So far as women, without change of character as women, are qualified to discharge the duties of citizenship, they will discharge them if called upon to do so, and beyond that they will not go. Nature has put barriers in the way of any excessive devotion of women to public affairs, and it is not necessary that nature’s work in that respect should be supplemented by additional barriers invented by men. Such offices as women are qualified to fill will be sought by those who do not find other employment, and others they will not seek, or if they do, will seek in vain. To aid in removing as far as possible the disheartening difficulties which women dependent upon their own exertions encounter, it is, I think, desirable that such official positions as they can fill should be thrown open to them, and that they should be given the same power that men have to aid each other by their votes. I would say, remove all legal barriers that stand in the way of their finding employment, official or unofficial, and leave them as men are left, to depend for success upon their character and their abilities. As long as men are allowed to act as milliners, with what propriety can they exclude women from the post of school commissioners when chosen to such positions by their neighbors? To deny them such rights, is to leave them in a condition of political servitude as absolute as that of the African slaves before their emancipation. This conclusion is readily to be deduced from the opinion of Chief Justice Jay in the case of Chisholm’s Ex’rs vs. The State of Georgia (2 Dallas, 419-471), although the learned Chief Justice had of course no idea of any such application as I make of his opinion.
The action was assumpsit by a citizen of the State of South Carolina, and the question was, whether the United States Court had jurisdiction, the State of Georgia declining to appear.
The Chief Justice, in the course of his opinion, after alluding to the feudal idea of the character of the sovereign in England, and giving some of the reasons why he was not subject to suit before the courts of the kingdom, says:
“The same feudal ideas run through all their jurisprudence, and constantly remind us of the distinction between the prince and the subject. No such ideas obtain here. At the revolution the sovereignty devolved on the people; and they are truly the sovereigns of the country, but they are sovereigns without subjects (unless the African slaves among us may be so called), and have none to govern but themselves; the citizens of America are equal as fellow-citizens, and as joint tenants in the sovereignty.”