The government has shown itself very weak in prosecuting Miss Anthony. No astute lawyer could be found on a side so pregnant of flaws as this one, were not the plaintiff in the case, the sovereign United States. The very fact of the prosecution is at one and the same time weakness on the part of the government, and an act of unauthorized authority. It is weakness, because by it, the United States comes onto the ground of the defendant, and, at once admits voting is an United States right, because United States rights are citizens’ rights. By this prosecution, the United States clearly admits that protection of the ballot is an United States duty, instead of a State duty. It is an United States duty instead of a State duty, because voting is an United States right instead of a State right. This prosecution is an open admission by the United States, that voting is a Constitutional right.
But the prosecution is also an admission of unauthorized authority in that by it, the United States discriminates between citizens. If there is one point of our government more strongly fortified than another, it is that the government is of the people. The Preamble of the Constitution, heretofore quoted, means all the people, if language has a meaning. All the people are citizens, if the fourteenth amendment has any signification at all.
If any minds are so obtuse as not to see that the ballot is an United States right,—if any person before me still claims suffrage as a state right alone, such person certainly cannot fail to see that under his views the United States has been guilty of a high-handed outrage upon Miss Anthony and the fourteen other women whom this great government,—this big United States has prosecuted. Under this view of the right of suffrage such person cannot fail to see there has been unauthorized interference by the United States, with the duties and rights of the State of New York. And while Uncle Sam was thus busy last winter over the prosecution of women citizens of the State of New York, the State itself submitted in its Legislature, a resolution looking towards the recognition by the State of the right of tax-paying women to the ballot. Thus at one and the same time was seen the anomaly of a prosecution by the United States of women of the State of New York for an act that New York herself was resolving it right to perform, and which if the ballot is not a constitutional right, the United States has no power over at all.
Look at this prosecution as you will, it presents a fine dilemma to solve; it presents to the country, as never before, the most important and vital question of United States rights; it presents the most important and vital question of unconstitutional power which has grown to such dimensions in the hands of United States officials; and it must bring to people’s cognizance the very slight thread by which hangs the security of any citizen’s right to the ballot.