetings are held in the rooms of the New England Society once in two weeks, and a reception, with refreshments, given at the house of some member once a year.

Some matter of interest is discussed at each regular meeting. This is not an equal suffrage club, yet a steady growth in that direction is very evident. Very good work has been done by this club. An evening school for girls was started by it, and taught by the members for awhile, until adopted by the board of education, a boys' evening school being already in operation. Under the arrangements of the club, a course of lectures on physiology, by women, was recently given in Orange, and well attended. At the house of one of the members a discussion was held on this subject: "Does the Private Character of the Actor Concern the Public?" Although the subject was a general one, the discussion was really upon the proper course in regard to M'lle Sarah Bernhardt, who had recently arrived in the country. Reporters from the New York _Sun_ attended the meeting, so that the views of the club of Orange gained quite a wide celebrity.

Of Mrs. Hussey's remarks, the Newark _Journal_ said:

The sentiments of the first speaker, Mrs. Cornelia C.

Hussey, were generally approved, and therefore are herewith given in full: "I have so often maintained in argument that one has no right to honor those whose lives are a dishonor to virtue or principle, that I cannot see any other side to our question than the affirmative. That the stage wields a potent influence cannot be doubted. Let the plays be immoral, and its influence must be disastrous to virtue. Let the known character of the actor be what we cannot respect, the glamour which his genius or talent throws around that bad character will tend to diminish our discrimination between virtue and vice, and our distaste for the latter.

Some one says: 'Let me write the songs of a nation, and I care not who makes the laws.' The poetry that Byron wrote, together with his well-known contempt for a virtuous life, is said to have had a very pernicious influence on the young men of his time, and probably, too, blinded the eyes of the young women. I recall being quite startled by reading the essay of Whittier on Byron, which showed him as he was, and not with the halo of his great genius thrown around his vices. It seemed to me that our national government dethroned virtue when it sent a homicide, if not a murderer, to represent us at a foreign court; and again when it sent as minister to another court on the continent a man whose private character was well known to be thoroughly immoral.

Even to trifle with virtue, or to be a coward in the cause of principle, is a fearful thing; but when, a person comes before the public, saying by his life that he prefers the pleasures of sin to the paths of virtue, it seems to me that the way is plain--to withhold our patronage as a matter of public policy."

On the Fourth of July, 1874, Mrs. Lillie Devereux Blake was invited to make the usual address in East Orange, which she did before a large audience in the public hall. Says the _Journal_: "Mrs. Blake's speech was characterized by simplicity of style and appropriateness of sentiment." She made mention of Molly Pitcher, Mrs. Borden and Mrs. Hall of New Jersey, and of noted women of other States, who did good service in Revolutionary times, when the country needed the help of her daughters as well as her sons.

In the summer of 1876 a noteworthy meeting was held in Orange in the interest of women. A number of ladies and gentlemen met in my parlor to listen to statements in relation to what is called the "social evil," to be made by the Rev. J. P. Gledstone and Mr. Henry J. Wilson, delegates from the "British, Continental and General Federation for the Abolition of Government Regulation of Prost.i.tution." It is due to the English gentlemen to say that they gave some very strong reasons for bringing the disagreeable subject before the meeting, and that they handled it with becoming delicacy, though with great plainness.

"Ann A. Horton, who died in June, 1875, at the Old Ladies'

Home, Newark, bequeathed $2,000 to Princeton College, to found a scholars.h.i.+p to be called by her name." Would not the endowment of a "free bed" in Mrs. Horton's true alma-mater, the Old Ladies' Home, have been a far wiser bequest than the foundation of a scholars.h.i.+p in Princeton--a college which, while fattening on enormous dole received from women, offers them nothing in return?

In relation to the law giving the mothers of New Jersey some legal claim to their children, Mrs. Hussey writes:

I have often heard it said that Kansas is the only State where the married mother has any legal owners.h.i.+p in her children; but the women of New Jersey have enjoyed this _privilege_ since 1871, when it was gained for them by the efforts of Mrs. Ann H. Connelly of Rahway. She was an American woman, the mother of one daughter, and unhappily married. She desired to be divorced from her husband, but she knew that in such case he might legally take her child from her. Such a risk could not be thought of for a moment; so she applied to the legislature for a change of the law.

She was a.s.sisted by many influential citizens, both men and women; pet.i.tions largely signed were presented, and the result was the amendment of the law making the mother and father equal in the owners.h.i.+p of their children. When a copy of the new law appeared in our papers I wrote to Mrs.

Connelly, inclosing a resolution of thanks from the Ess.e.x County Woman Suffrage Society, of which I was then secretary. In her reply she said: "This unexpected and distinguis.h.i.+ng recognition of my imperfect, but earnest, efforts for justice is inexpressibly gratifying." Several years after, I went with my daughter to Rahway to see Mrs.

Connelly. She seemed to be well known and much respected.

She was teaching in one of the public schools, but seemed quite feeble in health. In 1881 I saw the notice of her death. She was a woman of much intelligence, and strongly interested in suffrage, and should certainly be held in grateful remembrance by the mothers of New Jersey, to whom she restored the right which nature gave them, but which men had taken away by mistaken legislation.

This law of February 21, 1871, composed of several acts purporting to give fathers and mothers equal rights in cases of separation and divorce, is not so liberal as it seems in considering this provision:

Upon a decree of divorce the court may make such further decree as may be deemed expedient concerning the custody and maintenance of minor children, and determine with which of the parents the children shall remain.

This act, though declaring that the mother and father are equal, soon shows by its specifications that the courts can dispose of all woman's interests and affections as they may see fit. What avails a decree of divorce or separation for woman, if the court can give the children to the father at its pleasure? Here is the strong cord by which woman is held in bondage, and the courts, all composed of men, know this, and act on it in their decisions.

A pet.i.tion was addressed to the const.i.tutional commission of 1873, requesting an amendment restoring to the women of New Jersey their original right to vote, which that body decided would be "inexpedient." A bill introduced in the legislature by Senator Cutler, of Morris county, making women eligible to the office of school-trustee, became a law March 25, 1873:

Be it enacted, That hereafter no person shall be eligible to the office of school-trustee, unless he or she can read and write; and women who are residents in the district and over twenty years of age, shall also be eligible to the office of school-trustee, and may hold such office and perform the duties of the same, when duly elected by ten votes of the district.--[Chap. 386.

February 26, 1874, a law for the better protection of the property of married women was pa.s.sed:

1. Be it enacted by the Senate and General a.s.sembly of the State of New Jersey, That any married woman who now is, or may hereafter become, ent.i.tled, by gift, devise or bequest, to any contingent estate, or any interest in any real or personal property or estate, may, with the concurrence of her husband, compound and receipt for, a.s.sign and convey the same, in all cases where she lawfully might, if a _feme sole_; and every release, receipt, a.s.signment, discharge, agreement, covenant, or contract, thereupon entered into by her in regard to the same and to the said property, shall be as valid and binding in every respect, upon her, her heirs, executors, administrators, and a.s.signs, and any and all persons claiming under her, them or either of them, as if she were at the time of entering into the same, a _feme sole_, and when duly executed and acknowledged in the manner provided by law for conveyance of real estate, may be recorded in the surrogate's office, and whenever it relates to real estate in the clerk's or recorder's office, of the proper county or counties, in the same manner and with like effect as other receipts and discharges may now be recorded therein. 2. And be it enacted. That this act shall take effect immediately.

A most remarkable trial, lately held in Newark, New Jersey, which involved the question whether it was contrary to Scripture, and a violation of the rules of the Presbyterian Church, to admit women to the pulpit, is well reported by the New York _World_, January 1, 1877:

Since the time that the Rev. Theodore Cuyler was obliged by the Presbytery of Long Island to apologize for inviting Miss Sarah Smiley, the Quaker preacher, to occupy the pulpit of the Lafayette Avenue Church in Brooklyn, the question of the right of women to preach in Presbyterian churches, has come up in various parts of the country, but has never been brought judicially before any ecclesiastical body until yesterday, when it occupied the attention of the Newark Presbytery, under the following circ.u.mstances. October 29, 1876, Mrs. L. S. Robinson and Mrs. C. S. Whiting, two ladies who were much interested in the temperance movement, asked and received permission of the Rev. Isaac M. See, of the Wickliffe Presbyterian Church at Newark, to occupy his pulpit, morning and evening of that day. They accordingly addressed the congregation on the subject of temperance. To this the Rev. E. R. Craven, of the Third Presbyterian Church, of Newark, objected, and brought before the Newark Presbytery the following charge:

"The undersigned charges the Rev. Isaac M. See, pastor of the Wickliffe Church, of Newark, N. J., a member of your body, with disobedience to the divinely enacted ordinance in reference to the public speaking and teaching of women in churches, as recorded in I. Corinthians, xiv., 33 to 37, and I. Timothy, ii., 13, in that: First specification--On Sunday, October 29, 1876, in the Wickliffe Church of the city of Newark, N. J., he did, in the pulpit of the said church, and before the congregation there a.s.sembled for public wors.h.i.+p at the usual hour of the morning service, viz., 10:30 A.M., introduce a woman, whom he permitted and encouraged then and there publicly to preach and teach." The second specification is couched in similar language, except that it charges Mr. See with introducing another woman at the evening service upon the same day. The charge was presented at the regular meeting of the Presbytery, a short time ago, and the hearing of the case was adjourned until yesterday. The meeting was held in the lecture room of the Second Presbyterian Church in Was.h.i.+ngton street. Rev. John L. Wells, pastor of the Bethany Mission Chapel, presided, and there was a fair attendance of the members of the body.

Of the audience at least nine-tenths were women.[282] Dr.

Craven, the prosecutor, sat on the front row of seats, near to the clerk's table, while Dr. See, who is very stout, with a double chin, and the picture of good-nature, sat in the rear of the members of the Presbytery, and among the front rows of spectators. Dr. McIllvaine introduced the following resolution:

_Resolved_, That this charge, by common consent of the parties, be dismissed at this stage of the proceedings, with affectionate council to the Rev. Dr. See not to go contrary to the usages of the Presbyterian Church for the future.

This brought Brother See to his feet. He could not, he said, a.s.sent to Brother McIllvaine's resolution. He had not consented that the charge should be dismissed, as in the resolution. Brother McIllvaine expressed himself as sure that Brother See had consented, but Brother See was again equally sure that he had not. Some member here suggested that Dr. Craven should first have been asked if he consented to dismiss the charge, and this brought that gentleman to his feet. A more complete ant.i.thesis to Dr. See cannot be imagined. He is tall, gaunt, with full beard and mustache, short, bristling hair, that stands upright in a row from the centre of his forehead to the crown of his head. He said that at the request of Dr. McIllvaine and another respected member of the Presbytery he had said that if the party charged would give full and free consent to the resolution, he would also a.s.sent; "and," he added, "such is now my position." Dr. McIllvaine then gave at length his reasons for desiring to arrest the case where it was. No good could come of its discussion, and the result could not but be productive of discord. The Moderator reminded Dr. See that they waited for an answer from him.

Dr. See--May we have a season of prayer, sir? The Moderator said there was no objection. Dr. See explained that the matter at issue was not a personal one; it was a question as to the meaning of the Scriptures upon a certain point, and he was there simply to know what the Presbytery would do.

Rev. Drs. Brinsmayd and Fewsmith then prayed, but Dr. See's frame of mind was not in the least changed. He still insisted that his was the pa.s.sive part, to sit and see what they would do with his case. Rev. Dr. Wilson thought that if Brother See did not desire to do anything contrary to the usages of the church, he might say so. Brother See said it was a question of whether G.o.d Almighty had said certain things or not, and that he could not answer. In his formal answer to the charge the accused then said: "I believe myself to be not guilty of the charge, but I admit the specifications." Dr. Craven, in his speech, said it was in no spirit of animosity that he had brought the charge. He believed that the law of G.o.d had been broken in this case; not designedly, perhaps, but really. A custom had found lodgment in a Presbyterian church that would impair its efficiency and would also injure woman in the sphere which she was called upon by G.o.d to fill. No judicial decision had been arrived at upon this question. The case of Dr. Cuyler was the first that had come before a Presbytery, and that was hardly a trial of the question. "Why should I," he continued, "bring this charge? Because I have felt it to be wrong, and feeling thus, resolved to take the duty upon myself, painful and agonizing as the task may be. I deem it my duty to G.o.d to do so." Dr. See (_sotto voce_)--"And the Lord will bless you for it."

Dr. Craven, continuing, read the pa.s.sages of Scripture referred to in this charge. He did not, he said, affirm that woman had no work in the church. She had a great and glorious sphere; she had no right to teach and speak in public meetings, but she could teach children and ignorant men in private. He would not affirm that some women could not preach as well as, or better than some men, and he did not know but that in the future she might occupy the platform on an equality with men; but at present she could not, and it was expressly forbidden in the pa.s.sages which he had read. "You may run to hear another man's wife preach, or another man's daughter," said he, "but who would have his own wife stand upon the platform, or his own daughter face the mob? Woman is the heart of man, but man is the head. Let woman go upon the platform, and she loses that shrinking modesty that gives her such power over children. What child would wish to have a public-speaking mother? I trust this evil will not creep in upon the church. I felt bound to resist it at the outset, and unless I am convinced of my error shall withstand it to the death." * * * *

January 2, 1877, Rev. Dr. See continued his defense of himself for letting a woman into his pulpit. Then the roll was called for the views of the Presbytery. Dr. McIllvaine said that the two sources of light, as he understood it, were the teachings of the Lord and his disciples. The Lord didn't select women for his twelve, and vacancies were not filled by women. It wasn't a woman who was chosen to do Paul's work. He was the chosen teacher of the church in that and all succeeding ages, and he had said, "I suffer not women to teach, or to usurp authority in the church." Dr.

Brinsmade, who was the pastor of the Wickliffe Church before Dr. See was called there, admitted that women could preach well, but thought the Presbytery had better stick by the divine command. Dr. Canfield also agreed with Paul. He loved women and loved their work, but it seemed from the experience of the world that G.o.d intended that the pulpit should be the place for men. Such, at any rate, had been the principle and the practice of the Presbyterian Church; and if Brother See could not conform to its rules, he would say to him, "Go, brother; there are other churches in which you can find a place." Dr. Canfield was called to order for that addendum. Dr. Hutchings, of Orange, referred to the ancient justification of slavery from the Bible, and in view of honest differences of construction accepted by the church, thought the question should be left to the discretion of pastors and church-sessions. Rev. Jonathan F. Stearns, pastor of the First Church, demurred to this and stood by the Scripture text. Nine-tenths of the ladies of the church, he said, would vote against preaching by women.

Rev. James E. Wilson, pastor of the South Park Church, said that in churches where women had been permitted to preach, they had lost ground. "I have never heard a Quaker woman,"

said he, "preach a sermon worth three cents (laughter), and yet I have heard the spirit move them to get up and speak at most improper times and on most inopportune occasions, and have heard them say most improper and impertinent things."

In the Methodist Church he did not believe that there were over twenty-five women preachers, so the women were losing ground, and not gaining. Even the woman suffragists, who made so much noise a few years ago, had subsided, and he did not believe there were a hundred agitators in the whole country now. "See," he said, "where Brother See's argument would carry him. Any woman that has the spirit upon her may speak, and so, by and by, two or three women may walk up into Brother See's pulpit and say,'Come down; it's our turn now, we are moved by the spirit.' (Laughter). A woman's voice was against her preaching; a man's voice came out with a 'thud,' but a woman spoke soft and pleasing; however, here were the plain words of the text, and any man that could throw it overboard could throw over the doctrine of the atonement. If a mother should teach her son from the pulpit by preaching to him, thus disobeying the plain words of the apostle, she must not be surprised if her son went contrary to some other teaching of the apostle. But the fact was, the women did not desire to preach; otherwise they would have preached long ago. He rejoiced when that convention of temperance women a.s.sembled in Newark, but he could not help pitying their husbands and families away out in Chicago and elsewhere. (Laughter).

Rev. Ferd. Smith, the pastor of the Second Church, said the president of the Woman's Temperance Union had asked him if they could have the use of the church, and he had said "yes"; "and," said Dr. Smith, "I am glad that I did it, and I am sorry that I was not there to hear the address; and now, brethren, I am going to confess that I have sinned a little in this matter of women preaching. Two or three years ago I went and heard Miss Smiley preach. I had heard in the morning--I won't mention his name--one of the most distinguished men of the country preach a very able sermon--a very long one, too. [Laughter.] I had heard in the afternoon a doctor of divinity; I don't see him here now, but I have seen him, and I won't mention his name; and I heard Miss Smiley in the evening. It may be heresy to say it, but I do think I was more fed that evening than I had been by both the others; but I do not on that account say that it is good for women to go, as a regular thing, into the pulpit. If I had heard her a dozen times, I should not have been so much moved. Woman-preaching may do for a little time, but it won't do for a permanency. I heard at Old Orchard, at a temperance convention, the most beautiful argument I ever listened to, delivered with grace and modesty and power. The words fell like dew upon the heart, enriching it, and the speaker was Miss Willard; but for all this, brethren, I do not approve of women preaching. [Great laughter.] We must not, for the sake of a little good, sacrifice a great principle." Dr. Pollock of Lyons Farms wanted to shelter women, to prevent them from being talked about as ministers are and criticised as ministers are; it was for this that he would keep them out of the pulpit. Rev.

Drs. Findley and Prentiss de Neuve were in favor of sustaining the charge. Rev. Dr. Haley contended that Brother See ought not to be condemned, because he had not offended against any law of the church. Drs. Seibert, Ballantine and Hopwood spoke in favor of sustaining the charge. A vote of 16 to 12 found Rev. Dr. See guilty of violating the Scriptures by allowing women to preach, and the case was appealed to the General a.s.sembly.

The General a.s.sembly adopted the following report on this case:

The Rev. Isaac W. See, pastor of the Wickliffe Church, Newark, N. J., was charged by Rev. Elijah R. Craven, D. D., with disobedience to the divinely enacted ordinance in reference to the public speaking and teaching of women in the churches as recorded in I Corinthians, xiv., 33-37, and in I Timothy, ii., 11-13, in that twice on a specified Sabbath, in the pulpit of his said church, at the usual time of public service, he did introduce a woman, whom he permitted and encouraged then and there publicly to preach and teach.

The Presbytery of Newark sustained the charge, and from its decision Mr. See appealed to the synod of New Jersey, which refused by a decided vote to sustain the appeal, expressing its judgment in a minute of which the following is a part:

In sustaining the Presbytery of Newark as against the appeal of the Rev. I. M. See, the synod holds that the pa.s.sages of scripture referred to in the action of the Presbytery, do prohibit the fulfilling by women of the offices of public preachers in the regular a.s.semblies of the church.

From this decision Mr. See has further appealed to the General a.s.sembly, which, having thereupon proceeded to issue the appeal, and having fully heard the original parties and members of the inferior judicatory, decided that the said appeal from the synod of New Jersey be not sustained by the following vote: To sustain, 85. To sustain in part, 71. Not to sustain, 201.

The History of Woman Suffrage Volume III Part 71

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