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In countries where every
member of the society enjoys an equal power of arriving at
the supreme offices, and consequently of directing the
strength and sentiments of the whole community, there is a
state of the most perfect political liberty.

On the other hand, in countries where a man is excluded from
these offices, or from the power of voting for the proper
persons to fill them, that man, whatever be the form of the
government, has no share in the government and therefore has
no political liberty at all. And since every man retains and
can never be deprived of his natural right of relieving
himself from all oppression, that is, from everything that
has been imposed upon him without his own consent, this must
be the only true and proper foundation of all governments
subsisting in the world, and that to which the people who
compose them have an inalienable right to bring them back.

It was from these great champions of liberty in England that our
forefathers received their inspiration and the principles which
they adopted, incorporated into the Declaration of Independence,
and made the foundation and framework of our Government. And yet
it is claimed that we have a Government which tramples upon these
elementary principles of political liberty, in denying to
one-half its adult citizens all political liberty, and subjecting
them to the tyranny of taxation without representation. It can
not be.

When we desire to construe the Constitution, or to ascertain the
powers of the Government and the rights of the citizens, it is
legitimate and necessary to recur to those principles and make
them the guide in such investigation. It is an oft-repeated maxim
set forth in the bills of rights of many of the State
constitutions that "the frequent recurrence to fundamental
principles is necessary for the preservation of liberty and good
government." Recurring to these principles, so plain, so natural,
so like political axioms, it would seem that to say that one-half
the citizens of this republican government, simply and only on
account of their sex, can legally be denied the right to a voice
in the government, the laws of which they are held to obey, and
which takes from them their property by taxation, is so
flagrantly in opposition to the principles of free government,
and the theory of political liberty, that no man could seriously
advocate it.

But it is said in opposition to the "citizen's right" of suffrage
that at the time of the establishment of the Constitution, women
were in all the States denied the right of voting, and that no
one claimed at the time that the Constitution of the United
States would change their status; that if such a change was
intended it would have been explicitly declared in the
Constitution or at least carried into practice by those who
framed the Constitution, and, therefore, such a construction of
it is against what must have been the intention of the framers.
This is a very unsafe rule of construction. As has been said, the
Constitution necessarily deals in general principles; these
principles are to be carried out to their legitimate conclusion
and result by legislation, and we are to judge of the intention
of those who established the Constitution by what they say,
guided by what they declare on the face of the instrument to be
their object.

It is said by Judge Story, in Story on the Constitution:

Contemporary construction is properly resorted to to
illustrate and confirm the text.... It can never abrogate
the text; it can never fritter away its obvious sense; it
can never narrow down its true limitations.

It is a well-settled rule that in the construction of the
Constitution, the objects for which it was established, being
expressed in the instrument, should have great influence; and
when words and phrases are used which are capable of different
constructions, that construction should be given which is the
most consonant with the declared objects of the instrument. We go
to the preamble to ascertain the objects and purpose of the
instrument. Webster defines preamble thus: "The introductory part
of a statute, which states the reason and intent of the law." In
the preamble, then, more certainly than in any other way, aside
from the language of the instrument, we find the intent. Judge
Story says:

The importance of examining the preamble for the purpose of
expounding the language of a statute has been long felt and
universally conceded in all juridical discussion. It is an
admitted maxim ... that the preamble is a key to open the
mind of the matters as to the mischiefs to be remedied and
the objects to be accomplished by the statute.... It is
properly resorted to where doubts or ambiguities arise upon
the words of the enacting part, for if they are clear and
unambiguous, there seems little room for interpretation,
except in cases leading to an obvious absurdity or a direct
overthrow of the intention expressed in the preamble. [Story
on the Constitution, sec. 457.]

Try this question by a consideration of the objects for which the
Constitution was established, as set forth in the preamble, "to
establish justice." Does it establish justice to deprive of all
representation or voice in the Government one-half of its adult
citizens, and compel them to pay taxes to and support a
government in which they have no representation? Is "taxation
without representation" justice established? "To insure domestic
tranquillity." Does it insure domestic tranquillity to give all
the political power to one class of citizens, and deprive another
class of any participation in the government? No. The sure means
of tranquillity is to give "equal political rights to all," that
all may stand "equal before the law."

"To provide for the common defense." We have seen that the only
defense the citizen has against oppression and wrong is by his
voice and vote in the selection of rulers and law makers. Does
it, then, "provide for the common defense," to deny to one half
the adult citizens of the republic that voice and vote?

"To secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our
posterity." As has been already said, there can be no political
liberty to any citizen deprived of a voice in the government.
This is self-evident; it needs no demonstration. Does it, then,
"secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity,"
to deprive one half the citizens of adult age of this right and
privilege?

Tried by the expressed objects for which the Constitution was
established, as declared by the people themselves, this denial to
the women citizens of the country of the right and privilege of
voting is directly in contravention of these objects, and must,
therefore, be contrary to the spirit and letter of the entire
instrument. And according to the rule of construction referred
to, no "contemporaneous construction, however universal it may
be, can be allowed to set aside the expressed objects of the
makers, as declared in the instrument." The construction which we
claim for the 1st section of the XIV. Amendment, is in perfect
accord with those expressed objects; and even if there were
anything in the original text of the Constitution at variance
with the true construction of that section, the amendment must
control. Yet we believe that there is nothing in the original
text at variance with what we claim to be the true construction
of the amendment.

It is claimed by the majority of the committee that the adoption
of the XV. Amendment was by necessary implication a declaration
that the States had the power to deny the right of suffrage to
citizens for any other reasons than those of race, color, or
previous condition of servitude. We deny that the fundamental
rights of the American citizen can be taken away by
"implication." There is no such law for the construction of the
Constitution of our country. The law is the reverse--that the
fundamental rights of citizens are not to be taken away by
implication, and a constitutional provision for the protection of
one class can certainly not be used to destroy or impair the same
rights in another class. It is too violent a construction of an
amendment, which prohibits States from, or the United States
from, abridging the right of a citizen to vote by reason of race,
color, or previous condition of servitude, to say that by
implication it conceded to the States the power to deny that
right for any other reason. On that theory the States could
confine the right of suffrage to a small minority, and make the
State governments aristocratic, overthrowing their republican
form. The XV. Article of Amendment to the Constitution clearly
recognizes the right to vote, as one of the rights of a citizen
of the United States. This is the language:

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.

Here is stated, first, the existence of a right. Second, its
nature. Whose right is it? The right of citizens of the United
States. What is the right? The right to vote. And this right of
citizens of the United States, States are forbidden to abridge.
Can there be a more direct recognition of a right?



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