Friends and fellow citizens: I stand before you tonight under indictment
for the alleged crime of having voted at the last presidential election,
without having a lawful
right to vote. It shall be my work this evening to prove to you that in
thus voting, I not only committed no crime, but, instead, simply exercised
my citizen's rights, guaranteed to me and all United States citizens by
the National Constitution, beyond the power of any state to deny.
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 tranquillity, provide
for the common defense, 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 the 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 a 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.
For any state to make sex a qualification that must ever result in
the disfranchisement of one entire half of the people, is to pass a bill
of attainder, or, an ex post facto law, and is therefore a violation of
the supreme law of the land. By it the blessings of liberty are forever
withheld from women and their female posterity.
To them this government has no just powers derived from the consent
of the governed. To them this government is not a democracy. It is not
a republic. It is an odious aristocracy; a hateful oligarchy of sex; the
most hateful aristocracy ever established on the face of the globe; an
oligarchy of wealth, where the rich govern the poor. An oligarchy of learning,
where the educated govern the ignorant, or even an oligarchy of race, where
the Saxon rules the African, might be endured; but this oligarchy of sex,
which makes father, brothers, husband, sons, the oligarchs over the mother
and sisters, the wife and daughters, of every household - which ordains
all men sovereigns, all women subjects, carries dissension, discord, and
rebellion into every home of the nation.
Webster, Worcester, and Bouvier all define a citizen to be a person
in the United States, entitled to vote and hold office.
The only question left to be settled now is: Are women persons? And
I hardly believe any of our opponents will have the hardihood to say they
are not. Being persons, then, women are citizens; and no state has a right
to make any law, or to enforce any old law, that shall abridge their privileges
or immunities. Hence, every discrimination against women in the constitutions
and laws of the several states is today null and void, precisely as is
every one against Negroes.
Susan B. Anthony - 1873