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Hon. T. U. Sisson Makes Valiant Fight on Anti-Lynching Bill.
Congressman Sisson, From This Dis trict is Recognized By Republicans And Democrats Alike to be One of The Leading Members of Congress His Efficient Work as Member of Ap propriation Committee Has Saved The Nation Millions of Dollars. His Fight For Ford Offer For Muscle Shoals Forced the Proposition to a Vote Before The House---His Cou rageous Fight on The Anti-Lynch ing Bill is Responsible For it Being Held up in The Senate. iiiiitiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiimiiiiiiiiiiimimiiiiiitiimmiiiiiimiiiiiiiiimmiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii Mr. Sisson’s Great Speech Against Anti-Lynching Bill SPEECH BY HON. THOMAS U. SISSON •* Of Mississippi In the House of Representatives WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 25, 1922 The House in Committee of the Whole House on the state of the Union had under consideration the bill (H. R. 13) to assure to persons within the jurisdiction of every State the equal protection of the laws, and to punish the crime of lynching. Mr. SISSON. Mr. Chairman, of course it is impossible to fully discuss this question in the time allotted to me. Up until the last speech this has been a real debate, and I do not know that I can add much to what has already been said. It has been a debate involving constitutional questions. But the last speech was by all odds a speech on a very much low er plane than that on which the debate has heretofore been pitched. (Applause.) It was filled with gratuitous insults upon the South and southern people. He knows nothing about the question. That was evident from his remarks. Of course, we all know that his remarks are made for home con sumption and to capture a few Negro votes. But this Bpeech was a departure from the rule in this debate. The speeches are illuminating and convincing. But I have been struck with one thing about this debate. I have not heard one single human being who advocated this bill express one particle of sympathy for the victim who suffers most in the event of lynching for the crime of rape. Not one particle of sympathy seems to have gone out for the people who have suffered more pangs of pain than the brute who has been mobbed. I want to say to the gentleman who has just taken his seat that there is less race prejudice in the South against the negro than there is in his own country. But I want to say to him and to you that it is race knowledge and not race preju dice. Go into San Francisco and if a Chinaman goes into the Palace Hotel there is a race riot. “Get out of here; we won’t stop with a Chinaman.” That is your race problem in San Francisco. Down in New Orleans if a Chinaman goes to stop at a hotel there would be nothing but a little curiosity, but you let a negro go into the St. Charles Hotel, and you have immediately a race riot. It is race knowledge and not race prejudice. Now, I know that there is not a man on this floor who has among the negroes acquainted with him more friends than I have. I work them on a little plantation which I own. All these negroes are my friends. But I will tell you what I do not want; I will tell you what I am not going to have; I will tell you what every good white man on the earth will not have—I do not want him as a son-in-law and I do not want her as a daughter-in-law. (Applause.) Not one of you who will vote for this bill would be proud of a negro grandchild. No; you hang your heads in shame even at the thought of it. Any man who gets up on the floor of this House and en deavors to play national politics with this question is not sin cere; not one of you will rise up in your seats and deny that proposition. The man who does it is a common enemy to the white race. Sir Benjamin Kidd, in his history of Social Evolution, says it is implanted in the heart and mind of the Anglo-Saxon, the Scandinavian, and, in fact, the entire white race, to preserve the purity and integrity of its blood, and that is God-given knowledge, not prejudice. It is implanted there for the preservation of the best of the race, if it is to survive. There is no nation in the world that has ever grown to a first place that has not maintained this rule. Every na tion that has departed from it has decayed and died. We of the South are fightin gthe battles of the white man. You who are suporting this bill are traitors to the white race. We are fighting to prevent the destruction of our white civiliza tion. If this Republican side were filled with good white women from the North, there would not be a vote in favor of this bill. You who vote for this bill are selling your white birth-right for a mess of black political pottage. Now, I do not care how much you legislate, you can never do any good by this kind of legislation. You will not save the life of a single rapist, but will cause many rapes to be committed. There never was a more cruel, there never was a more heartless, there never was a more false piece of legislation attempted to be forced upon the people—that is the good people of both races. In the first place, if you go into the Federal court you have got to take your jury from the intelligent people of the State, and the same people that enforce one law will enforce the other. Not only that, if you are worthy of being white men, if you are worthy of that magnificent ancestry of yours, there is not one of you who will go home to your wife and children and say that you be lieve in social equality. You, would not do it, and you know you would not. No; not one of you will go back to your white constituents and say, “I am proud of my vote on the anti-lynching bill.” If you are not ashamed of it you ought to be. Mr. Chairman, the proponents of this bill have made a poor showing in the debate from a lawyer’s point of view. If their speeches represent the view of their constituents, then our Constitution has indeed fallen in the estimation of the people, and that instrument which our fathers held to be almost sacred has now no friends. Mr. Gladstone thought this instrument was the greatest state paper of all time and said that it was the greatest state paper ever struck off by a body of men. Oh, gentlemen, it is the palladium of your liberty and mine. Thank God, one voice is still left up in New England that has the courage to lift itself in protest a gainst this outrage, that of the gentleman from Maine (Mr. HERSEY). His position and his speech against this bill have the ring of the statesmen of old, those great men who have helped to make the Republic great and illustrious. There is one other Member, hailing from the great West, who rises up from the broad prairies of his State like a mighty Pelion of power from among the warts of weakness and demonstrates his great ability as a statesman and his great courage as a man and this is the gentleman from Nebraska (Mr. RE A VIS). If this House were filled up with men like these our Republic would endure and our Constitu tion would be our shield and buckler, protecting our liberties and freedom for all time. I will not, Mr. Chairman, go into every phase of this great question, because that has been done fully and com pleted by others, and they have with more ability than I possess, demonstrated the unconstitutionally of this bill. I can not better state the case than to quote from the able speech of the gentleman from Maine (Mr. HERSEY). He said: The longer this bill is studied, the more the lawyers in this Congress investigate the decisions of the courts, the less support the bill would have; however, in my opinion, no lawyer in the House that approaches this bill with an unprejudiced mind and has not previously committed himself to colored constituents and is free from fear or coercion in the performance of his duty, can arrive at any other conclusion but that this bill stands without any support whatever in the Constitution or laws of the land, and that it attacks the very foundation of a republican and constitutional form of government like ours, and further, that its en actment would be the entering wedge to the destruction of the rights of the common people in every State of the Union. #Tea, verily, Mr. Chairman, it does mean the destruc tion of the great Constitution and the Republic of our fathers which means the destruction of the rights of the common people. Why, sirs, if the Supreme Court should hold this bill constitutional, then, indeed, will all power be held to be within Congress, and Congress alone will determine the scope of its own power. There will, in fact, be one govern ment, and that will be a monster here in Washington, where all State rights and all State laws are to be abolished and the people are to be ruled by Federal agents, Federal marshals, Federal judges, edicts of Presidents and Federal troops, and every vestige of State government destroyed. If Congress can say that when five or any number of men commit a crime and the State fails to prosecute them, Congress can take jurisdiction and pass a law to try and punish them, why not four or three or two or one? And if for kiling a negro then why not for killing a white man? If for murder, then w'hy not for any other crime ? Such is their logic. The gentleman from Ohio (Mr. BURTON), who, as Mr. Hersey says— “has a large organization of colored vot ers that pay no attention to the rights of Congress to enact this legislation, whether right or wrong, legal or illegal_” and so forth, admits that the Supreme Court has up to date held all legislation like this unconstitutional, because he is familiar with the decisions, yet he suports the bill. To justify such a course, he contends that the Constitution is a liv ing thing and is growing. Such a contention is, of course, absurd, but it shows to what length Republicans will go to support this bill. They claim that they promised this legis lation during the campaign, and I suppose they did, to hold the negro vote. They are now paying that political debt, though it costs them the Constitution and causes them to violate their oaths of office. What is this to a Republican when in a campaign and what does the oath of office amount to when in office? So, constitutional or unconstitutional, oath or no oath, they are going to pass this bill through this House. Many of them know that the bill is not constitution al. But, in my judgment, it will avail them nothing. It, of course, is unthinkable to even imagine that the Supreme Court will hold this bill to be constitutional. Yet if such legislation is held to be constitutional by the Supreme Court, then our federal System has been destroyed by Con gress, and the Constitution, which Congress has sworn to uphold, will be destroyed by the very men sworn not to de stroy but to uphold it. Some Congresman try to avoid all responsibility of passing upon the constitutionality of a bill Qby sayipg, “Oh, well, if it is unconstitutional the Supreme Court will so hold,” and deliberately vote for measures that they know to be unconstitutional. Such men are common liars and perjurers, The fathers adopted a most solemn oath to prevent this very thing being done. Here is the oath that every Congressman and Senator must take; I, A. B., do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will suport and de fend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God. Under this very solemn oath every Congressman is just as much bound to uphold the Constitution as any member of the Supreme Court. So, without any Supreme Court decision, each of you that vote for this bill violates that solemn oath, even though you try to avoid it by passing the responsibility to the court. But what can you hide behind when the Su preme Court has repeatedly held such legislation unconsti tutional? This debate has clearly shown that the Supreme Court has at no time even intimated that such legislation would be tolerated. (Applause on the Democratic side.) Mr. Chairman, the only clause under which anyone con tends that this bill is constitutional is the 14th. amendment. This, to my mind, is not only untenable but absurd. This amendment is directed against the State and not individuals. The amendment was intended only and soley for the purpose of requiring the State, as a State, to give the negro the same rights that it did the white man; the same right to hold prop erty, the same legal protection of life, the same right to trial by jury, the same right to be confronted by his witnesses, and so forth. In other words, the amendment was directed against the State legislatures for the purpose of preventing them depriving a negro of equal protection of the law with the white man by making one law for the white and one for the negro. When the State laws do give the same rights to each, then the fourteenth amendment has been complied with. If you will read the debates in Congress at the time the amendment was agreed to and submitted to the states for ratification, you will be convinced that those who sup ported and passed the bill thought they had so drawn it as to prevent Congress assuming jurisdiction of the individual within the State. They thought they had so% drawn the amendment as not to permit Congress to destroy the States. This is conceded by every lawyer m the House. But it is argued by some Members, not lawyers, that, as the State cannot act except through individuals, when the State or any subdivision thereof elects one of its citizens to office, then if that citizen acts contrary to the fourtenth amend ment, Congress can.reach such officer and punish him. I deny that this is sound, because if he acts in accordance with the laws of the State he is protected and can by so doing be guilty of no crime. If the law under which he acts is in con flic with any provision of the Federal Constitution, that law can be declared unconstitutional. The party injured could have the right to go into court and raise the question of the State’s right to enact and enforce such a law under the Fed eral Constitution. Now, for example, suppose a mob should take a negro from the sheriff or jailer in whose legal custody he was, this bill seeks to take jurisdiction of the case and to have the mob indicted in the Federal court because such ne gro did not have equal protection of law. If the sheriff con nives or consents to turn him over to the mob, then the bill seeks to reach the sheriff and make him guilty of murder. Now, let us look at the first question, that of dealing with the mob. If the State law makes each member of the mob guilty of murder, whether the person is black or white, then there has been no discrimination on the part of the State. He has had the same protection of the law. The law deal with white mobs just as it does with negro mobs. The (Continued On Page 5)