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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. It is impossible that this can
be American law!

Again, it is the opinion of some that suffrage is somehow lodged
in the government, whence it is dispensed, or conferred upon the
citizen, thus completely reversing the actual fact. Suffrage is
never conferred by government upon the citizen. He holds it by a
higher title. In this country government is the source of power,
not of rights. These are vested in the individual--are personal
and inalienable. Society can only acquire the authority to
regulate these rights, or declare them forfeited, for cause. The
time, place, and manner of their exercise are under governmental
control, but their origin and source are in the individual
himself.

I shall, therefore, says a writer on government, assume it
as an incontrovertible position, as a first principle, that
the right of private opinion, which is, in fact, no other
than the right of private judgment upon any subject
presented to the mind, is a sacred right, with which society
can, on no pretense, authoritatively interfere, without a
violation of the first principles of the law of nature.
(Chipman on Government, chap. 5.)

Other liberties, says Erskine, are held under governments,
but the liberty of opinion keeps governments themselves in
due subjection to their duties. (Speech in defense of Thomas
Paine.)

But this clause of the Missouri law further violates the XIII.
Amendment, which declares that neither slavery nor involuntary
servitude shall exist in the United States, except for crime,
etc. This Amendment is a copy of the 6th clause of the famous
Ordinance of 1787, which secured freedom for the Northwest
Territory, and has now become the organic law for the entire
Union. This Ordinance was drawn by the Hon. Nathan Dane, of
Massachusetts.[178]

We say that this Missouri law violates this amendment, inasmuch
as it places the plaintiff in a disfranchised condition, which is
none other than a condition of servitude--of "involuntary
servitude," because, although a citizen in the fullest
acceptation of the term--a member of this body politic--one of
the "people"--she has never consented to this law; has never been
permitted to express either consent or dissent, nor given any
opportunity to express her opinion thereon, in the manner pointed
out by law, while at the same time she is taxed, and her property
taken to pay the very men who sat in judgment upon and condemned
her!

Finally--Such is the nature of this privilege--so individual--so
purely personal is its character, that its indefinite extension
detracts not in the slightest degree from those who already enjoy
it, and by an affirmation of the plaintiff's claim all womanhood
would be elevated into that condition of self-respect that
perfect freedom alone can give.


RESUME--(Minor _vs._ Happersett, 21 Wallace Rep., p. 164.)

1st. As a citizen of the United States, the plaintiff is entitled
to any and all the "privileges and immunities" that belong to
such position however defined; and as are held, exercised, and
enjoyed by other citizens of the United States.

2d. The elective franchise is a "privilege" of citizenship, in
the highest sense of the word. It is the privilege preservative
of all rights and privileges; and especially of the right of the
citizen to participate in his or her government.

3d. The denial or abridgment of this privilege, if it exist at
all, must be sought only in the fundamental charter of
government--the Constitution of the United States. If not found
there, no inferior power or jurisdiction can legally claim the
right to exercise it.

4th. But the Constitution of the United States, so far from
recognizing or permitting any denial or abridgment of the
privileges of its citizens, expressly declares that "no State
shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges
or immunities of citizens of the United States."

5th. It follows that the provisions of the Missouri Constitution
and registry law before recited, are in conflict with and must
yield to the paramount authority of the Constitution of the
United States.

A few words more and we have done. The plaintiff has sought, by
this action, for the establishment of a great principle of
fundamental right, applicable not only to herself, but to the
class to which she belongs; for the principles here laid down (as
in the Dred Scott case) extend far beyond the limits of the
particular suit, and embrace the rights of millions of others,
who are thus represented through her. She has a right, therefore,
to be heard for her cause; and in making this plea, she seeks
only to give expression to those principles upon which, as upon a
rock, our Government is founded.

It is impossible that that can be a Republican government in
which one half the citizens thereof are forever disfranchised. A
citizen disfranchised is a citizen attainted; and this, too, in
face of the fact, that you look in vain in the great charter of
government, the Constitution of the United States, for any
warrant or authority for such discrimination. To that instrument
she appeals for protection.

SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES. No. 182.--October Term, 1874.
Virginia L. Minor and Francis Minor, her husband, Plaintiffs in
Error, _vs._ Reese Happersett. In error to the Supreme Court of
the State of Missouri.

Mr. Chief Justice Waite delivered the opinion of the court.
(March 29. 1875.)

The question is presented in this case, whether, since the
adoption of the XIV. Amendment, a woman, who is a citizen of the
United States and of the State of Missouri, is a voter in that
State, notwithstanding the provision of the Constitution and laws
of the State, which confine the right of suffrage to men alone.
We might perhaps decide the case upon other grounds, but this
question is fairly made. From the opinion, we find that it was
the only one decided in the court below, and it is the only one
which has been argued here. The case was undoubtedly brought to
this court for the sole purpose of having that question decided
by us, and, in view of the evident propriety there is of having
it settled, so far as it can be by such a decision, we have
concluded to waive all other considerations and proceed at once
to its determination.

It is contended that the provisions of the Constitution and laws
of the State of Missouri, which confine the right of suffrage and
registration therefor to men, are in violation of the
Constitution of the United States, and therefore void. The
argument is, that as a woman, born or naturalized in the United
States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, is a citizen of
the United States and of the State in which she resides, she has
the right of suffrage as one of the privileges and immunities of
her citizenship, which the State can not by its laws or
constitution abridge.

There is no doubt that women may be citizens. They are persons,
and, by the XIV. Amendment, "all persons born or naturalized in
the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof" are
expressly declared to be "citizens of the United States and of
the State wherein they reside" But, in our opinion, it did not
need this Amendment to give them that position. Before its
adoption, the Constitution of the United States did not in terms
prescribe who should be citizens of the United States or of the
several States, yet there were necessarily such citizens without
such provision. There can not be a nation without a people. The
very idea of a political community, such as a nation is, implies
an association of persons for the promotion of their general
welfare. Each one of the persons associated becomes a member of
the nation formed by the association. He owes it allegiance, and
is entitled to its protection. Allegiance and protection are in
this connection, reciprocal obligations. The one is a
compensation for the other; allegiance for protection and
protection for allegiance.

For convenience, it has been found necessary to give a name to
this membership. The object is to designate by a title the person
and the relation he bears to the nation. For this purpose the
words "subject," "inhabitant," and "citizen" have been used, and
the choice between them is sometimes made to depend upon the form
of the government. Citizen is now more commonly employed,
however, and as it has been considered better suited to the
description of one living under a republican government, it was
adopted by nearly all of the States upon their separation from
Great Britain, and was afterward adopted in the articles of
confederation and in the Constitution of the United States. When
used in this sense, it is understood as conveying the idea of
membership of a nation, and nothing more.

To determine, then, who were citizens of the United States before
the adoption of the Amendment, it is necessary to ascertain what
persons originally associated themselves together to form the
nation, and what were afterward admitted to membership.



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