Isabella Beecher Hooker

Hearing before the U.S. Senate Committee on Woman Suffrage – Jan. 24, 1889

Isabella Beecher Hooker
January 24, 1889— Washington, D.C.
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Gentlemen of the committee, Miss Anthony says that I have a thought to present to you. I have two thoughts, and the first is this: women of this country have been deprived of the right of trial by jury simply because they have no vote. This was exemplified in the case of Miss Anthony in 1873, when Judge Ward Hunt, of the supreme bench, took the case from the jury, allowed them no consultation in their seats or out of them, and directed the clerk to enter up a verdict of guilty. And when the counsel for the defendant interposed the judge closed the discussion by saying, "Take the verdict, Mr. Clerk," and the clerk then said:

Gentlemen of the jury, hearken to your verdict as the court has recorded it. You say you find the defendant guilty of the offense whereof she stands indicted, and so say you all.

To this the jury made no response, and were immediately dismissed. Our claim is that if a man had been on trial instead of a woman, Judge Hunt would not have dared thus to violate all rules of law. Do you ask why? I answer, simply because a man who votes has a political party behind him whose interest it is to protect him in his right to vote, and had the meanest man in this country been denied his right to a verdict from the jury, the party press of the country would have rung the changes on such an infamous proceeding till the unjust judge would have been compelled to reverse his own decision. But more than this, we claim that he never would have even thought of making such a decision except as against a disfranchised class of citizens.

I would it were my right or privilege to ask the members of this committee how many of them know that Judge Hunt did thus actually take the case from the jury. I have found very few gentlemen in Congress, on the bench, or at the bar who believe that this my statement is absolutely true; therefore I have rehearsed the story in this pamphlet [a copy of her 1871 remarks before the Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives; a list of "Opinions of Leading Thinkers on the General Subject of Human Rights"; and a review by her husband, John Hooker, "Judge Hunt and the Right of Trial by Jury," that was published in Anthony's history of her trial.], which I now lay before the committee in the hope that it may be printed as a part of my argument.

Do you ask why we have so long been silent on this matter, I answer, because as a disfranchised class we have no power to influence public opinion. "The Supreme Court has decided against your right to vote" was the cry all over the land, and it would have been suicidal to attempt to characterize at that time this verdict of a judge of the Supreme Court as an infamous one. But now Judge Hunt has gone to render his own account before a tribunal that knows no partiality, and I believe, friends, if he could stand here to-day in my place he would plead guilty before you and ask to reverse his own decision, that his soul might be at rest; and I feel sure it never will be at rest until he does reverse it somehow or somewhere.

My second thought is this: That whereas in the great centennial of 1876 women were denied all participation in the public proceedings that commemorated the birth of the Declaration of Independence, though they earnestly and respectfully sought to declare their sentiments of loyalty to the great principles of liberty and responsibility there proclaimed, and their fealty to the Constitution framed thereupon, they now should demand official recognition by Congress and the State legislatures and should be put upon every board of commissioners which, at the public expense, are to initiate and carry out the august ceremonials of the coming centennials of 1889 and 1892, to the end that taxation without representation shall no longer be acknowledged as a just and constitutional policy in this Government nominally by the people. And we ask you, gentlemen of the committee, to bring this matter to the consideration of the Senate, that in all future public occasions, that august body may take the lead in recognizing the women of the country as faithful citizens, worthy to be entrusted equally with men, with the responsibilities growing out of our national constitution and our republican form of government.