The West Virginia Case

September 6, 1870


While those in New York may think it to be outrageous for a man to claim his right to be a registered voter in West Virginia, those of The Daily Dispatch seem to think otherwise. Despite the man being an ex-rebel and democrat, he still pays his taxes and "bears all the burdens of Government," which warrants him the right to vote, regardless of his past.


Some yahoo in the New York Herald thinks it a "highly creditable position for an ex-rebel, and a Democrat to boot," to claim his right to be registered as a voter in West Virginia. This is meant to be sharp irony. And a very considerate yahoo it is who regards it as impudent for a man who pays taxes and bears all the burdens of Government in a "free republic" to demand his rights along with his obligations. It is such illiberality and ignorance of right as the above quotation shows that misleads many good-meaning people in this country who do not know that the denial of equal rights to all citizens is the destruction of free government, and makes the name "republic" a libel. But after all, what is the real truth about this western case? The Wheeling Register tells it: "The suits against registrar here have been for their infraction of the 'act of enforcing the right of citizens of the United States to vote in several States of this Union and for other purposes.' These suits have been brought by white men citizens of this State and of the United States men who did not participate in the rebellion and are not guilty of any crime men who possess all the qualifications of voters under the Constitution of West Virginia men who are disfranchised by the arbitrary act of the registrars whom Governor Stevenson has appointed." The decision of Judge Bond, of the United States circuit order, is that the law made to carry out the fifteenth amendment only protects black voters, and that it throws no shield over the rights of any not having black skin. Judge Jackson, of the United States district court, interprets the law of Congress as shielding the rights of white men and negroes alike. Judge Bond's opinion overrides that of Judge Jackson. In time we apprehend it will be settled by some higher authority whether Congress can pass laws protecting one man against an infraction of his rights and not another from the same injustice.
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Travis Terry




“The West Virginia Case,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed May 18, 2022,