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Thursday, June 18, 2015

Speaking Of Women On Our Currency

On this date in 1873, Susan B was fined for trying to vote:

Anthony’s trial began in Canandaigua, New York, on June 17, 1873. Before a jury of twelve men, Richard Crowley stated the government’s case and called an inspector of election as a witness to establish that Anthony cast a ballot for congressional candidates. Henry Selden had himself sworn in as a witness and testified that he advised Anthony that the Constitution authorized her to vote. The government called Assistant U.S. Attorney John Pound to testify that in the preliminary examination Anthony indicated that she would have voted with or without Selden’s advice. 

The rest of the afternoon was taken up by Selden’s principal argument in the case. Selden devoted most of his time to his argument in favor of a constitutional right of women to vote. Selden then addressed the other question of law: Could voting constitute a crime under the Enforcement Act if a defendant voted in good faith in the belief that he or she was entitled to vote? At the direction of Justice Hunt, who suggested that Selden limit himself to questions of law until the court ruled on them, Selden did not offer his planned discussion of the question of fact regarding whether Anthony voted in the good faith that she had a right to vote. 

On the second day of the trial, U.S. Attorney Crowley presented the government’s case, noting that the recent decisions of the Supreme Court only strengthened the argument that states still controlled the right to vote except in the categories protected by the Fifteenth Amendment. After saying that the case presented no question of fact, Crowley offered his view of the facts: that the term “knowingly” in the Enforcement Act meant only that a person knew she was engaged in the act of voting. 

At the close of Crowley’s presentation, Justice Hunt read his opinion in the case. Citing the recent Supreme Court decisions narrowly defining the rights of U.S. citizenship, Hunt declared that the right to vote was not among the “privileges and immunities” protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. States retained their full rights to bar citizens from voting, he said, with the exception of barriers based on “race, color, or previous condition of servitude,” as set forth in the Fifteenth Amendment. Because Susan B. Anthony knew that New York enfranchised only males, she knew she lacked the right to vote. She acted knowingly to violate the law. Hunt concluded that there was no question for the jury to decide and that it should be directed to return a verdict of guilty. 

Selden insisted the jury had a right to decide the guilt or innocence of Anthony, and he again submitted his argument that she was innocent because she believed she had a legal right to vote and that the jury needed to determine this question of her intent. Hunt then directed the jury to deliver a guilty verdict, and the clerk refused Selden’s request to poll the jury. 

The judge ordered:

The sentence of the Court is that you pay a fine of one hundred dollars and the costs of the prosecution

She responded thus:

May it please your honor, I shall never pay a dollar of your unjust penalty....I shall work on with might and main to pay every dollar of that honest debt, but not a penny shall go to this unjust claim. And I shall earnestly and persistently continue to urge all women to the practical recognition of the old revolutionary maxim, that "Resistance to tyranny is obedience to God."

Anyway, let's forget that dreadful coin and put her on the 100 dollar bill.


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June 18, 2015 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink


Someone gave me one of those Lapham's Quarterly issues the other day that happened to have the exchage between Susan B. Anthony and Hunt as he was sentencing her, it still makes my blood boil to think of the judicial arrogance in him trying to shut her up.

Yes, the 100 would be a good one for her, and get a decent artist this time. That coin looks awful.

Posted by: Anthony McCarthy | Jun 19, 2015 6:06:49 AM

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