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Therefore, as birth
and marriage secure the right of citizenship to large numbers,
the remaining classes of foreign unmarried women should secure
naturalization papers, that we may all test our right to vote in
the courts. As the subject of naturalization is expressly
withheld from the States, and as the States would clearly have no
right to deprive of the franchise naturalized citizens, among
whom women are expressly included, still more clearly have they
no right to deprive native born women citizens of this right.

The States have the right to regulate but not to prohibit the
elective franchise to citizens of the United States. Thus the
States may determine the qualifications of electors. They may
require the elector to be of a certain age, to have had a fixed
residence, to be of a sane mind, and unconvicted of crime, etc.;
but to go beyond this, and say to one-half the citizens of the
State, notwithstanding you possess all these qualifications, you
shall never vote, is of the very essence of despotism. It is a
bill of attainder of the most odious character.

On this point the Constitution says:

ART. I., Sec. 9. No bill of attainder, or _ex post facto_
law shall be passed.

No title of nobility shall be granted by the United States.

No State shall pass any bill of attainder, _ex post facto_
law, impairing the obligations of contracts, or grant any
title of nobility. (See Cummings vs. the State of Mo., 4th
Wallace Rep 278, and Exparte Garland, same volume.)

Opposed to this provision of the Constitution, by the XV.
Amendment you have established an aristocracy of sex, sanctioning
the unjust legislation of the several States, which make all men
nobles, all women serfs. Justice and equity can only be attained
by having the same laws for men and women in the District as well
as the State.

A further investigation of the subject will show that the
language of the constitutions of all the States, with the
exception of those of Massachusetts and Virginia, on the subject
of suffrage is peculiar. They almost all read substantially
alike. "White male citizens, etc., shall be entitled to vote,"
and this is supposed to exclude all other citizens. There is no
direct exclusion, except in the two States above named. Now the
error lies in supposing that an enabling clause is necessary at
all. The right of the people of a State to participate in a
government of their own creation requires no enabling clause;
neither can it be taken from them by implication. To hold
otherwise, would be to interpolate in the constitution a
prohibition that does not exist. In framing a constitution the
people are assembled in their sovereign capacity; and being
possessed of all rights and all powers, what is not surrendered
is retained. Nothing short of a direct prohibition can work a
deprivation of rights that are fundamental.

In the language of John Jay to the people of New York, urging the
adoption of the Constitution of the United States, "silence and
blank paper neither give nor take away anything," and Alexander
Hamilton says (_Federalist_, No. 83), "Every man of discernment
must at once perceive the wide difference between silence and
abolition." The mode and manner in which the people shall take
part in the government of their creation may be prescribed by the
constitution, but the right itself is antecedent to all
constitutions. It is inalienable, and can neither be bought, nor
sold, nor given away. But even if it should be held that this
view is untenable, and that women are disfranchised by the
several State Constitutions directly, or by implication, then I
say that such prohibitions are clearly in conflict with the
Constitution of the United States and yield thereto.

The proposition is now before the people of the District to
abolish the municipal government and reduce this to a mere
territory, which is clearly retrogressive legislation; as in the
former, the chief magistrate is elected by the people and in the
latter appointed by the President. In your civil rights bill,
compelling black and white to vote together, to go to school
together, to ride in the cars together, you have taken a grand
step in progress. If in the proposed bills soon to come before
you for the establishment of a medical college in the District,
and an improved school system, you shall as carefully guard the
rights of women to equal place and salary, you will take another
onward step. In making the changes you propose, it is evident you
are doing to-day an elementary work in which all the people
should have a voice; hence, your primal duty is to extend to the
women of the District the right of suffrage, that they may vote
on the schools, colleges, hospitals, prisons, and whether their
government shall be republican with a Representative in Congress,
municipal officers, or territorial with a Governor appointed by
the President. In doing such fundamental work, many
distinguished publicists have expressed the opinion that all the
people should have a voice. In the debates in the Illinois
Convention, now in session, members refused to swear to support
the State Constitution, because, said they, "it is absurd to
swear to support what we are now tearing to pieces. We are doing
an elementary work, and are amenable to the Federal Constitution
alone."

Ever since the abolition of slavery, the District has been
resolved into its original elements. In fact by the war, and the
revision of the Federal Constitution, the nation, too, has been
resolved into its original elements, and the women have to-day,
the right to say on what basis the District, their several
States, and the nation shall be reconstructed. We think,
honorable gentlemen, you must all see the broad application of
this principle. And if all the people should have a voice in the
revision of a State or national constitution, women must be
included. The Constitution confers, by express grant upon
Congress, "exclusive jurisdiction in all cases whatsoever," for
the purposes of government. Under this grant Congress, by the
first section of the act of January 8, 1867, enacted that each
and every male person of the age of twenty-one years, who shall
have been born or naturalized in the United States, who shall
have resided in the said District for the period of one year, and
three months in the ward or election precinct in which he shall
offer to vote, shall be entitled to the elective franchise, and
shall be deemed an elector, and entitled to vote. This act, you
perceive, recognizes the pre-existing right of all persons, and
excludes women only by the use of the word male, unless, as
Hamilton says, "silence on that point is not abolition."

It is fitting that here, under the shadow of the national
capitol, under the control of the Federal Government, where the
black man was first emancipated and enfranchised, that the
experiment of a true republicanism should be tried, by securing
to woman, too, the rights of an American citizen.

SUSAN B. ANTHONY addressed the Committee as follows: We are here
for the express purpose of urging you to present in your
respective bodies, a bill to strike the word "male" from the
District of Columbia Suffrage Act, and thereby enfranchise the
women of the District. We ask that the experiment of woman
suffrage shall be tried here, under the eye of Congress, as was
that of negro suffrage. Indeed, the District has ever been made
the experimental ground of each step toward freedom. The
auction-block was here first banished, slavery was here first
abolished, the newly-made freemen were here first enfranchised;
and we now ask that the women shall here be first admitted to the
ballot. There was great fear and trepidation all over the country
as to the results of negro suffrage, and you deemed it right and
safe to inaugurate the experiment here; and you all remember that
three days discussion in 1866 on Senator Cowan's proposition to
amend the Senate bill by striking out the word "male;" the able
speeches of Cowan, Anthony, Gratz Brown, Wade, and the Senate's
nine votes for the amendment. Well do I remember with what
anxious hope we watched the daily reports of that debate, and how
we prayed that Congress might then declare for the establishment
in this District of a real, practical republic. But conscience,
or courage, or something was wanting, and women were bidden still
to wait.

When, on that March day of 1867, the negroes of the District
first voted, with what anxiety did the people wait, and with what
joy did they read the glad tidings, flashed over the wires the
following morning! And the success of that first election in
this District, inspired Congress with confidence to pass the
proposition for the XV. Amendment, and the different States to
ratify it until it has become a fixed fact that black men all
over the nation may not only vote, but sit in legislative
assemblies and constitutional conventions. We now ask Congress to
do the same for women. We ask you to enfranchise the women of the
District this very winter, so that next March they may go to the
ballot-box, and all the people of this nation may see that it is
possible for women to vote and the republic to stand. There is no
reason, no argument, nothing but prejudice, against our demand;
and there is no way to break down this prejudice but to try the
experiment.



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