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Susan B. Anthony Cast Her Ballot For Ulysses S. Grant
For this crime, she was arrested, held, indicted, and put on trial. Judge Hunt presided.
December 1985 | Volume 37, Issue 1
Hunt fined the inspectors twenty-five dollars each, but like Anthony they refused to pay, choosing instead to “allow process to be served.” Sen. Benjamin Butler of Massachusetts, who had been following the case with great interest, believed that President Grant himself would “remit the fine if they are pressed too far.”
And indeed, they were pressed too far. On February 26, 1874, Hunt had the inspectors seized and imprisoned. Anthony rushed to the jail, urged the men to hold out, and promised to work for their early release. She barely rested for five days, lecturing, going to the newspapers, preparing an appeal to Grant for a pardon. On March 2 she returned to the jail with sixty-two dollars for bail and succeeded in having them released.
That same day she received a telegram from Butler saying that Grant had arranged for a pardon and remission of the fines. During their five days in prison the inspectors received hundreds of callers and were served bountiful meals by the women whose votes they had accepted. Upon their release they were widely feted, and when they ran for inspectors at the next election, they were returned to office by a large majority—of male voters.
Anthony was never pardoned because she was never jailed. Judge Selden did appeal to both houses of Congress for remission of her fine, basing his claim on the precedent of publisher Matthew Lyon, who had been imprisoned and fined one thousand dollars after being denied trial by jury under the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798. That fine was refunded with interest to his heirs. But the reviewing committees in both the Senate and the House rejected the Anthony appeal by narrow margins without considering the chief basis for the claim.
In 1897 Van Voorhis remembered the case this way: “There was a pre-arranged determination to convict [Susan B. Anthony]. A jury trial was dangerous, and so the Constitution was openly and deliberately violated.
“The Constitution makes the jury, in criminal cases, the judges of the law and of the facts. The mandate of the Constitution is that no matter how clear or how strong the case may appear to the judge, it must be submitted to the jury,” and if the judge controls the jury, “he himself is guilty of a crime for which impeachment is the remedy.”
This had been precisely the policy of the Supreme Court since 1794. The first chief justice, John Jay, had written that it is the obligation of the jury to disregard an inequitable law and nullify it. “The jury has a right to judge both law as well as fact in a controversy.” The voting trial jurors were, of course, not informed of this.
“If Miss Anthony had won her case on its merits” in the first place, Van Voorhis commented a quarter century after her trial, “it would have revolutionized the suffrage of the country, and enfranchised every woman in the United States.”