ARGUMENT OF MR. SELDEN FOR THE DEFENDANT.
The defendant is indicted under the 19th section of the Act of Congress of May 31, 1870 (16 St. at L., 144,), for "voting without having a lawful right to vote."
The words of the Senate, so far as they are material in this case, are as follows:
"If at any election for representative or delegate in the Congress of the United States, any person shall knowingly * * * vote without having a lawful right to vote * * every such person shall be deemed guilty of a crime, * * and on conviction thereof shall be punished by a fine not exceeding $500, or by imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years, or by both, in the discretion of the court, and shall pay the costs of prosecution."
The only alleged ground of illegality of the defendant's vote is that she is a woman. If the same act had been done by her brother under the same circumstances, the act would have been not only innocent, but honorable and laudable; but having been done by a woman it is said to be a crime. The crime therefore consists not in the act done, but in the simple fact that the person doing it was a woman and not a man, I believe this is the first instance in which a woman has been arraigned in a criminal court, merely on account of her sex.
If the advocates of female suffrage had been allowed to choose the point of attack to be made upon their position, they could not have chosen it more favorably for themselves; and I am disposed to thank those who have been instrumental in this proceeding, for presenting it in the form of a criminal prosecution.
Women have the same interest that men have in the establishment and maintenance of good government; they are to the same extent as men bound to obey the laws; they suffer to the same extent by bad laws, and profit to the same extent by good laws; and upon principles of equal justice, as it would seem, should be allowed equally with men, to express their preference in the choice of law-makers and rulers. But however that may be, no greater absurdity, to use no harsher, term, could be presented, than that of rewarding men and punishing women, for the same act, without giving to women any voice in the question which should be rewarded, and which punished.
I am aware, however, that we are here to be governed by the Constitution and laws as they are, and that if the defendant has been guilty of violating the law, she must submit to the penalty, however unjust or absurd the law may be. But courts are not required to so interpret laws or constitutions as to produce either absurdity or injustice, so long as they are open to a more reasonable interpretation. This must be my excuse for what I design to say in regard to the propriety of female suffrage, because with that propriety established there is very little difficulty in finding sufficient warrant in the constitution for its exercise.
This case, in its legal aspects, presents three questions, which I purpose to discuss.
1. .......... Was the defendant legally entitled to vote at the election in question.
2. .......... If she was not entitled to vote, but believed that she was, and voted in good faith in that belief, did such voting constitute a crime under the statute before referred to?
3. .......... Did the defendant vote in good faith in that belief?
If the first question be decided in accordance with my views, the other questions become immaterial; if the second be decidedadversely to my views, the first and third become immaterial. The two first are questions of law to be decided by the court, the other is a question for the jury.
[The Judge here suggested that the argument should be confined to the legal questions, and the argument on the other question suspended, until his opinion on those questions should be made known. This suggestion was assented to, and the counsel proceeded.]
My first position is that the defendant had the same right to vote as any other citizen who voted at that election.
Before proceeding to the discussion of the purely legal question, I desire, as already intimated, to pay some attention to the propriety and justice of the rule which I claim to have been established by the Constitution.
Miss Anthony, and those united with her in demanding the right of suffrage, claim, and with a strong appearance of justice, that upon the principles upon which our government is founded, and which lie at the basis of all just government, every citizen has a right to take part, upon equal terms with every other citizen, in the formation and administration of government. This claim on the part of the female sex presents a question the magnitude of which is not well appreciated by the writers and speakers who treat it with ridicule. Those engaged in the movement are able, sincere and earnest women, and they will not be silenced by such ridicule, nor even by the villainous caricatures of Nast. On the contrary, they justly place all those things to the account of the wrongs which they think their sex has suffered. They believe, with an intensity of feeling which men who have not associated with them have not yet learned, that their sex has not had, and has not now, its just and true position in the organization of government and society. They may be wrong in their position, but will be content until their arguments are fairly, truthfully and candidly answered.
In the most celebrated document which has been put forth on this side of the Atlantic, our ancestors declared that "governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed."
Blackstone says, "The lawfulness of punishing such criminals (i.e., persons offending merely against the laws of society) is founded upon this principle: that the law by which they suffer was made by their own consent; it ita part of the original contract into which they entered when first they engaged in society; it was calculated for and has long contributed to their own security."
Quotations, to an unlimited extent, containing similar doctrines from eminent writers, both English and American, on government, from the time of John Locke to the present day, might be made. Without adopting this doctrine which bases the rightfulness of government upon the consent of the governed, I claim that there is implied in it the narrower and unassailable principle that all citizens of a State, who are bound by its laws, are entitled to an equal voice in the making and execution of such laws. The doctrine is well stated by Godwin in his treatise on Political Justice. He says: "The first and most important principle that can be imagined relative to the form and structure of government, seems to be this: that as government is a transaction in the name and for the benefit of the whole, every member of the community ought to have some share in its administration."
Again, "Government is a contrivance instituted for the security of individuals; and it seems both reasonable that each man should have a share in providing for his own security, and probable, that partiality and cabal should by this means be most effectually excluded."
And again, "To give each man a voice in the public concerns comes nearest to that admirable idea of which we should never lose sight, the uncontrolled exercise of private judgment. Each man would thus be inspired with a consciousness of his own importance, and the slavish feelings that shrink up the soul in the presence of an imagined superior would be unknown."
The mastery which this doctrine, whether right or wrong, has acquired over the public mind, has produced as its natural fruit, the extension of the right of suffrage to all the adult male population in nearly all the states of the Union; a result which was well epitomized by President Lincoln, in the expression, "government by the people for the people."
This extension of the suffrage is regarded by many as a source of danger to the stability of free government. I believe it furnishes the greatest security for free government, as it deprives the mass of the people of all motive for revolution; and that government so based is most safe, not because the whole people are less liable to make mistakes in government so selet few, but because they have no interest which can lead them to such mistakes, or to prevent their correction when made. On the contrary, the world has never seen an aristocracy, whether composed of few or many, powerful enough to control a government, who did not honestly believe that their interest was identical with the public interest, and who did not act persistenly in accordance with such belief; and, unfortunately, an aristocracy of sex has not proved an exception to the rule. The only method yet discovered of overcoming this tendency to the selfish use of power, whether consciously or unconsciously, by those possessing it, is the distribution of the power among all who are its subjects. Short of this the name free government is a misnomer.
This principle, after long strife, not yet entirely ended has been, practically at least, very generally recognized on this side of the Atlantic, as far as relates to men; but when the attempt is made to extend it to women, political philosophers and practical politicians, those "inside of polities," two classes not often found acting in concert, join in denouncing it. It remains to be determined whether the reasons which have produced the extension of the franchise to all adult men, do not equally demand its extension to all adult women. If it be necessary for men that each should have a share in the administration of government for his security, and to exclude partiality, as alleged by God-win, it would seem to be equally, if not more, necessary for women, on account of their inferior physical power: and if, as is persistently alleged by those who sneer at their claims, they are also inferior in mental power, that fact only gives additional weight to the argument in their behalf, as one of the primary objects of government, as acknowledged on all hands, is the protection of the weak against the power of the strong.
I can discover no ground consistent with the principal on which the franchise has been given to all men, upon which it can be denied to women. The principal argument against such extension, so far as argument upon that side of the question has fallen under my observation, is based upon the position that women are represnted in the government by men, and that their rights and interests are better protected through that indirect representation than they would be by giving them a direct voice in the government.
The teachings of history in regard to the condition of women under the care of these self-constituted protectors, to which I can only briefly allude, show the value of this argument as applied to past ages; and in demonstration of its value as applied to more recent times, even at the risk of being tedious. I will give some examples from my own professional experience. I do this because nothing adds more to the efficacy of truth than the translation of the abstract into the concrete. Withholding names, I will state the facts with fullness and accuracy.
An educated and refined woman, who had been many years before deserted by her drunken husband, was living in a small village of Western New York, securing, by great economy and intense labor in fine needle work, the means of living, and of supporting her two daughters at an academy, the object of her life being to give them such an education as would enable them to become teachers, and thus secure to them some degree of independence when she could no longer provide for them. The daughters were good scholars, and favorites in the school, so long as the mother was able to maintain them there. A young man, the nephew and clerk of a wealthy but miserly merchant, became acquainted with the daughters, and was specially attentive to the older one. The uncle disapproved of the conduct of his nephew, and failing to control it by honorable means, resorted to the circulation of the vilest slanders against mother and daughters. He was a man of wealth and influence. They were almost unknown. The mother had but recently come to the village, her object having been to secure to her daughters the educational advantages which the academy afforded. Poverty, as well as perhaps an excusable if not laudable pride, compelled her to live in obscurity, and consequently the assault upon their characters fell upon her and her daughters with crushing force. Her employment mainly ceased, her daughters were of necessity withdrawn from school, and all were deprived of the means, from their own exertions, of sustaining life. Had they been in fact the harlots which the miserly scoundrel represented them to be, they would not have been so utterly powerless to resist his assault. The mother in her despair naturally sought legal redress. But how was it to be obtained? By the law the wife's rights were merged in those of the husband. She had in law no individual existence, and consequently no action could be brought by her to redress the grievous wrong; indeed according to the law she had suffered no wrong, but the husband had suffered all, and was entitled to all the redress. Where he was the lady did not know; she had not heard from him for many years. Her counsel, however, ventured to bring an action in her behalf, joining the husband's name with hers, as the law required. When the cause came to trial the defendant made no attempt to sustain the charges which he had made, well knowing that they were as groundless as they were cruel; but he introduced and proved a release of the cause of action, signed by the husband, reciting a consideration of fifty dollars paid to him. The defendant's counsel had some difficulty in proving the execution of the release, and was compelled to introduce as a witness, the constable who had been employed to find the vagabond husband and obtain his signature. His testimony disclosed the facts that he found the husband in the forest in one of our north-eastern counties, engaged in making shingles, (presumably stealing timber from the public lands and converting it into the means of indulging his habits of drunkenness), and only five dollars of the fifty mentioned in the release had in fact been paid. The Court held, was compelled to hold, that the party injured in view of the law, had received full compensation for the wrong-and the mother and daughters with no means of redress were left to starve. This was the act of the representative of the wife and daughters to whom we are referred, as a better protector of their rights than they themselves could be.
It may properly be added, that if the action had proceeded to judgment without interference from the husband, and such amount of damages had been recovered as a jury might have thought it proper to award, the money would have belonged to the husband, and the wife could not lawfully have touched a cent of it. Her attorney might, and doubtless would have paid it to her, but he could only have done so at the peril of being compelled to pay it again to the drunken husband if he had demanded it.
In another case, two ladies, mother and daughter, some time prior to 1860 came from an eastern county of New York to Rochester, where a habeas corpus was obtained for a child of the daughter, less than two years of age. It appeared on the return of the writ, that the mother of the child had been previously abandoned by her husband, who had gone to a western state to reside, and his wife had returned with the child to her mother's house, and had resided there after her desertion. The husband had recently returned from the west, had succeeded in getting the child into his custody, and was stopping over night with it in Rochester on the way to his western home. No misconduct on the part of the wife was pretended, and none on the part of the husband, excepting that he had gone to the west leaving his wife and child behind, no cause appearing, and had returned, and somewhat clandestinely obtained posession of the child. The Judge, following Blackstone's views of husband's rights, remanded the infant to the custody of the father. He thought the law required it, and perhaps it did; but if mothers had had a voice, either in making or in administering the law, I think the result would have been different. The distress of the mother on being thus separated from her child can be better imagined than described. The separation proved a final one, as in less than a year neither father nor mother had any child on earth to love or care for. Whether the loss to the little one of a mother's love and watchfulness had any effect upon the result, cannot, of course, be known.
The state of the law a short time since, in other respects, in regard to the rights of married women, shows what kind of security had been provided for them by their assumed representatives. Prior to 1848 all the personal property of every woman on marriage became the absolute property of the husband-the use of all her real estate became his during coverture, and on the birth of a living child, it became his during his life. He could squander it in dissipation or bestow it upon harlots, and the wife could not touch or interfere with it. Prior to 1860, the husband could by will take the custody of his infant children away from the surviving mother, and give it to whom he pleased-and he could in like manner dispose of the control of the children's property, after his death, during their minority, without the mother's consent.
In most of these respects the state of the law has undergone great changes within the last 25 years. The property, real and personal, which a woman possesses before marriage, and such as may be given to her during coverture, remains her own, and is free from the control of her husband.
If a married woman is slandered she can prosecute in her own name the slanderer, and recover to her own use damages for the injury.
The mother now has an equal claim with the father to the custody of their minor children, and in case of controversy on the subject, courts may award the custody to either in their discretion.
The husband cannot now by will effectually appoint a guardian for his infant children without the consent of the mother, if living.
These are certainly ameliorations of the law; but how have they been produced? Mainly as the result of exertions of a few heroic women, one of the foremost of whom is her who stands arraigned as a criminal before this Court today. For a thousand years the absurdities and cruelties to which I have alluded have been embedded in the common law, and in the statute books, and men have not touched them, and would not until the end of time, had they not been goaded to it by the persistent efforts of the noble women to whom I have alluded.
Much has been done, but much more remains to be done by women. If they had possessed the elective franchise, the reforms which have cost them a quarter of a century of labor would have been accomplished in a year. They are still subject to taxation upon their property, without any voice as to the levying or destination of the tax; and are still subject to laws made by men, which subject them to fine and imprisonment for the same acts which men do with honor and reward-and when brought to trial no woman is allowed a place on the bench or in the jury box, or a voice in her behalf at the bar. They are bound to suffer the penalty of such laws, made and administered solely by men, and to be silent under the infliction. Give them the ballot, and, although I do not suppose that any great revolution will be produced, or that all political evils will be removed, (I am not a believer in political panaceas,) but if I mistake not, valuable reforms will be introduced which are not now thought of. Schools, almshouses, hospitals, drinking saloons, and those worse dens which are destroying the morals and the constitutions of so many of the young of both sexes, will feel their influence to an extent now little dreamed of. At all events women will not be taxed without an opportunity to be heard, and will not be subject to fine and imprisonment by laws made exclusively by men for doing what it is lawful and honorable for men to do.
It may be said in answer to the argument in favor of female suffrage derived from the cases to which I have referred, that men, not individually, but collectively, are the natural and appropriate representatives of women, and that, notwithstanding cases of individual wrong, the rights of women are, on the whole, best protected by being left to their care. It must be observed, however, that the cases which I have stated, and which are only types of thousands like them, in their cruelty and injustice, are the result of ages of legislation by these assumed protectors of women. The wrongs were less in the men than in the laws which sustained them, and which contained nothing for the protection of the women.
But passing this view, let us look at the matter historically and on a broader field.
If Chinese women were allowed an equal share with men in shaping the laws of that great empire, would they subject their female children to torture with bandaged feet, through the whole period of childhood and growth, in order that they might be cripples for the residue of their lives?
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 be 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, offence 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 offences 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 right, 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 one 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 thee history of nations to which I briefly alluded, shows that women constitute no exception to the university of this rule.
Great errors, I think, exist in the minds of both the advocate 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 much 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 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 privilege of the elective franchise cannot 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.
Having occupied much more time than I intended in showing the justice and propriety of the claim made by my client to the privilege of a voter, I proceed to the consideration of the present state of the law on that subject: 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 the she has done nothing which she had not 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 authorize 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. "The House of Representatives shall be composed of members chosen every second year, by the people of the several States; and the electors in each States shall have the qualifications for electors of the most numerous branch of the State legislature."
The same Article, Section 3, "The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two senators from each State, chosen by the legislature thereof for six years; and each senator shall have one vote."
Article II, Section 1. "Each State shall appoint in such manner as the legislature thereof may direct, a number of electors equal to the whole number of senators and representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress."
Article IV, Section 2. "The citizens of each State shall be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of citizens in thee several States."
Same Article, Section 4. "The United States shall guarantee to every State in the union a republican form of government."
DECEMBER 18, 1865.
"1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction."
"2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation."
JULY 28, 1968.
Section 1. "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty or property, without due process of law, nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."
Section 2. "Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice-President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged , except for participation in rebellion or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State."
Section 5. "The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article."
Section 1. "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridge by the United States, or by any State, on account of race, color or previous condition of servitude."
Section 2. "The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation."
By reference to the provisions of the original Constitution, here recited, it appears that prior to the thirteenth, if not until the fourteenth, amendment, the whole power over the elective franchise, even in the choice of Federal officers, rested with the States. The Constitution contains no definition of the term "citizen," either of the United States, or of the several States, but contents itself with the provision that "the citizens of each State shall be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of citizens of the several States." The States were thus left free to place such restrictions and limitations upon the "privileges and immunities" of citizens as they saw fit, so far as is consistent with a republican form of government, subject only to the condition that no State could place restrictions upon the "privileges or immunities" of the citizens of any other State, which would not be applicable to its own citizens under like circumstances.
It will be seen, therefore, that the whole subject, as to what should constitute the "privileges and immunities" of the citizen being left to the States, no question, such as we now present, could have arisen under the original constitution of the United States.
But now, by the fourteenth amendment, the United States have not only declared what constitutes citizenship, both in the United States and in the several States, securing the rights of citizens to "all persons born or naturalized in the United States;" but have absolutely prohibited the States from making or enforcing " any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States."
By virtue of this provision, I insist that the act of Miss Anthony in voting was lawful.
It has never, since the adoption of the fourteenth amendment, been questioned, and cannot be questioned, that women as well as men are included in the terms of its first section, nor that the same "privil ges and immunities of citizens" are equally secured to both.
What, then, are the "privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States" which are secured against such abridgement, by this section? I claim that these terms not only include the right of voting for public officers, but that they include that right as pre-eminently the most important of all the privileges and immunities to which the section refers. Among these privileges and immunities may doubtless be classed the right to life and liberty, to the acquisition and enjoyment of property, and to the free pursuit of one's own welfare, so far as such pursuit does not interfere with the rights and welfare of others; but what security has any one for the enjoyment of these rights when denied any voice in the making of the laws, or in the choice of those who make, and those who administer them? The possession of this voice, in the making and administration of the laws-this political right-is what gives security and value to the other rights, which are merely personal, not political. A person deprived of political rights is essentially a slave, because he holds his personal rights subject to the will of those who possess the political power. This principle constitutes the very corner-stone of our government-indeed, of all republican government. Upon that basis our separation from Great Britain was justified. "Taxation without representation is tyranny." This famous aphorism of James Otis, although sufficient for the occasion when it was put forth, expresses but a fragment of the principle, because government can be oppressive through means of many appliances besides that of taxation. The true principle is, that all government over persons deprived of any voice in such government, is tyranny. That is the principle of the declaration of independence. We were slow in allowing its application to the African race, and have been still slower in allowing its application to women; but it has been done by the fourteenth amendment, rightly construed, by a definition of "citizenship," which includes women as well as men, and in the declaration that "the privileges and immunities of citizens shall not be abridged." If there is any privilege of the citizen which is paramount to all others, it is the right of suffrage; and in a constitutional provision, designed to secure the most valuable rights of the citizen, the declaration that the privileges and immunities of the citizen shall not be abridged, must, as I conceive, be held to secure that right before all others. It is obvious, when the entire language of the section is examined, not only that this declaration was designed to secure to the citizen this political right, but that such was its principal, if not its sole object, those provisions of the section which follow it being devoted to securing the personal rights of "life, liberty, property, and the equal protection of the laws." The clause on which we rely, to wit:- "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States, " might be stricken out of the section, and the residue would secure to the citizen every right which is now secured, excepting the political rights of voting and holding office. If the clause in question does not secure those political rights, it is entirely nugatory, and might as well have been omitted.
If we go to the lexicographers and to the writers upon law, to learn what are the privileges and immunities of the "citizen" in a republican government, we shall find that the leading feature of citizenship is the enjoyment of the right of suffrage.
The definition of the term "citizen" by Bouvier is: "One who under the constitution and laws of the United States, has a right to vote for Representatives in Congress, and other public officers, and who is qualified to fill offices in the gift of the people."
By Worcester -"An inhabitant of a republic who enjoys the rights of a freeman, and has a right to vote for public officers."
By Webster -"In the United States a person, native or naturalized, who has the privilege of exercising the elective franchise, or the qualifications which enables him to vote for rulers, and to purchase and hold real estate."
The meaning of the word "citizen" is directly and plainly recognized by the latest amendment of the constitution (the fifteenth.)
"The right of the 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." This clause assumes that the right of citizens, as such, to vote, is an existing right.
Mr. Richard Grant White, in his late work on Words and their Uses, says of the word citizen: "A citizen is a person who has certain political rights, and the word is properly used only to imply or suggest the possession of these rights."
Mr. Justice Washington, in the case of Corfield vs. Coryell (4 Wash. C. C. Rep. 380), speaking of the "privileges and immunities" of the citizen, as mentioned in Sec. 2, Art. 4, of the constitution, after enumerating the personal rights mentioned above, and some others, as embraced by those terms, says, "to which may be added the elective franchise, a regulated and established by the laws or constitution of the State in which it is to be exercised." At that time the States had entire control of the subject, an could abridge this privilege of the citizen at its pleasure; but the judge recognizes the "elective franchise" as among the "privileges and immunities" secured, to a qualified extent, to the citizens of every State by the provisions of the constitution last referred to. When, therefore, the States were, by the fourteenth amendment, absolutely prohibited from abridging the privileges of the citizen, either by enforcing existing laws, or by the making of new laws, the right of every "citizen" to the full exercise of this privilege, as against State action, was absolutely secured.
Chancellor Kent and Judge Story both refer to the opinion of Mr. Justice Washington, above quoted, with approbation.
The Supreme Court of Kentucky, in the case ot Amy, a woman of color, vs. Smith (1 Littell's Rep. 326), discussed with great ability the questions as to what constituted citizenship, and what were the "privileges and immunities of citizens" which were secured by Sec. 2, Art. 4, of the constitution, and they showed, by an unanswerable argument, that the term "citizens," as there used, was confined to those who were entitled to the enjoyment of the elective franchise, and that that was among the highest of the "privileges and immunities" secured to the citizen by that section. The court say that, "to be a citizen it is necessary that he should be entitled to the enjoyment of these privileges and immunities, upon the same terms upon which they are conferred upon other citizens; and unless he is so entitled, he cannot, in the proper sense of the term, be a citizen. "
In the case of Scott vs. Sanford (19 How. 404,) Chief Justice Taney says: "The words people of the United States, and citizens are synonymous terms, and mean the same thing; they describe the political body, who, according to our republican institutions, form the sovereignty and hold the power, and conduct the government through their representatives . They are what we familiarly call the sovereign people, and every citizen is one of this people, and a constituent member of this sovereignty."
Mr. Justice Daniel, in the same case, (p. 476), says: "Upon the principles of etymology alone, the term citizen, as derived from civitas , conveys the idea of connection or identification with the state or government, and a participation in its functions. But beyond this, there is not, it is believed, to be found in the theories of writers on government, or in any actual experiment heretofore tried, an exposition of the term citizen, which has not been understood as conferring the actual possession and enjoyment, or the perfect right of acquisition and enjoyment of an entire equality of privileges, civil and political. "
Similar references might be made to an indefinite extent, but enough has been said to show that the term citizen, in the language of Mr. Justice Daniel, conveys the idea "of identification with the state or government, and a participation in its functions."
Beyond question, therefore, the first section of the fourteenth amendment, by placing the citizenship of women upon a par with that of men, and declaring that the "privileges and immunities" of the citizen shall not be abridged, has secured to women, equally with men, the right of suffrage, unless that conclusion is overthrown by some other provision of the constitution.
It is not necessary for the purposes of this argument to claim that this amendment prohibits a state from making or enforcing any law whatever, regulating the elective franchise, or prescribing the conditions upon which it may be exercised. But we do claim that in every republic the right of suffrage, in some form and to some extent, is not only one of the privileges of its citizens, but is the first, most obvious and most important of all the privileges they enjoy; that in this respect all citizens are equal, and that the effect of this amendment is, to prohibit the States from enforcing any law which denies this right to any of its citizens, or which imposes any restrictions upon it, which are inconsistent with a republican form of government. Within this limit, it is unnecessary for us to deny that the States may still regulate and control the exercise of the right.
The only provisions of the constitution, which it can be contented conflict with the construction which has here been put upon the first section of the fourteenth amendment, are the fifteenth amendment, and the second section of the fourteenth.
In regard to the fifteenth amendment, I shall only say, that if my interpretation of the fourteenth amendment is correct, there was still an object to be accomplished and which was accomplished by the fifteenth. The prohibition of any action abridging the privileges and immunities of citizens, contained in the fourteenth amendment, applies only to the States, and leaves the United States government free to abridge the political privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States, as such, at its pleasure. By the fifteenth amendment both the United States and the State governments, are prohibited from exercising this power, "on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude" of the citizen.
The first remark to be made upon the second section of the fourteenth amendment is, that it does not give and was not designed to give to the States any power to deny or abridge the right of any citizen to exercise the elective franchise. So far as it touches that subject, it was designed to be restrictive upon the States. It gives to them no power whatever. It takes away no power, but it gives none, and if the States possess the power to deny or abridge the right of citizens to vote, it must be derived from some other provision of the constitution. I believe none such can be found, which was not necessarily abrogated by the first section of this amendment.
It may be conceded that the persons who prepared this section supposed, that, by other parts of the constitution, or in some other way, the States would still be authorized, notwithstanding the provisions of the first section, to deny to the citizens the privilege of voting, as mentioned in the second section; but their mistake cannot be held to add to, or to take from the other provisions of the constitution. It is very clear that they did not intend, by this section, to give to the States any such power, but, believing that the States possessed it, they designed to hold the prospect of a reduction of their representation in Congress in terrorem over them to prevent them from exercising it. They seem not to have been able to emancipate themselves from the influence of the original constitution which conceded this power to the States, or to have realized the fact that the first section of the amendment, when adopted, would wholly deprive the States of that power.
But those who prepare constitutions are never those who adopt them, and consequently the views of those who frame them have little or no bearing upon their interpretation. The question for consideration here is, what the people, who, through their representatives in the legislatures, adopted the amendments, understood, or must be presumed to have understood, from their language. They must be presumed to have known that the "privileges and immunities" of citizens which were secured to them by the first section beyond the power of abridgment by the States, gave them the right to exercise the elective franchise, and they certainly cannot be presumed to have understood that the second section, which was also designed to the restrictive upon the States, would be held to confer by implication a power upon them, which the first section in the most express terms prohibited.
It has been, and may be again asserted, that the position which I have taken in regard to the second section is inadmissible, because it renders the section nugatory. 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 thirteenth 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 constitutional 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 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 fourteenth 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 fourteenth amendment in the Senate, and aided in its passage, says: "The fourteenth 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 now 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 before 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 fourteenth 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 or 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 fourteenth 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 the 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 fourteenth amendment, which I consider the only one that its language fairly admits of.
It is said that woment 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's suffrage is, to 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. Of men there were 166,781 on the register, and 90,080 at the poll. The Examiner thereupon draws this conclusion: Making allowances for the reluctance of old spinsters to change their habits, and the more frequent illness of the sex, it is manifest that women, if they had opportunity, would exercise the franchise as freely as men. There is an end, therefore, of the argument that women would not vote if they had the power."
Our law books furnish, perhaps, more satisfactory evidence of the earnestness with which women in England are claiming the right to vote, under the reform act of 1867, aided by Lord Brougham's act of 1850.
The case of Chorlton, appellant, vs. Lings, respondent, came before the Court of Common Pleas in England in 1869. It was an appeal from the decision of the revising barrister, for the borough of Manchester, to the effect "that Mary Abbott, being a woman, was not entitled to be placed on the register." Her right was perfect in all respects excepting that of sex. The court, after a very full and able discussion of the subject, sustained the decision of the revising barrister, denying to women the right to be placed on the register, and consequently denying right to vote. The decision rested upon the peculiar phraseology of several Acts of Parliament, and the point decided has no applicability here. My object in referring to the case has been to call attention to the fact stated by the reporter, that appeals of 5,436 other women were consolidated and decided with this. No better evidence could be furnished of the extent and earnestness of the claim of women in England to exercise the elective franchise.- Law Rep. Com. Pleas, 4-374.
I infer, without being able to say how the fact is, that the votes given by women, as mentioned in the newspapers, were given at municipal elections merely, and that the cases decided by the Court of Common Pleas relate to elections for members of Parliament.
Another objection is, that the right to hold office must attend the right to vote, and that women are not qualified to discharge the duties of responsible offices.
I beg leave to answer this objection by asking one or more questions. How many of the male bipeds who do our voting are qualified to hold high offices? How many of the large class to whom the right of voting is supposed to have been secured by the fifteenth amendment, are qualified to hold office?
Whenever the qualifications of persons to discharge the duties of responsible offices is made the test of their right to vote, and we are to have a competitive examination on that subject, open to all claimants, my client will be content to enter the lists, and take her chances among the candidates for such honors.
But the practice of the world, and our own practice, give the lie to this objection. Compare the administration of female and sovereigns of great kingdoms, from Seminarians to Victoria, with the average administration of male and sovereigns, and which will suffer by the comparison? How often have mothers governed large kingdoms, as regents, during the minority of their sons, and governed them well? Such offices as the "sovereigns" who rule them in this country have allowed women to hold (they having no voice on the subject), they have discharged the duties of with ever increasing satisfaction to the public; and Congress has lately passed an act, making the official bonds of married women valid, so that they could be appointed to the office of postmaster.
The case of Olive vs. Ingraham (7 Modern Rep. 263) was an action brought to try the title to an office. On the death of the sexton of the parish of St. Butolph, the place was to be filled by election, the voters being the housekeepers who "paid Scot and lot" in the parish. The widow of the deceased sexton (Sarah Bly) entered the lists against Olive, the plaintiff in the suit, and received 169 indisputable votes, and 40 votes given by women who were "housekeepers, and paid to church and poor." The plaintiff had 174 indisputable votes, and 22 votes given such women as voted for Mrs. Bly. Mrs. Bly was declared elected. The action was brought to test two questions: 1. Whether women were legal votes; and 2. Whether a woman was capable of holding the office. The case was four times argued in the King's Bench, and all the judges delivered opinions, holding that the women were competent voters; that the widow was properly elected, and could hold the office.
In the course of the discussion it was shown that women had held many offices, those of constable, church warden, overseer of the poor, keeper of the "gate house" (a public prison), governess of a house of correction, keeper of casters, sheriffs of counties, and high constable of England.
If women are legally competent to hold minor offices, I would be glad to have the rule of law, or of propriety, shown which should exclude them from higher offices, and which marks the line between those which they may and those which they may not hold.
Another objections is that women cannot serve as soldiers. To this I answer that capacity for military service has never been made a test of the right to vote. If it were, young men from sixteen to twenty-one would be entitled to vote, and old men from sixty and upwards would not. It that were the test, some women would present much stronger claims than many of the male sex.
Another objection is that engaging in political controversies is not consistent with the feminine character. Upon that subject, women themselves are the best judges, and if political duties should be found inconsistent with female delicacy, we may rest assured that women will either effect a change in the character of political contests, or decline to engage in them. This subject may be safely left to their sense of delicacy and propriety.
If any difficulty on this account should occur, it may not be impossible to receive the votes of women at their places of residence. This method of voting was practiced in ancient Rome under the republic; and it will be remembered that when the votes of the soldiers who were fighting our battles in the Southern States were needed to sustain their friends at home, no difficulty was found in the way of taking their votes at their respective camps.
I humbly submit to your honor, therefore, that on the constitutional grounds to which I have referred, Miss Anthony had a lawful right to vote; that her vote was properly received and counted; that the first section of the fourteenth amendment secured to her that right, and did not need the aid of any further legislation.
But conceding that I may be in error in supposing that Miss Anthony had a right to vote, she has been guilty of no crime, if she voted in good faith believing that she had such right.
This proposition appears to me so obvious, that were it not for the severity to my client of the consequences which may follow a conviction, I should not deem it necessary to discuss it.
To make out the offence, it is incumbent on the prosecution to show affirmatively, not only that the defendant knowingly voted, but that she so voted knowing that she had no right to vote. That is, the term "knowingly," applies, not to the fact of voting, but to the fact of want of right. Any other interpretation of the language would be absurd. We cannot conceive of a case where a party could vote without knowledge of the fact of voting, and to apply the term "knowingly" to the mere act of voting, would make nonsense of the statute. This word was inserted as defining the essence of the offence, and it limits the criminality to eases where the voting is not only without right, but where it is done wilfully, with a knowledge that it is without right. Short of that there is no offence within the statute. This would be so upon well established principles, even if the word "knowingly" had been omitted, but that word was inserted to prevent the possibility of doubt on the subject, and to furnish security against the inability of stupid or prejudiced judges or jurors, to distinguish between wilful wrong and innocent mistake. If the statute had been merely, that "if at any election for representative in Congress any person shall vote without having a lawful right to vote, such person shall be deemed guilty of a crime." there could have been justly no conviction under it, without proof that the party voted knowing that he had not a right to vote. If he voted innocently supposing he had the right to vote, but had not, it would not be an offence within the statute. An innocent mistake is not a crime, and no amount of judicial decisions can make it such.
Mr. Bishop says, (1 Cr. Law. 205): "There can be no crime unless a culpable intent accompanies the criminal act." The same author, (1 Cr. Prac. 521), repeated in other words, the same idea: "In order to vender a partly criminally responsible, a vicious will must concur with a wrongful act."
I quote from a more distinguished author: " Felony is always accompanied with an evil intention, and therefore shall not be imputed to a mere mistake, or misanimadversion, as where persons break open a door, in order to execute a warrant, which will not justify such proceeding: Affectio enim tua nome imponit operi tuo: item crimen non contrahitur nisi, nocendi, voluntas intercedat," which, as I understand, may read: "For your volition puts the name upon your act; and a crime is not committed unless the will of the offender takes part in it. " 1 Hawk. P. C., p. 99, Ch. 25. .
This quotation by Hawkins is, I believe, from Bracton, which carries the principle back to a very early period in the existence of the common law. It is a principle, however, which underlies all law, and must have been recognized at all times, wherever criminal law has been administered, with even the slightest reference to the principles of common morality and justice.
I quote again on this subject from Mr. Bishop: "The doctrine of the intent as it prevails in the criminal law, is necessarily one of the foundation principles of public justice. There is only criterion by which the guilt of man is to be tested. It is whether the mind is criminal. Criminal law relates only to crime. And neither in philosophical speculation, nor in religious or moral sentiment, would any people in any age allow that a man should be deemed guilty unless his mind was so. It is, therefore, a principle of our legal system, as probably it is of every other, that the essence of an offence is the wrongful intent without which it cannot exist." (1 Bishop's Crim. Law, 287.)
Again, the same author, writing on the subject of knowledge, as necessary to establish the intent, says: "It is absolutely necessary to constitute guilt, as in indictments for uttering forged tokens, or other attempts to defraud, or for receiving stolen goods, and offences of a similar description." ( I Crim. Prac. 504.)
In regard to the offence of obtaining property by false pretenses, the author says: "The indictment must allege that the defendant knew the pretenses to be false. This is necessary upon the general principles of the law, in order to show an offence, even though the statute does not contain the word "knowingly." ( 2. Id. 172.)
As to a presumed knowledge of the law, where the fact involves a question of law, the same author says: "The general doctrine laid down in the foregoing sections," (i.e. that every man is presumed to know the law, and that ignorance of the law does not excuse,) "is plain in itself and plain in its application. Still there are cases, the precise nature and extent of which are not so obvious, wherein ignorance of the law constitutes, in a sort of indirect way, not in itself a defence, but a foundation on which another defence rests. Thus, if the guilt or innocence of a prisoner, depends on the fact to be found by the jury, of his having been or not, when he did the act, in some precise mental condition, which mental condition is the gist of the offence, the jury in determining this question of mental condition, may take into consideration his ignorance or misinformation in a matter of law. For example, to constitute larceny, there must be an intent to steal, which involves the knowledge that the property taken does not belong to the taker; yet, if all the facts concerning the title are known to the accused, and so the question is one merely of law whether the property is his or not, still he may show, and the showing will be a defence to him against the criminal proceeding, that he honestly believed it his through a misapprehension of the law." (1 Cr. Law, 297.)
The conclusions of the writer here, are correct, but in a part of the statement the learned author has thrown some obscurity over his own principles. The doctrines elsewhere enunciated by him, show with great clearness, that in such cases the state of the mind constitutes the essence of the offence, and if the state of the mind which the law condemns does not exist, in connection with the act, there is no offence. It is immaterial whether its non-existence be owing to ignorance of law or ignorance of fact, in either case the fact which the law condemns, the criminal intent, is wanting. It is not, therefore, in an "indirect way," that ignorance of the law in such cases constitutes a defence, but in the most direct way possible. It is not a fact which jurors "may take into consideration," or not, at their pleasure, but which they must take into consideration, because, in case the ignorance exists, no matter from what cause, the offence which the statute describes is not committed. In such case, ignorance of the law is not interposed as a shield to one committing a criminal act, but merely to show, as it does show, that no criminal act has been committed.
I quote from Sir Mathew Hale on the subject. Speaking of larceny, the learned author says: "As it is cepit and asportavit, so it must be felonice, or animo furandi, otherwise it is not felony, for it is the mind that makes the taking of another's goods to be a felony, or a bare trespass only; but because the intention and mind are secret,the intention must be judged of by the circumstances of the fact, and these circumstances are various, and may sometimes deceive, yet regularly and ordinarily these circumstances following direct in the case. If A., thinking he hath a title to the house of B., seizeth it as his own this regularly makes no felony, but s trespass only; but yet this may be a trick to colour a felony, and the ordinary discovery of a felonious intent is, if the party doth it secretly, or being charged with the goods denies it." (1 Hales P.C. 509.)
I concede, that if Miss Anthony voted, knowing that as a woman she had no right to vote, she may properly be convicted, and that if she had dressed herself in men's apparel, and assumed a man's name, or resorted to any other artifice to deceive the board of inspectors, the jury might properly regard her claim of right, to be merely colorable, and might, in their judgement, pronounce her guilty of the offense charged, in case the constitution has not secured to her the right she claimed. All I claim is, that if she voted in perfect good faith, believing that it was her right, she has committed no crime. An innocent mistake, whether of law or fact, though a wrongful act may be done in pursuance of it, cannot constitute a crime.
[The following cases and authorities were referred to and commented upon by the counsel, as sustaining his positions: U.S. vs. Conover, 3 McLean's rep. 573; The State vs. McDonald, 4 Harrington, 555; The State vs. Homes, 17 Mo. 379; Rex vs. Hall, 3 C. P. 409, (S. C. 14 Eng. C. L.); The Queen vs, Reed, 1 C. M. 306. (S.C. 41 Eng. C.L.); Lancaster's Case, 3 Leon. 208; Starkie on Ev., part IV, Vol. 2, p. 828, 3d Am. Ed.]
The counsel then said, there are some cases which I concede cannot be reconciled with the position which I have endeavored to maintain, and I am sorry to say that one of them is found in the reports of this State. As the other cases are referred to in that,and the principle, if they can be said to stand on any principle, is in all of them the same, it will only be incumbent on me to notice that one. That case is not only irreconcilable with the numerous authorities and the fundamental principles of criminal law to which I have referred, but the enormity of its injustice is sufficient alone to condemn it. I refer to the case of Hamilton vs. The People, (57 Barb.725). In that case Hamilton had been convicted of a misdemeanor, in having voted at a general election, after having been previously convicted of a felony and sentenced to two years imprisonment in the state prison, and not having been pardoned; the conviction having by law deprived him of citizenship and right to vote, unless pardoned and restored to citizenship. The case came up before the General Term of the Supreme Court, on writ of error. It appeared that on the trial evidence was offered, that before the prisoner was discharged from the state prison, he and his father applied to the Governor for a pardon, and that the Governor replied in writing, that on the ground of the prisoner's being a minor at the time of his discharge from prison, a pardon would not be necessary, and that he would be entitle to all rights of a citizen on his coming of age. They also applied to two respectable counsellors of the Supreme Court, and they confirmed the Governor's opinion. All this evidence was rejected. It appeared that the prisoner was seventeen years old when convicted of the felony, and was nineteen when discharged from prison. The rejection of the evidence was approved by the Supreme Court on the ground that the prisoner was bound to know the law, and was presumed to do so, and his conviction was accordingly confirmed.
Here a young man, innocent so far as his conduct in this case was involved, was condemned, for acting in good faith upon the advice, (mistaken advice it may be conceded,) of one governor and two lawyers to whom he applied for information as to his rights; and this condemnation has proceeded upon the assumed ground, conceded to be false in fact, that he knew the advice given to him was wrong. On this judicial fiction the young man, in the name of justice, is sent to prison, punished for a mere mistake, and a mistake made in pursuance of such advice. It cannot be, consistently with the radical principles of criminal law to which I have referred, and the numerous authorities which I have quoted, that this man was guilty of a crime, that his mistake was a crime, and I think the judges who pronounced his condemnation, upon their own principles, better than their victim, deserved the punishment which they indicted.
The condemnation of Miss Anthony, her good faith being conceded, would do no less violence to any fair administration of justice.
One other matter will close what I have to say. Miss Anthony believed, and was advised that she had a right to vote. She may also have been advised, as was clearly the fact, that the question as to her right could not be brought before the courts for trial, without her voting or offering to vote, and if either was criminal, the one was as much so as the other. Therefore she stands now arraigned as a criminal, for taking the only steps by which it was possible to bring the great constitutional question as to her right, before the tribunals of the country for adjudication. If for thus acting, in the most perfect good faith, with motives as pure and impulses as noble as any which can find place in your honor's breast in the administration of justice, she is by the laws of her country to be condemned as a criminal, she must abide the consequences. Her condemnation, however, under such circumstances, would only add another most weighty reason to those which I have already advanced, to show that women need the aid of the ballot for their protection.
Upon the remaining question, of the good faith of the defendant, it is not necessary for me to speak. That she acted in the most perfect good faith stands conceded.
Thanking your honor for the great patience with which you have listened to my too extended remarks, I submit the legal questions which the case involves for your honor's consideration.