Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Worth reading

Just lately I've read My Grandfather's Son: A Memoir by Clarence Thomas, and West from Appomattox: The Reconstruction of America after the Civil War, by Heather Cox Richardson.

I enjoyed the account of the many struggles and occasional joys of Justice Thomas's life, and I liked the history in the Richardson book, not so much the sociology. One of the cases she cited, of which I was previously unaware, was Minor v. Happersett, 88 U.S. 162 (1874), in which the Supreme Court held against some woman named Minor, represented by a lawyer named Minor, that women are citizens, but have no constitutional right to vote.

The Court reasoned: "Certainly, if the courts can consider any question settled, this is one. For nearly ninety years the people have acted upon the idea that the Constitution, when it conferred citizenship, did not necessarily confer the right of suffrage. If uniform practice long continued can settle the construction of so important an instrument as the Constitution of the United States confessedly is, most certainly it has been done here. Our province is to decide what the law is, not to declare what it should be."

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