Alice Paul

Statement at a Hearing Before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee - Dec. 16, 1915

Alice Paul
December 16, 1915— Washington, D.C.
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What we have come here for is to ask just one simple little thing, that this Judiciary Committee should refer this Susan B. Anthony amendment to the House of Representatives. We are simply asking you to do the thing that you can do. I do not think we have to discuss particularly whether suffrage is right or wrong, though we have had speakers here to show that it was a good thing. All we have to ask of you is that you let the House of Representatives decide this question, and we have tried to bring people from all over the United States to show you the desire of women that this should be done.

I want to say just one more thing, that we are an absolutely non-partisan organization, made up of women who are strong Democrats, women who are strong Republicans, women who are Socialists and Progressives—every type of woman. We are all united on this one thing, that we put suffrage above all other question irrespective of how it may help or hurt our own political party. In every election, if we have to go into any future elections, we simply pledge ourselves to this, that we will work just for suffrage and for men or against men according to the position taken on this National suffrage amendment.

Mr. WILLIAMS. May I ask a question. Is it the policy of your organization to fight this question out only as a National issue. Do you make any attempt to secure relief from the States?

Miss PAUL. The Congressional Union was organized, as its name indicates, to work for an amendment along the congressional line. When we came into existence just two years ago we felt that the time had come, because of the winning of so many suffrage States in the West, to use the votes of women to get suffrage nationally. In the early days of suffrage work in this country they confined their work to the States; but after we had won so many suffrage States in the West, that gave us a power in the presidential campaigns and a power in Congress which we did not have before, so we turned from the State method of work to the national method.

Mr. WILLIAMS. Do you do any State work now?

Miss PAUL. There are hosts of suffragists doing State work, and we help them, when we can, in our sister movement; but we are organized to concentrate on this particular piece of work, just as the College Suffrage League is organized to specialize on suffrage work in women's colleges.

Mr. WILLIAMS. Is it true that you prefer to approach this through the State legislatures rather than directly through the people?

Miss PAUL. We prefer to do it in the quickest way. Now that we have nearly 4,000,000 women able to vote, we believe the quickest way is through Congress.

The CHAIRMAN. Let me ask you a question, Miss Paul. Miss Todd, in answer to Judge Graham, suggested very strongly that if the Democratic party as a party should report this resolution and vote upon it, you and your organization would be aflame with enthusiasm for the party in the next election. Now, suppose the Democrats on this committee have not a majority, and the committee declines to report this amendment favorably. It would then be your policy to fight every man on the Democratic ticket whether he was for suffrage or not?

Miss PAUL. Well, I think it is a very great mistake to talk about what we are going to do. We have told you what we have done.

The CHAIRMAN. We can only judge the future by the past, and it seems to me we will come to a better understanding of the situation if we know what you are going to do to us. [Laughter and applause.] Instead of making the impression on the committee that your organization is nonpartisan, you have made the reverse impression. Your speakers have stated that you opposed every Democrat who ran for Congress last year, not because he was opposed to suffrage; you opposed a dozen or more of the strongest suffrage Democrats in America and held them responsible for what the party did not do.

Now, then, will you reverse that proposition, and if the Democrats of this Congress should submit this resolution and vote on it, would you and your organization support it with as much enthusiasm as you fought it the last time?

Mr. MOSS. Mr. Chairman, doesn't it depend upon how the Democrats vote?

The CHAIRMAN. Lt did not depend on it last year.

Miss PAUL. We have had so many statements from the members of the committee, as to what we did—

The CHAIRMAN. I want to get at the nature of your political activity, if I can get it.

Miss PAUL. You do not quite understand what we have done.

The CHAIRMAN. Let us have your statement.

Miss PAUL. We first came into existence when this new administration of President Wilson's came in. We went to all members of Congress here and tried to have this amendment put through at once. For the first time since the very early nineties we got the measure on the floor of the House and Senate, but when it came to getting a vote in the House we found we were absolutely blocked. There never had been a vote in the House of Representatives on the suffrage question.

We went again and again, as I explained this morning, to the Rules Committee, who control the apportioning of the time, and asked them to give us 5 or 10 minutes for the discussion of suffrage, and every time they said they could not do it, because the Democrats had met in caucus and resolved that suffrage should not come up in Congress.

I have a letter from Mr. Henry, the chairman of the Rules Committee. He says:

It would give me great pleasure to report the resolution to the House, except for the fact that the Democratic caucus by its direct action has tied my hands and placed me in a position where I will not be authorized to report this resolution during the present session of Congress unless the caucus is reconvened and changes its instructions. I am sure your good judgment will cause you to thoroughly understand my attitude.


When we found every single day, from May, when wo went to the Rules Committee, until the close of Congress, we were met with this same statement, that the Democrats had decided in caucus not to permit suffrage to come up in the House, and when we found we could not do anything by argument or persuasion, we said, "We will go out to the women voters in the West and tell them how we are blocked at Washington and ask them if they will use their votes for the highest purpose they can—that is, to win suffrage for the women of the Nation."

And we did go into the district of every single man who was running for Congress on the Democratic ticket—43 men. We campaigned against every one of those 43 men to the best of our ability, and only 19 came back. Then we came back to Washington and we went again to the Rules Committee, and instead of being told by Mr. Henry about the Democratic caucus, we were told they had no greater desire in this world than to bring suffrage up. [Laughter and applause.] They told us we had thoroughly misunderstood them; that they had merely been waiting for the best possible opportunity to have the measure considered. We went to each Democratic Member and each man said the same thing. And they met that first week and they vowed to bring suffrage up on the floor for the first time in history and the measure came to a vote and every one of these men whom we had campaigned against and who were still in Congress voted for us and a large number spoke for us.

The CHAIRMAN. They were already for it before you fought them, weren't they?

Miss PAUL. No; they met in the caucus and they refused to let the caucus even consider the measure. After they had met in caucus the first time and decided that suffrage was not a national issue, we were not a bit discourage. We went to see nearly every man from 11 a suffrage State before the caucus met again, and they refused, every single one of them, even to suggest to the caucus that it should reconsider the matter; and it was not until we went out and told their women constituents what they had done that they did reconsider the matter.

Mr. WILLIAMS. Are you a western woman?

Miss PAUL. No, I am from New Jersey. As to what we will do in the future we have no idea. We believe—we hope—we will never have to go into another election. We are appealing to the parties and to the men here in Washington to put the amendment through in this Congress.

The CHAIRMAN. You are certain to go into the next election against the Democrats if they do not give you a vote on this in the House, are you not?

Miss PAUL. I can not say what we are certain to do.

The CHAIRMAN. You are going to pursue the same policy next year that you did a year ago?

Miss PAUL. There are many circumstances that might change. We did pursue a policy, and I have told you what it was; but as to what we will do again we will have to consider.

The CHAIRMAN. You are the head of the organization. Can you tell me any reason for changing your policy?

Miss PAUL. Can you possibly tell me, for instance, what will be in the platform of the Democratic party in 1916? [Applause.]

The CHAIRMAN. I can tell you one plank that will not be in it, and that is a plank in favor of woman suffrage. It will not be there, and I suppose you will fight the Democratic party even though the Republicans do not put it in either . What I want to know is, if the Democrats refuse to give you a vote on this question in this Congress, do you not propose to fight them just the same as you did in the election a year ago?

Miss PAUL. Now, we have come here just to ask your help—

The CHAIRMAN. If you can not answer that it is all right.

Miss PAUL. We have come to give you this message, that one-fifth of the votes for President come from the suffrage States—

The CHAIRMAN. Then you do not agree with Miss Todd that if we do submit this amendment that the country will be aflame with enthusiasm in behalf of the Democrats?

Mr. GARD. Mr. Chairman, as a prelude to my question, I hardly think that the committee should approach this matter in this hearing—which ultimately resolves itself into a matter of right—in a partisan sense of retaliation or personal favor.

Miss TODD. May l say what I did say?

Mr. GARD. I would like to ask for some facts to enlighten me. Mrs. Field, I think her name was, said she preferred to have somebody else answer my question as to the reason your organization had for asking Congress to submit this matter to States which had already either affirmatively or negatively voted on this question, when the same authority still exists in the States. That is what I would like to be informed about.

Miss PAUL. 'Why should we ask Congress to submit this when four States defeat it—

Mr. GARD. Oh, no. My question is this: Why should there be a resubmission to the voters by national direction, in States which have already either voted for it or voted against it, when ample authority exists in those same States to vote for it or against it again?

Miss PAUL. Merely because the majority of the men in one State do not want us to have suffrage does not mean we are going to give up our campaign.

Mr. GARD. You still do not answer my question. What reason can you give me why I as a Member of the Congress of the United States should vote to require all these States which have voted on it—whether they have voted for it or against it, I do not care—to vote again?

Miss PAUL. They have never voted on the question of the national amendment. All we are asking is that the Judiciary Committee submit this to the House, and the House and Senate submit it to the States; that the State legislatures shall be allowed to pass on this question as to whether we shall have a national amendment. That has never been up before.

Mr. GARD. You prefer that course to having it taken directly to the people?

Miss PAUL. We prefer this course because it is more direct and more easy, and because we have power to back it up.

Mr. GARD. Does your organization share the expressed view of Mrs. Field that the great electorate of the United States is corruptible?

Miss PAUL. It is simply because we have power to back up a national movement that we use this method.

Mr. GARD. Oh, you are using this because you think you have power to enforce it?

Miss PAUL. Because we know we have power. [Applause.]

Mr. TAGGART. Don' t you once in a while find a woman here and there out West who, being a voter herself, is not so seriously concerned as to who shall be a voter in the State of New York?

Miss PAUL. Yes; we find women in the East who are antisuffragists.

Mr. TAGGART. I do not mean an antisuffragist. She is for suffrage in her own State, but she is not a propagandist, not worrying about what women are doing in other States, letting them take their own course, believing that when they develop sufficient enthusiasm they will get the suffrage in their States. Don't you think you ought to have more States before you try this national movement?

Miss PAUL. We think all this advice about going back to the States proves beyond all cavil that we are on the right track.

Mr. TAGGART. Suppose you get fewer votes this time on the floor of the House than you got the other time. How much good would that do? Do you expect any votes from New York or the Republican side ? Those men who did vote for you from New York are all gone. Do you expect any from Ohio? Any from Pennsylvania?

Miss PAUL. That is another argument for Federal work.

Mr. TAGGART. Any from Michigan?

Miss PAUL. That is another argument for Federa1 work.

Mr. TAGGART. If you get any votes you will get them where Democrats live, won't you?

Miss PAUL. In t hose States where the State referendum failed?

Mr. WILLIAMS. Do you think it is fair to those Members of Congress who have voted for woman suffrage and stood for woman suffrage to oppose them merely because a majority of their party was not in favor of your proposition? Is that gratitude or thankfulness?

Miss PAUL. Well, every man we opposed stood by his party decision, his party caucus.

Mr. WILLIAMS. Suppose there are Democrats on this committee, who vote this out, who vote in the House for it, but as a party measure it is not taken up and supported by the party . Do you propose to oppose those Democrats who do stand by you?

Miss PAUL. What I would suggest to that would be—

Mr. VOLSTEAD. Mr. Chairman, it seems to me this line of inquiry is absolutely unfair and improper. It is not courteous.

The CHAIRMAN. It is fair if the lady is willing to answer it.

Mr. VOLSTEAD. But it seems to me it is cheap politics; I am tired of listening to it.

Mr. TAGGART. Have your services been bespoken by the Republican committee of Kansas or any other suffrage State in the next campaign?

Miss PAUL. We are greatly gratified by this tribute to our apparent worth.

Mr. TAGGART. They have not asked you?

Miss PAUL. They have not.

Mr. TAGGART. I understood they were not going to.

Mr. MOSS. May I ask a question? Please state whether or not it is a fact that the question is what is right and not want will be the reward or punishment of the Members of this committee or of Congress. Is not that the only question?

Miss PAUL. Yes. As I just said, we have come simply to ask that this committee report this amendment to the House, and we have brought these women here to show the desire of the women that you do so.

Mr. MOSS. Can you explain to the committee what the question of what you are going to do to a Member of this committee or a Congressman in regard to this vote has to do with the question of what we should do as our duty?

Miss PAUL. As I have said several times to-day, I do not see any reason for discussing that

The CHAIRMA. You have not a blacklist, have you?

Miss PAUL. No; we have nothing for the future. I have told you what we have had in the past.

Mr. TAGGART. You are organized for the chastisement or political parties that do not do your bidding willingly and at once? [Laughter]

Mr. CARAWAY. You do not believe that this is a question on which the majority should pass? That it is a question on which the minority, if they have the power, would make the majority act? That is true, is it not?

Miss PAUL. The majority in the minority party?

Mr. CARAWAY. II you were representing the minority of the people of this country, both men and women, and you have the power, you think the minority ought to force the majority to accept woman suffrage do you not?

Miss PAUL. I do not believe in a majority of men deciding for all women.

Mr. CARAWAY. A majority of men and women—do you believe the majority ought to govern in questions of this kind? The gentleman from West Virginia said it was a question of right or wrong. You indorse that, do you? It is not a question of whether the majority of men and women want it or not.

Miss PAUL. This is all so abstract. It is something we have decided to get. [Laughter.]

Mr. CARAWAY. I do not care for the reason. I'm just asking you if you believe that the majority ought to be coerced if the minority has the power?

Miss PAUL. In the present situation—it is too difficult for me to answer.

Mr. TAGGART. Let me answer for the lady by saying it would be impossible for the minority to coerce the majority unless three­fourths of the States might contain the minority or the people, which would be impossible.

Miss PAUL. We have nothing more to present from our side.

Miss TODD. May I correct one statement of mine you have referred to? The statement I made was this, that naturally the women voters put justice to women above everything else; and in 1916 the party that does justice to women—I do not care what party it is—will get the immense proportion of the women's vote.

Mr. GRAHAM. Don't you think it is rather unbecoming to come before this committee holding out either hope of reward or threat of punishment? I am opposed to all this discussion of what is going to be the consequence. It is either right for us to send it to the House or it is wrong, and I am going to vote according to my particular conscience on that question, and I do not care whether the woman suffragists or the antisuffragists are opposed to me. I represent the views of my constituents as nearly as I can. Don't you think that is right? [Applause.]

Miss PAUL. Will you let me just thank you for this hearing?

The CHAIRMAN . You may have the privilege of revising your remarks, Miss Paul, and we will have the report printed, and you may have as many copies as we can spare.