Digital History>eXplorations>Lynching>Anti-Lynching Legislation of the 1920s>Burton French to James Johnson


Burton French's Letter to James Weldon Johnson February 3, 1922.

Source: NAACP Papers, Library of Congress

"… I have been compelled to point out the features in the Dyer bill that I think are disastrous.
I am sending you herewith a copy of the remarks that I made while the bill was pending that indicate my criticisms of the measure briefly.

I question the constitutionality of the provisions fixing a penalty or assessment upon counties. In my remarks I did not develop particularly the reasons why I think these features are not constitutional for the burden of proof rests upon the proponents of the bill to establish the constitutionality. I have given careful consideration to the arguments and I cannot agree with the conclusions, notwithstanding and distinguished ability of those who press them for consideration.

Again, if these features are constitutional, I believe that fundamentally they are not in harmony with our system of government,--that they would prevent the enforcement of law.

One of the reasons why I am opposed to mob violence is because the innocent is frequently made to suffer. Remember that under the Dyer bill, the inhabitants of a county may be wholly free from guilt, yet under the bill a penalty of ten thousand dollars may be imposed upon these people."

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