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It can not be disputed, that upon this principle of
absolute political equality, our Government is founded. So
thought the Hon. Luther Martin, of Maryland, one of the most
distinguished lawyers of his day, and a member of the convention
that framed our Constitution. We quote his own words. (Elliott's
Debates, Vol. 4.)

This, sir, is the substance of the arguments, if arguments
they may be called, which were used in favor of inequality
of suffrage. Those who advocated the equality of suffrage,
took the matter up on the original principles of government;
they urged that all men considered in a state of nature,
before any government is formed, are equally free and
independent, no one having any right or authority to
exercise power over another, and this, without any regard to
difference in personal strength, understanding, or wealth.
That when such individuals enter into government, they have
each a right to an equal voice in its first formation, and
afterward have each a right to an equal vote in every matter
which relates to their government; that if it could be done
conveniently, they have a right to exercise it in person;
when it can not be done in person but for convenience,
representatives are appointed to act for them; every person
has a right to an equal vote in choosing that representative
who is entrusted to do for the whole, that which the whole,
if they could assemble, might do in person, and in the
transacting of which each would have an equal voice. That if
we were to admit, because a man was more wise, more strong,
or more wealthy, he should be entitled to more votes than
another, it would be inconsistent with the freedom and
liberty of that other, and would reduce him to slavery.
Suppose, for instance, ten individuals in a state of nature
about to enter into government, nine of whom are equally
wise, equally strong, and equally wealthy, the tenth is ten
times as wise, ten times as strong, or ten times as rich; if
for this reason he is to have ten votes for each vote of
either of the others, the nine might as well have no vote at
all; since, though the whole nine might assent to a measure,
yet the vote of the tenth would countervail and set aside
all their votes.

If this tenth approved of what they wished to adopt, it
would be well, but if he disapproved, he could prevent it,
and in the same manner he could carry into execution any
measure he wished, contrary to the opinion of all the
others, he having ten votes, and the others all together but
nine. It is evident that on these principles the nine would
have no will or discretion of their own, but must be totally
dependent on the will and discretion of the tenth; to him
they would be as absolutely slaves as any negro is to his
master; if he did not attempt to carry into execution any
measure injurious to the other nine, it could only be said
that they had a good master; they would not be the less
slaves, because they would be totally dependent on the will
of another, and not on their own will. They might not feel
their chains, but they would notwithstanding wear them, and
whenever their master pleased he might draw them so tight as
to gall them to the bone. Hence it was urged the inequality
of representation, or giving to one man more votes than
another on account of his wealth, etc., was altogether
inconsistent with the principles of liberty, and in the same
proportion as it should be adopted in favor of one or more,
in that proportion are the others enslaved.

These are the words, not lightly uttered, nor to be by us lightly
considered, of one of the framers of the Constitution; and in
complete accord with this principle of entire equality of
individual right, see how those men who had fought through the
War of Independence did their work. Upon what broad and
comprehensive foundations it is laid. Examine the Constitution,
the work of their hands. Do we find any recognition of inequality
of rights? Not a syllable. On the contrary, every safeguard is
thrown around them; "no State shall pass any bill of attainder,"
or "grant any title of nobility." So, too, when it comes to the
practical recognition of these rights at the ballot-box, all are
included. "The House of Representatives shall be composed of
members chosen every second year by the people of the several
States," not by a part--not by the "males"--but simply by "the
people of the several States." The same "people" who ordain and
establish that Constitution as the supreme law of the land, they
are to do the voting, they are to elect. There is not one word as
to sex. The elector, male or female, must be one of the people or
citizens, that is all. But when these electors come to exercise
this right or privilege, then the matter of qualification arises,
the age of the elector, the time, place, and manner of the
exercise of the right, are to be considered, and the convention,
instead of laying down a uniform rule or standard for all the
States, which would have produced change and confusion, thought
it best to leave this feature of it as it already stood in the
several States. But the right itself is secured to the people of
the United States, and in its very nature can not be derived from
any other authority.

We deem it proper, in this connection, to refer to the well-known
fact that women voted in one of the States (New Jersey) down to
the year 1807, when they were unjustly deprived of the right, by
an act of the Legislature of that State. We say unjustly, because
no Legislature can deprive a citizen of a constitutional right,
and the matter has slumbered ever since. The Constitution of New
Jersey, adopted in 1776, used the term "inhabitants" in
describing electors, and under this Constitution women were
recognized as voters, as well as men. In conformity with this
constitutional provision the statute law was so worded as to read
"he or she," in speaking of electors thus affording a
contemporaneous and legislative attestation of the truth of our
statement. This law of 1776 could not, of course, be the source
of authority to any one for voting under a sovereignty not then
in existence, not created until 1789, thirteen years afterward.
Therefore, when the elector, male or female, in New Jersey, voted
for Federal officers in 1789, it was done by virtue of his or her
status of citizenship, under the new and paramount sovereignty,
and not under the law of 1776; and so it has continued ever
since, the elector voting for United States officers by virtue of
his citizenship of the United States, and for State officers as a
citizen of the State. We believe, then, we are justified in the
statement that white women in New Jersey voted, under State
authority, for the members of the Constitutional Convention of
1787. That they next voted, under like authority, for the
ratification of the newly framed Constitution of the United
States; and then, that Constitution having been adopted, as
newly-created citizens of the newly-created sovereignty, the
white women of New Jersey voted at the five succeeding
Presidential elections--for Washington, for Adams, and for
Jefferson. The contest in 1800 was bitter beyond all precedent,
and we are told that all the women of the State entitled to vote
did so. We refer to the Constitution and laws of New Jersey; to a
work entitled _The Historical Magazine_, published in Boston in
1857, Vol. I., p. 361; to the _National Intelligencer_,
Washington, October 3, 1857; to _Notes and Queries_, Vol. VIII.,
p. 171, August, 1853.

But apart from these considerations, which we deem amply
sufficient to sustain our position, an examination into the
nature and character of the right itself will further show that
it is one of which the citizen can not justly be deprived, save
for cause.

The first amendment to the Constitution declares that Congress
shall make no law abridging freedom of speech or of the press,
thus incorporating into the organic law of this country absolute
freedom of thought or opinion. We presume it will not be doubted
that the States are equally bound with Congress by this
prohibition, not only because, as Chief-Justice Taney says, "the
Constitution of the United States, and every article and clause
in it, is a part of the law of every State in the Union, and is
the paramount law" (Prigg _vs._ The Comm., 16 Peters R., 628),
but because, in the very nature of things, freedom of speech or
of thought can not be divided. It is a personal attribute, and
once secured is forever secured. To vote is but one form or
method of expressing this freedom of speech. Speech is a
declaration of thought. A vote is the expression of the will,
preference, or choice. Suffrage is one definition of the word,
while the verb is defined, to choose by suffrage, to elect, to
express or signify the mind, will, or preference, either _viva
voce_, or by ballot. We claim then that the right to vote, or
express one's wish at the polls, is embraced in the spirit, if
not the letter, of the First Amendment, and every citizen is
entitled to the protection it affords. It is the merest mockery
to say to this plaintiff, you may write, print, publish, or
speak your thoughts upon every occasion, except at the polls.
There your lips shall be sealed.



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