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It is frequently asserted that when the US constitution was ratified in 1788, it was a very progressive piece of legislation because it gave everyone the right to vote, making the US the first modern democracy.
However, on close inspection, one finds that the franchise at the time was hardly universal. Indeed the following groups were certainly excluded: women, slaves and indigenous peoples.
In addition, I am not sure about the following groups.
- Indentured servants - I am not sure but I understand they were formally attached to their masters and couldn't just apply for citizenship (I may be wrong).
- Settlers on the frontier - even if they were legally citizens, I understand it would have been practically impossible for them to vote due to inefficient communication.
- Anyone looking poor without any prominent member of the local community to vouch for them - they didn't have driving licenses, so how did they check if someone was a citizen or not?
Overall, what proportion of the then US population had the right to vote? How many of them could exercise this right in practice?
Before making statements about the US Constitution, I suggest reading it. The original Constitution said nothing about who does or who does not have the right to vote.
Voting standards during the colonial and immediate post-colonial period were the same as those in Britain, which operated on a simple principle: whoever paid taxes was entitled to a single vote, regardless of the amount of taxes they paid. When you paid taxes your name was enrolled on a list of tax-paying citizens and this list was used to control who was admitted to the polling station.
The laws pertaining to polling were all local laws, not constitutional matters and originally it was held that making laws concerning the right to vote were a state power.
The exclusion of, for example, women to polling places was a matter of decorum, not right to vote, and woman, indians, minors and other such people not allowed into a polling place, had every right to vote so long as they paid taxes. In such cases the property owner (ie tax payer) would send an agent or representative to vote for them and execute their will. For example, to quote the laws of New Jersey in 1800:
"… to and for the guardians of minors, and to and for the agents of single women, or other persons, who cannot attend the meeting of the owners and possessors, such agents being appointed in writing, to vote at said meetings."
From the above law, you can see only single women were not allowed into the polling place and required an agent. A married woman or widow who owned property would presumably have been allowed to enter and vote herself.
As for enumerating the number of people entitled to vote you need only refer to a census from the period, such as the 1791 census. In those days the census focused on recording the number of taxpayers, not the total number of persons, so you will find counts of such persons, who are perforce voters in that census and can compare it to modern estimates of the total population to gauge the percentage of people entitled to vote.
As for how owners were identified, it depended on the place. In a small town or country the poll would be occupied by people who knew and could identify by sight all the property owners in town. If there was some question, the person would bring his deed. A person possessing a deed would be presumed to be the person named on the deed. In many places, especially large cities, when you paid taxes on your property you were given a receipt. This receipt gave you admittance to the polls. If you were a kid, an Indian or a woman, you would find a lawyer or other respectable person you trusted, give them the receipt and they would vote for you.
Voting Rights: A Short History
Challenges to voting rights in this country, like the ones we've seen recently, are hardly a 21st-century invention. Entrenched groups have long tried to keep the vote out of the hands of the less powerful. Indeed, America began its great democratic experiment in the late 1700s by granting the right to vote to a narrow subset of society — white male landowners. Even as barriers to voting began receding in the ensuing decades, many Southern states erected new ones, such as poll taxes and literacy tests, aimed at keeping the vote out of the hands of African American men.
Over time, voting rights became a bipartisan priority as people worked at all levels to enact constitutional amendments and laws expanding access to the vote based on race and ethnicity, gender, disability, age and other factors. The landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965 passed by Congress took major steps to curtail voter suppression. Thus began a new era of push-and-pull on voting rights, with the voting age reduced to 18 from 21 and the enshrinement of voting protections for language minorities and people with disabilities.
Greater voter enfranchisement was met with fresh resistance and in 2013, the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in its ruling on Shelby County v. Holder, paving the way for states and jurisdictions with a history of voter suppression to enact restrictive voter identification laws. A whopping 23 states created new obstacles to voting in the decade leading up to the 2018 elections, according to the nonpartisan coalition Election Protection.
These activities have a demonstrable and disproportionate effect on populations that are already underrepresented at the polls. Adding to the problems, government at all levels has largely failed to make the necessary investments in elections (from technology to poll-worker training) to ensure the integrity and efficiency of the system.
1700s: Voting generally limited to white property holders
Despite their belief in the virtues of democracy, the founders of the United States accepted and endorsed severe limits on voting. The U.S. Constitution originally left it to states to determine who is qualified to vote in elections. For decades, state legislatures generally restricted voting to white males who owned property. Some states also employed religious tests to ensure that only Christian men could vote.
1800s: Official barriers to voting start to recede
During the early part of the 19 th century, state legislatures begin to limit the property requirement for voting. Later, during the Reconstruction period following the Civil War, Congress passed the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which ensured that people could not be denied the right to vote because of their race. The amendment was ratified by the states in 1870. However, in the decades that followed, many states, particularly in the South, used a range of barriers, such as poll taxes and literacy tests, to deliberately reduce voting among African American men.
1920: Women win the vote
Activists stand at a women's suffrage information booth in New York City encouraging people to vote "yes" for women's voting rights in 1914. (Credit: Bettmann Archive via Getty Images)
Early in the 20th century, women still were only able to vote in a handful of states. After decades of organizing and activism, women nationwide won the right to vote with the ratification of the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920.
1960: Southern states ramp up barriers to voting
The struggle for equal voting rights came to a head in the 1960s as many states, particularly in the South, dug in on policies—such as literacy tests, poll taxes, English-language requirements, and more—aimed at suppressing the vote among people of color, immigrants and low-income populations. In March 1965, activists organized protest marches from Selma, Alabama, to the state capital of Montgomery to spotlight the issue of black voting rights. The first march was brutally attacked by police and others on a day that came to be known as “Bloody Sunday.” After a second march was cut short, a throng of thousands finally made the journey, arriving in Montgomery on March 24 and drawing nationwide attention to the issue.
1964: The 24th amendment targets poll taxes
Poll taxes were a particularly egregious form of voter suppression for a century following the Civil War, forcing people to pay money in order to vote. Payment of the tax was a prerequisite for voter registration in many states. The taxes were expressly designed to keep African Americans and low-income white people from voting. Some states even enacted grandfather clauses to allow many higher-income white people to avoid paying the tax. The 24th amendment was approved by Congress in 1962 and ratified by the states two years later. In a 1966 case, the Supreme Court ruled that poll taxes are unconstitutional in any U.S. election.
1965: The Voting Rights Act passes Congress
Inspired by voting rights marches in Alabama in spring 1965, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act. The vote was decisive and bipartisan: 79-18 in the Senate and 328-74 in the House. President Lyndon Johnson signed the measure on August 6 with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, and other icons of the civil rights movement at his side. In addition to barring many of the policies and practices that states had been using to limit voting among African Americans and other targeted groups, the Voting Rights Act included provisions that required states and local jurisdictions with a historical pattern of suppressing voting rights based on race to submit changes in their election laws to the U.S. Justice Department for approval (or “preclearance”). In the ensuing decades, the preclearance provisions proved to be a remarkably effective means of discouraging state and local officials from erecting new barriers to voting, stopping the most egregious policies from going forward, and providing communities and civil rights advocates with advance notice of proposed changes that might suppress the vote.
1971: Young people win the vote
For much of the nation’s history, states generally restricted voting to people age 21 and older. But during the 1960s, the movement to lower the voting age gained steam with the rise of student activism and the war in Vietnam, which was fought largely by young, 18-and-over draftees. The 26 th amendment prohibited states and the federal government from using age as a reason to deny the vote to anyone 18 years of age and over.
1975: Voting Rights Act expanded to protect language minorities
Congress added new provisions to the Voting Rights Act to protect members of language minority groups. The amendments required jurisdictions with significant numbers of voters who have limited or no proficiency in English to provide voting materials in other languages and to provide multilingual assistance at the polls.
1982: Congress requires new voting protections for people with disabilities
Congress passed a law extending the Voting Rights Act for another 25 years. As part of the extension, Congress required states to take steps to make voting more accessible for the elderly and people with disabilities.
1993: “Motor Voter” becomes law
Responding to historically low rates of voter registration, Congress passed the National Voter Registration Act. Also known as “motor voter,” the law required states to allow citizens to register to vote when they applied for their drivers’ licenses. The law also required states to offer mail-in registration and to allow people to register to vote at offices offering public assistance. In the first year of its implementation, more than 30 million people completed their voter registration applications or updated their registration through means made available because of the law.
2000: Election problems spotlight need for reform
The extremely close Bush-Gore Presidential race led to a recount in the state of Florida that highlighted many of the problems plaguing U.S. elections, from faulty equipment and bad ballot design to inconsistent rules and procedures across local jurisdictions and states. The U.S. Supreme Court ultimately intervened to stop the Florida recount and effectively ensuring the election of George W. Bush.
2002: Congress passes the Help America Vote Act
With memories of the problems of the 2000 election still fresh in everyone’s mind, Congress passed the Help America Vote Act in 2002 with the goal of streamlining election procedures across the nation. The law placed new mandates on states and localities to replace outdated voting equipment, create statewide voter registration lists, and provide provisional ballots to ensure that eligible voters are not turned away if their names are not on the roll of registered voters. The law also was designed to make it easier for people with disabilities to cast private, independent ballots.
2010: Philanthropy embraces need for reform
Along with a core group of other funders, the Carnegie Corporation of New York began investing in voting rights and elections work in the United States in the 1970s and 1980s. However, it wasn’t until the early years of the 21 st century that funders started to work more intentionally together in their support for voting rights. A key vehicle for collective funder action on these issues is the State Infrastructure Fund (SIF), a collaborative fund administered by NEO Philanthropy. The fund was created in 2010 and has raised more than $56 million from an expanding list of funders to invest in advancing voting rights and expanding voting among historically underrepresented communities.
June 2013: The Supreme Court strikes a blow to the Voting Right Act
In its June ruling in the case, Shelby County v. Holder, the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act. Because of the Court’s decision, states and localities with a history of suppressing voting rights no longer were required to submit changes in their election laws to the U.S. Justice Department for review (or “preclearance”). The 5-4 decision ruled unconstitutional a section of the landmark 1965 law that was key to protecting voters in states and localities with a history of race-based voter suppression. In her dissent in the case, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg famously stated, “Throwing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.”
August 2013: States ramp up barriers to voting
On August 11, North Carolina’s governor signed a voter identification law seen by many as an attempt to suppress the votes of people of color. The North Carolina law was just one of many similar laws passed in the wake of the Supreme Court’s June 2013 Shelby ruling. Texas officials, in fact, acted on the same day of the Shelby decision to institute a strict voter identification law that previously had been blocked under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act because of its impact in suppressing the vote of low-income people and racial minorities. After a lawsuit filed by civil rights groups and the U.S. Department of Justice, the North Carolina law was struck down by a federal judge who said it targeted African Americans with “almost surgical precision.” Officials in Alabama, Mississippi, Florida and Virginia shortly joined the ranks of those intent on exercising their newly won power to turn back the clock to an earlier time when election laws and practices in many places were marked by blatant discrimination and racism.
2014: The voting rights movement coalesces to fight suppression
In response to post-Shelby assaults on voting rights, voting rights organizations across the country stepped up their work to protect and advance the right to vote and move us closer to the vision of a nation of, by, and for the people. This work includes litigation to challenge unconstitutional barriers to voting, on-the-ground advocacy to advance pro-voter policies at the local and state levels, and nonpartisan efforts to register, educate and mobilize historically underrepresented populations so they can participate more actively in elections and civic life. The State Infrastructure Fund began convening a cohort of nonprofit public interest litigation groups with the aim of streamlining and coordinating the field’s response to a fresh wave of policies to suppress the vote. Coordinated by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), the collaborative of 12 organizations has played an essential role in pushing back against strict voter identification laws, racial gerrymandering, and other tactics aimed at reducing the voting rights of underrepresented populations.
2016: Presidential election and claims of fraud
After President Trump was elected despite losing the popular vote, he and his supporters made claims that large numbers of people voted illegally. A Washington Post analysis was able to find only four documented cases of voter fraud in the 2016 election out of 135 million ballots cast. The narrative about fraud ultimately resulted in President Trump convening the Presidential Commission on Election Integrity, which disbanded in January 2018 without presenting any evidence or findings. Continued false claims of rampant voter fraud have added fuel to the fire and prompted even bolder efforts to suppress the vote. Adding to the problems, government at all levels has largely failed to make the necessary investments in elections (from technology to poll worker training) to ensure the integrity and efficiency of the electoral system.
October 2018: State, local officials keep erecting new barriers to voting continue
A 2018 USAToday analysis found that election officials recently have closed thousands of polling places, with a disproportionate impact on communities of color. The polling place closures are just one example of how states and localities have continued to try to suppress the votes of targeted populations. In 2018, for example, the Georgia Senate passed bills cutting voting hours in Atlanta (where African Americans are 54 percent of the population) and restricting early voting on weekends. The latter measure was seen by many as a not-so-subtle attempt to target nonpartisan “Souls to the Polls” events organized by black churches to get their parishioners to vote on Sunday after church. Both Georgia measures were subsequently defeated in the state Assembly.
November 2018: Election draws record number of voters but problems remain
According to early estimates, 116 million voters—nearly half the eligible voting population (49.7 percent)—cast ballots in the 2018 elections. Not only did voter turnout set a 100-year record for midterm races, but the election saw record numbers of women and candidates of color running at all levels. In addition, voters approved a number of important state ballot measures aimed at expanding the electorate and making it easier to vote, including a law in Florida that lifts the permanent ban on voting for people with a felony criminal record. The numbers for 2018 were especially impressive given that many states continue to take aggressive steps to make it harder for people to vote. According to the nonpartisan coalition Election Protection, 23 states created new obstacles to voting in the decade preceding the 2018 election.
2019: Voting rights groups prepare for the 2020 Census and redistricting
In the same way that partisan interests and those in power have used voting rights laws and policies to suppress the vote, they also have attempted to use the U.S. Census and the subsequent congressional redistricting process to advance their political goals. The Trump administration, for example, fought unsuccessfully for two years to add a question to the 2020 census asking if someone is a citizen of the United States. Voting rights and civil rights groups said this was a transparent attempt to instill fear in immigrant communities, with the result of undercounting the immigrant population and reducing its political power and voice. Other concerns about the 2020 census include chronic underfunding for the work of accurately counting everyone in the nation. To the extent that the census cuts corners, there is a well-founded belief that it will result in an undercount of already underrepresented populations, including low-income populations and people of color.
For further background and how we can protect the right to vote, read our report, Voting Rights Under Fire
Voting enfranchisement in the USA in the 18th century - History
Passed by Congress March 4, 1794. Ratified February 7, 1795.
The judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by citizens of another State, or by citizens or subjects of any foreign state.
XII - Manner of Choosing a President and Vice-President
Passed by Congress December 9, 1803. Ratified July 27, 1804.
1. The Electors shall meet in their respective States and vote by ballot for President and Vice-President, one of whom, at least, shall not be an inhabitant of the same State with themselves they shall name in their ballots the person voted for as President, and in distinct ballots the person voted for as Vice-President, and of the number of votes for each, which lists they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the seat of the Government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate the President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates and the votes shall then be counted - The person having the greatest number of votes for President, shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed and if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by States, the representation from each State having one vote a quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two-thirds of the States, and a majority of all the States shall be necessary to a choice. And if the House of Representatives shall not choose a President whenever the right of choice shall devolve upon them, before the fourth day of March next following, then the Vice-President shall act as President, as in case of the death or other constitutional disability of the President. (The words in italics were superseded by Amendment XX)
3. The person having the greatest number of votes as Vice-President, shall be the Vice-President, if such numbers be a majority of the whole number of electors appointed, and if no person have a majority, then from the two highest numbers on the list, the Senate shall choose the Vice-President a quorum for the purpose shall consist of two-thirds of the whole number of Senators, and a majority of the whole number shall be necessary to a choice. But no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States.
XIII - Slavery Abolished
Passed by Congress January 31, 1865. Ratified December 6, 1865.
1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
XIV - Citizen rights not to be abridged
Passed by Congress June 13, 1866. Ratified July 9, 1868
1. 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 to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
2. 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 rebellion, or other crime, 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.
3. No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or Elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State Legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.
4. The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.
5. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
XV - Race no bar to voting rights
Passed by Congress February 26, 1869. Ratified February 3, 1870.
1. 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.
2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
XVI - Income taxes authorized
Passed by Congress July 2, 1909. Ratified February 3, 1913.
The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever sources derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.
XVII - U.S. Senators to be elected by direct popular vote
Passed by Congress May 13, 1912. Ratified April 8, 1913.
1. The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, elected by the people thereof, for six years and each Senator shall have one vote. The electors in each State shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the State Legislatures.
2. When vacancies happen in the representation of any State in the Senate, the executive authority of such State shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies: Provided, That the Legislature of any State may empower the Executive thereof to make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election as the Legislature may direct.
3. This amendment shall not be so construed as to affect the election or term of any Senator chosen before it becomes valid as part of the Constitution.
XVIII - Liquor Prohibition
Passed by Congress December 18, 1917. Ratified January 16, 1919.
1. After one year from the ratification of this article the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited.
2. The Congress and the several States shall have concurrent power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
3. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the Legislatures of the several States, as provided in the Constitution, within seven years from the date of the submission hereof to the States by the Congress.
XIX - Giving nationwide suffrage to women
Passed by Congress June 4, 1919. Ratified August 18, 1920.
1. 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 sex.
2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
XX - Terms of the President and Vice-President
Passed by Congress March 2, 1932. Ratified January 23, 1933
1. The terms of the President and the Vice-President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January, and the terms of Senators and Representatives at noon on the 3rd day of January, of the years in which such terms would have ended if this article had not been ratified and the terms of their successors shall then begin.
2. The Congress shall assemble at least once in every year, and such meeting shall begin at noon on the 3rd day of January, unless they shall by law appoint a different day.
3. If, at the time fixed for the beginning of the term of the President, the President elect shall have died, the Vice-President elect shall become President. If a President shall not have been chosen before the time fixed for the beginning of his term, or if the President elect shall have failed to qualify, then the Vice-President elect shall act as President until a President shall have qualified and the Congress may by law provide for the case wherein neither a President elect nor a Vice-President shall have qualified, declaring who shall then act as President, or the manner in which one who is to act shall be selected, and such person shall act accordingly until a President or Vice-President shall have qualified.
4. The Congress may by law provide for the case of the death of any of the persons from whom the House of representatives may choose a President whenever the right of choice shall have devolved upon them, and for the case of the death of any of the persons from whom the Senate may choose a Vice-President whenever the right of choice shall have devolved upon them.
5. Sections 1 and 2 shall take effect on the 15th day of October following the ratification of this article (October 1933).
6. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the Legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years from the date of its submission.
XXI - Repeal of Amendment XVIII
Passed by Congress February 20, 1933. Ratified December 5, 1933.
1. The Eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.
2. The transportation or importation into any State, Territory, or Possession of the United States for delivery or use therein of intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof, is hereby prohibited.
3. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by conventions in the several States, as provided in the Constitution, within seven years from the date of the submission hereof to the States by the Congress.
XXII - Limiting presidential terms of office
Passed by Congress March 21, 1947. Ratified February 27, 1951.
1. No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more that two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of President more than once.
2. But this Article shall not apply to any person holding the office of President when this Article was proposed by Congress, and shall not prevent any person who may be holding the office of President, or acting as President, during the term the term within which this Article becomes operative from holding the office of President or acting as President during the remainder of such term.
3. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the Legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years from the date of its submission to the States by the Congress.
XXIII - Presidential vote for the District of Columbia
Passed by Congress June 16, 1960. Ratified March 29, 1961.
1. The District constituting the seat of Government of the United States shall appoint in such manner as Congress may direct:
2. A number of electors of President and Vice President equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives in Congress to which the District would be entitled if it were a State, but in no event more than the least populous State they shall be in addition to those appointed by the States, but they shall be considered, for the purposes of the election of President and Vice President, to be electors appointed by a State and they shall meet in the District and perform such duties as provided by the twelfth article of amendment.
3. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
XXIV - Barring poll tax in federal elections
Passed by Congress August 27, 1962. Ratified January 23,1964.
1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for electors for President or Vice President, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay poll tax or any other tax.
2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
XXV - Presidential disability and succession
Passed by Congress July 6, 1965. Ratified February 10, 1967.
1. In case of the removal of the President from office or of his death or resignation, the Vice President shall become President.
2. Whenever there is a vacancy in the office of the Vice President, the President shall nominate a Vice President who shall take the office upon confirmation by a majority vote of both houses of Congress
3. Whenever the President transmits to the President Pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that he is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, and until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary, such powers and duties shall be discharged by the Vice President as Acting President.
4. Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmits to the President Pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.
5. Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President Pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmits within four days to the President Pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty-eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress, within twenty-one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session within twenty-one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two-thirds vote of both houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.
XXVI - Lowering the voting age to 18 years
Passed by Congress March 23, 1971. Ratified June 30, 1971.
The right of citizens of the United States, who are 18 years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of age.
The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
XXVII - Congressional Pay
Passed by Congress September 25, 1789. Ratified May 7, 1992.
No law, varying the compensation for services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.
For a Few Decades in the 18th Century, Women and African-Americans Could Vote in New Jersey
In the early days of the state of New Jersey, women and black people could vote. They just had to be “free inhabitants of [the] State” who were over the age of majority, had more than fifty pounds of wealth and had lived in New Jersey for more than six months. The process of revoking these rights, which took place in the early 1800s, represented a narrowing of American potential.
New Jersey was unique in permitting women to vote. The other twelve original states all had constitutions specifically stating that voters had to be male. But in New Jersey, the framing of the state constitution, which occurred in 1776, permitted women to vote. Later editions of the voting law, which changed slightly as the state established its own distinct politics, referred to voters as “‘he or she,’” writes New Jersey Women’s History.
The remarkably progressive law lasted almost 30 years. Then, that portion of New Jersey’s constitution was modified by the passage of an election law that “‘reinterpreted’ the constitution’s suffrage clause and passed an election law that redefined voters solely as adult white male taxpaying citizens,” write historians Judith Apter Klinghoffer and Lois Elkis. That law was passed on this day in 1807.
Historians have been “puzzled” to explain how and why New Jersey came to write the suffrage laws of 1776 in the first place, the pair write. “No historical trace of public agitation could be found either for or against the voting rights of single women prior to their enfranchisement in 1776 or disenfranchisement in 1807.” The voting rights for free blacks is slightly less puzzling, as more than half of the new states in the U.S. allowed free black adult men to vote, although that vote was typically implied rather than made explicit. Most states began to roll back that right in the late 1700s and early 1800s, just like New Jersey.
As the state settled into political norms, the Democratic-Republican party successfully campaigned to have the 1807 law removing women and black people from the voting population passed–with no vocal protest, although that doesn’t mean that the newly disenfranchised weren’t angry.
Historians believe that the politicians pushed for this bill because of who women and black people were voting for–in other words, not them.
It can't have been easy to be a woman or black voter, though, even during this short period. “The legal barrier was but one of the many barriers that prevented women from mobilizing effectively in defense of their political rights,” write Klinghoffer and Elkis. “Marital status, class and color probably presented even more formidable obstacles to the coalition building that would have been necessary to mount a successful challenge at the state’s legislature.”
The vote for women did have limitations, writes Bob Blythe for the National Park Service: existing marriage and property laws, known as “coverture,” meant that married women technically did not own anything, so they couldn't have met the wealth requirements. Therefore, only single, relatively wealthy women could vote. As for free black New Jerseyians, evidence exists that they did vote, but with slavery legal in New Jersey until 1804, it can’t have been easy to be a black voter.
“This placed suffrage on a clear taxpaying basis, creating a very broad franchise for white men but disenfranchising women and African Americans,” writes historian Donald Ratcliffe. “As a mark of white male hegemony, apparently neither group protested.”
Editor's note: This article originally misstated the name of the political party that voted to disenfranchise women and free blacks. It was the Democratic-Republican party, not the Republican party.
About Kat Eschner
Kat Eschner is a freelance science and culture journalist based in Toronto.
Why was First Wave Movement a World Movement?
While there has been much focus on feminists in the United States, feminists movements had also developed in various periods, most notably after the 18th century, in many countries. Southern Australia was among the first places women could vote, wherein in 1895 the right to vote was achieved by women there. Catherine Spence was a prominent figure who had campaigned for the vote. 
In Denmark, they had already achieved not only voting rights but equal rights laws that protected a woman's access to education, work, and marital rights during the 1920s. In effect, they had begun to move to topics that only were more fully addressed by second-wave feminists in other countries by the 1960s. In Iran, at the time of the Seneca Falls convention, in 1848, a religious movement, called Babism, represented a view that God wanted women to be equal to men and had been among the earliest religious movements in the Islamic regions of the Middle East to advocate the removal of veils and greater freedom for women. The movement helped eventually start Bahaism, a religious idea that sought unity among many religions and also advocated greater roles and equality for women.
Although these movements have largely been suppressed, it helped to launch or influence feminist ideas in non-Western regions. In Russia and China, the rise of socialist and eventually Communism helped to create greater feminist equality. Although women did gain the right to vote and were considered equal to men in Soviet society, at least by party ideals, voting was restricted to the Communist party. Women, however, gained rights in other areas that Western women could only dream about for many decades. This included generous maternity leave, free childcare, abortion rights, and generally had greater access to higher education. Some of these have yet to be achieved in the West. However, by the later half of the 20th century, women did not make as many gains in holding political power or even high-level job roles in the Soviet Union. 
In the UK, women gained the right to vote in 1918, although their rights were not fully equal to men until 1928. The suffragettes were often notorious for their militancy in trying to achieve their goals. Perhaps the most prominent agitator was Sylvia Pankhurst, a famous socialist who helped campaign for women equality and many other causes she considered part of social injustice. By the 1910s, society in the UK had also increasingly saw that it was natural to have women be given the right to vote. The UK also had other restrictive laws, such as prohibition from wealthy women from controlling their property, that was not fully removed until the late 1890s. In the 1850s, divorce became an issue that was moved to the civil courts rather than requiring the Church to be responsible for. 
Voting enfranchisement in the USA in the 18th century - History
The interactive parts of this resource no longer work, but it has been archived so you can continue using the rest of it.
Getting the vote
Voting rights before 1832
In early-19th-century Britain very few people had the right to vote. A survey conducted in 1780 revealed that the electorate in England and Wales consisted of just 214,000 people - less than 3% of the total population of approximately 8 million. In Scotland the electorate was even smaller: in 1831 a mere 4,500 men, out of a population of more than 2.6 million people, were entitled to vote in parliamentary elections. Large industrial cities like Leeds, Birmingham and Manchester did not have a single MP between them, whereas 'rotten boroughs' such as Dunwich in Suffolk (which had a population of 32 in 1831) were still sending two MPs to Westminster. The British electoral system was unrepresentative and outdated.
Pressure for reform
During the late 18th century and the early 19th century, pressure for parliamentary reform grew rapidly. Some of it came from men who already had a large say in how Britain was run: country gentlemen angry about the use of patronage at Westminster, or manufacturers and businessmen keen to win political influence to match their economic power. However, the issue of parliamentary reform reached a wider audience, particularly after the French Revolution. Influenced by works such as Thomas Paine's Rights of Man (1791-2), radical reformers demanded that all men be given the right to vote. Reform groups such as the Sheffield Corresponding Society (founded in December 1791) and the London Corresponding Society (founded in January 1791) were committed to universal 'manhood' (i.e. adult male) suffrage.
The Reform Acts
The three parliamentary reform Acts introduced in 19th-century Britain (in 1832, 1867 and 1884 respectively) satisfied moderate reformers rather than radicals. The Prime Minister, Lord Grey, supported reform to 'prevent the necessity of revolution' and was responsible for the first (or 'Great') Reform Act of 1832. However, the Act gave the vote in towns only to men who occupied property with an annual value of £10, which excluded six adult males out of seven from the voting process.
Campaigns for universal suffrage
Radical reformers pressed for more extensive parliamentary reform throughout the 19th century. The six-point programme of the Chartists included demands for universal suffrage, annual parliaments, and voting by secret ballot. During the 1830s and 1840s, when Chartism was at its most influential, meetings to discuss 'constitutional reform' took place in towns and cities across Britain.
For many people, 19th-century parliamentary reform was a disappointment because political power was still left in the hands of the aristocracy and the middle classes. Universal suffrage, with voting rights for women (though not for those under 30), did not arrive in Britain until February 1918. By the time of the third Reform Act in 1884, Britain was less democratic than many other countries in Europe.
- the law either positively defines who votes or bars discrimination
---> largely the province of attorneys and lawsuits
---> But its not just making/interpreting law. ignoring law is also a de facto way of decision making
------> Reps & Dems ignored 14th amendment equal protection clause, which was de facto disenfranchisement
------> DeJoy and the USPS
- Constitution: Article 1, Section 4: States establish voter eligibility
---> why or why not is that a problem?
---> is federalism ultimately bad for voting rights?
- Actors borrow freely from prevailing issue-value tensions of the time, sometimes talking about natural rights or policies or groups, making appeals to different features like race, gender, religion, work
Competitive Enfranchisement: one party seeking to expand voting pool to win additional seats
---> Some evidence for this between Founding and Civil War with loosening of white male voting restrictions (poor, illiterate)
------> expansion of the western frontier
Examples from racial suffrage:
--> Expansion of franchise to antebellum white men:
------> expansion & acquisition of new territory
------> going west = the brutal displacement of native people
------> New issues on the agenda
--> 15th Amendment's brief inclusion of Black Men:
------> institutionalization of their service in the military
------> diplomatic relations with Haiti
When parties are pushing for competitive enfranchisement (or reacting against it), things can shift in weird and sometimes quick ways
--> Progress has a shelf life
------> Southern Whites & the New Deal
--> The literal realignment of the parties
------> Republicans (party of Lincoln) cool on efforts to codify and protect black voting rights, party becomes increasingly antagonistic towards minorities, reshuffling on race
--> Job Security
------> if you bring in new voters, then you have to be willing to give them elected positions. but this is fraught
Often, suffrage demands precede or results from shifts in prevailing axes of conflict
--> What happens when you incorporate women, who had demands about temperance and "women's issues?"
--> What would re-enfranchising people convicted of felonies do to policy demands?
------> punishment and treatment of the incarcerated
------> prison-to-work policies
------> Carceral state
Voting enfranchisement in the USA in the 18th century - History
Discuss with your students the fact that women could not legally vote in the United States until the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920. Ask them to consider the fact that although the Constitution was ratified in 1787, women, by law, were not given the right to vote for 133 years.
Ask your students to consider the fact that from the late 18th century through 1920, there were women of all races who were united in the belief of universal suffrage and who demonstrated and protested for the right to vote. A key turning point of the Woman Suffrage Movement began in Seneca Falls, NY in 1848.
Discuss recent examples of activism for change. Ask students to identify and discuss at least two issues that have generated activism in some way. How are messages of protest or activism shared? Is there universal agreement?
Divide your students into small groups or pairs.
Assign each group two entries from the Woman Suffrage timeline. Explain that each group will receive two entries from the timeline. After reading and discussing the entry, students will research the assigned timeline entries and the key woman/women associated with it, using the worksheet to help record facts
Each group, using a minimum of three cited sources, including at least one primary source, and one image will create an informative and accurate historical “story”, or overview using the guidelines provided on the worksheet.
- What is the event? What year did it happen? Where did it happen? Who participated? How did it impact the Suffrage Movement? Did it gain national attention? What do they think is the most important fact to know about this event? Why?
- Who organized it? What was the role of this woman or women in the Suffrage Movement? What was her (their) background? Was she (they) well known? If so, why? How did she/they lead or impact the Suffrage Movement? What is the most important fact to understand about this woman/women? Why?
- In her own words . Each group must include a quote from the woman/women in their entry. How do her words reflect her beliefs?
Each group will create a power point timeline entry, incorporating a minimum of one image per entry. All projects will be combined to a class Suffrage Power Point Timeline.
- Women fought for the right to vote for over 100 years however, the movement was not marked by violence. Why do you think it remained largely peaceful?
- From researching and hearing other presentations, was the Suffrage Movement always unified in their goals and their methods? If not, what were some of the differences in opinion and/or tactics? If you had been a suffragist, which methods of protest would you have advocated?
- How were the women who fought for the right to vote activists?
- Do you think that the majority of Americans including women know about the century long struggle to give women the vote? If no, how should society keep that essential history alive?
- As a class, discuss what qualities these women exemplify as role models.
Optional Extension Activity
The ratification of the 19 th Amendment was a major step for equality. But women also fought for the Equal Rights Amendment. Ask students to research the major issues that women wanted to change. As a class, list the issues and leaders of the movement. How long did the movement last?
After reading and discussing the entry, students will research the event and the key woman/women associated with it, using the worksheet to help record facts. Using a minimum of three cited sources, they will write an informative and accurate historical “story”, or overview, that provides background using the guidelines provided on the worksheet.
Depending on teacher preference, each group will create:
- Timeline entry on poster board or butcher paper which will be aligned with their classmates to create a classroom ERA Timeline
- Create a power point timeline entry, incorporating at least one image that will be combined with their classmate’s entries to create a class ERA Power Point Timeline.
C3: D1.5.9-12. Determine the kinds of sources that will be helpful in answering compelling and supporting questions, taking into consideration multiple points of view represented in the sources, the types of sources available, and the potential uses of the sources
C3 D2.Civ.2.9-12. Analyze the role of citizens in the U.S. political system, with attention to various theories of democracy, changes in Americans’ participation over time, and alternative models from other countries, past and present
CS D2.His.16.6-8. Organize applicable evidence into a coherent argument about the past.
D4.2.6-8. Construct explanations using reasoning, correct sequence, examples, and details with relevant information and data, while acknowledging the strengths and weaknesses of the explanations.
NL-ENG.K-12.5COMMUNICATION STRATEGIES Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
NL-ENG.K-U .7 EVALUATING D ATA Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and nonprint texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways t D2.His.15.6-8. Evaluate the relative influence of various causes of events and developments in the past.
Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence.
For Black women, the 19th Amendment didn’t end their fight to vote
A noted historian examines two myths about what the 19th Amendment did—and didn’t—do for women in 1920.
When it comes to the story of women’s suffrage and the 19th Amendment, two competing myths dominate. The first is that when the amendment became law in 1920, all American women won the vote. The second is that no Black American women gained the vote that year. Marking the amendment’s centennial, it’s time to replace both falsehoods with history.
Voting rights in America have always been borne of struggle. And the battles women fought 100 years ago—for a constitutional right and against segregationist and discriminatory Jim Crow laws in the South—echo in 2020 as American women continue to work against voter suppression and for full access to the polls.
On August 26, 1920, the U.S. Secretary of State certified that the 19th Amendment to the Constitution had been ratified by the required 36 states. It became the law of the land: “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 sex.”
The 19th Amendment did not, however, guarantee any woman the vote. Instead, laws reserving the ballot for men became unconstitutional. Women would still have to navigate a maze of state laws—based upon age, citizenship, residency, mental competence, and more—that might keep them from the polls.
The women who showed up to register to vote in the fall of 1920 confronted many hurdles. Racism was the most significant one. The 15th Amendment expressly forbade states from denying the vote because of race. But by 1920, legislatures in the South and West had set in place laws that had the net effect of disenfranchising Black Americans. Poll taxes, literacy tests, and grandfather clauses kept many Black men from casting their ballots. Unchecked intimidation and the threat of lynching sealed the deal. With the passage of the 19th Amendment, African-American women in many states remained as disenfranchised as their fathers and husbands.
Nevertheless, in fall 1920, many Black women showed up at the polls. In Kent County, Delaware, their numbers were “unusually large,” according to Wilmington’s News Journal, but officials turned away Black women who “failed to comply with the constitutional tests.” In Huntsville, Alabama, “only a half dozen Black women” were among the 1,445 people of all races and genders who were registered, recounted Birmingham’s Voice of the People, an African-American newspaper. The explanation was clear: Officials applied “practically the same rules of qualification to [women] as are applied to colored men.”
In Savannah, Georgia, officials imposed the letter of the law: “Many negro women have registered here since the suffrage amendment became effective,” reported Ohio’s Hamilton Evening Journal, but “the election judges ruled that they were not entitled to vote because of a state law which requires registration six months before an election.” This ruling meant that no woman in the state of Georgia could vote—too little time had passed between the ratification of the 19th Amendment and Election Day in 1920. This was a reading of the law meant to suppress Black women’s votes because “no white women presented themselves at the polls,” the paper noted.
Many Black women did manage to vote in 1920, though. Some had been exercising that right for several years in states like California, Illinois, and New York where women’s suffrage became law before the 19th amendment was ratified. Even more registered and cast ballots after its passage.
The political contest of 1920 got underway for Black women months before the November election. If they hoped to vote, they’d have to get their names on the rolls. When registrars opened their books to women that fall, many Black women gathered their courage and their savvy and insisted on the right that the 19th Amendment promised. (Black men and women were fundamental to the suffrage movement, arguing, "We are all bound up together.")
In St. Louis, Missouri, Fannie Williams, a teacher-turned-organizer, set up a “suffrage school” at the city’s Black YWCA—the Phillis Wheatley Branch, named for the 18th-century enslaved poet. There, Black women prepared for their chance to register, teaching one another how to pay poll taxes and pass literacy tests administered by begrudging officials. Newspapers reported that nearly every woman in the city, Black or white, registered that season.
Why Women Do Not Wish the Suffrage
"Woman does not wish to turn aside from her higher work, which is itself the end of life, to devote herself to government, which exists only that this higher work may be done. Can she not do both? No!"
IN 1895 the women of Massachusetts were asked by the state whether they wished the suffrage. Of the 575,000 voting women in the state, only 22,204 cared for it enough to deposit in a ballot box an affirmative answer to this question. That is, in round numbers, less than four per cent wished to vote about ninety-six per cent were opposed to woman suffrage or indifferent to it. That this expresses fairly well the average sentiment throughout the country can hardly be questioned. There may be some Western states in which the proportion of women who, for one reason or another, desire the suffrage is somewhat larger on the other hand, there are Southern states in which it is even less. Certainly few men or women will doubt that at the present time an overwhelming majority of women are either reluctant to accept the ballot or indifferent to it. Why this indifference, this reluctance? This is the question which in this article I seek to answer. Briefly, I believe it is because woman feels, if she does not clearly see, that the question of woman suffrage is more than merely political that it concerns the nature and structure of society,—the home, the church, the industrial organism, the state, the social fabric. And to a change which involves a revolution in all of these she interposes an inflexible though generally a silent opposition. It is for these silent women—whose voices are not heard in conventions, who write no leaders, deliver no lectures, and visit no legislative assemblies—that I speak it is their unspoken thought and feeling I wish to interpret.
Open an acorn: in it we find the oak in all its parts,—root, trunk, branches. Look into the home: in it we shall find the state, the church, the army, the industrial organization. As the oak is germinant in the acorn, so society is germinant in the family. Historically, the family is the first organization biologically it is the origin of all other organizations. Abraham builds an altar, and his wife and children and servants gather about it for the evening sacrifice: the family is the first church. The herds and flocks are driven daily to their feeding grounds by his sons and servants: the family is the first labor organization. He counsels, guides, directs, controls the children and servants the power of life and death is in his hands: the family is the first government. The brother is carried off in a raid by robber bands. Abraham arms and organizes his servants, pursues the robber bands, conquers and disperses them, and recovers the captive: the family is the first army. Moreover, it is out of the family that society grows. As the cell duplicates itself, and by reduplication the living organism grows, so the family duplicates itself, and by the reduplication of the family the social organism grows. The children of the family come to manhood, and marry the children of other families. Blood unites them the necessities of warfare, offensive and defensive, unite them and so the tribe comes into existence. For the united action of this tribe some rule, some authority is necessary thus tribal, state, national government comes into existence. These families find it for their mutual advantage to engage in separate industries, and exchange the product of their labor: thus barter end trade and the whole industrial organization come into existence. These families thus united by marriage into one tribe, cemented by war in one army, bound together by the necessity of united action in one government, cooperating in one varied industry, find in themselves a common faith and common aspirations, in a word, a common religion, and so the church comes into existence.
Such, very briefly stated, is the development of society as we read it in the complicated history of the past. Historically the family is the first social organization. Organically it contains within itself all the elements of all future organization. Biologically, all future organization has grown out of it, by a process of duplication and interrelationship. In the family, therefore, we find all the elements of a later and more complicated social organization in the family we may discover written legibly the laws which should determine the structure of society and should regulate its action the family, rightly understood, will answer our often perplexing questions concerning social organization—whether it is military, political, industrial, or religious.
The first and most patent fact in the family is the difference in the sexes. Out of this difference the family is created in this difference the family finds its sweet and sacred bond. This difference is not merely physical and incidental. It is also psychical and essential. It inheres in the temperament it is inbred in the very fibre of the soul it differentiates the functions it determines the relation between man and woman it fixes their mutual service and their mutual obligations. Man is not woman in a different case. Woman is not man inhabiting temporarily a different kind of body. Man is not a rough-and-tumble woman. Woman is not a feeble and pliable man.
This difference in the sexes is the first and fundamental fact in the family it is therefore the first and fundamental fact in society, which is but a large family, growing out of and produced by the duplication and interrelationship of innumerable families. For it must ever be remembered that as the nature of the cell determines the nature of the organism which grows out of the cell, so the nature of the family determines the nature of society which grows out of the family. And the fundamental fact, without which there could be no family, is the temperamental, inherent, and therefore functional difference between the sexes.
Because their functions are different, all talk of equality or non-equality is but idle words, without a meaning. Only things which have the same nature and fulfill the same function can be said to be superior to or equal with one another. Things which do not fulfill the same function are not thus comparable. For of two functions, each of which is essential to the life of the organism, neither can be said to be superior to the other. One branch may be equal or superior to another branch but it cannot be said that the root is superior to the branch or the branch to the root. One eye may be superior to another eye, but the eye cannot be said to be superior to the ear, or the ear to the eye. Which is superior, a soldier or a carpenter? It depends upon whether we want a battle fought or a house built. Which is superior, Darwin's Origin of Species or Browning's Saul? This is like asking which is larger,—half an hour or half a yard. Gallantry will bow to woman and say, "You are superior." Egotism will look with lordly air on woman and say, "You are inferior." But neither gallantry nor egotism will be rational. These twain are not identical. They do not duplicate each other. Man is not an inferior woman. Woman is not an inferior man. They are different in nature, in temperament, in function. We cannot destroy this difference if we would we would not if we could. In preserving it lies the joy of the family the peace, prosperity, and well-being of society. If man attempts woman's function , he will prove himself but an inferior woman. If woman attempts man's function, she will prove herself but an inferior man. Some masculine women there are some feminine men there are. These are the monstrosities of Nature. She sometimes produces such monstrosities in other departments,—grotesque variations from and violations of the natural order,—not that we may follow them and attempt to reproduce them, but that we may see by contrast what Nature really is and rejoice the more in her. This distinction between the sexes-inherent, temperamental, functional—is universal and perpetual. It underlies the family, which could not exist if this difference did not exist. It is to be taken account of in all social problems-problems of industrial organization, religious organization, political organization. Should society ever forget it, it would forget the most fundamental fact in the social order, the fact on which is built the whole superstructure of society.
It may not be altogether easy to determine the exact difference in function between the sexes in minor details those functions may differ in differing civilizations. But speaking broadly, it may be said that the work of battle in all its forms, and all the work that is cognate thereto, belongs to man. Physically and psychically his is the sterner and the stronger sex. His muscles are more steel-like his heart and his flesh are alike harder he can give knocks without compunction and receive them without shrinking. In the family, therefore, his it is to go forth and fight the battle with Nature to compel the reluctant ground to give her riches to his use. It is not for woman to hold the plough, or handle the hoe, or dig in the mine, or fell the forest. The war with Nature is not for her to wage. It is true that savage tribes impose this unfeminine task upon her true that modern nations which have not yet fully emerged from barbarism continue to do so true, also, that in the cruel industrial competitions of modern times there is, in some communities, a relapse into this barbarism. But whether it is the Indian squaw digging in the corn patch, or the German Frau holding the plough, or the American wife working the loom in her husband's place,—wherever man puts the toil that is battle and the battle that is toil upon the woman, the law of Nature, that is, the law of God, written in her constitution and in the constitution of the family, is set at naught. This is not to say that her toil is less than man's but it is different. It may be easier to be the man with the hoe than the woman with the needle it may be easier to handle the plough than to broil over the cook stove but these tasks are not the same. The ceaseless toil of the field requires exhaustless energy the continuous toil of the household requires exhaustless patience. Being a man, the exhaustless patience seems to me at once more difficult and more admirable than the exhaustless energy. But they are not the same.
For like reason it is not woman's function to fight against human foes who threaten the home. She is not called to be a soldier. She is not to be welcomed with the volunteers nor coerced into military service by the draft. It is in vain to recite the story of Joan of Arc it is in vain to narrate the efforts of the Amazons. The instinct of humanity revolts against the employment of woman as a soldier on the battlefield. No civilized man would wish to lay this duty upon her no civilized woman would wish to assume it. This is not to say that her courage is not as great as his. Greater is it in some sense,—but it is different. For the Spartan mother to arm her son and send him forth with the injunction to come home bringing his shield or borne upon it, and then wait during the long and weary days to know which way he is to come,—this requires, surely, a heroism not less than his: but it is not the same heroism higher in some sense it is—but it is not the same. In his courage are pride and combativeness and animal passion, sometimes well-nigh devilish passion a strange joy in giving and receiving wounds, a music that grows inspiring in the singing of the bullets, an almost brutal indifference to the wounded and the dying all about him, which she could never get and remain woman. True to her woman's nature is Lady Macbeth's prayer,—
For until she had been unsexed, until she had ceased to be woman, she could not play the part which her destiny and her ambition assigned to her.
For like reason society exempts woman from police functions. She is not called to be sheriff or constable or night watchman. She bears no truncheon and wears no revolver. She answers not to the summons when peace officers call for the posse comitatus. She is not received into the National Guard when bloody riot fills the city with peril and alarms. Why not? Is she not the equal of man? Is she not as loyal? as law abiding ? as patriotic? as brave? Surely. All of these is she. But it is not her function to protect the state when foreign foes attack it it is the function of the state to protect her. It is not her function to protect the persons and property of the community against riot it is man's function to protect her. Here at least the functional difference between the sexes is too plain to be denied, doubted, or ignored. Here at least no man or woman from the claims of equality of character jumps to the illogical conclusion that there is an identity of function.
This much then seems clear to me and I hope it is clear to the reader also:—
First, that the family is the basis of society, from which it grows.
Second, that the basis of the family, and therefore of society, is the difference between the sexes,—a difference which is inherent, temperamental, functional.
Third, that the military function, all its forms and phases, belongs to man that he has no right to thrust it upon woman or to ask her to share it with him that it is his duty, and his exclusively, to do that battling with the elements which wrests livelihood from a reluctant or resisting Nature, and which is therefore the pre-requisite to all productive industry and that battling with the enemies of society which compels them to respect its rights, and which is therefore the primary condition of government.
For the object of government is the protection of person, property, and reputation from the foes which assail them. Government may do other things: it may carry the mails, run the express, own and operate the railroads but its fundamental function is to furnish protection from open violence or secret fraud. If it adequately protects person, property, and reputation, it is a just government, though it do nothing else if it fails to protect these primary rights, if the person is left to defend himself, his property, his reputation by his own strong arm, there is no government. The question, "Shall woman vote?" is really in the last analysis, the question, "Ought woman to assume the responsibility for protecting person and property which has in the past been assumed by man as his duty alone?" It is because women see, what some so-called reformers have not seen, that the first and fundamental function of government is the protection of person and property, and because women do not think that they ought to assume this duty any more than they ought to assume that police and militia service which is involved in every act of legislature, that they do not wish to have the ballot thrust upon them.
Let us not here make any mistake. Nothing is law which has not authority behind it and there is no real authority where there is not power to compel obedience. It is this power to compel which distinguishes law from advice. Behind every law stands the sheriff, and behind the sheriff the militia, and behind the militia the whole military power of the Federal government. No legislature ever ought to enact a statute unless it is ready to pledge all the power of government—local, state, and Federal—to its enforcement, if the statute is disregarded. A ballot is not a mere expression of opinion it is an act of the will and behind this act of the will must be power to compel obedience. Women do not wish authority to compel the obedience of their husbands, sons, and brothers to their will.
This fact that the ballot is explicitly an act of the will, and implicitly an expression of power or force, is indicated not only by the general function of government, but also by special illustrations. Politics is pacific war. A corrupt ring gets the control of New York city, or Minneapolis, or St. Louis, or Philadelphia, or perhaps of a state, as Delaware, Rhode Island, or Montana. The first duty of the citizens is to make war on this corrupt ring. The ballot is not merely an expression of opinion that this ring ought not to control it is the resolve that it shall not control. A capitalistic trust gets, or tries to get, a monopoly which is perilous to commercial freedom or a labor trust gets, or tries to get, a monopoly which is perilous to industrial freedom. A vote is not a protest against such control,—it is not a mere opinion that it ought not to be allowed. It is a decree. The voter says, "We will not suffer this monopoly to continue." His vote means, in the one case, If you do not dissolve this capitalistic combination, in the other case, If you do not cease this interference with the freedom of non-union labor, we will compel you to do so. If the vote does not mean this, it is nothing more than a resolution passed in a parlor meeting. The great elections are called, and not improperly called, campaigns. For they are more than a great debate. A debate is a clash of opinions. But an election is a clash of wills. One party says, " We will have Mr. Blaine President" the other says, " We will have Mr. Cleveland President." Will sets itself against will in what is essentially a masculine encounter. And if the defeated will refuses to accept the decision, as it did when Mr. Lincoln was elected President, war is the necessary result.
From such an encounter of wills woman instinctively shrinks. She shrinks from it exactly as she shrinks from the encounter of opposing wills on a battlefield, and for the same reason. She is glad to counsel she is loath to command. She does not wish to arm herself, and, as police or soldier, enforce her will on the community. Nor does she wish to register her will, and leave her son, her brother, or her husband to enforce it. If she can persuade them by womanly influence she will but just in the measure in which she is womanly, she is unwilling to say to her son, to her brother, or to her husband, "I have decreed this you must see that my decree is enforced on the reluctant or the resisting." She does not wish that he should act on her judgment against his own in obedience to her will still less that he shall, in obedience to her will, compel others to act in violation both of their judgment and of his. And yet this is just what suffrage always may and sometimes must involve. The question, Shall woman vote, if translated into actual and practical form, reads thus: Shall woman decide what are the rights of the citizen to be protected and what are the duties of the citizen to be enforced, and then are her son and her brother and her husband to go forth, armed, if need be, to enforce her decision? Is this where the functional line between the sexes is to be drawn? Are women to make the laws and men to enforce them? Are women to decree, and men to execute? Is woman never to act as a private, but only as a commander-in-chief? Is this right? Is it right that one sex shall alone enforce authority, but the other sex determine when and how it shall be exercised? Is this expedient? Will it promote peace, order, prosperity? Is it practicable? Will it in fact be done? Suppose that in New York city the women should vote for prohibition and the men should vote against it is it to be expected that the men would arm themselves to enforce against their fellow men a law which they themselves condemned as neither wise nor just? To ask these questions is to answer them. The functions of government cannot be thus divided. In a democratic community the duty of enforcing the law must devolve on those who determine what the law shall be that is to be enforced. It cannot be decreed by one class and enforced by another. It is inconceivable that it should be decreed by one sex and enforced by the other.
This is the negative reason why woman does not wish the ballot: she does not wish to engage in that conflict of wills which is the essence of politics she does not wish to assume the responsibility for protecting person and property which is the essence of government. The affirmative reason is that she has other, and in some sense, more important work to do. It is more important than the work of government because it is the work for the protection of which governments are organized among men. Woman does not wish to turn aside from this higher work, which is itself the end of life, to devote herself to government, which exists only that this higher work may be done. Nor does she wish to divide her energies between the two. This higher work, which is itself the end of life, is Direct Ministry to Life.
What are we in the world for? The family answers the question. We marry. Children are given to us to protect, govern, nurture, train. They grow to manhood, and in turn they marry, and to them in turn children are given to protect, govern, nurture, train. The first parents linger a few years that, as grandparents, they may have the pleasure of the little children without the responsibility for them, and then they die. Their work on earth is done, and they go forward to we know not what work in a life to come. The end of life is the rearing and training of children. As the family is historically the first organization, as it is biologically the unit out of which all other social organisms are formed, so its protection and maintenance are the objects for which all other social organizations have been called into existence and are maintained. Struggle for others, as Professor Drummond has well shown, is an even more vital element in human progress than struggle for self, and in the family this struggle for others receives its first and finest illustration Political economists have told us that self-interest is the mainspring of industry. It is not true. Love is the mainspring of industry. It is love for the home and the wife and the children that keeps all the busy wheels of industry revolving, that calls the factory hands early to the mill, that nerves the arm of the blacksmith working at his forge, that inspires the farmer at his plough and the merchant at his desk, that gives courage to the soldier and patience to the teacher. Erskine was asked how he dared, as an unknown barrister, face a hostile court and insist on his right to be heard. "I felt my children," he replied, "tugging at my robe and saying, 'Here is your chance, father, to get us bread.'" It is this vision of the children, dependent on us, that inspires us all in the battle of life. It is for our homes and our children we maintain our churches. They are not spiritual restaurants where we pay for our own food passed over the counter to us by an attendant priest they are the instrument, which some of us think God has created, others of us think man has devised, to help us endow our children and equip our homes for life. It is for our homes and our children we tax ourselves to maintain the public school for our homes and our children we maintain government, that our loved ones may live in peace and safety, protected by law, while we, their natural protectors, are away earning the bread wherewith to feed them for our homes and our children we fight when peace and safety are endangered, and government is assailed by foreign foe or domestic violence. Whether we cultivate a farm, or operate a factory, or manage a store, or build and conduct a railroad, or paint pictures, or write books, or preach sermons, or enact and enforce laws,—whatever we do, the end of our activity is the nurture and training of children in this primary school, which we call life, in preparation for some life, we know not what, hereafter.
In this work of direct ministry to the individual, this work of character-building, which is the ultimate end of life, woman takes the first place. The higher the civilization the more clearly is her right to it recognized. She builds the home, and she keeps the home. She makes the home sanitary she inspires it with the spirit of order, neatness, and peace she broods it with her patient love, and teaches us to love by her loving. Her eye discerns beauty, her deft fingers create it, and to her the home is indebted for its artistic power to educate. If she has not the artistic sense, no purchased beauty, bought of a professional decorator, can supply the vacancy. She instills into the little child the love of truth and purity, the subtle sense of honor, the strong spirit of courage and high purpose. If her home duties do not absorb her time and energy, she seeks the field of charity or education, or accepts the invitation which these fields offer to her. She becomes a director in or a visitor to some of the innumerable charities in which life is ministered to the unfortunate, the feeble, the incompetent. If we accept Micah's definition of religion, To do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God, then we may say that, with rare exceptions, woman chooses to leave to man the sterner task of administering justice, and delights herself in the ministration of mercy. She does so because in these unpaid ministries of mercy, sometimes in institutions, sometimes in private and unorganized service, is the direct impartation of life which is her highest joy. If she has no home in which she can and does minister, she instinctively seeks the schoolroom as her field, and there, substituting for the mother, imparts life, and endows with intelligence, and equips with culture the children intrusted to her charge. If necessity drives her or ambition entices her to other fields, her womanly instinct still asserts itself. If she enters the law, it is generally to be a counselor rather than a combatant if literature, her pen instinctively seeks the vital rather than the materialistic themes. She is a minister to life. And when mistakenly ambitious women would persuade her to leave this ministry for the woodman's axe, the farmer's plough, or the policeman's truncheon, she does not even entertain the proposition enough to discuss it. When she looks out of the window of her home or her school and sees the platoon of policemen on a run to quell a riot, or a fire engine dashing by to extinguish a fire, she has no wish to join them the boy's eager request, "May I go, mamma? May I go?" awakens no like desire in her. For in her subconscious self is the knowledge that she is doing the work which makes it worth while to quell riots and extinguish fires. She is more than content that her sons, her brothers, her husband shall protect the life to which she ministers, and shall determine how it can best be protected, if she is left to minister to it directly, in peace and safety.
And she is right. If she were to go into politics, she would leave undone the work for which alone government exists, or she would distract her energies from that work, which she knows full well requires them all. Can she not do both? No! no more than man can. He cannot be at the same time in the market winning the bread, in the forum shaping the public policies, and in the home ministering to life. Nor can she. She must choose. She may give her time and thought and energy to building a state, and engaging in that warfare of wills which politics involves or she may give her time and thought to the building of men, on whose education and training, church, state, industry, society, all depend. She has made her choice and made it wisely. Necessity, born of an imperfect industrial system, may drive a few thousand women into battle with Nature in bread-winning vocations ambition may call a few women down and out from the higher vocation of character-building to participate in public debate before the footlights the clamors of an ill-instructed conscience may force a few more to leave the congenial work of directly ministering to life, that they may undertake the more, indirect ministry through village or city boards, state legislatures, and the Federal Congress but the great body of American women are true to themselves, to the nature God has given them, and to the service He has allotted to them—the direct ministry to life,—and will neither be forced nor enticed from it by their restless, well-meaning, but mistaken sisters.