The Republican Party is mindful of its obligation to the loyal women of America for their noble devotion to the cause of freedom; their admission to wider fields of usefulness is received with satisfaction, and the honest demands of any class of citizens for equal rights should be treated with respectful consideration.Fifty-two-year-old Susan B. Anthony showed her appreciation for the statement by endorsing Ulysses S. Grant for president. The Republican Party expressed its appreciation for the support that followed her endorsement by appropriating funds for women who campaigned for Grant.
But, when the election came around, Anthony decided to look for a little more from the Republicans. Responding to a newspaper editorial that encouraged voters to take "five minutes" to register to vote, she decided she had that sort of time and thought to do just that. So, on November 1, 1872, she joined her three sisters and ten other women from her ward in a trip to the local barbershop turned registration office.
Author Elisabeth Griffith notes almost 150 women tried to vote, nationally, between 1871 and 1872. Miriam Gurko's study of the women's rights movement observes, "In most cases they were not permitted to register; if they managed to register, they were not permitted to vote; if they actually voted, their votes were not counted." Anthony's case was, of course, the most famous.
Edwin F. Marsh, Beverly W. Jones and William B. Hall were election inspectors in Rochester. Jones was formally in charge, and he and Marsh were Republicans. Hall, on the other hand, was a Democrat. At first, all three men objected to the idea of Mrs. Anthony registering, but Anthony pulled out a copy of the Fourteenth Amendment and read aloud the section that she felt entitled her to vote. After a brief discussion among the poll workers, the Republicans (Marsh and Jones) decided to take responsibility for Anthony's vote. She and the other three women registered.
Anthony left the polling place and spread the word to local newspapers that she had registered to vote. Fifty Rochester women were encouraged by the news and also registered. If the election workers were hoping Anthony would be satisfied with the simple act of registering, they were sorely disappointed.
On November 5, she was back at the polls with fourteen Quaker women from Rochester. All of them were ready to vote. Knowing that assisting illegal voters would put them in some serious hot water, the election inspectors and workers were, once again, quite hesitant. But Anthony promised that, if anyone was punished, she would pay all associated fines. Then, Susan B. Anthony voted.
On November 18, a United States marshal appeared on the doorstep and informed Anthony that she was about to be arrested. The government charged that she had:
...without having a lawful right to vote in said election district, [being] then and there a person of the female sex, [did] knowingly, wrongfully, and unlawfully vote ...Anthony insisted on being handcuffed but the demand was ignored by the marshal.
The voting inspectors present when the four women registered (Marsh, Jones and Hall) were also arrested. It was charged that they did:
... knowingly and willfully register as a voter of the said District, one Susan B. Anthony, she, [then] and there not being entitled to be registered as a voter of said District in that she [was] then and there a person of the female sex, contrary to the form of the statute of the United States of America in such case made and provided, and against the peace of the United States of America and their dignity.Susan B. Anthony immediately kicked in a speaking tour of all 29 post office districts of Monroe County. In a speech entitled, "Is It a Crime for a United States Citizen to Vote?" she told prospective jurors that she had voted "in good faith." Anthony reminded her listeners that the Preamble of the Constitution spoke in terms of "we the people," not "we, the white male citizens." For those who insisted that the use of masculine articles in official documents implied a target of males, and males only, Anthony suggested that women, by the same logic, should be exempt from taxation and obedience to many other laws.
The pre-trial hearing was held on December 23, before a predictably large audience and host of newspaper reporters. All of the defendants posted bail except Anthony, but her counsel, former appeals court Judge Henry R. Seldon, refused to see her spend time behind bars. Over Anthony's protests, Seldon paid bail, and the trial was set for June 17, 1873. Sensing that Anthony's public speaking tour may very well have had its intended effect, the district attorney had the trial transferred to neighboring Ontario County.
Anthony responded by giving the same speech in 21 of that county's postal districts and sending her friend, Mathilda Joslyn Gage, to speak in the other 16. Gage's speech was entitled, "The United States on Trial, not Susan B. Anthony."
|Fillmore -Trial Guest|
On the following day, a motion was made for a new jury and a new trial. After Judge Hunt denied both requests, he ordered Anthony to stand and asked her if she had “anything” to say before he delivered the sentence. It was perhaps still yet another critical error on Hunt’s part. Anthony told Hunt his “ordered” guilty verdict had "trampled underfoot every vital principle of our government." When it dawned on the stunned judge that she was only warming up, he interrupted, suggesting there was not time to listen to a “rehearsal of arguments.”
But the cat was out of the bag. Anthony berated Hunt for denying her the chance to speak during the trial and, afterward, trying to deny her the "one and only poor privilege of protest" against his "high handed outrage" upon her rights. Hunt kept interrupting and eventually demanded that Anthony stop talking altogether. But Anthony kept piling on the outrage. In a dramatic ending, she made it clear that she did not seek leniency from the court, but rather "the full rigor of the law." With that, she sat down. Hunt's response to the tirade was a mere fine of $100, but Anthony promptly informed the judge, and the audience, that she would "never pay a dollar" of the "unjust penalty."
The standard procedure would have been to place her behind bars in lieu of the payment, but Hunt refused to take that path. The defiant suffragette was free to go, but she was very far from being pleased about it. The judge's strategy not only took the wind out of her protest sails, it also sank any hope of an appeal.
On June 18, Judge Hunt moved on to election inspectors Marsh, Jones and Hall. Each of the men faced a possible prison sentence of three years and a fine of up to $500 but, unlike Anthony, each was allowed to speak on his own behalf during the trial. In a dramatic twist, Anthony was called as a witness on their behalf, and Hunt allowed the move. When the jury was first called, it reported a vote of eleven to one in favor of guilt. Judge Hunt asked each member if there were any further questions, but there were none. Hunt then suggested that they reconvene on the following day. Instead, the members of the jury met for 10 additional minutes and returned a verdict of guilty. Counsel for the defendants made a motion for a new trial on June 19, 1873, but the motion was denied.
At the sentencing hearing, Judge Hunt did what he knew he had to do. He asked each of the three men if they had "anything to say." Jones immediately accused Hunt of being the one who had actually found him guilty, and said the jury had "little to do with it." In Jones’ view, he had acted "conscientiously, faithfully" and according to the best of his "judgment and ability." Marsh repeated the charge that the guilty verdict had not really come from the jury and added that he had also "faithfully discharged" the duties of his office according to the best of his ability and "in strict compliance" with the oath administered to him. He also expressed his view that the arguments of his counsel were "unanswered and unanswerable," so he was not guilty of the charge. Hall was not present. The three men were fined $25 apiece and charged with the costs of their prosecution. Jones paid the fine, but Marsh and Hall refused as a matter of principle. Unlike Anthony, the two men were jailed.
On February 22, 1874, Benjamin F. Butler of the House of Representatives (R-Mass.) wrote to Anthony and advised her to tell the election inspectors not to pay their fines. Butler advised that they "allow the process to be served" but said he had "no doubt" that the President would "remit the fine” if they were pressed “too far." But the three inspectors were still in jail on the 26th. Anthony and her lawyer sent telegrams "to influential friends" in Washington. One of them was a former lawyer, Sen. A.A. Sargent (R-Calif.). Sen. Sargent assured Anthony that he had "laid the case of the inspectors before the President" and papers for their pardon were being prepared. Indeed, many members of Congress were outraged by the trial, and President Grant (who was just reelected for a second term) felt comfortable granting pardons to the men within a week. The cases against the other women were dropped.