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The Significance Of The Nineteenth Amendment To The Constitution

This meeting was at night. Some of the parents who had attended the talks
from time to time had requested that the last meeting be held at night so
that some of the busy fathers and mothers might come. The assembly room
was crowded, and although extra chairs had been placed in the aisles,
there were a number of people standing. The principal said that it was the
largest crowd that he had ever seen in the room.(107)

First, everybody arose and sang “The Star-Spangled Banner”, and when the
meeting closed, the audience joined in singing “America”.(108) The judge
was greeted with loud applause. He said:

I am happy tonight. This meeting is an inspiration. It is a real
community meeting, a real American meeting. If meetings like this were
held once each week or once every two weeks in every school building in
the United States I should not fear socialism or bolshevism or anarchy.
Such ideas cannot live in a community where the people really know each
other. There are no class lines here tonight. You are too close together.
I see a banker over there whom I have known for thirty years. He was
brought up in this city, attended this school, and has spent his whole
life here. His success in life came to him among old friends in the
community where he was born. Near him, I see a bricklayer. I have known him
and respected him since boyhood. We played on the same baseball team when
we were both younger and could run faster than we can now. He went to the
Washington school. The children of these men are in this school now. In a
few years, they will be grown men and women doing the work that we shall
have to give up soon.(109)

So with most of the people in this room tonight. They were born here,
went to school here, and they have worked here all their lives. Some
followed one occupation, some another. This was a matter of their own
choice. Their children are now growing up, as they once grew up. Soon they
will be selecting their life work. Soon they will be voting and performing
other duties of citizenship. Soon you and I, fathers and mothers, will
pass off the stage of life. Soon we shall be forgotten by all except the
few who compose the family circle, who love us notwithstanding our faults.

For a few weeks I have been acting as teacher. I have been trying hard to
bring into the minds and hearts of the pupils in this school something of
the sacredness of human liberty, something of the cost of American
liberty, the sacrifices, the struggles, the bloodshed, the heartaches, and
heartbreaks which finally triumphed when our Constitution was adopted. I
have endeavored to explain that the Constitution is not a mere skeleton or
framework, defining the relation of the Nation and the States and
providing for the election of officers to carry out the plans of the
National government. I have repeatedly told the great truth that in
America there is more freedom, justice, charity, and kindness than in any
other Nation in the world. I have pointed out that in America we have in
our Constitution written guarantees of life, liberty, and property rights
such as no other nation in the history of the world ever had. We have
found that this is a government by the people, that the people rule, that
the few cannot rule unless the many refuse to perform their duties as
citizens of this great republic. Oh! if we can only put in the hearts of
the American people a realization of the _power_ and the _duty_ of the
people!

Tonight I wish to present briefly something of the manner in which the
people express their power, the method by which the people disclose their
wishes in public affairs. The Star Baseball Club, the Irving Literary
Society, the City Teachers Association, the Woman’s Club, the Charity
Guild, these are all mere organizations of people. _That is all that
America is._ These organizations have written constitutions. _So has
America._ These organizations must have laws or rules of conduct, aside
from their constitutions. _So must America._ These societies must have a
policy and transact business. _So must America._ In adopting laws or rules
of conduct these societies secure an expression of the wishes of their
members. These wishes are generally expressed by their votes, sometimes by
ballot, and sometimes orally in a meeting.

America secures an expression of the wishes of the people by their votes.
The votes of the people either in writing or printed are cast on election
days fixed by laws enacted through the vote of the people. In no other way
can the wishes of the people be made known. It, is through the ballot that
the people exercise their powers. It is through the ballot that America is
governed.(110)

I wonder if the people of America generally realize what a wonderful thing
it is that a government as large as ours must depend entirely upon the
wishes of the people expressed by their vote on election day. I wonder if
they realize that in this way the people rule. On election day we see
something of the equality of the people. If you go near the polling place,
you will see the president of the bank, perhaps, or the president of the
railroad walking side by side with the hod-carrier or the brakeman on the
train. In the voting booth, each has the same power in helping to shape the
destiny of their country.

In a way, this is a new method of government. Only in a country where there
is a government by the people do we find such a thing as the right of all
men regardless of property, race, or creed to exercise the same power in
the ballot box.(111)

From the beginning, America has led in granting the right of suffrage, the
right to vote. In the early days in some of the States, a man had to own a
certain amount of property before he could vote, but this has not been
true for more than fifty years. _Now a new day has come._ After a struggle
for generations, the right to vote has been conferred upon all female
citizens, regardless of property, social position, religion, or race. It
has been a long struggle and now that victory has been won for equal
suffrage, is there anyone who will still contend that in this country the
people do not rule?

Who has conferred this great privilege upon the women of America? The
voters of America decided that every State should grant this privilege.

The amendment to the Constitution is as follows:

“_The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied
or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex._”

The people did not vote directly upon this constitutional amendment, but
they voted for the members of the House and the members of the Senate who
voted for the amendment and they voted for the members of the legislatures
of the different States which ratified the amendment. Thus the
responsibility rests with the people. This is true of course as to nearly
all the laws enacted by State and Nation—the people do not vote directly
upon them, but they select their agents, who, under the law, are
authorized to act for them.

Under this amendment, we have the written guaranty in the Constitution that
so far as men and women are concerned they shall have equal rights to
vote.(112)

Perhaps you were not in favor of woman suffrage. Many good men and women
were opposed to it. Many are still opposed to it. This is a good
illustration of the way we do things in a democracy. We have different
temperaments, different dispositions. We are reared in different
surroundings. We have different interests. We look at life in different
ways. Each of us has a right to his opinion and each of us has the right
to express it by our vote. When we finally vote, a decision is made. If we
belong to the majority, we find that our wish is carried out. If we are in
the minority, we cheerfully follow what the majority of the people, what
most of the people in America desire.

The thing that I wish to impress tonight is that to vote on election day
is not only a right, it is a duty. Whether we were for woman suffrage or
not it has come. It is settled. It brings into power twenty-seven million
new voters. Each of these women, whether she desires it or not, must
assume this new share of the responsibilities of government. It is a
patriotic duty. At every election we must cast our votes. Before every
election we must study the issues, the problems to be met. Unless we do
that we are failing in patriotism and loyalty. Unless we vote we are not
good citizens.

Now I must close. I hope that the talks I have given in this school have
planted in the hearts of boys and girls, and possibly in the hearts of
grown men and women, something of the simple truth of American life,
something perhaps of the privileges of American citizenship and something
of the duties that we all owe in return.

I have promised the principal of this school that next term I will again
appear and present some new topics. I wish to talk to the boys and girls
about authority and obedience, the source of authority and the duty of
obedience. I wish also to talk about the making of laws, the origin of
laws, how they are put in form and finally enacted by the people. I wish
to talk about our public servants, because one of the important things for
each citizen to know is that from the President of the United States down
to the constable of the humblest village, all officers are mere servants
of the people and that no officer in America is in his official capacity
master of any man, woman, or child. I wish to impress as far as I am able
the great truth expressed by Chief Justice Marshall when he said long
years ago, “This is a government of laws and not of men.”

ELEMENTARY QUESTIONS

1. Show the ways in which the United States is just like a small club?

2. Why must we always vote?

3. Why is it right that women should vote?

4. Show that this is more than a privilege: it is a duty.

5. Imagine some person saying that America is only for the rich. Review
all the work that we have done, and show how it is just as fair to the
poor man as to the rich.

ADVANCED QUESTIONS

A. Re-read the questions to chapters one and two. Note the difference in
your answers.

B. Map out a program so that you can show to all critics of America the
ways in which the Constitution of the United States gives to all Americans
the rights to LIFE, LIBERTY, and the PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS.

C. You can now answer fully the question, “Why is America the most free
and most just Nation on the globe?”

D. What did Chief Justice Marshall mean when he said, “This is a
government of laws, and not of men.”

E. Prepare in writing a constitution for the “Lincoln Debating Club”.