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comments were made by the press of the State, Democrats generally
sustaining her, while Republicans were bitter in opposition. Mrs.
Ricker in the meantime prepared to sue the selectmen, but being
strongly opposed by her republican friends, she silently submitted to
the injustice, and thus lost the opportunity of being the first woman
to prosecute the authorities for refusing the vote of a citizen on the
ground of sex. However, she still enjoys the distinction of being the
first woman to cast a vote under the XIV. Amendment, as the following
spring she saw that her name was on the registry list, and her vote
was received without opposition.

The next case was that of Nannette B. Gardner, in Detroit, Michigan.
She registered her name in that city March 25, 1871, and voted,[165]
unquestioned, April 3d. April 20th, of the same year, Sara Andrews
Spencer and Sarah E. Webster, with seventy other women of the District
of Columbia, marched in a body to the polls, but their votes were
refused at the election as they had been previously refused
registration. They immediately took steps to prosecute the Board of
Inspectors, and suit was brought in the Supreme Court of the District
at the general term, October, 1871. Albert G. Riddle and Francis
Miller, able lawyers of the District, and well known advocates of
woman suffrage, were retained by the plaintiffs, and in their defense
made the following arguments:

Mr. RIDDLE said: May it please the Court; ... These plaintiffs,
describing themselves as women, claim to be citizens of the
United States and of this District, with the right of the
elective franchise, which they attempted to exercise at the
election of April 20th last past, and were prevented. They say
that as registration was a prerequisite of the right to vote,
they tendered themselves in due form, and demanded it, under the
second section of the Act of May 31, 1870 (16th U.S. Stats.,
140). That is the "Act to enforce the right of citizens of the
United States to vote," etc., and authorizes a suit for refusing
registration. They say, that being refused registration, they
tendered their votes to the proper inspectors of said election,
with proof of their attempt to register, citizenship, etc., as
authorized by the third section of said Act, and their votes were
refused; and, thereupon, Spencer brings her suit under said
second section, against the registering officers, and Webster
hers under the third section, which authorizes it, for rejecting
her vote. The questions in both cases are identical and presented
together.

To the declarations the defendants demur, and thereby raise the
only questions we desire to have adjudicated. The defendants, by
their demurrer, admit all the allegations of the plaintiffs,
severally, but say, that as they are women, they are not entitled
to vote in the District of Columbia. That the seventh section of
the organic Act, the Constitution of the District, provides,
"That all male citizens," etc., "shall be entitled to vote,"
etc., and that this word male excludes women, of course.

To this the plaintiffs reply that the language of the statute
does exclude women, but they say that in the presence of the
first section of the XIV. Amendment, which confers the elective
franchise upon "all persons," this word "male" is as if
unwritten, and that the statute, constitutionally, reads, "That
all citizens shall be entitled to vote." For we contend, your
honors, that although the Congress "has exclusive legislation in
all cases over this District," it can legislate only, as could
the States, from which it was taken. It must legislate in
accordance with American ideas, and can exercise no power not
granted by the Constitution; and that instrument certainly
confers no power to limit the right of suffrage. And so we are at
issue....

As the FIRST proposition of my brief, I contend, _that under our
system the right to vote is a natural right_.

Obviously, government is of right or it is an usurpation. If of
right, it sprang from some right older than itself; and this
older right must have existed in persons (people), in each and
all alike, male and female. And having this right, they used it
to form for themselves a government. Of course, this supposes
that all joined in and consented to the government having the
power to dissent; for, to just the extent that a government got
itself agoing without the free consent of its people, it is
without right. The right of self-government, and from that
springs our right to govern others, is a natural right. This is
the primary idea of American politics, and the foundation of our
Government. This was formulated in the second clause of our great
Declaration, and no man has dared to deny it....

It follows, then, if the right of government is a natural right,
and to be exercised alone by the ballot, that the right to vote
is a natural right. This never has been and never can be
successfully controverted....

I will read from the highest American authority upon our
politico-constitutional questions, partly in support of my
proposition that the right to vote is a natural right, and also
to show that the assumed claim of one part of the people to
exclude another from all share in the Government has the most
doubtful and shadowy foundation in right, and to an American it
needs no evidence to show that a portion of the people thus
excluded are in a state of vassalage. I read from Story on the
Constitution, volume 1st, commencing at

Sec. 578. The most strenuous advocate for universal suffrage
has never yet contended that the right should be absolutely
universal. No one has ever been sufficiently visionary to
hold that all persons of every age, degree, and character,
should be entitled to vote in all elections of all public
officers. Idiots, infants, minors, and persons insane or
utterly imbecile, have been, without scruple, denied the
right as not having the sound judgment and discretion fit
for its exercise. In many countries, persons guilty of
crimes have also been denied the right as a personal
punishment, or as a security to society. In most countries,
females, whether married or single, have been purposely
excluded from voting, as interfering with sound policy and
the harmony of social life ... And yet it would be extremely
difficult, upon any mere theoretical reasoning, to establish
any satisfactory principle upon which the one-half of every
society has thus been systematically excluded by the other
half from all right of participating in government, which
would not at the same time apply to and justify many other
exclusions. If it be said that all men have a natural,
equal, and inalienable right to vote, because they are all
born free and equal; that they all have common rights and
interests entitled to protection; and, therefore, have an
equal right to decide, either personally or by their chosen
representatives, upon the laws and regulations which shall
control, measure, and sustain those rights and interests;
that they can not be compelled to surrender, except by their
free consent, what by the bounty and order of Providence
belongs to them in common with all their race. What is there
in these considerations which is not equally applicable to
females as free, intelligent, moral, responsible beings,
entitled to equal rights and interests and protection, and
having a vital stake in all the regulations and laws of
society? And, if an exception, from the nature of the case,
could be felt in regard to persons who are idiots, infants,
and insane, how can this apply to persons who are of more
mature growth, and are yet deemed minors by the municipal
law?

SEC. 580. If, then, every well-organized society has the
right to consult for the common good of the whole; and if,
upon the principle of natural law, this right is conceded by
the very union of society, it seems difficult to assign any
limit to this right which is compatible with the due
attainment of the end proposed. If, therefore, any society
shall deem the common good and interests of the whole
society best promoted under the particular circumstances in
which it is placed by a restriction of the right of
suffrage, it is not easy to state any solid ground of
objection to its exercise of such an authority. At least, if
any society has a clear right to deprive females,
constituting one-half of the whole population, of the right
of suffrage (which, with scarcely an exception, has been
uniformly maintained), it will require some astuteness to
find upon what ground this exclusion can be vindicated,
which does justify, or at least excuse, many other
exclusions.

Sec. 581. Without laying any stress upon this theoretical
reasoning which is brought before the reader, not so much
because it solves all doubts and objections, as because it
presents a view of the serious difficulties attendant upon
the assumption of an original and inalienable right of
suffrage, as originating in natural law, and independent of
civil law, it may be proper to state that every civilized
society has uniformly fixed, modified, and regulated the
right of suffrage for itself according to its own free will
and pleasure.



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