J. Gresham Machen Bibliography

Guide to the works of J. Gresham Machen (1881–1937). Scholar. Preacher. Founder of Westminster Theological Seminary. Leader in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

▷ Against Woman Suffrage (letter to Representative John R. Ramsey)

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Princeton Seminary Princeton, N. J., January 8. 1918

Hon. John R. Ramsey House of Representatives, Washington, D. C.

Dear Sir:

In urging you to vote against the Susan B. Anthony amendment I am not animated chiefly by a spirit of opposition to woman suffrage in general, though personally I am not yet convinced that it is just or wise. Even if I were an ardent advocate of women suffrage I should still be strongly opposed to the present amendment, which seems to me to run directly contrary to the manner in which important constitution changes out to be made. The step once taken can scarcely be reversed. Is a time like this the time to give careful consideration to such irrevocable and far-reaching changes? If the suffrage leaders had the slightest inkling of what true patriotism means, they would cease all divisive agitation until the present war is over.

Furthermore, I can not fo the life of me see why the suffrage issue should not be left to the individual States. The chief argument for Federal action in many concerns of government as against State action is that often Federal action alone is effective. Such an argument might plausibly be urged, for example, in the case of the prohibition amendment. But it does not apply at all to the suffrage issue. Every State can chose the kind of suffrage it desires and make its choice effective, quite independent of the choice of any other State. And conditions in the various States differ so widely that the forcing of suffrage upon the women of some States may be an offensive piece of tyranny.

Do the people of New Jersey want woman suffrage? The vote of 1915 was a sufficient answer. Do the voters of the United States want woman suffrage? No one can doubt for a moment that a referendum on the subject in the whole country would give an overwhelming majority in the negative. Do the woman of the country want woman suffrage? There is no clear evidence of it as yet, and if the present amendment is passed there never will be evidence.

In short, the present amendment represents an attempt to avoid a popular vote (which could be overwhelmingly negative) on an exceedingly momentous question. The suffrage leaders are absolutely unscrupulous in their choice of means. All fairness, all true democracy, all united effort in the present war are abandoned ruthlessly in the interest of an ill-timed and unintelligent feminism. Do such leaders really represent the women of this country? For my part I do not believe it for a moment.

Sincerely, yours,

J. Gresham Machin [sic]

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