In 1787, 11 years after the Declaration of Independence proclaimed that “all guys are produced equal,” the US Constitution was embraced. It begins with this preamble:

We the People of the USA, in Order to develop an extra perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, administer for the prevalent defence, promote the basic Welfare, and also secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and also our Posterity, do ordain and also establish this Constitution for the United States of America.1


Who is consisted of in “We the People”? This is a question that has actually been discussed throughout American background. William H. Hastie, the initially babsence federal judge in the United States (appointed in 1937), wrote: “Democracy is a procedure, not a static problem. It is becoming, rather than being. It deserve to be easily shed, but is never lastly won.” Much of the history of the USA shows this recurring procedure, as people and also teams have attempted to make the country much better reflect the autonomous ideals expressed in its founding documents.

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Women’s suffrage activist Susan B. Anthony was one individual who tested the nation to expand also its definition of that belongs. In November 1872, she was arrested for voting in a federal election prior to woguys had actually acquired the appropriate to execute so. Before her trial, she offered a speech titled “Is It a Crime for a Citizen of the United States to Vote?” In that speech, she quoted the preamble to the Constitution and also then stated:

It was we, the civilization, not we, the white male citizens, nor yet, we, the male citizens; yet we, the whole civilization, that formed the Union. And we created it, not to offer the blessings of liberty, but to secure them; not to the fifty percent of ourselves and also the fifty percent of our posterity, but to the entirety people—woguys and also men. And it is a downbest mockery to talk to women of their enjoyment of the blessings of liberty while they are denied the use of the just implies of securing them gave by this democratic-republideserve to government—the ballot.2

To assistance her argument, Anthony pointed out that “the words persons, human being, inhabitants, electors, citizens are all provided indiscriminately in the nationwide and also state constitutions.” In some says, only white men might vote; in others the language was vague enough that all residential or commercial property owners, consisting of white womales and Afrideserve to Americans, might vote. Yet, by the early on 1800s, white men no longer essential to own building or pay taxes in order to vote almost everywhere in the USA. At the very same time, states that had previously permitted free Afrihave the right to Americans and women to vote currently took away those legal rights.

In 1776, Virginia, South Carolina, and Georgia were the just says to limit the ideal to vote to white males, and no northern state restricted suffrage on the basis of skin shade or race. After 1800, eincredibly state that entered the Union, other than Maine, denied free African Amerideserve to guys the appropriate to vote.

In a country that claimed its belief in freedom and also equality, those decisions had to be justified. And for many kind of, tbelow was only one justification: Native Americans and also blacks belonged to distinctive and inferior “races” and also therefore should be denied complete citizenship. In 1857, the US Supreme Court confirmed that check out. The justices heard a lawsuit brought by Dred Scott, an African Amerideserve to that demanded his flexibility because his “owners” had taken him to several claims and also areas that did not permit slavery. In a decision created by Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, the court ruled that blacks “had actually no civil liberties which the white guy was bound to respect.” The Amerideserve to people, Taney argued, comprised a “political family” minimal to whites.

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By 1865, a brutal civil battle had lastly lugged an finish to slaincredibly in the United States yet not to the prejudice and the discrimination knowledgeable by African Americans. Immediately after the battle, 3 amendments were added to the US Constitution to defend Afrideserve to Americans’ rights—the thirteenth amendment finished slaextremely and also the fifteenth granted former slaves the ideal to vote, yet it was the fourteenth that Susan B. Anthony focused on in her 1872 speech. That amendment claims, in part:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and also topic to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the USA and also of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enpressure any kind of legislation which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any kind of State deprive any perboy of life, liberty, or property, without due procedure of law; nor deny to any type of perboy within its jurisdiction the equal defense of the regulations.3

Susan B. Anthony witnessed those 2 sentences as proof that womales had every one of the rights of citizenship. In her watch, the initially sentence establimelted that womales are citizens, and also the second settled whether or not they host a area in society equal to that of all various other “persons.” She concluded her speech by firmly stating:

The just question to be settled, currently, is: Are women persons? And I hardly think any kind of of our opponents will have actually the hardihood to say they are not. Being persons, then, womales are citizens, and no state has actually a ideal to make any brand-new legislation, or to enpressure any old legislation, that shall abridge their privileges or immunities. Hence, every discrimination against womales in the constitutions and also legislations of the a number of states, is today null and also void, specifically as is eincredibly one against Negroes.4

Despite her discussion, Anthony was tried and also convicted for “the crime of having voted” in the 1872 election and fined $100. Women did not obtain the right to vote in the United States until 1920. In reality, till 1922, a woguy born and also reared in the United States would certainly shed her citizenship if she married a foreigner. She had to assume the citizenship of her husband also. However before, an Amerideserve to man could marry a foreign womale without losing his citizenship.

Even though the fourteenth amendment presented birthideal citizenship—definition that anyone born within a country’s borders is immediately a citizen regardmuch less of the parents’ nationality—this continues to be a controversial concept, both in the USA and also in other nations. The level to which the amendment’s promise of “equal defense of the law” is a reality continues to be discussed now. In 2010, about 15% of the countries in the people, virtually all of them in North or South America, known birthappropriate citizenship (view map below).5