OFFICIAL PROCEEDINGS

of the

CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION

of the

STATE OF ALABAMA

May 21st, 1901, To September 3rd, 1901

_______________

FIFTY THIRD DAY

_____

MONTGOMERY, ALA.,

Wednesday, June 24, 1901.

The Convention met pursuant to adjournment, was called to order by the President, and opened with prayer by Rev. Dr. A. L. Andrews, as follows:

O Lord, our Heavenly Father, we thank Thee for Thy kind and watchful care over us during another night. It has ever characterized Thy dealings with us. We thank Thee that in health and strength we stand upon the threshold of a new day, face to face with its responsibilities, duties and cares. We know not what this day is to bring forth, but we do know that if our lives are consecrated to Thee, and if we look unto Thee for guidance and for help, we may make the most of the day's duties. Therefore, our Father, we realize how little we can do in our own strength, and we look unto Thee, beseeching Thee for Thy presence, praying Thee to come and take possession of our lives and hearts. Enthrone Thyself, O Lord, supreme in our lives, and give us wisdom and strength for the duties that lie out before us. Grant our gracious Lord that we may be unwilling to enter upon this day's duties, save as we are led and guided by the Holy Spirit, and grant as we live today, we may live to do faithfully the work that is committed into our hands, and that we may live to glorify the Lord Almighty. We pray Thee, our gracious Father, that Thou wilt help us to know that we can live but one day at a time, and may we live this day worthily, and live just as if it were our last, and may we be satisfied with this day's work when we stand before the judgment bar of God. We pray Thy special presence upon this Convention, upon its presiding officer, upon each of the offi


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cers, and may each delegate representing the people receive today the blessings of the Holy Spirit, that he may be qualified for the responsible duties that devolve upon him, and grant, O Lord, that each one may faithfully perform his part today, and that God may guide them all in their works, so that the result of today's labors may be eminently satisfactory to the people, and helpful to our commonwealth. We pray Thee, again, to bless us. Lord bless our land and country, bless Thy cause and kingdom, and may the triumph of the cause of the Son of God grow more and more complete until all the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our Lord, and His knowledge, and love, and glory shall cover the world as the waters cover the deep. Now, Lord, hear us, and bless us, and enable us to faithfully discharge life's duties, and grant that as we meet with these responsibilities and cares we may look upon Thee for guidance. Thus may we live and act among our fellow men, as long as it is Thy will that we should live, and when we have served Thee, O Lord, as long as it is Thy will, below, may we so have lived that we shall receive an entrance into the everlasting home and kingdom of our Lord and Father; we pray through the riches of grace, in Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Upon the call of the roll 107 delegates responded to their names.

Leave of absence was granted to Mr. Macdonald of Montgomery for today.

The report of the Committee on the Journal for the fifty-second day read as follows:

The Committee on the Journal beg leave to report that they have examined the Journal for the fifty second day of the Convention and find the same as correct.

The report was adopted.

MR. SANFORD (Montgomery) I wish to rise to a point of personal privilege.

I note in The Advertiser this morning the following sentence, which is totally incorrect: “General Sanford of Montgomery spoke against the amendment. He was a friend to foreigners, he declared, but there was no reason why the privilege of the franchise should be extended to the foreigner. It was in justice to every citizen.”

I said I was opposed to foreigners who had simply declared their intention to become citizens, and who were not citizens of the United States exercising the privilege of suffrage but when they were qualified by being naturalized. I had no objection to their voting. I hope that The Advertiser will make that correction. Another thing, in the sixth column of the third page of the pro


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ceedings, I am made to say these words: “He must be proven to be a man of good moral character, and attached to Republican institutions.” That is right, but it says if that is the experience of the statute of naturalization, and it should have said the requirement of the Statute of Naturalization. That is merely a verbal change.

MR. CHAPMAN I make a motion to reconsider the vote of yesterday by which the amendment to Section 1 was adopted. I refer to the amendment offered by the delegate from Jefferson, Mr. Beddow, and that carries with it, of course, the amendment as offered by the gentleman from Mobile, Mr. Smith. I desire both of those votes – desire to move for the reconsideration of both of those votes, but do not desire to press it at the present time. It is suggested and perhaps it is better to move for a reconsideration of the vote by which the section as amended was adopted. I am not familiar enough with the rules of the Convention to say whether or not it is to be taken up now, or has to be postponed.

THE PRESIDENT – This will be the proper time for the consideration of the motion. The Chair understands the gentleman moves the reconsideration of the action of this Convention whereby Section 1 was adopted as amended, and the gentleman will ask to reconsider the vote whereby the Convention engrafted upon this section certain amendments.

MR. CHAPMAN – Mr. President, that is the purpose of the motion. It seems to me that the Convention acted a little hastily yesterday in engrafting these amendments particularly the amendment offered by the gentleman from Jefferson. If that is to be adopted I, of course, favor the amendment offered by the gentleman from Mobile, because I do not believe that the amendment offered by the gentleman from Jefferson should be adopted at all, unless it is amended as provided in the amendment offered by the gentleman from Mobile, but Mr. President, it seems to me that we acted rather hastily in admitting, we may say, foreigners to vote in our elections. It is true under the old Constitution, we have been doing that to some extent, but I see no reason, why we should make this exception for the very few who are here now, and who have taken steps to become naturalized. I do not know how many there are in the State. I presume not very many, but even if there were a goodly number, I see no reason why they should be allowed to vote now unless it be under the reason given by the gentleman from Jefferson that they have taken steps to become naturalized and have qualified themselves under the present Constitution to vote and in pursuance of the party pledge the right is claimed. Certainly there can be no other reason in my mind for granting them the privilege of suffrage.

MR. SANFORD They can complete their naturalization then, can't they?


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MR. BEDDOW That question was fully discussed on yesterday and I do not care to take up the time of the Convention to further discuss it. Therefore, I move that the motion of the gentleman be laid upon the table.

MR. COLEMAN Withdraw that for a moment.

MR. BEDDOW I will.

MR. WADDELL I rise to a point of order. The motion to reconsider is not debatable.

THE PRESIDENT The gentleman's point of order is not well taken. This is the time that the rules prescribe for the consideration of the motion to reconsider. It shall be made at any time during the morning session, but the time that is usually devoted to reconsideration is immediately after the approval of the journal, and a motion to reconsider is debatable. The gentleman’s point of order is overruled.

MR. COLEMAN Mr. President, according to the rules this is the proper time when the consideration of the question involved in the motion by the delegate from Sumter should be discussed. There is no reason, however, why the Convention may not suspend the rule if it sees proper and postpone the consideration to some future time. Now, it is impossible for delegates, I care not how learned they are, how bright they are, to comprehend the legal meaning and effect of the proposition which involves so much as the amendment which has been adopted, simply at a glance or hearing them react. If it be true that the section without amendment disfranchises any person who should not be disfranchised under the pledge of the Democratic party I for one, do not want it reconsidered. What I desire is that the delegate, of this Convention may have time to reflect and investigate if they see proper, and if after consideration and investigation they should come to the conclusion that it would not be a violation of the pledge of the Democratic party, it may be, and I may say that I am assured there will be many who will favor the section, as reported by the Committee on Suffrage. My purpose is simply to have the discussion of this question postponed, so that we may all those of the Committee who have investigated for the themselves and delegates of the Convention who had not had time to investigate it – may satisfy themselves upon this question, and I assure you for one, that if it be true that any man will be disfranchised, contrary to the promise and pledge of the Democratic party. I will not support the reconsideration, but if it be true that the section does not disfranchise any, but that these parties exercising the right that they have, and that every citizen of Alabama has, who may disfranchise himself if he sees proper, because Mr. President, any voter may disfranchise himself if he declines to register or claim his privilege and these parties may disfranchise them


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selves if they decline to prosecute their right to naturalization, that is simply the question to be considered I move therefore, the suspension of the rules that this question be postponed, to be taken up, at the will of the Convention during the further consideration of the article now before us.

THE PRESIDENT – It seems to the Chair that it would be in the power of the Convention to postpone the further consideration of this motion, or to set it for any day when the Convention would desire to further consider it, without a suspension of the rules.

MR. COLEMAN That would be my motion then.

Then I move, Mr. President, that we take it up for consideration as soon as we have disposed of the qualifications of voters.

THE PRESIDENT – That is covered by Section 4?

MR. COLEMAN Four I believe, perhaps 5.

MR. SAMFORD (Pike) After Section 6.

MR. COLEMAN After Section 6.

THE PRESIDENT The gentleman from Greene moves that the further consideration of the motion to reconsider the vote whereby Sections 1 and 2 was not this amendment put upon Section 2.

MR. COLEMAN If Section 1 is reconsidered the other amendments follow as a matter of course.

MR. BEDDOW One and four.

MR. COLEMAN One and four and five.

THE PRESIDENT The Chair recollects it was found necessary to make this same amendment to another section.

MR. COLEMAN Section 4, and it would be necessary also in Section 5, but if it is reconsidered, those questions can be easily disposed of.

THE PRESIDENT Does the gentleman from Sumter make his motion apply also to Sections 1 and 4?

MR. CHAPMAN To all the sections that have been amended in this way.

THE PRESIDENT The votes whereby the amendments were adopted ?

MR. CARMICHAEL (Colbert) Section 4 was not amended pending to Section 4, but it was not amended, and therefore, it


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would not be necessary to move a reconsideration as to that section. The amendment was not adopted.

THE PRESIDENT This amendment was only added to one section.

MR. CARMICHAEL (Colbert) Only to one section.

MR. CHAPMAN Mr. President, I will include in my motion to reconsider as has been suggested to me, the word “person” in the first line of the second section was inserted in lieu of the word “citizen” to conform to the amendment which had been adopted.

THE PRESIDENT That is the recollection of the Chair. It was inserted in Section 2.

MR. CHAPMAN Yes sir, and will include in my motion to reconsider Section 2, so as to embrace exactly the same question.

THE PRESIDENT The motion is that the further consideration of the motion to reconsider shall be postponed until the Convention shall dispose of the sections of the article, up to and including Section 6.

A vote being taken, the motion was carried.

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

Mr. Burnett took the chair.

Mr. Davis (Etowah) introduced the following resolution:

Resolution No. 268, by Mr. Davis of Etowah:

Resolved, That 1,000 copies of the speech made on yesterday by the chairman of the Committee on Suffrage and Elections (Judge Coleman) introductory to the consideration of the ordinance reported by said committee, be printed for distribution among the members of the Convention.

MR. DAVIS (Etowah) I move the suspension of the rules that the resolution be placed upon its passage.

THE PRESIDENT PRO TEM The question is on the adoption of the resolution offered by the gentleman from Etowah.

A vote being taken, the resolution was declared adopted.

MR. PETTUS The question was on the suspension of the rules and not on the adoption of the resolution. I have an amendment which I desire to offer.

THE PRESIDENT PRO TEM. The Chair was in error. The rules are suspended and the amendment of the gentleman is in order.


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The amendment of Mr. Pettus was to make it 2,000 copies.

THE PRESIDENT PRO TEM. The question is on the amendment offered by the gentleman from Limestone.

Upon a vote being taken there were 35 ayes and 35 noes.

THE PRESIDENT PRO TEM The Chair will vote no, and the amendment is lost.

Mr. Knox took the chair.

THE PRESIDENT The question will recur upon the resolution of Mr. Davis, the gentleman from Etowah, is the Convention ready for the question?

A vote being taken, the resolution was adopted.

MR. O'NEAL (Jefferson) I have a resolution I desire to offer.

The Secretary read the resolution as follows:

Resolution No. 269, by Mr. O' Neil of Jefferson:

Be it resolved by the people of Alabama, in Convention assembled

That the legislature may provide that at the general election immediately preceding the expiration of a term of United States Senator from this State, the electors may by ballot express their preference for some one person for then office of United States Senator. The votes cast for such candidates shall be canvassed and returned in the same manner as for State officers.

MR. O’ NEIL (Jefferson) I rise to a point of information. The same ordinance was presented by me some time ago and referred to the Committee on Legislative Department. They returned it and said it did not come in under the head of that Department. I have noticed in several Constitutions where this law is in force that it is under the head of “separate propositions” and in order to test the sentiment of this Convention in regard to allowing the people to express their choice for United States Senator, I move that we suspend the rules and vote on it as a separate proposition.

THE PRESIDENT The gentleman from Jefferson moves to suspend the rules in order that this resolution may be placed upon its passage.

A vote being taken the motion to suspend the rules was lost, the vote being 28 ayes and 40 noes, on a division.

MR. O' NEIL I request that the resolution be referred to the Committee on Miscellaneous Provisions.


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THE PRESIDENT It appears to the Chair that the resolution ought to be referred to the Committee on Legislative Department, it seems to the Chair that is the proper committee.

MR. O 'NEIL (Jefferson) – Inasmuch as the Committee on Legislative Department have reported and have stated that this matter should come up under a different article, and I find in one Constitution it is brought in as “propositions separately submitted,” I think it should be referred to the Committee on Miscellaneous Provisions.

MR. OATES I would say that the delegate from Jefferson is slightly mistaken in one thing, the Committee on Legislative Department did not reject the proposition; it was only talked about, and if it should go to that Committee again there are some other ordinances referred to that Committee I shall take pleasure in calling a meeting of that committee and leaving the resolution before them.

THE PRESIDENT The resolution will be referred to the Committee on Legislative Department.

MR. WILLIAMS (Marengo) I have a petition, and will ask that the caption be read, and that the petition be referred to the proper committee.

Petition No. 270, by Mr. Williams of Marengo:

To the Hons. C. H. Miller. Gesner Williams and J. J. King, members of the Constitutional Convention from Marengo county—

We the undersigned citizens of Marengo county, feeling and believing that the best interests of the shippers and receivers of freight, and all matters connected with railroads in the State of Alabama, will be best subserved by the election of a Railroad Commission by the people of the State at large, instead of the method now in vogue of appointing them, respectfully petition you to work for and support an ordinance and have it incorporated in the organic laws of the State, requiring the commission to be elective instead of appointive, and giving the commission so elected plenary powers.

Hilton McKee, Minge Wikins, W. E. Long. J. C. Beason, W. J. Jackson, G. W. Richern, J. L. Aldridge, B. M. Allen, R. E. Chamberlain, J. H. Minge, Bailey Bros., J. H. Minge, Jr., J. B. Bennet, Jr., I. P. Pruitt, Evans Rogers, Hugh Hopper, J. R. Rogers, Sam S. Cowen, J. R. Johnson, J. P. Westbrook, A. J. Dowling, J. I. Johnson, W. E. Dollins, A. E. Dollins, T. B. Gaines, T. B. Jackson, D. Swain, E. E. Rogers, M. A. Terrell, J. C. Brown, Jr., _J. P. Travis, R. M. Douglas, George Brown, J. B. Power, M. M. Bell, D. A. Powers, C. L. Pence, R. Covington, W. F. Adams, Haywood


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Fitts, R. A. Williams, L. M. Gower, Thomas S. Mylton, G. M. Spinks.

THE PRESIDENT The petition will be referred to the Committee on Corporations.

The Convention here took up the special order, being the consideration of the report of the Committee on Suffrage.

MR. SAMFORD (Pike) Are amendments in order to Section 4?

THE PRESIDENT The Chair is informed that there are two amendments already pending.

MR. SAMFORD (Pike) I rise to a point of information.

THE PRESIDENT The gentleman will state his point.

MR. SAMFORD (Pike) It is this, under the rules that we have been following, whenever two amendments have been offered to a section, that cuts off other amendments. Now here we have a section with several sub divisions the captions of the section and several subdivisions. Will the two amendments to the whole section cut off any amendment to any other portion to the section that are not affected by those amendments at all, and if that be so, we are liable to lose the right to amend portions of the section which probably ought to be amended by a motion to put the previous question upon the section and amendment, and in that way it occurs to me that some amendments which it might be well to have made would be lost.

MR. HARRISON – Mr. President, I rise to a point of information—

THE PRESIDENT – The Chair will say in reply to the suggestion of the gentleman from Pike. Under the rule we are considering this Article section by section. As the section now under consideration involves the whole plan of suffrage, or practically the whole plan it might too much restrict the scope of the debate to take it up paragraph by paragraph, but it might be taken up after the debate is concluded. paragraph by paragraph to enable members to offer amendment, to be considered without debate. Delegates might indicate what amendments they thought desirable, during such debate as may be allowed upon the section.

THE PRESIDENT I recognize the gentleman from Lee.

MR. HARRISON I rose a moment ago to propose that we consider the section paragraph by paragraph, but the suggestion of the Chair after I rose obviates the difficulty. It occurs to me that at some stage it should be considered paragraph by paragraph. There is no objection, however to the suggestion of the Chair, and it may perhaps be better.


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MR. OATES I understand it. I have no disposition to obstruct or delay the debate which will occur on the second paragraph. I have an amendment, however, which I wish to offer to the first paragraph if that will be in order after the measure is disposed of, I will not offer it now, but hold it, and now withdraw the amendment I offered on yesterday evening. In respect to that amendment, it was offered simply to make the meaning of that part of Section 4 more definite, but I have conferred with other members who think it sufficiently definite and I promise to withdraw that amendment.

THE PRESIDENT The gentleman froth Montgomery asks unanimous consent to withdraw the amendment offered by him on yesterday. Is there objection? The Chair hears none.

MR. OATES Then I suppose I will have to write my amendment in the paragraph after the section has been considered?

THE PRESIDENT It seems to the Chair we are considering the whole section, and the debate would be addressed to the whole section, for the purpose of amendment it will be taken up for consideration, paragraph by paragraph when the time comes.

MR. OATES I will not be precluded from offering an amendment to paragraph 1 after that?

THE PRESIDENT The Chair thinks you would not be. The whole section is now open for amendment.

MR. SANFORD (Montgomery) I wish to offer an amendment to the first subdivision to Section 4.

THE PRESIDENT The Chair will call the attention of the gentleman from Greene to the fact that he has an amendment pending to this section bearing upon the same subject which he moved to have postponed this morning. Does he desire that this amendment be also postponed for consideration?

MR. COLEMAN Just as well be, because it will all be referred to, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT If a motion to reconsider should prevail, and the original amendment defeated, there would be no necessity for this amendment?

MR. COLEMAN Not at all.

THE PRESIDENT The gentleman from Greene moves that the further consideration of this amendment– you might withdraw it?

MR. CARMICHAEL (Colbert) I move that it be laid upon the table and be taken up with the others.

THE PRESIDENT The question will be upon the motion to lay the amendment upon the table.


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MR. COLEMAN The Chairman has no preference at all with regard to this question. If it is put upon the table, it can be called up at the pleasure of the Convention, and that will satisfy the Chairman. The idea I had in view was to move on consistently, and amend the sections as we reached them, in accordance with Section 1 as amended, knowing full well it would be an easy matter if Section 1 was reconsidered to strike out the amendment of the other. It would not require any discussion at all to make them consistent.

THE PRESIDENT It could not be stricken out after being incorporated in the section without a motion to reconsider the vote whereby it was incorporated and if the time for reconsideration should expire, it might complicate matters.

MR. COLEMAN I will withdraw it from before the Convention.

THE PRESIDENT The gentleman may withdraw it, or it may be adopted, and reconsidered, any time during the morning session tomorrow.

MR. SAMFORD (Pike) If you will pardon the suggestion, it appears to me if the amendment is tabled, it may be taken up at any time.

THE PRESIDENT If in the meantime the section is adopted, it could not be incorporated in it, if the time for consideration has expired. The Chair would suggest that the gentleman enter a motion to reconsider it and it may be set for the same time as the other.

MR. COLEMAN That is my idea to sweep consistently all the way through.

MR. CARMICHAEL (Colbert) I withdraw my motion to table.

THE PRESIDENT The gentleman from Colbert asks unanimous consent to withdraw his motion to lay upon the table. Is there objection.

There being no objection the motion to table was withdrawn.

THE PRESIDENT The question will be on the amendment of the gentleman from Greene.

MR. COLEMAN That amendment simply makes Section 4 harmonize with Section 1, as already adopted. I move the adoption of the amendment.

Upon a vote being taken the amendment was adopted.


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MR. COLEMAN If proper now, I will move to reconsider, and that reconsideration be postponed until after Section 6 is disposed of.

THE PRESIDENT The gentleman from Greene moves to reconsider the action whereby the Convention adopted the amendment as proposed, and that further consideration of the motion to

reconsider be postponed, until after Section 6 is disposed of.

A vote being taken, the motion to reconsider and postponing consideration was adopted.

MR. SANFORD (Montgomery) I have an amendment to offer to the first subdivision of Section 4.

The Clerk read the amendment as follows: “Amend by striking out the word ‘civil’ before the words ‘war between the States’ in the ninth line of said subdivision, also to strike out the word ‘civil’ before the words ‘war between the States’ whenever it occurs in each subsequent section or subdivision of said report.

MR. COLEMAN I accept that amendment on behalf of the Committee. I am authorized to do that.

THE PRESIDENT The question will be upon the amendment offered by the gentleman from Montgomery. The Chairman of the Committee on Suffrage and Elections indicates that the Committee has no objection to the amendment.

MR. HARRISON I desire to have it read.

MR. COLEMAN It is to strike out the word “civil” so as to read “war between the State,” it makes no difference in the world, and my purpose is to get along with business.

MR. SAMFORD (Pike) I have an amendment I wish to offer. The Clerk read the amendment as follows : “Amend Section 4 by striking all out after the word “elector” in the fifth line.

MR. SAMFORD I do not desire to discuss that matter, I simply desire to say for the delegates it makes the registration plan permanent instead of temporary, with regard to the voters provided for in this section. That is all I desire to say. The amendment makes the registration plan under this section permanent instead of ending with January 1st, 1903, that is all the change.

THE PRESIDENT The question is on the amendment offered by the gentleman from Pike.

MR. SOLLIE I have an amendment which I offer as a substitute for his amendment.

THE PRESIDENT The Chair has recognized the gentleman from Barbour.


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MR. DENT I do not propose to take up a great deal of the time of the Convention. I do not think I have any record for long speeches and if the delegates will pay attention to the few words I have to say, I can say them in less time than that which the Convention has allowed to the discussion of this question to every member. Under ordinary conditions, Mr. President and gentleman of the Convention, I should hesitate very much to set up my judgment against the judgment of the large number of gentlemen on this floor who differ with me on this proposition, but representing, as I believe, the sentiments and wishes of my own people, and representing as I know I am my own judgment and my own conscience, I feel that it is my duty to put myself on record as being opposed to that section of the majority report which the minority report proposes to strike from that report. As I said, this is any judgment, and my conviction, of what I ought to do. and I do this with the greater confidence because I have found in my intercourse and association, with the delegates of this Convention that they are men who, as a rule, vote according to their own judgment and according to their own convictions, without regard to the judgment, opinion, or conviction of any one else. I am glad to say that this Convention has set up no fetish which they blindly follow, that every man votes for himself and according to his own judgment, and that is what I propose to do upon this occasion. Now, I shall very briefly discuss my views in reference to the unconstitutionality of this provision as compared with the provisions of the Constitution of the United States. I do so as I say with hesitation but I do so because it is my own conviction that it is in conflict with the Constitution of the United States. Now, Mr. President and gentlemen, what are the provisions of the Constitution of the United States

MR. COLEMAN (Greene) Just one question

THE PRESIDENT Will the gentleman from Barbour yield ?

MR. DENT Certainly.

MR. COLEMAN You are addressing your remarks as I understand, now to the second subdivision?

MR. DENT Yes, sir, the descendant clause. I thought everybody understood that.

THE PRESIDENT The Chair will state to the Convention that there is pending an amendment on the part of the minority of the Committee to strike out this subdivision to the section, and an amendment to the amendment offered by the gentleman from Pike to strike out certain parts of the section, the effect of which would be to make the temporary plan permanent, as I understand.


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MR. OATES The minority report and the motion has not been read and laid before the house formally. It is the customary rule before discussion.

THE PRESIDENT It has not been the custom when the article is taken up for consideration to read the report of the Committee, it was read in full before the Convention when it was filed, but the Secretary did read the motion which the minority made at the conclusion of the report.

MR. OATES I suppose it makes a difference.

MR. DENT In order that I may be fully understood. I will read the clause which the minority report proposed to be stricken out.

THE PRESIDENT The Secretary will read the section.

MR. CHAPMAN I rise to a parliamentary inquiry. Has the first clause of this Section been passed upon at all the first subdivision?

THE PRESIDENT No sir.

MR. CHAPMAN Is that to be passed over until after the second is acted upon?

THE PRESIDENT The Chair stated for the information of delegates that for the purposes of general debate upon this Section, the whole Section would be considered as before the Convention, and the different amendments, and when debate is concluded the Convention takes up this Section to be voted upon, it will be considered paragraph by paragraph, when amendments may be offered to be voted upon, without debate, and that delegates who desire to offer amendments may refer to their amendments while they are discussing the general question.

MR. DENT As I was proceeding to say, I propose briefly to give the reasons why I believed this clause is in contravention of the Constitution of the United States. We have certain rules that have been laid down for the construction of matters of legislation, laid down by the Supreme Court of the United States, and one of them is a rule with which everybody is familiar that every man intends the natural and reasonable consequences of his own acts. Now take that clause under consideration and let us see how that rule applied to it would affect it. That rule will read briefly in a case reported in 113 U. S. Reports, page 759. That rule is laid down by, I suppose, as distinguished Judge as ever occupied the Supreme Bench, Mr. Justice Field of California. I will read it: “The rule is general with reference to the enactment of all legislative bodies, that courts cannot inquire into the motives of the legislators in passing them, except as they may be disclosed on the face of the acts, or inferrable from their operation,


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considered with reference to the condition of the country and existing legislation. The motives of the legislators considered as to the purposes they had in view, will always be presumed to accomplish that which follows as the natural and reasonable effects of their enactments."

Now, Mr. President, you take the clause under consideration, “The lawful descendants of persons who have 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 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.”

Now, l ask what is the natural and reasonable effect that will follow that provision if adopted? By way of illustration, to make my meaning clear, say that we had a clause in this provision which said that the descendants of the settlers of this country, of all the immigrants who came to this country from European countries, that the descendants of all these people should be voters in the State of Alabama. I ask any candid gentleman on this floor if the effect of that would not be practically to limit suffrage to white people in the State of Alabama. Now, if there was no provision in the Constitution of the United States, that forbade us making such a rule, it could be done, but I say, it seems to me that the natural and reasonable effect of such a provision as that would be to make white voters and white voters alone in the State of Alabama. Now this provision may narrow that rule to some extent, but I ask you, as reasonable men, does it not have the same tendency, natural and reasonable affect that all who apply for registration under this provision will be white people. Now, for these reasons, I shall briefly pass on– those are the reasons that influence me, I cannot see how we can get around it. I do not see how it can be made plain not to be in conflict with the Constitution of the United States. They lay down three rules. They say that you must not discriminate against a negro on account of his race, second, on account of his color, and third, on account of his previous condition of servitude. Now you take the practical application of this. What chance could the negro have to come in under this article when he was in a condition of servitude and could not become a soldier in the wars to which reference is made here. You are reasonable men, you are thinking men. I throw out these suggestions and pass on, because, as I said. I do not propose a long speech. But there are other objections to this amendment. For myself, I believe that it violates one of the great fundamental doctrines of Republican Government. I believe that it is in contravention to the spirit that has animated the people of this country from the Declaration of Independence down to this time, and in support of that, I ask the indulgence of the Convention for a few


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moments, while I refer to the report of the Committee on Preamble and Declaration of Right. If you have that before you, I would be very glad if you would turn to a Section of that report and read it in connection with the report of the Committee on Suffrage. We have just adopted this Section : “Section 30. That no title of nobility or hereditary distinction, privileges honor or emolument shall ever be granted or conferred in this State, and that no office shall be created the appointment to which shall be for a longer time than during good behavior.” There was no dissent in the adoption of that Section in this Convention. That is as much as I want to read, because that is all that has any application. Now I ask the gentlemen of this Convention, does not this section under consideration grant an heredity right or privilege to the sons of those who were soldiers in the wars referred to. If that is not its meaning, I must confess that I do not understand the force and effect of the English language. Isn't it hereditary distinction to say that because a man was a soldier, his son shall be entitled to register and vote without any regard to his qualifications whatever. I know it can be said that while we lay down these general rules that a particular exception in the Constitution would be invalid. I ask the grave and intelligent gentlemen who compose this Convention if it would be a creditable thing to do, to make a broad statement of a general proposition, and then turn right around and violate it in spirit, in principle and in letter. If you are going to adopt this clause of the report on suffrage, it seems to me that you should go back and reconsider and change Article XXX of the Bill of Rights. And further, if you will turn to the old Constitution, to the last clause of the Bill of Rights, that reads as follows: “That these enumerations of certain rights shall never impair or deny others retained by the people.”

That was the clause in the Bill of Rights, the last clause as contained in the Constitution of 1875. The committee to whom that part of the Constitution was referred not only reported that clause as placed in the Constitution of 1875, but they have added another in order to make the great declaration which is contained in this Preamble and Bill of Rights more emphatic. I beg your attention while I read it. “That this enumeration of certain rights shall not impair or deny others retained by the people,” that was the way it was in the old Constitution. Now observe what has been aided: “And to guard against any encroachment on the rights herein retained, we declare that everything in this Declaration of Rights is expected out of the general powers of government and shall forever remain inviolate.”

I ask any gentleman if there is harmony between those sections of the Bill of Rights which I have read and the report of the Committee on Suffrage which is under discussion. If you adopt this clause, it does seem to me that in justice to this Convention,


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in justice to its attainments and knowledge, that we ought not to send out to the people of the State of Alabama such antagonistic provisions in the same Constitution. For these reasons, Mr. Chairman, I advocate the striking out of that clause of the report of the Committee on Suffrage, and that is all I wish to say now. I desire, Mr. Chairman, to reserve whatever time I may not have consumed, if I can do so within the rules.

THE PRESIDENT The Chair would be very glad to place time to the credit of the gentleman, but he will have to place it to the credit of the people.

MR. DENT Well, I just wanted to know if that could be done.

MR. O’NEAL (Lauderdale) - Mr. President, the problem which the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments to the Federal Constitution forced on the States of the South was the most momentous ever submitted to a free people. In the language of one of her greatest sons, “it is a problem in solving which the South must stand alone, in dealing with which she must come closer than ambition or despair have driven her, and on the outcome of which her very existence depends. “This problem is to carry within her body politic two separate and distinct races, and nearly equal in number. She must carry these races in peace, for discord means ruin. She must carry them separately, for assimilation means debastnient. She must carry them in equal justice, for to do this she is pledged in honor and gratitude. She must carry them to the end, for in all human probability she will never be quit of either.”

To solve this problem, to remedy the existing evils of on unrestricted and debauched suffrage, and to secure for ourselves and posterity the benefits of enlightened government and of pure and lasting freedom was the paramount object of this Convention. That was the chief inducement by which the people's consent to our being here was obtained, and that was the charge and duty with which we were invested and which we would be recreant to our solemn trust did we not perform faithfully and efficiently. Mr. President, realizing these facts, and recognizing their weight, the Committee on Suffrage approached its task of ballot reform, with all its immense and grave responsibilities, with its certain consequences for good or ill plainly before them, knowing that the very life of the State depended on the wise and permanent solution of this problem. Mr. President we cannot afford to fail; we must accomplish the redemption of our elections from the incompetency of the electors; from fraud in their management, and make permanent and secure honest and efficient government in Alabama.


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No committee ever labored more earnestly, more faithfully, with a more profound sense of the gravity and importance of its work, and we lay before you our completed task, which carries out every pledge, which violates no provision of the Federal Constitution, and the adoption of which we sincerely believe will purify our electorate, will remove forever the necessity of methods which can no longer meet our approval, and will mark the commencement of an era of better government, or more lasting peace and prosperity in Alabama.

Mr. President, the movement for a Constitutional Convention in this State was but the protest of the people of Alabama against a condition of affairs that had grown intolerable. The right of a sovereign State to regulate and control the suffrage of its citizens was older than the Constitution. Even in colonial times the right to vote had been regulated by the several assemblies and not by Parliament, and was not surrendered when the Federal Union was formed. When, after the close of the civil war, the victorious North flushed by its triumph, animated by hate and passion and to humiliate and degrade the South, attempted to strike down this paramount and sovereign right of the States, it undertook to reverse the practice of the country since the foundation of the Federal Government, and even a more remote past. Fortunately, the radical majority that dominated Congress were confronted by a small but able body, of lovers of Constitutional government, who resisted, step by step, the efforts of the majority to pass an amendment which would place the control of all elections completely under the control of Congress and prevent the States from ever exercising any voice in the qualifications of its voters. Had the amendment finally passed as amended in the Senate the States would have been powerless to regulate or control the suffrage, and Congress alone would have dominated all elections and the qualifications of voters.

The first step in this discussion will be to ascertain from the debates in Congress, and the history of the Fifteenth amendment its purposes and object.

The first resolution, afterwards known as the Fifteenth Amendment, was the Boutwell resolution. It was first discussed in the House of Representatives in Congress on the 25th day of January, 1869. Its language was as follows:

“Section 1. The right of any citizen of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of race, color or previous condition of slavery of any citizen or class of citizens of the United States.

“Sec. 2. That Congress shall have the power to enforce by proper legislation the provisions of this Article.”


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In the debate on this resolution, it was claimed it did not go far enough, and it was asked whether it would prevent any State from requiring property or educational qualification of its voters, and to remedy this defect, several amendment were proposed, their common purpose being to prevent the exclusion of any male citizens 21 years of age or over from the right to vote, for any cause except crime. One of the principal substitutes was offered by Shellabarger as follows: “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall deny or abridge to any male citizen of the United States of the age of 21 years of over, and who is of sound mind, an equal vote at the election in the States in which he shall have such actual residence as shall be prescribed by law, except to such as have engaged or may engage hereafter in insurrection or rebellion against the United States, and to such as shall be duly convicted of treason, felony or other infamous crime.”

In urging his substitute for the Boutwell amendment, Shellabarger of Ohio warned his fellow members against any act which might legalize the disfranchisement of the vast body of negroes in the South. He said the Boutwell amendment would enable the rebel and master race at the South to disfranchise most of the colored people by excluding a man from the ballot who could not read: “For centuries,” he said, “the colored race had been shut out of the light and because for centuries they had been stolen property, they were poor; therefore all educational or property qualification would practically disfranchise them.” But this, he said was not the only defect in the amendment proposed by Boutwell. It added to the mischief it sought to remedy, for by prohibiting a State from exercising the power of disfranchisement only on account of race, color or previous condition of slavery, it plainly led to the inference that the State was authorized to disfranchise upon any other grounds than those three and upon the well known and universally recognized principle of law, expressio unius, exclusion alterius. Congress would then make the Constitution worse and hand the power of disfranchisement over to the State. In Thorps’ Constitutional History, it was said the debate had developed two facts, a general agreement that it was desirable to submit a suffrage amendment and a great difference of opinion as to its provisions. The Southern and border States generally opposed the idea of permanent disfranchisement of those who had participated in rebellion. If the amendment substantially secured the principle that the State did not absolutely control the question of suffrage, and further, that by the fundamental law the right could not be denied the negro, it was enough. To load down the amendment with details would insure its rejection. Massachusetts at the time required all educational and Rhode Island a property qualification of the voters. If the amendment forbade a State imposing such qualifications it might confidently be expected that both these New England States would refuse to ratify. The people of New


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York recently by a large vote of over thirty thousand had refused to abolish discriminating property qualification for negro voters. The House therefore passed the Boutwell resolution by a vote of one hundred and fifty to forty two.

The Senate took up the House resolution on the third of February, 1869. Acting under the instruction of the Judiciary Committee, Senator Stewart moved to amend the resolution by striking out the whole of the first section and substituting the provision that the right of citizens of the United States to vote and hold office shall not be denied or abridged by the United States, or any State on account of race, color or previous condition of servitude.

Howard of Michigan, who was the author of the 14th Amendment, thought the language too vague and would have it express plainly that citizens of the United States of African descent should have the same right to vote and hold office as other citizens. Senator Morton, says Thorp in his constitutional history of the United States, voiced the fears of many of his party when he said that the Stewart amendment could be practically disobeyed without establishing either a property qualification or an educational test. Like the makers of the Constitution he was averse to putting the word, color into it or any reference to slavery. In abolishing the institution it had been necessary to be explicit and the word slavery could not be avoided in the 13th Amendment. He asked, “Might not a State debar the negro from voting under the claim that he was deficient in natural intelligence, or incapable of improvement, or incompetent to take part in the administration of government. The whole provision of the proposed amendment might thus be overruled. For these reasons he urged some affirmative definition of suffrage somewhat as Howard of Michigan had suggested. Senator Williams of Oregon urged that it was better to assert the power of Congress to regulate the right to vote and thus keep the whole matter within the control of the national government.

The debates in Congress, however, show that the difficulties in the way of the amendment whether expressed in the language of the House resolution or Senate committee were serious and of long standing. It was urged that it was radical departure from the theories and practice of the government since its foundation, that save in for a brief period in Tennessee and a longer time in North Carolina the negro even when free had never been a voter in a single Southern State and that he had been excluded from the franchise in all the Northern States except four, that Connecticut had by her Constitution excluded him from voting and holding office, that Northern States like Michigan and New York had only recently voted on the question of negro suffrage and had refused


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to grant the negro the right of suffrage, that the great States north of the Ohio which had for years been unfriendly to the free negro, some of them even prohibiting their residence in their states, would not bury their hostility and admit him to suffrage. It was further urged in the debate that the proposition of Senator Williams would practically change the basis of suffrage and would take from the States who had heretofore exercised it, the control of suffrage and place it completely under the control of Congress, that the country was not prepared to sanction so radical a departure from the practice of the government or to transfer to congress the control of suffrage. The entire Democratic party resisted so radical a departure and change and a majority of the Republican leaders were forced to agree to the views of the Democratic minority. In this work on constitutional history Thorp says.

“The Fortieth Congress has been blamed by those who call themselves Nationalists, because it neglected to perfect the work of reconstruction and putting the regulation of the elective franchise and of the right to hold office wholly under the control of the national government. He says the Fortieth Congress contained an unusual number of men possessing wide political knowledge and experience in public affairs; it was not under the control of the radicals, though these were present in respectable numbers and frequently gave utterance to their political faith with such eloquence and power that their extreme views have become a great tradition in our history. The controlling minds of that Congress well knew the difficulty and dangers of attempting so radical a change in our political institutions as to give the national government the power to control the elective franchise and the right to hold office.”

“The long established doctrine of residuary State sovereignty checked every effort of the Republicans to effect the innovation. For nearly a hundred years that doctrine had gathered strength and at last had permeated every State Constitution, and every election law in the country. It was too firmly embedded in the political mind and in the political traditions of the people to be obliterated by so sudden it procedure as an act of Congress in the form of a joint resolution which to become a part of the Constitution must be ratified by three fourths of the States. The Civil War, though profoundly affecting the thought of the country had not prepared the public mind to accept so radical an innovation. The policy of the opposition was therefore clear, it could not defeat a suffrage amendment in some form but it might largely determine the form. Fully conscious of the practical value of the doctrine of residuary sovereignty in the States, it could compel the Republicans to so word their amendment as to recognize that


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sovereignty and thus practically continue to the States the right to regulate the elective franchise.”

The history of this amendment shows that five substitutes for the Stewart resolution were offered and defeated. Finally Wilson of Massachusetts offered as a substitute that no discrimination should be made in any State among the citizens of the United States in the exercise of the elective franchise or in the exercise of the right to hold office in any State on account of race, color, nativity, property, education or religious creed, which substitute was opposed by Sherman of Ohio, Conkling of New York, but by a small majority the Senate agreed to the Wilson amendment. When the resolution was sent back to the House a committee of conference was appointed, and the committee was unable to agree and it seemed as if the 15th Amendment was loomed to defeat. It is useless to consider the history of the debate further. The amendment was finally passed in its present form, but only after repeated efforts had been made to so amend it as to make every citizen of a State 21 rears old or upwards a voter, not to be disfranchised except for crime.

A review of these debates disclose the fact that there is a very general popular misconception of the purposes and effects of the two amendments to the Constitution. Hence when the Committee on Suffrage was organized the first step taken was to appoint a special committee to ascertain and report what powers the State of Alabama had under the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments to regulate and control its suffrage. Although among the members of the Committee were some of the most distinguished lawyers in the State, each member of the Committee realizing the responsibility and gravity of the task to which we had been assigned, examined for himself the law and decisions on the subject. A careful examination of the decisions of the Supreme Court establish beyond controversy the following propositions:

First - The right of suffrage was not necessarily one of the privileges and immunities of citizenship before the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Second That amendments does not add to these privileges and immunities but simply furnishes all additional guarantee for such as the citizen already had.

Third That at the time of the adoption of that amendment suffrage was not coextensive with the citizenship of the State, nor was it at the time of the adoption of the Constitution, and that neither the Constitution nor the Fourteenth Amendment made all citizens voters.

Fourth The inhibition in the Fourteenth Amendment that no State shall deprive any person within its jurisdiction of the equal


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protection of the laws was designed to prevent any person or class of persons from being singled out as a special subject for discriminating and hostile legislation.

Fifth The Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution does not confer the right of suffrage, the right to vote in the States comes from the States, and has not been granted by the United States. The Fifteenth Amendment simply invests citizens of the United States with the right of exemption from discrimination in the exercise of the elective franchise can account of their race, color or previous condition of servitude and empowers Congress to enforce that right by appropriate legislation.

Sixth The main purpose of the Fourteenth Amendment as has often been declared, was to establish the citizenship of free negroes, which had been denied in the Dred Scott case and to make all blacks born or naturalized in the United States citizens of the United States.

Seventh Any action of a State not directed by way of discrimination against the negroes as a class or on accounts of their race does not come within the Fourteenth Amendment.

Eighth The Constitution in its present form so far as civil and political rights are concerned, forbids discrimination by the general government or the States against any citizen because of his race.

MR. PRESIDENT This review of the debates in Congress, and the construction by the highest courts in the land of the objects, purposes and effects of the two amendments to the Constitution show beyond controversy that they do not oppose, as many seem to believe, an insuperable barrier to the disfranchisement of the negro. That there were many supporters of the Fifteenth Amendment, when it was being framed, who desired to so amend it as to place wholly under the control of the Federal Government all future elections in the States, and to make it impossible for any State to regulate its suffrage, we concede, but the history of that amendment also show, as we have seen that many of the States of the North whose senators and Representatives participated in the preparation of that amendment to the Constitution, contained considerable bodies of negroes little better fitted for the duties electors than the lately manumitted slaves of the South, and it is only fair to assume that they were unwilling to prescribe a rule of such tyranny and disaster, and that its adoption by the requisite number of States would have been rendered doubtful if such a purpose had found positive and arbitrary expression therein.

Mr. President, as we have seen the first Section of the Fourteenth Amendment made all negroes citizens of the United States and of the States of their residence. The Amendment which fol


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lowed prohibited the denial or abridgement of that vote for three certain specified reasons, or either of them, and for those only. For any other reason their right to vote may be denied or abridged. You cannot say that because the effect of our plan will be to restrict the right of the negro to vote that it necessarily violates the terms or spirit of that amendment. For with the same force of reasoning you could say that an educational or property qualification imposed on all alike would result in deriving to the great mass of negroes the right to vote, and was therefore unconstitutional. If the effect or result of a law restricting suffrage was to determine its construction it would have been held that the effect of the provisions found in the Mississippi Constitution requiring a voter to be able to understand or give an intelligent explanation of the Constitution militated against this article of the Federal Constitution. It would have been held that the laws of Massachusetts which imposed an educational qualification, of Rhode Island, which demanded a property qualification, were in conflict with the Fifteenth Amendment. In the one case it could be truthfully said that the whole or greater part of the negro race in these State were disfranchised, because they on account of their poverty or ignorance were unable to vote. Yet, in the debates in Congress and in every judicial construction of the two amendments, the presence and continual existence of these and other restrictions on suffrage in the laws and constitutions of other American States show that they are not antagonistic to the twee amendments, that the question of their violation of the amendments is not determinable and has not been determined in a single instance by the effect or result of the restrictions imposed upon the voting of the negro race.

I therefore assert that the State can impose any restriction it may see fit on suffrage which is not directed in hostility to the negro race, not imposed on account of his race, color or previous condition of servitude and will not when tested by enlightened judicial construction be disturbed. If we abridge or deny the negro the right to vote, we take this action not in hostility to him as a race, not on account of his color or previous condition of servitude, but because his exercise of suffrage without restriction make it unsafe to the life of the State and detrimental to all the interests of the people among whom he resides. We can deny the right of suffrage to the natives of other countries, or extend the age of majority from 21 to 30 years, for it has been decided that the Fifteenth amendment was intended to protect the negro race alone. No, Mr. President, we are not in this hour of our State's deadly peril seeking to wreak any vengeance upon the negro, or venting any ill will on account of his race or color; but we are restricting our suffrage for the sake of the life of our Government, for its honest and faithful administration, for the sake of our civilization,


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for public morals, for personal integrity, for the emancipation of all that is good and pure among us from that bondage of the soul and of thought which has been forced to participate in wrong doing from fear of a greater evil. We perform this duty for virtue, for decency, for religion, for liberty, for life itself.

The enfranchisement of the negro race furnished one of the darkest chapters in the history of this Republic. When Lee laid down his sword at Appomattox the South recognized that the abolition of slavery was one of the inevitable results of its failure to establish separate and independent Government. It submitted loyally to this gigantic confiscation of property, which it had acquired under the sacred guarantee of the Federal compact. Following swiftly upon the abolition of slavery, came the enfranchisement of the negro race. The shackels were scarcely stricken from his limbs before the ballot was placed in his hands? Not only was he clothed with the right of suffrage, but he was elevated by military force to the control of the States of the South, a condition of affairs more humiliating than that to which any free and enlightened people had ever been subjected.

Then ensued a carnival of crime, of robbery and jobbery, without parallel in history. A horde of most venal and corrupt adventurers gathered from every haunt of vice and crime, swarmed into the South, and by appeals to the passions, the credulty, the prejudices and the ignorance of the blacks, organized them into a compact political party, and by aid of federal power, secured control of every department of the State governments in all of the States of the South.

The leadership, of course, fell to the white adventurers, whose scanty stock of portable property won for them the name of carpet-baggers. They organized the negroes, tampered with the electoral returns, stuffed the ballot boxes, secured all the lucrative offices, increased salaries, devised the various methods by which taxation was increased and imposed on the impoverished States of the South a burden of debt which destroyed public credit and bankrupted the public treasuries. In speaking of this period, Mr. Brice, in his celebrated work. “The American Commonwealth,” says:

“But as the voting power lay with those who were wholly unfit for citizenship, and had no interest as taxpayers in good government, as the legislatures were reckless and corrupt, the judges for the most part subservient, the federal military officers bound toy support what purported to be the constitutional authorities of the State, Congress distant and little inclined to listen to complaints of those whom it had mistrusted as rebels, greed was unchecked and roguery unbanished.”


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But, not satisfied with clothing the black plan with every political right, with elevating him to the control of his former masters, the radical party in the North undertook to regulate the social relations of the races, with the avowed purpose of forcing an assimilation of the negro, and destroying Southern civilization.

Impoverished though she was, crushed by defeat, exhausted by the protracted struggle in which she had lost the flower of her manhood, rallying her sons from the ashes of her homes and the graves of her dead she closed her decimated ranks, determined at any cost to preserve her social purity and maintain her civilization. She braved federal bayonets and federal power and her brave sons stood with unyielding ranks around the inner temple of her social system. In every village and town of the State was heard the voices of her sons, rallying her forces to the conflict, and under the leadership of Boston the plunderers were driven from their power and honest government restored. The gallant Randall gathered together that small Spartan band of Democrats at the national capital, and by his skill, courage and superb leadership arrested and defeated this last and most humiliating measure of hate to the South. The grant of unrestricted suffrage to the negroes of the South was the colossal crime of the nineteenth century. No people could be imagined more hopelessly unfit for this important power. It was thrust on the negro in hot and vengeful haste, without previous preparation– not to elevate or protect him, but to humiliate and degrade us. It created an epoch of crime, corruption and misrule never before known in all civilized land. It filled our halls of legislation with men to whom honesty was an unknown virtue. It elevated to the bench men without legal training, to whom Blackstone was a myth and Kent a meaningless name. It filled the land with crime, intensified racial prejudice, demoralized our labor and retarded our growth and prosperity. It hindered immigration, rendered life and property insecure and allayed the investment of capital and the development of our marvelous resources. It has prevented any division of our people on economic or political questions, repressed freedom, of thought and debatinched our suffrage. To prevent a recurrence of the frightful misgovernment which followed reconstruction, it has forced our people to adopt methods to retain honest government which were repugnant to their consciences and which have debased and lowered our moral tone. No king, however despotic, would have subjected his subjects to the peril, the ignominy, the moral and financial ruin which has walked in the train of this unwise experiment. As the editor of The Chicago Chronicle recently said: “The history of the world may be searched in vain for a parallel to the spirit of savagery which inflicted upon a defeated and impoverished people the unspeakably barbarous rule of a servile race just liberated from bondage.” As a distinguished English statesman recently wrote. “To nearly all


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Europeans, such as step as the grant of the suffrage to the negroes en bloc, seemed then, and still seems monstrous.”

After over a quarter of a century’s experience, we know that it is as much a failure today as it was the hour it was first inaugurated. Hence I but voice the sentiment, not only of the white people of Alabama, but of the intelligent, unbiased judgment of the North and of the civilized world when I denounce the fifteenth amendment as not simply a political blunder, but a crime– a crime against the white people of the South– a crime against the black people of the South– a crime against local self-government, and the sovereign rights of the States. For I am sure the time has come when we can challenge the criticism and the favorable verdict of the civilized world to whom we can show and who have already seen and known that we have tried in humiliation and under protest, but still in patience, the experiment of unlimited suffrage, which heedlessness, animosity and hate put upon us. That we have tasted its bitterness, drained the cup of hatred and empericism to its dregs, inhaled its poison until the State reels from its effects, and that it has been demonstrated after a third of a century that this investiture of the unqualified element of our population with the sovereign robe of suffrage was a costly and a ghastly failure– a crime against us as well as the negro.

In the dark days of reconstruction Thomas A. Hendricks declared in the Congress of the United States that the fifteenth amendment was a violation of the original compact between the States and changed the nature of our government. Its adoption was secure by force and fraud and in the States of the South its ratification was compelled by a military authority. The pretext that it was necessary to secure the results of the war is not sustained by history, for Congress had solemnly declared that the war for the Union was not waged to free the slaves, and Abraham Lincoln had said, “I did not at any time say that I was in favor of negro suffrage. I declared against it. I am in favor of negro citizenship.” This opinion, it is said, he never changed. The impartial student of history knows that this amendment would never have been proposed had it not been confidently believed that its adoption would perpetuate the rule of the Republican party. Can anyone at this day, who has studied the history of that period stand in this presence and contend that this amendment would have been adopted had it been then supposed that it would result in the South casting a solid Democratic vote.

Mr. President, what is the solution that confronts us in Alabama? We have here two distinct races, one two thousand years in advance of the other, representing the highest type of modern civilization, the other a race whose ancestors were a hundred years ago naked savages, living on the banks of the Congo or Niger.


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The records of history are largely narratives of man's advancement from barbarism to civilization. The great dominant white races of the earth have been thousands of years in reaching their present state of development. The advance has been by slow processes, long and laborious struggles, and not by sudden leaps and bounds. Every step taken seems necessary in the march to the present development. For two thousand years while the white races have been progressing, the negro in Africa remained stationary, as uncivilized today as he was before the birth of Christ. In the case of the great Asiatic and European races we find that the early stages of development are lost in the mists of antiquity. From the days of the Roman Empire to the present hour, a perusal of history shows that advancement and progress has been slow, gradual, laborious but steady, development depending largely on the progress of the arts, sciences and good government. With the progress of learning and material prosperity there has come a growth so to speak of the human mind, until today the white races have reached their highest type of culture and development. Yet a study of the African races back to the days of the Pharoahs of Egypt show no such progress. So the singular condition exists in the South of the most primitive, rudimentary race living side by side with the most cultured and highly developed. It has been truly said that not greater is the interval which separates the chipped flints of the stone age and the maxim gun of today. A hundred years ago a body of savages were torn violently from their homes in Africa, sold to masters representing the highest type of civilization, put to work on the plantations, taught the arts of agriculture and mechanics, deprived of law by all participation in government, forbidden to read or write, and civilized as far as was possible by contact with a highly developed and civilized race. Suddenly, without previous preparation, they are enfranchised made citizens of the most advanced government of the earth, forced from their simple primitive life into all the turmoil of politics, organized into a compact political party, clothed with office, and at the point of the bayonet set in control of the government administered formerly by their masters. The proudest, bravest and most cultured portion of the Anglo Saxon race in America compelled by military power to submit to the domination of their former slaves. As soon, however, as the Federal bayonets were removed all this structure of negro domination which malignity and savage hate had framed after so much deliberation, by so many gross violations of the cardinal principles of our government toppled to the ground. The whites, though numerically inferior in many States, found the means by the grace of God to restore white supremacy and good government. To establish this, however, the whites in the South and in Alabama were forced to stand in solid phalanx to the detriment of their political life, forgetting all differences of opinion on political and governmental questions.


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casting their ballots solidly for the Democratic party. Division amongst them meant ruin. If they divided into factions here was this great mass of illiterate, purchasable votes, easily influenced by the appeal of the unscrupulous to passion or prejudice, a constant menace to our peace and security, and standing between, holding the balance of power.

Mr. President, the white race must dominate because it is the superior race, and in that domination the negro will find the safest pledge and guarantee of just and impartial administration. We remember with gratitude that during the dark days of the war, when our fathers and brothers were at the front fighting the battles of the Confederacy, the negro was left at home, and in many cases was the sole protector of the helpless and defenseless women and children of the South. We recall with gratitude the fact that in not a single instance did he betray his trust. He worked in the cotton and corn field to feed the armies that were fighting to rivet the chains of slavery on his limbs. No higher tribute could be paid to the institution of slavery. While all this is true, while we propose to accord to the negro all his rights in the courts, to share with him more than his just proportion of the educational fund and to accord him that justice which the strong always owe to the weak, we can never consent to share with him the responsibilities of government. Mr. President, this is not a sectional issue, the race problem is no longer confined to the States of the South. The acquisition of the Sandwich Islands, the Phillipines, Porto Rico and the control of Cuba has forced the race problems to the attention of the whole country and in the wise solution of this question we have the sympathy instead of the hostility of the North. Mr. President, wherever the white man has come in contact with an inferior race, wherever in Massachusetts, in Kansas, in California or in Alabama, whether with the Mongolian, the Indian or the Negro race, race instinct will assert itself and the white will dominate and control. It has been wisely said that this race instinct is of divine ordination, It should not be decried, derided or denied, because it preserves the integrity and purity of each race. The races of men are the creations of God, the markers of his will. He who attempts to overcome this race instinct is defying a power which is higher and wiser than that of man, and which will in the future as it has in the past, preserve the social purity and integrity of each race, preventing that assimilation and debasement, the very contemplation of which fills our minds with horror and repugnance.

Mr. President, the whole force of the opposition to the suffrage plan seems to be directed against Section 4. It is claimed that it violates the Federal Constitution by indirectly denying the suffrage to the negro. It is not true that this section denies the right of suffrage to the negro for it simply allows the lawful de


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scendants of soldiers to vote. The son of a negro soldier is embraced in this class to the same extent as the soil of the white soldier. It cannot be claimed, however, that because there may be more descendants of white than colored soldiers that this renders, the provisions unconstitutional. The same argument could be made against the soldier clause itself. It could be said with the same force of argument that because all educational and property qualification or even a poll tax affected more negroes than whites it was unconstitutional. I and wholly unable to comprehend the consistency or logic of the argument which assails the descendant clause as unconstitutional and admits the legality of the section which excludes all soldiers from the operation of the suffrage qualififications. Neither section singles out the negro as a subject of hostile legislation. It is not class legislation, for the class legislation denounced by the courts is legislation discriminating against some and favoring others. As judge Miller declared in the Slaughter House cases the action of the State must be directed by way of discrimination against the negroes as a class, on account of their race in order to be violative of the Federal Constitution. It may be conceded that the clause erects an arbitrary standard of qualification, but the state in the exercise of its sovereign power to regulate suffrage can act arbitrarily provided it does not deny the negro the ballot on account of one of the three grounds mentioned in the fifteenth amendment. As Senator Morton declared the State might deny the right on the ground that the negro was incompetent to exercise the suffrage intelligently. It is claimed that the test required is not a rule or condition to which all citizens similarly situated may conform and which is required under the decisions of the Supreme Court. I challenge those advocating the minority report to cite a single decision of the Supreme Court which sustains their contention. If the argument is sound the soldier clause is equally objectionable for a man who was not a soldier in any of the wars mentioned could by no exertion on his part become a soldier now. It is claimed it establishes a permanent, hereditary governing class, which is undemocratic and un-American. The argument is utterly misleading. The descendants of soldiers admitted to the suffrage by this clause are already voters. The son of the soldier does not inherit from his father the right to vote. He simply retains what he already had under the system of universal manhood suffrage which has heretofore prevailed in this State. It is claimed "we had better pursue the course which our fathers traveled and use the helm with which they steered." Mr. President, the conditions which surround us are not the conditions which confronted our fathers. Extraordinary conditions require extraordinary remedies. I venture the prediction that if they had been similarly situated, if their slaves had been clothed with suffrage and good government, honest elections, and the preservation of the splendid civilization which they had created


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had been in jeopardy they would have followed the paths which we have trod and would have adopted the same methods to secure their safety. The gentlemen of the minority have refused to boldly face the perplexing problem we are forced to solve. I do not question their sincerity but the arguments which they have advanced show that they have not risen to the height of this great question. Their reasoning smacks of special pleading, of carping criticism, and of fault finding without offering any remedy. Mr. President, no one denies, that the State has a right in the exercise of her sovereign power to regulate suffrage to provide that all soldiers shall be allowed to or be exempted from the operation of any restrictions imposed till others. It is claimed that this is justified on the ground that it is solely a recognition of valiant services rendered. Why then I ask, if this be true, call the State not go further and say that its recognition of your valor in war, your willingness to sacrifice life for the common welfare we will not only exempt you but those nearest, dearest and closest ,your lineal descendants, from the operation of any provision restricting suffrage. So long as the. State does, not violate the provisions of the amendment to the constitution there is no limit cell its power to control the suffrage of its citizens. Delegates of the Convention, our plan may be imperfect but I ask its critic, those who have been so persistent in denouncing it was unwise and dangerous what better plan have you to offer? We cannot afford to leave the ballot in the hands of enough negroes to form a respectable faction, for if we do, whenever the whites divide, they hold the balance of power and we have failed to accomplish our mission. Have we grown so careless, of the past that we can undergo that danger? Cannot we, brothers, kinsmen, inheritors of the glorious past, united as we are by every tie of affection and interest, joint sharers of the blessings of free government transmitted by our fathers, can we not forget our petty bickerings and unite to accomplish this glorious mission? Let us be equal to this great occasion, this golden opportunity in the life of our State and put into our Constitution an article on suffrage that will guarantee to future generations the blessings of Anglo Saxon civilization and liberty in this State. We cannot afford to disfranchise the ignorant or illiterate white. It was the illiterate and uneducated white man that fought the battle of the Confederacy. They and their descendants were educated not in books but in the traditions and principles of free government. The race to whom they belong have been educated for centuries in the practice, participation and conservation of free institutions. The men who won Magna Charta from King John were uneducated and illiterate, and yet, in the language of another, they were the men who, from merely hereditary aptitude, acquired for generations in the administration of free institutions were enabled to lay their foundations deep and secure in England. The negro on the other hand has no traditions of liberty, no pride of


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ancestry, no environments which fit him to intelligently discharge the great duties of citizenship. I for one can never consent to cast my vote to deprive a single man who wore the gray or his descendant, whether he be learned or illiterate, the right of suffrage. Mr. President, the Committee has been fortunate in having as its Chairman not only a distinguished lawyer, learned in all the learning of the law, patient and painstaking, but a patriot who has lived in that section of the State where the evils of an unrestricted suffrage have been most severely felt and who has earnestly labored to present a plan and yet accomplish the mission for which the people have delegated us to assemble in Convention. Mr. President, I feel sure that this Convention will give the State such reform in suffrage, such purity in the ballot as the people have demanded and that this Convention will prove equal to its great task-will solve this problem with all the wisdom possible to the fairest mind-solve it permanently-without make-shifts or subterfuges, so as to make permanent good government in Alabama.

MR. OATES - In the time fixed, I shall endeavor to say nothing except that which may be considered to some profit, and is absolutely pertinent to the question in hand.

Now, sir, it has frequently been asserted that the primary object in calling this Constitutional Convention was to completely eliminate the negro from politics, or disfranchise the negro. This gentlemen, is stating the question too narrowly. The primary and broader object was to seek to reclaim our beloved State from that evil into which it had fallen, of dishonest elections. How did we get there, and who is responsible therefor?

I am by nature a conservative, I am entitled to no credit for it, because I was born that way. I am not radical in anything, pertaining to public affairs; never was, and as long as I retain my memory and reasoning powers, never will be, and I never will, if I know it, be a party to an injustice to anyone-it matters not what may be called the exigency.

Now, sir, we will take the negro. We find him in his native Africa, a savage. He is not responsible for his being in America and in a state of slavery. He is not responsible for his emancipation. He is not responsible for his enfranchisement. He had no agency in any of it, and there is not a delegate on this floor who will rise in his place and say that he had, or that he did. Then, how was he enfranchised? You know by whom. By the policy of those who fought us in war and conquered us, the Federal administration. They saw proper, as a part of their policy, towards this conquered people, and this large population who had been emancipated from slavery, by a war that had been urged upon us. As a part of their policy they passed the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Articles of the amendment. The negro, therefore, is not


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responsible for it. It was the work of the white man. The negro, when informed that he had been emancipated, was grateful to those whom he understood had done that work and gentlemen, whether it was beneficial to him or the reverse, this was but the bubbling up of nature. Even the scorned earthworm that you trample upon will turn and sting you. It is only nature. Everything the birds of the air, the animals, and human beings, desire to be free, although in the case of African slavery, it had benefited the negroes because it lifted them higher in the sunlight of civilization than anything before. It was a blessing to them. But it was only natural that they should aspire to freedom and welcome it, and when it came, to be grateful to those whom they understand brought it. In a like spirit of gratitude, they were grateful to the people whom they misunderstood had enfranchised them. They were much misled and misinformed, and I think with all their misinformation that they did remarkably well.

Now, when the distinguished delegate, the Chairman of this Committee, was on yesterday addressing this Convention, pointing out the abuses of the elective franchise at the hands of these people, he seemed to charge it altogether to them. I differ with him in reference to that part of our history by charging it to the carpet-baggers and scalawags with white skins who led it on. I want to place the responsibility where it belongs.

MR. COLEMAN (Greene) - Did the scalawags lead away the white people that way?

MR. OATES - They led the negroes and the negroes have always been led by white people. One statement of the Chairman (Mr. Coleman) was that a negro boy 16 years old had voted sixteen times. Gentleman, I happen to know about that, and the Chairman probably got it not directly but indirectly from me?

My law partner, with the act of 1868 in his hands, in which the carpetbag Legislature had made it an indictable offense to challenge anybody who offered to vote, with that statute in his hands, carried his office boy, 16 years old, to the voting place in my town of Abbeville, and voted him one time for every year he was old. He did it to show the infamy of carpet-bag legislation, and not that of negro enfranchisement. Let me say, furthermore I suffered as much from reconstruction and took as great a part in it personally as anybody else, but that is not material to the consideration of this question. I am making no complaint now on that, though I had a right to complain.

I will tell you what I conceive to be true statesmanship. It is to act with conditions as we find them. We may be indignant about some of our past history. We may feel that transpired twenty-five or thirty years ago is irritating, and as I have seen


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black heads banked around the polling box, and I could not get there to vote without swimming through them about 100 yards deep, I felt the sting of it. When a company of Federal troops was sent to my town, I was arrested and put under bond of $10,000 that I would not hurt any carpet-bagger, because I and one or two more one-armed men like myself, got after one and run him out of the county, and I haven’t any respect for the Ku Klux of that day. They were inefficient, or the negroes would never have been led into the errors they were.

The negroes were enfranchised, and I think wrongfully. I opposed it. It is the only instance in history where the Congress of the United States violated its fundamental law, and undertook to fix suffrage for the States. They never did it before and have never done it since. The negroes were enfranchised and they went right on and crowded to the polls, and they were in the hands of carpet-baggers and scalawags, and being led by them, brought governmental evils almost untold, and there were but two ways to correct it. One of these was to take shot guns and go to the polls and disperse them. We either had to leave our homes or stop that kind of thing, and if we took guns to the polls somebody would have gotten hurt.

The other way was to cheat them. I was an advocate of the latter because it didn’t take life. Now, I never changed votes with my one hand, but I upheld it and counselled it in those who did. I am just as guilty as those who did. I am about like a person who lived in my county before any railroads had come to that country, and they hauled cotton in wagons here to Montgomery and these black prairie roads were almost impassable. The old parson had a fine six-mule team loaded with cotton one day, and with his son John to drive, he started to Montgomery. The roads were awful, and the wagon sunk into the mud and had to be pried out time and again. John was a little wicked and disposed to swear. The old man protested, “Johnny, my son, don’t curse that way, that’s wicked.” After a while the wagon got stuck and he tried to pry it out, and tried to get the mules to pull it out, but it was all without effect, and John says, father if you will just step aside and let me cuss these mules a little while, I believe we can get this wagon out. The old man seeing that everything else had been tried in vain, got out behind a tree and says, “Now, Johnny, you may curse them just a little.” Well, Johnny mounted the saddle mule and popped his whip and hollered “Hell and twelve, come out of the mire.” The mules got down steadily to it. The old man saw the wagon moving, which so delighted him he cried out, Thirteen and the devil, cuss them a little more, Johnny.”

I was no better than Parson Reaves. I told them to go it, boys, count them out. We had to do it. Unfortunately, I say it was a necessity. We could not help ourselves. We had to do it


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or do worse. But we have gone on from bad to worse until it has become a great evil. It has gone to the point where the negro found out some time ago that it was no use for him to vote. White men have gotten to cheating each other until we don’t have any honest elections. That is the trouble we have to grapple with. Now, it is said that the right way to grapple with it is to disfranchise the negro, and according to our platform no white man shall be disfranchised. If no white man is to be disfranchised, then there is nobody to be disfranchised but negro. As we have taken an oath here to support the Constitution of the United States, and if there is nobody to be disfranchised but negroes and we disfranchised them, how does that fit the Constitution that we have sworn to support. Now, the platform has a pledge in it. I was nominated under it. I wasn’t there when the platform was adopted, not was I present at Birmingham at the meeting when the delegates ratified it, and said they would stand to it. I said all the time on the stump that I would vote for and support a reference of the Constitution back to the people. I was opposed to increasing the rate of taxation; but I was in the field and wanted to come to the Convention, not for any honors it would bring to me personally, but to pay a debt of gratitude I owed to the people of Alabama for having honored me. I was willing to aid them by lending my feeble efforts to help them out of the trouble into which they had fallen in consequence of this evil of universal manhood suffrage, which had been thrust upon us without our consent and without our agency. And I said to them I am for making a Constitution which will elevate the suffrage and I am for eliminating from the right to vote all those who are unfit and unqualified, and if the rule strikes a white man as well as a negro, let him go. There are some white men who have no more right and no more business to vote than a negro and not as much as some of them.

Now, it is true statesmanship not to legislate, especially in making a fundamental law, on account of the smarts and wrongs done us in our past history. That is not it. It is to deal with present conditions, whether they came by our permission or were thrust upon us. That don’t make any difference. You are considering today a Constitution for the people hereafter, people who have to succeed us after my hairs have gone down to the grave and after you and I sleep in the Mother Earth. You —every man of you are doing a work that, it is to be hoped, will be beneficial to those who succeed you. Now, to what shall we look? Shall we go back to the irritations of the past to guide us, or shall we look to our present surroundings and cast aside the things of the past, which are not alive today? I have said about all I intended along this line.

Now, as to the question whether this grandfather clause, so-called, is constitutional or not. Gentleman, I do not claim any


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more for myself than I concede to any other man in this Convention or out of it. I am keeper of my own conscience. You are keepers of yours. I never yet blamed a mail who honestly differed with me in opinion. Thank God, I am constituted on broader lines than that and can concede to my fellow man all I claim for myself. I believe that this clause which the minority report against has two objections to it. One is, I believe, it is unconstitutional. I may be mistaken, but my belief is more that way than it is in favor of its constitutionality.

As, to the one that precedes it about the soldiers, gentlemen, I am doubtful about that, but the soldier who has served his country is always pretty near the American heart, and if there is a doubt in that case, it can be waived in favor of them. I am disposed to waive it. I say this just here before entering upon the argument.

There were two points, it seems, that have been in the minds of the committee. One was not to disfranchise any white man, in obedience to the platform. The other not to violate the Constitution of the United States. They sail between Scylla and Charibias. If ever there was an instrument framed more artfully to sail between those points, I have never seen it. Two ex-Judges of the Supreme Court and able lawyers, astute gentlemen, closely giving their attention to this work, and they have produced a masterpiece of its kind, and I am glad that I am able to concur with it in the main, but I would be untrue to myself, sir, if there is any part of it which I can not endorse, if I sit down here like a mummy and a whipped cur and say nothing. From my boyhood, I have acted upon the advice of that greatest of poets who makes the father say to the son on leaving his household, and after giving much advice, this above all:

“To thine own self be true, and it must follow As the night the day, thou canst not them be false to any man.”

Now these decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States none of them have settled this question-none. I want to give a very short space of time to their consideration, and in order that I may be brief, I have not brought the volumes here to quote from, but have brief extracts. But in the case of Yarbrough, 110 U.S., it is simply declared that the Fifteenth Amendment was designed primarily to prevent discrimination against colored men where the right to vote may be granted to others. Now, there is no difference among the committee on that. Then, in the Cruikshank case-why, there is nothing in that except this: They say, “Inasmuch, therefore, as it does not appear in the counts of the indictment that the intent of the defendants was to prevent these parties from exercising the right to vote on account of race or color, it does not appear that it was their intent to interfere


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with any right granted or secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States. We may suspect that race was the cause of the hostility but it is not so averred.” That decision went off simply on a question of pleading-an insufficient averment in the indictment. The courts might suspect, but they could not decide when it was not in the case.

Now, in the Williams case, which is the latest, 170 U.S., it said : “The Constitution and laws of Mississippi are not limited by their language or effects to one race. They reach the weak and vicious white man as well as the weak and vicious black man, and whatever is sinister in their intention, if anything, an be prevented by both races by the exercise of that duty, which voluntarily pays taxes and refrains from crime. This is the premise from which Judge McKenna, delivering the opinion of the court, draws the conclusion as to the legality of the Mississippi Constitution. He said: “The Constitution and statutes of the State do not on their face discriminate between the races, and it has not been shown that their actual administration was evil, only that evil was possible under them, and hence the Supreme Court of the United States have not disturbed the judgment of the court below.”

That was — I will state it for the benefit of some gentlemen who may be present who have not heard it– the case of Williams who had been convicted of murder, and an appeal taken to the Supreme Court of Mississippi. It was over the clause in the Constitution which provided that only qualified electors were eligible as jurors. That was the point. Now, I say that the question has never been decided. It is only a matter of inference from the cases which have been adjudged as to what the Supreme Court of the United States will decide. I lay down this proposition by which I am governed, and I believe that it is sound law:

To include a class as voters on grounds that are repugnant to the equality of rights and privileges that are the common heritage of the people, violates the spirit of the Constitution, if not its letter. Now, would it be constitutional? Suppose that this Convention was to declare, in favor of the negro race as voters, practically excluding the whites. Would that be sustainable? I think not. Such discriminations are not allowable by the Fifteenth Amendment. I have not the time to express my opinion on the clause admitting soldiers to the franchise, which I hope to do some time hereafter. But as to the clause admitting descendants of soldiers— going back to the Revolutionary war and coming on down through all the wars to the Spanish war — the descendants of those who were soldiers are to be admitted to the franchise, if not disfranchised by other parts of the Constitution, and are residents of the State as prescribed. Gentlemen, there are two points of objection. The first is, I believe that is unconstitutional. That is, I am more inclined to think that-more inclined to that view than


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I am to think that it is sustainable before the court. The object of it is what? Among ourselves, why let down the bars not only for the soldiers, but the descendants of the soldiers? What is it for? Is it not to let to nearly all white men, and isn't it to keep out the negroes. Isn't it in fact a discrimination? If it be a discrimination, then it is violative of that clause of the Constitution.

While I would like never to have had the Fifteenth Article of Amendment, when you swear me to keep it, gentlemen, I never have when I ever have felt my honor grip. I've let that be my border. When I feel that this clause is contrary to the oath I have taken, I cannot support it. Even if it is a matter of doubt, I would rather not do it. It is not consistent. Such action would not be consistent with my oath to support the Constitution of the United States.

We passed to another point. I insist that it is not at all necessary. The way it is now the gap is mighty narrow and the gate is mighty near closed on the road that will admit any negro to the franchise. They would be very few and far between, like an angel's visits, and even without this, the conditions are such that you would find eliminated from the franchise about three- fourths of them. Now, gentlemen, is it good to be radical in anything, or is it not best to be reasonable? We have a race of people amongst us here, and I am not one of those who concur in the opinion that there is a race war on. Not so. Some claim that there is a race war that is as irrepressible as was the conflict between free labor and slave labor its proclaimed by Lincoln. Not so. They say, "Oh, well, history shows that two races of people never did live in the same country long. The white race always drives our the colored and inferior race.” Are we not people of the United States? Are we not Southerners who fought for four immortal years against four and a half times our number, and carried the flag of the Storm Cradled Nation to victory on a hundred fields? Is it not possible for us to do what no other people have done? I maintain that it is. Some people say you cannot, while the negro is here unless he is thoroughly subordinated and practically a slave. I say no, you can admit him to some participation in our government so long as the white man rules, and he ought to rule, but he ought not, because he is strong like Samson, to strike down the weaker, who gets in his path, when God and the Bible teaches him to do kindly unto those who are in his power.

THE PRESIDENT-The time of the gentleman has expired.

MR. SANDERS (Limestone) I move that the time of the distinguished gentleman be extended for twenty minutes.

Upon a vote being taken. the motion was carried.


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MR. OATES-Gentleman of the Convention, I thank you for your kindness, but I will endeavor not to consume much time. I am not a man who loves to speak just to hear my voice. I have heard it long enough, so that I am not particularly enamoured with it.

Now, this thing presents to us a problem much deeper and broader than that of merely going to the polls and casting a ballot and electing somebody to office. It is one that affects us and our future for years and years to come. What is it? Will we completely exclude the negro from participation-all participation- in the affairs of our State, or will we allow a reasonable number of them-the better element of them-to go to the polls and vote? In a people so large a minority of the population as they are- eight hundred thousand, and whites ten hundred thousand, eight hundred thousand out of eighteen hundred thousand-did you ever in all your reading know of a people, and so large a minority as that, who were not allowed any voice at all in the affairs of government who remained contented under that government? Have you ever heard of so large a minority who have been admitted into participation of the affairs of government for thirty years, who were afterwards silenced? Will not there be disturbances? Why, some of these people are becoming very intelligent and acquiring property, and gentlemen, it may not occur next year, or the year after, or five years hence, but, if you go along with this and practically none of them having any voice in our affairs, you may live to see the time of outbreaks and troubles not now contemplated, such as every man who participates in making it thus will live to regret. Let them occupy a subordinate position, but do not silence them. Let the better element of them, though of an inferior race, who have won the confidence of their neighbors, won respectability and acquired property-allow all of that class a fair showing, and let them go to the polls and vote. There is no danger in that. Exclude the densely ignorant and corrupt. I do not stop at the exclusion of the negro, but exclude the whites of this class and deny to them the right to vote also. The privilege of voting is not a natural right. Those ladies up there are citizens, and naturally have as much right to vote as I or you or any of us, but the voter is one who is selected on account of his supposed capacity for handling the ballot wisely and well. He handles it as a trustee. He votes for his wife and children, and for his neighbors who are denied the privilege. Take it on the basis of all males 21 years of age and upwards, it is about five to one, and he is voting for four others as well as himself on that broad basis. I would not allow the ballot, if I had it in my power, to go into the hands of a vicious and notoriously corrupt white man any more than I would a negro, in fact, I would not trust him as quickly as I would a negro of intelligence and good character. You want that matter handled wisely and well for the best interest of the community,


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It is not a racial question. If you propose to make it a racial question, what would be the end? As some say, the extermination of the negro. Prepare him and then send him back to his native Africa? That is a doctrine that is advocated now, not only by some men, but by some statesmen. Gentlemen, it is an utterly impracticable thing. In the aggregate, there are ten millions of these people in this country. They are citizens not only by our State laws and our State Constitution but they are citizens by the Constitution of the United States and it is so declared in that instrument. They have the right to go when and where they please as other citizens. The power don’t rest in the government to rob them of this right or to colonize them in any other country. Then there is the labor question. Why, as I sit in my door and look out, who is it that fixes all these telegraph and telephone poles on the street? I have never seen a white man on one of these poles. The negro performs nearly all of the labor down here in this country, and isn’t he better as a contented man than a discontented one? Wouldn’t it pay us to treat him right, and give him full protection under the law and give him a voice in the affairs of State, and retain him here, rather than to engage in this impracticable theme of a race conflict and his expursion. We do not own any lands in Africa to which we can send them. Such land mostly belongs to European nations, and even if we had that power, and he were not a citizen, where are the vast sums of money to come from to take him over there and settle him? You would not take him over there to starve. You would have to support the whole colony for a time. Then what would you do for labor in the South? The climate invites them, and the occupation of our people invites them here, where we raise cotton, the great staple product of this country. Here where we have been raised up among the negroes, nine-tenths of these delegates know that there is an attachment between them and the white people which I say ought not to be disturbed. My friend, the delegate from Greene, on yesterday told us how he was shot down on the battlefield of Chickamauga, how his faithful slave and serving man attended him, stopping to serve him when he could have gone off to the other side and have been free. The negroes knew what that war was for. They knew that their freedom was involved. Yet, look at this conduct, in the main, all through the South. They remained at home and made corn and supplies to support our armies in the field, and throughout the length and breadth of the Confederacy there was not a single outrage perpetrated upon any man’s family, or any woman or child, or helpless person, by these people, although they were slaves. President Lincoln called for 75,000 troops to serve for ninety days to put down the rebellion, and he expected these negro slaves here would rise in insurrection and apply torches to the homes of their masters. Sadly mistaken was he. There never was such an instance in the history of the world, as of this division of the slaves


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to their maters, presented during that remarkable conflict. Gentlemen, my memory is good, I do not forget such things, where they have shown devotion to us. It may be exceptional in individual instances, but can we blame them for showing gratitude to those whom the believed had freed them, and those they believed had enfranchised them? Another case, on all-fours with that stated by the delegate from Greene. I will draw a comparison. A negro whose name was Willis Hill, the servant of Captain Hill, of Company D, in the 5th Alabama, that on the morning of the 6th of may , at the Wilderness, when Longstreet’s corps got in there, and Hancock had enveloped completely the right of Lee’s army, almost doubling it up, and Law’s Alabama brigade came in and formed left of the Texans and north of the plank road. The bullets were flying from the right and the left, and front; the roar of artillery, and the bursting of shells, just at the time when that grandest of men, Uncle Robert, as the boys called him, went in to lead the Texas brigade, and the soldiers caught his horse by the bridle an refused to let him go. Just then the 5th Alabama Regiment went into line to forward, bullets flying in every direction, and men falling; and just when we commenced to move forward, that grand Commander, Robert E. Lee, asked, “What troops are those?” and they replied, “Law’s Alabama Brigade.” He said “God bless the Alabamians.” Just then that negro Willis-I do not know but what he yet lives in Barbour County-seized a gun and took a place in the ranks, and fought on as gallantly to the close as any white man in those ranks. I will draw a comparison between him and a white man who belongs to another company in that same regiment-a cross-roads bully-and when under fire, where shells and shot were so thick that it looked as if no man would escape, he lay upon the ground. I ordered him on the line to fire, and do his duty, and he moved forward an inch or two, and stuck his head down again. I quilted him with stripes all over his back with my sword to force him to fight, and he falsely said,”I am wounded.” He got up and rode saplings ten feet high running to the rear and out of danger. He was a white man! You tell me that man is better than Willis Hill, that negro? No, I would trust the ballot or anything else to Willis Hill a long ways in preference to that white man, or his son. All white men that were soldiers are not angels, nor are the descendants of them. No man honors a good soldier more than I do. My association with them was from the first to the last. It was my fortune to serve in an old regiment that was in thirty-nine engagements, as the roll will show from the files of the Adjutant General’s office. I happened to be in twenty-seven of them, and while it is no concern to you how many marks of bullets are on my body, I did my duty, and I am going to do it here, and everywhere else, as long as God lets me live. (Applause.) But, gentlemen, it will not do for us to undertake to tie our hands to anything that don’t run right all the way through. I want to be a little broader and


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more liberal than that. I have no contentions that this Committee, of which I have the honor to be a member, except where based on my conscientious conviction, and I concede to them their right to differ with me as broadly as I claim the right to differ with any them.

Now, gentlemen, there is this other objection to this provision I tell you it is a regal form of government, or royal form of government, which is sustained by the doctrine of inheritance. It never has a place properly anywhere in our American form of government. I would like, if I only had the time, to have read some of the letters I have received from our distinguished Senator. I have not always, nor do I now on every question, agree with Senator Morgan, but I can say of him from my long acquaintance with him, and my close observance of his work in the Congress of the United States, that he is a learned man the most learned and versatile man in the Senate of the United States. (Applause. ) He is a patriot. He is learned in the law, and the old man's heart is in his work, and never in money. It is in completing that great column of glory that he has erected to himself by twenty odd years of service there, that he is now engaged. of his letter to) nic on July 2nd, I will read only one paragraph: "My Dear General I agree with the minority in their objections to the second subdivision of Section 4 of the suffrage ordinance reported to the Convention. The language of the subsequent section,." and then he goes on to discourse upon it generally.

Now in another letter of July 10, from Warm Springs, he says: “My Dear General-If I were to address you by the title I would prefer, it would be that of a Confederate Colonel, but you and General Wheeler and others have united in your military histories events that are so significant of the restored harmony between the white citizenship of the United States, and so honorable to the motive that has influence your action, that I am proud to address you as Brigadier General of United States Volunteers. Surely the people of the North will give you credit for honesty when you still proclaim the necessity for white supremacy, secured by law, in the States that are dominated or threatened with negro supremacy in government, to a degree that requires the unlawful manipulation of the ballot box as the means of public security. In the letters I have written you and others touching the action of the Constitutional Convention on the suffrage question, my purpose has been to suggest rational methods lay which white supremacy can be secured by the laws that are consistent with the Constitution of the United States, and as my letters to members of the Convention are intended only to promote its purposes without reference to the questions of party policies, I have no wish that they should be treated as private or confidential. Every citizen has the right to offer suggestions on such a matter, and it is no


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intrusion if they are made in respectful terms. I have the additional fact that as a Senator, I must answer in debate and by my vote on questions that are certain to arise in Congress relating to negro suffrage, to excuse my anxiety as to what will be the action of the Convention. Consequently I have written letters to you and the Honorable Frank S. White, Honorable B. H. Craig and others, all of which are to be used at the discretion of the gentleman to whom they are addressed."

I have presumed, Mr. President and gentlemen, to read that much of these letters from Senator Morgan to show you why it is he is interested so deeply not only as a citizen but as a Senator in what we do, and whatever Constitution we adopt will be brought under review, and attacks will be made upon it. He is our mouth piece to whom we must look to defend our action here. Then ought you to put anything in the Constitution which is not absolutely essential to your welfare, which would embarrass him, and his associate. Senator Pettus? Answering any and all of these questions I think not. I think it is, as I stated before, wholly unnecessary and it is unAmerican. Why should we have any inheritable political right? Did you ever hear of it before. Why our country and government proceeds upon the hypothesis that commonly speaking every tub stands on its own bottom, and it ought to so stand. That is Americanism. Not that there should be an inheritable political right, with respect to voting or anything else. We do not want anything of the kind. Some say, however, and the able delegate from Greene (Mr. Coleman) in his speech says, who would deny the right of the son of the father that wore the grey in defense of his country? Ah, that is a narrow view! If the son was worthy of the father who did his duty, I would say never deny to him the privilege, but not give it to him as a right established by inheritance. We must not shut our eyes to the facts, that there where a good many that wore the grey who did not wear it very honorably. We know that. We know we had to conscript hundreds and thousands of men and send them to the front, and as a rule they did themselves no credit. They made records as a common thing which I do not think would reflect any credit upon their sons, for a large number of them deserted, and you know it, or every old soldier knows it who did his duty, that this is true. If you adopt this provision, it means those who fought in the Union army, as well as those who fought in the Confederate, and there were a few negroes in the Union army during the Civil War, and that is all. There were none in the prior wars. In not one of them was there a negro, for they could not go in. There were a few in the Union army from Alabama along towards the close, but is it not a principle which is wrong in itself, and which we ought not be parties to? We claim a good deal for ourselves. as being Democrats, standing on Jeffersonian Democracy, and if we do, ought we to adopt any questionable means here in order to.


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give a white man the preference over the negro? Do you suppose that any white man would be proud of legislation which gave him such an advantage, to keep him out of competition with the negro for the obtainment of the political right? If so, the man that seeks such an advantage as that is unworthy of having it.

MR. WALKER ( Madison) Mr. President, the distinguished character and ability of the gentlemen who have opposed the majority report of the Committee on Suffrage, demands a consideration of the objections that they put forward and an attempt on the part of those who are responsible for placing before the Convention the proposition involved in the majority report to sustain that proposition by argument. I have had the honor to share in the deliberations and the work of the Suffrage Committee. I have concurred in the conclusions reached by the majority and propose within the time allowed me to meet some of the objections that have been urged against the proposition that has, been presented to you. It is well in the first place to understand what the majority proposes. It is well to understood what they undertook to do, and toy understand the methods and ideas that they undertake to put into practical operation. The fact that we are here, the fact that this Committee on Suffrage had imposed upon it the duty of refraining our fundamental law so far as the suffrage is concerned, is the result of a great movement of public opinion in Alabama. That public opinion has become clear and defined can certain propositions. One of those propositions is that the right to vote should be taken away from certain citizens who under existing law now possess that right. Another proposition is that the right to vote should not be taken away from a large body of citizens who under the existing law possess that right, and have used it in the interest of social order, security and progress. Our mission here is to strike at the evil in our electoral system and to let what is good in it remain as it is. To carry outs these objects we are expected to put into operation the power to act upon this subject which the State of Alabama has, and to refrain from in the folly of undertaking to use a power that has been taken away from us. Now the Committee on Suffrage and Elections has long and care fully deliberated upon this subject and has come to the conclusion embodied in the report that is placed before this Convention for its action. They have undertaken to enumerate the citizens of Alabama who should be allowed to retain the right of suffrage and they think they have enumerated all of our present voting population who are fit and competent to retain the right of suffrage when they name the soldiers who have fought in their wars, the descendants of such soldier, and all other, who are of good character and who understand the duties and obligations of citizenship under a republican form of government. But a minority of the committee composed of four distinguished members have singled out one clause in that enumeration and have made it the object of


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their attack. That clause is one that names the descendants of men who were soldiers in the wars of this country down to and including the great war between the States, and the main ground of attack by the minority upon that clause is that in effect it denies or abridges the right of citizens of this State to vote on account of race, color car previous condition of servitude. Well now gentle men, when you stop to consider that the clause which is attacked is a mere enumeration of certain citizens who shall have the right to vote, some of whom are white and some of which are black, and that it does not deny car abridge any pine from the right to vote on account of race, color or previous condition of servitude, directly car by words of exclusion. The objection is further remarkable, I submit, in that it loses sight of the very plain proposition that the clause which is attacked is one clause only, in an enumeration which includes other clauses. When you undertake to classify and to enumerate to this Convention the people in Alabama who shall retain that right of suffrage, it is impossible for any man to say who is excluded until the entire enumeration has been gone over and examined. No man who is neither a soldier, nor the descendant of a soldier, is in a position to say that his right to vote as denied or abridged upon any ground unless in the enumeration taken as a whole no place can be found for him. Now is that the case here? Can anyone say in reference to the enumeration made by this committee that his right to vote is denied or abridged be cause his case does not come within the clause that is now the object of attack, unless he also goes further and puts himself outside of the third category which includes all who are of good character and who understands the duties and obligations of citizenship. The gentlemen attacking this plan, as a whole, must put them selves in the position of asserting that the state of Alabama has been deprived of power to limit the right of suffrage upon grounds of character and fitness. Can anyone say under the plan that is proposed by this committee that his right to vote is denied or abridged unless he puts himself beyond the pale of citizens of good character and who understand the duties and obligations of citizenship. You cannot single out in an enumeration one sub division and say that that is the whole scope of the plan presented. You must look at the plan as a whole and determine whether or not that plan as a whole is open to the legal objections that are now asserted against it. Now, gentlemen, at this point in my argument, I will assume that it is competent for the State of Alabama to fix and prescribe qualifications of character or of intelligence for its voters. Unless at least that much has been assumed we would not be here to deal with this question. In approaching this task, it is proper for us to take a survey of our population as it now exists in Alabama and to devise some means of separating that part of the population which should retain the right of suffrage from that part of the population who have demonstrated their


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unfitness to retain that privilege. In this work of separation, several plans may suggest themselves to different minds. One plan would be to make some rigid rule of qualification, such as to his ability to read and write or the possession of a stated amount of property, and require every citizen seeking the right to vote to come up to one of these tests. A test of that kind as applied to the period of transition, lying between the old order of things which we are here to do away with and the new order of things which we propose to establish, would operate in just upon a very considerable part of our voting population who are uneducated or are without property, but who have had the right to vote and have exercised it and still exercise it in the interests of social order. Another plan that might suggest itself would be to provide for the submission of his qualifications by every individual in Alabama claiming the right to suffrage, to some official or body of officials appointed for the purpose of Passing upon the question of qualifications. That plan would be subject to this objection, that the power conferred upon such official necessarily involves the possibility of the abuse of that power and suggests that so far as practicable, the exercise of power which may in this way be abused, should be confined in its operation to as narrow a field as possible. Another plan that suggests itself and one that has been adopted by this committee is to separate from the general mass of our voting population some considerable well defined group of citizens now having the right to vote who have demonstrated their fitness to continue to exercise that right, to say plainly that the group of citizens shall retain the privilege which they have properly, and to provide that those not forming, a part of that group shall have their fitness and qualifications passed upon by an official car by a board established for that purpose. Now, gentlemen, that is the plan that has been adopted by this committee. They have segregated from the mass of the voting population of Alabama that body of citizens included in the description of soldiers and the descendants of soldiers, and have opened the door to the right of suffrage to all others who can bring themselves within the definition in the third clause of the Article, namely, all others who are of good character and who understand the duties and obligations of citizenship. Now, objection is made to this upon the ground that it is not warranted by good policy; upon the ground that it is arbitrarily and capricious. Why, gentlemen, we are here to undertake to meet those grounds. Now, who are the soldiers and their descendants? They have the right to vote now. They form a distinct and well defined part of our present voting population. for more than a generation they have participated in the public affairs of this country and as a body have participated freely and without injury to the public interests. They constitute a well defined and prominent part of our citizenship. Objection is made by the distinguished gentleman from Montgomery that there will


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be found in this class that we have named in this way, some who are unfit to be voters because of deficiency in character or deficiency in intelligence. The same thing could be said about any other general qualifications that might be prescribed. Make reading and writing the general test. There will be no difficulty in the world in finding many men who can read, and many men who can write who are totally devoid of the qualities of good citizens. Make the possession of a certain amount of property the test. There will be no difficulty in finding men with that amount of property who are vicious and debased and wholly unfit to exercise the privilege of citizenship. I submit, gentlemen, that, take the body of our citizenship that you segregate by describing soldiers and their descendants, and you take a body of men whose capacity for self government has been more fully demonstrated than a like body of men with education or with property that you might select in any other part of the world. That is a body of men who have assimilated the principles of our government. The proportion of the unfit among them is hardly an appreciable quantity. Let me ask you this question: If the right to vote in Alabama had heretofore been confined to the soldiers and their descendants, would we have this suffrage problem now? (Applause). If this State could suffer this misfortune of having taken out of its body politic the soldiers and their descendants and have them transplanted to any part of the world, civilized or uncivilized, that group of citizens would transplant Alabama's self governing system upon whatever soil they occupied. Carry them to the Philippine Island or to South America and colonize them there, and you would carry an alert public opinion; you would carry the principle of no taxation with out representation; you would carry the rule of the majority. Our popular system of government would go wherever those men went. Is there a political philosopher or a practical statesman in the wide world who would look upon that body of men and propose to take away from them the powers of self government, unless he was an open enemy of popular government? As the distinguished gentleman from Montgomery said, we are here to deal with conditions. The majority say, leave the right to vote to the soldiers and their descendants, because there is no reason for taking it away from them. Is that not practicable statesmanship? Are we to deal with something from which we have suffered no evil? Are we to erect some imaginary arbitrary standard here that will operate to take from that portion of the people of the State of Alabama who have demonstrated their fitness the right to exercise the privileges of self government, in order to make harmonious some political scheme? Why, gentlemen, we are dealing with a practical problem. We come here to take the right to vote from those who abuse the privileges and as to those who have exercised it rightly to leave it just where it stands. Is anything more done? Is that not the general result of the action of the Suffrage Committee? Can


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any man say that that body of citizens have not more fully demonstrated by their history that they are qualified to retails the privilege of suffrage than any other body of citizens that may be found in any part of the world? That body of citizens, though scattered over the face of American society and spread in every direction, yet is as distinct as is the Gulf stream in the waters of the Atlantic. The question is, shall we take the right away from them? They al ready have the right to vote. We are not conferring it upon them. We are here to strike out the evil in our election system and to let what is good in it remain as it is. This is a movement of reform, gentlemen, but reform becomes merely folly when it strikes out blindly and tears down what is good as Well as destroys what is bad. We have confined the exercise of the power that is vested in us to that which is bad in the system we are dealing with, and when you analyze the proposition that eye have submitted to the, Convention, you cannot find that our action has gone beyond that. There would not have been any Convention here if this body of men in whom we propose to leave the right of suffrage, had alone up to this time had that right. There would not in any part of this country a movement to abandon the time honored custom of universal suffrage unless our voting population had been diluted or polluted by the infusion into it of elements that ought to have been excluded. We here in the South have this problem to deal with, because the self governing element of the population in this part of country has been vitiated by the injection into it of a large mass of ignorant negroes. In other part: of the country, the proposition to limit universal suffrage has been brought about by the fact that the old American stock that held aloft the possibility of free government by a free people had been brought by the infusion into it from foreign parts of the illiterate and incompetent. This is a practical question to be dealt with by practical men. There has been in America no proposition to limit the suffrage except to meet conditions which have been brought about in one or the other of those two ways. We are here to deal with the practical question before us and not to become idealistic reformers. Gentlemen, reading and writing, or the ownership of property are not the best evidences of a capacity for self-government. There are all over the world men who can read and write and men who own property who are totally unfit to participate in the kind of government we have here. The best evidence in the world on the fitness and capacity of any body of men to take part in the popular self government as we have it here and as we wish to maintain it is the fact that for a long period of time that body of men has participated in the forms of self government as they prevail in this country or in England. If we are attached to the system of self government, which we have heretofore enjoyed and wish to perpetuate it, is there any reason under heaven for taking the privilege of voting from the men who have vindicated before the world that system of government.


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MR. COLEMAN I move that we remain in session twenty minutes longer.

MR. HOWZE I move that the gentleman's time be extended thirty minutes.

MR. COLEMAN The gentleman says he would rather conclude after dinner. I move that he be allowed thirty minutes longer.

The motion was carried and thereupon the Convention adjourned.

AFTERNOON SESSION

Convention was called to order by the President and the roll being called showed the presence of 119 delegates.

THE PRESIDENT The special order for this afternoon is the consideration of the report of the Committee on Suffrage and Elections. The gentleman from Madison had the floor when the Convention adjourned at noon.

MR. WALKER (Madison) I regret that I have to avail myself of the kindness of the Convention in extending my time on this occasion, but whatever excuse I have for taking up more of your time now than vas allowed to me on the division of time for the argument of this matter, must be that I have not on former occasions unduly trespassed on your time, and I will ask your indulgence for a few minutes further. It seems to me that the most successful attack that the opponents of this special feature of the report of the Committee on Suffrage and Elections have been able to make upon it has been in the fact that they have succeeded in fixing a nickname upon it. They have succeeded in having this provision appear before the public under the nickname of the "grandfather clause" or the "grand daddy clause," and a great many people are so constituted that they are unable to treat except in a spirit of levity anything that makes its appearance before them under a nickname. But the people who have been misled by the nickname in referring to a provision of this kind as the grandfather clause, have put themselves in a position I submit on the losing sight of the real meaning and effect of the provision. It is that expression that has fixed itself upon this provision that has enabled some gentlemen even in this Convention to base upon that the idea and the argument that this provision operates to establish a class of nobility or a system of heredity privilege or honor in this State. Well, gentlemen, if you stop to consider what is a class nobility and what is the meaning of the Bill of Rights in speaking of an heredity honor or distinction, you will see that these terms cannot, with propriety, be fixed upon this provision. What


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is the operation and effect of this provision? Is it to put in any man's hands now the privilege of the ballot and to make that a piece of property to be transferred by will or otherwise at his volition? Not at all. What is its construction and effect? How did those people who have the right now acquire it? They acquired it, not as an hereditary privilege or distinction. They acquired it by coming up to the requirements of the existing laws. They have it now. In leaving it with their we give them nothing but what they already have. Is the ballot now in the hand of the soldier, or in the hands of anybody else in Alabama a special privilege or an hereditary distinction, to be used as if a piece of property that would be transmitted by inheritance and go from father to son, whether the son came up to the requirements of the law or not. Not at all. The operation and extent of this provision is simply not to take away from it body of citizens the privilege of voting which they note exercise, and to refrain from interfering with that privilege upon the ground that their history has demonstrated that there is no occasion to take it away from them. You simply find a body of men exercising that privilege now, and looking upon that body of men in the light of their history you say it would be folly to attempt to take it away from them. I understand an hereditary privilege to be one that is transmissable by inheritance, and goes by inheritance regardless of other considerations. Will some gentleman who maintains this position n the minority report explain how the ballot now in the hands of the soldier becomes any more a hereditary privilege than it has been in the past?

The extent of your objection has been not to take away the ballot they have not abused.

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

THE PRESIDENT Will the gentleman yield.

MR. WALKER Certainly.

MR. LOWE-The ballot is also now in the hands of the naturalized foreigner, is it not?

MR.WALKER-Yes.

MR. LOWE- But in the provision you now seek to incorporate in the Constitution you make a distinction between the son or descendant of a soldier and the naturalized foreigner. Would it not establish one test for one and another test for another?

MR. WALKER I see that the minority have changed their ground of attack. I was addressing myself to the position that was solemnly taken by this minority when they came into this Convention. I will come to the new ground that has been taken


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since their first position has slipped from under these gentlemen. I think I have said enough in reference to this matter to justify the action of the majority of the Committee on Suffrage and Elections as to the policy of not taking away from the old soldiers and their descendants the rights which they now have. I will now, Mr. President, very briefly address myself to the power of this body to take that action. In doing that, gentlemen, I will call your attention to the power and faculties which the State has to deal with this question of suffrage before that power was in any respect invaded by constitutional legislation of the United States. I will invite you to the inquiry as to what has the extent of the power before there was adopted any of the amendments of the United States Constitution which operate upon this question in any respect. I will then invite you to consider the extent of the power that was left when those constitutional provisions are given their full operation and effect. The end of the great war between the States found the State of Alabama with full and practically unstricted power to deal with the question of suffrage. Under that ample power left in the State by the Constitution off the United States as it was originally adopted, the State of Alabama could confer the right to vote upon any man, and could deny the right to vote to any man. The sole limitation upon its right of selection of its voters in this matter was the one provision in the Constitution of the United States, the fourth Article of it, that the Republican form of the Government should not be changed. So long as the Republican forth of the government was maintained in Alabama no matter what might have been the restriction upon the right to vote here, there was no right of interference by the United States Government. Now what was the extent of the operation of the Fourteenth Amendment upon this power of the State? So far as the Fourteenth Amendment dealt with the question of suffrage, the extent of its provision was to put the penalty it upon a State which exercised its power of limiting the suffrage on any other ground than that of participation in rebellion or other crimes. After the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment the State of Alabama was still free to exclude from its suffrage all black men and to include all white men, and the extent of the operation of the Fourteenth Amendment upon the power of the State was that in the event of the exercise of that power so as to give the right to vote to all white then, and to take it away from all black men, was that its representation in the Lower House of Congress might be reduced in proportion to the number whose right to vote was denied. Now, that was the extent of the operation of the Fourteenth Amendment. The right of the State to confer a vote upon, all white men as such, and to exclude all black men as such, remained unimpaired. There was simply a penalty imposed upon the exercise of this power. Now while the Fourteenth Amendment did not mention the matter of race specifically, it is known as a matter of


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history that the occasion of the adoption of that amendment was the contemplated probability that in the Southern States black men would continue to be excluded from the suffrage, and there were simply put upon this section of country that penalty, involving merely the loss of a proportion of its representation in the lower House of Congress. But the successful part of the country in this great movement of which the war between the States was a part, concluded that the extent of this restriction had not been satisfactory to them, and they concluded to go further. What did they do? They adopted the Fifteenth Amendment, which provides that the right of a citizen of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color or previous condition of servitude. You will observe that they do not confer the right upon the class of men who could be excluded from the franchise under the Fourteenth Amendment. They did not confer upon them that right. While so far as the suffrage is concerned the Fourteenth Amendment was directed against the action of the Southern States in depriving negroes of the suffrage, when it came to the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment they did not deny the right of a State. They did not confer the right of suffrage upon that class of citizens who formerly might have been denied the suffrage. Now consider for a moment the variety of discrimination that alight have been adopted by the States before the Fifteenth Amendment was passed, and then consider how far that wide choice was curtailed by the adoption of the Fifteenth Amendment. Before the Fifteenth Amendment was passed any State might have confined the right to vote to the educated, to the property holders, to natives, to persons who were the descendants of the people of this country at the time of the Revolutionary war, for instance, to person, who were the descendants of people who had migrated to this country from a certain part of the Eastern hemisphere, for instance, to persons who for a stated period of time had been accustomed to the exercise of the rights of popular government as it was practiced in England or in America; and they might have confined it so as to exclude all men of Spanish descent, or of French descent, or of Italian or of Polish, Hungarian or Russian descent. There was a great field of choice left in the State in reference to this matter. Now how far has that choice been curtailed? Certainly, certainly there has been no curtailment by that provision of the right of the States to make a selection from its population of those who by reason of intelligence or possession of good character were fit to exercise the suffrage. There was no requirement under the operation of the Fifteenth Amendment that all negroes should have the right to vote equally with all white men. There was no requirement that the proportion of negroes who were allowed the elective franchise should be the same as the proportion of white men who were allowed the franchise. I think some confusion in reference


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to the operation of this fifteenth amendment has found place in the public mind by reason of undertaking to apply to this question certain decisions, certain expressions used by the Supreme Court of the United States in dealing with the fourteenth amendment, and I submit that those decisions and those expressions which are relied upon are not properly applicable this question which we are now dealing with. The two amendments are very different propositions. The fourteenth amendment, except in the respect that I have called your attention to it-operated upon the civil right of all members of society, the right to life, liberty and property, the right to follow all the pursuits of business the right to make contracts, the right to sue in the courts, the right to have evidence, the same as everybody else, the right to have the laws against crime apply, to all alike. That amendment in broad terms established a rule of equality. It operated to make the laws throughout all this broad landfall like the gentle dew from heaven upon all the people alike. The fifteenth amendment on the other hand, recognized the existence of a rule of inequality. It recognized the right of a State to make selection of those upon whom the right of suffrage should bee conferred. At that very time and up to this good time political rights are all conferred under rules of inequality. There is no such thing as an equality in the political right of suffrage. Under our present system we do already what the suffrage committee has attempted to carry farther. We establish qualifications as to character and qualifications as to intelligence, although under the system as it now stands lack of character cuts no figure unless it is so glaring as to put the person among those who are convicted of crime, has been publicly and officially recognized by a conviction of crime. A lack of intelligence is also made a test of qualification to the extent of excluding those who are classed as idiots and insane persons. Now we simply, by this provision, fix a standard of character and intelligence. We draw the lines closer than heretofore drawn but we are exercising the same power as was exercised when our present system was established. and I submit that the right of making the selection with reference to the lack of character or lack of intelligence is one that is still left with the States, and that there is nothing in the fifteenth amendment to deny the validity of any provision which is really directed to the question of limiting the suffrage to those possessed of such character and of such intelligence as to be entitled and qualified to exercise this right for the public bene fit, and that no provision on the subject can be said to disregard that consideration when the people who are admitted to the suffrage can be shorn to be admitted upon grounds of fitness of character, or fitness in intelligence, for the exercise of the privilege, and I submit that as to this clause the provision has as clear reference to the fitness and qualifications of the persons who are to come in under it as the other clauses which in so many terms


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confer suffrage upon the ground of the possession of good character and of the understanding of the duties and obligations of citizenship under a republican form of government. We give to the soldiers and their descendants the right which they have already because the history of that body of men shows that that right in their hands has been safely and properly lodged, because in that body of men there does not exist the evil which we are here to legislate against, we give it to them because they have had the best possible schooling in self government, because they have lived and become a part of our population under conditions which have developed in them the capacity to enjoy the rights of citizen ship, and I submit that it would not be in the power of any court to say that the selection of this body of men was not a selection made in reference to their recognized capacity to continue in the exercise of the suffrage. Gentlemen, I have consumed as much of your time as I feel I should take up, and I thank you.

MR. WHITE I move that the gentleman’s time be extended indefinitely.

MR. WALKER I thank you, but I will not avail myself of any further time.

MR. FREEMAN-Mr. President and gentlemen of the Convention, I am somewhat in a different attitude from many of the delegates to this Convention, inasmuch as I was opposed to the calling of this Convention, because I saw no good reason for calling it to amend the Constitution of the State, when, in my opinion, the amendments, if desired by the people of Alabama, could have been made by the legislature and saved the State from $150,000 to $200,000 for which the common people of Alabama will have to pay. Mr. President, I do not desire to say any thing in reference to the grey or the blue, for I do think those partisan questions should not come up in this Convention, for I feel that we have one of the greatest countries on the globe, and we should know no North, no South, East or West, but should stand together as one people. And I do not desire to violate the Constitution of the United States if I know it.

I do not desire to take up your valuable time in this Convention in a lengthy speech; but, Mr. President, I feel that I may say something in behalf of my constituents of Alabama in reference to, the right of franchise proposed by the Committee on Suffrage and Elections. Mr. President. I do not agree with the committee on their report, for it does seem to me that if enacted it would be a failure.

It is so arranged that the plan could be so abused by politicians that, in my opinion, would be a disgrace to the State. You can take the words "all persons of good character," in Section 4 of the majority report, and qualify whoever you desire and also disqualify


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whoever you desire; so, in my opinion, that part is a total failure, if you desire to disfranchise the negro as you claim you do by the calling of this Convention.

Mr. President, I desire to notice Section 5 also on the majority report as follows: Those who, unless prevented by physical disability, can read and write any Article of the Constitution of the United States in the English language etc., Twelve months pre ceding the time they offer to register, or will in good faith in his own or the husband of the woman who is the owner of forty acres of land situated in this State, or the owner of $300 worth of personal property in his or his wife's own name, for a year preceding which he offers to register.

Now, Mr. President, this section is not only discriminating, but humiliating to the white man of Alabama, and all enactment of this section will disfranchise thousands of white men of the State.

For the fact that they will feel the humiliation that this section refers to, and they will bow their heads with shame and shirk back from exposure of the humiliating effect this will have on them, and turn loose the State in a political life to gasp and die for the want of nourishment in the sense of illustration. So. Mr. President, in my opinion, this would be our situation in Alabama if this section is adopted.

Mr. President and Gentlemen of the Convention. I will never register my vote in this Convention for anything that will have a tendency to disfranchise any white man in Alabama. Yet, I realize the corruptness in this State in the ballot system, and I would be glad to see a remedy, but I can't devise any remedy only honesty, and I realize that honesty, is the only remedy for fair election by which the will of the people can be expressed. Now, the plan of a new Constitution has been tried by other States Mississippi, Louisiana, North Carolina, Maryland and others and the right of franchise so enacted by those States are a failure, especially the registration and the grandfather clause, for the fact that the grand father clause is too humiliating in the Declaration of Rights for the white man to come up and acknowledge his illiteracy under this clause to register to vote.

So now, Mr. President, you see what Louisiana and Mississippi think of this plan. The Mississippi scheme has been worked over by the able hands of Senator Morgan. It has some brilliant advocates, but there is one point that sticks out that nothing can hide; nothing can change; nothing can justify it. It cannot guarantee the very reform which our conditions demand. Section under it would turn not primarily upon the will of the people but upon the partisan or factional allegiance of the registrars. Are the registrars for you, then you are elected ; are they against you if so, you


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can stand aside and wait for a new century, or go off and groan your life away for not being on the partisan side of the question. and ask that what time you do live, that God will direct the ravens to feed you as he did Elijah in the wilderness, as fate is against you and you must die.

For when this partisan Board of Registration is appointed by a partisan party or composed of a partisan party, the common people of Alabama has just as well say, “Oh, King, where is thou crown?” for it will be equal to monarchial government, and we will be subject at their hands for disposal.

Mr. President and Gentlemen of the Convention, I desire further to show you that the Mississippi plan of suffrage is a failure, for this reason: In 1888 the Democratic vote for President was 85,471, this being before the enactment of their new Constitution. Now what do we notice there in 1896, being one of the most exciting campaigns ever known in the South and yet in Mississippi there was only 63,859 votes cast for the President, a loss of 21,612 votes for the Democratic party only, and still there are negro voters in Mississippi since the enactment of their new Constitution while they claim this new Constitution was to prohibit the negro from voting exclusively, so you see it is a failure.

So, Mr. President, we will now notice Louisiana’s plan: They have the grandfather clause and many other provisions in their Constitution, and they also have some brilliant features at first sight. It seems to be popular here, and it is always popular where it has never been tried. Where they have tried it, the approval is not unanimous. It provides, as this report does, a general suffrage restriction, while one additional clause is that they provide that no one shall be subject to this restriction whose ancestors voted before 1867. This plan was supposed to let in all the white men who can't meet the general test, but the Louisiana people claim that is what it does in theory, but that is not what it does in practice. They further claim that the poor white people who cannot meet the general test have, in large numbers, flatly refused to avail themselves of this grandfather clause. They are quick to see, gentlemen of the Convention, that the very pleadings of this clause is a confession of deficiency. The more intelligent and capable the voter the more sensitive he is, but the very class of white illiterates that ought to vote will be kept out if this grand father clause fails to stand the test before the courts– that is, if Section 5 becomes a law, which provides for an educational qualification.

So. Mr. President and Gentlemen of the Convention, I trust that you will not allow such a discriminating section ever to be written law in the great State of Alabama. So with this educational and property qualification in our Constitution it will, to my opinion,


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stagnate business and stop immigration into our hill counties of this State from other States, for the poor man's, freedom is all he enjoys in this world and this would deprive him of that God-given right.

After all why may not Alabama fall back on a simple poll tax provision of $1.50 from the age of 21 to 45 and this would guarantee our freedom and it could be met with by all deserving illiterate poor white men in Alabama, and we would not be subjects to adverse decisions from the Supreme Court, neither subject to a reduction in representation in Congress and the Electoral College of the Southern States.

So, Mr. President and gentlemen of the Convention, in conclusion I wish to appeal to you not to allow Section 5 to be written in the Constitution, which provides for education and property qualification for the reason should the grandfather clause be decided by the courts unconstitutional, many of our old soldiers; and thousands of white men in Alabama would be disfranchised, and I shall never permit myself to vote for such a proposition, for during the time of the cruel war between the States and also before the war of 1861, our school system of Alabama was very limited and our young men was deprived of the grand opportunities we now have, and our young men as well as older men were drug off in the war and never had the opportunity we have now, and even after the war was over they were too poor to seek for all education as their property was all gone and their wives and children were in a destitute condition, and those who had families of their own, and the young soldiers who had no wives and children, had mothers who were left widows, and sisters who were left orphans and those who loved their families, their mothers and their sisters had no time to educate themselves, and now for this Convention to go and pro vide laws that will deprive those people from their rights is something more than I can do, for I never will disgrace my father’s gray hairs by depriving him of the only free right this Government has granted him after he has fought for his country and his people and for what he thought was right. I do hope, gentlemen of the Convention, that you will vote that part of Section 5 down and not allow it to go before the people of Alabama to ask their ratification of such, for it would not only be a shame on our fathers, but a disgrace to our State.

In conclusion, I wish to say that I shall at the proper time offer an amendment to Section 10 of the Committee's report on Suffrage and Elections.

MR. GRAHAM (Talladega) I would like to ask the gentle man a question before he resumes his seat.

THE PRESIDENT Will the gentleman yield?


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MR. FREEMAN Yes sir.

MR. GRAHAM I understood the gentleman to say awhile ago that he would not vote for any proposition that would disfranchise any white man.

MR. FREEMAN I did say so.

MR. GRAHAM I would like to know whether you would vote for any proposition to disfranchise any class of colored people?

MR. FREEMAN I will sir. I am willing to sacrifice anything on that line, but the white man, and the man of my own color, I shall never agree to sacrifice.

MR. BANKS This Convention cannot afford to do anything unworthy of itself, inconsistent with its own dignity and exalted character. There are many great questions that must be settled by wise enactment of law and all these questions should be met in a spirit of fairness and in a spirit of utmost candor. There should be no dodging, no evasions, no trickery, no subterfuges, but recognizing the value of truth we should apply its rules and principles without fear and without thought of consequences to ourselves. This is not a political or party caucus met together for the purpose of gaining some party advantage under the specious plea of moral reform. This is not a body of political tricksters who by the arts of political legerdermain or the skill of political jugglery would produce measures that the courts would condemn as shams and artifices to evade law, not to conform to it. This Convention has great power, but it is not absolute. There are constitutional barriers to this Constitutional Convention. We ourselves are under authority, authority that we must fully and loyally recognize and obey, if we would expect to command the respect and obedience of those for whom we are enacting law. If a spirit of disloyalty to constituted authority is allowed to find a place in the organic law of Alabama, its poison will diffuse itself through this whole instrument and this Constitution will lose its majestic place its the defender of society against wrong, and will furnish an excuse and plea for lawlessness. Our ears must be deaf to the clamor of passion and prejudice, to the loud behests of party frailty and to the mean and deceitful plan of expediency when we stand face to face with dangers like this. Let us seek to conform to that law that we have sworn to obey not gingerly, not partially, but freely and fully.

The conditions from which we are seeking relief are bad and great harm has resulted to Alabama from the evils that have grown up in our midst out of these conditions. There has been one great safeguard for us, and that is this: Law has never sanctioned immorality. We could not plead that law itself justified and approved the violation of law.


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One of the great questions before the Convention and in the opinion of many the greatest question before us is the regulation of the suffrage of Alabama. There are peculiar difficulties in Alabama and the other Southern States that confront us in the settlement of this question. It is an old question one that had its origin in the institution of African slavery in the South that grew in intensity and bitterness until it precipitated the most disastrous war of modern rules, costing the government of the United States billions of dollars and almost a river of blood and tears and that cost the South– we have no measure by which we can estimate the cost and no desire to detail the horrors of that sacrifice. As we began again the struggle for existence in the most desolate of homes, dispirited by defeat, weakened by four years of war and with many of our bravest and wisest men slain in battle, we were confronted by a new phase of this same negro problem. The recently emancipated slave entered the race of life with his former master as a competitor for political honor and for all the best prizes in every sphere of life. Under the direction of shrewd political leadership for a time he had the advantage, but it was only for a brief period for nothing is sure not a law of nature more inexorable than her decree that in every sphere inferiority must yield to the control of the superior. For the least twenty-five years there has been no negro domination in the South and there will never be again unless the time should come when the negro will be superior to the white man in character and intelligence. But despite this fact and despite the fact that the South is no longer apprehensive of negro domination, the negro problem is still the malignant fretting, running sore on the body politic and Alabama is sick and every filler of her political organization is suffering from the poison of this plague spot. Alabama is pleading for re lief and she has called this Convention for the purpose of devising plans that shall give her relief. In 1861 wheel she felt that the question of African slavery was to be a source of perpetual strife so long as she remained in the Union, the South determined to end the strife to settle the question by withdrawing from the Federal Union. The result, of that plan are fresh in our minds. After the close of the war when the negro problem assumed a more aggressive form, believing that the safety of every Southern Common wealth depended upon speedy relief from negro rule, the fact that the end justified any means that would secure it she swept away all legal barriers that interposed themselves between her and white supremacy. The question of white supremacy has been settled. We have here a Constitutional Convention and there is not a representative of the negro race to be found among its one hundred and fifty members. Are not these strange and anomalous conditions when we remember that the negro problem is still the unsolved, unsettled problem before this Convention.


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The methods of 1861 1865 ended the controversy over African slavery, but they resulted in the more serious problem of negro supremacy. The methods of 1870 1875 ended the problem of negro supremacy, but they have resulted in such corruption at the ballot box as has destroyed confidence among white men and weakened the very foundations upon which popular government is based. Now this Convention stands face to face with another imperious demand for change some new plan by which she may forever settle this oft recurring question that like Banquo’s ghost. will not down at her bidding. There have been many plans suggested, nearly all looking to one end the disfranchisement of the negro race. If it were possible to do this there would be a serious question in the minds of many good risen in the State its to the wisdom of such a course. Would that settle the negro problem It would settle this phase of it just as the war of 1861 - 1865 settled a phase and as the methods of 1870 - 1875 settled a phase, but as in the past so in the future, would it not assume a more virulent and more dangerous form than ever before. If it were possible for this Convention to entirely disfranchise the negroes of Alabama then it would be well to consider and well to make effort to answer this question. But we cannot disfranchise the entire race and so we are shut up to the adoption of other methods of relief. Let us calmly and dispassionately consider this whole situation. More than a third of the population of Alabama are negroes. They constitute more than half of the laboring classes of the State. In intellectual power and capacity they are inferior to, the white man and in moral attainments they are far behind him. There are, however, possibilities of growth and development in the negro, possibility that should be brought out. The negro is here, he is here in vast and increasing numbers, he is here to stay. He is here to affect the life of Alabama, her commercial life, her political life, her moral life. He is here to expand and uplift and ennoble the white race or he is here to degrade and brutalize it. The two races are to be of mutual service and mutual blessing to each other or they are to be mutual hindrance and mutual curse. This harmony and prosperity of the two races must depend upon their mutual good will and mutual fair dealing.

MR. JENKINS If the Suffrage Committee were to get up some scheme that you thought would accomplish the purpose that we aim at, would you inquire into the details of the scheme that would accomplish the purposes?

MR. BANKS Why, yes.

MR. JENKINS Will you answer this question. If the main proposition is not the accomplishment of the purpose and not so much the scheme by which it is to be done.

MR. BANKS Methods have a great deal to do with it. I always inquire as to methods. Methods are important. I do not


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belong to that class of men who do evil that good may come of it. Not at all. Methods are as important as the ends that you desire to accomplish.

This Convention is here in the interest of these races and as we have said one of the important questions for it to determine is what shall be the political status of the negro race, this race constituting such a large part of our industrial population. The Constitution of the United States says that we shall not discriminate against him on account of his race, color or his previous condition of servitude, and we have solemnly promised that we will not discriminate against him. The Constitution of the United States has conferred upon them rights in a general way and says that he shall not be debarred from those rights because he is a negro, and among those rights are the rights of American citizenship. It has not said that he shall be endowed with those rights because he is a negro but it says that he shall not be deprived of them be cause of that fact. As we have said, let us deal with this and with every question that we consider, in a spirit, not of passion or prejudice, but in a spirit of fairness. Let us be willing to accord the negro his rights. Let there be no discrimination, or even at tempted discrimination, because he is a negro. It is important that we shall have white supremacy in Alabama, not because of the color of white men, but because of their character and mental superiority. The disqualifying principle in the negro race is not color, but character, and the qualifying principle in the white race is not color but character and mental superiority. The contest between the two races for dominion is an unequal one. The natural advantages in favor of the white man are so preponderating that he has nothing to fear in the struggle. There are possible dangers of negro domination. One of these dangers is to make too low the standard of citizenship. The higher the standard the greater the advantage to the white race, the lower the standard the less the advantage, because the contest is then waged on grounds that give greatest advantage to the inferior race. The higher the standard erected the further you remove the struggle from all danger of failure by the white race and from the need of employing those methods that are purely physical or brutal and immoral. The contest between the races waged on any low plane not only gives advantage to the less favored race, but it will serve to perpetuate the continuance of those methods that have brought Alabama into so much trouble and that will produce great friction between the races. The necessity for a high standard of citizen ship appeals strongly to every friend of both races and especially to those who feel that white supremacy is necessary to the good of the State. Why should this Convention be tempted to adopt a policy that subjects it not only to the charge of wanton unfairness, but to the imminent danger of having its work declared unconsti-


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tutional and thus bring upon itself the ridicule of fair minded men everywhere. Upon the settlement of this question by this Convention momentous issues hang. You are not only to determine what the status of the negro shall be but you are to fix the moral as well as the political status of both races. The attitude that the organic law of the State assumes toward the negro will unavoidably affect his standing in every sphere. Society will naturally conclude that if his rights under the Constitution of the United States can be taken from him and should be taken from him, that the welfare of the white man demands this, then he may be deprived of any right or seeming right, if by the exercise of that right he becomes the competitor of the white man. If the organic law does not regard his every right as if it discriminates against him under the plea of expediency what will become of his right under the statutory law and before the courts of the country? Does it not point to him and to his as legitimate prey for every plunderer?

But how is this to affect the white race this Anglo Saxon race of whose achievements we are justly proud and whose future promises so much to civilization? Is this race beyond the reach of temptation? Can nothing corrupt it and nothing impede its march onward and upward? The history of other races furnishes not only an answer but points with warning finger to the dangers that threaten this great race. If you give men the power to oppress, the temptation to use that power to advance sordid ambition or to gratify passion or prejudice appeals with irresistible force to human nature whether that human nature is in the form of Indian, African, Mongolian, Latin or Anglo Saxon. In making it possible for white men to degrade the negro by operation you provide the methods by which white men will become brutalized. Do you not read in the signs of the times the prophecy of this danger? The more degraded the inferior race becomes the more inevitable is the brutality of the superior race. This rare question is one of the great world questions that must be settled. What are the dominant races to do with the inferior races? is one of the many problems that steam and electricity have propounded to the philosophers and statesmen of the twentieth century. Alabama is intensely interested in its solution. She is one of the centers of this great world storm that is rapidly over casting the whole political sky. Will she rise to the dignity and importance of this question? Will she lay aside all passion, all prejudice and in the steady, clear light of reason and justice, settle righteously and therefore permanently, this great question? Every State in the United States is waiting to hear Alabama's answer. She is rep resented by 155 white men who are supported by the public sentiment. Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and North Carolina in depriving the negro of the right of franchise by methods whose legality and fairness, to say the best for them, are questionable. The States have temporized with this question. The history of


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the past would indicate that it will assume some other and perhaps more malignant form in the future. Will Alabama settle it? Let us hope so.

The white race of the State is greatly at advantage by erecting high standards. It insures white supremacy, and we cannot compute the gains to both race, in the vast improvement of the economic, the political and moral conditions of the State. It places this Convention absolutely above the criticism of that class of acrimonious South haters who never leave an opportunity to malign us. It does more it gives us the moral support and endorsement of right thinking men everywhere.

It accords with the principles and tradition, of the Democratic party equal and exact justice to all, special privileges to no one, is one of the maxims of the party. It agrees with the spirit and genius of our free institutions that the right of government is based upon the consent of the governed. It applies that great principle that has made the Democratic party great in the past an adherence to the plain teachings of the Constitution.

Let me say in conclusion, that it is not absolutely necessary to have the work of this Convention ratified by the people. We call go along under the old law, but it is necessary that every section, every Article arid every line of the new Constitution shall be just to all races, to all classes and to every interest of the State.

MR. WEATHERLY– Will the gentleman allow an interruption?

THE PRESIDENT Does the gentleman yield?

MR. BANKS Yes, sir.

MR. WEATHERLY The gentleman has propounded the statement that there should be a method for placing the voting privilege of the citizens upon a high standard. He has in a general way indicated simply that it should be a high standard. Will the gentleman now specifically state what that standard should be, and whether or not it should go into effect at once?

MR. BANKS I recognize, Mr. President and Gentlemen of the Convention, that there are some difficulties in answering the question that has been propounded to me. In the first place, in answer to the question, I would say that I would not erect a high standard that was to go into effect at once, but I would have a temporary plan, but not such a one as provided in this grandfather clause.

MR. WEATHERLY Will the gentleman state specifically the temporary plan he would suggest?


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MR. BANKS Yes, I will, with a great deal of pleasure. I offered an ordinance to this Convention on the suffrage question, and it occurs to me it provided the temporary plan that would meet all the exigencies of the case. It provided for a graduated suffrage plan. It did not disfranchise a single man in Alabama who had any sort of right to the exercise of the franchise, but it did this : it did not give to the man who did not know how to read and how to write, and who had not the means of informing him self as to the great question: as issue in this State, the same power to exercise the ballot as was conferred upon the man who knows what he is doing.

MR. WEATHERLY I beg your pardon for the interruption. I have some recollection of your plan, but I do not know that I am able to state it exactly. Was that the one which gave the man who could not

THE PRESIDENT The time of the gentleman from Russell has expired.

MR. WEATHERLY I rise to a point of order. The chair recognized me to ask a question, and I was on the floor.

THE PRESIDENT The chair had recognized the gentle man from Jefferson to ask two questions, but not three. He was on the third question, and the time of the gentleman has expired.

MR. WEATHERLY I wanted to avail myself of the privilege, and I desire to ask an extension of the gentleman's time which my questions to some extent curtailed.

THE PRESIDENT The time of the gentleman had really expired before the first question which the gentleman propounded. The chair, by indulgence, extended the gentleman's time to give him an opportunity to conclude. The chair recognized the gentleman from Randolph before the gentleman from Jefferson entered his motion.

MR. WEATHERLY I would like to ask an extension of five minutes to enable the gentleman to conclude.

THE PRESIDENT Will the gentleman from Randolph yield five minutes to the gentleman from Russell?

Mr. Heflin (Randolph) yielded the time.

MR. BANKS I have no desire to detain the Convention. I am very glad to answer the questions of the gentleman from Jefferson, and would like to give him the information. The plan provided for a system after the Australian ballot system. The ballot was to be arranged very much like the ballot is under our election law now, but there were to be two ballots. They were to be so printed as to be clearly distinguishable, one being on white


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paper, for instance, and the other to be on colored paper. An elector applying for a ballot from the managers of the election has this question propounded to him : “Are you able to prepare your own ballot by making a cross mark opposite the name of the candidates you wish to vote for?” If he answers he is not able to do so, then a colored ballot is to be given to him and he is to be al lowed the privilege of securing any marker that he wished. He is not to be confined to the managers of the election but may call in any man in whom he has confidence, to mark his ballot, and after the ballot is marked and handed to the managers of the election, it is to be counted as one fourth of a ballot.

MR. WEATHERLY That was my recollection of it.

MR. BANKS A man coming to the election managers who can mark his own ballot would be given a white ballot, and after he had market it without assistance and turned it over to the managers of the election, it is to be counted as a full ballot. This system was to be in operation for five or six years, and after the expiration of that time, then every man coming into the State and every man arriving at his majority, should go before an examining board, to be provided for by the Legislature, and certain questions would be propounded to him. One of those questions is what are the boundaries of your State; another question, how many counties and where are they situated? Another question, how many departments are there in your State Government ? Another question, what are the functions of the officers who are to fill these departments ? When these questions were all answered satisfactorily, then the man was to be given a certificate as an elector, which would entitle him to vote, and a registration list would be provided showing all persons who had complied with these requirenients, and in this way Alabama was eventually to come into a letter political condition.

MR. HEFLIN (Randolph) Mr. President and gentlemen of the Convention, we are today face to face with a problem that has agitated the minds of the people of the State of Alabama for many years and we should march out like men fearlessly in the discharge of our duty and solve that problem. It is not my purpose to consume much of the time of the Convention. I do not propose to discuss this question from a constitutional standpoint, but I will address my few remarks to the Democratic platform and the section known as the grandfather clause. We are here today as servants of the people to discharge a solemn obligation. We are here to regulate the suffrage in Alabama, and we are to deal with facts and pass on things as we find them. We are here for one purpose. But for the cause of suffrage and the regulation of the franchise, you nor I nor any of us would be in this Convention hall today.


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Mr. President, I believe, sir, that the white men should control the affairs of government in Alabama and in every State of the Union. I believe, sir, that in the discharge of our duty we should go forth and do our whole duty after having considered it carefully, regardless of consequences. I am willing to treat the colored man, the negro race fairly, honestly and all right, and give him his rights, but I am one of those that believe he is incapable of self government. I believe, sir, that the white man should rule. I believe that there are racial distinctions and prejudices implanted by God himself that cannot be wiped out by any human law. I believe, gentlemen of the Convention, that we should go further and discharge this duty as the servants of the people.

This is our country by virtue of inheritance, and it is right that we should rule it. We will rule it. Then, if we are to rule it, how shall we rule it? We should purify the ballot. We should so regulate the franchise and suffrage that the white man will be in control. He is better capacitated to govern than the negro, as you all know.

Now, sir, there has been a great deal said about the report of the Committee. I believe the majority report of the Committee on Suffrage is one of the best documents it has ever been my pleasure to read, and among all the good sections in that document, the grandfather clause is the best. (Applause.) It says that “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 the lawful descendants of persons who honorably served in the land or naval forces 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 shall be entitled to vote.

Now, you heard the argument this morning that the grandfather clause was an unjust discrimination against the negro. I deny the allegation and demand the proof. It does not shut out the negro, but it is the saving clause and brings in every white man, and that is what we were sent here to do. We are tired of frauds; we are tired of ballot box suffering; we are tired of buying negro votes, but the fraud will never cease until this vote is eliminated. Now, sir, I for one, when the ballot is purified, when the suffrage is so regulated that it is in the hands of white men only, would be in favor of putting in the penitentiary any man who would stuff a ballot box or buy or sell a vote.


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Mr. President, the negro is here among us and I want him to have his civil rights, but I do not believe he is entitled to political rights. He is of an inferior race. He is not capacitated to govern and rule the white man, and I want to say to you now that the white man has ruled this country from the beginning of the world, and that we are going to continue to do it until we are all dead. (Loud laughter.) They say that the fourteenth and fifteenth amendment conflict. I do not believe it. You have heard the able argument of the gentlemen from Madison. He has investigated this question thoroughly. He says by this provision that every white man can vote and there is no unjust discrimination against the negro. Some of the negroes are, perhaps, descendants of some soldier and they are not shut out. We are here in the dis charge of our duty, and if we go forth earnestly and honestly and courageously, we will surmount every obstacle, and when we have finished it, all will be well.

“One ship drives east and another drives west By the self same winds that blow. It is the set of the sails, and not the gales. That show us the way they go.

Like the winds of the sea are the ways of fate As we voyage along through life. It is the set of the soul that decides the goal And not the claims nor the strife.”

If we are here to discharge that duty it matters not what the obstacle maybe, if we come here with a fixed determination to stand on the platform and to discharge that duty, white supremacy would be perpetuated forever in Alabama. (Applause.) If we are true representatives of the people who sent us here, we will settle this question of franchise for all time to come. Let us be men and come up to the high standard come up to the expectation of the sovereign people who by their ballots sent us to this Convention hall. The eyes of the people of the world are upon us today, they know we are wrestling with great problems, and there is great doubt as to what the result will be. Let us be true and stand by our people and pander to no sentiment, it matters not from what section it may come, but do our whole duty. If we will do that, we will perpetuate the supremacy of the white people of Alabama. The people of Alabama decided that they wanted a Constitutional Convention to regulate this question, one that had troubled and worried them so long. They demanded a Constitutional Convention, and by their votes they sent its here. Let us prove that we are not unworthy of the trust reposed in its. Yes, Mr. President,


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“There is a day and there is an hour, a moment of time, When the gods shall be willing to try us, This test of our strength, of our purposes sublime They cannot, they would not, deny us. ‘Tis our right to demand the occasion, else how Shall we prove by our courage undaunted That we merit the crown that is placed on the brow Of the man who is there when he’s wanted The world is a stage and our lives are a play And the part that is cast for us in it May be very obscure, yet there comes that one day When we speak its best lines for a minute, Then the dream of our lives Through all these years of trials and tears The soul like soft music is haunted Comes true and we see through the tangle of years The man who is there when he’s wanted.”

Let us discharge that duty as becomes citizens, patriots and statesmen, and prove to the people that we are the men who are here when we are wanted.

Mr. President, some objection has been raised to the grandfather clause. I say to you, gentlemen, that I believe that is the best clause in the entire report. They say it is an unjust discrimination. Why? If a negro served in any of these wars, or any descendants of those of that race who served in any of these wars, does it shut him out? Not at all.

The white man has ever fought the battles of his country, and it is right and proper that he should rule and govern, and in my humble judgment, he is going to rule and govern while time glides nimbly by.

Let every man with white skill have a pride in the good work, and disfranchise no white man on account of illiteracy or poverty, but say to him, you and your ancestors have fought the battle of the world; you have stood up for liberty in the years that have gone, in recognizing you for the brave deeds done on the field of battle, we grant you this privilege. Mr. President, our armies have been composed in the past largely of illiterate and poor men. Take the war between the States, and who rallied to the tune of Dixie when the tocsin of war was sounded? It was the yeomanry of the country. The illiterate and the poor man went forth to fight for and save their country, and Mr. President, the world has never seen such patriots nor braver men. In the language of the Great Hill of Georgia, I will say: “He who saves his country, saves all things, and all things saved do bless him, but he who lets his country die, lets all things die, and all things dying, curse him.”


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We should recognize these men for what they have done in the days that have gone. When the political firmament began to darken, and it was foreseen that war was inevitable, and when the liberty of the chivalric sons of the South was threatened, the Confederate soldier coming from every walk of life, the farmer, the merchant, the professional man, the rich and the poor, enlisted under the starry cross and went forward armed with the laws of our country and the constitution of our fathers, they went forth with guns and battle blade to meet fourfold their number in the death struggle of war. They believed that they were right, and we believe it still. A great majority of them were poor men, illiterate men, men who never owned a slave and who owned very little land. Shall we deny them in this the morning of the twentieth century, the right to vote? I, for one, will never consent to the proposition. Who in this Convention would deny them that privilege? They were good soldiers as you all know. They were patriots. They were not the Caesars or Napoleons of history, but were the Spartans of the South. We should teach the present generations to honor the memory of those who have gone across the river and to honor their descendants. The lives and characters of men, in a great decree, are shaped and moulded by the records of the past. Then, if this be true, we may expect the South to produce heroes and statesmen four ages to come. May the sons of the South study the lives and the characters of those heroes, and so reflect on their great achievements that it will en able them to build a stately craft that will sail the stormy sea of life. By adopting the grandfather clause, you honor the men who are living and the memory of those who sleep in their honored graves, and we say to those men who may be among us of that grand and glorious band of patriots in that conflict of arms though we were defeated yet in sentiment, thank God.

The South is solid yet, And those who died to win the cause We never can forget, And here's to those with empty sleeves And those without a scar We wave on high the bonny blue flag That bears a single star.

MR. BYARS I wish to ask the gentleman a question.

THE PRESIDENT Will the gentleman yield?

MR. HEFLIN Yes, sir, be right quick about it.

MR. BYARS In honoring the men who fought in the war, do you not honor the negro who left the South and went in the Union army?


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MR. HEFLIN I think not. We are not able to pension our soldiers nor build costly monuments to their memory, but we should here today in Convention assembled build a monument by our votes that will live through all the ages to come. Mr. President, we should not forget the wars of the past, and we will not, as a patriotic people. Those men who left home and its happy surroundings to go forth and battle for the love of country were deprived of education. Their property was swept away by the ravages of war, many of them were killed on the battlefield. They had no means left to educate their children, and but for this one clause they would be disfranchised on account of poverty and illiteracy. I do not believe this Convention will strike it out. We say to them, those who are gone over, that

“Cold in the grave their perished hearts may lie; But that which warmed them once can never die”

The cause they espoused will ever be dear to us, and we will love their memory while we live. The principles for which they fought, bled and died on many battlefields cannot be wrapped in a shroud nor committed to the grave. When the history of the world is written by an unbiased historian, he will point to the Confederate soldiers as the one who comes up to the requirements of the world’s highest idea of a soldier, and for the sake of the glorious past honor their descendants let us here today by our votes grant this privilege for the things done in the past. Let us say to the Confederate soldiers who may be living, and the soldiers of all these wars, and their descendants: “You stand today among those whose lives have been characterized by honorable and noble deeds. May you continue in the path of righteousness while you live and when you come to that river that marks the unknown shore, may you die with the sweet consciousness of having discharge your duty to your God, your country and your fellow man. Then the lamp of your life will go out as beautifully as fades the morning star away and your reward will be a home in Heaven.

Now, Mr. President, one word in regard to the pledges of the platform and I am done. I say to you that I expect to keep it in every word and sentence if I am the only man here who does. We said we would disfranchise no white man, no matter what his condition might be, unless he was convicted of infamous crime. Now, let us keep that pledge. Be true to the people, and they will be true to you. If we break our pledges made to the people who elected us. I tell you there will be 155 of the deadest statesmen in Alabama you ever heard of. If I forget the teachings of my youth and if I forget the hardships and privations of the women of the South and of our soldiers from 1861 to 1865, if I am untrue to my promises made to my people on the stump, if I go back on the promises made to my people, when I come to the judgment, may


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God forget me. In conclusion, I want to say that I believe every Democrat here will keep the pledge. If you do it, all will be well, but whether you do it or not, I say to the white people of Alabama, as Ruth said to Naomi, I will not leave you nor return from following after thee, for whither thou goest, I will go, where thou lodgest, I will lodge, where thou diest, I will die, for the white people are my people and their God is my God.

Now, Mr. President, if we are to disfranchise that class of men, I want to make one request of this Convention, after we have shut out all the illiterate and poverty stricken whites, I want an appropriation from the State of Alabama to build a monument to that band of men we are disfranchising, if this section is adopted, but which I know this Convention will not do, but in the event it shall be done, we should build a monument to that noble band of men who on account of misfortune failed to get an education, and who were illiterate and poor and inscribe on that monument the words,

“Freeze, freeze, oh bitter skies, Thou dost not bite so nigh As benefits forget, Tho’ thou the waters warp Thy sting is not so sharp As friends remembered not.”

Now, let us move along in the good work which we have started, let us in this the morning of the twentieth century settle this question of the suffrage and perpetuate white supremacy for all time to come. If you do it this Convention here now is as the morning bud to the evening rose, of what the future will be, and Alabama will prosper as she has never prospered before, and with white supremacy perpetuated we will be a contented, happy and prosperous people, and the great cause of morality, temperance, industrial development, education and religion will prosper, and the grand old ship of state will sail on and on, and will finally land in the sunny harbor of peace and happiness and bask in the smiles on an approving God.

MR. LOWE (Jefferson) That same old ship has been sailing on and on, without the intervention of this Convention. As I understand, Mr. President, there is no proposition here as to the disfranchisement of white men. As I understand, this Convention meets today in response to the call of the people of Alabama for fair elections. You may observe the differences between fair elections and elections made possible under the report of the majority of the committee. If there be a difference, Mr. President, I wash my hands of it. I stand here now, pleading for fair elections in Alabama, not for white supremacy. The time has not existed in the political life of the gentleman from Madison who spoke today, nor in mine, when the Democracy of Alabama need appeal


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for white supremacy in Alabama. White supremacy was established in 1874, and has never been threatened. This Convention comes not in response to the demand of the people of Alabama for white supremacy, as the gentleman from Madison indicates, but it comes in response to the demand of the people of Alabama for honest elections. How are you to make possible honest elections in Alabama? In the first place, I would appeal to this Convention, and particularly to the Committee that had the suffrage franchise under consideration, that those twenty-five men, the most distinguished in this Convention, should not feel that they are bound by the spirit of comradeship to stand by the majority report of that Committee, because if they do, yielding to that spirit of comradeship they may do great harm to the State in the crucial period of her history. This is a solemn hour in Alabama. It is not worthy of a member of the Suffrage Committee that he should feel that he is bound by the report of the majority to lend his voice, his influence and his vote, in maintaining the report of that Committee, if, after a full discussion, it should appear that that Committee is in error. One distinguished member of this Convention on yesterday– a man whom I love and for whose judgment I have great reverence– told me on the proposition I submitted hostile to the Committee, I was right, and yet he had to support the Committee. Let us do away with that, gentlemen. It is unworthy of you in this crucial hour. Let us consider these questions as they present themselves upon their merits.

What are we here for? Not to preserve white supremacy. White supremacy is secure in Alabama. We are here to promote fair elections. How? Are we to promote fair elections by departing from the very principle that was instilled into each one of you Democrats by your Democratic father? Is that the way that you will promote Democracy? Will you promote the interests of the people by departing from the pure instincts that were put into your minds by your Democratic fathers, who got their instincts and inspiration from Jefferson in the early days of this Republic? Why the gentleman from Madison says, you may transport the soldiers and their descendants, and you take away that element capable of self-government in Alabama. Might that not have been said of any despotism that ever existed upon this earth, whether it be a Republic , whether it be an Empire, or whether it be a pure despotism? Take Russia, transport from Russia the class capable of self-government, the class that maintain the throne, and would you not take away all the element in Russia capable of maintaining self-government? It was argumentum ad hominem. The gentleman from Madison made one of the most adroit, one of the most specious and fallacious arguments it has ever been my pleasure to listen to, and when I put to him plainly the question, “If you did not intend to depart from the principle


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of the old Constitution and deprive of the right of suffrage those entitled to it under that Constitution and prefer others not entitled to preference under the old Constitution,” he said he would answer, and he never did.

Gentlemen, can we for expediency, when we are safe, when white supremacy is safe in Alabama, absolutely safe, and there never will come a time when there will be danger of negro domination in Alabama, adopt the report of the majority of the Committee? Will you then for an experiment, when the people cry for bread give them a stone? I do not confine my objection to the grandfather clause, but that is thoroughly obnoxious to me. Take the grandfather clause, however, with the other, and in a Republic, where all white men are created equal, a man because his grandfather served in the army, would be entitled to a privilege that another white man would not be entitled to. Is that fair and in accord with Democratic doctrine? I know but by one light by which my feet should be guided. It is not only the light of experience, but the light of principle. The right of a man to vote in Alabama should be plain. It should be so plain that the way- farer, though a fool, need not err therein. It should be so plain that he who runs should read. Will you substitute for our present magnificent system of fraud, long tried and well established, a commission established from a central office in Montgomery? You tell me that it means white supremacy! They may have intended it so, and I impugn the motives of no man. I know the committee was composed of men the peers of any man in Alabama. I know that they came here with the same impulse that I came, I know that they are all as honest men– most of them as honest as I am. I know that very few of them desire to acquire political power by the establishment of a permanent Registration Board in Montgomery, but it is significant, gentlemen of the Convention, that not one of them who has spoken has defended the propositions they have submitted to you– not one of them. They have spoken in generalities. They have spoken of the greatness of our race. That I believe in. They have spoken of the magnificent development of our State. They have told us about reconstruction, but they have been very silent as to their Board of Registration.

MR. SANFORD It has not been reached yet.

MR. LOWE It was all open, under the ruling of the Chair for them to reach it. It is an arbitrary selection, and it is strange to say they selected the only two State officers that have to stand for re election. Both of them are my personal friends, and both of them I will ardently support for re election. Gentlemen, they denied us the right to speak in caucus, behind closed doors, on this question, after eighty six members of the caucus had invited


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the call of the caucus. If I say now what may seem to be imprudent I hope I will be entitled to indulgence upon that score. They propose, in the first place, to fasten upon the people what? The first qualification I am thoroughly in accord with. “All who have honorably served in the land or naval force, of the United States in the war of 1812 or in the war with Mexico or in any way 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." I am thoroughly in favor of that. Whenever a citizen of Alabama has bared his breast to the bullets of the enemy, I say he is entitled to his place and he is entitled to the rights of citizenship without denial and without limitation whatever. The next section, “The lawful descendants of persons who honorably served in the land or naval forces of the United Stares in the war of the American revolution or in the war of 1812.” Gentlemen, for what did men serve in the war of the American revolution? It was to overturn the law of entail. It was to destroy forever the law of succession in rights, privileges or franchises of their descendants, and shall Alabama in this late day return to the old doctrine for which the very men whose descendants you expect to pick out, forfeited their lives to defeat. If, to do a great right, you do a little wrong it will be an example whereby, in after days, many evils may rush in to afflict the State. Are you going to depart from the principles that those men fought for, the men who did the fighting, whose descendants you seek to crystalize into a special class? Are you going to depart from the principles that inspired them, and for what? Not to preserve white supremacy in Alabama. White supremacy is secure enough in Alabama. For what purpose then are you going to do it? Now let me tell you what I believe. I believe that a descendant of a soldier of the revolution– I believe that the son of a soldier in the war for the dissolution of the union, who has so far forgotten the principles that inspired his father, that he is not able to qualify under the rule you prescribe in Alabama for voting, is not worthy to vote. Would you believe that your son, any one of you, would ask special privileges in the matter of qualification for voting is against the son of your slave? Would you be gratified to know that your son would ask the State of Alabama to pass a law that discriminated in his favor as against the son of a slave when it came to a matter of the right to vote? That is what you say here.

Gentlemen, the whole scheme is not in favor of fair elections. I will not question the motive of those who prepared it, but I declare to you that the scheme, as presented by the majority of this Committee, permits the most infamous frauds that were ever planned in Alabama. They provide means for a Committee on Registration. They provide means for limiting the membership of the Registration Board. They will register them for this year, and every ne-


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gro that registers may be over forty five years of age, and will be voting forty five years hence. I do not say they will do it, or that they intend to, but I say that this scheme permits them to do it. I say there are counties in Alabama where it will be impossible to do it, and I say there are counties in Alabama where it will be entirely practicable, and the Chairmen of the Committee is not ill advised as to some of the counties in which it would be practicable to do it. Then what do we come to next? “All persons of good character and ,who understand the duties and obligations of citizenship under a republican form of government.” A commission of three to serve at two dollars per day to pass upon a per son's good character. Men who are willing to serve at two dollars a day are to determine whether these men are persons of good character, and understand the duties and obligations of citizen ship under the republican form of government, and they are to be appointed by a Central Commission at Montgomery. It is an abomination. It is offered, when the people cry for bread, and you give them a stone, and we propose to perpetrate upon them the miseries under with they have suffered, when they have cried for fair elections.

I am not discussing the theories of government, or the philosophy of government, but I am discussing the practical proposition that you gentlemen of the Committee have submitted, and it is an outrage that you should offer it to the free white people of Alabama. I say that no commission should ever pass upon my right to vote. I say that the law, as written here should determine whether I have a right to vote or not. I say you should write the law plain and simple, as to who has the right to vote, and not give me a commission in my county and another commission in another county to establish different standards of good character. What is good character? It is a relative term. A man who has good character in Alabama would not have good character in Guam. A man who has good character in China would possibly not enjoy a good character in New England. Good character is a relative term, and it will be decided by your commission in each county, and will be decided according to what? I leave it to you politicians. I do not know. They tell me that 30 per cent of the negroes will be registered. You say you cannot exclude the negroes by any law. They tell me that 30 per cent of the negroes will be registered under this provision. I think so, and perhaps more, and what does that result in? It results in pulling the white people into security, and divisions and the power that has the money will come into your elections, and conclude the result of them. Did they not reject my amendment on yesterday, when I suggested that the poll tax should be paid in the year in which it was due. Didn't they reject that, leaving it payable in February of the year of the election, and why? Gentlemen, I am dealing with this now from a practical standpoint, impugning the motives of no man.


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I believe no man could sit in this Convention who could prefer his own interests above the interests of the State. I believe every man is just as sincere and honest as I am in the consideration of this question, but some of you gentlemen have been at tending to your private affairs while others have been attending to practical politics and I am speaking to you of the practical politics of this proposition, I say to you that it turns us over absolutely, horse, foot and dragoons to the counties that are willing to indulge in fraud.

Now, what do I believe a man should not be tested by what his grandfather did, but his right to participate in the government of the State of Alabama should be based on what he is willing to do. Now the substitute that I shall offer later for this proposition, will simply provide that every man white or black, who is willing to make his contribution to the public school fund each year as it matures, shall be entitled to vote. I was not entirely in accord with the remarks of the distinguished gentleman from Montgomery, the ex-Governor, this morning. I have not been entirely in accord with the argument of any man who has preceded me, but I have totally failed to find in the remarks of the gentleman who spoke for the majority report a defense of the proposition which comes from the Committee. Now, gentlemen, I know that in Mississippi and Louisiana they have adopted a similar constitution. They have been driven to worse extremes, perhaps, than we ever were, but I notice that whenever a man in his private conduct, in the discharge of his private business, or in public affairs, departs from the path that he had mapped out for himself, the beaten path, and goes into the wilderness of experiment, the sooner or later comes upon the rock, or the quagmire. Now, my substitute that will be offered when this matter is disposed of will provide that any citizen of Alabama, who, in the first three months of each year, is willing to make his contribution to the public school fund, shall be entitled to vote. That will be perfectly fair, discriminating against none. It will stand by the platform; it will be in entire accord with the platform, and what man in Alabama can object to it? It will be a three dollar contribution until forty-five years old, and one dollar and a half afterwards. What men in Alabama entitled to vote cannot make his contribution of three dollars until he is forty-five years old, and a dollar and a half afterwards? There will be no remedy for the enforcement of the collection of that poll tax. It will increase the contribution to your public school fund largely, and your public school funds poll tax will be nearly doubled.

MR. WEATHERLY (Jefferson) Will the gentleman state why he doubles the amount of the poll tax, and provides that it shall not be collectible by law?


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MR. LOWE– I will. I think it would not be collectible by law because, in the first place, if you make it collectible by law, you will enable every man from whom you collect to vote. I think that every man entitled to vote is willing to make the contribution of three dollars a year until forty five years old to the public school funds, and the contribution of one dollar and a half after that time. It is not a burden on anybody. It is not a property tax! Why, you all know old Ben Franklin's answer to the proposition that cane out in Poor Richard's Almanac. That is involved in this proposition here. Ben Franklin was discussing the proposition. He was opposed to the property qualification, and gave an illustration in his Almanac. There was a fellow that had a jackass that was worth one hundred dollars, and under the provision of the law he was entitled to vote. The next year the jackass died be fore the election came off, and the owner was not entitled to vote, and the question arose as to whether it was the owner of the jack ass or the jackass that was voting. Gentleman, it is infamous that at this stage of Democratic government in Alabama we should propose a property qualification for voting. It is unjust. We should propose an educational qualification for voting. It is unfair and it is indirect, because the gentleman who framed this—

MR. WALKER I will ask the gentleman from Jefferson if under his plan, it would be the three dollars voting or the man? (Applause).

MR. LOWE I might fairly treat the gentleman as he did me this morning not answer him, but I won't do that. I will say to the gentleman from Madison that I think any man who has not a sufficient amount of patriotic instinct to contribute less than one cent a day to the maintenance of the public schools is not fit to vote in Alabama. That is a more direct answer than the gentle man gave me this morning.

Now, Mr. President, these provisions that I have discussed, are abhorent to every principle for which Democracy has stood since it began to follow Jefferson. I say, that Jefferson abhorred the property qualification. and educational qualification, but they go further, and have given us a commission appointed by whom? A Board of Registrars that shall pass upon the good character of a man who applies to vote. They have appealed to Democratic inspection, to Democratic memories, and it should make the bones of the oldest Democrat rattle in his grave. Are we to allow the present condition that does not threaten us, to drive us from Democratic principles to which the have adhered since before the foundation of this government? Why, our fathers came here with those principles instilled into them. Are we to allow the fear of negro domination to drive those principles out of us? I would rather take my chances under the old law. I would rather take


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my chances in the field or anywhere. I am not willing to depart from those principles, or prejudices, if you please, that I have inherited, because of the shadow of negro domination. It was no such spirit that called you here. The people of Alabama are not afraid of negro domination. I believe that the standard ought to be the man who is willing to bear the burdens of the government today. I believe that a poll tax properly administered, a contribution to the public schools, as defined in my substitute, collectible not as the distinguished Chairman of this Committee insists, on February before the election, but collectible each year within the first three months of the year, as it falls due. It will be an absolute guarantee that those who are interested in maintenance of good government in Alabama alone shall vote in Alabama. I was astonished when the distinguished Chairman, after contending, as the stenographic report shows he did, that the report meant it should be paid in each year, when I showed him it did not, as the stenographic report in this morning paper shows, he backed out of his original proposition. Now I say that the man that is willing to bear the burdens of the government, and to do that within the first three months of each year, is a worthy citizen to vote. How do they propose to eliminate the negro vote? They have given us no suggestions. The majority of the committee have given you no suggestions as to how they are going to eliminate the negro vote. They do not intend– I won’t say they do not intend– but their proposition does not contemplate the elimination of the negro vote.

THE PRESIDENT– The time of the gentleman from Jefferson has expired.

MR. WEATHERLY– I move that the time of the gentleman be extended fifteen minutes.

MR. ROGERS (Sumter)– I move that the time be extended until the hour of adjournment.

The motion was carried.

MR. LOWE– Gentleman of the Convention, I thank you, but I do not need that long, I think. What I have searched this report in vain for, what I have listened to speakers who have represented the majority on this floor in vain for, is to show me, to show us, to show the people, how the great question of fair elections is to be met. You can have fair elections, gentlemen of the Convention, when every man who is entitled to vote shall be required before the first of March of each year to come up to the Tax Collector’s office and pay his poll tax, his contribution to the public fund of three dollars. But if you appoint a Committee on Registration, gentlemen, with power to appoint local representation in sixty-six counties in Alabama. I tell you, you are building a machine and you will regret the day, if not the day you were born, you will regret the day you were sent to this Convention.


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To be honest is always to be plain and simple. The man that in tends to deal honest with you can deal plainly with you. The man that intends to be dishonest shields his meaning behind a veneering of words. What is the report of this committee? What does it mean? Does any man understand it? Does any one here thoroughly grasp the full scope of it? Why, Mr. President, take the names of the officers of the State that compose the committee in Montgomery. How did they take them? They did not take the Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, in the order they come. They did not even take the men retiring from office next time, but they took the names of the men who are to be candidates for office next time. The only three men who will be candidates next time they took to constitute the Central Board. That is not reflecting upon those men at all, each one of them I expect to vote for to succeed himself, but I say it was an arbitrary arrangement, and I say it provides for a system that we have never known before, and will give us a central system emanating from Montgomery. If that Central Board are State officers seeking re-election, that gives them the appointment of something like two hundred Registrars in Alabama, and with those two hundred voters have the right to pass upon the qualifications of the voters of Alabama. Gentlemen if you want to be honest, we came here to make an honest election law, let us make plain and simple and define the qualifications of a voter. Then if one who is not qualified seeks to vote, deal with him in the criminal courts of Alabama. I do not want any number of men in Alabama appointed by a Central Commission in Montgomery to determine my right to vote. The gentleman from Madison this morning referred in the early session to the fact that all these people, the veterans and sons of veterans had a right to vote already. Nobody is proposing to take away their right to vote, but will the sons of soldiers of the Confederacy ask that in competition with him, the son of a slave should be handicapped by such a provision? I wish it was so that we could say that none but white men could vote in this republic. It is not so, we cannot say that, but we can say only those shall vote who are willing to bear the burdens of a fair, free and honest government. Mr. President and gentlemen of the Convention, I have spoken longer than I intended, and I thank you for the consideration you have extended me.

MR. PROCTOR– I move that we now adjourn.

The Convention adjourned until 9:30 tomorrow morning.

_______

CORRECTIONS

In the remarks of Mr. Smith (Mobile) in referring to the case of the water front in the city of Mobile, in the fifty-second days’ proceedings, it should read:


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If the city could settle that claim fairly with individuals, the individuals could improve the property and enhance its value to the commerce of the place, and create a large class of taxpaying property. There would be no question as to the claim itself. It would not be a doubtful claim, but it might become one where it would be both to the interest of the city and of the citizens that and adjustment of some sort should be made. I merely call attention to this case, not that I am interested in this particular section because of that matter, but because it is only one instance of many that might exist, where it might be proper for a municipality to adjust a controversy that does not depend entirely on whether the claim is of a doubtful character.

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Corrections, fifty-second day:

MR. ASHCRAFT– That is true, if he has all the qualifications that make an elector in the first Section, but he cannot exercise the right of an elector, unless he fulfills the conditions in the second Section. The first tells who shall be an elector, and citizens and persons who have declared their intention to be citizens are to be electors. He may be registered, and still, if he fails to pay his poll tax, he is not entitled to vote, although he has all the qualifications of an elector, and Section 2 refers to just such omissions as that by using the term elector instead of citizen.

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In the remarks of Mr. Ferguson, on Section 1 of the Article on Suffrage, “emigrant” and “emigration” should read “immigrant” and “immigration.”

“The minimum punishment in grand larceny is one year’s hard labor for the county.”

The following sentence should read: “Now for these reasons, gentlemen, I merely ask you to put it in the power of the Legislature of this State to dispense with the necessity of indictment in that class of cases.”

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