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PUNISHMENT FOR THE CRIME OF LYNCHING
FRIDAY, MARCH 16, 1934
UNITED STATES SENATE,
Washington, D.C. The committee met, pursuant to call, at 11 a.m., in the caucus room, 318 Senate Office Building, Senator Frederick Van Nuys presiding.
Present: Senators Van Nuys (presiding) and McCarran. Present also: Hon. Edward P. Costigan, a Senator from the State of Colorado.
Senator VAN NUYS. The committee will be in order. Senator Kean, of New Jersey, has asked permission to submit a brief statement and in order to accommodate him we will hear him at this time.
STATEMENT OF HON. HAMILTON F. KEAN, A SENATOR FROM THE
STATE OF NEW JERSEY
Senator KEAN. I should like to discuss, Mr. Chairman, the sequence of events which I have experienced during a long lifetime in regard to some of the matters that have been brought out in this discussion. One of the arguments in behalf of this bill has been the change from the old English law which was brought over here by our forefathers, the negligence of a fellow servant, into the modern law where the corporation or employer was liable no matter under what conditions the servant was injured.
I remember quite well the agitation that preceded the passing of these laws. Large corporations fought them in every way they could until the pressure became too great and they were then enacted into law. I might say in passing, in my judgment the enactment of these laws was brought on indirectly by the corporations themselves. The juries began giving higher and higher verdicts for injuries; this was brought about by the corporations fighting injury cases, because they thought the verdicts were excessive, to the last ditch. There were many corporations who thought that by fighting these cases they could delay the judgment so that the interest on the money would almost pay the judgment. In other words, a dollar invested at 6 percent doubles itself in 10 or 12 years, compound interest. This so exasperated the people that a corporation in many cases did not have a fair chance. The result of the passage of the Workmen's Compensation Act was that large corporations made rules to protect themselves. For instance, if anybody drank or in some cases if they were seen coming out of a saloon, this was sufficient ground for their dismissal from this corporation. I think that the corporations and the Workmen's Compensation Act had a very large part in the enactment of the eighteenth amendment. The eighteenth amendment brought disrespect for the law. Disrespect for the law brings lynching
It was brought out in the testimony that there were very few lynchings before the Civil War. I should like to point out to the committee that a Negro in the South before the war was property and worth about $1,000. If he was lynched, his owner was injured to the extent of $1,000. Now in the bill before you, we provide that the county may be assessed for damages to the family of the lynched man, and it seems to me that as this prevented lynching before the war it may go very far to the prevention of lynching in the future.
Senate bill 2031, introduced by me, is practically the same bill on which you are taking testimony, with the exception of section 8, and I respectfully suggest that this section 8 of my bill be added to the present bill, as it would materially strengthen it.
When we had horse-drawn vehicles, a criminal could not get very far before the news of the crime was spread by telegraph, letter, railroad trains, and so forth; when the automobile came in we found that the town limits, city limits, or county limits were easily passed, and in many States we established a State police. Now that airplanes have come into being, it seems to me that we have to establish a national crime-detective agency. To that end the Attorney General has already established a Bureau of Investigation and is widening the duties of the Bureau of Investigation by leaps and bounds. They are now giving special attention to kidnapers, but I hope that they are also going to devote their attention to murders, and as lynching is a murder I have put in this clause.
I hope the committee will give the matter very serious consideration and careful attention. I thank you very much for hearing me.
Senator Van Nuys. We are obliged to you, Senator Kean.
WITNESSES TO BE CALLED
Senator Van Nuys. I desire at this time to call a list of the witnesses who have either requested to be heard or have been notified to be here.
Is Mr. William Thompson present?
Senator Van Nuys. Is Levin C. Bailey, States attorney of Salisbury, present. [After a pause.] Does anyone know whether he intends to come!
Mr. BEACHAMP. Mr. Chairman, he is in court and probably will not be here. (The following letter was received from Mr. Bailey:)
SALISBURY, Mo., March 15, 1934. Hon. FREDERICK VAN Nuys,
United States Senate, Washington, D.C. DEAR SIR: I have your letter stating that the subcommittee of Judiciary Committee of the Senate will hold a public hearing on Friday, March 16, at 11 a.m. to hear arguments from all parties interested as to the constitutionality of the Costigan-Wagner antilynching bill and also the policy and necessity for the enactment of such bill.
Your letter states that you will be very glad to afford me an opportunity to be heard at that time if I so desire. I am very sorry that it will be impossible for me to be present on Friday morning, as the March term of the Circuit Court for Wicomico County, Md., is now in session, and I will be busily engaged all of tomorrow in the trial of criminal cases. Nevertheless, if at any future time your committee desires and requests my presence I will be very glad to appear before you. Respectfuly yours,
LEVIN C. BAILEY,
State's Attorney for Wicomico County, Md. Senator Van Nuys. Very well. John F. Robins, State's Attorney, Princess Anne. Is he present?
Mr. BEACHAMP. No, sir.
PRINCESS ANNE, MD., March 15, 1934. Hon. FREDERICK VAN Nuys,
Chairman, Washington, D.C. MY DEAR SENATOR: Your favor of 13th instant affording me an opportunity to attend the public hearing to be held on Friday, March 16, 1934, to consider the constitutionality of the Costigan-Wagner antilynching bill and also the policy and necessity for the enactment of such bill is at hand.
In reply thereto I wish to say that I have not had an opportunity to give sufficient consideration to the bill to warrant me in expressing an opinion as to its constitutionality.
At the present time I am engaged in court duties and will so be engaged for the next several weeks. This would prevent me from accepting your cordial invitation should I wish to do so. Respectfully yours,
ROBT. F. DUER. Senator VAN NUYS. I addressed a letter to each of the three lastnamed gentlemen, Mr. Bailey, Mr. Robins, and Mr. Duer, and at this point I will have it set forth in the record.
(The letter is as follows:)
MY DEAR MR. : The subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee of the Senate will hold another public hearing on Friday, March 16, beginning at 11 a.m., in the Judiciary Committee room of the Senate.
The committee at that time will hear arguments from all parties interested and familiar with the facts, as to the constitutionality of the Costigan-Wagner antilynching bill and also the policy and necessity for the enactment of such bill.
We shall be very glad to afford you an opportunity to be heard at that time if you so desire. Respectfully,
FREDERICK VAN Nuys,
Chairman Subcommittee. Senator Van Nuys. George W. Colborn, of Princess Anne. Is he present?
Mr. COLBORN. Present.
Mrs. MORRIS. Present.
Senator VAN NUYS. The three ladies last called are all from Princess Anne. At 2 o'clock this afternoon Representative Sumners of Texas will appear in opposition to the bill.
I regret to say that Mr. Charles H. Tuttle, former United States attorney of New York, called me last night about midnight to inform me that it will be wholly impossible for him to be present this morning, but that he will submit a statement on the constitutionality of the proposed bill which, with the consent of the other members of the subcommittee, will be made a part of today's proceedings.
Let me say for the record also that we invited Governor Rolph, of California, to make some expression on the merits of the bill and the necessity for its passage or otherwise. We received a telegram yesterday from his secretary that Governor Rolph is very seriously ill in the hospital and unable to submit any observations.
Senator COSTIGAN. Mr. Chairman, am I correctly advised that Mr. Tuttle will submit a brief on the constitutionality of the measure?
Senator Van Nuys. Yes; and it will be made a part of today's proceedings.
(Mr. Tuttle's brief is here printed in full, as follows:)
BRIEF OF CHARLES H. TUTTLE IN SUPPORT OF THE CONSTITUTIONALITY OF THE
COSTIGAN-WAGNER ANTILYNCHING BILL
The horrifying lynchings which occurred in a number of States near the end of last year and in which' both white men and black were murdered by the mob have been eloquent proof that this form of primitive sagavery is not on the decline and that both in its manifestation and consequence it is a matter not only of concern to the individual States but a great peril to the Nation as a whole.
These are days when the bulwarks of government must be strengthened and when the danger of mob rule anywhere in our land must tbe regarded as a national menace.
Unless respect and reverence for our orderly institutions of constitutional government are preserved in the minds of our people, the end may quite conceivably be national dissolution. Judgment by mob and trial by fury will not pause at the hair line of any nice distinctions. Once proclaim that the bitterness of public indignation has justification for replacing the processes of law and of constitutional government with the violence of the lowest passions, and the whirlwind will speedily be the reaping from this sowing of the wind.
Furthermore, there is national danger, particularly in these times, in causing large sections of our population to believe that they are outside the effective protection of government and in thus loosening their attachment to our institutions.
That Nation is hardly worthy of the name which does not protect its own citizens. In large groups of our population there is bitter irony in the contrast between the strength and determination with which our National Government defends the rights of American citizens in foreign lands and its complete impotence in the matter of defending the same citizens against the consequences of mob rule within its own borders.
Moreover, these outbursts of primitive savagery, so often centering in racial passions, have obviously tended to lessen the respect in which our institutions are held abroad and have not infrequently embarrassed us as a Nation in our protests against racial injustice and persecution in other lands. These all too frequent lynchings, taken together with our spectacular gang warfares and murders, are commonly cited in the foreign press as proof of ineffective government and of a spirit of lawlessness in America.
These dangers in which lynching involves the Nation as a whole were expressed by Abraham Lincoln in his speech at Springfield, III., as follows:
“I hope I am overwary; but if I am not, there is even now something of ill omen amongst us. I mean the increasing disregard for law which pervades the country-the growing disposition to substitute the wild and furious pas