Douglas Clyde Macintosh

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Douglas Clyde Macintosh (1877–1948) was a theologian and academic. Macintosh was born in Canada in 1877 and received his undergraduate degree from McMaster University when it was in Toronto.[1] In 1907 was ordained a Baptist minister and taught at Brandon College, Manitoba.[2] In 1909 Macintosh received his Ph.D from the University of Chicago and joined Yale Divinity School, becoming an assistant professor of systematic theology.[3]

During World War I he volunteered for the Canadian Army and served at the front as a military chaplain.[3] He further oversaw an American Y.M.C.A. hut in France until the armistice.[3] In 1916 he was named the Dwight Professor of Theology and later served as the chairman of the Yale Religion Department from 1920 to 1938. He is also notable for a 1931 Supreme Court of the United States case.[4][5][6]

In 1925 Macintosh petitioned to become a naturalized U.S. citizen. At a hearing before the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut Macintosh explained that the moral principles of Christianity would allow him to take the Oath of Allegiance with the understanding that he was only swearing to take up arms in what he believed was a just war.[3] The District Court refused to grant Macintosh citizenship. This rejection was then reversed by Judge Thomas Walter Swan, a former Yale Law School Dean, on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.[7] The Government appealed, and before the Supreme Court the U.S. Solicitor General Thomas D. Thacher, a Bonesman, appeared, while Macintosh was represented by Charles Edward Clark, a future Yale Law School Dean.[3]

The sharply divided Court rejected Macintosh’s petition for citizenship.[8] Writing for the Court, Justice George Sutherland, joined by the other Four Horsemen, found that “We are a Christian people” but that “unqualified allegiance to the Nation and submission and obedience to the laws of the land, as well those made for war as those made for peace, are not inconsistent with the will of God.”[3]

Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes dissented, joined by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., Justice Louis Brandeis and then Justice Harlan F. Stone. The dissenters traced Congress’s long “happy tradition” of respecting conscientious objectors and wrote “The essence of religion is belief in a relation to God involving duties superior to those arising from any human relation.”[3]

A decade and a half later the Supreme Court would overturn itself, ruling 5-3 against the "arms-bearing pledge" in Girouard v. United States, 328 U.S. 61 (1946).[9] Macintosh alongside Henry Nelson Wieman, George Burman Foster, and Shailer Mathews is considered a shaper of "modernistic liberalism".

The W.W. I chaplain's chalice of former Yale University Dwight Professor of Theology Douglas Clyde Macintosh was given to the Yale Law School and accepted by Dean Harold Koh in September 2008 to honor the famous 1931 Supreme Court case, Macintosh v. United States, in which John W. Davis argued Professor Macintosh's right to "selective conscientious objection" in Macintosh's application as a Canadian for U.S. citizenship.[10]

Professor Macintosh's three quarter length portrait hangs in the Common Room of Yale Divinity School. It depicts him with his right hand toward a Bible opened to the commandment "Thou shalt have no other gods before me" and his left hand extended toward a bound volume of United States v. Macintosh, 1931. The portrait was painted in 1979 by New Haven artist Clarence Brodeur, past President of the Board of Trustees of the Fontainebleau Association, and editor the Fontainebleau School Alumni Bulletin.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Flowers, R. B. (2000), The Naturalization of Douglas Clyde Macintosh, Alien Theologian. Journal of Supreme Court History, 25: 243–270. doi: 10.1111/1059-4329.00011
  2. ^ Douglas Clyde Macintosh Papers, Yale Divinity Library.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g United States v. Macintosh, 283 U.S. 605 (1931).
  4. ^ Question of Conscience Time - Jan 25, 1932
  5. ^ "Court Denies Citizenship to Dr. MacIntosh", New York Times - Jan 10, 1930
  6. ^ New York Times - May 26, 1931 "CITIZENSHIP DENIED TO ARMS OBJECTORS; Supreme Court Bars Dr. Macintosh of Yale and Miss Bland for Pacifist Views. BENCH IS DIVIDED, 5 TO 4 Chief Justice Hughes and Three Others Dissent--Decision Is Based on Schwimmer Case. Contrary Views of Justices. CITIZENSHIP DENIED TO ARMS OBJECTORS Demands Unqualified Allegiance. Hughes Praises MacIntosh. Cites Oath of Officials."
  7. ^ 42 F.2d 845 (2d Cir. 1930).
  8. ^ Ernst Freund, United States v. Macintosh - A Symposium, 26 Illinois Law Review 375 (1931).
  9. ^ NEW CITIZEN FREED OF OATH TO FIGHT, New York Times - Apr 23, 1946
  10. ^
  11. ^ Quote about text: BY DOUGLAS CLYDE MACINTOSH PH D Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology in Yale University Cloth 8vo $2 jo For more than a century the problem of knowledge has been the cockpit of philosophers A large part of this work which is mainly occupied with the problem of acquaintance the problem of truth and the problem of the scientific method of proof is devoted to an exposition and critique of recent and contemporary doctrines Many of the most interesting and important of these have not yet found their way into the histories of philosophy and some have been up to the present practically inaccessible to English readers Three of the twenty chapters are given to dualism and agnosticism five to idealism and four to the new realism Intellectualism and pragmatism also receive detailed attention