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Much more would not such a repeal be sustained where the
clause claimed to be repealed was a part of a constitution, and
was intended as a security for human rights and liberty. The rule
that would favor a construction toward liberty of the XIV.
Amendment, would equally forbid a construction toward curtailment
of liberty of the XV.

But it will be said that the XV. Amendment becomes without
purpose and effect, and really as senseless as we claim the XIV.
Amendment to be under the construction which we oppose, if it is
to be regarded as operating only in the way claimed, and not as
conferring rights not previously existing. This is a point of
some force, and which can be replied to only by the fact that
there was an impression upon the minds of the legislators and of
the people, that the XIV. Amendment did not confer the right of
suffrage. That impression weighs nothing in now determining the
meaning of the XIV. Amendment; but it furnishes the explanation
that seems to be needed of the passage of the XV. Amendment. It
was in our view wholly unnecessary, but was generally thought to
be necessary. The difference in the two cases is that the XV.
Amendment was passed under a supposed necessity, and with,
therefore, a complete object; while the XIV. Amendment, under the
construction which our opponents give to it, not only conferred
nothing, but was believed at the time to confer nothing, and had
therefore no purpose whatever. Our view that the XV. Amendment
was unnecessary was held by some leading statesmen at the time.
Mr. Sumner in the Senate declared it to be so before its passage,
and proposed instead of it a mere law of Congress recognizing the
right of suffrage and regulating its exercise.

It is at any rate very clear that the construction of the XV.
Amendment, which makes it impliedly allow the denial of suffrage
on all other grounds than the three stated, can not be sustained.
Such rights as those with which it deals will never be allowed in
a free constitution like ours to be curtailed or restricted by
mere implication. If that construction is adopted--and a State
may deny the right to vote on all other grounds but race and
color and previous servitude--then, of course, a State may deny
the right to all naturalized foreigners, although they have
already acquired and enjoyed the right, and may also deny the
right to vote to persons of a particular height or color of hair
or profession. Indeed, to reduce the case to an absurdity,
suppose the women are allowed to vote in Massachusetts, and,
being a great majority over the men, turn around and exclude the
men. This would be precisely the ground on which women are now
excluded--that of sex; and yet can any one doubt that the
constitutional right to vote of men would be sustained?

It is worth noticing that the Act of Congress of May 31, 1870, to
carry into effect the provisions of the XIV. and XV. Amendments,
is entitled, "An Act to enforce the right of citizens of the
United States to vote in the several States of this Union."

Our conclusion, stated in a few words, is this: All women are
citizens. Every citizen, in the language of Judge Daniel in the
Dred Scott case, has "the actual possession and enjoyment or the
perfect right of acquisition and enjoyment of an entire equality
of privileges, civil and political." The right to prescribe
qualifications rests with the States, in the absence of any law
of Congress prescribing them. These qualifications involve time
of residence, age, and other matters that are entirely within the
reach of the citizen by acquisition or lapse of time. Mr. Sumner
has demonstrated in a manner that can not be answered that the
qualifications thus left for the States to prescribe must be
those under which the citizen can become a voter, and can not be
such as would permanently exclude him from the right of suffrage.

It has been said that it is not fair for women to take advantage
of a right to vote, no matter how clearly given them, which there
was no actual intention to give. This objection does not touch
the argument we have been making, but it may be well to say a
word upon it. The law has so far dealt so unfairly with women
that it would seem as if they should not be severely criticised
for taking advantage of the law, when, though by mere accident,
it happens to favor them. But it is especially to be considered
that their claim is in accordance with the whole spirit of the
Constitution and in harmony with all the fundamental principles
of our Government, while the denial of suffrage to them is in
opposition to those principles. If anything is settled in this
country as an abstract general principle, it is the right of
tax-payers to have a voice in the legislation that is to
determine their taxes and in the appointment of the officers who
are to levy and expend them, and that the members of the nation
should elect its rulers. Our error (and the day is not far
distant when we shall all see its absurdity) is in making these
fundamental rights the rights of men alone and in denying them to
women. The latter have equal intelligence, patriotism, and
virtue, and their fidelity to their country has been as well
proved as that of men, and it is difficult to see any good reason
why they should have no voice in deciding who shall be the rulers
of the nation, what its laws, what its taxes and how
appropriated, what the policy that is to affect, for good or
evil, the business interests that they are becoming more and more
largely engaged in. With all this equity in their favor, may they
not be allowed, without censure, to avail themselves of a legal
right? If the freedom of the slave could have been declared by
our judicial tribunals under some guarantee of freedom in the
National Constitution, originally intended only for white men,
all lovers of freedom would have rejoiced. When Alvan Stewart,
thirty years ago, attempted to get such a decision from the
supreme court of New Jersey, there was not a cavil heard among
the opponents of slavery. So when, in the face of the whole
legal opinion of England, Granville Sharpe got a decision in
favor of the slave Somerset, forever overthrowing slavery in
England, by an application of latent principles of the English
constitution, the whole world applauded, and does to this day. It
was thus, as we understand it, that slavery was overthrown in
Massachusetts, a lawyer claiming before its courts the
application to a slave of a clause in its bill of rights supposed
to have been intended only for white men. We would add that it
would not accord at all with the good sense and directness of
method that specially characterize the American people, for the
friends of woman suffrage to labor years for the passage of a
further constitutional amendment when they already have all that
such an amendment could give.

Having attempted a strictly legal view of this question, permit
me, gentlemen, to say that in my heart my claim to vote is based
upon the original Constitution, interpreted by the Declaration of
Independence. I believe that Constitution comprehensive enough to
include all men and all women. I believe that black men needed no
other charter than white men. I recognize the stress laid upon
Congress, by reason of the infancy of that race, their past
bondage, and the duty of protection toward them. But the great
principles of liberty and responsibility contained in the
Declaration and the Constitution should have afforded protection
to every human being living under the flag, and properly applied
they would have been found sufficient. For my own part, I will
never willingly consent to vote under any special enactment
conferring rights of citizenship upon me as upon an alien. Like
Paul, I was free-born. "With a great sum obtained I this
freedom," said the Roman centurion to this old patriot apostle,
but he replied, "I am free-born." There is music in those words
to my ear. They are the deep vibrations of a soul that loves its
country as itself.

You sit here, gentlemen, in judgment on my rights as an American
citizen, as though they were something different from your own!
By whatsoever title you sit in these seats and make laws, wise or
unwise, just or unjust, for this great people, by that same title
do I claim my share in this great responsibility, owing
allegiance to God and my own conscience alone. I may have been
born with less capacity than the least among you, with small
chance of growing to your mental stature, or reaching your
standard of moral elevation; but I have a perfect right to sit in
your midst, pigmy that I may be, since I am one of "the people"
who did ordain this glorious old Constitution, and one of "the
governed," whose consent is made the basis of a government that
can be called just.

It is for this reason that I and my fellow memorialists have
asked to be protected in the use of our present rights, rather
than endowed with any new ones; and we do pray you, gentlemen of
the committee, to give immediate attention to our claim, and to
report to the Senate within a short time, favorably if you can,
adversely if you must, because we not only wish, in common with
thousands of other women-citizens, to vote for the next
President, but to have a potent voice in his nomination, and we
wish to know, therefore, how far Congress will aid us, and how
far we must work out our own salvation.



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