Suffrage And The “I. Q.” -- By: Raymond L. Bridgman

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 077:306 (Apr 1920)
Article: Suffrage And The “I. Q.”
Author: Raymond L. Bridgman


Suffrage And The “I. Q.”

Raymond L. Bridgman

The progressive and illuminating article by Professor Edward L. Thorndike in Harper’s Magazine for January, 1920, in which the “I. Q.” (intelligence quotient) figures prominently, brings to a head a problem which has been before our country from its beginning and is to-day one of the most debated in popular interest. What shall be the standard of suffrage in our democracy?

According to the practical common sense of the people the question has been answered already. Their answer is that in our democracy only those shall have suffrage who are fit to share the government. In order to determine fitness an age limit of twenty-one years has been fixed. For the same reason the line of sex has been drawn. In nine of the States an educational test has been established. In the States generally, criminals are disfranchised, and idiots and aliens are excluded; while some shut out Indians and men in the army and navy of the United States. In a rough way the principle has been adopted, by the common sense of the people of the several States, that no one shall vote who is not fit to pass upon the public questions involved in dm elections and to judge the qualifications of candidates. Doubtless most people will admit that this test of suffrage is reasonable. It would seem to be an axiom that no one shall have a share in the government unless he or she is fit.

Rut it is within common knowledge that our tests of fitness arc very crude. Modern researches make our hard-and-fast test of twenty-one years of age quite unsatisfactory, almost to the point of absurdity. It is only because it works well on the whole, and is founded upon necessity, that it is not challenged. Modern investigation has proved that there are many thousands, perhaps millions, of men of twenty-one years and over who are children in intellect. Some of these mature more or less; others remain children

as long as they live. We admit to suffrage a large number of children in intellect, solely because they are over twenty-one years of age in body. On the other hand, we exclude from the suffrage many persons who are over twenty-one years in intellect simply because their bodies are not twenty-one years of age, regardless of the service which they might render to the public by their intelligence in political matters.

Again, judged by the standard of fitness, it is evident that sex ought not to be a test, one way or the other. Personal fitness to share the government is the real test according to the popular judgment, not whether the voter is man or woman. Sex has been taken as a convenient test for apparently the same reason that twenty-one years has been ta...

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