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If Hindoo women could have shaped the
laws of India, would widows for ages have been burned on the
funeral pyres of their deceased husbands? If Jewish women had had
a voice in framing Jewish laws, would the husband, at his own
pleasure, have been allowed to "write his wife a bill of
divorcement and give it in her hand, and send her out of his
house"? Would women in Turkey or Persia have made it a heinous,
if not capital, offense for a wife to be seen abroad with her
face not covered by an impenetrable veil? Would women in England,
however learned, have been for ages subjected to execution for
offenses for which men, who could read, were only subjected to
burning in the hand and a few months imprisonment?

The principle which governs in these cases, or which has done so
hitherto, has been at all times and everywhere the same. Those
who succeed in obtaining power, no matter by what means, will,
with rare exceptions, use it for their exclusive benefit. Often,
perhaps generally, this is done in the honest belief that such
use is for the best good of all who are affected by it. A wrong,
however, to those upon whom it is inflicted, is none the less a
wrong by reason of the good motives of the party by whom it is
inflicted.

The condition of subjection in which women have been held is the
result of this principle; the result of superior strength, not of
superior rights, on the part of men. Superior strength, combined
with ignorance and selfishness, but not with malice. It is a
relic of the barbarism in the shadow of which nations have grown
up. Precisely as nations have receded from barbarism the severity
of that subjection has been relaxed. So long as merely physical
power governed in the affairs of the world, the wrongs done to
women were without the possibility of redress or relief; but
since nations have come to be governed by laws, there is room to
hope, though the process may still be a slow one, that injustice
in all its forms, or at least political injustice, may be
extinguished. No injustice can be greater than to deny to any
class of citizens not guilty of crime, all share in the political
power of a State, that is, all share in the choice of rulers, and
in the making and administration of the laws. Persons to which
such share is denied, are essentially slaves, because they hold
their rights, if they can be said to have any, subject to the
will of those who hold the political power. For this reason it
has been found necessary to give the ballot to the emancipated
slaves. Until this was done their emancipation was far from
complete. Without a share in the political powers of the State,
no class of citizens has any security for its rights, and the
history of nations to which I briefly alluded, shows that women
constitute no exception to the universality of this rule.

Great errors, I think, exist in the minds of both the advocates
and the opponents of this measure in their anticipation of the
immediate effects to be produced by its adoption. On the one hand
it is supposed by some that the character of women would be
radically changed--that they would be unsexed, as it were, by
clothing them with political rights, and that instead of modest,
amiable, and graceful beings, we should have bold, noisy, and
disgusting political demagogues, or something worse, if anything
worse can be imagined. I think those who entertain such opinions
are in error. The innate character of women is the result of
God's laws, not of man's, nor can the laws of man affect that
character beyond a very slight degree. Whatever rights may be
given to them, and whatever duties may be charged upon them by
human laws, their general character will remain unchanged. Their
modesty, their delicacy, and intuitive sense of propriety, will
never desert them, into whatever new positions their added rights
or duties may carry them.

So far as women, without change of character as women, are
qualified to discharge the duties of citizenship, they will
discharge them if called upon to do so, and beyond that they will
not go. Nature has put barriers in the way of any excessive
devotion of women to public affairs, and it is not necessary that
nature's work in that respect should be supplemented by
additional barriers invented by men. Such offices as women are
qualified to fill will be sought by those who do not find other
employment, and others they will not seek, or if they do, will
seek in vain. To aid in removing as far as possible the
disheartening difficulties which women dependent upon their own
exertions encounter, it is, I think, desirable that such official
positions as they can fill should be thrown open to them, and
that they should be given the same power that men have to aid
each other by their votes. I would say, remove all legal barriers
that stand in the way of their finding employment, official or
unofficial, and leave them, as men are left, to depend for
success upon their character and their abilities. As long as men
are allowed to act as milliners, with what propriety can they
exclude women from the post of school commissioners when chosen
to such positions by their neighbors?

To deny them such rights, is to leave them in a condition of
political servitude as absolute as that of the African slaves
before their emancipation. This conclusion is readily to be
deduced from the opinion of Chief-Justice Jay in the case of
Chisholm's Ex'rs _vs._ The State of Georgia (2 Dallas, 419-471),
although the learned Chief-Justice had of course no idea of any
such application as I make of his opinion. The action was
assumpsit by a citizen of the State of South Carolina, and the
question was, whether the United States Court had jurisdiction,
the State of Georgia declining to appear. The Chief-Justice, in
the course of his opinion, after alluding to the feudal idea of
the character of the sovereign in England, and giving some of the
reasons why he was not subject to suit before the courts of the
kingdom, says:

The same feudal ideas run through all their jurisprudence,
and constantly remind us of the distinction between the
prince and the subject. No such ideas obtain here. At the
Revolution the sovereignty devolved on the people; and they
are truly the sovereigns of the country, but they are
sovereigns without subjects (unless the African slaves among
us may be so called), and have none to govern but
themselves; the citizens of America are equal as
fellow-citizens, and as joint tenants in the sovereignty.

Now I beg leave to ask, in case this charge against Miss Anthony
can be sustained, what equality and what sovereignty is enjoyed
by the half of the citizens of these United States to which she
belongs? Do they not, in that event, occupy politically exactly
the position which the learned Chief-Justice assigns to the
African slaves? Are they not shown to be subjects of the other
half, who are the sovereigns? And is not their political
subjection as absolute as was that of the African slaves? If that
charge has any basis to rest upon, the learned Chief-Justice was
wrong. The sovereigns of this country, according to the theory of
this prosecution, are not sovereigns without subjects. Though two
or three millions of their subjects have lately ceased to be
such, and have become freemen, they still hold twenty millions of
subjects in absolute political bondage. If it be said that my
language is stronger than the facts warrant, I appeal to the
record in this case for its justification.

As deductions from what has been said, I respectfully insist,
1st, That upon the principles upon which our government is based,
the privileges of the elective franchise can not justly be denied
to women. 2d. That women need it for their protection. 3d. That
the welfare of both sexes will be promoted by granting it to
them.

It would not become me, however clear my own convictions may be
on the subject, to assert the right of women, under our
Constitution and laws as they now are, to vote at Presidential
and Congressional elections, is free from doubt, because very
able men have expressed contrary opinions on that question, and,
so far as I am informed, there has been no authoritative
adjudication upon it; or, at all events, none upon which the
public mind has been content to rest as conclusive. I proceed,
therefore, to offer such suggestions as occur to me, and to refer
to such authorities bearing upon the question, as have fallen
under my observation, hoping to satisfy your honor, not only that
my client has committed no criminal offense, but that she has
done nothing which she had not a legal and Constitutional right
to do. It is not claimed that, under our State Constitution and
the laws made in pursuance of it, women are authorized to vote at
elections, other than those of private corporations, and
consequently the right of Miss Anthony to vote at the election in
question, can only be established by reference to an authority
superior to and sufficient to overcome the provisions of our
State Constitution. Such authority can only be found, and I claim
that it is found in the Constitution of the United States. For
convenience I beg leave to bring together the various provisions
of that Constitution which bear more or less directly upon the
question:

ARTICLE I, Section 2.



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