Freedom Shrine Document (1800's)

Susan B. Anthony Trial (1874)

From the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, April 23, 1874.


Susan B. AnthonyThe account of the proceedings had, on the trial of Susan B. Anthony, on the charge of illegal voting, and the trial of the inspectors of election who received her vote, makes, with certain additional matter hearing upon the cases, a book of over 200 pages. Its contents are as follows: the indictment against Susan B. Anthony; the evidence taken upon her trial; Judge Seldens opening in her behalf; his argument for the defendant; the opinion; the verdict; judge Seldens remarks on the motion for a new trial; Miss Anthonys objections to the imposition of the sentence; the indictment against the inspectors; the objections to the said indictment by Mr. Van Voorhis; the evidence taken on the trial; the argument in behalf of the defence by Mr. Van Voorhis; the verdict; the motion for a new trial and its denial; the verdict and the sentence; the address of Susan B. Anthony delivered in twenty-nine places in Monroe, and twenty-one in Ontario, in her canvass of these counties previous to her trial, the speech of Matilda joslyn Gage, delivered in sixteen towns of Ontario county, and an article by John Hooker on judge Hunt and the right of trial by jury. It is proper to say that District-Attorney Crowley was applied to for a copy of his argument in the case of Miss Anthony, but neglected to furnish it for publication. With this exception, we have a complete history of a case destined to become celebrated.

We believe the book is the most important contribution yet made to the discussion of the woman suffrage issue, from a legal stand-point. It deals, to a very small extent, with either the emotional or expediential phases of the question - phases which are necessarily involved in the broader debate as to whether the ballot shall be given to woman, but which are, of course, excluded from the determination of her right to vote under existing statutory regulations. Upon this limited branch of the subject it must be conceded that Judge Selden makes a very strong argument, as, indeed, does Miss Anthony in her addresses before the electors of this and an adjoining county. Judge Selden's analysis of the term citisenship is very exhaustive. He holds that the right to vote inheres in the citisen, and fortifies his positions by the definitions of the lexicographers and the dicta, if not the decisions, of the courts. If this be so, we cannot see how the conclusion is to be resisted that the fourteenth amendment includes in its sweeping effect the prohibition of the states from making laws which shall abridge the suffrage of any of their citisens. The constitution of the state of New York in prescribing the qualifications of an elector, says, every male citisen, &c., and thereby seems to concede that women are citisens. The fourteenth amendment to the constitution of the United States uses these express words: All persons born or naturalised in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof are citisens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. If this does not include women, whom does it include?

No, there can be no discussion as to the citizenship of our mothers, our wives and our sisters. They are as much citizens of the republic and of the commonwealth as the mightiest man among us all; and Judge Seldens authorities are very cogent, if not entirely conclusive, as to the privileges and immunities which citizenship embraces. And yet, whatever the lexicographers and the courts have said, it is evident that citizenship, in the eyes of the lawmakers, has not been held necessarily to include the right of suffrage. And here we reach the vital point. May suffrage be conferred and may it be restricted by the separate states? judge Hunt answers, yes! and it is certainly the principle upon which the states have proceeded, and are still proceeding. The constitution of the United States, in its amended form, specifically declares that the right of citizens shall not be denied or abridged by any state, on account of certain human conditions, one of which conditions is not that of being a woman; and it also affixes a penalty for the denial of the right to vote to male inhabitants; but does it anywhere declare that citizenship and suffrage are synonymous?

Without, however, attempting to decide the vexed issue upon which the learned doctors are so thoroughly disagreed. we have no hesitation in recommending the work before us as an elaborate presentation of the legal points to which we have alluded. We believe it will hereafter be quoted as high authority and will bean arsenal from whence the champions of female suffrage will draw some of their most formidable weapons in the baffle before them. We cannot close this article without saying that, although not entirely convinced of the tenableness of the position taken by Miss Anthony in asserting her right to vote under our present laws, we are in full accord with the general movement in which she is engaged and in which she has exhibited so much of courage and independence -has done so much to entitle her to the thanks of her American sisters in whose behalf she has fought, and is still fighting, such a noble battle. Woman suffrage is only a question of time. It is coming for the republic, bringing blessings in its train, so surely as the sun to-day illumines the earth. If the law is against her it will be amended. If prejudices emcompass her they will vanish. If she is the victim of injustice she will rise superior to its thraldom. Reason, equity and expediency are on her side; and, in the long run, they will assert their power.

Sold by Erastus Darrow, D.M. Dewey, and Williamson & Co., booksellers, Rochester, N.Y. The book may also be obtained by addressing Susan B. Anthony, Rochester, N.. Price, 50 cts., exclusive of postage, which is 7 cents.

All men are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights. Among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Here is no shadow of government authority over rights, nor exclusion of any class from their full and equal enjoyment. Here is pronounced the right of all men, and consequently, as the Quaker preacher said, of all women, to a voice in the government. And here, in this very first paragraph of the declaration, is the assertion of the natural right of all to the ballot; for, how can the consent of the governed be given, if the right to vote be denied. Again:

That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new government, laying its foundations on such principles, and organizing its powers in such forms as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

Surely, the right of the whole people to vote is here clearly implied. For however destructive to their happiness this government might become, a disfranchised class could neither alter nor abolish it, nor institute a new one, except by the old brute force method of insurrection and rebellion. One-half of the people of this nation to-day are utterly powerless to blot from the statute books an unjust law, or to write there a new and a just one.The women,dissatisfied as they are with this form of government, that enforces taxation without representation, - that compels them to obey laws to which they have never given their consent, - that imprisons and hangs them without a trial by a jury of their peers, that robs them, in marriage, of the custody of their own persons, wages and children, - are this half of the people left wholly at the mercy of the other half, in direct violation of the spirit and letter of the declarations of the framers of this government, every one of which was based on the immutable principle of equal rights to all. By those declarations, kings, priests, popes; aristocrats, were all alike dethroned, and placed on a common level, politically, with the lowliest born subject or serf. By them, too, men, as such, were deprived of their divine right to rule, and placed on a political level with women. By the practice of those declarations all class and caste distinction will be abolished; and slave, serf, plebeian, wife, woman, all alike, bound from their subject position to the proud platform of equality.

The preamble of the federal constitution says:

We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this constitution for the United States of America.

It was we, the people, not we, the white male citizens, nor yet we, the male citizens; but we, the whole people, who formed this Union. And we formed it, not to give the blessings of liberty, but to secure them; not to the half of ourselves and the half of our posterity, but to the whole people- women as well as men. And it is downright mockery to talk to women of their enjoyment of the blessings of liberty while they are denied the use of the only means of securing them provided by this democratic-republican government - the ballot.