1253

CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION, 1901

THIRTY-THIRD DAY

__________

MONTGOMERY, ALA., Saturday, June 29, 1901.

The Convention met at 10 o'clock a. m. pursuant to adjournment, was called to order by the President and opened with prayer by the Rev. Mr. Lamar, as follows:

Humbly and reverently we bow before Thee, O Lord our Maker and Redeemer, to render to Thee our praises for Thy continued mercies, for Thy continued care of us. We thank Thee for the largeness and richness of Thy providence towards us. We thank Thee for the provisions of Thy grace. We thank Thee for all the favorable conditions under which we live. We come to Thee this morning Lord to ask Thy blessing upon us in such measure that will enable us to voice our gratitude to Thee in our lives. May Thy servants, the officers and members of this Convention, receive such blessings from Thee as shall fit them for their places in Thy kingdom, and grant Lord that Thy providence may continue to be a shield above our people. May our people fear Thee. May they work righteousness and may we be indeed Thy happy people whose God is the Lord. We beseech Thee Lord that Thou wilt forgive our sins; wash away all our uncleanliness; guide us in all our ways and thoughts, and at last save us in Thy eternal kingdom, we ask it for the sake of Christ our Lord, Amen.

The Secretary called the roll of delegates and 110 members responded to their names.

Leaves of absence were granted as follows: Mr. Reynolds of Chilton for today; Mr. Altman of Sumter for today ; Mr. Banks for the evening session today; Mr. McMillan of Wilcox for Monday ; Mr. McMillan of Baldwin for today and Monday ; Mr. Walker for today; Mr. Jones of Hale for today and Monday, Mr. Espy of Henry for today; Mr. Lowe of Lawrence for today; Mr. King for today and Monday; Mr. Wilson of Washington for Monday.

The report of the Committee on the Journal was read, stating that the journal for the thirty-second day of the Convention had been examined and found correct, and the report was adopted.

THE PRESIDENT-The Secretary will call the roll of delegates for the introduction of resolution, ordinances, etc.

Resolution No. 207 by Mr. Beddow:

Resolved, That when this Convention adjourns on Wednesday evening, July 3rd, that it adjourn to meet at 12 m., Monday, July 8th.


1254

OFFICIAL PROCEEDINGS

MR. BEDDOW-In order to get the sense of this Convention on that question, and to give us a chance to take the Fourth of July at home, I move that the rules be suspended and that the resolution be put upon its passage.

Upon a vote being taken, the Convention refused to suspend the rules.

Resolution No. 208, by Mr. Cornwall.

Resolved, That the time allowed each delegate for speaking on any one question be and is hereby limited to ten minutes, and that unanimous consent must be obtained to extend the time.

Referred to the Committee on Rules.

Resolution No. 209, by Mr. Reynolds (Henry.)

Whereas, there is a disposition to take up much time in debating whether or not certain ordinances are proper constitutional provisions or legislative enactments, and

Whereas, this Convention can frame a better instrument by leaving legislative enactments out of the Constitution.

Therefore, be it resolved, That when this Convention is in doubt as to whether any pending amendment should be left to the Legislature or not, that such amendment be referred to the Judiciary Committee, with instructions that they pass upon this question and make recommendation in accordance with their judgment.

Referred to Committee on Judiciary.

MR. SAMFORD (Pike)-I would like for the gentleman also to incorporate a rule for the Judiciary Committee to go by in passing on those questions.

THE PRESIDENT -- Proceed with the call.

Ordinance 406 by Mr. Rogers (Sumter.)

Be it ordained by the people of Alabama that after the first day of January, 1903, no tax in excess of ten cents (10) per ton, other than an ad valorem tax, shall be levied on fertilizers manufactured or sold in the State of Alabama.

Referred to Committee on Taxation.

Resolution No. 210 by Mr. Rogers (Lowndes.)

Resolved, That the Convention remain in session until 2 o'clock p. m. and dispense with the afternoon session.

MR. deGRAFFENREID-I move a suspension of the rules that the resolution may be put upon its immediate passage.


1255

CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION, 1901

MR. BROOKS -- I move to amend by adding to it "this day."

THE PRESIDENT-The resolution is not before the Convention the question is upon the suspension of the rules to place the resolution upon its immediate passage.

Upon a vote being taken the rules were suspended, by a vote of sixty-eight ayes and twenty-eight noes.

MR. BROOKS-I desire to amend, by making the resolution apply only to today.

THE PRESIDENT -- It does by its terms apply to today.

Ordinance No. 407, by Mr. Sanford:

An ordinance to authorize the General Assembly to amend the Constitution of the State.

Be it ordained by the people of Alabama in Convention assembled, that the General Assembly be authorized and empowered to amend the Constitution of the State by the enactment of laws which shall contain the proposed amendment or amendments, and after the passage of such laws by a vote of the majority of all the members elected to each House of the General Assembly, the same shall be submitted to a vote of the people for their ratification or rejection at any time, other than that fixed for a general election in Alabama.

Referred to the Committee on Legislative Department.

Resolution No. 211, by Mr. Smith, M. M., (Autauga):

Whereas, the office of Commissioner of Agriculture was originally created for the benefit of the farming interest, and whereas the tax of 50 cents per ton on fertilizer was originally imposed for the alleged exclusive benefit of the farmer, and provide for inspection of fertilizer for the farmer's protection, and whereas, said office of Commissioner of Agriculture has been changed by this Convention into the Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries, and where it is not just or fair that the burden of paying for said department should fall exclusively on the farmers of the State, therefore

Be it resolved, That it is the sense of this Convention that the Legislature should reduce the tax on fertilizer to an amount not in excess of cost of inspection.

Referred to the Committee on Taxation.

Mr. Cunningham (Jefferson) here took the chair.

MR. SPRAGINS-I desire to offer a petition by request, not to be read, but I ask that it be included in the stenographic report.

There being no objection, it was so ordered, and the petition was as follows:


1256

OFFICIAL PROCEEDINGS

Petition No. 9, introduced by request by Mr. Spragins (Madison):

To the Officers and Members of the Alabama Constitutional Convention:

Humbly petitioning, the undersigned would respectfully state that he is a citizen of Alabama and a tax payer of Madison county therein, hence he feels at liberty to submit to your honorable body such suggestions touching matters that you have been called together to consider, as in his judgment will tend to advance the material interests of the State and her people.

Profoundly impressed with the belief that Alabama possesses natural resources and advantages which would place her citizens along the most prosperous, the most influential and with attainments of the highest civilization of any other of our Republics, provided conditions are made favorable for their development and utilization, I am therefore led to suggest that your honorable body make such provisions in the organic law of the State as will best tend to secure and maintain amicable and just relations between labor and capital herein, the same being the base of all human progress and the foundation of all human welfare and happiness.

The right of the individual citizen to earn an honest living free from intimidation or undue influence front any source whatever, is, and should be so, held by all properly constituted authority in the State, as sacred as life itself, since on the exercise of that right the lives and happiness of dependent loved ones frequently depend. It should not be in the power of any one ever to jeopardize that right much less to deprive a citizen of it.

I refer plainly and more specifically to the denial of that right and its frequent deprivation, at the hands of labor unions and labor leaders, when they demand and obtain the employment by any one of "only" union labor. This demand is not infrequently successful through the silence of an intimidated press, and vitiated public sentiment; for these would otherwise protect the freeman in the exercise of this right without the dictation of terms by others.

"Equal rights for all, and special privileges to none" should be so just a maxim in the economy of domestic life, that no one could be found who would seek to interfere in its impartial operation. It is this privilege that places before the humblest in our land those incentives for noble action and effort as makes human progress possible. It is a standard that guides the motives and serves to uplift the struggling masses of mankind around us.

A boycott from any organized source is a crime against society, and should be classed along with the deeds of the highwayman and the midnight robber. These latter hold up their victims and take their money by force, but the boycott often operates more wantonly and often more cruelly against its victims. Personal gain animates the highwayman and the robber, while personal enmity most frequently actuates the leaders in a boycott. Not only is the victim brought to face financial ruin at times, but innocent and dependent ones are deprived of the necessaries of life. Such things should never be possible under any form of civilized government. A strike at the command of an organization is likewise a crime against so-


1257

CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION, 1901

ciety, for it is well nigh impossible for a strike to occur without inflicting injuries on innocent persons whom society is obliged to protect. Failing in which the ties of citizenship are loosened and respect for law and authority, the foundations of good government destroyed. Likewise a "lockout" or combine by employers to force employes to accept arbitrary wages that play be insufficient to provide all honest living is a crime against that right heretofore alluded to, and should never be permitted to occur.

A measure of compulsory arbitration provided in the organic law, that will prohibit strikes, lockouts and boycotts, would tend to remedy and prevent the foregoing evils. Such a measure is only what is now applied to other citizens. None are permitted to take the righting of real or supposed wrong in their own hands, but are compelled, under proper penalties, to apply to the duty constituted courts of the land for that purpose; and no burden can be placed on, or wrong done to, either labor or capital by putting these under the same remedial pleasures and civic discipline that governs all others in society.

Respect for the foregoing principles constitutes the best safeguard of a good government, and no measure may be considered too drastic that is necessary to preserve this among the people. Deal justly by both, and place both under equal obligations to preserve industrial peace and you will render a service to present and future generations greater than any words of mine can express. Praying for Divine Wisdom to guide you  right in your deliberations, and that you may act for the best interests of our beloved State, I am, Your most obedient servant, N. F. Thompson

Huntsville, Ala., June 26, 1901.

Upon the call of the Standing Committees, the Committee on Suffrage and Elections submitted its report, as follows:

Report of Committee on Suffrage and Elections.

Mr. President:

The Committee on Suffrage and Elections have requested that the following report be submitted:

The Committee has read and considered with care the many resolutions and ordinances referred to it and have had the benefit of an extensive correspondence with leading men of other States upon the question of suffrage and elections. Many of them contain valuable suggestions and have been of great assistance in the important  work assigned to us.

Our main purpose has been to eliminate the venal and in- competent from the exercise of the elective franchise and not violate any of the provisions of the Constitution of the United States. We are of the opinion that the Fifteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States does not interfere with the sovereign right of the State to prescribe the qualifications of voters, further


1258

OFFICIAL PROCEEDINGS

than to prohibit discrimination on account of "race, color or previous condition of servitude," and this limitation in no way interferes with the sovereign power of the State to fix a standard of fitness, applicable to all alike. Existing conditions and the object to be attained necessitated the making of provisions new and different from those which are in our present Constitution.

To give full effect to the plan submitted by the Committee, it became necessary to provide a temporary board of registration, limited to January 1, 1903, and to devolve upon the Legislature the duty to provide a permanent plan of registration to take effect on and after that date.

We have spared neither time, labor nor study to frame a suitable article upon the subject of elections and franchises and it is with pleasure we state that no member of the Committee dissents from any of the provisions except upon sub-division 2 of Section 4 of the Article, upon which there will be a minority report submitted. We herewith return all ordinances and resolutions submitted to us.

ARTICLE- .

Suffrage and Elections.

Section 1. Every male citizen of this State who is a citizen of the United States, 21 years old or upwards, not laboring under any of the disabilities named in this Article, and possessing the qualifications required by it, shall be an elector, and shall be entitled to vote at any election by the  people.

Sec. 2. To entitle a citizen to vote at any election by the people, he shall have resided in the State at least two years, in the county one year, and in the precinct or ward three months immediately preceding the election at which he offers to vote, and he shall have been duly registered as an elector, and shall have paid on or before the first day of February next preceding the date of the election at which he offers to vote, all poll taxes due from him for the year 1901, and for each subsequent year; provided, that any elector, who, within three months next preceding the date of the election at which he offers to vote, has removed from one precinct or ward to another precinct or ward in the same county, incorporated town or city shall have the right to vote in the precinct or ward from which he has so removed, if he would have been entitled to vote in such precinct or ward, but for such removal.

Sec. 3. All elections by the people shall be by ballot, and all elections by persons in a representative capacity shall be viva voce.

Sec. 4. The following male citizens of this State who are citizens of the United States, 21 years old or upwards, who, if their place of residence shall remain unchanged, will have, at the date of the next general election, the qualifications as to residence prescribed in Section 2 of this Ar-


1259

CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION, 1901

ticle and who are not disqualified under Section 6 of this Article, shall, upon application, be entitled to register as electors prior to the first day of January, 1903, namely:

First-All who have honorably served in the land or naval forces of the United States in the War of 1812, or in the War with Mexico, or in any war with the Indians, or in the Civil War between the States, or in the war with Spain, or who honorably served in the land or naval forces of the Confederate States, or of the State of Alabama in the war between the States; or

Second-The lawful descendants of persons who honorably served in the land or naval forces of the United States in the War of the American Revolution, or in the War of 1812, or in the War with Mexico, or in any war with the Indians, or in the Civil War between the States, or in the land or naval forces of the Confederate States; or

Third-All persons of good character and who understand the duties and obligations of citizenship under a Republication form of government.

Sec. 5. After the first day of January, 1903, the following persons, and no others, who, if their place of residence shall remain unchanged, will have, at the date of the next general election, the qualifications as to residence prescribed in Section 2 of this Article, shall be qualified to register as electors, Provided, they shall not be disqualified under Section 6 of this  Article.

First-Those who, unless prevented by physical disability, can read and write any Article of the Constitution of the United States in the English language, and who, being physically able to work, have been regularly engaged in some lawful business or occupation, trade or calling for twelve months next preceeding the time they offer to register; or

Second-The owner in good faith, in his own right, or the husband of a woman who is the owner in good faith, in her own right, of forty acres of land situate in this State, upon which they reside; or the owner in good faith, in his own right, or the husband of any woman who is the owner in good faith, in her own right, of real estate situate in this State assessed for taxation at the value of $300 or more, or the owner in good faith, in his own right, or the husband of a woman who is the owner in good faith, in her own right, of personal property in this State assessed for taxation at $300 or more; provided, that the taxes due upon such real or personal property for the next year preceding the year in which he offers to register shall have been paid, unless the assessment shall have been legally contested and is undetermined.

Sec. 6.-The following persons shall be disqualified both from registering and from voting, namely: All idiots and insane person; those who shall by reason of conviction of crime be disqualified from voting at the time of the ratification of this Constitution; and those who shall be convicted of treason, murder, arson, embezzlement, malfeasance in office, larceny, receiving stolen property, obtaining property or money under false pretenses,


1260

OFFICIAL PROCEEDINGS

perjury, subordination of perjury, robbery, assault with intent or rob, burglary, forgery, bribery, assault and battery on the wife, bigamy, living in adultery, sodomy, incest, rape, miscegenation, crime against nature, or any crime, punishable by imprisonment in the penitentiary, or of any infamous crime or crime involving moral turpitude; also any person who shall be convicted as a vagrant or tramp, or of selling or offering to sell his vote or the vote of another, or of buying or offering to buy the vote of another in any election, or to procure the nomination or election of any person to any office, or of suboring any witness or registrar to secure the registration of any person as an elector.

Sec. 7. -- No person shall be qualified to vote or participate in any primary election, party convention, mass meeting, or other method of party action of any political party or faction, who shall not possess the qualifications prescribed in this article, for an elector, or who shall be disqualified under the provisions of this article from voting.

Sec. 8.-No person, not registered and qualified as an elector under the provision of this article, shall vote at any State, county or municipal election, general, local or special, held subsequent to the general election in 1902; but the provisions of this article shall not apply to any election held prior to the general election in 1902.

Sec. 9.-Any elector whose right to vote shall be challenged for any legal cause before an election officer shall be required to swear or affirm that the matter of the challenge is untrue before his vote shall be received, and any one who wilfully swears or affirms falsely thereto shall be guilty of perjury.

Sec. 10.-The General Assembly shall provide by law for the registration, after the first day of January, 1903, of all qualified electors. Until the first day of January, 1903, all electors shall be registered under and in accordance with the requirements of this Section, as follows:

First-Registration shall be conducted, in each county, by a board of three reputable and suitable persons resident in the county, who shall not hold any elective office during their term, to be appointed within 60 days after the ratification of this Constitution by the Governor, Auditor and Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries, or a majority of them acting as a Board of Appointment. If one or more of the persons appointed on such Board of Registration shall refuse, neglect or be unable to qualify or serve, or a vacancy or vacancies occur in the membership of the Board of Registrars from any cause, the Governor, Auditor and Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries, or a majority of them acting as a Board of Appointment, shall make other appointments to fill such board. Each registrar shall receive $2 per day, to be paid by the State and disbursed by the several Probate Judges, for each entire day's attendance upon the sessions of the Board.

Before entering upon the performance of the duties of his office each registrar shall take the same oath required of the judicial officers of the State, which oath may be administered by any person authorized by law


1261

CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION, 1901

to administer oaths. The oath shall be in writing and subscribed by the registrar and filed in the office of the Probate Judge of the county.

Second-Prior to the first day of August 1902, the Board of Registrars in each county shall visit each precinct at least once, and oftener if necessary, to make a complete registration of all persons entitled to register, and remain there at least one day from 8 o'clock in the morning until sunset. They shall give at least twenty days' notice of the time when and the place in the precinct where they will attend to register applicants for registration, by bills posted at five or more public places in each election precinct, and by advertisement in a newspaper, if there be one, published in the county, once a week for three consecutive weeks. Upon failure to give such notice, or to attend any appointment made by them in any precinct, they shall, after like notice, fill new appointments therein; but the time consumed by the board in completing such registration shall not exceed sixty working days in each county, except that in counties in which there is any city of 8,000 inhabitants or over the board may remain in session, in addition to the sessions hereinabove prescribed, for not more than three successive weeks in each of said cities; and thereafter the board may sit from time to time in each of the cities not more than one week in each month, and except that in the county of Jefferson the board may hold additional sessions, of not exceeding five consecutive days duration for each session, in any town or city of 1,000 or more and less than 8,000 inhabitants. No person shall be registered except at the county site or in the precinct in which he resides. The registrar shall issue to each person registered a certificate of registration.

Third-The Board of Registrars shall register no person between the first day of August, 1902, and the Friday next preceding the day of the election in November, 1902. On Friday and Saturday next preceding the day of the election in November, 1902, they shall sit in the court house of each county during such days, and shall register all applicants having the qualifications prescribed by Section Two of this Article, and not disqualified under Section 5, who shall have reached the age of 21 years after the first day of August, 1902, or who shall prove to the reasonable satisfaction of the Board that by reason of physical disability or unfavorable absence from the county, they had no opportunity to register prior to the first day of August, 1902; and shall on such days register no other persons. When there are two or more Court Houses in one county, the Registrars may sit during such two days at either of such Court Houses they may select, but shall give ten days' notice by bills posted at each of the other Court Houses, designating the Court House at which they will so sit.

Fourth-The Board of Registrars shall hold sessions at the Court House of their respective counties during the entire third week in November, 1902, and for six working days next prior to the 20th day of December, 1902, during which sessions they shall register all persons applying who possess the qualifications prescribed in Sections 2 and 4, and who shall not be disqualified under Section 6 of this Article. In counties where there are two or more Court Houses, the Board of Registrars may elect at which Court House they will hold such sessions. The Board of Registrars shall


1262

OFFICIAL PROCEEDINGS

give notice of the time and place of such sessions by posting notices at each Court House in their respective counties and at each voting place and at three other public places in the county, and by publication once a week for two consecutive weeks in a newspaper, if one be published in tion, and to take testimony touching and such publication to be commenced as early as practicable in the first week in November, 1902; Provided, that a failure on the part of the Registrars to conform to the provisions of this Section as to notices to be given shall not invalidate any registration made by them.

Fifth-The Board of Registrars shall have power to examine, under oath or affirmation, all applicants for registration, and to take testimony touching the qualifications of such applicants; each member of such Board is authorized to administer the oath to be taken by the applicants and witnesses, which shall be in the following form, and subscribed by the person making it, and preserved by the Board, namely:

"I solemnly swear (or affirm) that in the matter of the application of -- -- -- -- - for registration as an elector, I will speak the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God."

Any person who, upon examination, makes any wilfully false statement in reference to any material matter touching the qualifications of any applicants for registration, shall be guilty of perjury.

Sixth-The action of the majority of the Board of Registrars shall be the action of the Board. Any person denied registration shall have the right to appeal, within thirty days after such denial, by filing a petition in a Circuit Court or court of like jurisdiction held for the county in which he seeks to vote, to have his qualifications as an elector determined. Upon filing the petition the Clerk of the Court shall give notice thereof to any solicitor authorized to represent the State in said County, whose duty it shall be to appear and defend against the petition on behalf of the State. Upon such trial, the court shall charge the jury only as to what constituted the qualifications that entitled the applicant to become an elector at the time he applied for registration, and the jury shall determine the weight and effect of the evidence and return a verdict. From the judgment rendered an appeal will lie to the Supreme Court in favor of the petitioner, to be taken within thirty days. Final judgment in favor of the petitioner shall entitle him to registration as of the date of his application to the Registrars.

Seventh-The Secretary of State shall, at the expense of the State, have prepared and furnished to the Registrars and Probate Judges in the several counties a sufficient number of registration books, and of blank forms of certificates of registration and of oaths and of the notices required to be given by the Registrars. The cost of the publication in newspapers of the notices required to be given by the Registrars shall be paid by the State, the bills therefor to be rendered to the Secretary of State and approved by him.

Sec. 11. The Board of Registrars in each county shall, on, or before the 1st day of February, 1903, file in the Probate Court of their county a complete list, sworn to by them, of all persons registered in their county,


1263

CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION, 1901

with the precinct or ward in which each of such persons reside set opposite the name of such person, and shall also file a like list in the office of the Secretary of State. The Judge of Probate shall, on or before the 1st day of March, 1903, cause to be made from such list, in duplicate, in the books furnished by the Secretary of State, an alphabetical list by precincts of the persons shown by the list of the Registrars to have been registered in the county, and shall file one of such alphabetical lists in the office of the Secretary of State, for which services by the Probate Judges compensation shall be provided by the General Assembly. The Judges of Probate shall keep both the original list filed by the Registrars and the alphabetical list made therefrom as records in the Probate Court of the county.

Unless he shall become disqualified under the provisions of this Article, any one who shall register prior to the 1st day of January, 1903, shall remain an elector during life, and shall be required to re-register only in case of a change of residence, on production of his certificate. The certificate of the Registrars or of the Probate Judge or of the Secretary of State shall be sufficient evidence to establish the fact of such life registration. Such certificate shall be issued free of charge to the elector, and the General Assembly shall provide by law for the renewal of such certificate when lost, mutilated or destroyed.

Sec. 12. From and after the lst day of January, 1903, any applicant for registration may be required to state under oath, to be administered by the Registrar, or by any person authorized by law to administer oaths, where he lived during the five years next preceding the time at which he applies to register, and the name or names that he was known by during that period, and the name or names of his employer or employers, if any, during such period. Any applicant for registration who refuses to state such facts, or any of them, shall not be entitled to register, and any person so offering to register who wilfully makes a false statement in regard to such matters or any of them shall be guilty of perjury.

Sec. 13.-In the trial of any contested election, and in proceedings to investigate any election, no person other than a defendant shall be allowed to withhold his testimony on the ground that he may criminate himself or subject himself to public infamy; but such person shall not be prosecuted for any offense arising out of the transaction concerning which he testified, but may be prosecuted for perjury committed on such examination.

Sec. 4. The General Assembly shall pass laws, not inconsistent with this Constitution, to regulate and govern elections, and all such laws shall be uniform throughout the State; and shall provide by law for the manner of holding elections and of ascertaining the result of the same, and shall provide general registration laws, not inconsistent with the provisions of this Article, for the registration of all qualified electors from and after the first day of January, 1903. The General Assembly shall also make provision by law, not inconsistent with this Article, for the regulation of primary elections and for punishing frauds at the same, but shall not make primary elections compulsory.  


1264

OFFICIAL PROCEEDINGS

Sec. 15. It shall be the duty of the General Assembly to pass adequate laws giving protection against the evils arising from the use of intoxicating liquors at all elections.

Sec. 16. Electors shall in all cases, except treason, felony or breach of the peace, be privileged from arrest during their attendance at elections, or while going to or returning therefrom.

Sec. 17. Returns of elections for all civil officers who are to be commissioned by the Governor, except Secretary of State, Auditor, Treasurer, Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries, Attorney General, and Superintendent of Education, and for the members of the General Assembly, shall be made to the Secretary of State.

Sec. 18. The poll tax mentioned in this Article shall be one dollar and fifty cents upon each male inhabitant of the State, over the age of twentyone years, and under the age of forty-five years, who would not now be exempt by law. Such poll tax shall become due and payable on the first day of October in each year and become delinquent on the first day of the next succeeding February, but no legal process nor any fee or commission shall be allowed for the collection thereof. The Tax Collector shall make returns of poll tax collections separate from other collections.

Sec. 19. If any section of this Article shall become inoperative and void by reason of the decision of any court of competent jurisdiction, the General Assembly shall have power, and it is hereby authorized, to remedy the defect in such section pointed out by such adjudication, by a two-thirds vote of all the members of each house of the General Assembly; provided, that the sections of this Article unaffected by such decision shall remain unchanged. Upon any other section becoming inoperative by any subsequent adjudication of such court, the General Assembly shall have authority to remedy the defect in like manner as hereinabove prescribed. _________

Mr. White of the committee submitted the following:

  MINORITY REPORT.

Mr. President:

The undersigned, members of the Committee on Suffrage and Elections, beg leave to dissent from that part of the report of said committee which recommends the adoption of the second sub-division of Section 4 of the Article reported by said committee, which reads as follows:

"The lawful descendants of persons who honorably served in the land or naval forces of the United States in the War of the American Revolution, or in the War of 1812, or in the War with Mexico, or in any war with the Indians, or in the Civil War between the States, or in the land or naval forces of the Confederate States, or of the State of Alabama in the War between the States."


1265

CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION, 1901

We are of opinion that the above clause, on its face, violates the Federal Constitution, which we have taken an oath to support. It undertakes, by indirect means, to deny or abridge the right to vote to citizens of the United States, on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude, which is forbidden by the Fifteenth Amendment to that instrument.

This is done by conferring the right to vote upon a class, viz., descendants of soldiers, this class including practically all of the white, and excluding practically all of the negro race.

The clause quoted does not erect a standard of qualifications applicable to both races, but establishes an arbitrary standard, which, considered in connection with the history of the country, confers the right of suffrage upon members of the white race (who are descendants of such soldiers) and denies it to members of the black race, who are not such descendants.

It does not prescribe a qualification bearing any proper relation to the capacity of the voter to understand and discharge the responsibilities of the elective franchise, but fixes an arbitrary status, depending solely upon his descent from an ancestry over which he had and has no control, and which is impossible of attainment by any exertion on his part.

We submit that the test required is not a rule or condition to which all citizens similarly situated may conform. This, we understand from the decisions of the United States Supreme Court is necessary to make it valid.

For these reasons we believe this clause to be violative of the 15th amendment to the Federal Constitution, in its necessary operation, without reference to its administration. It can only be administered in one way, and can affect, materially, only the two classes established by it.

By adopting this provision we invite an attack upon our suffrage plan through the courts, which may declare it void, and also, give Congress an opportunity to reduce our representation in the Lower House, and our vote in the electoral college, and it seems that the minority are not alone in the apprehension that something of this kind may occur.

The committee itself has expressed its want of confidence in the validity of this scheme, by recommending the adoption of Section 19, which provides that if any section of the article should become inoperative and void by reason of the decision of any court of competent jurisdiction the Legislature might remedy the defect caused by such decision-an unusual and extraordinary conception.

Will any member of the committee, or any other candid man, maintain that this scheme is not intended to discriminate in favor of one race and against the other?


1266

OFFICIAL PROCEEDINGS

Aside from the Constitutional objections, there are other weighty reasons why this provisions should not be in our Constitution:

First-It establishes a permanent, hereditary, governing class, which is undemocratic, unrepublican, and un-American.

Second-It is not in keeping with the dignity of a progressive,  just and enlightened State.

Third-It insults the white men of Alabama and proclaims their inferiority to the negro by requiring of them, as suffragans, a lower standard of capacity and intelligence than that required by the negro.

Fourth-It is impracticable of administration, owing to the impossibility of establishing, with any certainty, descent from remote ancestors. The field of speculation into which we are carried opens wide the doors of fraud and perjury.

Fifth-It is not necessary. The ballot can be secured to the honest and capable without resorting to this subterfuge.

Sixth-Out of respect for the opinion of thoughtful and fair minded men everywhere, we ought not to incorporate in our fundamental law this unwise and questionable scheme. It will retard the investment of capital, and check the flow of immigration to our State.  Alabama should take no backward step.

Seventh - The adoption of a fair and honest suffrage plan would secure the sympathy and confidence of our fellow citizens in every section of the Union.

Eighth-By accepting this novel device we are launching the ship of state upon unexplored seas. We had better pursue the course our fathers traveled and use the helm with which they steered.

We adhere firmly to the Jacksonian Democratic doctrine of equal rights to all, special privileges to none.

Hence, we recommend that the aforesaid subdivision 2 of Section 4 be stricken out.

Respectfully submitted,

Frank S. White, S. H. Dent, George P. Harrison, William C. Oates.

THE PRESIDENT-The Chair will call the attention of the Chairman of the committee to the fact that the rules do not apply to the printing of reports, and it will be necessary to have a


1267

CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION, 1901

motion, if the committee desires the report of the committee to be printed.

MR. COLEMAN (Greene)-We desire the report to be laid upon the table and printed, and taken up at such time hereafter as may be the pleasure of the Convention.

MR. LOMAX-How many copies did the gentleman provide for?

MR. COLEMAN (Greene)-Five hundred.

MR. LOMAX-I would make it a thousand.

MR. SPRAGGINS - A question of inquiry. How many copies will be printed ? I would suggest that a thousand copies be printed so that there may be six copies for each member of the Convention.

MR. COLEMAN (Greene) -The committee has no preference and accepts the proposition.

THE PRESIDENT - The gentleman moves that a thousand copies be printed and six copies delivered to each member.

MR. WHITE-I suppose that includes the minority report?

MR. COLEMAN (Greene)-My motion covers both. I think it is but just to the whole committee to say that we never heard the minority report read to us as a minority report, though we have heard it frequently in the speeches before the committee.

MR. OATES-It is because we wrote the report last night, and did not have an opportunity of showing it to the committee.

MR. PROCTOR-I move to amend the motion that a thousand copies be printed, and make it two thousand. It costs but very little more for two thousand than for one.

MR. O'NEAL (Lauderdale)-I would like to know about what will be the additional cost of a thousand copies?

THE PRESIDENT-The gentleman from Jackson says that the cost will be very little more.

MR. PROCTOR-But very little, it is just the cost of the paper and the work to do it-

MR. COLEMAN (Greene)-The Chairman of the Committee has stated that he has no objection., whatever will facilitate a public understanding.

MR. SAMFORD-I ask that the further amendment be made to double the amount given the members of the Convention; that will be twelve for each member instead of six.



1268

OFFICIAL PROCEEDINGS

THE PRESIDENT-The Secretary suggests if the number given each member be doubled, it will not give enough for the Secretary's office.

MR. SAMFORD-I withdraw that then.

MR. PROCTOR-I move that we give twelve copies to each member. That will give the Secretary one hundred and fortyfour copies to lie on the desk.

MR. COLEMAN (Greene)-I accept the amendment.

The motion, as amended, was carried.

MR. PARKER (Elmore)-I desire to offer a short resolution.

THE PRESIDENT-The Chair will call attention of the Convention to the resolution, as it is probable a motion will be submitted to place the resolution upon its passage.

The resolution was read as follows:

Resolution No. 212, by Mr. Parker (Elmore):

Resolved, That the privileges of the floor of this Convention are hereby extended to Honorable J. J. Sullivan of Pensacola, Florida, who is visiting the Convention to extend the greetings of West Florida to the Convention on the hearty spirit of annexation that it has manifested.

MR. WHITE-I move to amend that the vote be taken by a rising vote.

By a rising vote, the rules were suspended, one hundred and nine members voting for, and none against the motion; upon a further vote being taken the resolution was unanimously adopted.

THE PRESIDENT-The Chair will state to the Convention that a motion was entered to reconsider the vote whereby section 1 of the ordinance reported by the Committee on Taxation was adopted, and it was a special order immediately after the reading of the journal on yesterday, but the Chair failed to call the attention of the Convention to the pendency of the motion. It seems to the Chair that question ought to be disposed of by the Convention in some way.

MR. BROWNE-I move to lay that motion upon the table.

MR. SOLLIE-Withdraw your motion and let me make a statement which I think will settle the matter. I am not going to press it on the Convention, but desire to make a motion before the House to take it from the House more gracefully perhaps, than a motion to table.

MR. BROWNE-With that understanding, I withdraw the motion.


1269

CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION, 1901

MR. SOLLIE - I move an indefinite postponement of the question, to be taken up hereafter by unanimous consent if it is desired to be taken up.

And the motion to indefinitely postpone consideration was carried.

THE PRESIDENT- The regular order will be the consideration of the report of the Committee on Taxation.

When the Convention adjourned on yesterday, we had under consideration Section 4, and the pending question was a motion entered by the gentleman from Hale to lay upon the table the section as reported by the Committee. The gentleman from Hale.

MR. deGRAFFENREID - I want to ask unanimous consent of the Convention to be allowed to withdraw the demand for the ayes and noes upon this motion.

MR. BROWNE- I ask also, with the consent of the gentle- man from Hale, unanimous consent to withdraw the motion for the previous question.

THE PRESIDENT-We had probably better dispose of one at a time. Is there objection-

MR. COFER-I object.

THE PRESIDENT-The question is upon the motion to table Section 4, and upon that the ayes and noes have been demanded and ordered by the Convention.

MR. COFER-I will withdraw the objection.

MR. deGRAFFENREID - I now withdraw my motion to table if I am in order to do so.

By unanimous consent the motion to table was withdrawn.

MR. BROWNE - I now ask unanimous consent to withdraw the motion for the previous question.  I desire in that connection to state that upon yesterday when the gentleman from Talladega,  Mr. Graham, offered his amendment, and made his argument, predicated upon the estimates of the Auditor, which were confessedly erroneous, he afterwards moved the previous question upon  his own amendment, which, if carried, would have debarred the Committee or any member of it from the privilege of showing the errors of the estimate.  After that was voted down, I demanded the previous question upon the other amendment, which I now desire to withdraw.

THE PRESIDENT - The gentleman from Talladega asks unanimous consent to withdraw the demand for the previous question. Is there objection? The Chair hears none.


1270

OFFICIAL PROCEEDINGS

MR. deGRAFFENREID-I offer an amendment to the section.

The amendment was read as follows: Amend Section 4 by striking out the word "sixty-five" and adding in lieu thereof the word "seventy," and add at the end of the section the following: "The General Assembly shall, at each session, set apart a sufficient amount of such levy, to pay the interest on the public debt, and the proceeds of the levy so set apart shall be used for no other purpose."

MR. deGRAFFENREID-I object to the report of the Committee so far as the section  which is sought to be amended is concerned, because I was afraid that in the desire to reduce the taxes of the State the Convention might go too far, if a limit of sixty-five cents on the hundred dollars was placed upon the General Assembly. The gentleman from Talladega, when he read his report, gave us certain figures that he had received from some officer in the Auditor's Department, and certain estimates that he had received from the various Probate Judges of the State, and upon them he based the statement that this year, and next year, and perhaps the next, the State of Alabama could safely go upon a six and one-half mill basis.

If this were the Legislature instead of a Constitutional Convention, I would, in the light of those estimates, unhesitatingly vote for the reduction, but we are now adopting a Constitution which shall be a limitation upon the future action of legislators, and I call the Convention's attention to the fact that these estimates are leased upon valuations fixed at a period of inflation, which is greater now than it has ever been in the history of the world. Stocks and bonds and other personal property that are quoted upon the floors of the various stock exchanges of the world, are selling higher than they have ever sold before in the history of the world, and, as I have stated, we have reached the period of the greatest inflation in the world's history. We are at the flood tide. There must come the ebb, if history repeats itself. The question is, when the ebb comes, when the period of depression comes, when we are over the present period of inflation, are we very sure that six and one-half mills on the dollar will be sufficient to meet the requirements of the State? We have lived under a limitation of seven and one-half mills, and during that period we have gone through periods of depression and periods of inflation, and ,we have been able to meet the obligations of the State and the demands that have been made upon the State's treasury, but at one period, as was stated on this floor on yesterday, the Governor of Alabama was required to borrow five or six hundred thousand dollars, in clear violation of law, upon warrants to be drawn upon the treasury, in New York, to meet the temporary demands of the State.


1271

CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION, 1901

Ought we not to be cautious when such doubts exit as are shown to exist in the minds of some of the members of this Convention?  We are honored with the presence of two ex-Governors of the State of Alabama upon this floor. One of them has said that this situation burned into him a perfect knowledge of the financial condition of the State, and yet on yesterday, you found both of those men, who are taxpayers, and interested as much as any other citizen of the State in this reduction, voting against the reduction out of respect to what they considered the demands of the situation.

You have been furnished with figures emanating, it is said, from some officer, or some clerk, in the Auditor's department. The chairman of the committee has said to you that the Auditor of the State should have some knowledge of these matters, but has any one undertaken to show to you that this proposed reduction meets the approval of the Auditor? Has any one undertaken to say to you that it meets the approval of the State Treasurer? Ought not this Convention to go slow when the statement is made to it that not only the ex-Governors who are here in this Convention, and who should know something of the financial requirements of the State, but also the State Treasurer and the State Auditor doubt exceedingly the ability of the State in the future to meet all the demands upon the Treasury, if this reduction is made.

A sentiment has developed itself in this Convention. There was a matter before this Convention for consideration recently, the reduction of the tag tax upon fertilizers, and argument was made against the adoption of that provision, that it was one that should be cared for by the General Assembly. According to my recollection, the chairman of the committee who now offers this reduction, stated in an argument against it, that if he was a member of the General Assembly, he would vote for the reduction, saying he was in sympathy with the movement, but took the position that it was a matter that should not be incorporated in a Constitution, but should be relegated to the General Assembly for action. You were told upon that occasion, by a member of the General Assembly, that a bill passed the lower House at its last session, looking to a reduction of the tag tax, but it died in the Senate.  Well, gentlemen, in this estimate that is furnished by the Committee on Taxation, $75,000 is placed as coming into the Treasury annually from this tag tax; $20,000 from the sale of school lands, and I state it to be a fact that the General Assembly and Governor Johnston raked this State with a fine tooth comb to find things upon which they could place a license tax, in order to meet the requirements of the State. Well, gentlemen, if we are to have a tax, let it be a direct tax that a man can see, rather than an indirect tax about which he may not be so well informed.


1272

OFFICIAL PROCEEDINGS

Now, Mr. President, believing as I do, that there was danger ahead, I voted against the reduction of this tax, by the Constitution, to six and one half mills, but out of respect to the opinion of many gentlemen who are on that committee, and who believe that a reduction can be had, I have introduced this resolution, that the tax limit shall be seven mills instead of seven and a half. So far as the latter part of the amendment which I have offered is concerned, I will not discuss it, because whether we fix the limit at six and a half mills or whether it be fixed at seven mills, I am satisfied that every member of this Convention would desire to require the General Assembly to set aside, out of the taxes levied, a sufficient amount of money to meet the interest accruing upon the bonded indebtedness of the State of Alabama.

MR. MALONE- Mr. President, I wish to say a few words against the amendment. I wish to state from a practical business standpoint, and as a school man, I do not think any gentleman on this floor has done more for the common schools that I have. I believe that I am as familiar with their needs and their requirements as any one. I have been not only on the Board of Trustees of the city schools, lout the country schools as well. I wish to speak, not as coming from a county, or from a section of the country that possibly would be affected less by higher rates of taxation, but I wish to discuss it from practically the same point that the gentleman from Talladega, Mr. Graham, discussed it.

As I understand the working of the sixty-five cent rate I believe it will give more money to the common schools of the country than under the seventy-five cent plan. If I did not believe that I certainly would not favor it. Under the proposition submitted to us by the Committee on Taxation, there may be a provision in the article on taxation, I do not know whether it will carry or not, and do not wish to be considered as favoring it in its entirety, but I believe on a sixty-five cent rate, that possibly we would be allowed the ten cents under the working of that proposition, the entire ten cents if adopted to be devoted to the school fund. My county would not be affected, because we would work it out and we would get just as much one way as the other, but I wish to rise above local position. Ten cents on the hundred of course would bring more in some counties but it is preposterous to suppose that the entire ten cents paid into the State fund will finds its way back into the school fund. I was inclined to oppose the sixty-five cents without investigating it, upon the ground that I was not familiar with the figures, but I am assured by a member of the sub-committee, who is a practical business man, that he has made a careful investigation of the facts, as fully, as he would upon any business proposition coming before him, and that there would be  a margin at sixty-five cents of nearly ten cents to cover any deficiency. He assures me that it would actually be safe to reduce


1273

CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION, 1901

it half as much more, but this additional amount is left to cover any danger.

Now I will not argue it except right square out on the school question. I come from a county, from a section, that has more children than any section of the State in the counties west of here, where triplets are born, and it is almost an exception there are not twins in the family. Therefore we get more money out of it than anybody else. We are interested in it, but as far as the schools are concerned, I am as confident as anything in the world that this will put the money into the schools. When it gets into the Legislature, some of it will go there, and some will not go there.

But the practical workings of it are what I propose to consider. The special taxation, if adopted in a proper form, will lead to an increased assessment of values. There is no question about that. I will not argue that longer. Nobody will deny that when we get to values at home, we will bring them out a little closer than when we are not interested in them. The gentleman who gives me these figures is from a community that voluntarily allows itself to be taxed, and the tax is paid without protest, 25 cents on the $100 for school purposes when only a protest would prevent the tax from being collected. That shows he is not prejudiced against schools but is looking at it from the standpoint of a cool business proposition. Now as to our promises, I propose to stand by the promises we made not only because we made them but because they are right and I still insist that every one of them is right. It was demanded of us to do something for the school, I mean the common public schools that the people of a community are obliged to go to. The larger schools will take care of themselves and there is no use about discussing that. We want to be able when we go back home to say “Here is something we have done that will benefit you. If we had no higher motive than that, that would be sufficient, but it is our duty and we have a chance to say to some of them, “Here is something that gives an opportunity to your child to improve himself.” We no doubt will adopt something that will require an educational qualification for suffrage and that I am in favor of. I always object to putting a premium on ignorance and when we do disfranchise anybody in that line we ought to be able to say to them, “While you may be disfranchised, here is a school for your children that they may be educated.

MR. SMITH (Mobile)-My duties in committees have been such that I regret not having had an opportunity to give the close and earnest study to this matter that the dignity of the proposition calls for.

It seems to me it is a question of the greatest importance and one that ought to be acted on only with a certain knowledge of


1274

OFFICIAL PROCEEDINGS

the propriety of the action. Reading. however, the report of the Committee alone, I am induced from the figures there set out to believe that it is dangerous to reduce this rate of taxation any at all. Among the things that made all impression upon me in earliest life was the old story of the calculation of the milk maid and from that time down to this I have seen theorists trip in the grass and the pail of milk upon which they builded their theories mingle in the dirt-gone in an instant. I have never yet seen any man, however, skillful he might be, who could properly figure upon the unexpected contingencies that attend every transaction in life, the simple proposition of a trip upon a railroad, the construction of a house or the management of a nation. There are always those uncertainties, those unexpected contingencies that no man can foresee, and it is the failure to properly foresee these unexpected things that leads us into disaster.

Take the figures of the Committee, and what are they? They are that the collections exceed the expenses to the extent of $58,000. By figuring up the unforeseen contingencies and extraordinary expenses we have had to pay they say there will be $279,000. So assuming there will never be any other unforeseen expenses or other extraordinary obligations we will have $279,000 of surplus upon the present basis if values continue as now and if the legislative requirements as to license taxes can be maintained.

But, Mr. President, four years ago if these gentlemen had been figuring they would have assured us most absolutely that today we would have that $279,000 in our Treasury. I don't believe that next year or the year after we will have another Constitutional Convention. We may not in some years have to make appropriations to the normal schools. In some years we won't have the expenses of the Legislature, but as surely as time comes around the unexpected and extraordinary obligations that have arisen in the past from time to time will rise in the future and if any of those extraordinary occurrences take place, we will find that the calculations of the Committee have left a margin of only $58,000 to meet them, and that based, as I have said, upon an absolute certainty which they seem to assume, that not only will values not decrease, but that they will increase. In the calculation they also assume that there will be a reduction upon the interest of the bonded indebtedness of the State; and so there will probably unless this Convention makes the income from which creditors may expect to receive their interest and the payment of their bonds so narrow and of so doubtful character as to destroy confidence in the credit of the State.

But the very minute that we prophesy that we call get through on so many dollars and so many cents, when we fix it so that if our prophecies come true we barely will meet our obligations and if our prophecies fail in a single year there may be default, our creditors will not indulge in the optomistic views that we have


1275

CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION, 1901

taken and will prefer, if they can get them, securities at the same rate but with a greater margin of security.

I believe at the present rate of taxation we can negotiate our bonded indebtedness as low as three and a half per cent., but the very minute you reduce the margin and make the credit of the State doubtful we impose upon ourselves a larger burden in the interest rate.

Mr. President, we are all more or less familiar with calculations based on future contingencies. Most of us, at any rate, have undertaken to build houses and any man who has ever undertaken to build a house knows that no human being can calculate for unexpected contingencies connected with it.

Now of the two problems which is the more difficult?  In the construction of a building you have men who have made a study of that subject for life, they know and can calculate every piece of timber, every hour of work and approximately every nail that must go into it. They have the means of ascertaining to the fraction of a dollar if human capacity were sufficiently definite and accurate, what the building will cost. They have been trained in that business and no other and yet with that experience there is not one in the United States that I have ever seen or heard of that can make the calculation and make it accurately. And the calculation is short on one side and one side only. I never heard of an estimate of construction being larger than the actual cost. Now is it lack of skill? Not at all. Is it lack of certainty as to the duty before them ? Not at all. It is simply because there is in all human transactions those unforeseen contingencies, those extraordinary expenditures, as the committee says, that no man can foresee and no man can take into calculation. Now, if we have a period of depression, if values were to decrease and business interests were to become such that they could no longer stand the burden of the privilege taxes that are imposed now and imposed expressly for the purpose of preventing a deficit in the State treasury, then we would meet a contingency that we have not foreseen, and we would be in a position where there would be no possible remedy.

It seems to me therefore that the question is not whether we shall reduce taxation at present but the question is shall we tie our hands upon the faith of a belief in the infalibility of the figures of the committee? Shall we put ourselves in a condition where if unforeseen contingencies arise this State must default in its obligations? If we have our limit of the rate of taxation as it is, there is no reason why the whole of that should be imposed. It is true it is said legislators will spend any amount of money that is in the treasury and probably they will, but on the other hand my experience is that they are sensitive about increasing taxation


1276

OFFICIAL PROCEEDINGS

and if they can be trusted about anything, they call be trusted never to levy greater taxation than necessity requires.

As I calculate on the report of the committee, it is nothing more than this: That the indebtedness due to the State is collected two months before is obligations mature. If, therefore, the circumstances remain the same and the income remains the same we can always meet those obligations. We call always pay so long as conditions remain unchanged. As a matter of fact we owe six hundred and seventy odd thousand dollars and we have that much to pay but that surplus in the treasury is the surplus of words and not of money.

For these reasons I am for not disturbing the rate but for leaving it for the Legislature to reduce it whenever it is possible. I believe they will reduce it when they can. They have done it in the past and I do not believe in fettering them for fifty years to come on the idea that the figures of the committee can never fail, that there can be no contingency, no extraordinary expenditure ever under the present circumstances. I believe it will be unwise for the Convention to reduce the present limit and I shall regret to see even a half mill taken from it.

MR. COLEMAN (Greene)-I regret very much this morning my physical condition as I had desired to present to the Convention the motives that influenced us in bringing in this report. The remarks of the delegate from Talladega (Mr. Graham) yesterday imputed to the Committee that they had selfish or personal desires to sustain this report because it was their report. I desire to state to the Convention exactly how we proceeded: When we came to consider Section 4 of the present Constitution and came upon the language that the General Assembly shall not have the power to levy in one year a greater rate of taxation than threequarters of 1 per cent. on the value of the taxable property in the State, we also had before us this provision in the Democratic platform, that there shall be inserted in such Constitution a provision limiting the rate of taxation by State, counties and municipalities and that such rate of taxation shall not exceed the rate fixed by the present Constitution but a lower rate shall be fixed if practicable. Having these two propositions before us, impelled as we were in the discharge of our duty, we undertook to investigate to see whether or not these demands of the platform could be complied with. In our first estimate we wrote down the word certainty. Going over the question carefully it was the conclusion of the Committee that we could safely fix the tax rate at six mills, but in order to allow room for contingencies which seemed to be apprehended by some of the delegates to the Convention, we raised it to six and a half mills, giving the one-half mill to meet whatever contingencies might arise. The Committee had no desire in this respect so far as I am aware. We did not act hastily. We realized the importance of sustaining the credit of the State. We


1277

CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION, 1901

realized our duty to sustain the schools and to keep faith with the Confederate soldiers.  We took into consideration all of these questions and all of these demands upon the Treasury and it was our deliberate conclusion that the tax rate might be fixed at six and  a half mills.  I would not have any delegate to this Convention to conclude that the Committee takes upon itself the responsibility or any responsibility.  What we propose to do and what we have desired to do, is to present to this Convention the data which influenced us in our conclusions.  It is our intention that the responsibility shall rest with you and I am satisfied the delegate from Mobile who last addressed you has failed to hear the data furnished by the Chairman of the Committee on yesterday or day before yesterday, and I infer from his remarks that there are many in this Convention because of the noise and disturbance which prevailed at the time failed to understand precisely the data he presented to the Convention.  It is our desire that you should have  the facts before you and that the Convention draw its own conclusions from these facts, and if they are such as to authorize a reduction to six and a half mills we think the Convention in duty ought to be seventy, let is be so fixed, the responsibility is with you. But at the same time we do know that the undisputed fact is that money in the Treasury induces appropriations, induces extravagance.

Delegates to the Convention, every man here, is able to pay the taxes imposed upon him without feeling it, but there is a  class in this State, the bone and sinew of the State, as it were, who need protection, not that they would detract anything from the appropriation to schools, not that they would take one cent from the soldiers, not that they would endanger the credit of the State, but if these things can be preserved and still you can lighten the burden, you should do so.

MR. O’NEAL - Can I ask the gentleman who question for  information?

MR. COLEMAN (Greene) - Yes sir.

MR. O’NEAL- I did not have the pleasure of hearing the re- marks of the Chairman of the Committee in reference to this proposition and I desire to know whether in the estimate he made you took into consideration the loss in the poll tax which would arise from the adoption of the suffrage report, and also the extraordinary expense of registration as provided for in that report? Were those two items considered in the estimate he made?

MR. COLEMAN- I think if the delegate from Lauderdale will hear him when he makes the concluding speech on this matter, you will be able to come to a satisfactory decision on that point.  My purpose in rising was to let the Convention know with what


1278

OFFICIAL PROCEEDINGS

care we were proceeding, that we were forgetting nothing of the obligations of the State, nothing of the duty to the schools, nothing of the duty to the soldiers, but bearing all these things in mind our conclusion was that the Convention could very safely reduce the tax rate to six and a half mills. We had also in view the point suggested by the delegate from Henry (Mr. Malone) that it would enable more money to go to those sections of the State, to the children in the agricultural districts, than could be under the present school plan. I don't think any man who studied this question can fail to perceive that there is an opportunity here presented by which those needy classes will be greatly benefited and profited under the arrangement the Committee has made more so than by any plan which has been proposed.

MR. SMITH (Mobile)-If the sixty-five cent rate had been in force this year, would not the expense have exceeded the collections some $208,000?

MR. COLEMAN (Greene)-It is very true that the Governor called a halt upon the legislature-

MR. SMITH (Mobile)-I am not referring to that. Your figures show $58,000 more than was expended. What I want to know is what would have been the result if, instead of seventyfive it had only been sixty-five. Would not that $58,000 have been wiped out and deficit beyond, and what would have been the amount of the deficit?

MR. COLEMAN (Greene)-There were extraordinary appropriations, but they will not occur any more in the future.

Mr. President, I don't feel in justice to myself that I can continue my remarks.

MR. LOWE-I ask leave to submit for the information of the Convention a communication received by me this morning in reply to an inquiry, from the Governor of the State and another communication received by me in response to an inquiry from the Auditor and Treasurer, and I ask for their reading.

The communications were read as follows:

Montgomery, June 29, 1901. Hon. Robert J. Lowe:

My Dear Sir -- In answer to your inquiry, I desire to say that in my opinion, fixing the tax limit in the Constitution at six and a half mills would be unsafe. I studied the situation during the last session of the General Assembly, and I thought then that the tax rate of seven and a half mills would hardly be sufficient to pay the appropriations made by the General Assembly. I have not studied the conditions since that time, but in a conversation with the Auditor and Treasurer, they lead me to doubt the wisdom of placing the limit in the Constitution at six and a half mills.


1279

CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION, 1901

I fear that it might be unwise, particularly in view of the necessity which is upon us to refund the bonded indebtedness of the State, as it might affect an advantageous sale of more than eight million dollars of bonds.

I presume if a reduction in the limit is ordered, it will not go into effect until after the next fiscal year. Of course, if it is reduced to six and a half, to take effect after that time, the General Assembly can make appropriations accordingly, though it may have to assail seriously some of the special appropriations. Very truly yours,

Wm. D. Jelks, Governor.

Montgomery, June 29, 1901. Hon. Robert J. Lowe:

Dear Sir-Replying to letter of inquiry requesting our opinion as to whether or not the tax limit as fixed by the present Constitution can with safety, at this time, be reduced and if so, to what limit, we beg to say, that in our opinion, it would be unwise to reduce the present limit, from the fact that estimating that the increase of the valuation of property for the next fiscal year will reach in round numbers $276,000,000, the receipts from all sources at a five mill rate will amount in round numbers to about $1,850,000.

The disbursement for the year ending September 30, 1901, is estimated to be $1,929,000. At a five mill rate for general purposes the expenses of the government, economically administered will about be met by the receipts. This has no reference to the pension and special school taxes.

Respectfully,

T. L. Sowell, Auditor. J. Craig Smith, Treasurer.

MR. BANKS (Russell)-This is a question of grave importance, and it deserves the most serious and careful consideration of this Convention. We are not here to call in question the sincerity of anybody. The members of this committee who have made this report are doubtless as good and true men as can be found in the Convention, and we should have the utmost respect for their opinion, but the opinions of all men, of all the members of the Convention, are to be called in question as we consider the matters that are brought to our attention. The arguments in favor of a reduction of the tax rate, are based on the supposition that the prosperous conditions that have prevailed in Alabama for the past twelve months resulting in an advance in all the taxable property in the State will continue, and upon another supposition and that is that the State of Alabama shall have no occasion to call upon her people for yet larger demands for other purposes. The future as painted by our committee is full of promise, there is not a cloud to be seen anywhere on the financial sky and we


1280

OFFICIAL PROCEEDINGS

sincerely hope and trust that this prophecy of the future will be more than realized, but we are reminded that the words of Burns apply with equal force to the hopes of men, as they do to the schemes of men, when he says, "The best laid schemes of mice and men aft gang aglee." We are confronted by facts, Mr. President and gentlemen of the Convention, facts that we must not ignore, facts that we must not forget, facts that we must undertake to provide for in some way. The business man who forgets the causes that brought disaster to his business so soon as there comes relief to him from some sudden wave of prosperity, will soon be again on the toils of misfortune and disaster. The facts that confront us here, that for the past number of years we have had the Chief Executive of the State urging, year by year or session by session, upon the Legislature to increase the tax rate, so that the demands of the State might be met, demands that were not based upon any schemes of extravagance, but demands that were based upon the most economical plan. Surely as members of this Convention we cannot complain that Alabama has based her plans for the public expenditure upon any wild extravagant schemes, surely as we have discussed facts here as to the pay of our Executive, as to the pay of the Supreme Court Judges, and as to the pay of members of the Legislature, and as to the general expenses of this State, surely, surely Mr. President and gentlemen of the Convention, we cannot conceive for a moment that Alabama has been wild and extravagant in her expenditure of public moneys. And yet in the face of all this economy, what confronts us as we read the Treasurer's report of September 30, 1900? This, that $169,000 is the amount of the deficit. Now, Mr. President, the voice of our lamented Governor had scarcely died away from these halls, and here we are confronted with this report of the financial condition of our treasury September 30, 1900, just a few months ago. These conditions have come, Mr. President, when the tax rate has been raised to the constitutional limit, when Alabama has been taxing the people to the very utmost of what the Constitution will permit her to do, and yet with these conditions, we are confronted with $169,000 deficit September 30, 1900. Now what other conditions are we confronted with?

MR. BROWNE-Will the gentleman permit a question?

MR. BANKS-In a minute.

MR. BROWNE-I understood the gentleman to say we were confronted with a deficit of $160,000?

MR. BANKS-$169,000, the Treasurer's report shows there was a deficit of that about September 30.

MR. BROWNE-It shows $184,000, I think.

MR. BANKS-That was the Auditor's report and the Treasurer's report shows $169,000, and he tells why it does not conform with the Auditor's report.


1281

CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION, 1901

MR. BROWNE-Will the gentleman allow me to state what the Auditor's report said?

MR. BANKS-Yes.

MR. BROWNE-The Auditor says his report and the deficit of $184,000 is wrong; that in that he includes $50,000 covered into the treasury from the Convict department and $50,000 from fertilizer tags, and that the deficit was only $82,000.

MR. BANKS-Yes, but the Treasurer's report shows that. And right in connection with that report comes the voice of the Governor to the Legislature of Alabama urging them to economy and retrenchment and to make the expenditures come within the amount of the receipts of the State. But those are not the only conditions. We are confronted with other conditions. Alabama has planned, somewhat largely, but who will say that she must curtail her plans? She is planning more largely for the education of her children; she is planning to make some sort of compensation, to give some token of appreciation to that splendid class of heroes who lost everything in her service, whose silence has been more eloquent than words, as they have gone along and borne their losses without one word of complaint, but those are not the only things, Mr. President and gentlemen of the Convention; we are confronted with a rapidly-maturing indebtedness of eight and a half million dollars to nine million dollars.

Here are the creditors of Alabama almost at our doors to demand of Alabama that she shall pay what she owes. Are we dreaming? Are we under the spell of this beautiful vision presented to us by this committee, when, in the face of those things we talk about a reduction of the tax rate of Alabama? What will be the possible effect. And, Mr. President, when I say possible effect, the possible effects should demand the utmost consideration of the gentlemen of this Convention. The plea is sufficient when we say the possible effects; the plea is sufficient for a demand on this Convention that there should be some measures of protection devised against possible effects. That is one of the wisest methods adopted by the great business world that possible contingencies are provided against. But I say what are the possible effects? We have heard these pointed out to us in terms more eloquently and forcible than I can do. We have heard of the danger of our having to give up our plans for the future; plans in which the good of the State is so largely involved; plans that will result, perhaps, in a larger rate of interest as we undertake to issue new bonds in payment of bonds rapidly maturing; plans that would cause the State of Alabama, perhaps, an incalculable amount, because, as the State's credit is hurt, and as the State's resources are cut off, it involves the State in a continuing more and more difficult position, just as one misfortune after another results in involving every business man in misfortunes and dangers and


1282

OFFICIAL PROCEEDINGS

difficulties that are growing always more and more difficult for him to manage.

Mr. President, and gentlemen of the Convention, a reduction of taxes is always a popular movement; it is always a popular thing to do; but, Mr. President and gentlemen, it is not always a wise thing to do. Who are the most prosperous classes in Alabama, and, not only in Alabama, but throughout the whole length and breadth of this great land of ours. Are the prosperous classes those who pay the smallest tax rates? I hope the gentlemen of this Convention will listen to this: Are the prosperous classes of Alabama, and are the prosperous classes throughout the length and breadth of this land, are they the classes that pay the smallest taxes? As you go out from this place, out over this State of ours, not only over this State, but over all the States of this Union, what do you see as you go out into the rural districts, where the tax rate is the smallest? What do you see- often times you see desolation and ruin up to the very corporate limits of the great cities and towns. What produces this change?

MR. SENTELL.-Will the gentleman allow a question?

MR. BANKS-In a minute. What produces this change? Not one thing except the power to provide for the general good and the power that is given by taxation, that is all. As you go throughout the length of our country, do you see the urban population, the tax ridden population, fleeing from these conditions out into the rural districts? No, sir, you see the rural districts greatly depopulated, people are leaving them and coming into conditions of greater convenience. The lowest tax rates are not always the most beneficial thing for the people at large.

MR. CORNWELL-Don't you think the effect of the reduction of taxation will be to increase the valuation. Don't you think it would tend to increase the valuation of property in the State ?

MR. BANKS-I do not.

MR. CORNWELL-Don't you think the assessments would necessarily have to be increased.

MR. BANKS-Of course the assessments would have to be increased.

MR. CORNWELL-And wouldn't they fall upon the small tax payers?

MR. BANKS-Of course, but without adding one dollar of real value to property.

MR. CORNWELL, -- I understand that, but to meet the necessities of the State and counties.


1283

CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION, 1901

MR. BANKS-Yes, sir, it would be necessary to do that.

MR. CORNWELL -- -Consequently the smaller tax payer would have the burden to pay instead of the large one.

MR. BANKS-Yes.

MR. CORNWELL-Would it not also increase licenses on corporations ?

MR. BANKS-Of course the State would have to raise revenue. Now, there is one other thought, Mr. President, and that is this, this Convention has had before it the reduction or taking off of fertilizer tag tax. What has been the plea? To refer it to the Legislature. Now what are we doing? We are depriving the Legislature of the very power to do that which we think they ought to do. What must the Legislature do in the face of a reduction of the tax rate when there comes up a demand that the fertilizer tag tax shall be taken off. The legislator will say our hands are tied, the State of Alabama is obliged to have this money, there are no other resources from which it can be raised so the State of Alabama is compelled not only to keep that which it should not keep, but also put in the condition where it is obliged to adopt other methods of taxation, in order to meet urgent and imperious demands.

MR. FITTS-Mr. President and gentlemen of the Convention: I am not a member of this Committee on Taxation which has made this report. I am not disposed to be a partisan in this matter. But when this able committee after careful examination makes a unanimous report recommending this reduction in the limit upon the tax rate-and when it states that this has been done after the most careful examination and study of the conditions, that fact taken in connection with the pledge of the Democratic platform, upon which most of us were elected, should lead us to concur in the report.

MR. O'NEILL (Jefferson) -- -May I beg the gentleman's permission for an interruption?

MR. FITTS-Yes, sir.

MR. O'NEILL-I wish to say that this is not the unanimous report of the committee. I am a member of that committee, and I did not agree with the committee as to this reduction in the tax rate: The committee made its report during my absence.

MR. FITTS -- I am obliged for the correction. I would not intentionally misstate anything but I had heard it said, without contradiction, that this was the unanimous report of the committee, there was no minority report, and certainly from these facts I was warranted in making the statement I did. But even if it be that one member of this committee does differ from the able com-


1284

OFFICIAL PROCEEDINGS

mittee upon this proposition, the fact that the committee after the ablest and most careful consideration have recommended that this reduction is entirely possible taken in connection with the pledge made that we would make this reduction in the limitation upon taxation if found possible, persuades me that this Convention ought to vote not for the substitute offered by the gentleman from Hale to make it seven mills, but to sustain the report of the Committee and make it six and a half mills as the constitutional limitation upon the right to gather taxes. Now surely this Committee would not have come to this conclusion without the most ample and conscientious consideration. Surely then it must be within the range of possibility to make this reduction when it is reported by such a Committee and by such a majority of that Committee.

In addition to that let us look at the past history of the State and at the natural laws of human nature and see if they do not demonstrate that this is not only possible but in view of the pledge in our platform and in view of the expectations of the people of this Sate, if it is not our solemn duty to make this reduction in the limitation of the right to gather taxes.

Far back during Governor Seay's administration the tax was fixed far too low, four and a half mills. There was a gap between the income of the State and its fixed expenses. My personal acquaintance with the actual minutiae of State affairs began with December 1st, 1894, and I desire to state to you gentlemen of the Convention that the year 1895 was the hard year in the administration of the government of the State. By 1895 the pressure that had been upon the people in 1893 had reached the State government and 1895 was the hard year. In 1895 the tax values in this State fell to $241,000,000 of assessed values. The State administration then in office was limited to an assessment of five and a half mills for all purposes, and the government which was known as the Oates administration, then in office, found itself faced with a temporary deficit of $500,000. That was the result not of anything wrong that had happened in that administration, nor was it the result of anything that could be criticised in any administration. It was the result of a mistake in judgment made during the Seay administration, and the Oates administration found itself face to face with "a condition, not a theory." It had a definit of $500,000 and the right to levy only five and a half mills and with assessed values, owing to the panic, lower than they had been at any time in the recent past and lower than they had been since. From that day they have been going up.

Even under those conditions the State Government did not suffer. Even then, $500,000 behind on account of a mistake of judgment, with a tax limit of five and a half mills, that administration went to New York and borrowed on call $510,000, payable on the installment plan, borrowed it on the faith and credit of


  1285

CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION, 1901

Alabama and contrary to the Constitution, if you will, and against the opinion of Mr. Cleveland's Mr. Hornblower, borrowed it because it was well known in New York that when Alabama promises to pay it is good notwithstanding what facts or circumstances surround it, and I desire to tell you that that $510,000 was every cent paid, even in that year of pressure, with that low assessed valuation and with that five and a half mill limit, every farthing of that $510,000 was in bank in New York before it fell due. Now what has been done can be done again. The need for economy stared us in the face. Many and many a time in the councils of the officers of the State during that administration when we were discussing ways and means, we did not see how we could pull through, but there never did an appropriation fail for the want of money in the Treasury. There never was default in the payment of any interest on the bonds, because having to cut the garment according to the cloth, it was cut.

Gentlemen of the Convention, somebody has said you can depend on the Legislature to reduce this, leave the limit and let the Legislature reduce it. It has further been said that there is nothing so certain as. that the Legislature delights to reduce taxation and will reduce it. I say to you that no law of nature is so certain as that when there is a surplus in the Treasury the Legislature delights to appropriate it. The way to administer a government economically is just like administering a house economically. Having an income, you must not go beyond it. Force upon a family the necessity of living within their income and they will live within it. Another proposition is that experience is the only lamp by which our feet can be guided. I speak from personal experience and I know that in those years of depression with valuations and assessment slower than they have ever been and with only a five and a half mill rate, we got through.

Now something has been said about the bonded indebtedness. It is true that the bonded indebtedness to the extent of about $8,000,000 matures and is the subject of refunding in the year 1906. But it is also true that right now, notwithstanding those bonds have but four years to run and they can only be attractive to investors on account of faith in the credit of the State, those bonds with only a coupon life of four years are selling for $110. The people who buy bonds delight in buying bonds that are not going to be paid for fifty years. Every man who knows anything about State bonds knows that the confidence of the world is best secured by having a low limit upon taxation, fair assessment of values, the interest promptly paid and by having no immediate intention of paying the principal. That makes the best bond the world knows anything about. So I say fix this limit as low as you can safely. That tends to bring out to assessment the hoarded and hidden property.


1286

OFFICIAL PROCEEDINGS

MR. SMITH (Mobile) -Referring to the price of Alabama bonds which you say is $110, is there not included in that price two and a half per cent interest, which will be due next month?

MR. FITTS-The July coupon matures July 1st, but with the coupon off, the price would be at least $108.

MR. deGRAFFENREID-How much were they worth in 1896 ?

MR. FITTS -- $104 and $105.

MR. deGRAFFENREID-I sold some at $97.

MR. FITTS-Somebody asks me this question: "Did Alabama bonds depreciate in the Oates administration any more than other securities on account of the panic?" I desire to say they did not, that Alabama bonds have steadily increased and gone on up until they are selling at $110.50 or with the July coupon off, for at least $108. So there is no falling off of the credit of Alabama, and nobody is raising that point anywhere in the world. These Alabama bonds will not only be taken up by the holders if you want to refund them but the markets of the world will be ready buyers of Alabama bonds and this limitation will not hurt or impair the credit of the State so far as refunding the bonds. If this can possibly be done and the Committee solemnly says it can, it is your duty to do it. We all know when applied to private affairs that the only way a man ever has anything who starts with nothing is by knowing his income and living within that income and saving something out of that income. Therefore when you fix this income within certain limits, more than it was in the time of pressure, and say the State must live within it, the State will live within it and nobody will suffer and the public affairs will be administered as well as they have been in the past.

Now what are the future promises for tax values? There has been an increase in seven years from $241,000,000 up to $280,000,000 and they are gradually rolling on at a rate of increase of $15,000,000 a year. Is there any promise of that being stopped? Is there any promise of a backward movement in Alabama? Is there any promise of decay? Is there any promise of death and destruction to the great improvements and great material interests that are being developed? None whatever. All the sky is bright, all the land is full of promise and we stand on a sure footing counting continually on a conservative increase in the valuation of the property of the State. It is growing steadily at $15,000,000 per annum, but we can put it safely at $10,000,000 and we would be well within the bounds of conservatism then without any guilt of reckless extravagance. A surplus in the treasury invites reckless extravagance in expenditures. A State government is just like a family. If a farmer puts up a hundred and fifty


1287

CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION, 1901

pounds of lard he will get along with it. If he puts up three hundred pounds he generally has nothing at the end of the year. So it is in all life and experience. Now some gentleman asks this question:-

MR. LOWE (Jefferson)-Can I ask the gentleman a question ?

MR. FITTS-When I answer this question.

MR. LOWE (Jefferson)-I want to ask about that can of lard.

MR. FITTS-Mind out or you will get greasy if you fool with that. Some gentleman asks this question: "Is it not a fact that when there is a panic good bonds not only hold their own but rather increase in value because of the fear of capital to invest in other property not so sure?"

I rather think that is true. That has been borne out by the experience of Alabama in connection with Alabama bonds. The value has steadily increased from $96 in 1890, at which I understood the gentleman from Hale to say he sold some, to far above par, and the fact that they steadily increased in 1893, 1894, 1895 and 1896 bears of itself an affirmative answer to this inquiry.

MR. O'NEAL-Don't you know in the panic of 1893 money could not be borrowed on United States bonds as collateral?

MR. FITTS-That is true because money was so needed to keep the banks from being crowded that they would not let it go to those to whom it belonged.

MR. O'NEAL-And were not Alabama bonds below par?

MR. FITTS-Yes, sir; I believe so.

MR. LOWE-Now on that can of lard proposition, you say if the farmer puts up 150 pounds he lives on it and if he puts up 300 pounds he has nothing out of that left. What becomes of the difference?

MR. FITTS-The farmer is like some other people, when he has plenty he is prone to be profligate in using it, but if you give him just enough and no excess, he will struggle to live within his means.

MR. LOWE-So far from the Legislature squandering all the money in the treasury that they could, is it not a fact that, consistently as appears by the report the tax rate was reduced from seven and a half to four, while the tax limit was at seven and a half?

 MR. FITTS-The gentleman does not quote me correctly. I did not say this Legislature squanders all the money in the


1288

OFFICIAL PROCEEDINGS

treasury. I stated that a gentleman had said in argument that there was a fixed law that there was nothing the Legislature better delighted in than to reduce the tax rate. I set up against that another fixed law which the experience of mankind certainly will show is equally as fixed, that there is nothing the Legislature so delights in as to appropriate a surplus if one there be.

MR. LOWE-To which Legislature in Alabama does the gentleman refer as appropriating extravagantly from the treasury?

MR. FITTS-I have not said any of them.

MR. LOWE-Will the gentleman designate which?

MR. FITTS-No, sir.

.MR. LOWE-Will the gentleman not say the last Legislature came more clearly within that definition or designation than any other in the history of Alabama?

MR. FITTS-I could.

MR. BANKS-Will the gentleman permit me a question?

MR. FITTS-Certainly.

MR. BANKS-Do you think a reduction of five cents in the price of cotton would affect the tax value of farming land in Alabama?

MR. FITTS-To a slight extent.

Now I have concluded what I had in mind to say. It was simply to call attention to the fact that I did not expect this reduction would be found to be possible, but when the report of a strong committee, practically unanimous, calls attention to the fact that it is possible, I think it brings about a corresponding duty to stand to and perform the pledge given to the people and what they expected us to do if we found it possible. They were willing to leave that to our judgment, and I think, after hearing the committee, we have found it possible. With our feet guided by the lamp of experience, with better times on hand, with vast prosperity before us, with Alabama marching forward and onward and upward, with its courage pure, with its hope high, with its valuations of property increasing, and with continuing prosperity on all sides, I think we can safely set the limit as fixed by the committee, and I hope this House will vote to do so.

MR. WEAKLEY (Lauderdale)-It is with a great deal of difference that I undertake to address this Convention after listening to the farmer from Tuscaloosa.

MR. FITTS-Well, I am one.

MR. WEAKLEY-I desire not to detain this Convention with an attempt at oratory, but I do desire to say that in fixing


1289

CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION, 1901

the limit upon the rate of State taxation at 65 cents, that this Convention, in my opinion, is doing a very dangerous thing. In listening to this debate, I am reminded of a story I once read in the school book, where a certain English nobleman gave notice of the fact that he desired to employ a coachman, and upon a certain day the applicants for this position appeared before him, and he asked each one the question: "If you were my coachman, and in my travels it was necessary to drive along a dangerous precipice, how close could you drive to the edge of that precipice without falling over?" . One man said, I could drive within six inches; another man said that he could drive within ten feet; still another said that he would drive away as far as possible. The last man was employed. It seems to me, gentlemen, that the chairman of the Committee on Taxation is trying to drive the State of Alabama within six inches of a precipice and I for one will refuse to be driven by him. The gentleman froth Tuscaloosa (Mr. Fitts) has held the high and honorable position of Attorney-General of the State, and in his representative capacity had much to do with engineering the State of Alabama through a period of business depression, and he tells you how they cut the coat according to the cloth. He tells you that the best evidence of the desirability of a State bond is a limitation upon the rate of State taxation, and I say to you, gentlemen, and I claim to have had some experience in such matters myself, that there is only one thing that detracts from the value of a State, or municipal bond, and that is a limitation upon the power of the people to pay that bond. This morning when the roll of Committees was called for reports, it was announced that the Committee on Suffrage was ready to report, and immediately there was a hush over this hall. It appears that some of the members think that the question of franchise in this State is the most important in it, but I say, gentlemen, disguise it as you will, that the most important matter before this Convention is the matter of taxation. Do whatever we may with the suffrage and other questions, the question of the ratification of the Constitution which we are to make is going to be decided upon how we deal with the matter of taxation, and the State's financies. The greatest thing that this Convention has to deal with is the State debt, $8,000,000 or more falling due in 1906.

MR. ROGERS (Sumter)-Will the gentleman permit me to ask him a question?

MR. WEAKLEY-Certainly.

MR. ROGERS-You said something about the tax having a great deal to do-do you think they would refuse to ratify the Constitution if we reduce the tax rate to six and a half mills?

MR. WEAKLEY-I say in answer to that proposition, that no Constitution deserves the support of the people of Alabama which will endanger the credit of the State, and I say that any


1290  

OFFICIAL PROCEEDINGS

Constitution which compels me as a citizen of this State to be come a party to repudiation and default of tile State debt will not receive my support. The distinguished ex-Governor of Alabama has told this Convention how he went to New York and tried to refund this debt, and I say to you gentlemen, that in 1906, if we adopt this 65 cent limit, instead of having the bankers and the bond buyers to come to this Capitol, we will have to send the Governor of the State and his Attorney-General after the money, and I will promise you this  that when the proposition of refunding this debt is laid before them, the first question that the moneyed men will put to you is. "You have passed an act whereby you can come here and get our money and you have tied the hands of the people, you have put a limit upon their power to pay."

MR. ROGERS (Sumter)-Will the gentleman allow me to ask another question right there?

MR. WEAKLEY-Yes sir.

MR. ROGERS (Sumter) -- Would it not be better to leave this whole matter of fixing tile rate of taxation to the Legislature hereafter?

MR.. WEAKLEY-No constitutional provision whatever?

MR. ROGERS -- That is what I mean.

MR. WEAKLEY -- I will say in answer to that that I am in favor of constitutional limitation upon the power of taxation, but I believe that there should be some elasticity, I believe that the Committee on Taxation in this case has shaved the matter down  to the very lowest possible notch, to the very smallest possible amount to which we can go, and in the event of the unforeseen circumstances so ably presented by the gentleman from Mobile, that it will put it beyond the power of the Legislature to raise any more revenue.  We  have already said that the Governor of the State of Alabama shall have the power to raise only $300,000 by temporary loan. It has been written in the report of the Committee that there shall be no increase in the bonded debt, and now we have limited the rate of State taxation, or about to limit the rate of State taxation, to the very lowest possible figure. I  say, gentlemen, there should be some margin, there should be  some elasticity in this limit, and there should be some room to provide for emergency so the credit of the State may be maintained. We were told a few minutes ago how the Governor and his Attorney General went to New York and borrowed $500,000 in spite of the Constitution, and I say gentlemen, not intending to discredit the efforts of these able men, that unless it had been in the Constitution that the Legislature could levy a tax to pay back that money they never could have borrowed one dollar, and the only reason why they were able to borrow that immense amount of money was that the tax rate was only 45 cents. where-


1291

CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION, 1901

as the Constitution allowed them 75 cents, there was a difference of thirty cents between the actual levy and that allowed by the Constitution to pay this money.

MR. OATES-Will the gentlemen allow me to correct him?

PRESIDENT PRO TEM. (Jenkins)-Will the gentleman permit an interruption?

MR. WEAKLEY-Yes, sir.

MR OATES -- At that the rate was five and a half mills, but the act of the Legislature passed just before my predecessor went out of office increased this one-half mill, from five to five and a half mills, but that, of course did not have effect until the next year.

MR. WEAKLEY -- I did not have any figure. I was going by the figures stated by the gentlemen in argument.  But the  proposition I was making was that there was a margin between  the tax rate and the tax limit of the Constitution sufficient to pay  off this debt. Now we have tied the hands of the Governor and given him only the right to raise $300,000 for temporary purposes, and we have tied the hands of the Legislature to a 65 cent limit, and suppose some emergency comes, then what is going to become of the interest on the public debt. There is just one more proposition that I. desire to submit. The distinguished Chairman of the Tax Commission has brought in here a report stating that at a given time there will be a considerable surplus in the treasury. I want to ask the members of this Convention if it is their intention to continue indefinitely the burden of an $8,000,000 debt upon this people?  I ask you gentlemen as business men and tax payers are you going to perpetuate upon the people of Alabama a debt of $8,000,000 calling for nearly a half million dollar. interest, and make no provision for paying it? I say, gentlemen, that if these figures are correct, and if this surplus exists in the treasury, it will be the duty of the Legislature to use that money in the purchase of Alabama bonds, and thus reduce the annual interest  charged.

MR. O’NEAL, (Lauderdale) -- There is no provision for a sinking fund.    

MR. WEAKLEY-As the gentleman suggests there is no provision for a sinking fund by the State of Alabama, no provision for a sinking fund by any county in Alabama, and no provision for a sinking fund by any city in Alabama, and here we are piling up the burden of debt, State, cities and counties that we intend to perpetuate upon the people.

MR. ROGERS (Sumter)-Do you favor a fixed amount of  tax to be set apart for a sinking fund to pay our liabilities-would you favor such a fund?


1292

OFFICIAL PROCEEDINGS

MR. WEAKLEY-I believe I would -- how else are you going to pay it? A similar proposition exactly has been inaugurated in the State of Tennessee and that State is today paying out thousands of dollars, retiring the public debt and thus already has reduced the annual interest over one hundred thousand dollars.

MR. ROGERS (Sumter) -- Will you allow me to interrupt you again?

MR. WEAKLEY -- Yes, sir.

MR. ROGERS-I understand we have to have a sinking fund, but the difference between a sinking fund in general and one which says a certain definite amount shall be set aside each year, not what is left over after you spend what you want to, would you favor that?

MR. WEAKLEY -- -- - Yes, sir. We can meet that just like Tennessee where they have a law that provides that at a certain stated time certain State officers shall meet in consultation and shall make calculations and if there be a surplus in the treasury over and above what is necessary to carry on the government that that sum shall be converted  into the sinking fund. Now, Mr. President, just a word more. It seems to be well understood that we are approaching the point of a refunding of the bonded debt. I submit, gentlemen that no man can tell five years in advance what will be the rate of interest. It is true that today this country is upon a 3 per cent interest basis, and if the proposition of refunding the State debt were to take place today, I believe that with the present limit upon the rate of taxation, we could refund this entire debt at 3 per cent. Are we going to throw away the opportunity of accomplishing that in 1906, and are we going to do that gentlemen upon the opinion of any one man, as was stated yesterday a man who might be mistaken. It is estimated that by reducing the rate of interest we can in that way reduce the taxes better than any other, and it seems to me, gentlemen, that that is the safest proposition yet presented to this Convention.

MR. KIRK -- -- As a member of the Committee on Taxation, I desire to say that we took upon ourselves the duty of investigating this question now before the Convention. We did not realizing the importance of the position and as stated by the gentleman from Greene who is also a member of that Committee, we did it recognizing and having before us the pledge of the Democratic party that the limit of taxation should be reduced if it could possibly be done. After a careful investigation of the matter and consultation with officers in the Auditor's office we came to the conclusion that the State could very well reduce the tax limit and we reported to that effect. Not only that but we have submitted the facts from which we drew the conclusions. These facts have been published and circulated among the delegates of this Con-


1293

CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION, 1901

vention and during the argument of this question not one man has undertaken to say that the figures or the statement presented by the Committee are erroneous.

MR. O'NEILL (Jefferson)-May I interrupt the gentleman? I understand him to say that the Committee's report had not been stated on the floor to be incorrect. The gentleman from Lauderdale says the figures are not correct and I wish to say in answer to the gentleman from Tuscaloosa that I voted against that section of the report about which we are now talking and I intended to make a minority report, but the Committee, during my absance one day railroaded the report in to prevent making a minority report. Later I will give the reasons why I did not make a minority report.

MR. KIRK-I have never understood there was any disposition among the delegates to make a minority report. There was nothing said or clone in my hearing to prevent any member of that Committee from making a minority report. But that is not an answer to the question. I assert that that statement has been published and laid before the delegates of this Convention and no man has undertaken to say they are wrong and to point out wherein they are wrong. Now, Mr. President, if the statement presented by the Chairman of this Committee is correct, what is the most solemn duty of this Convention? Are we to ignore the pledge made by the Democratic party? Are we to say that notwithstanding the facts placed before us show that we are annually piling up a surplus in the treasury, we will continue to pile that up and refuse to obey and carry out the pledge made to the people of Alabama that we would reduce the tax rate? I submit we cannot afford to violate the pledge that we have made. There is no doubt in the world that if we had an eight mill rate and every cent of it was levied and collected, the legislature would find a place to spend the money. But that is not the policy we should pursue. I am in favor of the State's affairs being conducted on an economical basis. I do not advocate stinginess. I advocate economy. Now, Mr. President, if every officer in the State should come forward and say that he thought his salary ought to be increases, if there was a surplus in the treasury, piling up year after year, there is no doubt in my mind but what the legislature would increase many of them.

When we saw there was an opportunity of reducing the tax limit and at the came time arranging it so that each county may out of that one mill give aid to the schools, to which we are all friendly, we accepted it and we have given the opportunity to the people of the different counties to increase their public school fund, and as I said on yesterday this was clearly in line with the idea of one of the best educators in the State, Dr. Phillips of Birmingham, and was also endorsed by the Teachers' Association. We are taking no backward step in education in this movement


1294

OFFICIAL PROCEEDINGS

Now I cannot conceive for one moment how we as the representatives of the people can afford to go before them and say notwithstanding the fact that a surplus is annually being piled up in the Treasury, we will not reduce the tax rate.

Now I may say to the gentleman who spoke so eloquently on yesterday in regard to the expenditures the State ought to make in the improvement of the Capitol that that was discussed by some of the Committee and we were satisfied that out of the great amount of surplus accumulated in the Treasury it would not be long until the Legislature could see its way clear to make the necessary appropriation for the improvement of this property, and you need have no trouble on that question. You need have no doubt but what every obligation the State owes will be paid, that the school appropriations will be increased. This period of progress is growing and it will continue to grow and by the reduction of the tax rate the tax values of the property will be increased and I ask that you support the report of the Committee on this proposition.

MR. OATES-I had not intended to address the Convention upon this subject, but since it has taken such a wide range and allusions have been made to the deficiency in the Treasury in consequence of several different things, a few brief remarks, especially on that point by way of explanation may not be amiss. I had not investigated these things until a short time before I had the honor of being inaugurated as Chief Executive, but I conferred with my predecessor then in office and examined into the acts of the Legislature, and I found this to be the fact, that the aggregate amount of tax values of the property of Alabama in the last year covering Governor Seay's administration, amounted to about $275,000,000, and the tax rate then existing it brought into the Treasury a greater amount of money than was necessary to meet all the exigencies of that administration. Consequently that official recommended to the General Assembly a reduction in the tax rate, and it was made too low. It was put down to four mills, and at the same time with an exaggerated idea of the surplus and the vast income that the State would receive that very session of the Legislature made heavy appropriations out of the usual line. One I recollect for $75,000 or $100,000 for the erection of additional accommodations at Talladega. Other appropriations were made with the same idea of the abundance of revenue and my predecessor soon found himself short of funds. There was another cause operating. Just after that time began the panic and the amount of taxable values began to fall and they fell with the lower rate although it was increased by one or two acts when at the time I succeeded to the office the deficiency was very considerable. My predecessor had found it necessary in order to pay the school teachers to effect a loan in New York of $500,000 and I found the State in this condition. His administration had been


1295

CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION, 1901

as economical as it could be, and he was in no wise responsible for this miscalculation on the part of the Legislature. Before his retirement he recommended to the General Assembly an increase in the tax rate of one half a mill and that was done, so that when I came in I found it 55, but as everyone knows when an increase or decrease in the tax rate is effected by the Legislature no perceptible difference is discovered until the next year thereafter. Now a great deal has been said by newspapers and politicians about a reduction of the deficiencies found in the Treasury. Indulge me for a moment and I think I will show just how that was accomplished. Finding that it was necessary to do the same thing that my predecessor had done I went to New York and effected a loan of $510,000 after having paid off the loan of $500,000 due when I came in. That was necessary just as the former was to maintain the credit of the State especially at home by paying school teachers and meeting the school expenses. They were somewhat delayed in obtaining their money, but it came in good time. Of course that one half mill increase told considerably the first year of its operation but it did not begin to wipe out the deficiency but the second year it reduced it to an almost nominal amount and the next year after I went out of office from the same source the deficiency was practically extinguished. It was done by the people and by the taxation imposed upon the people, and that is the way the State gets its money. It is not what any man does, it is what the people do in obedience to the law.

Now something was said about the price of bonds. The bonds did not depreciate because they were considered a safe investment. Financial institutions in New York and elsewhere regarded this deficiency as but temporary, and that there was no danger of repudiation or a failure to pay the interest but that the State would get on its feet again. They, of course, observed the increase in the rate of taxation. Now, I want to say just in this connection with reference to what we have in hand or the income from the citizenship of this State, every tax payer in the State has a personal interest in it, but their patriotism is rarely so high as to sanction exorbitant taxation. They don't want that. I like to see taxes reduced. I feel interested in that, and I would like to see taxation by cities and towns better regulated than in the present Constitution.

But there is one thing about which you can trust the General Assembly. Now, I distrust that body or any Legislature elected by the people in some things. When it comes to voting a large debt or spending much money, I distrust anybody. I distrust them about paying the Governor a competent salary, and, therefore, on this floor, I have advocated that this body should fix the amount of annual salary for the Governor, because I know how loath a legislature body is to make an expenditure of that kind. But there is one thing in which you can trust them. I don't


1296

OFFICIAL PROCEEDINGS

know that I ever knew of an exception, possibly there may have been one. It is said that our last Legislature was more extravagant than any other. Their acts show for themselves, but they acted just like men always do whether in Congress or in the State Legislature. You pile up revenue in the Treasury beyond the need of the Government, and any body, Congress or a Legislature, will make appropriations. They want to get the surplus there. That was the case in 1829, when there was $29,000,000 in the treasury of the United States, for which there was no use, and Congress undertook to pass an act then, or soon after, to divide it up among the States according to population. They found the President would veto it, that taxes lawfully collected never leave behind any implication of a right to refund any portion of them. So they could not pass such an act as that, but they devised a scheme, and they divided it with the different States according to population, and that is the source from which we got this, over half a million dollars, upon which we are paying a permanent interest to the educational fund. It is money that we got from the general treasury which we are supposed to be liable to pay back at any time, but which never will be paid back. Now that is always the inclination where there is a surplus in the treasury, the Legislature, whether National or State, is going to get it out and that accounts for the recent action of the last Legislature that appropriated more money than the treasury would furnish, and the delegate from Lee, who sits in my rear, introduced a bill in the Senate to pro rate the appropriation, and it was passed for that purpose, so that they could not, in the aggregate, spend more money than was in the treasury. But there is one thing on which we can always trust the Legislature and that is to reduce taxes whenever they can.

MR. ROBINSON - Didn't Governor Johnston recommend a reduction of taxation at the last session during his administration, and didn't the Legislature decline to do it?

MR. OATES-Probably he did. Governor Johnston's policy, however, all through his administration, was to pile up every-dollar he could in the treasury. I have not a question that he was honest in it. He thought that was the great thing to do and never spend any money.

MR. JONES (Montgomery)-I would like to ask the gentleman if he counts it a surplus when there is a large amount of money in the treasury that is not immediately due and payable, but which will be paid out in the orderly course of disbursement.

MR. OATES-I never count anything as certain until it is there.

MR. JONES (Montgomery)-But do you call it a surplus if you have a million dollars in the treasury on the first of Janu-


1297

CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION, 1901

ary and shortly after the first of October you will have it all paid out?

MR. OATES-No indeed. There has been a great deal said, Mr. President, in reference to our State system of bookkeeping, and it is a little complicated. Reports have been made and investigations so called, had on supposed deficiencies in the treasury. For instance take the first of January or any particular day in the year, and find the amount of the State debts at that time, add the amount which is in the treasury at that time, and take the one from the other is no test. Not at all. The fiscal years, from the first of October to the last of September is the test. Taking the cash assets of the State, as received, and paying all of the debts, if anything is left, that is a surplus, and nothing short of that, and if there is not cash enough to pay the debts, that is a deficiency. That is a plain proposition which everyone ought to understand.

I was proceeding to say, sir, that there is one thing upon which you can depend on the Legislature, and that is to reduce the rate of taxation, whenever they think it can be done, and sometimes they strain the point to do it, just as in the case, when they had an abundance of income, at the beginning of the administration of my friend.

Now, sir, when we go back and look at the history of legislation in Alabama, we find this most abundantly verified. Let me call your attention to the fact that every trust fund that has ever been turned over to the State of Alabama has been covered into the treasury and used for the general purposes of the State. You go back to the University, richly endowed by lands, worth millions of dollars, and part of it went one way, and part of it went I know not where. Then go to the other great school, Auburn, and the bonds are down there now in the treasury which were issued from the State to that institution. It had land script. I remember I had the honor of being a representative here and tried my best to get them to send a discreet man to locate that script on the rich lands in Kansas and Nebraska that are now worth fifty dollars an acre, but they could not see it, and disposed of it at one dollars and a quarter an acre; and issued bonds, fifty odd thousand dollars, bearing eight per cent., and those bonds are down there. That is the basis of the appropriation now from the State treasury to that college. Then in the sale of the sixteenth section land, every dollar realized from it has been covered into the treasury. Every trust fund that was ever confided to the State of Alabama has been disposed of and covered into the treasury and used for the general purposes of administration.

Then members of the Legislature, taking advantage of that fact, have gone home at its adjournment, and said, "ain't I a statesman; don't you see we have reduced your taxes," but they have never told anything about this debt they were contracting


1298

OFFICIAL PROCEEDINGS

by the conversion of trust funds, and leaving future generations to have the interest charge to be saddled on them. To reduce the taxes, they are crazy on that, and my friend, your committee is following their example, in trying to reduce the taxes in this instance.

MR. WHITE-How much trust debts do we owe now?

MR. OATES-I have not figured it, but if you will look at my special message, it will give you the figures. From these various sources it is two or three trillion dollars.

MR. BROWNE-Could we pay off that trust fund if we wanted to? Are we not bound to continue to pay the interest on it?

MR. OATES-I do not think we are anxious to pay it, and as far as I am concerned, nosy it is contracted-while I do not think it ever ought to have been-

MR. BROWNE-But I ask the gentleman if we could pay it, if we wanted to do so.

MR OATES- We might, in the course of time, but we could pay it at once, no such amount as that. And as to the bonded debt, I am just the same way about that. Now that it is on us by no fault of those now living, I do not think that we ought to lie taxed to death to pay it. Those who come after us, fifty year hence, will know nothing about it, if we work ourselves to death and tax the people to the utmost limit to pay off the debt. When the rate of interest is so low, I am in favor of refunding the debt and issuing bonds to become due fifty years from now, paying a low rate of interest, rather than over-taxing our people at the present time. It is to be hoped that fifty years hence the people of the State will be much wealthier than we are now, and will be able to meet that question and deal with it, without saddling it upon our people today.

Now, as to the proposition before the Convention. I state in the beginning that I liked the idea of the reduction of the taxes; I liked it as a tax payer, but I am willing to stand the taxes, though heavy, wherever they are necessary for the public good. In this case I doubt the propriety of a reduction of the tax rate and I will tell you why. The tax values fell off, as I stated before. from two hundred and seventy five millions of dollars down to two hundred and forty-one millions. It is now climbing up again. Times are good now, but we do not know just what is coming, and had not eve better have a safe limit? I air in favor of a tax limit, but ought we not to have a safe figure, so that if any reverses come, we would be sure that we would be able to maintain our credit, and get money enough by taxation to meet all of our obligations? I think so.  I am very much inclined


1299

CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION, 1901

to vote for the proposition of the delegate from Hale, which is a reduction of one half mill, from seventy-five to seventy, but I am not prepared to go further than that down the scale, and really I would not object to retaining it at its present rate.

Now it is a question of uncertainty. No man can tell just what the income will be from anything in cur treasury, two, three or five years hence. It is to be hoped, and judging the future by the last we think we will keep on improving and acquiring property, and be able to stand a lower rate, and go on a lower rate of taxation, but when the legislatures have nearly always from first to last been anxious, even by using the trust funds of the State, as I have shown you, for administration, to get a chance to reduce the tax rate, and probably get an endorsement front their constituents, when that is the case, that is one instance In which I feel like I can trust the legislature. I cannot trust them about the Governor's salary, nor about buying these grounds here and improving the Capitol. I distrust them on that, its too big a thing for them, but they nearly all of them want to be returned, and they want to> please their constituents.

MR. O'NEAL-I wait to know what effect, in the gentleman's judgment, would this limitation on the power of the legislature have upon the refunding of the State debt? I and sure the Convention would be glad to have your views on that question.

MR. OATES-I do not think it would effect it materially, but if and additional assurances are needed that the State will maintain its credit, it is safest to leave it at its present rate.

MR. BROWNE -Will the gentleman allow a question?

MR. OATES-Certainly.

MR. BROWNE-If there were added to this clause fixing the rate at sixty-five, a provision that a sufficient amount thereof should be levied specially for the purpose of haying the interest upon the bonded indebtedness, and appropriated to that purpose exclusively, would that not answer all purposes?

MR. OATES-It would indeed, and since the delegate has asked me that question, it carries me back to the Convention of 1875. In that Convention I conceived it to be a good idea, and offered an ordinance, and tried to have it adopted, that there should be a separate tax levied every year for the payment of the interest on our bonded debt, so that the people could see and know just what they were paying.

MR. O'NEAL, (Lauderdale)-The question I wished to suggest was this: Would not that statement he an admission on our part that we had a doubt as to wether we could meet the interest on the State cleft lay this reduction ; would it not lie the expression of a doubt which might have a deleterious effect?


1300

OFFICIAL PROCEEDINGS

MR. OATS-There wouldn't be much doubt when you required the levy of the tax to pay the interest.

MR. O'NEAL (Lauderdale)-We haven't such a provision now in the Constitution, and wouldn't the insertion of such a provision be an admission on our part that this reduction on our part might endanger the ability of the State to pay the interest on the State debt?

MR. OATES-It might raise a suspicion in the minds of soiree, but I think people would be sure they would get their money.

MR. BROWNE-Is it not true that in a very great many States the Constitution provides for a special tax levy to pay the interest upon the bonded indebtedness?

MR. OATES-I think so, and I think it is wise.

MR. ASHCRAFT-The statement read from the Auditor and Treasurer this morning indicates that in their opinion the reduction will result in an inability to pay the interest and the special assessments for the solders' fund and the school tax. Now if a provision of this kind is appended to this section, will there not necessarily spring up in the mind of all the school teachers, and the friends of public education, as well as the soldiers, and their friends, a reasonable uneasiness as to the result of this Constitution on their interests?

MR. OATES-I cannot say about that. I do not know how they would regard it. I think it possible they would be safe, but to provide against contingencies that may arise in the changes of dine and circumstances, these are the considerations which move me to oppose the reduction as proposed by the Committee.

MR. ROGERS (Lowndes)-Mr. President, a reduction from seven and one-half mills to seven mills as the maximum rate of taxation is a fulfillment of the pledge to the people of Alabama. The difference between six and a half and seven mills, would leave a margin to the State out of abundant caution to protect our credit, and for the maintenance of our schools in their onward progress as mapped out by the growth of Alabama. A few years ago when cotton went down to four and five cents taxable values in the State of Georgia decreased fifty millions of dollars, and I am informed that they taxed their schools and churches for revenue. It seems to me that we should be cautious and provide for all contingencies, such as the shrinkage of the poll tax, and allow for the reduction of the drastic revenue bills of the last Legislature for the creation of revenue for the State. Mr. President, when our Governors fail to recommend a reduction to six and one-half mills, it seems to me we should go slow in this direction, and I am unwilling to vote for any lower rate than seven mills.


1301

CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION, 1901

MR. BROWNE-I  unwillingly yielded this morning-

MR. JONES (Montgomery)-I hope that the gentleman will allow some of us to speak. I would like to speak, if for but five minutes. I never called the previous question can anybody in my life, especially if I was Chairman of the Committee.

MR. BROWNE-If the gentleman only wants five minutes I will yield.

MR.. JONES-It is with very great reluctance that I take part in this debate, and nothing but a profound conviction that we will make a mistake no matter how well intended, if Aye reduce this tax rate that will obligate us for years to come, impels me to state my position. There never has been a reduction, if you rely upon the figures of the advocates of reduction  which they could not prove would be a success.

In 1889 some of the lest financiers of this State said that it was an era of prosperity, and that we could safely cut down the tax rate to four mills, and add $100,000 to the school fund and still have a surplus ill the Treasury, and yet, it was not twenty-four months after that when events indicated that there never had been a reasonable ground for a suspicion that they could do that and maintain the honor of the State and provide for its wants. I beg, to sat to some of my friends who perhaps have not investigated the question closely, that there never has been a dollar of surplus in the Treasury of Alabama since Governor Thomas Seay went out of office my December 1894. You may have a million or two millions of dollars in the Treasury on January 1st, but if you have debts that are coming in and which require ail exhaustion of that money by the 30th of September, it is no more a surplus than if I run my hand in my pocket and say- I am a hundred dollars ahead of the world, when I owe a note four months hence for $200 that is not yet due. My friends are mistaken then about any surplus-

MR. BROWNE -A1low  me to make a remark. The Committee has not said there was any surplus. They say there is an actual cash balance that would not lie expended as long as the State continued in business, and continued to collect up in October, November and December of the following year what was charged against the cash balance, but that there would be all actual surplus in addition to that actual cash balance on the lst of of October, 1902, of some three hundred and odd thousand dollars.

MR. JONES (Montgomery)-I am not after the Committee, Mr. President.  I think their motives have been high and that they have discharged their duties conscientiously, and with the best lights before them, but we have heard a great deal in the debate here about a surplus in the Treasury and the piling up of money in the Treasury. I want to make this suggestion to the delegates. We cannot foretell what calamities play come. When


1302

OFFICIAL PROCEEDINGS

the State heretofore dealt with a deficiency, its Governors went to New York and said under the Constitution of the State we have a margin of two or three mills, and here is a resolution of the General Assembly in Alabama pledging the honor and credit of the State to the faithful payment of its debts; but if you cut this rate down to six and a half mills, barely leaving a margin, and any accident or calamity happens, and your Governors go into the markets of the world they will say we do not doubt your honor, eve remember when you sent gold say the blockade to pay your interest; it is not a question of honor, but you are up to the limit, and the Constitution will not let you go any further.

Now, it seems to me, without going into figures and details, that we are running a risk, if we put this cast iron limit in our Constitution of hitting two classes, which God knows no man this floor desires to hit; that is of cutting off the one mill tax for the old Confederate soldier, or something off of the one mill tax additional for the public schools.

MR. BROWNE-Will the gentlemen allow one question?

MR. JONES (Montgomery)-Yes sir.

MR. BROWNE-Can the gentleman point out one single, solitary error or miscalculation in the statement published a week ago upon which the Committee predicated this reduction?

MR JONES (Montgomery)-I think if I had the figures before me I could, but I am taking; the general observation and experience of legislators in dealing with the matters of this sort. I remember very well, a gentleman now living in Lowndes County, Chairman of the Finance Committee, and the gentleman who pushed through the reduction to four mills, was just as positive, just as conscientious, and far more enthusiastic than the chairman of the Committee on Taxation, that it could be done, and that it ought to be done, and did they did it, and for ten years afterwards this State has been struggling with a deficiency, and at times almost in abject poverty. Why, Mr. President, there was a time when it was doubtful whether we could feed the insane, and the deaf, the dumb and the blind. There was a time when it was doubtful whether we could get money to pay our own citizen soldiery who were engaged in enforcing the law during a long and tremendous turbulent period in the mineral regions. We had to dole out things like a farmer does sometimes, when he has not enough to last him and corn enough to do, and he had to weigh it and calculate how long it will be before he can cut down fodder to feed his stock. She was in that condition. The Legislature call make this reduction, and they are prone to cut down the tax rate whenever they have an excuse, and while I concede the conscientiousness and earnest desire and ability of the committee, the margin is too close, and, for one, I am unwilling for the reduction


1303

CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION, 1901

to be made without giving my humble experience and vote against it.

MR. JENKINS-I want to make one statement, and I will then yield to the gentleman from Talladega.

MR. BROWNE-The gentleman from Talladega does not desire the gentleman to yield.

 MR. JENKINS-I am not going to make a speech.

MR. BROWNE-I am satisfied of that.

MR. JENKINS-On yesterday I voted aye on the main proposition, expecting  the gentleman from 'Talladega would insist upon the previous question, and then I expected to move to re- consider the vote on yesterday, which was laid on the table, but the gentleman from Talladega has very generously  withdrawn the demand for the previous question, and I  have withdrawn my demand for a reconsideration, and the question will come up on the report of the committee.

Mr. Watts and Mr. Browne sought recognition, and a delegate suggested calling for the previous question.

MR. BROWNE-It will not do any good, because I will be asked to withdraw any motion, and, as said by the gentleman from Wilcox, I am so generous that I am bound to withdraw it, and I yield the floor.

MR. WATTS-I had not intended to have anything to say on this subject, but I feel too keenly the responsibility  which rests upon me as a delegate upon this floor front the great County of Montgomery.

MR. BROWNE -- Will the gentleman allow an interruption for a moment?

MR. WATTS-Yes.

MR. BROWNE -- The committee desires that this question be settled, and that we do not consume the whole of next week in the discussion of it, and if the gentleman will yield for a moment. I will make a motion that we remain in session until this matter is disposed of.

To which there were many expressions of dissent.

MR. WHITE-This matter is one of too much importance to be voted on when the attendance is as small as it is today.

MR. O’NEAL (Lauderdale)-In view of the importance of the question, and I think it is the most important-

THE PRESIDENT-The gentleman from Montgomery has the floor.


1304

OFFICIAL PROCEEDINGS

MR. O'NEAL-I just wanted to make a motion, which, I think, will meet with his approval. In view of the importance of the question, and I think it is the most important that has been considered by the Convention, I suggest that we allow two hours for debate on this question on Monday, and then the previous question will be called. Or that we allow one hour (there were loud calls of "two hours") in which time the previous question will be called. That will give every gentleman in the Convention who desires to speak opportunity.

MR. WATTS-I cannot yield the floor for that motion. I have no objection to the Convention adjourning until Monday, if it sees proper, but I desire to have something to say on this subject, and, while I will be as brief as I can, I cannot finish in the four minutes which it now lacks of the hour of adjournment.

I feel, Mr. President, that I cannot refrain from having something to say when I conceive that this Convention is about to do something which I believe will be to the great injury and damage of this State. I am aware, Mr. President, that the vote which was taken upon yesterday evening indicates that the purpose of the majority of this Convention is to fix the tax rate at 65 cents on the hundred dollars, but, sir, the fact that I stood in the minority has never upon any occasion kept me from insisting upon my position, because, although majorities may for the moment seem right, it is a truism that minorities are almost always right. I have the utmost respect for the gentlemen who compose the Committee on Taxation. I have no doubt, Mr. President, that each and all of them are actuated by the highest motives of patriotism and love for the State of Alabama. I have no doubt, Mr. President, that each of them believe that the course which they have proposed to this Convention and to the people of Alabama, can be pursued with safety to the interests of the State, but, Mr. President, I think that the facts and circumstances are against the report of that Committee, and however much that report may be the majority which may be given by the vote of this Convention to sustain the views of the Committee, I, for one, Mr. President, will still maintain that the action is dangerous, and should not be taken by this Convention.

THE PRESIDENT-Will the gentleman suspend? Leaves of absence are asked for Mr. Willett for today; for Mr. Fitts for Monday.

MR. FITTS-Upon this tax matter I am paired with Mr. Carmichael of Coffee, who will be here on Monday.

MR. MALONE-I would like to have leave of absence for Monday-I may be here, but if not I am paired with a gentleman who will be here.


1305

CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION, 1901

Leave of absence was requested for Mr. Hood of Etowah for Monday and granted.

THE PRESIDENT- The gentleman from Montgomery will have the floor on Monday.

Thereupon, at 2 o'clock p. m., the Convention adjourned until Monday at 10 o'clock a. m.

________

CORRECTIONS.

In remarks of Mr. Jones (Wilcox), thirty-second day, strike out in the third and fourth lines in the first sentence the words “as much esteem as," and insert a higher esteem than.

In next to the last paragraph, instead of the words, “There is a provision, an additional one and," insert, This is a provision, an additional one, that will enable the Governor to negotiate a larger temporary loan. It is not necessary.

In the last paragraph, strike out the words "while I merely give it as my opinion." Insert, It is my opinion.

_______________________