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Minor v. Happersett - History

Minor v. Happersett - History


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In 1874, the US Supreme Court, in the decision of Minor v. Happersett, ruled against Virginia Minor of the National Women Suffrage Association. The ruling ended the legal challenges to the barriers to women's suffrage.

Minor v. Happersett - History

Minor is without a doubt the MOST important Supreme Court decision on the subject of what a Natural Born Citizen is. Those that want to muddy the waters on this subject will do anything to make it irrelevant. It is the one decision they fear the most. They will bring out English Common law, Blackstone anything they can think of to muddy the waters and they will fight to the death on this subject.

The nomenclature of the times of the Founding fathers was Vattel.

Minor v. Happersett 88 U.S. 162 (1874), U.S. Supreme Court case in which the court ruled unanimously:

"The Constitution does not, in words, say who shall be natural-born citizens. Resort must be had elsewhere to ascertain that. At common-law, with the nomenclature of which the framers of the Constitution were familiar, it was never doubted that all children born in a country of PARENTS (plural) who were its CITIZENS (plural) became themselves, upon their birth, citizens also. These were natives, or natural-born citizens, as distinguished from aliens or foreigners."

Minor was unanimous and written by Chief Justice Morrison Waite a unanimous opinion by the Chief is the strongest statement the Court can make.

Here is the nomenclature of the times of the Founding fathers. This is the language our founding fathers followed when they wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution

Vattel`s The Law of Nations or the Principles of the Laws of Nature: “The citizens are the members of the civil society bound to this society by certain duties, and subject to its authority, they equally participate in its advantages. The natives, or natural-born citizens, are those born in the country, of parents who are citizens. As the society cannot exist and perpetuate itself otherwise than by the children of the citizens, those children naturally follow the condition of their fathers, and succeed to all their rights. The society is supposed to desire this, in consequence of what it owes to its own preservation and it is presumed, as matter of course, that each citizen, on entering into society, reserves to his children the right of becoming members of it. The country of the fathers is therefore that of the children and these become true citizens merely by their tacit consent. We shall soon see whether, on their coming to the years of discretion, they may renounce their right, and what they owe to the society in which they were born. I say, that, in order to be of the country, it is necessary that a person be born of a father who is a citizen for, if he is born there of a foreigner, it will be only the place of his birth, and not his country.”

All of the cases listed below refer to Minor v. Happersett 88 U.S. 162 (1874) as the authority of citizens and Natural Born Citizen

Ex Parte Lockwood, 154 U.S. 116 (1894), an essential case which confirms Minor v. Happersett as precedent on the definition of federal citizenship:

“In Minor v. Happersett, 21 Wall. 162, this court held that the word ‘citizen’ is often used to convey the idea of membership in a nation, and, in that sense, women, if born of citizen parents within the jurisdiction of the United States, have always been considered citizens of the United States, as much so before the adoption of the fourteenth amendment of the constitution as since” (Emphasis added.)

Lockwood directly cites Minor as precedent on the definition of federal citizenship

City of Mobile v. Bolden, 446 U.S. 55 (1980) because it cites Minor as a continuing precedent on the voting rights issue 60 years after the adoption of the 19th Amendment. This kills the argument that Minor was overruled by the 19th Amendment. Here is the relevant passage as it appears at Justia today un-scrubbed:

“More than 100 years ago, the Court unanimously held that “the Constitution of the United States does not confer the right of suffrage upon anyone. . . .” Minor v. Happersett, 21 Wall. 162, 88 U. S. 178. See Lassiter v. Northampton Election Bd., 360 U.S. at 360 U. S. 50-51. It is for the States “to determine the conditions under which the right of suffrage may be exercised . . . , absent, of course, the discrimination which the Constitution condemns,” ibid.”

Baldwin v. Fish & Game Comm’m of Montana, 436 U.S 371 (1978),

Breedlove v. Suttles, 302 U.S. 277 (1937),

US v. CLASSIC, 313 U.S. 299 (1941),

Colgate v. Harvey, 296 U.S. 404 (1935),

Coyle v. Smith, 221 U.S. 559 (1911),

Hague v. Committee For Industrial Organization, 307 U.S. 496 (1939),

Hamilton v. Regents, 293 U.S. 245 (1934),

Harris v. Mcrae, 448 U.S. 297 (1980),

Kansas v. Colorado, 206 U.S 47 (1907),

Kepner v. U.S., 195 U.S. 100 (1904),

Kramer v. Union Free Sch. Dist., 395 U.S. 621 (1969),

Lynch v. Overholser, 369 U.S. 705 (1962),

N.Y. Ex Rel. Bryant v. Zimmerman, 278 U.S. 63 (1928),

Slaughter-House cases, 83 U.S. (16 Wall.) 36, 21 L. Ed. 394 (1873),

Rodriguez v. Popular Democratic Party, 457 U.S. 1 (1982),

Rogers v. Bellei, 401 U.S. 816 (1971),

Schick v. U.S., 195 U.S. 65 (1904),

Snowden v. Hughes, 321 U.S. 1 (1944),

South Carolina v. US, 199 U.S. 437 (1905),

In Re Summers, 325 U.S. 561 (1945),

U.S. v. Wong Kim Ark,169 U.S. 649 (1898),

Williams v. Rhodes, 393 U.S. 23 (1968),

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Minor v. Happersett

Minor v. Happersett, 88 U.S. (21 Wall.) 162 (1875), [1] is a United States Supreme Court case in which the Court held that, while women are no less citizens than men are, citizenship does not confer a right to vote, and therefore State laws barring women from voting are constitutionally valid. The Supreme Court upheld state court decisions in Missouri, which had refused to register a woman as a lawful voter because that state's laws allowed only men to vote.

The Minor v. Happersett ruling was based on an interpretation of the Privileges or Immunities Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Supreme Court readily accepted that Minor was a citizen of the United States, but it held that the constitutionally protected privileges of citizenship did not include the right to vote.

The opinion infamously concluded with the poorly crafted statement that ". the Constitution the United States does not confer the right of suffrage upon anyone." This was clarified in Ex Parte Yarbrough 110 U.S. 651 (1884) stating that ". the court did not intend to say that when the class or the person is thus ascertained, his right to vote for a member of Congress was not fundamentally based upon the Constitution."

The Nineteenth Amendment, which became a part of the Constitution in 1920, effectively overruled Minor v. Happersett by prohibiting discrimination in voting rights based on sex. [2] Minor v. Happersett continued to be cited in support of restrictive election laws of other types until the 1960s, when the Supreme Court started interpreting the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause to prohibit discrimination among citizenry in voting rights. [3]


Minor v. Happersett: The Supreme Court and Women’s Suffrage

By: Caiti Anderson
Following the Civil War, the women’s suffrage movement followed two different paths to gain the right to vote. The American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA) advocated a state-by-state approach to suffrage, lobbying individual states to pass laws allowing women to vote. On the other hand, the more radical organization, the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA), pushed women’s suffrage on a national scale. After the Fifteenth Amendment excluded women, NWSA leaders brainstormed other ways women could gain suffrage, including an additional amendment. However, there were some who believed that the equal rights clause of the Fourteenth Amendment already granted women the right to vote. In order to prove this, the women’s suffrage movement needed a woman to attempt to register to vote. Upon being turned away, this woman would sue and continually appeal until her case came before the Supreme Court. As one of the architects of this plan, Virginia Minor fit the description perfectly.

Minor’s involvement in the women’s suffrage movement began at the end of the Civil War. While living in St. Louis, Minor and her husband, Francis, both staunchly supported the Union cause. After the tragic death of their son in 1866, both Minors threw themselves into the women’s suffrage movement. In 1867, Virginia Minor founded the Woman Suffrage Association of Missouri, the first political organization dedicated to enfranchising women. The association elected Minor as president. In an 1869 speech for a national suffrage convention in St. Louis, Minor introduced the idea the women had already gained the right to vote through the Fourteenth Amendment. She stated, “I believe the Constitution of the United States gives me every right and privilege to which every other citizen is entitled for while the Constitution gives the States the right to regulate suffrage, it nowhere gives them power to prevent it.” Further, the way to solidify this standing was not through the legislature, but through the Supreme Court. Working alongside Susan B. Anthony, the Minors decided that women throughout the country should attempt to register to vote in the 1872 presidential election. When turned away, the women would file a civil suit claiming a violation of their right to vote as granted by the Fourteenth Amendment, and continually appeal until the case reached the Supreme Court.

On October 15, 1872, Minor tried to register to vote. The district registrar, Reese Happersett, denied Minor’s registration based on her gender. Minor and her husband sued. Both the Circuit Court and Missouri Supreme Court ruled against Minor, who appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court unanimously ruled against Minor in October, 1874. In the Opinion of the Court, Chief Justice Waite states that even though women are citizens of the United States, the Constitution does “not necessarily confer the right of suffrage” upon citizens. Rather, suffrage must be expressly granted to citizens, a privilege that the constitution does not grant to women. Further, Waite writes, “If the law is wrong, it ought to be changed but the power for that is not with us.” With these words, the judicial avenue of gaining women’s suffrage closed. The power to gain the vote lay solely with the legislative branch.

The immediate impact of Minor v. Happersett on the women’s suffrage movement forced the movement to reevaluate how to gain the right to vote. No longer could the movement focus on redefining the privileges of citizenship. Instead, the movement devoted its attention to gaining women’s suffrage on a state-by-state basis. Eventually, this morphed into a national movement to ratify a constitutional amendment exclusively granting women suffrage.

Although Minor v. Happersett did not result in the universal suffrage of women, this test case encouraged the use of civil disobedience in reform movements throughout the country. Both Plessy v. Ferguson and Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka utilized this same “test case” mentality have a person break the law in order to challenge that law’s existence. The women’s suffrage movement would continue to use civil disobedience, especially during the 1910s. Ultimately, Minor’s case held a major impact for how Americans challenge laws. Civil disobedience continues to be one of the most effective methods of bringing attention to problematic issues. Virginia Minor never successfully voted, but her actions of civil disobedience helped pave the way for the Nineteenth Amendment and the Voting Rights Act.

Note: For an excellent article that further details the impact of Minor v. Happersett, please click here. To read about Susan B. Anthony’s attempt to vote, check out this blog poston her trial.


BIBLIOGRAPHY

Kerber, Linda K. No Constitutional Right to be Ladies: Women and the Obligations of Citizenship. New York: Hill and Wang, 1998.

Rogers, Donald W., and Christine Scriabine, eds. Voting and the Spirit of American Democracy: Essays on the History of Voting Rights in America. West Hartford, Conn.: University of Hartford, 1990 Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1992.

Thomas S.Barclay/a. r.

See alsoCivil Rights and Liberties Suffrage: Exclusion from the Suffrage Suffrage: Woman's Suffrage Voting Women's Rights Movement: The Nineteenth Century .


Legal Cases

A collection of primary sources about the Minor v. Happersett and other court cases that impacted the Suffrage Movement.

Brandeis Brief (Muller v. Oregon), 1908

United States v. Anthony, 1872

In 1872, Susan B. Anthony and thirteen other women were arrested for voting in the presidential election, as were the three inspectors who allowed them to vote. Anthony was the only woman brought to trial and pleaded not guilty. Anthony believed she was “legally entitled to vote,” and if she was not, “but voted in good faith in the belief that it was her right, she was guilty of no crime.” However, Anthony was found guilty, and a fine of $100 plus the costs of the trial was imposed.


Contributions to the First Wave

Virginia Minor’s contributions to the First wave began on May 8 th , 1867, when a group of people gathered at the St. Louis Mercantile Library to form an organization committed to attaining woman suffrage (Staley, 1983, p. 34). The Woman Suffrage Association of Missouri was the first organization in the world to have its particular aim to enfranchise women. Minor was elected the president of this association at the opening meeting on May 8, 1867 (National Park Service, 2019). In the same year, a group of suffragists including Minor petitioned the Missouri legislature in an attempt to enfranchise women. The petition containing 355 signatures was defeated. The Missouri legislature received another petition on February 20, 1868, from a group of men and women requesting that the right to suffrage be extended to the female sex. This petition was also defeated (National Park Service, 2019).

St. Louis hosted a women suffrage convention in October of 1869, suffragists such as Susan B. Anthony, Julia Ward Howe, and Virginia Minor were in attendance (Staley, 1983, p. 34). Minor made a speech at this convention urging women to cease to submit to their current inferior position in society. Her husband Francis Minor drafted a series of resolutions proclaiming the right of women’s suffrage under the U.S. constitution. Theses resolutions were based on the phrasing of the 14 th amendment (National Park Service, 2019). It states that those who are born in the United States are citizens of the state where they reside (Staley, 1983, p. 38). They argued that under the terms of the 14 th amendment, women were already citizens of the United States, and therefore were entitled to the benefits and immunities of their citizenship. According to their argument, by law, women already had the right to vote (National Park Service, 2019).

The Minor’s set of resolutions were published in The Revolution, the newspaper of the National Women’s Suffrage Association (NWSA). Copies of this paper were sent to each member of congress, and thousands of copies were distributed. Many of the leaders of the suffrage movement began using the argument of the 14 th amendment, including Elizabeth Cady Stanton. She relied on these resolutions in her testimony before a congressional committee of the District of Columbia considering the enfranchisement of women in 1870 (National Park Service, 2019).

Many suffragists of Missouri continued to rely on appeal instead of using the 14 th amendment argument. The St. Louis County Woman Suffrage Association petitioned the House committee on the Judiciary of the forty second congress for a woman suffrage amendment in the United States Constitution in 1871 (Staley, 1983, p. 34). These petitioners argued that women were marked an inferior class by their lack of rights to vote. They claimed that this inequity labeled women with feebleness and dependence. This petition was unsuccessful. On March 4 th , 1872 the Woman Suffrage Association of Missouri presented another petition to the Missouri General Assembly. They requested that the legislature grant women the right to vote, and again, this was denied (Staley, 1983, p. 34).

On October 15, 1872, following these losses, Minor decided to attempt to register to vote, putting her legal course presented at the St. Louis convention years earlier, into action. The election district registrar Reese Happersett refused to let her register, as she expected. In December of 1872 Mr. and Mrs. Minor brought the lawsuit against Happersett to the Circuit Court of St. Louis. The petition the Minors presents mirrored the resolutions she put forth at the convention in 1869. It stated that Minor was allowed the same privileges or immunities of any citizen of the United States, including the right to vote. They argued that because various state laws prohibited her to exercise these rights, it was unconstitutional. The Petition claimed, “Missouri laws prohibiting women from voting violated the United Constitution, specifically Article IV, Section 2, granting the citizens of each state the privileges and immunities of the citizens of the several states Article VI, declaring the Constitution to be the supreme law of the land Article V, ensuring due process under the law, And, the crux of their plea, the 14 th Amendment” (Staley, 1983, p. 34).

The Minors also filed a brief with the St. Louis Circuit Court adding additional arguments to the case. They stated that denying the women the right to vote was infringement on their freedom of speech. They stated that Missouri laws also violated the thirteenth amendment, as women without the right to vote were placed in a position of involuntary servitude. Their last action was appealing the court on the basis of natural law (Staley, 1983, p. 39).

During this case, Happersett relied upon the revision of the Missouri Constitution stating that “Every male citizen of the United States . . . shall be entitled to vote” (Staley, 1983, p. 39). His defense was that Minor had no right to vote under the current Missouri State constitution, therefore, it was his job to refuse her. The Circuit Court dismissed the Minors’ petition in February 3, 1873. The courts decided that the 14 th Amendment did not apply to Minor as she had not been a former slave and does not need the right to vote in order to protect herself from oppression (Staley, 1983, p. 39).

The Minors took this case to the United States Supreme Court. The Minor v. Happersett case was the only woman suffrage case based on the 14 th Amendment to ever reach the Supreme Court. During the brief, they began with the definitions of citizenship throughout United States history. They argued that there is no “halfway citizenship” and that women should be entitled to all the rights of citizenship or none at all (Staley, 1983, p. 40). Women received benefits and duties such as the ability to obtain passports and the duty to pay taxes. Logically, they must be allowed the right to vote. During this case, they reiterated their arguments from the lower courts and remained their main argument on their 14 th Amendment theory. They briefly investigated the enfranchisement of former male slaves, claiming that it respected African American’s right to vote as an existing fact, not a new right. The Minors brought their brief to a close with an appeal to eliminate women from the position of “involuntary servitude” where Missouri laws had placed them. They argued that instead, raise all women to a condition of self-respect and perfect freedom (Staley, 1983, p. 41).

The Court discussed the idea of citizenship and came to the conclusion that the idea of women’s citizenship had never been denied, and that the 14 th Amendment did not affect the status of women’s citizenship. This Amendment was an additional guarantee to protect rights of those who already possess them. The Courts decided that the Constitution, throughout history, did not confer the right of suffrage upon anyone (Staley, 1983, p. 41).

This chapter of woman suffrage beginning in St. Louis, Missouri was ended roughly 6 years later, after the decision on the Supreme Court in the Minor v. Happersett case. The National Women Suffrage Association ended the use of litigation, returning to its use of lobbying as a result of this loss. For the next 44 years the suffragists of Missouri continued their appeals to the general assemblies as well as the constitutional conventions before they would have the right to vote (Staley, 1983, p. 41).

I believe that the United States Constitution gives me every right and privilege to which every other citizen is entitled . . . Failing before the Legislature, we must then turn to the Supreme Court . . . and ask it to decide what our rights as citizens, or, at least, not doing that, . . . [to] exempt us from the burden of taxation to support so unjust a Government.

Virginia Minor (Staley, 1983, p. 41).


MINOR v. HAPPERSETT

1. The word "citizen" is often used to convey the idea of membership in a nation. 2. In that sense, women, if born of citizen parents within the jurisdiction of the United States, have always been considered citizens of the United States, as much so before the adoption of the fourteenth amendment to the Constitution as since. 3. The right of suffrage was not necessarily one of the privileges or immunities of citizenship before the adoption of the fourteenth amendment, and that amendment does not add to these privileges and immunities. It simply furnishes additional guaranty for the protection of such as the citizen already had. 4. At the time of the adoption of that amendment, suffrage was not coextensive with the citizenship of the States nor was it at the time of the adoption of the Constitution. 5. Neither the Constitution nor the fourteenth amendment made all citizens voters. 6. A provision in a State constitution which confines the right of voting to " male citizens of the United States," is no violation of the Federal Constitution. In such a State women have no right to vote.

ERROR to the Supreme Court of Missouri the case being thus:

The fourteenth amendment to the Constitution of the United States, in its first section, thus ordains:

See other sections, infra, p. 174.

" 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."

And the constitution of the State of Missouri thus ordains:

"Every male citizen of the United States shall be entitled to vote."

Under a statute of the State all persons wishing to vote at any election, must previously have been registered in the manner pointed out by the statute, this being a condition precedent to the exercise of the elective franchise.

In this state of things, on the 15th of October, 1872 (one of the days fixed by law for the registration of voters), Mrs. Virginia Minor, a native born, free, white citizen of the United States, and of the State of Missouri, over the age of twenty-one years, wishing to vote for electors for President and Vice-President of the United States, and for a representative in Congress, and for other officers, at the general election held in November, 1872, applied to one Happersett, the registrar of voters, to register her as a lawful voter, which he refused to do, assigning for cause that she was not a "male citizen of the United States," but a woman. She thereupon sued him in one of the inferior State courts of Missouri, for wilfully refusing to place her name upon the list of registered voters, by which refusal she was deprived of her right to vote.

The registrar demurred, and the court in which the suit was brought sustained the demurrer, and gave judgment in his favor a judgment which the Supreme Court affirmed. Mrs. Minor now brought the case here on error.

The CHIEF JUSTICE delivered the opinion of the court.

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

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

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

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

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

Looking at the Constitution itself we find that it was ordained and established by "the people of the United States," and then going further back, we find that these were the people of the several States that had before dissolved the political bands which connected them with Great Britain, and assumed a separate and equal station among the powers of the earth, and that had by Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, in which they took the name of "the United States of America," entered into a firm league of friendship with each other for their common defence, the security of their liberties and their mutual and general welfare, binding themselves to assist each other against all force offered to or attack made upon them, or any of them, on account of religion, sovereignty, trade, or any other pretence whatever. fn_

Preamble, 1 Stat. at Large, 10.

Declaration of Independence, Ib. 1.

Whoever, then, was one of the people of either of these States when the Constitution of the United States was adopted, became ipso facto a citizen — a member of the nation created by its adoption. He was one of the persons associating together to form the nation, and was, consequently, one of its original citizens. As to this there has never been a doubt. Disputes have arisen as to whether or not certain persons or certain classes of persons were part of the people at the time, but never as to their citizenship if they were.

Additions might always be made to the citizenship of the United States in two ways: first, by birth, and second, by naturalization. This is apparent from the Constitution itself, for it provides fn† that "no person except a natural-born citizen, or a citizen of the United States at the time of the adoption of the Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of President," and that Congress shall have power "to establish a uniform rule of naturalization." Thus new citizens may be born or they may be created by naturalization.

The Constitution does not, in words, say who shall be natural-born citizens. Resort must be had elsewhere to ascertain that. At common-law, with the nomenclature of which the framers of the Constitution were familiar, it was never doubted that all children born in a country of parents who were its citizens became themselves, upon their birth, citizens also. These were natives, or natural-born citizens, as distinguished from aliens or foreigners. Some authorities go further and include as citizens children born within the jurisdiction without reference to the citizenship of their parents. As to this class there have been doubts, but never as to the first. For the purposes of this case it is not necessary to solve these doubts. It is sufficient for everything we have now to consider that all children born of citizen parents within the jurisdiction are themselves citizens. The words "all children" are certainly as comprehensive, when used in this connection, as "all persons," and if females are included in the last they must be in the first. That they are included in the last is not denied. In fact the whole argument of the plaintiffs proceeds upon that idea.

Under the power to adopt a uniform system of naturalization Congress, as early as 1790, provided "that any alien, being a free white person," might be admitted as a citizen of the United States, and that the children of such persons so naturalized, dwelling within the United States, being under twenty-one years of age at the time of such naturalization, should also be considered citizens of the United States, and that the children of citizens of the United States that might be born beyond the sea, or out of the limits of the United States, should be considered as natural-born citizens. fn_ These provisions thus enacted have, in substance, been retained in all the naturalization laws adopted since. In 1855, however, the last provision was somewhat extended, and all persons theretofore born or thereafter to be born out of the limits of the jurisdiction of the United States, whose fathers were, or should be at the time of their birth, citizens of the United States, were declared to be citizens also. fn†

As early as 1804 it was enacted by Congress that when any alien who had declared his intention to become a citizen in the manner provided by law died before he was actually naturalized, his widow and children should be considered as citizens of the United States, and entitled to all rights and privileges as such upon taking the necessary oath fn‡ and in 1855 it was further provided that any woman who might lawfully be naturalized under the existing laws, married, or who should be married to a citizen of the United States, should be deemed and taken to be a citizen. fn_

From this it is apparent that from the commencement of the legislation upon this subject alien women and alien minors could be made citizens by naturalization, and we think it will not be contended that this would have been done if it had not been supposed that native women and native minors were already citizens by birth.

But if more is necessary to show that women have always been considered as citizens the same as men, abundant proof is to be found in the legislative and judicial history of the country. Thus, by the Constitution, the judicial power of the United States is made to extend to controversies between citizens of different States. Under this it has been uniformly held that the citizenship necessary to give the courts of the United States jurisdiction of a cause must be affirmatively shown on the record. Its existence as a fact may be put in issue and tried. If found not to exist the case must be dismissed. Notwithstanding this the records of the courts are full of cases in which the jurisdiction depends upon the citizenship of women, and not one can be found, we think, in which objection was made on that account. Certainly none can be found in which it has been held that women could not sue or be sued in the courts of the United States. Again, at the time of the adoption of the Constitution, in many of the States (and in some probably now) aliens could not inherit or transmit inheritance. There are a multitude of cases to be found in which the question has been presented whether a woman was or was not an alien, and as such capable or incapable of inheritance, but in no one has it been insisted that she was not a citizen because she was a woman. On the contrary, her right to citizenship has been in all cases assumed. The only question has been whether, in the particular case under consideration, she had availed herself of the right.

In the legislative department of the government similar proof will be found. Thus, in the pre-emption laws, fn_ a widow, "being a citizen of the United States," is allowed to make settlement on the public lands and purchase upon the terms specified, and women, "being citizens of the United States," are permitted to avail themselves of the benefit of the homestead law. fn†

Other proof of like character might be found, but certainly more cannot be necessary to establish the fact that sex has never been made one of the elements of citizenship in the United States. In this respect men have never had an advantage over women. The same laws precisely apply to both. The fourteenth amendment did not affect the citizenship of women any more than it did of men. In this particular, therefore, the rights of Mrs. Minor do not depend upon the amendment. She has always been a citizen from her birth, and entitled to all the privileges and immunities of citizenship. The amendment prohibited the State, of which she is a citizen, from abridging any of her privileges and immunities as a citizen of the United States but it did not confer citizenship on her. That she had before its adoption.

If the right of suffrage is one of the necessary privileges of a citizen of the United States, then the constitution and laws of Missouri confining it to men are in violation of the Constitution of the United States, as amended, and consequently void. The direct question is, therefore, presented whether all citizens are necessarily voters.

The Constitution does not define the privileges and immunities of citizens. For that definition we must look elsewhere. In this case we need not determine what they are, but only whether suffrage is necessarily one of them.

It certainly is nowhere made so in express terms. The United States has no voters in the States of its own creation. The elective officers of the United States are all elected directly or indirectly by State voters. The members of the House of Representatives are to be chosen by the people of the States, and the electors in each State must have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the State legislature. fn_ Senators are to be chosen by the legislatures of the States, and necessarily the members of the legislature required to make the choice are elected by the voters of the State. fn† Each State must appoint in such manner, as the legislature thereof may direct, the electors to elect the President and Vice-President. fn‡ The times, places, and manner of holding elections for Senators and Representatives are to be prescribed in each State by the legislature thereof but Congress may at any time, by law, make or alter such regulations, except as to the place of choosing Senators. It is not necessary to inquire whether this power of supervision thus given to Congress is sufficient to authorize any interference with the State laws prescribing the qualifications of voters, for no such interference has ever been attempted. The power of the State in this particular is certainly supreme until Congress acts.

The amendment did not add to the privileges and immunities of a citizen. It simply furnished an additional guaranty for the protection of such as he already had. No new voters were necessarily made by it. Indirectly it may have had that effect, because it may have increased the number of citizens entitled to suffrage under the constitution and laws of the States, but it operates for this purpose, if at all, through the States and the State laws, and not directly upon the citizen.

It is clear, therefore, we think, that the Constitution has not added the right of suffrage to the privileges and immunities of citizenship as they existed at the time it was adopted. This makes it proper to inquire whether suffrage was coextensive with the citizenship of the States at the time of its adoption. If it was, then it may with force be argued that suffrage was one of the rights which belonged to citizenship, and in the enjoyment of which every citizen must be protected. But if it was not, the contrary may with propriety be assumed.

When the Federal Constitution was adopted, all the States, with the exception of Rhode Island and Connecticut, had constitutions of their own. These two continued to act under their charters from the Crown. Upon an examination of those constitutions we find that in no State were all citizens permitted to vote. Each State determined for itself who should have that power. Thus, in New Hampshire, "every male inhabitant of each town and parish with town privileges, and places unincorporated in the State, of twenty-one years of age and upwards, excepting paupers and persons excused from paying taxes at their own request," were its voters in Massachusetts "every male inhabitant of twenty-one years of age and upwards, having a freehold estate within the commonwealth of the annual income of three pounds, or any estate of the value of sixty pounds" in Rhode Island "such as are admitted free of the company and society" of the colony in Connecticut such persons as had "maturity in years, quiet and peaceable behavior, a civil conversation, and forty shillings freehold or forty pounds personal estate," if so certified by the selectmen in New York "every male inhabitant of full age who shall have personally resided within one of the counties of the State for six months immediately preceding the day of election . . . if during the time aforesaid he shall have been a freeholder, possessing a freehold of the value of twenty pounds within the county, or have rented a tenement therein of the yearly value of forty shillings, and been rated and actually paid taxes to the State" in New Jersey "all inhabitants . . . of full age who are worth fifty pounds, proclamation-money, clear estate in the same, and have resided in the county in which they claim a vote for twelve months immediately preceding the election" in Pennsylvania "every freeman of the age of twenty-one years, having resided in the State two years next before the election, and within that time paid a State or county tax which shall have been assessed at least six months before the election" in Delaware and Virginia "as exercised by law at present" in Maryland "all freemen above twenty-one years of age having a freehold of fifty acres of land in the county in which they offer to vote and residing therein, and all freemen having property in the State above the value of thirty pounds current money, and having resided in the county in which they offer to vote one whole year next preceding the election" in North Carolina, for senators, "all freemen of the age of twenty-one years who have been inhabitants of any one county within the State twelve months immediately preceding the day of election, and possessed of a freehold within the same county of fifty acres of land for six months next before and at the day of election," and for members of the house of commons "all freemen of the age of twenty-one years who have been inhabitants in any one county within the State twelve months immediately preceding the day of any election, and shall have paid public taxes" in South Carolina "every free white man of the age of twenty-one years, being a citizen of the State and having resided therein two years previous to the day of election, and who hath a freehold of fifty acres of land, or a town lot of which he hath been legally seized and possessed at least six months before such election, or (not having such freehold or town lot), hath been a resident within the election district in which he offers to give his vote six months before said election, and hath paid a tax the preceding year of three shillings sterling towards the support of the government" and in Georgia such "citizens and inhabitants of the State as shall have attained to the age of twenty-one years, and shall have paid tax for the year next preceding the election, and shall have resided six months within the county."

In this condition of the law in respect to suffrage in the several States it cannot for a moment be doubted that if it had been intended to make all citizens of the United States voters, the framers of the Constitution would not have left it to implication. So important a change in the condition of citizenship as it actually existed, if intended, would have been expressly declared.

But if further proof is necessary to show that no such change was intended, it can easily be found both in and out of the Constitution. By Article 4, section 2, it is provided that "the citizens of each State shall be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States." If suffrage is necessarily a part of citizenship, then the citizens of each State must be entitled to vote in the several States precisely as their citizens are. This is more than asserting that they may change their residence and become citizens of the State and thus be voters. It goes to the extent of insisting that while retaining their original citizenship they may vote in any State. This, we think, has never been claimed. And again, by the very terms of the amendment we have been considering (the fourteenth), "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 to vote 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 the rebellion, or other crimes, 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." Why this, if it was not in the power of the legislature to deny the right of suffrage to some male inhabitants? And if suffrage was necessarily one of the absolute rights of citizenship, why confine the operation of the limitation to male inhabitants? Women and children are, as we have seen, "persons." They are counted in the enumeration upon which the apportionment is to be made, but if they were necessarily voters because of their citizenship unless clearly excluded, why inflict the penalty for the exclusion of males alone? Clearly, no such form of words would have been selected to express the idea here indicated if suffrage was the absolute right of all citizens.

And still again, after the adoption of the fourteenth amendment, it was deemed necessary to adopt a fifteenth, as follows: "The right of 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." The fourteenth amendment had already provided that no State should make or enforce any law which should abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States. If suffrage was one of these privileges or immunities, why amend the Constitution to prevent its being denied on account of race, c.? Nothing is more evident than that the greater must include the less, and if all were already protected why go through with the form of amending the Constitution to protect a part?

It is true that the United States guarantees to every State a republican form of government. fn_ It is also true that no State can pass a bill of attainder, fn† and that no person can be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. fn‡ All these several provisions of the Constitution must be construed in connection with the other parts of the instrument, and in the light of the surrounding circumstances.

The guaranty is of a republican form of government. No particular government is designated as republican, neither is the exact form to be guaranteed, in any manner especially designated. Here, as in other parts of the instrument, we are compelled to resort elsewhere to ascertain what was intended.

The guaranty necessarily implies a duty on the part of the States themselves to provide such a government. All the States had government when the Constitution was adopted. In all the people participated to some extent, through their representatives elected in the manner specially provided. These governments the Constitution did not change. They were accepted precisely as they were, and it is, therefore, to be presumed that they were such as it was the duty of the States to provide. Thus we have unmistakable evidence of what was republican in form, within the meaning of that term as employed in the Constitution.

As has been seen, all the citizens of the States were not invested with the right of suffrage. In all, save perhaps New Jersey, this right was only bestowed upon men and not upon all of them. Under these circumstances it is certainly now too late to contend that a government is not republican, within the meaning of this guaranty in the Constitution, because women are not made voters.

The same may be said of the other provisions just quoted. Women were excluded from suffrage in nearly all the States by the express provision of their constitutions and laws. If that had been equivalent to a bill of attainder, certainly its abrogation would not have been left to implication. Nothing less than express language would have been employed to effect so radical a change. So also of the amendment which declares that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, adopted as it was as early as 1791. If suffrage was intended to be included within its obligations, language better adapted to express that intent would most certainly have been employed. The right of suffrage, when granted, will be protected. He who has it can only be deprived of it by due process of law, but in order to claim protection he must first show that he has the right.

But we have already sufficiently considered the proof found upon the inside of the Constitution. That upon the outside is equally effective.

The Constitution was submitted to the States for adoption in 1787, and was ratified by nine States in 1788, and finally by the thirteen original States in 1790. Vermont was the first new State admitted to the Union, and it came in under a constitution which conferred the right of suffrage only upon men of the full age of twenty-one years, having resided in the State for the space of one whole year next before the election, and who were of quiet and peaceable behavior. This was in 1791. The next year, 1792, Kentucky followed with a constitution confining the right of suffrage to free male citizens of the age of twenty-one years who had resided in the State two years or in the county in which they offered to vote one years next before the election. Then followed Tennessee, in 1796, with voters of freemen of the age of twenty-one years and upwards, possessing a freehold in the county wherein they may vote, and being inhabitants of the State or freemen being inhabitants of any one county in the State six months immediately preceding the day of election. But we need not particularize further. No new State has ever been admitted to the Union which has conferred the right of suffrage upon women, and this has never been considered a valid objection to her admission. On the contrary, as is claimed in the argument, the right of suffrage was withdrawn from women as early as 1807 in the State of New Jersey, without any attempt to obtain the interference of the United States to prevent it. Since then the governments of the insurgent States have been reorganized under a requirement that before their representatives could be admitted to seats in Congress they must have adopted new constitutions, republican in form. In no one of these constitutions was suffrage conferred upon women, and yet the States have all been restored to their original position as States in the Union.

Besides this, citizenship has not in all cases been made a condition precedent to the enjoyment of the right of suffrage. Thus, in Missouri, persons of foreign birth, who have declared their intention to become citizens of the United States, may under certain circumstances vote. The same provision is to be found in the constitutions of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, and Texas.

Certainly, if the courts can consider any question settled, this is one. For nearly ninety years the people have acted upon the idea that the Constitution, when it conferred citizenship, did not necessarily confer the right of suffrage. If uniform practice long continued can settle the construction of so important an instrument as the Constitution of the United States confessedly is, most certainly it has been done here. Our province is to decide what the law is, not to declare what it should be.

We have given this case the careful consideration its importance demands. If the law is wrong, it ought to be changed but the power for that is not with us. The arguments addressed to us bearing upon such a view of the subject may perhaps be sufficient to induce those having the power, to make the alteration, but they ought not to be permitted to influence our judgment in determining the present rights of the parties now litigating before us. No argument as to woman's need of suffrage can be considered. We can only act upon her rights as they exist. It is not for us to look at the hardship of withholding. Our duty is at an end if we find it is within the power of a State to withhold.

Being unanimously of the opinion that the Constitution of the United States does not confer the right of suffrage upon any one, and that the constitutions and laws of the several States which commit that important trust to men alone are not necessarily void, we


THE NINETEENTH AMENDMENT

W hen the United States declared independence in 1776, New Jersey was the only colony that allowed women to vote. It took 144 years for the United States to give women the right to vote nationwide with the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920.

The Nineteenth Amendment was the achievement of the women's suffrage movement that began at the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848. Elizabeth Cady Stanton started the movement there by writing the Seneca Falls Declaration of Rights and Sentiments. Over the next seven decades, women fought for suffrage through groups such as the National Woman Suffrage Association, the American Woman Suffrage Association, the National American Woman Suffrage Association, and the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage.

In 1866, Democratic Representative James Brooks of New York offered the first women's suffrage amendment in Congress. Congressmen offered similar amendments on a regular basis beginning in 1880, only to be defeated time after time. In May 1919, President Woodrow Wilson called a special session of Congress to consider the Nineteenth Amendment. The Senate finally passed it that month and the United States ratified, or approved, it in August 1920.


Virginia Minor

Virginia Minor claimed that as a native-born, free, white citizen of the United States and over the age of 21, the 14th Amendment gave her the right to vote. She attempted to register to vote but was denied because of her gender. Minor filed suit but lost her case – Minor v. Happersett (1874) – in the U.S. Supreme Court. The publicity, however, greatly helped her cause.

Virginia Louisa Minor was born March 27, 1824 in Caroline County, Virginia to Warner and Marie Timberlake Minor. Virginia moved with her family to Charlottesville when her father was appointed hotel keeper at the University of Virginia. Virginia was educated at home and for a short time at an academy for young ladies in Charlottesville.

Marriage and Family
On August 31, 1843, she married her distant cousin Francis Minor, a lawyer and graduate of Princeton and the University of Virginia. They moved to Mississippi, where they lived close to family members who had emigrated there, and in 1844 they joined an even larger family group who had settled in St. Louis, Missouri, where they bought a farm in what is now the Central West End.

Although they came from wealthy southern families, the Minors supported the Union during the Civil War. Minor joined the Ladies’ Union Aid Society, whose members donated supplies, provided financial assistance and served as battlefield nurses. She also assisted in hospitals in the St. Louis area through the Western Sanitary Commission, and provided produce from her farm to Benton Barracks, a Union training facility three miles north of her home, to improve the diet of the soldiers.

After the war ended, many women felt empowered by the public service they had performed and turned their attention to women’s rights. After her only child died in a shooting accident in 1866 at age 14, Virginia Minor launched the women’s suffrage movement in Missouri. She was convinced that women needed the vote for their position in society to improve.

Career in Women’s Suffrage
On May 8, 1867, Minor and four other women founded the Woman Suffrage Association of Missouri to “secure the ballot for women upon terms of equality with men.” It was the first organization in the world dedicated solely to winning the right to vote for women. Minor was elected its first president. In February 1869 members of the Woman Suffrage Association of Missouri unsuccessfully petitioned the Missouri legislature for the right to vote.

On May 15, 1869, women’s rights leaders Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton established the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) in New York City, in response to a split in the American Equal Rights Assocation over whether the women’s movement should support the 15th Amendment (ratified February 3, 1870) to the United States Constitution, which prohibits federal and state governments from denying a citizen the right to vote based on that citizen’s “race, color or previous condition of servitude.” Anthony and Stanton opposed the Amendment unless it included the vote for women.

The American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA) was formed by Lucy Stone, Henry Blackwell and Julia Ward Howe in November 1869. The AWSA founders were staunch abolitionists, and strongly supported securing the right to vote for African Americans. They believed that the Fifteenth Amendment would be in danger of failing to pass in Congress if it included the vote for women.

In October 1869, St. Louis hosted the Missouri Woman Suffrage Convention, the first of its kind held in the state. At the convention, Virginia Minor made an impassioned speech, urging women not to submit to their inferior condition any longer:

I believe the Constitution of the United States gives me every right and privilege to which every other citizen is entitled for while the Constitution gives the States the right to regulate suffrage, it nowhere gives them power to prevent it.

Francis and Virginia Minor then drafted a set of resolutions which asserted that women already had the right to vote under the U.S. Constitution. Using language from the Fourteenth Amendment, Minor stated that under the terms of the 14th Amendment women were citizens of the United States and entitled to all the benefits and immunities of citizenship. Thus, women already had the right to vote. All they had to do was exercise it.

The Minors then had these resolutions printed in pamphlet form, and circulated them throughout the country. Other general resolutions made by Stanton and the NWSA were included in the pamphlet, which pointed out that women were taxed without representation, governed without their consent, and tried and punished without a jury of their peers.

In advocating for a federal amendment to assure women the ballot, the NWSA relied on the natural rights argument put forth by Virginia Minor, and brought these issues to the attention of the nation by printing Minor’s resolutions in its periodical, The Revolution. At the time of the NWSA’s Washington Convention of 1870, ten thousand copies of Minor’s resolutions were circulating around the audience, with copies placed on the desk of every member of Congress.

Excerpt from the 14th Amendment used by the Minors to make their case:

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.

Attempting to Vote
During the 1872 presidential election, the National Woman Suffrage Association decided to challenge the voting restrictions which excluded women. The nationwide movement originated with Virginia Minor. Frustrated by the lack of legislative action, she saw an opportunity to advance the cause of suffrage for women.

On October 15, 1872, Virginia Minor attempted to register to vote in the upcoming election, claiming that right as a citizen. St. Louis ward registrar Reese Happersett refused to accept her registration because she was a woman. Francis Minor then sued Happersett on his wife’s behalf – married women were not allowed to file lawsuits – arguing she was entitled to vote under the Fourteenth Amendment.

The Virginia Minor Case
The Minor’s petition was presented to the court as a written statement on January 2, 1873. Reese Happersett’s lawyer, Smith P. Galt, objected to the Minor’s version of events and appealed to have the case heard during the General Term of the Circuit Court. This hearing took place on February 3, 1873. By agreement, both sides submitted their arguments in writing. There was no trial or jury.

The Minors lost their case in the lower court, but appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court, which heard the case in chambers on May 7, 1873. The Court said that the purpose of the 14th Amendment was to extend voting rights to the newly freed slaves, giving African Americans “the right to vote and thus protect themselves against oppression…” and that “There could have been no intention [in the amendment] to abridge the power of the States to limit the right of suffrage to the male inhabitants.” The Minors had lost again.

The case then went to the United States Supreme Court, where it is known as the case of Minor v. Happersett, a landmark Supreme Court decision. Francis Minor made the presentation, claiming that denial of suffrage in the states was a matter of practice rather than law:

The plaintiff has sought by this action for the establishment of a great principle of fundamental right, applicable not only to herself but to the class to which she belongs, for the principles here laid down extend far beyond the limits of the particular suit and embrace the rights of millions of others, who are thus represented through her…. It is impossible that this can be a republican government, in which one-half the citizens thereof are forever disenfranchised.

In October 1874 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that “the Constitution of the United States does not confer the right of suffrage upon anyone.” The Courts ignored the fact that although women were full citizens under the law, they did not enjoy the same rights as men. The Courts merely upheld the right of individual states to decide which citizens could vote within their borders.

With the Court’s decision, hopes for a judicial solution to the woman suffrage question were dashed. Suffragists then turned their efforts toward state-by-state campaigns to change state constitutions to allow women to vote. These efforts were particularly successful in the West. Thanks to Esther Hobart Morris, Wyoming Territory already allowed women to vote, and Wyoming became a state in 1890 with no voting restrictions placed upon women.

In 1893, Colorado allowed women the vote in 1896, Idaho, and Utah came into the union in that year with no voting restrictions against women. The State of Washington allowed women to vote in 1910, followed by California in 1911 and Oregon, Arizona and Kansas in 1912. These nine states were the only states to allow woman suffrage before the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920.

Minor and other members of the suffrage movement continued to fight for the right to vote. In 1879 she became president of the local branch of the NWSA. She testified in support of women’s suffrage before the United States Senate in 1889 to once more state her case. She served as honorary vice president of the Interstate Woman Suffrage Convention, held in Kansas City in 1892.

Virginia Minor died August 14, 1894, and was buried in Bellefontaine Cemetery in St. Louis. Since she regarded the clergy as hostile to her goal of equal rights for women, her funeral was conducted without a clergyman. She left $1,000 in her will to Susan B. Anthony for “the thousands she has expended for women,” and $500 to each of two nieces, provided they did not marry if one married, her share would go to the unmarried niece.

Though Minor did not live to see the passage in 1920 of the Nineteenth Amendment, which granted women the right to vote, she inspired women to fight for suffrage through her tenacity and perseverance.

In December 2013, Virginia Minor was announced as an inductee to the Hall of Famous Missourians, where her bronze bust will be one of forty-four on permanent display between the Senate and House chambers in the Missouri State Capitol in Jefferson City. The busts, which are to be created by Missouri sculptors Sabra Tull Meyer, E. Spencer Schubert and William J. Williams, depict prominent Missourians honored for their achievements and contributions to the state.


Watch the video: Brown v. Board of Education. BRIs Homework Help Series (June 2022).


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