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Anthony, Susan B)

Trial of Miss Anthony for Illegal Voting…


Convicted of Voting:
The Trial of Susan B. Anthony
Anthony, Susan B. "Woman suffrage. Trial of Miss Anthony for Illegal Voting-Opinion of Judge Hunt-Verdict of Guilty Rendered." The New York Times, Thursday, June 19, 1873, p 5.
Folio; tear to margin of front page with no loss of text; minor chipping to folds.
A lengthy article describing the final day of the celebrated trial of Susan B. Anthony, who was charged with illegally voting in the federal election of 1872. As described in the preface to Anthony's account of the trial, "At the election of President and Vice President of the United States, and members of Congress, in 1872, Susan B. Anthony, and several other women, offered their votes to the inspectors of election, claiming the right to vote, as among the privileges and immunities secured to them as citizens by the fourteenth amendment to the Constitution of the United States." (See An Account of the Proceedings of the Trial of Susan B. Anthony, Daily Democrat, 1874.) Anthony was arrested several days later (along with the three election officials who-following much debate amongst themselves-had accepted Anthony's vote) and her trial was set to begin on June 17, 1873, in Canadaigua, NY.   
The article recounts the response of District Attorney Richard Crowley, to the arguments presented the day before by Anthony's lawyer, the celebrated Judge Henry R. Selden.  Those arguments included that, firstly, the Fourteenth Amendment, in forbidding the abridgement of the rights of any citizen, guaranteed women the right to vote; and secondly, that Anthony did not knowingly violate any law because she believed, partly on council from Judge Selden himself, that she legally had the right to vote.
Printed at the end of the summary of the district attorney's response are the opinion and decision of Judge Hunt. In response to the argument about the Fourteenth Amendment, Judge Hunt's decision states, in part, "The right of voting, or the privilege of voting, is a right or privilege arising under the Constitution of the State, and not of the United States. If the right belongs to any particular person, it is because such person is entitled to it as a citizen of the State where he offers to exercise it, and not because of citizenship of the United States." In regards to Anthony's not knowing she was in violation of any law, the Judge's opinion declares, "First, ignorance of the law excuses no one; second, every person is presumed to understand and to intend the necessary effects of his own acts." The decision concludes that "Assuming that Miss Anthony believed she had a right to vote, that fact constitutes no defense if in truth she had not the right. She voluntarily gave a vote which was illegal, and thus is subject to the penalty of the law." Over the protestations of Judge Selden, the jury was not allowed to reach its own verdict, but was instead instructed to return a verdict of guilty. (The following day she was handed the sentence of a fine of $100.)
An editorial on the page opposite this article begins, "It is difficult to see how the most sincere friends of the "Cause" of women's voting can dissent from the logic, or seriously regret the decision, of Judge Hunt in the case of Miss Anthony. . . . Nothing can be more certain than that at no stage of its history was the Fourteenth Amendment intended to confer the right of suffrage upon women." Arguing that winning the vote on what they viewed as a technicality would mean that "the value of the Constitution as an instrument of government would be instantly destroyed." The editorial closes by saying
They ought really, therefore, even if they desire the suffrage, to be thankful that the courts are not likely to give it them on a quibble; that they will only get it, if at all, by the legitimate and recognized methods of changing the law.
The same issue also carries an article about the trial of the election inspectors who received Anthony's vote, who were permitted by the Judge Hunt to deliberate, but who could not reach agreement.

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