3012

OFFICIAL  PROCEEDINGS

FIFTY‑SEVENTH DAY

________

MONTGOMERY, ALA.,

Monday, July 29, 1901

The Convention met pursuant to adjournment, was called to order by the President, and opened with prayer by Rev. Mr. Marshall, as follows:

O, Lord, God, ruler of the Universe, Thou who dost rule and govern all things well, we do thank Thee for Thy Provident care over us since we last met together in this hall. We thank Thee for life; we thank Thee for a reasonable portion of health and strength; we thank Thee that Thou hast blessed us with the temporal things of life, and we thank Thee that none of us have been cut down in death; and we come before Thee this morning, we trust, not in a mere form, but because we feel the need of Thee, and we pray Thee that thou wilt this day direct the affairs of this Convention. We thank Thee, our Father, that Thou hast blessed us so bountifully.  We thank Thee for this State. We thank Thee for the resources of the State, and its probably development, and we pray Thee that Thou wilt help this Convention assembled to make such a Constitution as will best promote the interests of this State. O, Father, we pray Thee to guide each individual here. Give us the strength and grace and wisdom necessary to discharge


3013

CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION, 1901

faithfully every duty of life. Bless the deliberations of this body, and may they be such as Thou wouldst have them.  Bless the families of the members of this Convention at home; be with them, strengthen and uphold them. Guide us by Thy Counsel, uphold us by Thy strong arm, and guide us into all truth and at last receive us unto Thyself in Heaven, we ask for Christ's sake. Amen.

Mr. Oates took the chair.

Upon the call of the roll, ninety‑one delegates responded to their names.

MR. deGRAFFENREID‑‑ I move that the roll call be dispensed with for the introduction of ordinances and resolutions, and also for the reports of standing committees that the house may take up now the business which it had on hand Saturday afternoon when the Convention adjourned.

Upon a vote being taken, the motion was carried.

MR. WILLIAMS (Marengo)‑I ask unanimous consent to introduce an ordinance which is in the hands of the secretary.

There being no objection, consent was given, and the secretary read the ordinance as follows:

Ordinance by Mr. Williams (Marengo):

Whereas, commercial drummers, ministers of the gospel, school teachers, railroad employees and many other good men and desirable electors are practically disfranchised by reason of their occupations under the article as reported to this Convention by the Committee on Suffrage and Elections;

Therefore, be it ordained by this Convention, That, where any person is duly registered as an elector and an election is held at which he would have a right to vote were he at the place designated as his regular voting place on the day of election, such elector may vote at any other place where the polls are open for voting in such election, provided he exhibit and surrender to the managers of such election at such place where he does vote (not the original) but a certified copy of his registration certificate under the hand and seal of the probate judge of the county in which he is duly registered as such elector, and provided further, that, before he votes, he is sworn by one of such managers and states on such oath, that he has not before that time voted in such election, and will not again vote in such election, and such oath must be reduced to writing and subscribed by such elector, and the managers of such election must preserve said oath and certificate, and may by the solicitor of the Judicial Circuit be required to return the same before any grand jury. Any elector, who has violated or does violate such oath shall be guilty of perjury.


3014

OFFICIAL PROCEEDINGS

THE PRESIDENT PRO TEM– The ordinance is referred to the Committee on Suffrage and Election.

MR. GILMORE‑I have a resolution.

THE PRESIDENT PRO TEM– What is the purpose of the resolution?

MR. GILMORE‑I ask to be allowed to introduce it to be referred to the proper committee.

THE PRESIDENT PRO TEM–  Is there any objection to  the introduction of the resolution by the gentleman from Clarke. The Chair hears no objection.

The Secretary read the resolution as follows:

Resolution No. 272 by Mr. Gilmore:

Resolved, That 5,000 copies each of the speeches of General William C. Oates, General George P. Harrison, Hon. Frank S. White, Hon. S. H. Dent and Governor Thomas G. Jones be printed in pamphlet form for distribution among the citizens of the State.

THE PRESIDENT PRO TEM– What reference does the delegate desire made of the resolution?

MR. GILMORE– That is be referred to the Committee on Printing

THE PRESIDENT PRO TEM– It is referred to the Committee on Schedules and Printing.

MR. CARMICHAEL (Coffee)‑ I ask unanimous consent to have read a two-line memorial.

THE PRESIDENT PRO TEM– The gentleman asks permission to have read a memorial.  The Chair hears no objection.

The Secretary read the memorial as follows:

Enterprise, July 15, 1901.

To Hon. Malcom S. Carmichael:

We, the undersigned, respectfully petition through you, the Constitutional Convention, to embody in the organic law, plenary powers to the Railroad Commission, they to be elected by the people and paid by the State. Bank of Enterprise, W. R. Stone; cashier; R. Tillis, J. E. and W. E. Henderson, Law Edmonds and Byrd W. E. Law, Carlisle and Welkins, Weekly Enterprise, M. F. Whaley, W. B. Stalks, Stalks and Watson, W. A. Edwards, C. F. Mizell, W. S. Edwards, J. W. Henderson, R. A. Clements, Walden & Martin, R. B. Martin, Weldon Thompson, Harrison & Byrd, E. L. Marx, jeweler; Folmer Walden & Byrd, P. C. Belcher, J. H. Devisy & Co., A. M. Owens, McGel & Fleming, A. F. Micler Co.,


3015

CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION, 1901

D. B. Moore & Cry., W. H. Johnson, W. C. Johnson, T. D. Edwards, B. W. Fenny, W. A. McFilroy, W. W. Filmore, W. J. Pomeroy, J. W. Bowldvin, W. S. Price, C. W. Carmichael, C. M. McKelly.

THE PRESIDENT PRO TEM– What course does the delegate desire this to take?

MR CARMICHAEL‑That it be referred to the proper committee.

THE PRESIDENT PRO TEM– It is referred to the Committee on Corporations.

MR. LONG (Walker)‑I move that the privileges of the floor be extended to Hon. F. S. Blackman of Calhoun county, a State Senator.

The motion was adopted.

Leaves of absence were granted to the following delegates: To Mr. White of Jefferson for today; to Mr. Jones of Montgomery for today; to Mr. Ferguson of Jefferson for today.

THE PRESIDENT PRO TEM– The next thing in order is the regular order‑the consideration of Section 4 of the report of the Committee on Franchise and Election.

MR. PORTER– Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT PRO TEM– The Chair recognizes the delegate from Coosa, Mr. Porter.

MR. PORTER‑ Mr. President, it is with some reluctance that I rise from my seat to address this Convention after listening to the many able arguments delivered on the floor of this hall upon the subject now before us. I am satisfied at this late hour that  anything I should say in my feeble way would be like pouring water upon a duck's back. I was taught in early life that small people were to be seen and not heard. I am still trying to stand by my early education. This debate as I understand has been prolonged for the purpose of allowing each delegate to be heard. My duty to my people demands that I no longer be silent. I am not in the attitude of the majority of the delegates of this Convention, who are under party pledges not to do certain things. I am here as a delegate with a small minority of other delegates, representing 35,000 voters from North and South Alabama, who were opposed to the holding of this Convention. I am pledged only by my good conscience to do right, as I see it, and I am satisfied that my people will be satisfied with my action and that I will receive when I return home their plaudits: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” Suffrage is the all‑absorbing question before us today. In the few remarks I shall make I hope to speak the truth, and nothing but the truth, as I understand it. Why this


3016

OFFICIAL PROCEEDINGS

perplexing question before us today?  It is some of the fruits of Democratic partisan folly and secession. In this historical hall and Capitol in 1861 there was a body of men assembled, a majority of whom were led astray by sentiment by leading politicians, against the better judgment and supplications of a small majority. The result‑ war and blood, destitution and ruin, reconstruction. Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution. We were left in the attitude of a sick patient. The doctor was sent for, he came and prescribed the Thirteenth Amendment upon his first visit.  We refused the medicine. He came on the second visit and offered us the Fourteenth Amendment.  We refused. He came with the Fifteenth Amendment a little larger and a little more quinine, and says I will stand by you and see you take it, together with the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments. We have lived and prospered for a quarter of a century after taking that medicine. Here in the early dawn of the Twentieth Century we are assembled again in Constitutional Convention for the purpose of seeing if we call devise some plan whereby we can get around the effects of this medicine. We are here offering new inducements. I fear for more reconstruction. Are we so forgetful as to be carried off on sentiment again?  Let us bring a halt, and see whither we are drifting.  Mr. President, I am a believer in the doctrine that whatever a man soweth that will he reap. If he sows to the wind he will reap the whirlwind.  This applies both collectively and individually. We have the proposition under discussion in the way of a minority report versus the majority report, and upon that delegates are divided. It should be a friendly division. It behooves us as delegates to this Convention to do our duty, in trying to get the best thing possible for our people, and send it to them for their approval or rejection. We should be consistent, Mr. President, and not hypocritical. When this Convention met in May, there was a resolution offered providing for the seating of members by lot– a page was to be blindfolded, the names of all delegate were to be placed in a hat, and a page was to draw there from and hand the Secretary one by one, as he called it, the name thus drawn, the member whose name was called, was to  come in and choose his seat. That resolution was fought on the floor of this House upon the ground that it gave Republicans and Populists the same chance to get good seats that it did the Democrats. The Journal will show that 41 votes were recorded against this resolution in opposition to allowing their brother delegates the same chance as themselves, simply on the ground that they were Republicans and Populists.  The Republican and Populist delegates of this Convention, some of them at least, are old Confederate soldiers and sons of Confederate soldiers. It is not necessary for me to go out of this House to prove my record as a Confederate soldier. I see some familiar faces now present listening to me whom I have met in places as hot as the place we meet


3017

CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION, 1901

today, the only difference in those faces is that the plowshare of time has plowed furrows, and the frosts of many winters have whitened their heads. In my breast there bears a heart that goes out with love for everyone of them. For the last three or four days we saw some of those delegates who voted against the resolution that I referred to blistering their hands and skinning their throats applauding speakers who were speaking in favor of giving us preferred seats as old soldiers and sons of soldiers. We don’t ask it; we don't want it. Section 2, as passed upon, does great injustice to immigrants coming to Alabama. It disfranchises them for six years before they are allowed to vote. A tax payer all the time a voter after six years. The enabling act calling this Convention and the Democratic platform in my judgment, has handicapped this Convention in its work. The Constitution was partly made before we came here. The Capitol was not to be removed.  The tax rate was not to be increased. The basis of representation was not to be changed. No white man was to be disfranchised. All of these are provided in the present Constitution, and we did not need a Convention for that purpose. That reminds me of a story. Pat was in the lockup. The judge came along and said: What have they got you in there for? Pat related his troubles and the judge said, they cannot put you in there, Pat and Pat replied. Please, your Honor, they have done it.  The white man is already disfranchised here in Alabama indirectly, I might say almost directly, Mr. President, under the present election laws of Alabama, there are many white men already disfranchised. I know many good men in Alabama who have not voted since our present election laws were enacted. I remember reading last fall, just before the national election, in The Montgomery Advertiser, where fifty-seven men, intelligent men in Dallas County, got a ticket immediately after they were printed, and they were asked to fix it as they wanted to vote it as Democrats, and everyone of them failed. Subdivision 2 of Section 4, in my judgment, is unconstitutional. To vote for it, I feel would be to violate the oath I took when I became a delegate to this Convention. We met here to disfranchise somebody. No white man is to be disfranchised. Then who are you going to disfranchise? Is there not discretion somewhere? There are, I understand, ninety‑six lawyers in this Convention. They are all of them constitutional lawyers, I presume, by this time, Mr. President, I am not a lawyer. I am a farmer, but in the language of Mrs. Wyley Jones of North Carolina, after the battle of Cowpens, in conversation with a British officer, Colonel Tarleton, who remarked “You appear to think very highly of General Washington, and yet I have been told that he is so very ignorant a fellow, that he can hardly write his name.” It may be the case, she readily replied, but no man better than yourself can testify that he knows how to make his mark pointing to his wounded hand, made so by General Washington in that battle. I know how


3018

OFFICIAL PROCEEDINGS

to make my mark.  Subdivision 3 of Section 4 of the suffrage report is sufficient, and all soldiers and their sons could and should come under that clause, anything else is humiliating.  Mr. President, the poll tax, in my judgment, is the only solution that I see to this question.  Mark what I say, if any are to be disfranchised, let them disfranchise themselves. I am opposed to the disfranchising of any citizen of Alabama except for crime. I want the catalogue of crimes mentioned in Section 6 amended so as to disfranchise and put in the penitentiary every man who sells his vote and the man who buys it. The bribe giver is as mean as the bribe taker. The man that will do either is unworthy of the ballot.  I listened very patiently the other day when the distinguished senior member from Randolph was picturing the conditions in his county, and while I know he told the truth, yet wherever there is a man who proposes to sell his vote, there is somebody that is guilty of buying him, and if negroes sell their votes they should be disfranchised, they are not worthy of it.  And it occurs to me, coming from the Fifth Congressional District, the same as does the gentleman from Randolph, that in the last Congressional election is that district there was more money spent in the white primaries among white men than was ever known to have been spent in that district in all the past.  What we need are honest men in Alabama, when we get them, we will get honest elections. Section 5, if enacted into law, as a part of the Constitution of Alabama, in my judgment, will disfranchise thousands of white men in Alabama. Section 6 of Subdivision 3 of Section 4, with a poll tax, is all that is necessary, with a little amendment to Section 6, which I propose to offer when we get to it. Mr. President, we should be more discreet.  Closed mouths instead of closed doors is what we need now.  The old soldiers are over 45 years old, not subject to poll tax.  The old negro always devoted to his old master and mistress is still loyal and grateful. I appeal to the old Confederate soldiers who will be the first man to rise up and strike down this faithful old man who stood so faithfully, by our fathers and mothers, our wives and children, made bread for them and us while we fought the battles of our country. Mr. President, I am an old soldier who surrendered with General Lee at Appomattox Courthouse on the 9th of April, 1865.  I have never gotten my consent to do it.  I will paint no picture, I will present one already painted, and that picture by the lamented Grady in his famous speech at Boston:

“What of the negro? This of him: I want no better friend than the black boy who was raised by my side and who is now trudging patiently, with downcast eyes and shambling figure, through his lonely way of life.  I want not sweeter music than the crooning of my old ‘Mammy’ now dead, and gone to rest, as  I heard it as she held me in her loving arms, and bending her old black face above me stole the cares from my brain and led me smiling into sleep.  I want no truer soul than that which moved


3019

CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION, 1901

the trusty slave, who for four years, while my father fought with the armies that barred his freedom, slept every night at my mother's chamber door, holding her and her children as safe as if her husband stood guard, and ready to lay down his humble life on her threshold.  History has no parallel to the faith kept by the negro in the South during the war. Often 500 negroes to a single white man, and yet through those dusky throngs women and children walked in safety, and the unprotected homes rested in peace.  On marshaled the black battalion marched patiently to the fields in the morning, to feed armies their idleness would have starved, and gathered anxiously at the big house to ‘hear the news from Marster,’ though conscious that his victories made their chains enduring.  Everywhere humble and kindly; the rough companion of the little ones; the observant friend: the silent sentry in his lowly cabin, the shrewd counselor: and when the dead came home, a mourner at the open grave.  A thousand torches would have disbanded every Southern army, but not one was lighted. When the master, going to a war in which slavery was involved, said to his slave, ‘I leave my home and loved ones in your charge, the tenderness between man and master stood disclosed.  And when the slave held that charge sacred through storm and temptation, he gave new meaning to faith and loyalty. I rejoice that when freedom came to hills, after years of waiting, it was all the sweeter because the black hands from which the shackles well were stainless of a single crime against the helpless ones confided to his care.”

Mr. President and delegates of this Convention. there have been many noble and patriotic speeches made in this Convention sine we have been in session.  If some had been eliminated, in my judgment it would have been better for the people of the State of Alabama.  They had better have been delivered behind closed doors.  I want to repeat what has many times been said on the floor of this Convention, that this is a white man’s country; it is large enough for the black man also. The white man is ruling, the white man is going to rule it.  There is not a negro holding office in Alabama, except it be some Federal position in the Post office Department, and if that be a crime, let him who is not guilty cast the first stone.  From the best information I can get, but few of them ever vote.  White supremacy is as complete in Alabama as it is possible for it to be.  The negro is satisfied with this. All he asks as a law abiding citizen– he works the roads, pays his taxes and fights the battles of his country, if called upon– All he asks is the right to choose between two or more the one he prefers to rule over him.  This right, in my judgment, he should have. In the near future some of us will see the folly of our ways and repent that we did not act otherwise.  The suffrage as proposed by the majority of the committee.  I admit


3020                  

OFFICIAL PROCEEDINGS

the right of the State to regulate the suffrage as prescribed under the Fourteenth Amendment before the Fifteenth Amendment was adopted, but the Fifteenth Amendment takes away from the State absolutely the right to exclude the negro from suffrage, and I read from James G. Blaine, Twenty Years in Congress to prove what I say as high authority:

“The adoption of the fifteenth amendment seriously modified the effect and potency of the second section of the Fourteenth Amendment. Under that section a State could not exclude the negro from the right of suffrage if willing to accept the penalty of the proportional loss of representation in Congress which the exclusion of the colored population from the basis of apportionment would entail. But the Fifteenth Amendment took away absolutely from the State the power to exclude the negro from suffrage, and therefore the second section of the Fourteenth Amendment can refer only to those other disqualifications, never likely to be applied by which a State might lessen her voting population by basing the right of suffrage on the ownership of real estate, or on the possession of a fixed income, or upon a certain degree of education, or upon nativity or religious creed. It is still in the power of the States to apply any one of these tests or all of them if willing to hazard the penalty prescribed in the fourteenth amendment.”

This is a complete answer to the various gentlemen on this floor, and is undoubtedly the right construction to be placed upon it.  The war of 1865 is over, reconstruction is over.  Are we willing to risk the chances of reconstruction again?  I hope not.  Now, Mr. President, in conclusion I want to say a word in regard to the Black Belt Democrat. What of him?  Mr. President I have been closely associated with some of them in every Legislature that has met since 1896.  That association has been of such a character that it affords me much pleasure to avail myself of the opportunity to say that they are high-toned, refined, educated, patriotic and as big-souled men as it has ever been my pleasure to meet.  I have found them when the question of right against might was involved, to be invariably on the side of right against might --except in politics.  Standing up for the weak against the strong. In each and every Legislature above referred to, a proposition has been made by some Hill county Democrat, at the instance of some one by three would-be politicians of my county, who are out, and want to get in, and their only chance through the appointing power, to rob us of local self-government. The Black Belt Democrats after hearing the evidence as I produced it on this floor, and I made my case so plain that they on every occasion stood by me and I have been able to defeat any legislation in that direction affecting my county, and we have local self-government in the county of Coosa.  I stand here in my place as representative of the people of that county, and I tip my hat to the Black Belt Democrats.


3021

CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION, 1901

MR. BLACKWELL– Mr. President and Gentlemen of the Convention: I rise to advocate the majority report in regard to that section of the Committee on Suffrage and Elections which is commonly known as the grandfather clause. I know it is a little late, Mr. President– there are a great many others who wanted to say something on that subject, because it was a subject we had discussed before the people, and had said that we intended to try and put into the Constitution, and we desired to let the people know how we have carried out the pledges made to them. In addition, we thought that it was the proper thing to say something, believing that things said by local men might be read by the local people, and thereby more people would know the reasons that prompted us.  I know the subject has been discussed and re-discussed. Mr. President, were you ever a boy, and did you ever have a whole lot of people at the place you had to eat, and when you had to wait, did you ever go behind the door near the dining room and look through the crack to see how they were getting along. what was prepared on the table and see the luscious pieces of chicken disposed of and the nice hot biscuit, and did not you look longingly until you saw the last piece of chicken gone and the last hot biscuit disappear?  Were you ever a boy under those circumstances? Well, that is the condition I am in now.  That is the condition a man is in who attempts to discuss this question after all has been said about it. I feel like the old preacher who was invited in after the feast and requested to ask a blessing. He looked up solemnly and said; “Lord bless the owl that ate the fowl and left the bones to Seaborn Jones.” It is not expected that we will all agree upon this matter. There are three propositions that I law down that I am willing to live and die by. The first is, Mr. President, we may differ and be honest in our difference; the second, that we may differ and continue to be friends; the third is, that we may differ and yet be Christians. Now, those are broad propositions that I lay down to start with. I do not expect to see us all agree on all of these matters. We come from different quarters to this Capitol today, and we are all attempting to reach the same place; yet as a matter of fact, we came here by different routes and each of us saw different things along the way. We do not take the same route even to go to a place. I knew at the outset of this movement that we were going to meet obstacles all along the way, but obstacles frequently have a capacity of developing a man, showing what there is in him.  You never saw a boy fly a kite unless he had the wind against the kite; he has got to have opposition as a matter of fact before the kite rises. Not a great while ago sir, I visited Niagara; I got there in the night time, and I heard the singing of the water, and in the morning when I went out to see what it was that produced the beautiful music that I heard, I saw the mighty roaring river coming in contact with the obstacles the nature had placed in its pathway. I saw great boulders that nature had placed in the water, and


3022                  

OFFICIAL PROCEEDINGS

learned it was the obstacles that the river cattle in contact with that had made the water sing its sweetest song, and I looked and saw the mighty vapor thrown high into the air, and the rainbow amid the glistening spray. I saw it was the obstacles that produced all these visions that were so beautiful to the eye. When you take a prism and let the rays of the light strike it, those rays are broken up and present to you all the colors of the rainbow. It is the obstructions that bring out all this beauty of color. So, obstructions of themselves are not necessarily hurtful things. I expected to come in contact with these obstructions. Now, I am for this majority report. It seems to me to steer clear of all the breakers and give us just what we promised the people we would give them. Nothing else suggested here would effectually accomplish what we have promised the people, and what we are sworn to do; nothing else will do that work except what we have here in the majority report. I want to steer clear of all breakers and of all snags. It seems to the to put us out in clear sailing; it reminds me of the young man and the pilot, and the young man asked “How long have you been on this river” and the pilot replied, “Twenty-five years,”  and the young man said.  You must know every sand‑bar and snag that there is in the river.”  The pilot replied, “No, I don't know where they are, but I know where the deep channel is.” I want to get in to the deep channel.  This majority report puts us there.  I believe we won’t strike any breakers in it.  There may be some other way of getting through– the way of the minority report is presented, but there seems to me danger of running up on snags and sand-bars, and I prefer to go into the deep channel that is well known.  As a matter of fact, some have said that there is nothing in our pledges, that we have a right to violate them.  A gentleman stated here the other day that we were agents of the people, and, as agents of the people, we had been commissioned to do a certain thing; that when we came here we found that was not the best thing in our judgment to do.  He said the thing to do was to adopt the most practical thing that presented itself to us, and after adopting that most practical thing, to re-submit it back to the people that they might have an opportunity of ratifying what the agent had done.  Now the principal was consulted before the agent was created, and the principal has declared to the agent that he had made satisfactory investigation.  Now, he says go and do what I have commanded you, and the agent comes up and says, “I do not think that is the best thing to do.”  You know when Lamar was in that position in the Congress of the United States, and did not think he ought to advocate free silver, he resigned that they might send a Representative who was not against their convictions. But these gentlemen say “We submit the work we do back to the principal again for ratification or rejection.”  But you re-submit what the instructor did not want, and when you submit it and he rejects it, there is no way left open


3023

CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION, 1901

for him to get what he sent you to do for him.  After repeated instructions from the principal the agent says that my conviction prevents my doing what my principal wants, I know better than the principal what he wants, although he studied the matter carefully before he sent me here. That is the position of the agent and it seems to me very dangerous ground that the gentleman is getting on here.  It is a fact, as Mr. Jefferson has said, that the whole art of governing successfully consists in the art of being honest, and wherever the corrupt and the ignorant are allowed in any considerable number to exercise the right of suffrage, there you plant the germ of degeneracy which the cunning will discover and the wicked will open and cultivate the germ you have planted and make it grow to the danger and to the destruction of the Government.

MR. DENT— Will you permit me to ask a question?

MR. BLACKWELL‑My time is very limited, but I will permit the gentleman to ask this one question.

MR. DENT‑I understood you to say that the majority report squarely complied with the platform and the obligations which we are under.

MR. BLACKWELL– Yes, I think so, and I will answer that.

MR .DENT– I would like you to show when the platform says “infamous crimes” how you get in “tramps” and the other classes mentioned.

MR. BLACKWELL– I think, as a matter of fact, that we declare by our action, the crimes we mention to be sufficiently infamous to prevent men who commit them from exercising the right of suffrage.  The excellence of every government is its adaption to the state of those to be governed by it. By this Constitution we are construing what we meant when we said infamous crimes.  Sometimes we are governed too much and go further than authorized in representing the people. Mr. Jefferson said: “We are vibrating between too much and too little government, frequently.”  I hope this Convention, as a matter of fact, will have the pendulum to rest on the middle ground at the right place, and it seems to me that the majority report fixes it there. My friend, the other day when talking, made a very wise suggestion in regard to some people quoting Thomas Jefferson, and the way they misconstrued him here as to what he meant by government.  He said that it was absolutely political blasphemy to attribute to Mr. Jefferson the things that our Republican friend read here the other day as the doctrine of the immortal Jefferson.  As a matter of fact this seems to me to be very largely true.  A number of delegates here have said that they want the best government for the people of Alabama.  You have tried it with the negro as a voter.  During that era do we have the best government?


3024

OFFICIAL PROCEEDINGS

You know, sir, when the Republicans took charge of the State of Alabama it owed $5,000,000, and in six years of profligate legislation by that party they increased that debt to $32,000,000, and they increased the offices and pay of officers, and when they found we did not have enough offices to swing around the circle, and give every carpet‑bagger one, they created new offices. When the people elected Governor Lindsay, the Republicans who had their contracts that they had not complied with under the carpetbag rule, refused to give up the office of Governor and Treasurer of the State of Alabama, and you remember, sir, when the Federal bayonet was brought here to protect the men that had been ousted by the vote of the people. The Republican Governor and Treasurer brought bayonets to retain them in office. And we saw at Alabama's Capital the glitter of the Federal bayonet to overthrow the will of the people. If we adopt the majority report I think we will have fair elections.

"We will have a weapon firmer set and surer than the bayonet. The ballot though it falls as gently as the snow flake on the frozen sod, yet it executes the people's will as lightnings do the will of God.”

You remember when they came and found us weak and prostrate, before the smoke of battle had hardly cleared away, the rattle of musketry, and the thunder of the cannon had hardly ceased to reverberate, they laid the strong arm of the law upon us by the agency of the negro ballot, and brought corruption into the State of Alabama and debt, a part of which debt we are still paying. Now, do you believe that it is for the best interests of the State of Alabama that such a condition should be made possible again?  I had intended to argue many questions involved in this article, and to present some authorities, but I see that the matter before me is going to be more than I can cover in my time. Jefferson says, “The only orthodox object of the institution of government is to secure the greatest degree of happiness possible to those associated under it.”  To restrict suffrage to the virtuous, the honest and intelligent is simply to prevent men who are incompetent from injuring themselves and their fellow man. As a matter of fact, whenever we leave the suffrage to any very large extent in the hands of incompetent men, we fix it so that the hands of the competent are tied and good government is arrested, nature has marked the weak and incompetent to be protected by the Government, rather than to be the directors of the Government.

Now, in extending the suffrage, Mr. Jefferson has said that you cannot draw the line against the men that do the fighting of the country. He recommended that the men who were the soldiers, and not only the men who were soldiers, but the men who were in the militia in the State of Virginia, should be embraced in their


3025

CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION, 1901

State Constitution as electors. The only qualifications necessary with these men were that they had been soldiers, or in the militia.

Now, Mr. President, I want to say that prominent gentlemen have said, in order to make the negro useful here you must keep him contented. I want to know if there can be any contentment by bringing about such a state of affairs as we had here during the time the negro had unlimited suffrage? Another gentleman said we could not invite capital to our land if the majority report of the Committee was adopted in Alabama.  The majority report means that the intelligence and the virtue of the State of Alabama, those who are interested in good government should control it. In North Carolina and South Carolina where we have adopted these methods. We have increased in cotton manufacturing industries more than any other two States in the South, and today, more cotton is used in the manufacture of goods in North Carolina and South Carolina than there is cotton made in those two States. Now, can you think of such a thing as an intelligent man with money to invest viewing it from a business standpoint, who would refuse to invest in Alabama because the intelligent people, the virtuous people, and those interested in its prosperity rule in Alabama? Can you conceive of such a thing as that having a tendency to drive these men out? and yet that is the argument offered by this gentleman.

I want to say for myself that I may be to some extent partial to the idea of extending this benefit to the old Confederate soldiers and to his descendants, for, Mr. President. so far as I know, I am the youngest Confederate soldier in the State of Alabama. I enlisted in the Confederate army when I was 14 years of age, and I spent my fifteenth birthday as a prisoner of war in Camp Douglass, Illinois, being, just a few months over fifteen years of age which the war closed. I had to undergo the hardships that were entailed upon the men there and I know something about what those men have had to suffer, and they are entitled to recognition. As an old friend of mine used to say in regard to our suffering. We slept until after breakfast, skipped dinner, and went to bed before supper, and he said on the march, before we got there, that he had known it to be true that the Confederate soldiers ate dried apples for breakfast, drank water for dinner and swelled up for supper. These men had to undergo many hardships and I know they suffered, and therefore I may be to some extent partial to those old soldiers.

Now Mr. President, some gentlemen learned and distinguished on the other side has said it was drawing the line too narrowly, to say that we met here for the purpose of acting upon the question of suffrage alone. We are here to purify the ballot, he said.  I do not understand that there is any way to purify the ballot, except to eliminate from the right of suffrage those who are incompetent to exercise that right and it seems to me the plan offered by the


3026

OFFICIAL PROCEEDINGS

majority is the only feasible means of eliminating them. Then it is not stating it too broadly, when I say it is for the purpose of correcting the evils existing in the suffrage here. We know how many of these evils have grown in Alabama.

I went with Senator Morgan into North Alabama when he made that celebrated campaign in which he told us of the condition of the black belt in the State of Alabama, in which he told us of Roddy Thomas, the negro judge that presided over the City Court of Selma. Now, as a matter of fact, we were told then of the carpetbagger who was elected Commissioner and of the contracts that were made with men in other States to build bridges and public works in Alabama at a cost of four times what it would have cost to build them at home. They squandered the peoples money and it amounted to this, that the people who lived in the black belt which is the fairest part of creation, where it seems as another has beautifully said that “Nature was in her happiest mood when that part of the world was made when her valleys were depressed and her mountain; raised saffron crowned and vermillion embroidered.” The white men had to leave or control it, and if the white man left it, no other white man could be induced to come to it, because the negro was so numerous that no white man would desire to live among them. Some say you cannot afford to adopt the majority report because it eliminates too nearly all of the negroes. It is better than the negro has now, if you look from the negro's standpoint, does not the negro have more rights under it, than he is exercising today, the way things are?   As Mr. Cochran said here in Montgomery, hasn't the fifteenth amendment as a matter of fact been nullified, and will he not have more rights under the article suggested by the majority report than he actually has now? When you learned how to eliminate the negro, and the reasons were set forth for it, the trouble was that they did not stop by eliminating the negro, and fraud has been practiced even in the Democratic primaries by white people. When we had a division between the white people eight or ten years ago, it was not so much because of any difference existing on governmental policy, between the white men in Alabama, as because of the fact that a great number of white men believed that by the methods employed, their voices had not been heard in the State of Alabama.  When that is practiced among the white people and it comes to the point that whoever has the machinery receives the nomination and we teach it to our boys what will the result be? If a boy asks you is this right, which he sees practiced here, what are you going to tell him ? He didn't live at the time of slavery, and of the carpet-bag rule, but he comes today and wants to know if that is right, which has been practiced in politics here, and you tell him it is right to do it to get an office paying from $400 to $2,500 a year, you teach him that it is right to steal to swear a lie and if you put that boy in business in a commercial way, and he sees an opportunity


3027

CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION, 1901

to get $400 or $500 by improper methods, he will say I was taught that to get an office paying a few hundred dollars a year I could afford to swear to a lie, and here is $500 that I can get by doing it, and I see no difference between this and other matters.  Thus you blunt the moral sensibilities and make a lot of thieves and villains in your land. That is the condition that confronts the people, and that is the condition we are met here to remedy. A man's moral nature is not made tip like a house. It is not fixed so that he can have a parlor to keep his clean linen in and a kitchen to keep his soiled linen in, but when you saturate him with corruption. it goes through his entire nature. It does not stop in any one part but goes through his entire nature. It seems to me that this ought to be prevented, and one object I had --one of the chief objects I had– in wanting to come to this Convention was to do what I could to make it easier for the mothers of the State of Alabama to raise honest boys in their homes, to make it easier for them to be honest by removing the temptation from them, because you open the way to preferment through honest methods, and the way for the exercise of the energies by honest means. I think that is sufficient of itself if we can put the family– if we can put the young men on a higher plane in our land.  Why, sir, there is but one sentinel on the watch towers of liberty in republics, and that is a free man with a ballot in his hand, voting for you or I, because we agree to put in the law a great principle that he believes will bless his fellow men, and a man is a traitor, and it would be treason under any ordinary circumstances, for a man to offer a bribe or offer to sell a vote in a republic.  Whenever the time comes when it becomes a little more respectable to buy a vote, the test of eligibility will not be the fitness of the man for the place, but the length of his purse.  That would be under such a condition, the only test of eligibility in the future. We want to remove the possibility of such conditions in Alabama. When the time comes that the ballot reflects nobody’s sentiment, but is cast in obedience to the dollar – when you count dollars instead of ballots, you count slaves instead of free men. There is no question about that.

Now, I want to say that I have gone hurriedly on this line. I am glad in an humble way, when quite a boy, I helped to drive the carpet-bagger out of the State of Alabama, and while I am as far as any living man from wanting to revive the feelings of the war, I respect the motive that control the white people of Alabama in that war, and in that conflict that occurred after that war.  And I look back yet with pleasure at the heroism and the courage that we displayed in that emergency, a courage that is without parallel in history. I am satisfied with the results of the war, as my distinguished friend from Jefferson said the other day.  I am absolutely against slavery now.  I was a mere boy when the war began.  I did not know the rights and wrongs of slavery. I heard from the


3028

OFFICIAL PROCEEDINGS

hustings that it was right. I heard it was right from a Bible stand-point. Slaves were worth $1,000 apiece, and from that standpoint, which, by the way, was not the least of them, I believe it was right.

MR. BEDDOW‑I moved that the gentleman's time be extended for half an hour.

MR. BLACKWELL‑It will not take anything like that amount of time. I was just on the verge of saying when I look back at the heroism of those splendid men engaged in that conflict, while I am satisfied in every way with the abolition of slavery, and I do not believe it was right, and I think the world was against it, and, as my friend says, I think it was doomed, I am satisfied with the motives that permeated those men and the spirit that moved them and the deeds they did. When I look at their courage, I can say, in the language of Burns:

“Still o'er these scenes my memory wakes, And fondly broods with a miser's care; Time but the impression stronger make As streams their channels wear.”

Now, Mr. President, I am sorry that my time was so limited, but I recognize the fact that I ought not to have an extension of it, as there are too many gentlemen here who want to speak in regard to this matter.

Now, some gentlemen have talked about the harm of recognizing especially those men who had obeyed their country in her hour of direst need. I want to say we have it recognized in the United States Government in the pension list. A few years ago I paid to seven people, who were daughters of soldiers of the Revolutionary War, pensions during this decade, and I paid to a number of the widows of the soldiers of the war of 1812 pensions and to many of the widows of the soldiers of the Mexican war and children of soldiers of the last war, and to widows of the soldiers of that war and how these gentlemen can say that it is right that the soldier should vote, and they do not object to that, and think it right that he should vote without restriction, and yet follow right along and object to his descendants voting upon the ground that it is unconstitutional, I cannot understand. These soldier; have made for themselves a reputation throughout the world, as great as any set of men who have ever lived in the world's history.

As another has said of them, that "Some of the grandest and some of the holiest memories, some of the loftiest and some of the proudest deeds that glow amid the nation's archives, flash out like burning suns on the old historic rolls, cluster around the old Confederate.

Yes, we weep for them, of them when they were slain as did the exiles of Israel by the waters of Babylon.


3029

CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION, 1901

“We know they dared do all that men could do, and he who dareth more, is none” We recognize that fact, and these are the men and their descendants that we want to put on that roll of honor. The old red fields of Roman and Grecian valor, the dread pass of Thermopylea, the corpse filled bosom of the battle plains where Spartan courage died, paled before the deathless splendor of heroism flashing from the bloody waters of the immortal Potomac to the waves of the Rio Grande.

The old Confederate suffered defeat which brought desolation, sorrow, mourning, woe and penury, but thank God it did not bring dishonor, and even from a generous and brave foe, they have won the meed of immortality, of which a conquering hero might well feel proud.  Men who have battled so bravely and endured so grandly can never perish amid the exiled darkness of oblivion. These men should be honored for what they did.  The immortality which wreathed forever, the deeds of these men shines around about us here, and call upon their boys to remember whose sons they are and whose honor they have in keeping.  In every age of the world pure patriotism and lofty courage have been historic synonyms, such pictures of heroism have been rescued from the Lethean waves of oblivion by the harp of classical song and story. We need not turn to shaded paths of Grecian and Roman valor to find the shining thoroughfares where princely warriors crown the world with the immortality of their deeds. We need not search the storied archives of Spartan valor for names forever wedded to immortality. We need not pour over the sunlit records of genius reared by Homer, Virgil and Caesar to consecrate the majesty of heroism. The bloody annals of the world’s warfare bleams with no grander names– no deeds of sublime heroism than those of the old Confederate soldier. Their daring deeds will live as long as patriotism has a friend, or virtue a champion, or heroism an admirer.

There are many things I would like to say in connection with them, but I want to say in this connection that if we relieve Alabama of the ignorant. if we relieve Alabama of the vicious vote, of the incompetent vote, then there is no State in the Union that offers so much to the emigrant as Alabama. Think of the mineral resources, think of our iron mountains, think of our land carpeted with forest. Think of our rivers which are tied across it like bole of silver, and the bay thrown around it like a golden mantle, and think of the character of the civilization of the people here, and where is there a spot more inviting than the State of Alabama. If we do our duty here, and eliminate that ignorant element, then the generations that come after us in the language of the poet will say:

The monarch may forget the crown that on his brow an hour hath been;

3030                            OFFICIAL PROCEEDINGS

The bridegroom may forget the bride that was made his wedded wife yester'e'en:  The mother may forget the babe that climbs around her knee; But never will I forget, Alabama what thou hast done for me.

MR. MILLER (Wilcox)‑I will not detain you long in presenting my views upon this suffrage article. The article in its entire make-up has my hearty support, not only as a member of the committee which has submitted it to the Convention, but as a delegate upon this floor. Technically, the only question that is presented by the proceedings as they stand now, is the objection to the descendants' clause in the temporary plan, but properly the debate has extended over nearly the entire article, meeting a suggestion made by a distinguished delegate, that perhaps the best way to present the question was by a running debate covering the entire subject.

In reference to the descendant's clause I will state that individually I would be opposed to that clause if it did not occupy the special position in the plan which it does. If the descendant's clause was made a part of the permanent plan proposed by this article, I could not support it, but standing as it does in the temporary clause, I cannot see how any delegate can oppose it upon any of the grounds that have been suggested, either the ground of unconstitutionality or the ground of inexpediency. I will not say anything upon the subject of its constitutionality.  That question has been illumined by the best lawyers and the best debaters of this Convention and it would be superfluous on my part to attempt to add anything to what they have said. To my mind it has been made clear that it is not unconstitutional. By the temporary registering plan embraced in this article, there are three great doors by which, the voters of Alabama can enter into the field of the electorate. The first is the door of the soldier, and that admits all soldiers. True, in some of the wars enumerated there were no negroes who were soldiers, particularly in the American revolution and the war of 1812, but in the liberality of this provision as submitted by the Committee, the negro race has no ground for complaint, because in the enumeration, wars in which he did participate are not left out, and to my mind that eradicates any viciousness in the plan. If it was the purpose of this Committee, or it should eventually be the purpose of the Convention to eliminate the negro because he is a negro, then, gentlemen of the Convention in which he did participate. It may be that this plan will be looked upon with a great deal of favor, because there is mentioned in it the soldier on the Federal side during the great Civil War. Those who stand off at a distance, or those who may be in our midst who would otherwise conceive that we had a prejudice, and that we were actuated by prejudice in this article or actuated by prejudice in this clause of the section, to my mind would look with kind-


3031

CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION, 1901

ness and with consideration upon our effort to rid the State of the vicious and incompetent voter, when we have risen to the height of saying that the Federal soldier and the descendant of the Federal soldier may enter into the life electorate list in our State. To my mind it seems that this clause eliminates, or meets and fully answers any objection that might be raised, that we were acting from prejudice against the negro, or the soldiers who fought against us in the great civil war.

Mr. President, I would make one suggestion. I do not know that it has been made to the Committee, but it will doubtless be made when the part of the article is reached, and that is to enumerating the three grounds of the temporary plan, which only runs until the 1st day of January, 1903, that we should change the position of those grounds and say, first, that any man who has a good character and who understands the duties and obligations of citizenship under a Republican form of Government. Let that be the first subdivision of Section 4. I make that suggestion for the reason that in the ordinary mind, in the minds of all of us here, and outside among the people, it is naturally supposed that the most important ground is stated first and it does seem to me that ground has a wider field and broader operation than either the first or second, the soldier or the descendant of the soldier.  When suffrage is based upon the proposition of doing honor to the soldiers of our country, of course that embraces a limited number of our citizens, large, it is true, but not covering the whole ground. When we say the descendants of soldiers, that enlarges the field somewhat, but, gentlemen of the Convention, when we say all men of good character that takes in, not only the soldier and the descendants of the soldiers, but it takes in all those whose good fortune it may be or whose ill fortune it may be, has not permitted them to render service to their country in the line of war.

As I stated, Mr. President, I would not support the descendant clause of this section, if it were placed in the permanent plan. Under our plan as presented to this Convention and as I believe this Convention will present to the people of the State, we say the soldiers of the wars named, and that number cannot be increased, because there is no enlistment going on now, and therefore, the book as to the soldier is closed. He is a voter now. It is not an increasing clause, so far as I can see, although wars may come in the future, but the wars are specifically named, and under the temporary plan while the soldiers are taken in, we have closed the book. Every soldier in the State of Alabama of the wars named can go up to the registrars and have their names placed in this electorate list, which is a life list. Their the descendants of soldiers, those who are now voters, and that small number who may become voters between now and January 1, 1903, are alone affected by that proposition in the temporary plan. The provision remaining in the tem‑


3032                  

OFFICIAL PROCEEDINGS

porary plan does not make the white man, the soldier and the descendant of the soldier rely upon the first proposition in the electorate. To transfer the descendant clause into the permanent plan.  Mr. President, and gentlemen of the Convention, would be to put a premium upon ignorance among our own people, those whom we desire to see elevated and those whom we have met here to help elevate themselves. This Convention is confronted in this proposition with that grave question that has presented itself to every Constitutional Convention that has ever met for the purpose of elevating the qualifications for suffrage. It is a most delicate proposition. The very fact that we want to elevate the suffrage shows that there is an incompetent vote inside the ranks of voters, but it is a hard question to deal with an incompetent voter, when he already has the ballot. That is the question which confronts us today. That question presented itself in the State of Massachusetts. She had her election law passed in 1857 and operated under it until 1894.  Massachusetts desired to elevate the qualifications of the electorate and she wisely took the precaution in 1894, when she raised the standard of they electorate to put in a proviso that it should not affect a single man that could vote under the law of 1857. That is what we are trying to do now, with reference to our white voters.   They have voted all their lives and their fathers have voted; they have fought and bled and their ancestors have died for their country, and we are  endeavoring to hold them this privilege and not to create a new honor to give them, but merely to enable them to retain the honor and privilege that they have enjoyed and their ancestors have enjoyed for so many years.  This plan does  not put it into the permanent plan, buts after the 1st day  of  January, 1903,  the constitutional proposition put to the people of Alabama is, that all the white voters who are competent to vote under the old law and all who may become competent to vote between now and the 1st day of January, 1903, can go into the list, but after the 1st of January, 1903, no longer can the soldier or the descendant of a soldier come up and claim the privilege of being admitted to the electorate.

Mr. President, some objection has been made to the life list. If we will consider for a moment, we already have a life list, and we have operated under it for years.  We operated under it until the Sayre election law was passed, and that law required all the people of Alabama to register every two years.  Well, that was a trouble and an annoyance.  When a voting citizen of the State has once been qualified and certified and admitted into the electorate, he does not want to keep it continually before his mind that he must go up and secure his privilege again, the feature of the Sayre election law was repealed years ago, and any man who registers now is in a life electorate without further registration, except, perhaps, upon a change of residence.  Therefore, Mr. President, I see no objection to that.  We have been living under it, and while


3033

CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION, 1901

it has not been called a life‑electorate, and it has not been provided that it must be put into a book, to be kept alphabetically by precincts, one copy of the book to be kept by the Probate Judges of the State of Alabama, and another copy of  the look from each county, kept by the Secretary of State, giving great dignity and importance to the life electorate, yet our attention has been drawn to it now in a way which we have not heretofore considered the matter and we imagine it is a new thing, but the life electorate is as old as our laws, except the little interregnum of time when the Sayre election law was in force.

The registration part of this Article has not come up for consideration, but it has been argued and it is noised around, both within our circles here as a convention and outside with the people, that there is some reason for alarm in reference to the registration clause of this Article, and what may be considered in some quarters as serious alarm.  In the discussion of this great question before the committee, (and that committee sat for over thirty days discussing every feature of it), laboring hard to present it to this Convention in its best form, answering all of the objections there that could possibly be made to it, this much‑talked‑of descendants’ clause was put in, in order to answer any alarm with reference to the registrars.   This alarm with reference to the registrars springs out of a want of confidence of man in man. It was said in the committee that if you put in this temporary plan one sole ground, that of good character and understanding of good character and understanding of the obligations and duties of citizenship under a republican form of government, and let that be the ground upon which voters are to be admitted into the electorate by the registrars, that inasmuch as the Governor is a Democrat, the Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries, another member of the appointing board is a Democrat, and the Auditor is a Democrat, that Democratic registrars would be appointed in every county, and the alarm would be heralded over all the State that these Democratic registrars under the broad license of good character and obligations of citizenships, would say to the opposition the white Republicans and to the Populists, we will not allow you to register, because we do not consider you to have a good character or that you understand the obligations and duties of citizenship.”  So the descendants’ clause and the soldiers’ clause, outside of the merit that rested in them, were put in as a matter of expediency and policy to meet the fears that were abroad in the State, so that a man coming up to register, if he is denied because of the want of character, could say, well, I am a soldier, and that is self-executory and admits him at once, or I am a descendant of a soldier, and that admits him without further inquiry. So it was for that reason in part, but not wholly, because the soldier clause rests upon a meritorious ground of its own, and, in my judgment,


3034                  

OFFICIAL PROCEEDINGS

the descendant of a soldier is not unreasonable or capricious; but there is also a thread and a very strong thread of merit running through that proposition.

The registrars must act in regard to this matter.  No law is self-executory, though you write it in a thousand books, and unless you put a personality behind the law, it is dead.  There must be somebody to carry the law into execution.  There must be an executive or the law is dead; there must be a judiciary or the law is dead.  The life of the law is found in the personality of its officers, so we are bound to have registrars, and it is impossible to get along without them. Under the very simple Constitution on Suffrage that we have now, where a man has only to effect his residence and attain the age of twenty-one years, you have to have a registrar put his name down, to see that he is twenty-one years of age, and to see that he has acquired the proper residence, and even now there is some latitude, but not much, for the registrars.  It is true, Mr. President and gentlemen of the Convention, in this good character clause, there is some latitude for the registrar, but it is only temporary.  Mr. President and gentlemen of the Convention, these registrars get their existence from the representatives of the people, and no one ever heard of electing a registrar, and in all the Constitutions of all the States there is no provision for such a thing.  We would not dare to come before this Convention as a committee and submitted a proposition that the registrars should be elected by the people. Then where would you go?  Would you go to the highest official of the county? It was suggested and discussed as to whether we should take the Probate Judges, the Sheriffs and Clerks of the courts in the counties, or any one or the three of them, to constitute this board, to appoint the registrars for their respective counties, but that was found objectionable.  The great county of Jefferson is vitally interested in the registration system of Wilcox County.  Jefferson County does not want a board which might stuff the registration list, and neither does Wilcox County desire that Jefferson County should stuff her registration list.  Our population, our voting population, our property value in every county in the State, bear relatively upon every other County in the State, and if you put this power in the Probate Judge and the officials of the county, they will form plans of their own. The distinguished gentleman from Jefferson, the Chairman of the State Committee, if we had come in here with a proposition to let the Probate Judges and local officials make these appointments, might have said with some force, that it was a plan or a scheme to permit these counties to manipulate these matters to suit themselves.  In order to relieve that, gentlemen of the Convention, we recommend to the Convention and we believe that the Convention will recommend to the people of the State of Alabama, that these registrars should be appointed by the highest authority in the State, by your Governor,


3035

CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION, 1901

the Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries and your Auditor, elected by the whole people of the State, forming an honorable, responsible board, who will appoint three men in each county to perform this duty. Where else could the have better placed this power than right there?

So much has been said about registrar, and so many insinuations have been made with reference to certain counties, that the indignation of this Convention was been excited, and it has pleased us gentlemen of the Convention, to see men from North Alabama rising in their seats to condemn these insinuations as to what the Black Belt might do to dishonor the Constitution that this Convention would submit to the people. We consider it an outrage to make such a charge. We have stood for twenty years battling for civilization in the Black Belt. We have preserved those counties’ civilization in the hands of the white men of those counties, and gentlemen of the Convention, the whole State of Alabama has reaped the benefit of it. We have been encouraged to do it. We have been applauded on other occasions for doing it, and it is passing strange, indeed, for us to sit here and listen to insinuations from high authority that this is a scheme left open that we might do injury to the great State of Alabama.  Gentlemen of the Convention, we started this cry for a Constitutional Convention twenty years ago. When it was forced upon us, that we had to stand outside the law to maintain ourselves, we then raised the cry to open the gates and let us get inside the law.  We have cried for it and it has come. These great movements do not come in a day. We cannot get a great State like Alabama to move suddenly up to the point where we are today.

MR. HOWZE– The time of adjournment is near at hand, and I move that the gentleman’s time be extended until he finishes his remarks, giving him the floor after dinner.

Upon a vote being taken, the motion was carried.

Leaves of absence were granted to Mr. Tayloe, Mr. Pitts, Mr. Reese, Mr. Hedges. Mr. Eley, and Mr. Waddell for today.

MR.  WILSON (Clarke)‑ I notice in the gallery the distinguished Representative from Congressional District in which I have the honor to live, and I move that the privileges of the floor be extended to the Hon. G. W. Taylor.

MR. KNOX‑ Mr. President, I had a similar resolution to offer.

MR. HEFLIN (Chamber)‑ I make the point of order that more than a month ago the privileges of the floor were extended to the gentleman.


3036                  

OFFICIAL PROCEEDINGS

MR. WILSON (Clarke)‑That being the case, I withdraw the request.

The Convention thereupon adjourned.

__________

AFTERNOON SESSION

The Convention met pursuant to adjournment, there being 90 delegates present upon the call of the roll.

Mr. Heflin of Randolph, took the Chair.

MR. SENTELL‑I would like to have unanimous consent to introduce a short resolution to be referred to the proper Committee.

Unanimous consent was given.

The Secretary read the resolution as follows:

Resolution 274, by Mr. Sentell:

Whereas, there are many members of this Convention who desire to give some expressions of their views upon the question now under consideration, and whereas, they will not be permitted to do so under the present rule of long speeches.  Therefore, be it, Resolved, That on tomorrow, Tuesday, up until 12 o'clock, the hour of voting, all speeches be limited to five minutes in length.

Referred to Committee on Rules.

MR. MILLER (Wilcox)‑ Mr. President, I thank the Convention for the extension granted at the close of the morning session. At that time I was speaking on the subject of the registration under our pending article. The article provides for a constitutional registration which is a temporary registration as stated. The registrars appointed under this constitutional system of registration go out of office on the first day of January, 1903, they cease to exist as registrars after 1903, then comes into existence under this article.  No provision is made for that except the state that the legislature shall provide for registration under the terms of the system. The Committee on Suffrage deemed it wise to provide a system of registration because the legislature will not meet in time to do this. That is the main reason for the registration system which is provided for in our Constitution and which is presented to you in this article. It has been stated on the floor, and I have heard it off of the floor, that registrars are to be appointed three in each county under the small consideration of pay of $2 per day, that this would secure in the service of the State, in this great and important work, third class men. Mr. President and gentlemen of the Convention, your Committee had that seriously


3037

CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION, 1901

under consideration what pay should be given registrars under this system.   We looked at the expense of registering the entire voting population of the State, and saw that it would cost a great deal. Propositions of three dollars, two dollars and a half and two dollars a day were seriously argued and considered by the Committee. As a matter of economy to the State, two dollars per day was adopted, and I believe that will secure for the Service of the State good men in every county. The article designates and photographs these men to the Governor and Commissioner of Agriculture and to the auditor, gives them what kind of men should be appointed in the county, reputable and suitable men. Now, Mr. President, we believe that in every county in the State, not solely for the consideration of two dollars per day will that secure suitable and competent men, but we will secure good men, and this will pay their expenses and they will largely contribute their services in honor of the State and to help us in their great cause. It is not considered that the two dollars per day will be full compensation for this great work, but in connection with the patriotism of our people, at least in our part of the State. we are satisfied we can secure good men, the best in the county to serve the State of Alabama in this great work.

MR. deGRAFFENREID‑ May I interrupt the gentleman a moment?  The State of Alabama only pays these delegates to this Convention four dollars per day, and they pay their own expenses.

MR. MILLER‑‑Yes, sir; and the registrars in canvassing the counties in the State of Alabama will have very little expense unless in crossing a river and paying ferriage. Two dollars per day will be ample to meet any expense that they will be put to, and more too.   Of course large counties like Jefferson and Montgomery and Mobile, where they have to lodge and spend a great deal of time, in those large cities they will have more expense than out in the rural districts but with us in the rural districts‑‑and we constitute the great body of the State of Alabama‑the registrars will go from beat to beat, and from precinct to precinct, and not have any lodging or  horse feed to pay, only occasionally to be put across the river at a small ferriage charge. So we allowed that two dollars would secure all over  the State of Alabama competent, suitable and patriotic men who will discharge this, duty to the State of Alabama. Mr. President, as has already been alluded to in the argument made by our distinguished President.  We selected the Governor, Auditor, and Commissioner of Agriculture because they resided in different parts of the State. One, the Auditor, in North Alabama, the Commissioner of Agriculture in the Black Belt, and the Governor in the southeastern portion of the State, so that in settling this great question of registrars, every, portion of the State will be fully, fairly and equally represented.   We have endeavored in this article, Mr. President, and in all these clauses that are under argument, to present to this Convention a fair disposition of this great


3038                  

OFFICIAL   PROCEEDINGS

question, which is the question which brought us together. So, Mr. President, we see that there is no ground, there is no serious ground, there is no real ground for any man to suspicion or to insinuate or to charge that this scheme is left open for some unlawful purpose. Why, it might be as easily charged that the door is open in Jefferson County, as that the door is open in Wilcox County. Is it to be said and is it to be understood, that because we have maintained up to this good hour the supremacy of the white man in the black county outside of the law, that therefore we will do it when the law will condemn us?   Mr. President and gentlemen of the Convention, the adoption of this Constitution will work one great revolution in the black belt. There are thousands of the best men in the State of Alabama, whose hearts have always ached because we had to go outside of the law to maintain ourselves. We have clamored for an opportunity to stand up in court with very truth upon our lips and we have prayed and worked for this hour, and it is to be said now because this Constitution is adopted that, we will continue to live outside of the law. So far, Mr. President, there has been such a dire necessity upon the white people of the black belt to go outside of the law that there was not and could not be any public sentiment to condemn it. But as I said with those men in the black belt, when they called into existence this great Convention, to do this work at an expense perhaps of seventy-five thousand dollars to the State of Alabama, and open up the way by which our people can live inside of the law, there will be a public sentiment in the black belt, and a public sentiment in favor of all things rising far above even a Constitution or a statute, we will have a public sentiment that will aid this Constitution, we will have the public sentiment that called the Constitution into existence, we will have a public sentiment that will permeate every statute passed upon the subject. Therefore we say that it is gratuitous, that it is uncalled for, and that it is mortifying, that insinuations should be made that the door is left open for certain counties.  Mr. President, the permanent election law, the permanent qualifications to the franchise‑we have met to elevate the qualifications for suffrage. As stated in the argument in the morning, no State can take the whole body of a people and raise them up to the second story at one effort. We have built by this article a stairway front the floor upon which our suffrage now rests, up to a second story. We have laid the steps, three grades of steps, to elevate our people into the second story, into an elevation on the suffrage question. We want to build our people up, a government should seek to elevate its people.  We have put step by step good character, the soldier and the descendant of the soldier, and then after the first day of January, 1903, we have made a broad platform‑‑as good a qualification for suffrage as exists in the United States. We have said while that is high compared with where we were, still it is not too high. We have said he who can write and read an article of the Constitution of the United


3039

CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION, 1901

States and who has been employed regularly for the last twelve months can vote, that is to a man after the first day of January, 1903, or if he cannot write and read or should be wanting in regular employment and cannot come under that clause, why then this instrument says to him, if the Convention adopts it, any man who owns certain property, forty acres irrespective of its value and there is wrapped up in that forty acres the germ of a noble principle in suffrage. It is crowning the home with honor; any man who owns his forty acres irrespective of its value, or other real estate of three hundred dollars in value, or personal property of three hundred dollars in value, or if his wife and he the representative of her and his children own three hundred dollars of real or personal property, should be entitled to vote.  That is saying to the people of Alabama, taking the two systems together, the temporary and the permanent, the temporary saving here is the life boat it is coming along for sixty days through the country, and a few more days in the large counties where they have large cities, and all soldiers, descendants of soldiers, all who are of good character get in on the life boat. Then the book closes and the State of Alabama says to all of her people, no more soldiers, we are taking care of them, and have taken care of them; no more descendants of soldiers, because we do not want to put a premium on ignorance in our own blood, but you must come up on the question of intelligence and industry, you must come up on the question of property, in order to take part in the conduct of this great government.

MR. SANFORD (Montgomery)– Do you take care of the descendants beyond 1903, or soldiers either?

MR. MILLER– No, sir: the soldiers are all in.  Mr. President, this is the permanent plan, and the two plans taken together, when this Constitution goes out to the people it says here is provision for all you soldiers now, and all of you are of good character and understand the duties and responsibilities of citizenship, whether you be black or white. Then close the book, and then it says there is the school house, and there is the appropriation to pay the teacher, and you voters who have been made safe must put your children in the school room, you must teach your children to accumulate. We have made no guarantee to unborn ages of the ballot. We would be traitors to our own blood if we did, outside of their personal exertions. We must put the coal of fire upon the backs of those of our blood when we are putting it upon the back of a black man. We must not remove the incentive from one race and keep it upon another. Much less would I remove the incentive from my own race.

MR. OATES‑ I would like to ask the gentleman a question.

THE PRESIDENT PRO TEM‑ Will the gentleman yield?


3040                  

OFFICIAL PROCEEDINGS

MR. MILLER‑‑Certainly.

MR. OATES‑Just now I understand you to say that it has been insinuated in the Convention that the present scheme in registration was to enable the black belt counties to make a false registration or perpetuate a fraud?

MR. MILLER‑‑Yes.

MR. OATES‑‑‑Do you attribute that or any of it to the minority members of the committee?

 

MR. MILLER– Not one of them, never heard a syllable from a member of the minority report of the committee, but it was made upon this floor and it has been made outside.

MR. deGRAFFENREID‑‑‑I would like to ask the gentleman a question.

THE PRESIDENT PRO TEM.‑Will the gentleman yield?

MR. MILLER‑Yes, sir.

MR. deGRAFFENREID‑‑I would ask you if it is possible for any such fraud to be perpetrated, does not this provide that there shall be a list of persons registered and placed in the Probate office, and another list sworn to by the Registrars and sworn to by the Secretary of State. If that be so, how could there be any fraud?

MR. MILLER‑ Mr. President, this law requires that the Registrars shall make out a list, and file it with the Probate Judge of the county. The Probate Judge of each county is required, and he is paid for it, to take that list and make it out alphabetically by precincts, make it out in duplicate, in well bound books, one he retains in his own  office and the other is filed with the Secretary of State. That list filed by the Registrars, and those duplicate books made from that, compose the names of every man who is registered in the county. I will not consume any time discussing the superiority of the white man over the black man. As far as I am concerned I have for a long time been satisfied can that subject, but I think that this article as presented by the Committee on Elections and Franchise is one of the best proofs that the white man is superior. Why, Mr. President, if a stranger somewhere away oft should have been sitting in the gallery listening to the debates here, he would have been led to conclude that the question of our superiority was doubtful, it has been so publicly, constantly and eloquently argued. That is a conceded proposition, and the article before us, Mr. President, is a magnificent tribute to our superiority. Here we are assembled, presumed to be the leading men of the State of Alabama in Constitutional Convention assembled. Not a negro sits upon the floor. And so far as that is concerned, we have all power under the limitations of the Consti-


3041

CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION, 1901

tution of the United States. But when you read this article which has been submitted you will find in all of its analysis in favor of the first proposition that where he was in war we have admitted him as a soldier; where he is a descendant of parents that were in a war no, matter whether a war for us or against us, we have admitted him. We have put the general, noble clause, every man of good character‑and who is afraid of that, only the man whose character is in dispute is afraid of that clause. Every man of good character can come in and there will be negroes that will come in under that clause. I lay it down that here in this very article itself, is not only a declaration of the law made by white men, but it is a declaration of the highest law that the white, people of Alabama can make, and under it the negro will be treated fairly. The adoption of this Constitution will work a large advantage to the negroes of the State of Alabama. I have a tender feeling for the negro. Every allusion to our obligations to him that has been made in' this Convention by distinguished men, eloquently and truthfully made, has found an echo in many a heart where the echo has not been expressed we do regard him. and the adoption of this Constitution will be the best thing for him. In the history of my county, Mr. President, after the war, after 1867, when the negro by the 15th amendment, and admission into politics was brought into active controversy with the white men. why our court houses had a different air about them‑when he went to the ballot box against us by thousands in the majority. When be came into the court room the antagonism was there, but since 1880 and some years since when he has subsided, sleeping around us as a volcano without eruption, the court room was a different air. It is better, the laws are more fairly administered, the antagonism has been removed, and when this Constitution has been adopted and the unworthy and the incompetent are cut out he will stand before us as an ordinary citizen without antagonism to the superior race, and we will look with sympathy, we feel the trust that this great instrument has reposed in us by making us in fact and in law the superior as by nature we are. Now we only have it by nature, this Constitution gives it to us lay law, and that will create the springing up of a feeling to do justice in all matters, in dealing in the courts, and all his civil rights will be more firmly and cheerfully accorded to him. We hear a good deal about the opposition to this Constitution that we are framing. We hear a great deal and read a great deal in our newspapers criticizing this matter, criticizing that matter, criticizing the length of our stay here, but that is all natural. That is to be expected. I vas impressed the other day in a conversation with‑I was going to say a distinguished gentleman from Mississippi‑but I will say intelligent gentleman from Mississippi, the word distinguished has a promiscuous use. He was an intelligent man, and said while the Mississippi Convention was in session nearly every paper in the State was criticizing its delays. its slow movements, criticizing this proposition and that


3042      

OFFICIAL PROCEEDINGS

proposition, but he said when they closed the book and submitted it to the people they all came as one man and supported it.

MR. OATES‑Do you know how many days they were in session?

MR. MILLER‑Three months, I understand.

MR. OATES‑ Ninety‑four days.

MR. MILLER‑In session ninety‑four days and severely criticized, not only for measures they adopted, but measures they refused to adopt, for the length of time they remained in session. In Kentucky it was the same way, I understand they were in session seven months in Kentucky.

MR. OATES‑They were nine months in session in Kentucky, as I was informed by Mr. Walker, who was a stenographer to this Convention until recently.

MR. MILLER‑It is perfectly natural for criticism to spring up on the outside‑we have it on the inside. A proposition springs up here and we have able and long arguments on both sides. We have antagonisms here and they go out all over the State of Alabama, through the hearts of the people who participate in these debates and take sides, but when they settle the matter in this hall our minority submit to the will of the majority can whatever proposition it may be, quiet is brought within this great rank of men and quiet grows out, and after the wave of dissent and criticism will come the wave of content and satisfaction, and I say it is my firm belief and my expectation that when this Convention of men such as are here seals the book and sends it forth to the people, just as we subside here so will calm and satisfaction spread out all over the State of Alabama, and our Constitution will be adopted.

MR. SOLLIE (Dale)‑Mr. President and gentlemen of the Convention, I am for the "grandfather" clause as it appears in the majority report of the Committee, except that I am more so. I believe the "temporary plan" is too short, and that it should be extended a couple of years. I have, therefore, prepared an amendment so extending it, which I shall offer at the proper time, and which I shall discuss in connection with what I have to say upon the section as a whole.

In the early stages of the debate on this Section I was more anxious to address you than I now am. I felt deeply interested in the "soldier" and "grandfather" clauses, and had run down with care the arguments upon them, and satisfied myself reasonably of their legal validity. Like others who have addressed you, I was anxious to submit the result of my investigations for your consideration; and I was disappointed when I learned that a program had


3043

CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION, 1901

been arranged which rendered it impossible for me to obtain the floor according to our written rules, which give it to the first to claim it. One by one my own arguments have been made and remade by those who have preceded me, till I have little appetite for threshing the much‑beaten straws over again. It was probably as well that I, like some pleaders in chancery, simply adopt the allegations and denials of my co‑respondents. I think I shall do so; and as part of my speech I here and now urge that you bring again in review before your minds the very, able arguments and reasonings offered already in support of the "grandfather" clause of the Section. No abler efforts were ever made in this hall in support of any proposition. This much done, I might well rest the cause; but I, too, have a pride of individual opinion which I will not surrender till I have contributed such arguments as seem yet left to me in the case.

When Napoleon lectured his army near the pyramids in Egypt he told them that forty centuries looked down upon them. Perhaps so many centuries do not look down upon us; but the attention of a greater people and government; than Napoleon knew is fixed upon us, and the liberties and happiness of a more highly civilized state than his dreams ever saw are entrusted to our charge.

After ceding to us our possession, of the West, Napoleon stated that be had given to England a maritime rival which sooner or later would humble her pride. He built more wisely than he knew. While we are great in maritime achievements, it is in the science of civil government that the country whose boundaries he extended has made its most marked progress. That essentially military genius would probably stand transfixed in wonder and amazement if he could behold now the ripened product of our peaceful labors of the Nineteenth Century, if he could look upon us as the rising sun of the new century baptizes the magnificent and colossal structures we have erected with its kisses and warms our hearts and enlivens our hopes with its embraces.

But our history records a grievous error. Our fathers made one mistake which has proven a perpetual handicap to our sunny southland and placed it in almost hopeless discord with the other sections of the Union. It was contrary, to the principles of freedom and liberty embedded deep in the American heart that slavery should exist in our midst. The negro, the slave. was not indigenous to our country nor kindred to our blood. His presence whether as slave or as freeman, became an element of discord. His enslavement for a time was the only treatment for his existence here. We adopted it. In fact, brought him here that he alight become a slave. But in doing so we committed a national sin. The God of the Universe did not counsel it. It was our sinful love of power and gain that dictated it. We might have known that the retribu‑


3044      

OFFICIAL PROCEEDINGS

tive hand of the Almighty would rest heavily upon us and our children. Our crime may not go unpunished. I, for one, believe that a national good to the negro has been and will be yet further wrought out as its result. I do not know nor do I seek to learn the final extent of character of that good. He who does all things well will bring it out in His own good time and way. But we are remitted to our own accounting. What shall it be? These veterans whose faces I see can answer that question from their experience. We began the accounting when the blood of our fathers first received the taint of aristocratic indolence, and they began to shun wholesome effort and to rely upon the labor of the slave and feel too proud themselves to work.  It was continued in the bickering, which preceded and let to the war between the States. That war was part of it. Our reconstruction was part of it.  The shamefully corrupted suffrage of recent years is part of it. Our prostrated and devastated South, our unequal opportunities in the race of progress and the graves of our dead heroes are all part; of the painful accounting we have thus far given for the sin committed. Yet, with all our sins, we of the South were more sinned against by our brethren of the North than sinning.  They were our partners in the original sin, but they took advantage of the climatic conditions which brought the negro to the South to wash their hands of him, and then turned upon us to persecute and destroy us for the very crime they had helped us commit. They did not become the worst of known oppressors, for they left life in a small remnant of us and allotted to us conditions under which it was possible for us to prosper. But I challenge all history for an instance of more radical wrong than was their enfranchisement of the freed slave with its accompanying reconstruction measures. Nothing short of the most intense hatred could have led to it. It was as if the victor should stoop above his prostrate foe and inject into his veins a virulent poison that would corrode and stagnate his blood and infest him with corrupting sores all the day of his life. I do not remember the bitterest of the experiences nor the gloomiest of the days that followed, as the older delegates here do, but the spirit of my father, who gave first his fortune and then his life to the Lost Cause, lives in me, and swells my bosom almost to bursting when I remember our wrongs.  I am a son of the South and love its weal and deprecate its woes.  This Convention is called that we may in a peaceful and lawful way correct the evil as far as possible, and presents to us for settlement for many years to come the relative political status of the white man and the negro in Alabama. A more difficult task was probably never given to a body of men.  We stand here hedged about on the one hand by the Fifteenth Amendment to the Federal Constitution; on the other by pledges to our people, to our fathers and mothers and brothers and sisters and our children, which bind our consciences as firmly as the decrees of fate and which are as sacred and dear to us as liberty or life.  If we construe the Fifteenth Amendment


3045

CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION, 1901

as it seems the minority of the Committee would have us do, we almost despair of relief, and the amendment becomes, indeed. a direct and continuing menace to and blight upon our peace. happiness and prosperity, a cup of bitterness upon our lips, a bitter and nauseous pill to our stomachs, an aching and deadly pain in our hearts, and a great liar‑sinister upon our lives, reducing and degrading our proud spirits and placing us upon an artificial. enforced and unnatural political level and equality with the slave of all the ages past, the negro.

I agree with gentlemen who have preceded me, that the Fifteenth Amendment contravenes the laws of nature, the lights and teachings of history and the rules and conditions of liberty itself.  Would any gentleman say that the proud eagle, the king of birds, would have accorded to him the full measure of liberty to which he is entitled if he was brought down from his giddy heights and made to sort with the snipe?  Could it be contended that the lion was free when he enjoyed only the privilege and capacity of locomotion which nature has given to the hedgehog?  Can it be contended that we, the proudest and best example and specimen of the world’s greatest race; we, the sons of Caucasian fathers, of Saxon and Norman‑French lineage, the sons of American heroes, enjoy our full measure and right of liberty and freedom when we have no more than call be enjoyed by the ebon sons of dark and benighted Africa. I tell you, gentlemen, that with existing conditions in Alabama, the Fifteenth Amendment, if construed through the glasses of the minority of the Committee, operates a curtailment of our liberties. Then we crave of you, gentlemen of the minority, that you view us through the spectacles of charity when we exhibit a spirit of unfriendliness to the Fifteenth Amendment in our construction of it. We are disposed to resolve all reasonable doubts against it and in our own favor. But, leaving the moral bearings for a tune and coming to the legal points involved.  I will to say. Mr. President, that I am not as entirely clear and positive in my convictions that the "soldier" and "grandfather" clauses are constitutional as I would prefer to be. At least it cannot be denied that no court has ever decided the question, and we must admit that it is close and that the argument are not all on one side of it. Further, I do not share in the sentiment which has occasionally found expression in the slightly sarcastic repartees hurled by some of the advocates of the majority report at some of the leaders of the opposition. I deeply regret that even the heat of debate should have given rise to either the sentiment or its expression. Though I believe it to have been only the impulse of the passing moment in each case, and that the shade, of forgetfulness should take it to their bosom and out of our memory. As for these gentlemen who believe the "grandfather" clause to be unconstitutional, we know them to be brave men and true. Many of them have already earned and are justly wearing the title of hero. When


3046      

OFFICIAL PROCEEDINGS

I look on the empty sleeve of my friend front Montgomery, Governor Gates, and recall the memories of the long years dating back to my infancy, during which I have watched and admired his remarkable career; when I remember the many deeds of patriotism which his life records, and I see him here in this hall contending like the true man I know him to be for what he believes to be the right, I cannot, I will not, call his motives question. I believe, however, that he and those holding with him are in error, and must, therefore, differ from them and oppose my vote against theirs.

Their arguments may be reduced to three propositions:

First‑ They say the "grandfather” clause contravenes the genius and spirit of our institutions and destroys our republican form of government.

Second—They say it violates the fifteenth amendment to the Federal Constitution; and

Third–That the whole of the temporary plan offered by the section is so mutually dependent, the one part upon the other, that the "grandfather" clause, which they assume to be unconstitutional, if left in the section, will render the whole section invalid; that the whole section will fall with it.

The first of the two propositions contained in the first division of their argument, viz: that the clause violates the spirit and genius of our institutions, can have no legal force whatever and may well be passed over without more than passing notice . There’s no provision in the Federal Constitution compelling the States to preserve the spirit and genius of our institutions beyond the express or implied provisions of the Constitution itself; and it is so clear that it does not contain any provision which by any stretch of construction could be said to protest and secure the spirit and genius of our institutions in a manner like this “grandfather” clause that it would be an idle waste of your time to attempt to demonstrate to you that it does not.

It is almost equally clear that the clause does not destroy our republican form of government. When the worst that can be is said of it, it is simply the selecting by us of a class of our citizens who shall vote and denying to other classes the right to do so.  This practice is as old as the government itself, and was in full force when both the articles of confederation and the Federal Constitution were framed; and has been continued in every State of the Union ever since without ever being questioned by any one. The practice is in fact one of the bedrock principles of our form of government; and like other well established customs is a part of the Constitution, written between its lines, to remain there forever, or until removed by some amendment to it.


3047

CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION, 1901

Does the fifteenth amendment remove it?   Here comes the real tug of war. We know that it does not remove it generally; for we have various express decisions from the courts of last resort upholding the practice. It does seem to me that the opposition practically yield the point insofar as the constitutionality of the defense is questioned by them when they admit the “soldier” clause to be constitutional.  These propositions are so firmly and thoroughly settled that they cannot be gainsaid by any one making any pretensions to being a lawyer:

First‑‑‑That the right to vote is not a right or immunity, secured to the citizen by any thing in the Federal Constitution preceding the fifteenth amendment; but is a mere privilege which may or may not be conferred at the discretion of the government ;

Second‑ That the right to confer upon the citizen the privilege of voting was not conceded to the general government in the Federal Constitution as originally framed, but was reserved to the States;

Third‑ That none of the amendments prior to the fifteenth amendment interfered in any way with the absolute right and power of control in the States of the matter of the right to vote.

Fourth‑That the matter of the qualifications of the voters was left entirely with the States, with the single exception that the Federal Constitution adopted as is own the qualifications which each State might adopt as the qualifications of its voters; for electors and for representatives in the lower house of Congress; and,

Fifth‑That the fifteenth amendment did not directly confer the right to vote on any one, and did not interfere with the right of the States to fix and prescribe the qualifications of its voters absolutely at their own will, by whatever arbitrary rule they might choose, with the single exception that the right to vote should not be denied to a citizen or abridged on account of his race, color or previous condition of servitude.

The strongest argument offered by the opposition is that in which they insist that the "grandfather" clause creates a class of  voters with given qualifications, and that these qualifications are such that the other classes cannot by any effort or through any possible agency attain to them. Exactly this is true of the soldier provided for. The tears, the fighting in which has qualified him where in the past. No man who did not then, can now fight in those wars. It is as impossible to become a soldier now for the first time in one of those wars as it is to become the descendant of such soldier. If the argument is made that the quality of soldier was acquired by the individual character, whereas being a descendant of a soldier is not, we answer that our suffrage plan is prospective, to operate in future, and not retrospective, operating in the


3048                  

OFFICIAL PROCEEDINGS

past, and there is no earthly chalice for the other fellow to acquire the particular soldier quality which qualifies; so the principle remains the same.

The lines get shadowy as we follow them and are hard to keep. We must not confound morals with the law of the case. The moral right of the soldier is much stronger than of the descendant ; but if the law forbids the exception alike as either, the soldiers  higher moral right cannot remove the law’s stern mandate.

The opposition concede the constitutionality of the soldier clause. It and the "grandfather" clause stand upon precisely the same footing in the law’s eye.

But it is really no valid objection to the “grandfather” clause that it prescribes a qualification which is arbitrary, and which one class has and the others cannot acquire.  This was settled beyond all question in the case already read to you in which the woman attempted to enforce her right to vote.  As has been well said, she can never acquire the quality of being a man.  It is only when the qualification, which may otherwise be arbitrary, operates to deny or abridge the right to vote because of the race, color, or previous condition of servitude of the citizen that it becomes obnoxious to the fifteenth amendment.

Then proceeding by the exclusive method, we have as premises all these: The franchise is only a privilege, not a right; it can be conferred by the State only, and the Federal government cannot confer it; and the State may prescribe any qualification or select any class it chooses, provided it does not deny the privilege to any one on account of his race, color or condition of servitude. Then the clause is not objectionable because it is arbitrary or because it creates a voting class.  Does it do these and exclude the negro on account of his race, color or previous condition of servitude? We insist that it does not. To begin with, a large number may vote under the clause.  Much has been said about the percentage included on the one hand and excluded on the other between the whites and the blacks. I do not believe that the respective percentages are of so much value in the argument. In my opinion, if substantial number of each race is included in the clause that ends inquiry, and the law will be upheld, independently of the other considerations to which I wish later to call you attention.

MR. BEDDOW– I move that the gentleman’s time be extended until he can finish his speech.

Leave was granted.

MR. SOLLIE– For a long time I staggered around about this proposition and it seemed that the whole argument ended with it.


3049

CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION, 1901

I could see no escape from the proposition that if the practical effect of the clause was to include practically all white men and exclude practically all negroes, it would fall under the fifteenth amendment. And I do not share in the view of some of the very able lawyers on our side which set entirely at naught the Chinese queue case and the others read by the opposition.  Nor do I understand that the gentleman from Montgomery, Governor Jones, asserted or believed that these cases were conclusive as adjudications directly on the matter in hand. I think they fully understood that they were rendered on different propositions from the fifteenth amendment.   I think they read them as being general declarations of legal principles upon kindred propositions and that by analogy of reasoning they applied to our case. I feel the force of them, and it is not enough to remove my doubts entirely to know that these decisions were made upon the fourteenth amendment or on the Bill of Rights. If the principles of construction there laid down would apply to our case it does not matter that they happened to be enunciated in a different case. I do not think they apply, however, very forcibly to the fifteenth amendment. But grant that the clause does exclude practically all negroes. Must it follow that they are excluded because of their race, color or previous condition of servitude?   I Say it does not, and if the exclusion is not on either of these accounts it would be all right to exclude every mother's son of them.

Let's review the wars.  There were but few negroes in America at the time of the Revolutionary War; yet some of them fought in it, I am told. Some of them fought in each of the Indian wars, and in the war of 1812, and a large number fought in the war between the States.  And it is worthy of note that the language of the “soldier” clause is “who fought” and that the descendants clause simply requires that they shall be lawful descendants of soldiers. There is nothing said about lawful enlistments: and I dare say the committee had in mind those negroes who being body‑guards of their masters, actually fought in the wars without being enlisted as soldiers. If there is doubt on that point, I should like to see it so changed as to include Governor Oates’s negro, Bill, the body‑guard.  When the descendants of all these in all these wars are considered, who will say they do not constitute a substantial number?

Now, Mr. President,  and gentlemen of the Convention, assuming, for the sake of argument, that the clause does exclude practically all the negroes, I will ask you if it does so because they are negroes or because they and their fathers did not fight in the wars?  If they had fought, would the clause exclude them?  Was their failure to fight due to the fact that they were negroes or to their condition of servitude; or was it due to the fact that they were not citizens and did not owe to the Government the same


3050                  

OFFICIAL PROCEEDINGS

duty to defend it that its citizens owed? I submit, gentlemen, that we cannot know with that degree of certainty, which it is the rule for courts to demand before setting aside the solemn enactments in the organic laws of a State that the exclusion of the negro in the clause is on account of his race, color or previous condition of servitude; and that the history from which the opposition draw their conclusions does not point with unerring or even ordinary certainty to those conclusions, and that it leaves the matter shrouded in doubt.

Why there was no law, civil or military, which forbade the negro should fight if he wanted to in any of the wars mentioned. He could fight without incurring any pains of penalties or violating any law. If he did not fight, it was either his own fault entirely, or was due to the whim or caprice of his master, who might or might not allow the negro to fight, as he and the negro might agree. There was no irrevocable law or condition preventing the negro from fighting.  The conditions were such that fifty or fifty thousand might have fought in each war, and the Government would have had no right to raise its voice for or against it.  Furthermore, we have other races than the negro who were at one time not citizens, and whose ancestors did not fight in any of the wars, but who are themselves now citizens. Possibly a few of some of these races may be the descendants of soldiers; but hardly enough to be a substantial number.  Now, let’s ask ourselves whether these also are excluded on account of their race, color or previous condition of servitude.  They are not negroes and were never in servitude in this country.  Yet they cannot vote under the grandfather clause.  Then we have a number of different races all excluded from the privilege of voting by the same clause. One race steps in and says the history of this country shows that I was a slave; and this law is bad because it excludes me on account of  my race, color, or previous condition of servitude.  The others cannot object on the servitude score. They object on the race score.  Yet all who meet the requirement in either of their races may vote. None of the white race who do not meet the requirement can vote under that clause.  Many of our race probably cannot trace themselves to soldier ancestry. Certainly, a substantial number of us cannot. We finish the count by finding substantial numbers of the negroes included and substantial numbers of the whites excluded, and the other races included and excluded in varying proportions, depending upon the number of them naturalized and fighting in the wars.

Now, Mr. President, in the face of all this, I submit that the clause does not disfranchise the negro on account of his race, color or previous condition of servitude; that it prescribes a qualification which is lawful, and that it will stand the test of the courts.


3051

CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION, 1901

But they say it establishes an hereditary voting privilege to be transmitted from father to son. How many, generations will come and go between now and January 1st, 1903? The law will barely be enacted and promulgated before it dies of its own terms.  The gentleman from Mobile, Mr. Smith, so fully answered this objection I will not attempt to further answer it. Now, as to the mutual dependence of the several clauses of the section in State Constitution stands related to the Federal Constitution as a State statute does to a State Constitution; and the rules of construction are practically the same. The rule is that if an unconstitutional clause is found in an enactment, the court will examine and ascertain, first, whether or not the enactment would have been made without the objectionable clause; and, second, whether it can be executed with the bad clause stricken. If the enactment would have been made without the presence of the objectionable clause, and if, after striking it, the remainder can be executed, the bad clause is considered as stricken and the remainder stands. If there were no ‘grandfather’ clause to be had, this Convention would undoubtedly enact this section without it; and there can be no doubt that the section could be executed as well without as with the clause in it. Then, where is the foundation for the fear which our learned friend from Opelika, General Harrison, apprehends for the remainder of the section? We think there is none.

Leaving the law of the case and coming to the police of the clauses, in my humble judgment the “soldier” and “grandfather” clauses of this section will be the brightest jewels in the crown of honor which we hope to see the people place upon the Constitution we are making when we send it back to them for their ratification. I do not see how we ever could keep the pledge we have made in specific terms without it. We have some white men in our midst who have not good moral character and who do not understand the principles of our republican form of government, and who have not been convicted of infamous crime. But with the good character clause and with the soldier and the grandfather clauses in our temporary plan I think we will get them all who are not idiots or insane. I should pause here to pay a tribute of respect to the labors of the committee who have brought in the suffrage plan, at least as to those portions of it which I agreed to, but my time is shortening, and I have already detained you over long.

Mr. President, there has been a lot of discussion here upon the registration provisions in the Article. I am not quite sure that that question comes within the legitimate scope of argument on this section; and if I were not afraid that those who have trade the arguments have clone so knowing that the arguments now being made upon it are to be final, I would not follow them into it. But it is possible that it is proper here in connection with the character and understanding clause of this section. So I will notice the registrars as I pass. In itself the character and understanding


3052                  

OFFICIAL PROCEEDINGS

clause is certainly unobjectionable.  By the plainest and most palpable rules of right, a man whose blood in some of its generations has not been shed for his country and none of whose generations has ever fought for it, ought not to be permitted to vote unless he has a good character and understands the duties of a citizen under government in which he lives.

But touching the registrars: I am not so sanguine and hopeful upon that matter. But I do not agree to the censure of the "Black Belt," indulged by some. This much is sure :  The character and understanding clause will give to the registrars a wide range of discretion. Their office will be principally political; and it is not changed by the mere fact that judicial powers are given to them.  Great political pressure may be brought to bear upon them. And if they do not give to their work a partisan coloring, it will be because the temptation is not sufficiently strong or because their characters are such that they cannot be led astray.

Political, like other reforms is the fruit of a changed condition of the people's mind. It is not, as a rule, effected solely by legislative enactments. Fraud has become so common to practice among us that I fear we will not find ourselves able to keep from the beginning the letter and the spirit of our reformed laws.  To the extent that we get registrars who cannot do this, we run the risk of being injured by them. And should it turn out that instead of doing their best, they should do the worst they could, God knows we would be better off by far with the negro at large as  we have him now, than to find ourselves under the dominion of a lot of villainous registrars. I trust then when we come to that part of the Article, the Convention will place around it more safeguards than it now has.

The temporary plan is too short.   Our youths cannot get ready in eighteen months. They need more time to get ready. It  is utterly impossible for the people of a State to propose in eighteen months for the change contemplated. If the limit is left as it is, we will see many boys coming of age who are of good character, and who understand the principles of our government and are as capable of voting as any one, but who cannot vote because they have not the requisite education or property qualification.  The fact is, that I have but little respect for these qualifications when applied to a white man; and, but for the negro. I would never put my name to any Constitution placing on the white man's right to vote any such qualification. The white man was always qualified to vote. He inherits his qualities. Deprive him of education and of property, and place him by the side of any other man on earth, and he would soon have they property and his own fair share of education. It is the intrinsic force and intelligence within him that qualifies him. He is the ripened product of thousands of years of good breeding and refinement, having to begin with


3053

CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION, 1901

the highest and best qualities given to man. The white man of America has an ancestry which alone vouchsafes his eminent fitness for the exercise of the franchise. The meanest white man in the State is within the saving clause; for, at some time, he had a worthy sire; and his children will look back, not to him alone, but to the great mass of their ancestry, and from it, catch up the inspiration and pride of their race, and move on to honorable and useful life. The white sons of America have in their veins the celestial ichor of the immortals, and their pride and worth cannot permanently die. Let's extend the temporary plan at least two years longer.

MR. BEDDOW– I desire to offer a short resolution.

The resolution was read as follows: "Resolved that 5,000 copies of the speech just delivered be ordered printed for distribution."

The resolution was referred to the Committee on Schedules, etc.

MR. MAXWELL (Tallapoosa) ‑Mr. President, I do not propose to occupy as much time as the distinguished gentleman who has just taken his seat, and it may be that I will not interest you as he did. In fact, I beg your pardon for presuming to say anything at this late stage of the debate upon a question which has been so fully and so thoroughly discussed by gentlemen of so much more ability to discuss it than I have. I do not hope by anything I shall say to change the mind of any member of this Convention when he comes to vote. I simply want to record my position in favor of the majority report of the Committee on Suffrage and Elections. (Applause.) I want to tell the members of the Convention what one of your humble lay members thinks of the report, which involves in his conception a question, the most profound and the most grave which has confronted the people of Alabama since the days of 1861 when assembled in this hall, they discussed and passed upon that great question of secession, the result of which has brought about the conditions that bring us together today. I have studied this report, Mr. President, as best I could. I have listened intently and interestedly to the great debates and the logical arguments of those who have preceded me. I have been instructed and entertained. I have been informed. I have been helped to arrive at some conclusions upon the subject. I have thought, Mr. President, what effect the provisions of this report, if adopted by the Convention and ratified by the people, would have on our State politically, morally, socially, educationally‑and I have looked at it from an economic standpoint, and from no point of view do I see much harm in it. Indeed, there is such a preponderance of good in it that if there be objectionable features and evil in it they


3054                  

OFFICIAL PROCEEDINGS

are lost sight of and are so over‑shadowed and swallowed up in the good, that it is beyond my kith and ken to discover it. I favor the report as made by the Committee. Now what are some of the commendable features of this report? It proposes, Mr. President, to purify our politics, by eliminating from the electorate the vicious, the ignorant and the incompetent. It does not propose to set up any social status in our State that has not always existed. It holds up and offers to our people higher aims and loftier aspirations which lead them on to nobler and greater attainments in life. It wisely provides under the permanent plan certain qualifications for suffrage which tend to uplift and elevate humanity. It provides for a more intelligent electorate, and it does this without imposing burdens that are onerous and difficult of attainment by the humblest individual who is not an idiot or insane. It provides further for better economic conditions by requiring greater intelligence and greater virtue on the part of the elector, thereby making him a greater wealth producer when he shall have compiled with the conditions precedent to voting, for it is a well known fact that the wealth producing power of a State is in direct proportion to the intelligence of its people, and this report holds out an inducement for the acquirement of some education and intelligence. But, Mr. President, as strongly as these features commend themselves to my judgment and urge my endorsement of the main features of this article, there is another stronger than all of these and that is that the provisions of this report is a complete, and literal fulfillment of our pledge to the people that this Convention would disfranchise no white man. I believe in the fulfillment of promises. I believe a full and perfect understanding ought to be had in every transaction in life, that a man ought to say what he will do and then do what he says.  There can be no misunderstanding of such a contract. We went before the people of Alabama and asked permission to hold this Convention with the express understanding that we would frame and submit to them an article on suffrage which would insure white supremacy in the State, and which would not be in violation of the Federal Constitution and which would disfranchise no white man under any of its provisions except for infamous crime. I admit, sir, that at first I in common with others here, felt shaky about our ability to do this and at the same time get the game we came for; but our wise and patriotic committee have solved this difficult and knotty problem and they have done it in a way that commends itself to our heads and our hearts and it will commend itself to the judgment of our people when it is presented to them and they fully understand its workings and its effect. It is said sir, to be the wisest provision on the subject in any of the new Constitutions. It stands as a monument to the wisdom and patriotism of the Committee and they are entitled to the lasting gratitude of our people for their able solution of it, and I believe they will receive it expressed in the adoption


3055

CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION, 1901

of the report by the Convention and its overwhelming ratification at the polls. Now under its wise and patriotic provisions, Mr. President, the old soldier, whether he followed the Immortal Lee in surrender at Appomattox, and gave up all he had saved his good name, his honor and the undying love of a grateful though conquered people, or whether followed the silent and persevering Grant from Appamattox back to Washington under victorious banners to receive the plaudits of a Union restored; or whether with Scott he marched through the hot sands of Mexico and planted his colors upon the capitol of that city or whether with the chivalrous Roosevelt he stormed the heights of San Juan; whether he be white or black,  he and his lawful descendants, as a recognition of his patriotism, are allowed to vote without any other qualifications. This practically takes in all the white voters, but if perchance a few are left out under this qualification, they can come in under the good character and understanding clause, and the pledge is literally kept that no white man shall be disfranchised. Now what about violating the Federal Constitution? Well, Mr. President, some of our greatest and best lawyers here with a confidence equal almost to absolute certainty have said there is no violation, while others of equal eminence and learning have said they have grave doubts on the subject. Those of us who are not learned in the law have looked for the law of the case to the great batch of lawyers of this Convention and we have looked to them not as leaders of one side or the other who under ordinary circumstances might be prompted by their ambition to see their side of the case win out and be influenced and biased in that respect, but we have looked to them as patriots who love their country and its institutions far above their own ambition and their own selfish interests, and we find that they have disagreed. So at last we are to determine this question for ourselves.  Mr. President, I believe, in the light of all the evidence I have heard, and after having weighed it as best I could in the light of my own conscience and my own judgment, there is no violation of the Federal Constitution in any of the provisions of the report.  Now, let us look at the question face to face with our own conscience. If it approves or disapproves, let us act accordingly. It is the highest court to which we can appeal. I do not want any man to do violence to his conscience by voting for the Article if he believes that in so doing, he would violate the oath he took when he was sworn in as a member of this Convention. It is a matter between each of us and our God, and each must decide for himself. As for me, I am clear on the subject and I shall vote for the report. Now what about the negro under the provision of this suffrage report?   I do not feel that I am especially, more than others, called upon to plead his cause here, though he has not a better friend upon the floor of this Convention than I am. We are all his friends, I must say we are all specially fond of him‑in his place. As home, where I am well


3056                  

OFFICIAL PROCEEDINGS

known among them, I and regarded as good authority on every subject under the sun except one, and that is politics. I am regarded as an honest man every day in the year except one, and that is election day. I may argue and reason about politics, but unless the argument has the ring of the silver dollar in it, it is no go.  Will any of them be allowed to vote?  Yes, it is estimated that 25 or 30 per cent, may qualify under the provisions of this Article. They are put to the same tests that the white man is, and I am glad of that, Mr. President, I am not one of those who want to disfranchise the negro simply because he is a negro. I base my reason for it upon what I conceive to be a higher plane than that. I cannot forget that he did not come upon our shores from his native land of his own volition, but that he came here a slave, a savage slave no doubt, under the providence of God, to prepare him for civilization and to school him for a higher position among men. I  cannot forget his faithfulness as a slave and his loyalty to his master’s family while he was away fighting the battles of his country  to perpetuate him in slavery. I recognize him as a man who ought to have justice accorded to him in the courts, and who ought to have fair and impartial trial when his life, his liberty, or his property is at stake. I believe he ought to be made to comply with his contract, and that those who contract with him should be made to do likewise. I believe that he should have justice before the law and that no law should be enacted that discriminates against him simply because he is a negro. I would not disfranchise any of them who can stand the tests laid down in this Article.

But while I recognize the negro’s legal and human rights as being equal to ours, I have never suffered myself for a moment to believe that he is the moral, social, or intellectual equal of the white man. He is our inferior in these respects and no amount of legislation and cultivation will ever make him otherwise.  I look upon him as the weaker element in our social and political structure and I believe it becomes us as the stronger element to see that such restraints are thrown around him as will curb and prevent him from hurting himself as well as for our own protection. I would disfranchise the ignorant and vicious and incompetent among them for their own good and for the public good, but I would hold out to him as does this Article, the hope that he may, by industry, good character, economy and application, obtain the honors of the electorate.  I would not cut him off from hope for the future, for hope once dead in the human breast makes the man the brute.  I would not set up for him a higher standard for excellence in order to exercise the franchise than I would set up for the white man, nor would I lower it. I would let it stand as the majority of the Committee have reported it and I would enact just laws for its enforcement.  These, Mr. President, are some of the conclusions I have come to after a thoughtful consideration of the majority report. Its main provisions have my approval and when the time


3057

CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION, 1901

comes I shall register my vote that way. I do not wish to say any more. I thank the Convention for their courtesy.

MR. ASHCRAFT– Mr. President, and gentlemen of the Convention, it is perfectly apparent that we have degenerated into mere tolerance of speech-making.  The keen interest is gone. At the opening of this debate I really desired to submit some arguments to the Convention. Those arguments have all been made, very much more ably than I could have made them, and therefore I cannot make you the speech that I had intended.  It, therefore, seems to me that about the most that I can do is, in a certain sense, to inaugurate a set of ratification speeches, such as we ought to have in the morning under the ten minute rule, which will probably be adopted, and I trust that I may have the same good luck in getting to my subject that a young friend of mine once had. He had been going to see his girl for some time and he was quite timid; he had something which he longed very much to say to her, and which he had been unable to say. The old people had gotten considerably worried, almost as much worried as this Convention is with speech making, in furnishing lamp and coal for the late hours at night.  The mother and father had begun to complain at Mary for letting John stay so long, and had really begun to be impatient. One night John was there. It was getting a little late, but in some way they found themselves seated together on the divan and one tender hand had found its way into the clasp of a good strong hand, and just at that inauspicious moment, a sharp voice from the head of the stairs called out, “Mary, is that fellow there yet?”  Mary, without withdrawing her hand from the firm, strong grasp, sweetly answered: “No ma, he’s not there yet, but he’s getting there.” (Laughter.) Now, I want to thank the gentlemen who have spoken and are here for staying to hear us speak this evening. We appreciate very much that a number of those who have spoken are here.  Some of those who have spoken are not here, but I presume that they judged our speeches by their own, and determined there was not much to be lost if they absented themselves. (Laughter.)

You have all heard the story of the old farmer who was walking along the road and suddenly met a great big bull dog. The dog came lunging at him, growling and showing his teeth. The farmer had a pitchfork in his hand and stabbed it into the dog. Just at that moment the owner came rushing up and said, “What did you kill my dog for?”  He answered. “He was coming at me with an evil intent.”  “Why didn't you hit him with the other end of the fork?”  “Why didn't he come at me with the other end?”  Now, the way the minority of the Committee come at these three temporary qualification clauses, reminds me somewhat of that story, for they bring these three propositions to us the wrong end first, and the distinguished gentleman from Wilcox fell into the same


3058                  

OFFICIAL PROCEEDINGS

trap. We say when a man comes up to vote that the first question that is asked him is, are you an old soldier? If he says no, then they will say, are you the son of a soldier? If he says no, then are you a man of character who understands the duties of citizenship? That is the way we put it, but they say the question will be, are you a plan of good character and when the may says no, they will ask, well, do you understand the duties of citizenship under a Republican form of government? And when he answers no, they will ask him then, are you an old soldier? So they seek to make it appear that the plan is designed to let in soldiers and their sons who are rascals or scoundrels.

Now, gentlemen, that argument proceeds from wrong conception of what really constitutes the true electorate, and the fact that we can only set apart such an electorate approximately, and not man by man.  As I understand the theory of our Government, it is that every man within this domain, however humble he may be, or however poor he may be, who may reasonably he expected to discharge the privileges of an elector unselfishly and patriotically, ought to be clothed with that privilege.  An electorate less than this would be an oligarchy and against the theory of free government. In other words, we are trying to set apart a class of men who may reasonably be expected to exercise the electoral franchise honestly and unselfishly, and to inaugurate plans which will give the very highest percentage of that class, and the lowest percentage of those who will exercise it otherwise. Now, if you let in the best men and the best men only, you will let in some evil; and if you turn out the worst men, you will turn out some good, for I never yet have seen any man in whom there was no evil, and, I thank God, I have never seen any man yet in whom there was not some good. So then our plan must be one which will bring in the highest average of patriotism, and the lowest average of selfishness. When you apply that rule and ask yourself the question, "What class of men, first and above all others, may be reasonably expected to exercise the electoral franchise honestly?" the experience of mankind from Sparta down to the present day, and the enlightened judgment of the world, answers, "Your soldiers." They know her history and her purposes, and rather than see that history sullied or those purposes thwarted, they have been willing to endure every form of hardship and distress, even death itself. Surely, even though there should be some bad soldiers, this class will present to us the very highest average of patriotism, and the very lowest average of selfishness.

When you have secured that class, the question is, can we further enlarge the electorate? Is there any other class that we can bring into the exercise of the franchise? I stand here, gentle men, to repudiate the doctrine that any Confederate soldier's son wants to come into that franchise because he is his father's son. I happen to be the son of a private Confederate soldier. I have been


3059

CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION, 1901

hurt and injured by the proposition argued and pleaded upon this floor, that they will be admitted to the electorate as a matter of pity and in consideration of the deeds of their fathers. I know, gentlemen of the Convention, that the Confederate soldiers fought the battles of their country. They fought them amid the blare of the trumpet, waving flags and roaring cannons. They fought the battles of death and defeat. When they returned they found their homes despoiled, their fields grown up, and their ditches filled. They found too strong young hands that helped to fight another fight‑a fight against poverty; a fight that lacked all the pomp and splendor of war. That fight was made amid funeral dirges and in the shadow of widows' weeds. How about those sons who fought that fight? Ask your experiences like you do about the soldier. I appeal to your experience and observation.

By some strange fatuity of the Caucasian race, the great body of that race is crowded into the hills and the mountains of your State. If you doubt how that battle has been fought by the sons of Confederate soldiers, I ask you to go where the ditches were filled; go where the briers grew in the corners, and the fences were rotted down. See there now the vine‑clad hills: see the beautiful valleys. (Applause). See the growing cities, hear the hum of the factories, and ask yourself who it is that fought, not the battle of defeat and death, but the battle of victory and of life. (Applause). If as the sons of Confederate soldiers, we have proven ourselves worthy; if we have demonstrated that as a class we may safely be trusted to patriotically exercise the privilege of electors, then we ask you to let us in : if we have not proven ourselves worthy of it although we belong to a race which subjugated the forests, tamed or drove out the wild beasts, built cities, built schools, churches and homes,  and multiplied opportunities for education : although the blood of heroes and martyrs runs in our veins, if we have not proven ourselves worthy and cannot come in on our own merit,  then make us stand another examination. Stand us over, if you please, with the foreigner who has kissed the foot of monarchs.  Stand us over if you want to with that race which was subjected by the forests, and in whose veins runs the blood of cannibals and fetish worshippers.

If you are still unconvinced of our patriotism as a class, then examine us along with that race which learned the arts of civilization only when chained in slavery ; but, gentlemen of the Convention, we trust that we have not been weighed in the balance and found wanting.

You have been told the story of the brave negro that fought by that one‑armed hero's side (Mr. Oates) ; you have heard the pathetic story told by the distinguished Chairman of the Suffrage Committee (Mr. Coleman of Greene) of how the faithful negroes protected his home. You have heard from our distinguished


3060                  

OFFICIAL PROCEEDINGS

President the story of the noble young Confederate soldier who snatched up the flag and carried it forward into the thickest of the fight; but today, if I were an orator, if I were clothed with the power of sweet speech, I would tell you of the story of the little Confederate boys, their mothers' milk barely out of the blood, their bones yet in the gristle, who followed the plow and pulled the brier hook. (Applause).

Gentlemen, I know them.  I have seen their hands stiffened and cracked and bleeding from exposure and toil, as they fought the long winters through in the lonely places. Gentlemen, can you read only those deeds of courage written in lamp-black and lightning?  It may be that in the years that are to come, their victories will not be sung, but you, gentlemen, are here today enjoying the fruits of their victory; and, year by year, we shall demonstrate to you, that we constitute a class worthy to go down by the side of our fathers on the electorate. (Applause.)

Gentlemen of the Convention, if you have decided that soldiers form a class that will furnish you a high average of patriotism and a low average of selfishness, and if you have concluded that the sons of soldiers will also furnish you a high average of patriotism and a low average of selfishness, it may be, and I believe that we can still enlarge the electorate.  Again ask what are the experiences of mankind. Others may not possess the high qualifications to which I have already referred. The man who is of good character, who understands the duties of citizenship, under a republican form of government, will also furnish you a high average of patriotism for the faithful discharge l)f cltltv, and hm average of selfishness. But remember that class must be selected, and its merits must be passed upon by a Board of Registrar. This Board of Registrars will be made up of men and you will not get a perfect class even for such a board. The best Board of Registrars that you can provide will bring in some bad men and will bring in some good men, but according to our experience and observation, is there any other plan by which we can hope to enlarge the class of those persons who will have the highest average of patriotism and the lowest average of selfishness?

My good friend from Russell (Mr. Banks) asked with a great deal of real pathos if we were going to deal with the negro in such a way as to degrade him. Gentlemen of the Convention, those who say that the purposes of this Convention and the desire of the white people of Alabama is to disfranchise the negro , do violence to the real definition of terms and injustice to a brave and generous people. It is unfortunate; it is regrettable, that the term negro has in a certain sense, become synonymous with selfishness and self gratification, and it is aimed at the uncontrollable desire to gratify appetite. If the negro were as patriotic as the white man; if the negro had shown as high an average of noble qualities as the white


3061

CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION, 1901

man, we would have no Convention here today. Those stories which you heard from the distinguished gentlemen moved us all to tears.  I saw strong, brave men in this Convention shedding tears as those instances were cited, and I say to you, that a people who are thus moved to reverence the noble actions of the negro can feel no unkindness to him. We are here to do the negro good, just as we are to do the white man good.  That is our patriotic purpose here. It is unfortunate that we sometimes use rash words and that we sometimes say one thing when we mean another. But the fact is, the great body of the people of Alabama are willing to allow every negro man who has demonstrated by his course of conduct that he has a high sense of patriotism, to exercise the elective franchise. Our purpose here is to exclude from our electorate only those vicious, ruinous, and awful conditions that we have been subject to, and to say that the right to vote shall be given to every man who may be expected to do so honestly. Then, how can that injure the negro? Suppose, as some of our friends say, it will let in some bad fellows to let the soldiers’ sons vote. I ask is it going to injure the negro not to let in bad negroes also?  How can it injure a negro man to say to him, if you be honest, if you be virtuous, you may come in and share the privileges of a glorious free country with us. Does that invite him to evil? Does that invite him to degradation? Does it not offer him an opportunity and an invitation which never yet has been offered to him before?  Today he is disfranchised.  The best of his race have no voice in our government. Tomorrow when this Constitution has been ratified by the people of Alabama, the best of his race will have a voice and he will have an opportunity to place himself along by the side of patriots and to be loved just as the soldier who fought with the one-armed hero is loved. He will learn to know his place and fill it well. No man yet on this earth has known his place and filled it well who was not loved and honored and respected.

Gentlemen of the Convention, I thank you for your attention. (Prolonged applause.)

MR. ROGERS (Lowndes)– Mr. President, the Committee on Suffrage and Elections consists of twenty-five members, twenty one of whom are able lawyers learned in the law and four others of the number, who are not learned in the law. Four of these able lawyers say that the grandfather clause is unconstitutional. The other seventeen able lawyers say it is constitutional. The legal features have been ably explained by both sides. Taking counsel from the multitude of wisdom and believing that it is not a proper thing to ask a man to sign his own death warrant, for we have got to submit this Constitution to these people who already vote, I heartily favor its adoption, as it will help to accomplish the purposes for which this Convention was called.


3062                  

OFFICIAL PROCEEDINGS

Coming from the county of Lowndes, where there are 4,762 whites and 30,891 blacks, or 7 to 1, or more negroes to the square mile than in darkest Africa, I am heartily in favor of a measure that will bring to our relief 20,000 white votes in the State for our redemption from ultimate ruin. The majority report embodies the best and most practicable ordinance and I trust that it will be adopted.  History repeats itself. I have seen in this historic hall thirty negroes at one time, members of the Legislature, selling their votes for a drink of whisky or a mule, and enacting laws for us that inflicted millions of dollars of indebtedness on the State of Alabama and which we are now paving and will have to continue to pay for fifty years more as we have for the last twenty‑five years. Under the present Constitution they can come again. All they need is courage and leadership, all that we have to prevent it is the indomitable pluck of Anglo‑Saxon manhood.  No white man who knows why this clause was adopted in going to offer sentimental objections to it, they are too level headed: and they are in favor of white supremacy as far as the fifteenth amendment will permit there to go.  For a third of a century the Negro has voted in Alabama and always votes solidly against the interests and welfare of the State. I would rather have a military despotism than to be ruled by negroes and barbarism.

Alabama with 51,540 square miles, contains 1,001,152 whites and 827,307 blacks; In thirteen central counties of the state, in one of which this capitol is situated, embracing 9,786 square miles, or one‑fifth of the area of the State, the most productive portion of it, there dwell 373,311 negroes and 100,000 whites, or three‑sevenths of the black population and one‑tenth of the white population ; 444,000 blacks and 900,000 whites (in round numbers) live in the other fifty‑three counties of the State containing 41,754 square miles. In fifty‑three of these fifty‑three counties the negro holds the balance of power and in only five counties he cuts no figure. Consider these facts and see what a grip he has on us. Restrain him and treat him kindly and justly as God intended that he should be, he becomes a useful citizen. Remove restraint and he reverts to barbarism and lust.

We have been told that white supremacy in Alabama is assured. White supremacy, Mr. President (which means the rule of intelligence) prevails in the black belt of Alabama by methods repugnant to our feelings and justified only by the intolerable alternative of a tame submission to the rule of an inferior servile race. Adopt this suffrage plan and peace and order will be assured under conditions fixed by law, and racial conditions will adjust themselves like the law of gravity or of water seeking its level.

In my judgment this is the last opportunity that Alabama will ever have to redeem herself by force of law from the curse inflicted on us by malice and hatred. A returning sense of justice seems


3063

CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION, 1901

to pervade the Union and now let us remember that “there is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.”  Let us turn from all impracticable schemes and act wisely and pass this measure and carry it to the people and explain it to them from the mountains to the sea and our beloved State will be redeemed.

THE PRESIDENT PRO TEM– The gentleman from Barbour, Mr. Williams.

MR. WILLIAMS (Barbour)‑Mr. President, there is some mistake about that. I did not know I was on the list. I might say I was anxious to get there, to get there at one time, but I never landed, and I will not disturb the Convention with any remarks upon the subject at this time.

MR. HOWZE– I move that the Convention do now adjourn.

Leave of absence was granted Mr. Harrison (Lee) for today.

Upon a vote being taken the Convention adjourned.

________

CORRECTIONS

Fifth-firth day, in Mr. Spear's speech: Fourth page, middle of sixth column, change “Have courts” to read “some courts have.”

Fourth page, sixth column, change word “remedy” between words “any,” and “that” to read “injury.”

Fourth page, sixth column, near bottom, change word “belongs” to “applies.”

Fourth page, seventh column, near top, change “children know it,” to “children have noted it.”

Fourth page, seventh column, change sentence, “the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth amendments that have been pinned to the beautiful Goddess of liberty from time to time,” to read. “The thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth amendments are the brightest jewels that have been pinned on to the beautiful form of the Goddess of Liberty.”

Fourth page, seventh column, change words: “He cannot appeal to a jury” to read. “He cannot appeal to a beat jury.”

In fifty‑sixth day:

First page, second column, near bottom, change words “thus to legislate” to “for us to legislate.”

First page, third column, near bottom, change “three years” to read “two years.”


3064                  

OFFICIAL PROCEEDINGS

First page, third column, change sentence beginning “the descendants” to read “the number of white persons and their descendants who have been subjected to involuntary servitude are as many in number as the negro descendants,” etc.

First page, third column, near bottom, change “publican” to “plebian.”

_______

In speech of Mr. Martin, second page, seventh column, after “there is one thing you cannot do,” add “you cannot make a Constitution."

In same column should read, “to take the Constitution that we propose in one hand, and our commission in the other.”

In the same column should read, “that it was to the best interests of the black man,” and further down strike out “man out carries by his side an empty.”

In first column, third page, should read "but I verily believe” and further down read "now there is another clause.” Further down in same column read "they owned but little property.

In second column, third page, read “long after you have been called.”

____________