Digital History>eXplorations>Lynching>Anti-Lynching Legislation of the 1920s>Comments by Edgar Ellis

CONGRESSIONAL RECORD-HOUSE Comments by Edgar Ellis (January 18, 1922)

Mr. Ellis: I will not discuss the evidence of this in detail, but if anyone will read the matter my colleague [Mr. Dyer] has inserted in the record of this debate, he will be convinced not only of the demand but that the demand was quite as insistent and almost as general in the South as in any other part of the country. In 1920 the Republican Party was out of power. It was appealing to the American people to be put back into power. As a part of that appeal to voters it engaged to grapple— held out assurance that a Republican Congress would grapple— with this monstrous evil. This bill is the effort of the Republican Party now in power to keep faith. Now, why and where does the shoe pinch? The shoe pinches because our brethren of the minority, fine gentlemen all of them, smart politicians, clearly see and realize that if this bill shall be perfected, shall be enacted into law, and shall work— shall be effective in suppressing in some substantial degree the lynching evil— the Republican Party will profit, just as a political party always profits that keeps faith with the people in doing things that ought to be done. But that is not all. It is just as clearly seen that if the Republic Party should make no effort, or if, making the effort, shall fail in this program, it will suffer loss, just as a party always suffers loss when it breaks faith or fails to keep faith with the people. So the spirit that is troubling the waters here is not the spirit of a mob; it is the spirit of the politician. The party responsible for what is not done is not to be stampeded by threats. Gentlemen of the minority, in the play of politics, may prance before us, call us names and apply epithets, we shall not be perturbed if only they do not forget to smile.

But, Mr. Chairman, they tell us in thunder tones that this proposal is unconstitutional. It may be, in little part or big part or altogether. As I said at the beginning, I am disposed to discuss the policy of this proposal. I shall be troubled neither by the constitutionality question nor by my duty under my oath with respect to the measure until it is perfected here. The people want something done, and so help me, so far as I am concerned, the opponents of this bill must marshal some other argument beside the old, pestiferous bugaboo of State rights. I demand to be shown that my National Government has not the inherent right and power to protect its citizens from mobs and to preserve its very life and conserve its civilization.

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