Digital History>eXplorations>Lynching>Anti-Lynching Legislation of the 1920s>Comments by Patrick Drewry


CONGRESSIONAL RECORD-HOUSE Comments by Patrick Drewry (January 17, 1922)

MR. DREWRY. Mr. Chairman, in a legislative experience of some years I thought I had seen bills presented for attention that held within them possibilities of evil so great that it was inconceivable how the human mind could imagine such measures being enacted into law; but in my whole experience I have never seen a bill that seemed to me to be fraught with so many and such possibilities of danger in it as this, known as the anti-lynching bill. This measure is unnecessary and would be useless if enacted. It is unjust and unfair to a certain section of our country, because it would create a dangerous condition among the people of that section. It is unconstitutional in that it nullifies the most fundamental principles of our government, principles which have been established for nearly 50 years. I am not opposed to a proper law to prevent lynching. No one denies that lynching is a crime. I admit, however, I can see no real necessity for another law to punish murder-for that is what lynching is, of course. We now have laws to prevent homicides, but you can hardly pick up a newspaper that you do not read of several. The trouble is not a lack of laws but a lack of enforcement. We have too many laws, and the country would be better off if there could be a suspension of legislation for a few years while the authorities have a chance to catch up with those already on the books. The Republican Party is now being blamed by the country for its continuous sessions of law enactment. Business men everywhere are saying that if they had been allowed to struggle along and depend upon themselves they could have worked out their own salvation by this time; instead of that they waited on Congress to pass laws to make t hem prosperous, and in a Micawber-like attitude you can see them all over this country of ours still waiting; and they will continue to wait, for legislation of itself does not make men prosperous any more than it makes them good.

Human nature is the same today as it was yesterday and as it will continue to be 100 years hence. You may have a law that prescribes punishment for a murderer, but murders are still committed and will be committed until you impress in the heart of man the love for his fellow man that crowds out the blackness of hate and ignorance. You can then go further and pass a law penalizing every specific method by which a homicide is committed. In the pursuance of that you can specifically describe the punishment to be meted out to anyone who deprives or attempts to deprive another of life without authority of law. You will then have another law on your statute books, that is true. But when the good wife, bleeding and choking and gasping for breath from the cruel fingers at her throat so recently released, staggers out into the field where her husband is working and tells him that a fiend in human form attacking her while she, singing in her home, was preparing for his home-coming, and that her tender body had been outraged and the sacred purity of her womanhood had been violated; when that husband picks her up senseless from the shock and bears her back to the home which they were making together, and after the doctor has arrived and the woman is told that the death she craves to hide her shame will not come, what then becomes of your man-made laws? Back to the old Mosaic law the husband goes, back further than that, way back to the jungle days of his primitive ancestry, when the male protected his female from those who would do her harm. All the laws under heaven will fail to restrain his desire to punish the injury. His friends and neighbors join him with the same instinct aroused in them, and the further fear that the same horrible thing may happen to them if that brute or other brutes who hear him boast of his exploits were to escape the consequences of their crimes. Only too well they know the law's delay-their minds revolt at any chance of uncertainty of his punishment. It is the primal instinct of man and can not be trifled with. The criminal must be punished, and without delay. Those are the two elements that cause what is called "lynching"-a feeling of retributive justice to be meted out, and the desire that there should be no possibility of escape for the criminal.

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