An Account of the Proceedings on the Trial of Susan B. Anthony, on the Charge of Illegal Voting eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 246 pages of information about An Account of the Proceedings on the Trial of Susan B. Anthony, on the Charge of Illegal Voting.

It is stated in one of the public papers, by a person present at the trial, that immediately after the dismissal of the jury, one of the jurors said to him that that was not his verdict, nor that of the rest, and that if he could have spoken he should have answered “Not guilty,” and that other jurors would have sustained him in it.  The writer has no authority for this statement, beyond the letter mentioned.  The juror, of course, had a right, when the verdict was read by the clerk, to declare that it was not his verdict, but it is not strange, perhaps, that an ordinary juror, with no time to consider, or to consult with his fellows, and probably ignorant of his rights, and in awe of the Court, should have failed to assert himself at such a moment.

Probably the assumption by the judge that Miss Anthony in fact voted, did her no real injustice, as it was a notorious fact that she did vote, and claimed the right to do so.  But all this made it no less an usurpation for the judge to take the case from the jury, and order a verdict of guilty to be entered up without consulting them.

There was, however, a real injustice done her by the course of the judge, inasmuch as the mere fact of her voting, and voting unlawfully, was not enough for her conviction.  It is a perfectly settled rule of law that there must exist an intention to do an illegal act, to make an act a crime.  It is, of course, not necessary that a person perpetrating a crime should have an actual knowledge of a certain law which forbids the act, but he must have a criminal intent.  Thus, if one is charged with theft, and admits the taking of the property, which is clearly proved to have belonged to another, it is yet a good defence that he really believed that he had a right to take it, or that he took it by mistake.  Just so in a case where, as sometimes occurs, the laws regulating the right to vote in a State are of doubtful meaning, and a voter is uncertain whether he has a right to vote in one town or another, and, upon taking advice from good counsel, honestly makes up his mind that he has a right to vote in the town of A. In this belief he applies to the registrars of that town, who upon the statement of the facts, are of the opinion that he has a right to vote there, and place his name upon the list, and on election day he votes there without objection.  Now, if he should be prosecuted for illegal voting, it would not be enough that he acknowledged the fact of voting, and that the judge was of the opinion that his view of the law was wrong.  There would remain another and most vital question in the case, and that is, did he intend to vote unlawfully?  Now, precisely the wrong that would be done to the voter in the case we are supposing, by the judge ordering a verdict of guilty to be entered up, was done by that course in Miss Anthony’s case.  She thoroughly believed that she had a right to vote.  In addition to this she had consulted one of the ablest lawyers in Western New York, who gave it as his opinion

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An Account of the Proceedings on the Trial of Susan B. Anthony, on the Charge of Illegal Voting from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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