Speech of Matilda Joslyn Gage
THE UNITED STATES ON TRIAL; not SUSAN B. ANTHONY.In Canandaigua and 16 other towns of Ontario county, previous to Miss Anthony's Trial, June 17th, 1873.
Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. That is the axiom of our republic. From this axiom we understand that powers used by the government without the consent of the governed, are not just powers but that on the contrary, they are unjust powers, usurped powers, illegal powers
In what way does the consent of the governed come?
By and through the ballot alone. The ballot answers questions. It says yes, or no. It declares what principles shall rule; it says what laws shall be made, it tells what taxes are to be raised; it places men in office or lays their heads low in the dust. It is the will of a man embodied in that little piece of paper; it is the consent of the governed.
Are women governed? Most certainly; they pay taxes,—they are held amenable to laws; they are tried for crimes; they are fined, imprisoned, hung. The government wields strong power over them. Have they consented to this power of the government? Have they a recognized right to the ballot? Has their consent been asked through their votes? Have they had a voice in saying what taxes shall be levied on their property,—what penalties they shall pay for crimes? No. They are ruled without their consent. The first principles of government are founded on the natural rights of individuals; in order to secure the exercise of these natural, individual rights our government professed to be founded. Governments never created a single right; rights did not come new-born into the world with our revolutionary fathers. They were men of middle age when they severed their connexion with Great Britain, but that severance did not endow them with a single new right. It was at that time they first entered into the exercise of their natural, individual rights. Neither our Declaration, nor our Constitution created a single right; they merely recognized certain rights as in existence. They recognized those rights as human rights,—as inalienable rights,—as rights existing by virtue of common humanity. Natural rights never change, but the power to perceive these natural rights does change, and various nations have had their own standard.
Three names, said to be the sweetest the world ever knew, are mother, home, and heaven. There is one still sweeter—one for which men have given up mother and home, and for which they have almost sacrificed the hope of heaven; that word is LIBERTY.
When the fires of liberty began to creep through Europe in the middle ages, at a time whon hereditary monarchs and the catholic church ruled the world, men placed its safeguards in municipal corporations. The idea of municipal corporations descended from Rome to the rest of Europe, and “free cities” became the germ of personal freedom. But a new world was needed for the great experiment of individual freedom. Macauley calls government an experimental science and therefore a progressive science; history shows this to be true. Liberty did not spring “full armed” like Minerva from the head of Jove. The liberty possessed by the world has been gradually secured, and it was left for our country first to incorporate in its foundation a recognition of individual rights. A hundred years before the revolutionary war, Massachusetts and Virginia resisted English tyranny. Massachusetts, in 1664, called herself a “perfect republic.” She preserved a neutral harbor by force of arms against opposing English factions; she enacted laws against the supremacy of the English parliament, and she established her own mint. This last is noticeable, as in the progress of liberty, rights of property, of which money is the exponent, have always been one of the foremost. Bancroft says Virginia was always a land of liberty; that Virginia placed the defense of liberty not in municipal corporations, but in persons, and that the liberty of the individual was ever highly prized. The difference between a monarchy and a republic is the difference between force and consent; it is the difference between being governed and governing yourself; it is the difference between the men of Russia and the men of the United States; it is the difference between the political rights of one man as the government and the political rights of the people as the government. But the world has never yet seen a true republic, though it has for hundreds of years been taking steps towards one.
The original principles of just governments are five, all of which were acknowledged by the United States at its foundation. These principles are:
These five underlying principles are the admitted basis of all governmental rights, and the old revolutionists acted upon them. They were men of middle life; they were under an old and established form of government to which they had not delegated authority, and during all these years they had made no use of their natural, equal rights. When they chose to assume the exercise of these rights, they at once took them up.
The women of that day were no less in earnest than were the men. Mercy Otis Warren, sister of that James Otis whose fiery words did so much towards rousing the colonies, was herself no less in earnest, had no less influence than her brother. She was a member of the famous committee of correspondence, and was constantly consulted by Adams, Jefferson, Franklin, Hancock, Washington and all the foremost men of that day. Through her lips was first whispered the word, separation. No less active were the women of New England, and in 1770, five years before the breaking out of the revolutionary war, the women of Boston held a public meeting, and formed themselves into a league to resist taxation. As tea was the article upon which Great Britain was then making her stand, in order to sustain the principle of taxation, these women declared they would use no more tea until the tax upon it was repealed. This league was first formed by the married women, but the next day the young women met “in innumerable numbers,” and took similar action. They expressly stated, they did not do this so much for themselves, as for the benefit of their posterity. In the country, the women of that hour went abroad over the fields and sowed their tea, as men sow wheat. This action of the women of the revolution was taken three years before the famous Tea Party of Boston harbor, and was the real origin of that “Tea Party.” The women of the present day, the “posterity” of these women of the revolution, are now following the example them set, and are protesting against taxation without representation. A few weeks ago I attended a meeting of the tax-paying women of Rochester who met in the Mayor's office in that city, and there, like their revolutionary mothers, formed a league against taxation without representation. Meetings for the discussion of measures are regularly held by them, and they have issued an address, which I will read you.
To the Women of the City of Rochester and the County of Monroe:
After twenty-five years of discussion, appeal and work, the Women of Rochester assembled, are prompted to advice and urge taxpaying women of the City and County, that the time has come to act, as our patriot mothers acted in 1770, in protest against unjust government, and the action appropriated and suited to the time, is strong and earnest protest against the violation of the Republican principles, which compels the payment of taxes by women, while they are denied the ballot.
By order of “ The Women Tax Payers’ Association of the City of Rochester and County of Monroe.”
They have also issued this memorial and protest, addressed
To the Board of Supervisors of the County of Monroe, and to the Hon. the Common Council of the City of Rochester:
The payment of taxes is exacted in direct violation of the principles that “Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed,” and that “there shall be no taxation without representation.” Therefore we earnestly protest against the payment of taxes, either Municipal, County, or State, until the ballot secures us in the right of representation, just and equal with other citizens.
By order of “ The Women Tax Payers’ Association of the City of Rochester and County of Monroe.”
Thus women are everywhere going back to fundamental principles, and this action of the women of Rochester is but the commencement of a protest which will soon become a resistance, and which will extend from the St. Lawrence to the Gulf of Mexico, from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The women of the city of Rochester pay taxes on seven millions of property, and yet not one of these tax payers is consulted as to how, or when that tax shall be raised, or for what purpose used. This seven millions is but a small proportion of property on which the women of that city really pay taxes, as it does not include that much larger amount of property of which they have been robbed, and over which they are assumed to have no control. The foundation of a new city hall has recently been laid in that city. Women's property, without their consent, has been used for this purpose. Water is soon to be brought in from Hemlock Lake, and a dozen other projects are on foot, all of which require money, and towards all of which, the money of tax-paying women will be taken without their consent.
To illustrate the extreme injustice with which women are treated in this matter of taxation, to show you how contrary it is to all natural right, let us suppose that all the taxable property in the city of Rochester belonged to women, with the exception of a single small house and lot, which were owned by a man. As the law is now interpreted, the man who owned that house and lot could vote a tax upon the property of all those women at his own will, to build City Halls, Court Houses, Jails, could call an election and vote an extraordinary tax to bring in water from a dozen different lakes, erect fountains at every corner, fence in twenty parks, vote himself in Mayor, Alderman, Assessor, Collector with a fat salary from these women's money, attached to each one of these offices, and in the end elect himself the sole policeman of the city, to protect the women from—himself; and this you call just government. It is no more unjust, no more unrepublican, to take the property of fifty, or a hundred, or a thousand women in this way, than it would be to take the property of a single one; the principle is still the same. The women of to-day, protect, as did their fore-mothers, for principle. Women come into the world endowed with the same natural rights as men, and this by virtue of their common humanity, and when prevented or restrained from their exercise, they are enslaved. Old Ben Franklin once said, “those that have no vote or voice in the laws, or the election of those who administer them, do not enjoy liberty, but are absolutely enslaved to those who have votes, and their representatives.” That sentiment is as true to-days as when uttered. While the women of this nation are restrained from the exercise of their natural rights of self-government, they are held enslaved to those who do administer the laws. Said an old minister of revolutionary fame, “One who is bound to obey the will of another is as really a slave, though he may have a good master, as if he had a bad one.” Those of you who remember Adolphin Uncle Tom's Cabin, will recall his apparent freedom. Dressed in style, wearing his master's garments before the first gloss was off, viewing Uncle Tom, superciliously through his eye glass, he was a petted companion of his master and did not feel his bonds. But one day the scene changed. St. Clair died, and poor Adolph, stripped of all his favors, was dragged off to the vile slave pen. Do you see no parallel between Adolph and the woman of America? Adolph was restrained by unjust power from exercise of his natural rights, so are the women of this country, as is most fully shown, by this prosecution and trial of Susan B. Anthony.
In this country, two kinds of representation exist, property and personal. Let us look for a moment, at the Constitution of the United States. In three years we celebrate our centennial. From what does it date? Not from the Constitution, as our country existed eleven years without a Constitution,—in fact, thirteen years, before it was ratified by the thirteen colonies. The centennial dates from the declaration Independence, which was based on underlying principles. But as our governmental has recognized its own needs, it has thrown new safeguards around liberty. Within a year after the Declaration, it was found necessary to enter into articles of Confederation, and those were soon followed by the Constitution, as it was found property rights were not secure “under the action of thirteen different deliberatives.”
England has never possessed personal representation, but only that of property; and in the secret proceedings upon the framing of our Constitution, the question as to property or personal representation was strongly agitated. Some of the delegates favored the fuller representation of property than of persons. Others, who advocated the equality of suffrage, took the matter up on the original principles of government, recognizing the fact that it was not strength, or wisdom, or property, that conferred rights, but that “in a state of nature, before any government is formed, all persons are equally free and independent, no one having any right or authority to exercise power over another,” and this, without any regard to difference in personal strength, understanding or wealth. It was also argued, and upon this acknowledgment the Constitution was based, “that when individuals enter into government they have each a right to an equal voice in its first formation, and afterwards have each a right to an equal vote in every matter which relates to their government. That if it could be done conveniently, they have a right to exercise it in person. When it cannot be done in person, but for convenience, representatives are appointed to act for them, every person has a right to an equal vote in choosing that representative, who is intrusted to do for the whole, that which, the whole, if they could assemble, might do in person, and in the transaction of which they would have an equal voice.”
This was the basis upon which the Constitution was established, and these, the principles which led to its adoption; principles which include the full recognition of each person as possessed of the inalienable right of self-government.
The argument for equality was continued in the following strain, as reported by one of the delegates, to the Legislature of Maryland: “That if we were to admit, because a man was more wise, more strong, more wealthy, he should be entitled to more votes than another, it would be inconsistent with the freedom of that other, and would reduce him to slavery. The following illustration was used: “Suppose, for instance, ten individuals in a state of nature, about to enter into government, nine of whom were equally wise, equally strong, equally wealthy, the tenth is ten times as wise, ten times as strong, or ten times as rich; if, for this reason, he is to have ten votes for each vote of the others, the nine might as well have no vote at all, and though the whole nine might assent to the measure, yet the vote of the tenth would countervail, and set aside all their votes. If this tenth approved of what they wished to adopt, it would be well; but if he disapproved, he could prevent it, and in the same manner he could carry into execution any measure he wished, contrary to the opinion of all the others, he having ten votes, and the others altogether but nine. It is evident that on these principles, the nine would have no will or discretion of their own, but must be totally dependent on the will and discretion of the tenth; to him they would be as absolutely slaves as any negro is to his master. If he did not attempt to carry into execution any measures injurious to the other nine, it could only be said that they had a good master; they would not be the less slaves, because they would be totally dependent upon the will of another and not on their own will. They might not feel their chains, but they would notwithstanding wear them; and whenever their master pleased, he might draw them so tight as to gall them too the bone.” Again it was urged that though every individual should have a voice in the government, yet even then, superior wealth, strength, or understanding, would give great and undue advantage to those who possessed them. But the point especially pressed in these debates was that each individual before entering into government, was equally free and independent; and therefore the conclusion was drawn that each person had equal right both at the time of framing a government, and also after a government or constitution was framed.
To those who with old English ideas, constantly pressed property representation, it was replied that “taxation and representation ought to go together in so far that a person not represented ought not to be taxed.”
This Constitutional Convention was in session a number of months; its delegates were partially elected by women's votes, as at that date women were exercising their right of self-government through voting, certainly in the States of Massachusetts and New Jersey, if not in Georgia and Delaware. These women sent their delegates or representatives to assist in framing a Constitution.
Let us look at the Preamble of that instrument. It reads thus:
“We, the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
Here we have a statement as to who established the Constitution. It was no the thirteen States as States, not the government in its sovereign capacity, but the people: not the white people alone, not the native born alone, not the male people alone, but the people in a collective sense. Justice was not established by this Constitution if one half the people were left out from its provisions, neither was the common welfare considered unless all people in common, equally shared the benefits of the Constitution. And moreover, the posterity of the people of that time are female as well as male. Therefore not only by our knowledge of the course of argument taken by the framers of the Constitution, not only by our knowledge that women as well as men helped elect delegates to that convention,—not only from the original principles proclaimed in the Declaration, but also by and through this Preamble to the Constitution do we find woman equally with man, recognized as part of the governing power.
Although women do not rest their claim to self-government upon any human instrument, it is well to show that even in the Declaration, and the original Constitution, the “Constitution as it was,” the rights of all people were most emphatically and truly recognized.
Judge Story in his commentaries upon the Constitution, says, “The importance of examining the Preamble for the purpose of expounding the language of a Statute has always been felt and universally conceded in all judicial proceedings.”
Com. on Const., 1, 443-4.
Chief Justice Jay regarded the Preamble of the Constitution of the United States as an authoritative guide to a correct interpretation of that instrument.
2 Dallas, 414.
Coke says, “The Preamble of a Statute is a good means to find out the meaning of the Statute, and as it were, a key to the understanding thereof.”
Blackstone lays it down as a fundamental principle, that we “must argue from generals down to particulars.” Here is good legal authority. I have cited men whose opinions are accepted. We have thus argued down from the generals of the Declaration and Constitution to the particulars which appertain to each individual alike,and what is the result? Freedom for all; equal rights. We have read the Preamble of the Constitution, and quoted authorities to show in what light it must be read in reference to its following provisions. By its Preamble, the Constitution is shown to make no distinction in favor of sex. From secret debates of the convention which framed it, we find the motives and the arguments of its framers.
The great foundation and key stone alike of our Republican ideas, of our Constitution, is individual, personal representation, and it is the greatest blessing to the country at large that the question of representation has come up in the person of Miss Anthony. Men are compelled to think upon underlying principles. They are compelled to ask themselves where they get either natural or constitutional right to govern women.
From the earliest ages men have queried among themselves as to where lay the governing power. In the time of Abraham, and even now in some parts of the world the Patriarch of the tribe is looked upon as its supreme ruler. Members of Scottish clans to-day, look with more reverence upon their chief, than upon the Queen: they obey his behest sooner than parliamentary laws. Other men have believed the governing power lay in the hands of a select few, an aristocracy, and that these few men could by right make laws to govern the rest. Others again have believed this power vested in a single man called King, or Czar, or Pope, but it was left to our country, and our age, to promulgate the idea that the governing power lay in the people themselves. It took men a great many thousand years to discover this pregnant fact,and although our government laid down at the very first, certain underlying truths, it has taken a very long time even for this country to see, and practice these principles; but as men have opened their eyes to liberty there have been constant advances towards securing its full blessings to each and every individual, and in this progress we had first, the Declaration; second, the Articles of Confederation; third, the Constitution; then the ten Conciliatory Amendments, quickly followed by an eleventh and twelfth, each one of these designed to more fully secure liberty to the people, and making fifteen successive steps in the short period of twenty-eight years.
At the time of framing this government women existed as well as men, women are part of the people; the people created the government. Now, when speaking to you to-night, I am speaking to the people of this part of Ontario Country, I am not speaking to men alone, I am not speaking to women alone, but to you all as people. When people frame a government the rights not delegated by them to the government, are retained by them, as is declared by the tenth amendment. Now where do men get their constitutional right to govern women? Women have either delegated their right of self-government to certain delegates, by them to be elected according to all the forms of this government, or they have not so delegated their rights of self-government, but have retained them. In either case, according to the genius of our government, what is there to prevent them from exercising these rights any moment they choose, unless it is force? What prevents them unless it is unjust illegal power? The ninth amendments declares that the enumeration of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny, or disparage others retained by the people. Remember what are the foundation principles of just government, principles fully acted upon by the old revolutionists; remember that no government of whatever kind or character can possibly create the right of self-government, but only recognize rights as existent; remember the non-use of a right does not destroy that right.
I have a natural right to as much fresh air as I can breathe; if you shut me in a close room with door and windows barred, that does not invalidate my right to breathe pure, fresh air.
I have a natural right to obey the dictates of my own conscience, and to worship God as I choose. If you are physically stronger than I am, or if you are legally stronger than I am and use your strength to prevent the exercise of these natural rights, you by no means destroy them. Though I do not use these rights, I still possess them. The framers of this government, the men and the women who voted at that early day had never until then, exercised their natural rights of self-government; when they chose, they took them up.
But people tell us it was not the intention to include women. What then was the intention? Did the framers of the Declaration intend to leave women under the government of Great Britain? Did they intend to set themselves and their male compeers free, and leave women behind, under a monarchy? Were not women intended to be included in the benefits of the constitution?
Oh, but says some one, they were intended to be generally included, but the amendments had nothing to do with them.
Let us look at this. Is it impossible to amend a Constitution not in accordance with its underlying principles? It can be repealed, abolished, destroyed, but not amended; except in accordance with its original character. The Supreme Court of the United States had declared that the powers of the Constitution are granted by the people, and are to be exercised strictly on them, and for their benefit.
Story asks, “Who are the parties to this great contract?” and answers the questions by saying, “The people of the United States are the parties to the Constitution.”
Com. on Con.
Com. on Con. Legal Rules, 283, says: “This first paragraph of the Constitution, declaring its ends, is the most vital part of the instrument, revealing its spirit and intent, and the understanding of its framers.”
Here we have the recognized legal rule that the understanding or INTENTION of the framers of an instrument is to be found in its first paragraph, and the first paragraph of the Constitution declares it was framed BY THE PEOPLE, and for the purpose of securing the blessings of liberty to themselves and their posterity. The native-born American women of today, are the posterity of the framers of the Constitution, which was thus designed for their benefit. The intention to include women is here positive; women are part of the people now, and ever have been. “Rules of legal interpretation are general in their character,” and so general has the interpretation of the Constitution been, that not only did the people who framed the Constitution, and their posterity, come in for its blessings, but the people also of every nation and tongue, from continent or isles of the sea, who come to us, are included in its benefits. Who can say our forefathers intended to include Chinamen, or Sandwich Islanders, or the Norwegian, Russian, or Italian in its benefits? Yet they do all share in it as soon as they become citizens. How absurd we should think the assertion that it was not the Lord's intention to hold the people of the United States under the law of the Ten Commandments, as they were given to the Jews alone, some four thousand years before the United States existed as a nation. Massachusetts never abolished slavery by legislative act; never intentionally abolished it. In 1780 that State adopted a new Constitution with a Bill of Rights, declaring “All men born free and equal.” Upon this, some slaves demanded their freedom, and their masters granted it. The slavery of men and women, both, was thus destroyed in Massachusetts without intention on the part of the framers of the Constitution, and this, because it is a legal rule to argue down from generals to particulars, and that the “words of a statue ought not to be interpreted to destroy natural justice;” but as Coke says, “Whenever the question of liberty runs doubtful, the decision must be given in favor of liberty.”
Digest C. L.
When a Charter declares “all men born free and equal,” it means, intends, and includes all women, too; it means all mankind, and this is the legal interpretation of the language.
To go back to the Constitution of the United States, let us examine if women were not intended. The first amendment reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peacefully to assemble and to petition government for a redness of grievances.”
No mention is there made of women, but who will deny it was not intended for them to enjoy the right of worshipping as they choose? Were they not to be protected in freedom of speech, and in the right of assembling to petition the government for a redress of grievance? Not a man before me will deny that women were included equally with men in the intention of the framers.
The Sixth Amendment reads, “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and District wherein the crime shall have been committed, which District shall have been previously ascertained by law; and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him ; to have compulsory processes for obtaining witnesses in his favor; and to have the existence of counsel in his defense.”
The words “him” and “his,” are three times mentioned in this amendment, yet no one can be found wild enough to say women were not intended to be included in its benefits. Miss Anthony, herself, and already come under its provisions, and were she denied a speedy and open trial, she could appeal to the protection of this very amendment, which not only does not say women, or her, but does alone say him and his , and this, notwithstanding the other legal adage, that laws stand as they are written. This whole question of constitutional rights, turns on whether the United States is a nation. If the United States is a nation, it has national powers. What is the admitted basis of our nation? We reply, equality of political rights. And what, again, is the basis of political rights? Citizenship. Nothing more, nothing less. National sovereignty is only founded upon the political sovereignty of the individual, and national rights are merely individual rights in a collective form. The acknowledged basis of rights in each and every one of the thirty-seven States, is citizenship,—not State citizenship alone, as that alone cannot exist, but first, national citizenship. National rights are the fundamental basis of State rights. If this is not true, we are then no nation, but merely a confederacy, held together by our own separate wills, and the South was right in its war of secession. Every sovereign right of the United States exists solely from its existence as a nation.
As the nation has grown to know the needs of liberty, it has from time to time thrown new safeguards around it, as I have shown in its fifteen progressive steps since 1776. For sixty years there was no change. Slavery had cast its blight upon our country, and the struggle was for State supremacy. Men forgot the rights, and need of freedom; but in 1861, the climax was reached, and then came the bitter struggle between state and national power. Although our underlying principles were all right, freedom required new guards, and the right of all men to liberty, was put in a new form. An especial statute or amendment was added to our National Constitution, declaring that involuntary servitude, unless for crime, could not exist in this republic. This statute created no new rights; it merely affirmed and elucidated rights as old as creation, and which, in a general way, had been recognized at the very first foundation of our government—even as far back as the old Articles of Association, before the Declaration of Independence. This amendment was the sixteenth step in securing the rights of the people, but it was not enough. Our country differs from every other country in that we have two kinds of citizenship. First, we have national citizenship, based upon equal political rights. A person born a citizen of the United States, is, by the very circumstances of birth, endewed with certain political rights. In this respect, the circumstances of birth are very different from those of a person born in Great Britain. A person born in Great Britain is not endowed with political rights, simply because born in that country. Political rights in Great Britain are not based upon personal rights; they are based upon property rights. In England, persons are not represented; only property is represented. That is the very great political difference between England and the United States. In the United Sates, representation is based upon individual, personal rights—therefore, every person born in the United States— every person, —not every while person, nor every male person, but every person is born with political rights. The naturalization of foreigners also secures to them the exercise of political rights, because it secures to them citizenship, and they obtain naturalization through national law. The war brought about a distinct and new recognition of the rights of national citizenship. States had assumed to be superior to the nation in this very underlying national basis of voting rights, but when certain States boldly attempted to thwart national power, and vote themselves out of the Union,—when by this attempt they virtually said, there is no nation, a new protections was thrown around individual, personal, political, rights, by a seventeenth step, known to the world by the Fourteenth Amendment, which defined, (not created) citizenship. “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subjects to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside,” the recognizing United States citizenship as the first superior citizenship.
Miss Anthony was not only born in the United States, but the United States also has jurisdiction over her, as is shown by this suit, under which she was arrested in Rochester, and held there to examination in the same little room is which fugitive slaves were once examined. From Rochester she was taken to Albany, form Albany back to Rochester, and now from Rochester to Canandaigua, where she is soon to be tried. She has thus been fully acknowledged by the United States as one of its citizens, and also as a citizen of the State in which she resides.
In order to become a citizen of a State, and enjoy the privileges and immunities of States, a citizen of the United States must reside in a State. Citizenship of the United States secures nothing over the citizenship of other countries, unless it secures the right of self-government. State laws may hereafter regulate suffrage, but the difference between regulating and prohibiting, is a great as the difference between state and national citizenship. The question of the war was the question of State rights; it was the negro, vs, State rights, or the power of States over the ballot. The question to-day is, woman, vs. United States rights, or the power of the United over the ballot. The moral battle now waging will settle the question of the power of the United States over the rights of citizens. By the civil war, the United States was proven to be stronger than the States. It was proven we were a nation in so far that States were but parts of the whole. The women question, of which in this pending trial, Miss Anthony stands as the exponent, is to settle the question of United States power over the individual political rights of the people; it is a question of a monarchy or a republic. The United States may usurp power, as did the States, but it has no rights in sovereign capacity, not given it by the Constitution, or in other words, BY THE PEOPLE. By the Preamble we have discovered who are its people, and for what purpose its Constitution was instituted. Each and every amendment—the first ten, the eleventh, twelfth, thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth, are only parts of the grand whole, and must, each and every one, be examined in the light of the Preamble.
Each added amendment makes this change in the status of the People, in that it gives new guaranties of freedom, and removes all pretense of right from any existing usurped power. People are slow to comprehend the change which has been effected by the decision as to State rights. One, claims, that only the negro, or persons of African descent, were affected by it. Others claim, and among them, some prominent Republicans, that every civil right is by these amendments, thrown under national control. Recently, two or three suits have come before the United States on this apprehension. One of these, known as the Slaughter House Case, came up from New Orleans in the suit of certain persons against the State of Louisiana. A permit had been given certain parties to erect sole buildings for slaughter, and in other ways control that entire business in the city of New Orleans for a certain number of years. A suit upon it was appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States, on the ground of the change in the power of States, by, and through the last three amendments, and on the supposition that all the civil power of the States had thus been destroyed.
The Court decided it had no jurisdiction, though in its decision it proclaimed the far-reaching character of these amendments. In reference to the Thirteenth Amendment, the Court used this language:
“We do not say that no one else but the negro can share in this protection. Both the language and spirit of these articles are to have their full and just weight in any question of construction. Undoubtedly while negro slavery alone was in the minds of the Congress which proposed the thirteenth article, it forbids any kind of slavery, now, or hereafter. If Mexican peonage, or the Chinese cooley labor system shall develop slavery of the Mexican or Chinese race within our territory, this amendment may be safely trusted to make it void.”
This is the language used by the Supreme Court of the United States in reference to this thirteenth amendment; prohibiting any, all, and every kind of slavery, not only now, but in the thereafter, and this, although the decision, also acknowledges the fact that only African slavery was intended to be covered by this amendment.
The Court further said, “And so if other rights are assailed by the States, which properly and necessarily fall within the protection of these articles, that protection will apply, though the party interested may not be of African descent.”
What “other rights fall within the protection of these articles?” What “other rights” do these amendments cover? The fourteenth article, after declaring who are citizens of the United States, and of States, still further says, “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States, nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty or property, without due process of law, nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction, the equal protection of the laws.” This comprises the first section of that amendment. The jurisdiction and protection of the general government applies to United States citizens. By its prosecution of Miss Anthony, the general government acknowledges her as a citizen of the United States, and what is much more, it acknowledges its own jurisdiction over the ballot—over the chief—chief, did I say,—over the only political right of its citizens. This prosecution is an admission of United States jurisdiction, instead of State jurisdiction. This whole amendment, with the exception of the first clause of the first section, which simply declares who are citizens of the United States and States, is directed against the interference of States in the rights of citizens. But in Miss Anthony's case, the States of New York has not interfered with her right to vote. She voted under local laws, and the State said not a word,—has taken no action in the case, consequently the United States has had no occasion to interfere on that ground. The question of State rights was not as great a question as this: What are United States rights? Can the United States, in its sovereign capacity, overthrow the rights of its own citizens? No, it cannot; for the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution specifically declares “The right of citizens of the United States to vote, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States, or by any State, on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”
This fifteenth Amendment has been seriously misapprehended by many people, who have understood it to mean that women could be excluded from voting, simply because they are women. I have shown you that Statutes and Constitutions are always general in their character; that from generals we must argue down to particulars, and that if there is any doubt as to the interpretation of a statute, it must be defined in the interests of liberty. But as to the interpretation of this statute there can be no doubt. Had it read, “The right of citizens of the United States to take out passports, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States, on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude,” no person would interpret it to mean that such right of take out passport could be denied on account of female sex, or on account of male sex. We will read it now, first in the light of the Declaration; second, in that of the Preamble to the Constitution, and the Constitution itself, and its various amendments, to which I have referred: the first, sixth, ninth and tenth, which would have been interpreted male, had the Constitution meant men alone, by which have always been defined to cover, and include woman—to cover and include the rights of the whole people to freedom of conscience, to freedom of speech, to the right of a speedy and public trial, &c., &c., and this, although in the Sixth Amendment, the terms him and his are alone used. The Courts long ago decided that Statutes were of general bearing, as is fully true of the Declaration and Constitution, which are supreme statutes. The Fifteenth Amendment does not specifically exclude right of male citizens to vote, because they are male citizens, therefore, male citizens are of necessity included in the right of voting. It does not specifically exclude female citizens from the right of voting, because they are female citizens, therefore, female citizens are of necessity included in the right of voting—a right which the United States cannot abridge. No male citizen can claim that he, as a male citizen, is included, save by implication, and save on the general grounds that he is not specifically excluded, he is necessarily included. Can the United States, at pleasure, take from its own citizens the right of voting, or abridge that right? Has it the right to take from citizens of States the right of voting? Are citizens of States simply protected against States, and can the United States now, at will, step in and deny or abridge the right of voting to all its male citizens simply because they are male? If it has that power over its female citizens, it has the same power over its males citizens. You cannot fail to see that the question brought up by Miss Anthony's prosecution had trial by the United States for the act of voting, has developed the most important question of United States rights; a larger, most pregnant, more momentous question by far, than that of States rights. The liberties of the people are much more closely involved when the United States is the aggressor, than when the States are aggressors.
“The Act of Enforce the right of citizens to vote,” declares that Citizens shall be entitled and allowed to vote at all elections by the people, in any state, territory, district, county, city, parish, township, school district, municipality, or other territorial division. &c.
This Act was passed after the ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment, and is designed to be in accordance with the Constitution. It does not say black citizens shall be entitled ad allowed to vote; it does not say male citizens shall be entitled and allowed to vote—it merely says Citizens. It covers the right of women citizens to vote, and yet United States officials claim to find in this very act, their authority for prosecuting Miss Anthony and those fourteen other women citizens of Rochester for the alleged crime of voting. When Miss Anthony voted, what did she do? She merely exercised her citizen's right of suffrage—a right to which she, and all women citizens are entitled by virtue of their citizenship in the nation—a right to which they are entitled because individual political rights are the basis of the government. The United States has no other foundation. If that right is trampled upon, we have no nation. We may hang together in a sort of anarchical way for a time, but our dissolution draws near. Can the United States destroy rights on account of sex? In the original Constitution, before even the first ten amendments were added, States were forbidden to pass bills of attainder. By the fourteenth amendment, the right of voting was forbidden to be abridged, unless for crime. Is it a crime to be a woman? “In the beginning God created man, male and female, created he them.” A bill of attainder inflicts punishment, creates liabilities or disabilities, on account of percentage, birth, or descent. Do United States officials presume to create a disability, or inflict a punishment, on account of birth as a woman and this in direct defiance of the Constitution? When the Constitution of the United States presents no barrier, no lesser power has such authority. “The Constitution of the United States, and the laws made in pursuance thereof, shall be the supreme law of the land.”
Says article sixth: “Any law of Congress not made in pursuance of, or in unison with the Constitution, is an illegal and void law.” Coke declared and Act of Parliament against Magna Charta was null and void.
But United States officials declare is a crime for a United States citizen to vote. If it is a crime for a native-born citizen, it ought to be a still greater crime for a foreign-born citizen. But the fact that citizenship carries with it the right of voting, is shown in the act of naturalization. A foreigner, after a certain length of residence in this country, proceeds to take out papers of citizenship. To become a citizen, is all that he needs to make of him a voter. At one and the same time he picks up a ballot, and his naturalization papers. Nothing more than his becoming a citizen is needed for him to vote—nothing less will answer. Susan B. Anthony is a native-born citizen. She had to take out no papers to make her a citizen—she was born in the United States—she is educated, intelligent, and Free Born. Native-born citizenship is generally conceded to be of more value than that which is bought. Do you not remember that when Paul was brought up, preparatory to being scourged, he demanded by what right they scourged him, a Roman citizen. The chief captain said, “I bought this freedom with a great price.” Paul replied, “I am free born”; then great fear fell upon the chief captain, and he ordered the bonds removed from Paul. Native-born Roman citizenship was worth as much as that two thousand years ago. To-day, the foreign-born American citizen, who has bought his freedom with a great price, who has left his home and country, and crossed the sea to a strange land, in order that he may find freedom, is held to be superior to “free born” American women citizens.
But Miss Anthony is not battling for herself alone, nor for the woman alone; she stands to-day, the embodiment of Republican principles. The question of to-day, is not has woman a right to vote, but has any American citizen, white or black, native-born, or naturalized, a right to vote. The prosecution of Miss Anthony by the United States, for the alleged crime of having cast a vote at the last election, is a positive declaration of the government of the United States that it is a crime to vote. Let that decision be affirmed, and we have no republic; the ballot, the governing power in the hands of every person, is the only true republic. Each person to help make the laws which govern him or her, is the only true democracy. Individual responsibility, personal representation, exact political equality, are the only stable foundations of a republic, and when the United States makes voting a crime on the part of any free-born, law-abiding citizen, it strikes a blow at its own stability; it is undermining the very foundations of the republic—it is attempting to overthrow its own Constitution.
Miss Anthony is to-day the representative of liberty; she is to-day battling for the rights of every man, woman and child in the country; she is not only upholding the right of every native-born citizen, but of every naturalized citizen; to-day is at stake in her person, the new-born hopes of foreign lands, the quickened instincts of liberty, so well nigh universal. All these are in trial with her; the destinies of America, the civilization of the world, are in the balance with her as she stands on her defence. If the women of this country are restricted in their right of self-government, what better is it for them to have been born in the United States, than to have been born in Russia, or France, or England, or many another monarchical country? No better; nor as well, as in all these countries, women vote upon certain questions. In Russia, about one-half of the property of the country is in the hands of women, and they vote upon its disposition and control. In France and Sweden, women vote at municipal elections, and in England, every woman householder or rate-payer, votes for city officers, for poor wardens and school commissioners, thus expressing her views as to the education of her children, which is a power not possessed by a single woman of this State of New York, whose boast has been that it leads the legislation of the world in regard to women. Property-holding women in England, vote equally with property-holding men, for every office except Parliamentary, and even that is near at hand, a petition for it of 180,000 names going up to last year. England, though a monarchy, is consistent with herself. As the foundation of English representation is property, not persons, property is allowed its representation, whether it is held by man or by woman.
“Are you not or more value than many sparrows?” said one of old. Is it less pertinent for us to ask if personal representation is not more sacred than property representation? “Where governments lead, there are no revolutions,” said the eloquent Castelar. But revolution is imminent in a government like ours, instituted by the people, for the people, in its charters recognizing the most sacred rights of the people, but which, in a sovereign capacity, through its officials, tramples upon the most sacredly secured and guaranteed rights of the people.
The question brought up by this trial is not a woman's rights question, but a citizen's rights question. It is not denied that women are citizens,—it is not denied that Susan B. Anthony was born in the United States, and is therefore a citizen of the United States, and of the United States wherein she resides, which is this State of New York. It cannot be denied that she is a person,—one of the people,—there is not a word in the Constitution of the United States which militates against the recognition of woman as a person, as one of the people, as a citizen. The whole question, then, to-day, turns on the power of the United States over the political rights of citizens—the whole question then, to-day, turns on the supreme authority of the National Constitution.
The Constitution recognizes native-born women as citizens, both of the United States, and of the States in which they rereside, and the Enforcement Act of 1870, in unison with our national fundamental principles, is entitled “An Act to enforce the right of citizens of the United States to vote in the several States of the Union.” Out of those three words, “for other purposes,” or any provisions of this act included in them, cannot be found authority for restraining any citizen not “guilty or participating in the rebellion, or other crime,” from voting, and we brand this prosecution of Miss Anthony by United States officials, under claim of provisions in this act, as an illegal prosecution—an infamous prosecution, in direct defiance of national law—dangerous in its principles, tending to subvert a republican form of government, and a direct step, whether so designed or not, to the establishment of a monarchy in this country. Where the right of one individual is attacked, the rights of all are menaced. A blow against one citizen, is a blow against every citizen.
The government has shown itself very weak in prosecuting Miss Anthony. No astute lawyer could be found on a side so pregnant of flaws as this one, were not the plaintiff in the case, the sovereign United States. The very fact of the prosecution is at one and the same time weakness on the part of the government, and an act of unauthorized authority. It is weakness, because by it, the United States comes onto the ground of the defendant, and, at once admits voting is an United States right, because United States rights are citizen's rights. By this prosecution, the United States clearly admits that protection of the ballot is an United States duty, instead of a State duty. It is an United States instead of a State duty, because voting is an United States right instead of a State right. This prosecution is an open admission by the United States, that voting is a Constitutional right.
But the prosecution is also an admission of unauthorized authority in that by it, the United States discriminates between citizens. If there is one point of our government more strongly fortified than another, it is that the government is of the PEOPLE. The Preamble of the Constitution, heretofore quoted, means all the people, if language has a meaning. All the people are citizens, if the fourteenth amendment has any signification at all.
If any minds are so obtuse as not to see that the ballot is an United States right,—if any person before me still claims suffrage as a state right alone, such person certainly cannot fail to see that under his views the United States has been guilty of a high-handed outrage upon Miss Anthony and the fourteen other women whom this great government,—this big United States has prosecuted. Under this view of the right of suffrage such person cannot fail to see there has been unauthorized interference by the United States, with the duties and rights of the State of New York. And while Uncle Sam was thus busy last winter over the prosecution of women citizens of the State of New York, the State itself submitted in its Legislature, a resolution looking towards the recognition by the State of the right of tax-paying women to the ballot. Thus at one and the same time was seen the anomaly of a prosecution by the United States of women of the State of New York for an act that New York herself was resolving it right to perform, and which if the ballot is not a constitutional right, the United States has no power over at all.
Look at this prosecution as you will, it presents a fine dilemma to solve; it presents to the country, as never before, the most important and vital question of United States rights; it presents the most important and vital question of unconstitutional power which has grown to such dimensions in the hands of United States officials; and it must bring to people's cognizance the very slight thread by which hangs the security of any citizen's right to the ballot.
Governments try themselves. No government has been stable in the past; all have fallen because all have been one sided; all have permitted the degradation of woman. Babylon fell; her religion defiled woman; the hand-writing appeared upon the wall, and in a single night she was overthrown. Neither was Rome immortal; her laws were class laws; the rights of humanity were not respected; she underwent many changes, and that vast empire which once ruled the world lives now only in name. Egypt held the wisdom of the world, and as to a certain extent she recognized the equality of woman, her empire endured for ages; at last, she too fell, for her civilization was still an unequal one.
Special laws, or laws specially defined for one particular body of people, on account of race, color, sex, or occupation, is class legislation, and bears the seeds of death within itself. It was the boast of our forefathers, that the rights for which they contended were the rights of human nature. Shall the women of this country forever have cause to say that the declaration and the constitution are specially defined,—are organs of special law?
Where the legislative and executive function of the law are in the hands of a single class, special law, or special rendering of law are the unvarying results. If the constitution of the United States is defined and ruled by United States officials to discriminate between classes of citizens, then the constitution is by them made to be nothing less than an organ of special law, and is held not to sustain the rights of the people. While the class which has usurped the legislative, the executive and the judicial functions of the government, defines political rights to belong to male citizens alone, the women of the United States are under special law; and while thus debarred from exercising their natural right of self-government, they are subjects, not citizens. It matters not if women never voted since the framing of the government, until now, this right has merely been retained by them; it has been held in abeyance, to be exercised by them whenever they chose. The principles advocated by the women to-day are the principles which brought on the revolutionary war, and Miss Anthony and other women associated with her are exponents of the very principles which caused the colonies to rebel against the mother country.
The eyes of all nations are upon us, their hopes of liberty are directed towards us; the United States is now on trial by the light of its own underlying principle. Its assertion of human right to self-government lies a hundred years back of it. The chartered confirmation and renewal of this assertion has come up to our very day, and though all the world looked on and wondered to see us crush the rebellion of ‘61, it is at this hour,—at this soon coming trial of Miss Anthony at Canandaigua, before the Supreme Court of the Northern District of New York,—it is at this trial that republican institutions will have their grand test, and as the decision is rendered for, or against the political rights of citizenship, so will the people of the United States find themselves free or slaves, and so will the United States have tried itself, and paved its way for a speedy fall, or for a long and glorious continuance.
Miss Anthony is to-day the representative of liberty. In all ages of the world, and during all times, there have been epochs in which some one person took upon their own shoulders the hopes and the sorrows of the world, and in their own person, through many struggles bore them onward. Suddenly or gradually, as the case might be, men found the rugged path made smooth and the way opened for the world's rapid advance. Such an epoch exists now, and such a person is Susan B. Anthony.
To you, men of Ontario county, has come an important hour. The fates have brought about that you, of all the men in this great land, have the responsibility of this trial. To you, freedom has come looking for fuller acknowledgement, for a wider area in which to work and grow. You decision will not be for Susan B. Anthony alone; it will be for yourselves and for your children's children to the latest generations. You are not asked to decide a question under favor, but according to the foundation principles of this republic. You will be called upon to decide a question according to our great charters of liberty—the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. You are to decide, not only on a question of natural right, but of absolute law, of the supreme law of the land. You are not to decide according to prejudice, but according to the constitution. If your decision is favorable to the defendant, you will sustain the constitution; if adverse, if you are blinded by prejudice; you will not decide against women alone, but against the United States as well. No more momentous hour has arisen in the interest of freedom, for the underlying principles of the republic, its warp and woof alike, is the exact and permanent political equality of every citizen of the nation, whether that citizen is native born of naturalized, white or black, man or woman. And may God help you.