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That is, as I hold, an
entire mistake. The leading object of the second section was the
readjustment of the representation of the States in Congress,
rendered necessary by the abolition of chattel slavery [not of
political slavery], effected by the XIII. Amendment. This object
the section accomplishes, and in this respect it remains wholly
untouched, by my construction of it. Neither do I think the
position tenable which has been taken by one tribunal, to which
the consideration of this subject was presented, that the
constitutional provision does not execute itself. The provisions
on which we rely were negative merely, and were designed to
nullify existing as well as any future State legislation
interfering with our rights. This result was accomplished by the
constitution itself. Undoubtedly before we could exercise our
right, it was necessary that there should be a time and place
appointed for holding the election and proper officers to hold
it, with suitable arrangements for receiving and counting the
votes. All this was properly done by existing laws, and our right
being made complete by the Constitution, no further legislation
was required in our behalf. When the State officers attempted to
interpose between us and the ballot-box the State Constitution or
State law, whether ancient or recent, abridging or denying our
equal right to vote with other citizens, we had but to refer to
the United States Constitution, prohibiting the States from
enforcing any such constitutional provision or law, and our
rights were complete; we needed neither Congressional nor State
legislation in aid of them. The opinion of Mr. Justice Bradley,
in a case in the United States Circuit Court in New Orleans (1
Abb. U. S. Rep., 402) would seem to be decisive of this question,
although the right involved in that case was not that of the
elective franchise. The learned Justice says:

It was very ably contended on the part of the defendants
that the XIV. Amendment was intended only to secure to all
citizens equal capacities before the law. That was at first
our view of it. But it does not so read. The language is:
"No State shall abridge the privileges or immunities of
citizens of the United States." What are the privileges and
immunities of citizens? Are they capacities merely? Are they
not also rights?

Senator Carpenter, who took part in the discussion of the XIV.
Amendment in the Senate, and aided in its passage, says:

The XIV. Amendment executes itself in every State of the
Union.... It is thus the will of the United States in every
State, and silences every State Constitution, usage, or law
which conflicts with it.... And if this provision does
protect the colored citizen, then it protects every citizen,
black or white, male or female.... And all the privileges
and immunities which I vindicate to a colored citizen, I
vindicate to our mothers, our sisters, and our
daughters.--_Chicago Legal News_, vol. IV., No. 15.

It has been said, with how much or how little truth I do not
know, that the subject of securing to women the elective
franchise was not considered in the preparation or in the
adoption of these Amendments. It is wholly immaterial whether
that was so or not. It is never possible to arrive at the
intention of the people in adopting constitutions, except by
referring to the language used. As is said by Mr. Cooley, "the
intent is to be found in the instrument itself" (p. 55), and to
that I have confined my remarks. It is not a new thing for
constitutional and legislative acts to have an effect beyond the
anticipation of those who framed them. It is undoubtedly true,
that in exacting _Magna Charta_ from King John, the Barons of
England provided better securities for the rights of the common
people than they were aware of at the time, although the rights
of the common people were neither forgotten nor neglected by
them. It has also been said, perhaps with some truth, that the
framers of the original Constitution of the United States
"builded better than they knew;" and it is quite possible that in
framing the Amendments under consideration, those engaged in
doing it have accomplished a much greater work than they were at
the time, aware of. I am quite sure that it will be fortunate for
the country, if this great question of female suffrage, than
which few greater were ever presented for the consideration of
any people, shall be found, almost unexpectedly, to have been put
at rest. The opinion of Mr. Justice Bradley, in regard to this
Amendment, in the case above referred to, if I understand it,
corresponds very nearly with what I have here said. The learned
Judge, in one part of his opinion, says:

It is possible that those who framed the article were not
themselves aware of the far-reaching character of its terms.
They may have had in mind but one particular phase of social
and political wrong, which they desired to redress--yet, if
the Amendment, as framed and expressed, does, in fact, have
a broader meaning, and does extend its protecting shield
over those who were never thought of when it was conceived
and put in form, and does reach such social evils which were
never before prohibited by constitutional amendment, it is
to be presumed that the American people, in giving it their
imprimatur, understood what they were doing, and meant to
decree what has, in fact, been done.... It embraces much
more. The "privileges and immunities" secured by the
original Constitution were only such as each State gave its
own citizens. Each was prohibited from discriminating in
favor of its own citizens, and against the citizens of other
States. But the XIV. Amendment prohibits any State from
abridging the privileges or immunities of the citizens of
the United States, whether its own citizens or any others.
It not merely requires equality of privileges, but it
demands that the privileges and immunities of all citizens
shall be absolutely unabridged, unimpaired. (1 Abbott's U.
S. Rep., 397).

It will doubtless be urged as an objection to my position (that
citizenship carries with it the right to vote) that it would, in
that case, follow that infants and lunatics, who, as well as
adults and persons of sound mind, are citizens, would also have
that right. This objection, which appears to have great weight
with certain classes of persons, is entirely without force. It
takes no note of the familiar fact, that every legislative
provision, whether constitutional or statutory, which confers any
discretionary power, is always confined in its operation to
persons who are _compos mentis_. It is wholly unnecessary to
except idiots and lunatics out of any such statute. They are
excluded from the very nature of the case. The contrary
supposition would be simply absurd. And, in respect to every such
law, infants, during their minority, are in the same class. But
are women, who are not infants, ever included in this category?
Does any such principle of exclusion apply to them? Not at all.
On the contrary, they stand, in this respect, upon the same
footing as men, with the sole exception of the right to vote and
the right to hold office. In every other respect, whatever rights
and powers are conferred upon persons by law may be exercised by
women as well as by men. They may transact any kind of business
for themselves, or as agents or trustees for others; may be
executors and administrators, with the same powers and
responsibilities as men; and it ought not to be a matter of
surprise or regret that they are now placed, by the XIV.
Amendment, in other respects upon a footing of perfect equality.

Although not directly connected with the argument as to the right
secured to women by the Constitution, I deem it not improper to
allude briefly to some of the popular objections against the
propriety of allowing females the privilege of voting. I do this
because I know from past experience that these popular
objections, having no logical bearing upon the subject, are yet,
practically, among the most potent arguments against the
interpretation of the XIV. Amendment, which I consider the only
one that its language fairly admits of.

It is said that women do not desire to vote. Certainly many women
do not but that furnishes no reason for denying the right to
those who do desire to vote. Many men decline to vote. Is that a
reason for denying the right to those who would vote? I believe,
however, that the public mind is greatly in error in regard to
the proportion of female citizens who would vote if their right
to do so were recognized. In England there has been to some
extent a test of that question, with the following result, as
given in the newspapers, the correctness of which, in this
respect, I think there is no reason to doubt:

Woman suffrage is, to a certain extent, established in
England, with the result as detailed in the London
_Examiner_, that in 66 municipal elections, out of every
1,000 women who enjoy equal rights with men on the register,
516 went to the poll, which is but 48 less than the
proportionate number of men. And out of 27,949 women
registered, where a contest occurred, 14,416 voted.



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