Legislation of the 1920s>William Borah to W. Hayes McKinney
William Borah's Letter to W. Hayes McKinney (May 22, 1922)
William Borah Papers, Library of Congress
have your telegram of the 21 st , in which you say "Unfavorable
Judiciary sub-committee report on Dyer Bill will become as infamous
as Dred Scott decision if allowed to stand, and so forth".
I realize, Mr. McKinney, how deeply you and all your people feel
in regard to this matter.
should bear in mind also that some people not of your race feel
as deeply and sincerely about this as you do. It may be that the
race question brings it more directly home to you, but we feel
the disgrace upon our country by reason of these lynchings as
you do and we are just as anxious to remedy I am sure.
you must permit me to say that the best evidence of sincerity
in dealing with this is the determination to know that our work
shall not be in vain. When I attempt to serve the negro in this
grave matter, I propose to have behind it my conscience and my
convictions, and I do not intend out of sheer politics or unseasoned
desire to serve to do a vain and useless thing. It will not help
your people and it will only add another chapter of insincerity
and disgrace to our dealing with the negro question.
do not believe that the present law, as proposed, is constitutional.
I do not think there is a single constitutional principle upon
which to base the law. The Supreme Court has as definitely decided
it as any question which has ever been before the Court, in my
judgment. I have spent weeks going through the decisions and examining
the arguments, both for and against, and if I should support this
law, I would feel I was trifling with a question which involves
the honor of the country.
will pardon me for saying I do not propose to take any such course
and the mere suggestion that my course will be "as infamous
as the Dred Scott decision" does not move me at all to do
a purely expedient thing without convictions or conscience or
law behind it.
the program now is to make an effort to draft a law which will
comply with the Constitution. It is no easy thing to do. I doubt
if the national government can ever deal with the subject without
an amendment to the constitution. But I can assure you that there
are plenty of men on both sides of the aisle in the Senate who
are deeply interested in this question and who will work out a
solution if, under the Constitution, it can be done. But there
are also men who are deeply interested in it who will not violate
their oaths in an open effort to disregard the Constitution. If
those who are in favor of this bill will cite us to the authorities
and decisions upon which it can framed, they will not only render
their Committee a great service than by denunciation of those
who are seeking in a constitutional way to solve the question.