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We were one hundred years coming to it; but we have
reached it at last--certainly by recognizing the political rights
of the black man--and, as I believe, those of woman; and that is
all this Court is called upon here to declare, to wit: that the
Declaration of Independence has been enacted into law, and that
you will see that that law is enforced.

* * * * *

If I have established, as I believe I have, that under the first
section of the XIV. Amendment women have the right to vote, and
there is any particular limitation in the second section that
contradicts it, that part of the amendment falls void and
useless, so far as its effect upon woman is concerned. There is
the declaration of the general principles expressly stated; and,
if there is anything contradictory, "the particular and inferior
can not defeat the general and superior." (Lieber's Hermeneutics,
p. 120.) The great object of that XIV. Amendment, so far as it
can be deduced from the words in which it is expressed, is this:
that the rights of the citizens of the United States shall not be
abridged. If there is anything contradictory of that in the
subsequent sections, those sections must fall. But if the second
section affects this argument at all, it is because it seems, by
implication, to admit that the rights of certain male citizens of
the United States can be denied. That is the whole force and
effect of it--I mean so far as this argument is concerned. All
that can be claimed for it is, that by implication, perhaps, it
would permit that to be done. The XV. Amendment comes in and
says, in express terms, that that which the second section by
implication permits, shall not be done; and by this declaration
it strikes out that section, and it is no more in the
Constitution now than is that clause of the second section of the
first article of the Constitution which permitted States to deny
suffrage to any of their citizens--black or white. That section
is gone. It is no more a part of the Constitution, because it has
been absolutely repealed by the adoption of the XIV. Amendment.
Just so this second section of the XIV. Amendment disappeared by
the operation of the XV. Amendment.

SECTION 1. 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.

SEC. 2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this
article by appropriate legislation. (15 Stat., p. 345.)

The CHIEF JUSTICE.--There is a very strong implication, is there
not, in that Amendment, that you may deny the right of suffrage
for other causes.

Mr. MILLER.--I do not think there can be any implication by which
a citizen may be robbed of a fundamental right. It must be
something expressed. I do not believe in any power of taking away
the rights of citizens by construction. No human being can be
robbed of his God-given rights by implication. You can not take
away his property by implication. You can not take away his
liberty. I think it is equally true that you can not take away
his right of self-government by implication.

Finally, in regard to the construction of this XIV. Amendment, it
must be observed that it is remedial in its character, and it
must be "construed liberally to carry out the beneficent
principles it was intended to embody," (Dwarris on Statutory Law,
p. 632,) and that "its construction must be extended to other
cases within the reason and rule of it." (Lord Mansfield in
Atcheson _vs._ Everett, Cowper, 382, 391.) Lieber's fourteenth
rule of construction is:

Let the weak have the benefit of a doubt without defeating
the general object of a law. Let mercy prevail, if there be
real doubt. (Lieber's Hermeneutics, p. 144.)

Now, if mercy must prevail when there is real doubt, still more
should justice prevail if there is any doubt. If your honors have
any doubt in regard to this decision, I call upon you, not in the
name of mercy, but in the name of justice, to give us the benefit
of that doubt, and to recognize the right of all human beings to
govern themselves.

* * * * *

Chief Justice Cartter then delivered the opinion of the court,
sustaining the demurrer, which is as follows:

These cases, involving the same questions, are presented
together. As shown by the plaintiffs' brief, the plaintiffs claim
the elective franchise under the first section of the XIV.
Amendment of the Constitution. The fourth paragraph of the
regulations of the Governor and Judges of the District, made
registration a condition precedent to the right of voting at the
election of April 20th, 1871. The plaintiffs, being otherwise
qualified, offered to register, and were refused. They then
tendered their ballots at the polls, with evidence of
qualification and offer to register, etc., when their ballots
were rejected under the seventh section of the act providing a
government for the District of Columbia. Mrs. Spencer brings her
suit for this refusal of registration, and Mrs. Webster for the
rejection of her vote, under the second and third sections of the
act of May 31, 1870. The seventh section of the organic act above
referred to, limits the right to vote to "all male citizens," but
it is contended that in the presence of the XIV. Amendment, the
word male is without effect, and the act authorizes "all
citizens" to exercise the elective franchise. The question
involved in the two actions which have been argued, and which,
for the purposes of judgment, may be regarded as one, is, whether
the plaintiffs have a right to exercise within this jurisdiction,
the elective franchise. The letter of the law controlling the
subject is to be found in the seventh section of the act of
February 21, 1871, entitled, "An Act to provide a government for
the District of Columbia," as follows:

_And be it further enacted_, That all male citizens of the
United States, above the age of twenty-one years, who shall
have been actual residents of said District for three months
prior to the passage of this act, except such as are _non
compos mentis_, and persons convicted of infamous crimes,
shall be entitled to vote at said election, in the election
district or precinct in which he shall then reside, and
shall have so resided for thirty days immediately preceding
said election, and shall be eligible to any office within
the said district, and for all subsequent elections, twelve
months prior residence shall be required to constitute a
voter; but the Legislative Assembly shall have no right to
abridge or limit the right of suffrage.

It will be seen by the terms of this act that females are not
included within its privileges. On the contrary, by implication,
they are excluded. We do not understand that it is even insisted
in argument that authority for the exercise of the franchise is
to be derived from law. The position taken is, that the
plaintiffs have a right to vote, independent of the law; even in
defiance of the terms of the law. The claim, as we understand it,
is, that they have an inherent right, resting in nature, and
guaranteed by the Constitution in such wise that it may not be
defeated by legislation. In virtue of this natural and
constitutional right, the plaintiffs ask the court to overrule
the law, and give effect to rights lying behind it, and rising
superior to its authority.

The Court has listened patiently and with interest to ingenious
argument in support of the claim, but have failed to be convinced
of the correctness of the position, whether on authority or in
reason. In all periods, and in all countries, it may be safely
assumed that no privilege has been held to be more exclusively
within the control of conventional power than the privilege of
voting, each State in turn regulating the subject by the
sovereign political will. The nearest approach to the natural
right to vote, or govern--two words in this connection signifying
the same thing--is to be found in those countries and governments
that assert the hereditary right to rule. The assumption of
Divine right would be a full vindication of the natural right
contended for here, provided it did not involve the hereditary
obligation to obey.

Again, in other States, embracing the Republics, and especially
our own, including the States which make up the United States,
this right has been made to rest upon the authority of political
power, defining who may be an elector, and what shall constitute
his qualification; most States in the past period declaring
property as the familiar basis of a right to vote; others,
intelligence; others, more numerous, extending the right to all
male persons who have attained the age of majority. While the
conditions of the right have varied in several States, and from
time to time been modified in the same State, the right has
uniformly rested upon the express authority of the political
power, and been made to revolve within the limitations of express
law.

Passing from this brief allusion to the political history of the
question to the consideration of its inherent merits, we do not
hesitate to believe that the legal vindication of the natural
right of all citizens to vote would, at this stage of popular
intelligence, involve the destruction of civil government.



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