When the Constitution
took effect in 1789, it did not "secure the blessings
of liberty" to all people. The expansion of rights and
liberties has been achieved over time, as people once excluded
from the protections of the Constitution asserted their rights
set forth in the Declaration of Independence. These Americans
have fostered movements resulting in laws, Supreme Court decisions,
and constitutional amendments that have narrowed the gap between
the ideal and the reality of American freedom.
At the time of the first Presidential election in 1789, only 6 percent of
the population–white, male property owners–was eligible to vote.
The Fifteenth Amendment extended the right to vote to former male slaves in 1870;
American Indians gained the vote under a law passed by Congress in 1924; and
women gained the vote with the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920.
Susan B. Anthony devoted some fifty years of her life to
the cause of woman suffrage. After casting her ballot in the
1872 election in her hometown of Rochester, New York, she
was arrested, indicted, tried, and convicted for voting illegally.
At her two-day trial in June 1873, which she described as
"the greatest judicial outrage history has ever recorded,"
she was convicted and sentenced to pay a fine of $100 and
Anthony took full advantage of the high-profile case to promote
the cause of woman suffrage. In a speech delivered repeatedly
in 1872–73, she exhorted her listeners to "fight
our battle for the ballot–all peaceably, but nevertheless
persistently through to complete triumph, when all United
States citizens shall be recognized as equals before the law."
Women gained the vote with the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment
to the Constitution in 1920, fourteen years after Anthony's
Susan B. Anthony’s testimony in a pre-trial hearing
before a U.S. Commissioner, November 29, 1872, selected