Part 5 out of 5
formal amendment of the Constitution, which cannot be effected without
the consent of the Annual Conferences. In extending to women the highest
spiritual privileges, in recognizing their gifts, and in providing for
them spheres of Christian activity, as well as in advancing them to
positions of official responsibility, ours has been a leader of the
Churches, and gratefully do we acknowledge the good results shown in
their enlarged usefulness, and in the wonderful developments of their
power to work for God, which we take as evidences of the divine approval
of the high ground taken. In all reformatory and benevolent enterprises,
especially in the Temperance, Missionary, and Sunday-school departments
of Church-work, their success is marvellous, and challenges our highest
admiration. Happily no question of competency or worthiness is involved
in the question of their eligibility as delegates. Hitherto the
assumption underlying the legislation of the Church has been that they
were ineligible to official positions, except by special provision of
law. In harmony with this assumption, they have been made eligible,
by special enactment, of the offices of steward, class-leader, and
Sunday-school superintendent, and naturally the question arises as
to whether the necessity for special legislation, in order to their
eligibility to those specified offices, does not indicate similar
necessity for special provision in order to their eligibility as
delegates, and if so it is further to be considered that the offices of
steward, class-leader, and Sunday-school superintendent may be created
and filled by simple enactments of the General Conference itself; but to
enter the General Conference, and form part of the law-making body
of the Church, requires special provision in the Constitution, and,
therefore, such provision as the General Conference alone cannot make."
Now, sir, this language moves forward with a grasp of logic akin to that
used by Chief Justice Marshall, or that eminent jurist, Cooley, from
whom I beg leave to quote. Cooley, in his great work on "Constitutional
"A Constitution is not made to mean one thing at one time, and another
at some subsequent time, when the circumstances may have changed as
perhaps to make a different rule in the case seem desirable. A principal
share of the benefit expected from written Constitutions would be
lost, if the rules they establish were so flexible as to bend to
circumstances, or be modified by public opinion.
"The meaning of the Constitution is fixed when it is adopted, and is not
different at any subsequent time."
This same great author says:
"Intent governs. The object of construction applied to a written
constitution is to give effect to the intent of the people in adopting
it. In the case of written laws it is the intent of the lawgiver that is
to be enforced.
"But it must not be forgotten in construing our constitutions that in
many particulars they are but the legitimate successors of the great
charters of English liberty whose provisions declaratory of the rights
of the subject have acquired a well understood meaning which the people
must be supposed to have had in view in adopting them. We cannot
understand these unless we understand their history.
"It is also a very reasonable rule that a State Constitution shall be
understood and construed in the light, and by the assistance of the
common law, and with the fact in view that its rules are still in force.
"It is a maxim with the Courts that statutes in derogation of the common
law shall be construed strictly."
Here, sir, we have the language of Judge Cooley himself. It is as clear
as the noonday's sun, and he utterly repudiates the pernicious doctrine
that the Constitution can grow and develop so as to mean one thing when
it is adopted, and something else at another time. You can never inject
anything into a Constitution by construction which was not in it when
adopted. And you are bound, according to all rules of construction, to
give it the construction which was intended when adopted. No man of
common honesty and common sense dares to assert on this floor that it
was the intent when the Constitution was amended to admit women as lay
delegates. It follows inevitably that they are not constitutionally
eligible, and to admit them is to violate the Constitution of the
Church, which, as a Court, we are in honor bound not to do.
It has been asserted with gravity that the right to vote for a person
for office carries with it the right to be voted for unless prohibited
by positive enactment. This proposition is not true, and never has been.
We have seen, when the Constitution and Restrictive Rules were amended,
the intent was to admit men only as lay delegates. No General Conference
can, by resolution or decision, change the Constitution and Restrictive
Rules. Grant, if you please, that the General Conference, by its action
in 1880, had power to make women eligible in the Quarterly Conference as
stewards and class-leaders, this could not qualify her to become a lay
delegate in the law-making body of the Church. The qualifications of lay
delegates to this body must inhere in the Constitution and Restrictive
Rules, according to their intent and meaning when adopted. It is
fundamental law that where general disabilities exist, not simply by
statute, but by common law, the removal of lesser disabilities does not
carry with it the removal of the greater ones.
Legislation qualifying women to vote in Wyoming and elsewhere had to be
coupled also with positive enactments qualifying her to be voted for,
otherwise she would have been ineligible to office. This is so, and I
defy any lawyer to show the contrary.
§3, Article I, Constitution of the United States, reads:
"The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from
each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof for six years. No person
shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the age of thirty
years, and been nine years a citizen of the United States, and who shall
not, when elected, be an inhabitant of the State for which he shall be
These and no other qualifications are worded or found in the
Constitution of the United States touching the qualification of
Senators. Is there a layman on this floor who will dare assert that
under the Constitution of the United States women are eligible as
Representatives or Senators? Words of common gender are exclusively
used as applied to the qualification of Senators. The words persons and
citizens include women the same as they include men. Nevertheless, in
the light of the past, I am bold to assert, that any man who would dare
stand in the Senate of the United States, and contend that women are
eligible to the office of United States Senators, would be regarded by
the civilized world as a person of gush and void of judgment.
Article 14, United States Constitution, §1:
"All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the
jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States, 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 deny to any person within its jurisdiction the
equal protection of the laws_."
(Tax case and what was decided.) (Mrs. Minor _vs_. Judges of Election.
53 Mo. 68.)
The first case indicates that the word citizen when affecting property
rights includes corporations.
The second, that the word person, when it relates to the woman claiming
the right to vote, does not confer upon her that right.
The language is: No State shall make or enforce any law which shall
abridge the privileges or immunities of any citizen of the United
States. Nevertheless, a Republican Circuit Judge held this language did
not entitle Mrs. Minor to vote. A democratic Supreme Court of Missouri
held the same, and the Supreme Court of the United States, in an able
opinion written by men known as the friends of women, conclusively
demonstrated that these constitutional guarantees did not confer upon
woman the right to vote. Why? Because, from time immemorial, this right
had not obtained in favor of woman, and these words of common gender
should not be so construed as to confer this right, since it was not
intended when made to affect their status in this regard.