Jane Addams

Testimony at a Hearing before the Committee on Rules of the U.S. House of Representatives - Dec. 3, 1913

Jane Addams
December 03, 1913— Washington, D.C.
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Mr. Chairman and gentlemen of the committee, I had the honor of appearing before you last August as woman voter when you very kindly received the delegation of woman voters who were meeting here in Washington. With your permission I will refer to a little discussion at that time and to a point which the committee made and which seemed to me at the moment well taken, that the Rules Committee had no power to appoint a committee on woman 's suffrage because of the fact that Congress did not have jurisdiction over the question of the franchise; that it was a matter for each State to determine by the electors within the borders of that state. The point was made by the gentlemen from Georgia [Mr. Hardwick], and the only exception I was able to give him was that of the fifteenth amendment, and I realized, of course, that that was not an apt instance to give to a gentleman from Georgia. Since that time, through the courtesy of our president, have been able to get together nine other instances in which Congress in its official capacity has designated the conditions under which citizens of the United States may exercise the prerogative of their citizenship. Of course, these various classes of citizens have lived within the borders of States and Territories, and those States and Territories did not consider their States' rights were interfered with when Congress made these conditions.

The second instance—I still retain the fifteenth amendment as the first instance—the second instance is that of the Indians. You know, of course, that for many years the Indians were the wards of the Nation, and when tribal relations were broken up they were given suffrage. This suffrage was given to them not by the various States in which the reservations were situated but by the United States, by the Congress of this country.

Mr. HARDWICK. That was while these different Territorial divisions were Territories of the United States, and therefore Congress has always prescribed the terms suffrage and designated who should exercise it in the Territories of the United States.

Miss ADDAMS. Then we would be very happy if they would give the franchise to all the women in the Territories upon that same instance.

Mr HARDWICK. Of course Congress has that power.

Miss ADDAMS. Then I will only call that half of an illustration. I was going to say that there used to be four classes of people who could not vote—Indians, imbeciles, criminals, and women. Now you have taken away the Indian, so there are only imbeciles, criminals, and women who are left.

The third one, perhaps not a very happy one, is that of the Confederate soldiers who took the oath of allegiance after the war was over, and their oath of allegiance was prescribed by Congress.

The fourth instance is that of foreigners who fought in the Civil War. They were not obliged to go through the process on naturalization, but were given citizenship by the Congress of the United States.

Mr HARDWICK. The acts by which they were given citizenship did not give them the right to vote, because citizenship and the right to vote are very clearly separate and distinct propositions of law. Women are now citizens of the United States.

Miss ADDAMS. Then I will withdraw that as illustration.

The fifth instance is that men who are disfranchised when they are put into a Federal penitentiary. When they come out it lies with Congress to give them the right to. They are deprived of it when they are sent to the penitentiary.

Mr. HARDWICK. No ; they are deprived of it by State law in each case.

Miss ADDAMS. Why would they deprived of it by State law?

Mr. HARDWICK. Because the laws of the different States provide that where a man has been guilty of felonies involving moral turpitude he shall, for that reason, lose the right to vote.

Miss ADDAMS. But I am talking about Federal prisoners.

Mr. HARDWICK. It is just the same, if the offense involves moral turpitude.

Miss ADDAMS. Would you like to have that answered by my attorney ?

Mr. HARDWICK. Oh no. If it bothers you I will not continue.

Miss ADDAMS. No; it does not bother me in the least.

The sixth one which I have down here and which I am advancing with a little less confidence, is the direct vote for United States Senator, recently voted upon by Congress, and the conditions under which that vote is taken are being prescribed by Congress. Is that right?

Mr. LENROOT. It is not within the field of Congress to provide for the electors when we provided for the direct vote for the Senators.

Miss ADDAMS. Then, deserters from the Army are deprived of their vote. Perhaps we can put that on a matter of congressional action. Is that right ?

Mr. HARDWICK. I am not sure. You have me there.

The CHAIRMAN. That is correct.

Miss ADDAMS. Next are the naturalized citizens, immigrants who come to this country owing allegiance to the countries from which they come and who are naturalized under conditions prescribed by the Federal Government and not by the various States. I am quite sure about that.

Mr. HARDWICK. There is this objection to that. While they are naturalized, and naturalization is one of the conditions precedent to the conferring of the suffrage, suffrage is not necessarily conferred by naturalization, and there are other things which the State regulates and which must enter into it after naturalization.

Miss ADDAMS. The naturalization is a necessary proposition and must come from the Federal Government?

Mr. HARDWICK. Yes; but the mere fact that a person is naturalized does not entitle that person necessarily to the right to vote. The fact that they are naturalized simply makes them citizens, just as the women are citizens to-day.

The CHAIRMAN. I think in the case of deserters from the Army, only the President can remove the disabilities—Congress or the President. The President frequently does it by virtue of an act Congress.

Miss ADDAMS. Yes; Congress has jurisdiction in the matter. That was my point. Then there is another thing which Congress regulates, and that is the wives of foreigners or naturalized citizens. If a woman born in America marries a foreigner, a man of English birth we will say, who does not care to take out naturalization papers she, course, is a citizen of England and loses her right to vote if she is living an equal suffrage State such as California or Illinois. That, of course, is a Federal regulation.

Then, the tenth I have here perhaps you will not admit, although it seems to some of us a very good instance. In 1872, Miss Anthony, who lived in Rochester, was very insistent to test woman's right to vote under the fourteenth amendment, which said that "any citizen born or naturalized," and forth. She went to the polls in Rochester and voted. She was not arrested by the local authorities in Rochester or by any State officer, but she was arrested by a Federal officer on the ground that she had violated the election conditions, the election laws of the Federal Government. She was neither convicted nor pardoned; she was held in a state of suspense, as it were, and such action as was taken was taken by the Federal authority.

Mr. HARDWICK. Do you know why that was?


Mr. HARDWICK. It was because at time the force law was in effect. That regulated during the days of reconstruction.

Miss ADDAMS. In New York ?

Mr. HARDWICK. Yes ; all over the Union. It affected the suffrage exercised in every State of the Union.

Miss ADDAMS. She was arrested for voting for a Member of Congress.

Mr HARDWICK. Yes; undoubtedly she could not have been arrested for voting for a State official.

Miss ADDAMS. Some of my instances are poor, but such as they are they show the point that we made during the last Congress before your committee. At that time the committee took the position that the Federal Government had no jurisdiction in the matter of laying down conditions of franchise for the citizens of the various States; that it was a matter of State regulation; but I believe that these instances all show that in certain cases, under certain conditions, the Federal Government did interfere in the matter of the franchise of citizens in the various States. Now, if it is even remotely, even partially a matter of Federal authority, then we claim that we ought to have a committee to take up this matter. If the Rules Committee felt that it was something that did not concern Congress then one could quite understand why they refused to appoint it. But if it does concern Congress, if it is a concern of Congress, even under extraordinary conditions we believe that there should be a committee appointed for this specific purpose. We claim that there has been an extraordinary condition in America in the last 10 years in regard to the enfranchisement of women, and we have every right to expect that the number will be doubled the next two years, with the wave of public opinion which is sweeping over the country. We think that the Rules Committee ought to appreciate this situation and give us a special committee to take up this very important subject.

I shall be very glad to answer any questions or to take back anything which I have said which can not be substantiated, but in general I claim that the instances I have cited show that the Government has taken up this matter in times past, and now is the moment for them to take it up again.

Mr. Lenroot. Let me suggest there that the jurisdiction of Congress is, of course, limited within the powers mentioned by the Constitution itself.

Mr HARDWICK. You claim would have to rest on that, I think.

Miss ADDAMS. I was not asking for an amendment to the Constitution at this time. We should like the committee appointed by the House to recommend and amendment to the Constitution.

Mr. HARDWICK. I just want to suggest one thing there. We have a committee already in the House that is not very busy and which has, according to my notion of the rules, absolute jurisdiction over this subject, to wit, the Committee on Election of President and Vice President and Representatives in Congress. Would it not be just as satisfactory to you ladies to let that committee, if it can do so under the rules of the House, take charge of your matter ? They will have ample time to attend to it.

Miss ADDAMS. I would like to have the president speak on such an important matter as that.

United States Congress. (1914). Hearing before the Committee on Rules, House of Representatives, Sixty-third Congress, second session, on Resolution establishing a Committee on woman suffrage; December 3, 4, & 5, 1913. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/2027/hvd.32044087355962