Proceedings of the Trial of Susan B. Anthony: The United States of America vs. Susan B. Anthony

Updated February 28, 2017 | Infoplease Staff

The United States of America vs. Susan B. Anthony

United States Circuit Court. Northern District of New York.

Hon. WARD HUNT, Presiding.

APPEARANCES For the United States: Hon. Richard Crowley U. S. District Attorney.

For the Defendant: Hon. Henry R. Selden. John Van Voorhis, Esq.

Tried at Canandaigua, Tuesday and Wednesday, June 17th and 18th, 1973, before Hon. Ward Hunt, and a jury.

Jury impanneled at 2:30 p.m.

Mr. Crowley opened the case as follows: May if please the Court and Gentlemen of the Jury: On the 5th of November, 1872, there was held in this State, as well as in other States of the Union, a general election for different officers, and among those, for candidates to represent several districts of this State in the Congress of the United States. The defendant, Miss Susan B. Anthony, at the time resided in the city of Rochester, in the country of Monroe, Northern District of New York, and upon the 5th day of November, 1872, she voted for a representative in the Congress of the United States, to represent the 20th Congressional District of the State, and also for a representative at large for the State of New York, to represent the State in the Congress of the United States. At that time she was a woman. I suppose there will be no question about that. The question in this case, if there be a question of fact about it at all, will, in my judgment, be rather a question of law than one of fact. I suppose that there will be no question of fact, substantially, in the case when all of the evidence is out, and it will be for you to decide under the charge of his honor, the Judge, whether or not the defendant committed the offense of voting for a representative in Congress upon that occasion. We think, on the part of the Government, that there is no question about it either one way of the other, neither a question of fact, nor a question of law, and that whatever Miss Anthony's intentions may have been-whether they were good or otherwise-she did not have a right to vote upon that question, and if she did vote without having a lawful right to vote, then there is no question but what she is guilty of violating a law of the United States in that behalf enacted by the Congress of the United States.

We don't claim in the case, gentlemen, that Miss Anthony is of that class of people who go about “repeating.“ We don't claim that she went from place to place for the purpose of offering her vote. But we do claim that upon the 5th of November, 1872, she voted, and whether she believed that she had a right to vote or not, it being a question of law, that she is within the Statute.

Congress in 1870 passed the following statute: (Reads 19th Section of the Act of 1870, page 144, 16th statutes at large.)

It is not necessary for me, gentlemen, at this stage of the case, to state all the facts which will be proven on the part of the Government. I shall leave that to be shown by the evidence and by the witnesses, and if any question of law shall arise his Honor will undoubtedly give you instruction as he shall deem proper.

Conceded, that on the 5th day of November, 1872, Miss Susan B. Anthony was a woman.

Beverly W. Jones , a witness, called in behalf of the United States, having been duly sworn, testified as follows: Examined by Mr. Crowley:

Q. Mr. Jones, where do you reside?

A. 8th ward, Rochester.

Q. Where were you living on the 5th of November, 1872?

A. Same place.

Q. Do you know the defendant, Miss Susan B. Anthony?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. In what capacity were you acting upon that day, if any, in relation to election?

A. Inspector of election.

Q. Into how many election districts is the 8th ward divided, if it contains more than one?

A. Two, sir.

Q. In what election district were you inspector of elections?

A. The first district.

Q. Who were inspectors with you?

A. Edwin T. Marsh and William B. Hall

Q. Had the Board of Inspectors been regularly organized?

A. Yes, sir

Q. Upon the 5th day of November, did the defendant, Susan B. Anthony, vote in the first election district of the 8th ward of the city of Rochester?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. Did you see her vote?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. Will you state to the jury what tickets she voted, whether State, Assembly, Congress and Electoral?

Objected to as calling a conclusion.

Q. State what tickets she voted, if you know, Mr. Jones?

A. If I recollect right she voted the Electoral ticket, Congressional ticket, State ticket, and Assembly ticket.

Q. Was there an election for Member of Congress for that district and for Representative at Large in Congress, for the State of New York, held on the 5th of November, in the city of Rochester?

A. I think there was; yes, sir.

Q. In what Congressional District was the city of Rochester at the time?

A. The 29th.

Q. Did you receive the tickets from Miss Anthony?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. What did you do with them when you received them?

A. Put them in the separate boxes where they belonged.

Q. State to the jury whether you had separate boxes for the several tickets voted in that election district?

A. Yes, sir; we had.

Q. Was Miss Anthony challenged upon that occasion?

A. Yes, sir-no; not on that day she wasn't.

Q. She was not challenged on the day she voted?

A. No, sir.

Cross-Examination by Judge Selden:

Q. Prior to the election, was there a registry of voters in that district made?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. Was you one of the officers engaged in making that registry?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. When the registry was being made did Miss Anthony appear before the Board of Registry and claim to be registered as a voter?

A. She did.

Q. Was there any objection made, or any doubt raised as to her right to vote?

A. There was.

Q. On what ground?

A. On the ground that the Constitution of the State of New York did not allow women to vote.

Q. What was the defect in her right to vote as a citizen?

A. She was not a male citizen.

Q. That she was a woman?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. Did the Board consider that and decide that she was entitled to register?

Objected to. Objection overruled.

Q. Did the Board consider the question of her right to registry, and decide that she was entitled to registry as a voter?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. And she was registered accordingly?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. When she offered her vote, was the same objection brought up in the Board of Inspectors, or question made of her right to vote as a woman?

A. She was challenged previous to election day.

Q. It was canvassed previous to election day between them?

A. Yes, sir; she was challenged on the second day of registering names.

Q. At the time of the registry, when her name was registered, was the Supervisor of Election present at the Board?

Q. He was.

A. Was he consulted upon the question of whether she was entitled to registry, or did he express an opinion on the subject to the inspectors.?

Mr. Crowley : I submit that it is of no consequence whether he did or not.

Judge Selden : He was the Government Supervisor under this set of Congress.

Mr. Crowley : The Board of Inspectors, under the State law, constitute the Board of Registry, and they are the only persons to pass upon that question.

The Court : You may take it

A. Yes, sir; there was a United States Supervisor of Elections, two of them.

By Judge Selden :

Q. Did they advise the registry, or did they not?

A. One of them did.

Q. And on that advice the registry was made with the judgment of the inspectors.

A. It had a great deal of weight with the inspectors, I have no doubt.

Re-direct Examination by Mr. Crowley:

Q. Was Miss Anthony challenged before the Board of Registry?

A. Not at the time she offered her name.

Q. Was she challenged at any time?

A. Yes, sir; the second day of the meeting of the Board.

Q. Was the preliminary and the general oath administered?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. Won't you state what Miss Anthony said, if she said anything, when she came there and offered her name for registration?

A. She stated that she did not claim any rights under the constitution of the State of New York; she claimed her right under the constitution of the United States.

Q. Did she name any particular amendment?

A. Yes, sir; she cited the 14th amendment.

Q. Under that she claimed her right to vote?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. Did the other Federal Supervisor who was present, state it as his opinion that she was entitled to vote under that amendment, or did he protest, claiming that she did not have the right to vote?

A. One of them said that there was no way for the inspectors to get around placing the name upon the register; the other one, when she came in, left the room.

Q. Did this one who said that there was no way to get around placing the name upon the register, state that she had her right to register but did not have the right to vote?

A. I didn't hear him make any such statement.

Q. You didn't hear any such statement as that?

A. No, sir.

Q. Was there a poll list kept of the voters of the first selection district of the 18th ward on the day of election?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. (Handling two books.) State whether that is the poll list of voters kept upon the day of election in the first election district of the 8th ward, of the city of Rochester?

A. This is the poll list, and also the register.

Q. Turn to the name of Susan B. Anthony, if it is upon that poll list?

A. I have it.

Q. What number is it?

A. Number 22.

Q. From that poll list what tickets does it purport to show that she voted upon that occasion?

A. Electoral, State, Congress and Assembly.

United States rests.

Judge Selden opened the case in behalf of the defendant, as follows:

If the Court please, Gentlemen of the Jury:

This is a case of no ordinary magnitude, although many might regard it as one of very little importance. The question whether my client here had done anything to justify her being consigned to a felon's prison or not, is one that interests her very essentially, and that interests the people also essentially. I claim and shall endeavor to establish before you that when she offered to have her name registered as a voter, and when she offered her vote for Member of Congress, she was as much entitled to vote as any man that voted at that election, according to the Constitution and laws of the Government under which she lives. If I maintain that proportion, as a matter of course she has committed no offence, and is entitled to be discharged at your hands.

But, beyond that, whether she was a legal vote or not, whether she was entitled to vote or not, if she sincerely believed that she had a right to vote, and offered her ballot in good faith, under that belief, whether right or wrong, by the laws of this country she is guilty of no crime. I apprehend that that proposition, when it is discussed, will be maintained with a clearness and force that shall leave no doubt upon the mind of the Court or upon your minds as the gentlemen of the jury. If I maintain that proposition here, then the further question and the only question which, in my judgment, can come before you to be passed upon by you as a question of fact is whether or not she did vote in good faith, believing that she had a right to vote.

The public prosecutor assumes that, however honestly she may have offered her vote, however sincerely she may have believed that she had a right to vote, if she was mistaken in that judgment, her offering her vote and its being received makes a criminal offence- a proposition to me most abhorrent, as I believe it will be equally abhorrent to your judgment.

Before the registration, and before this election, Miss Anthony called upon me for advice upon the question whether, under the 14th Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, she had a right vote. I had not examined the question. I told her I would examine it and give her my opinion upon the question of her legal right. She went away and came again after I had made the examination. I advised her that she was as lawful a voter as I am, or as any other man is, and advised her to go and offer her vote. I may have been mistaken in that, and if I was mistaken, I believe she acted in good faith. I believe she acted according to her right as the law and Constitution gave it to her. But whether she did or not, she acted in the most perfect good faith, and if she made a mistake, or if I made one, that is not a reason for committing her to a felon's cell.

For the second time in my life, in my professional practice, I am under the necessity of offering myself as a witness for my client.

Henry R. Selden , a witness sworn in behalf of the defendant, testified as follows: Before the last election, Miss Anthony called upon me for advice, upon the question whether she was or was not a legal voter. I examined the question, and gave her my opinion, unhesitatingly, that the laws and Constitution of the United States, authorized her to vote, as well as they authorize any man to vote; and I advised her to have her name placed upon the registry and to vote at the election, if the inspectors should receive her vote. I gave the advice in good faith, believing it to be accurate, and I believe it to be accurate still.

[This witness was not cross-examined]

Judge Selden : I propose to call Miss Anthony as to the fact of her voting-on the question of the intention or belief under which she voted.

Mr. Crowley: She is not competent as a witness in her own behalf.

[The Court so held.]

Defendant rests.

John E, Pound, a witness sworn in behalf of the United States, testified as follows:

Examined by Mr. Crowley

Q. During the months of November and December, 1872, and January, 1873, were you Assistant United States Dist. Attorney for the Northern district of New York?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. Do you know the defendant, Susan B. Anthony?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. Did you attend an examination before Wm. C. Storrs, a United States Commissioner, in the city of Rochester, when her case was examined?

A. I did

Q. Was she called as a witness in her own behalf upon that examination?

A. She was.

Q. Was she sworn?

A. She was.

Q. Did she give evidence?

A. She did.

Q. Did you keep minutes of evidence on that occasion?

A. I did.

Q. (Handling the witness a paper.) Please look at the paper now shown you and see if it contains the minutes you kept upon that occasion?

A. It does.

Q. Turn to the evidence of Susan B. Anthony?

A. I have it.

Q. Did she, upon that occasion, state that she consulted or talked with Judge Henry R. Selden, of Rochester, in relation to her right to vote?

Judge Selden: I object to that upon the ground that it is incompetent, that if they refuse to allow her to be sworn here, they should be excluded from producing any evidence that she gave elsewhere, especially when they want to give the version which the United States officer took of her evidence.

The Court: Go on.

By Mr Crowley:

Q. State whether she stated on that examination, under oath, that she had talked or consulted with Judge Henry R. Selden in relation to her right to vote?

A. She did.

Q. State whether she was asked, upon that examination, if the advice given her by Judge Henry R. Selden would or did make any difference in her action in voting, or in substance that?

A. She stated on the cross-examination, “I should have made the same endeavor to vote that I did had I not consulted Judge Selden. I didn't consult any one before I registered. I was not influenced by his advice in the matter at all; have been resolved to vote, the first time I was at home 30 days, for a number of years.“

Cross-examination by Mr. Van Voorhees:

Q. Mr. Pound, was she asked there if she had any doubt about her right to vote, and did she answer “Not a particle?“

A. She stated. “Had no doubt as to my right to vote,“ on the direct examination.

Q. There was a stenographic reporter there, was there not?

A. A reporter was there taking notes.

Q. Was not this question put to her “Did you have any doubt yourself of your right to vote?“ and did she not answer “Not a particle?“

The Court: Well, she says so, that she had no doubt of her right to vote.

Judge Selden: I beg leave to state, in regard to my own testimony, Miss Anthony informs me that I was mistaken in the fact that my advice was before her registry. It was my recollection that it was on her way to the registry, but she states to me now that she was registered and came immediately to my office. In that respect I was under a mistake.

Evidence closed.