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from abridging the privileges or immunities of the citizens of the United States, whether its own citizens or any others. It not merely requires equality of privileges, but it demands that the privileges and immunities of all citizens shall be absolutely unabridged, unimpaired.'12
It will doubtless be urged as an objection to my position (that citizenship carries with it the right to vote) that it would, in that case, follow that infants and lunatics, who as well as adults and persons of sound mind, are citizens, would also have that right. This objection, which appears to have great weight with certain classes of persons, is entirely without force. It takes no note of the familiar fact, that every legislative provision, whether constitutional or statutory, which confers any discretionary power, is always confined in its operation to persons who are compos mentis. It is wholly unnecessary to except idiots and lunatics out of any such statute. They are excluded from the very nature of the case. The contrary supposition would be simply absurd. And, in respect to every such law, infants, during their minority, are in the same class. But are women, who are not infants, ever included in this category! Does any such principle of exclusion apply to them? Not at all. On the contrary, they stand in this respect, upon the same footing as men, with the sole exception of the right to vote and the right to hold office. In every other • respect, whatever rights and powers are conferred upon persons by law may be exercised by women as well as by men. They may transact any kind of business for themselves, or as agents or trustees for others; may be executors or administrators, with the same powers and responsibilities as men; and it ought not to be a matter of surprise or regret that they are now placed, by the Fourteenth amendment, in other respects upon a footing of perfect equality.
Although not directly connected with the argument as to the right secured to women by the Constitution, I deem it
121 Abbott's U. S. Rep., 397.
not improper to allude briefly to some of the popular objections against the propriety of allowing females the privilege of voting. I do this because I know from past experience that these popular objections, having no logical bearing upon the subject, are yet, practically, among the most potent arguments against the interpretation of the Fourteenth amendment, which I consider the only one that its language fairly admits of.
It is said that women do not desire to vote. Certainly many women do not, but that furnishes no reason for deny. ing the right to those who do desire to vote. Many men decline to vote. Is that a reason for denying the right to those who would vote?
I believe, however, that the public mind is greatly in error in regard to the proportion of female citizens who would vote if their right to do so were recognized. In England there has been to some extent a test of that question, with the following result, as given in the newspapers, the correctness of which, in this respect, I think there is no reason to doubt: "Woman suffrage is, to a certain extent, established in England, with the result as detailed in the London Examiner, that in sixty-six municipal elections, out of every thousand women who enjoy equal rights with men on the register, 516 went to the poll, which is but forty-eight less than the proportionate number of men. And out of 27,949 women registered, where a contest occured, 14,416 voted. Of men there were 166,781 on the register, and 90,080 at the poll." The Examiner thereupon draws this conclusion: “Making allowance for the reluctance of old spinsters to change their habits, and the more frequent illness of the sex, it is manifest that women, if they had opportunity, would exercise the franchise as freely as men. There is an end, therefore, of the argument that women would not vote if they had the power." Our law books furnish, perhaps, more satisfactory evidence of the earnestness with which women in England are claiming the right to vote, under the reform act of 1867, aided by Lord Brougham's act of 1850.
The case of Chorlton v. Lings, came before the Court of Common Pleas in England in 1869. It was an appeal from the decision of the revising barrister, for the borough of Manchester, to the effect “that Mary Abbott, being a woman, was not entitled to be placed on the register.” Her right was perfect in all respects excepting that of sex.
The court, after a very full and able discussion of the subject, sustained the decision of the revising barrister, denying to women the right to be placed on the register, and consequently denying their right to vote. The decision rested upon the peculiar phraseology of several Acts of Parliament, and the point decided has no applicability here. My object in referring to the case has been to call attention to the fact stated by the reporter, that appeals of 5,436 other women were consolidated and decided with this. No better evidence could be furnished of the extent and earnestness of the claim of women in England to exercise the elective franchise. 13
I infer, without being able to say how the fact is, that the votes given by women, as mentioned in the newspapers, were given at municipal elections merely, and that the cases decided by the Court of Common Pleas relate to elections for members of Parliament.
Another objection is, that the right to hold office must attend the right to vote, and that women are not qualified to discharge the duties of responsible offices.
I beg leave to answer this objection by asking one or more questions. How many of the male bipeds who do our voting are qualified to hold high offices? How many of the large class to whom the right of voting is supposed to have been secured by the Fifteenth amendment, are qualified to hold office?
Whenever the qualifications of persons to discharge the duties of responsible offices is made the test of their right to vote, and we are to have a competitive examination on that subject open to all claimants, my client will be content to
13 L. R. 4 C. P., 374.
enter the lists, and take her chances among the candidates for such honors.
But the practice of the world, and our own practice, give the lie to this objection. Compare the administration of female sovereigns of great kingdoms, from Semiramis to Victoria, with the average administration of male sovereigns, and which will suffer by the comparison! How often have mothers governed large kingdoms, as regents, during the minority of their sons, and governed them well? Such offices as the “sovereigns" who rule them in this country have allowed women to hold (they having no voice on the subject), they have discharged the duties of with ever increasing satisfaction to the public; and Congress has lately passed an act, making the official bonds of married women valid, so that they could be appointed to the office of postmaster.
The case of Olive v. Ingram14 was an action brought to try the title to an office. On the death of the sexton of the parish of St. Butolph, the place was to be filled by election, the voters being the housekeepers who paid Scot and lot" in the parish. The widow of the deceased sexton (Sarah Bly) entered the lists against Olive, the plaintiff in the suit, and received one hundred and sixty-nine indisputable votes, and forty votes given by women who were "housekeepers, and paid to church and poor." The plaintiff had one hundred and seventy-four indisputable votes, and twenty votes given by such women as voted for Mrs. Bly. Mrs. Bly was declared elected. The action was brought to test two questions: 1. Whether women were legal voters; and 2. Whether a woman was capable of holding the office. The case was four times argued in the King's Bench, and all the judges delivered opinions, holding that the women were competent voters; that the widow was properly elected, and could hold the office.
In the course of the discussion it was shown that women had held many offices, those of constable, church warden, overseer of the poor, keeper of the "gate house" (a public prison), governess of a house of correction, keeper of castles, sheriffs of counties, and high constable of England.
14 7 Modern Rep., 263.
If women are legally competent to hold minor offices, I would be glad to have the rule of law, or of propriety, shown which should exclude them from higher offices, and which marks the line between those which they may and those which they may not hold.
Another objection is that women cannot serve as soldiers. To this I answer that capacity for military service has never been made a test of the right to vote. If it were, young men from sixteen to twenty-one would be entitled to vote, and old men from sixty and upwards would not. If that were
women would present much stronger claims than many of the male sex.
Another objection is that engaging in political controversies is not consistent with the feminine character. Upon that subject, women themselves are the best judges, and if political duties should be found inconsistent with female delicacy, we may rest assured that women will either effect a change in the character of political contests, or decline to engage in them. This subject may be safely left to their sense of delicacy and propriety. If any difficulty on this account should occur, it may not be impossible to receive the votes of women at their places of residence. This method of voting was practiced in ancient Rome under the republic; and it will be remembered that when the votes of the soldiers who were fighting our battles in the Southern states were needed to sustain their friends at home, no difficulty was found in the way of taking their votes at their respective camps.
I humbly submit to your Honor, therefore, that on the constitutional grounds to which I have referred, Miss Anthony had a lawful right to vote; that her vote was properly received and counted; that the first section of the Fourteenth amendment secured to her that right, and did not need the aid of any further legislation.
But conceding that I may be in error in supposing that Miss Anthony had a right to vote, she has been guilty of no crime, if she voted in good faith believing that she had such