Digital History>eXplorations>Lynching>Anti-Lynching Legislation of the 1920s>Comments by John Sandlin

CONGRESSIONAL RECORD-HOUSE Comments by John Sandlin (January 18, 1922)

Mr. Sandlin: I make my appeal to the fair-minded and patriotic men of the East, the West, and the North to join hands with the men of the South and put to rout the proponents of this unnecessary, unconstitutional, harmful, and dangerous measure. Why, Mr. Chairman, if this measure is placed on the statute books of this country it is going to weaken local responsibility and will be an encouragement to the viciously inclined. By the growth of a healthy public sentiment mob law is greatly on the wane in the South, but enact this bill and there will be a lessening of the efforts to check and abate it. The citizen will feel that the matter has passed out of his hands since the Federal Government has intervened, and will look to the Government to control and punish. He will feel that the United States has usurped his functions in this regard. Local officials will take much the same view and will not be so keenly alive to their own individual responsibility. The imposition of a penalty on a country or parish will not deter the members of a mob. The criminally inclined will draw surcease from the provisions of this bill. Gaining the impression that the power of the National Government will save him from the wrath of the mob, he thus is encouraged to commit the unspeakable crime.

Instead of making for law and order, it will be but a breeder of disregard for law, and encourage the brute to seek the gratify his unholy propensities, imagining himself secure because a law has been placed on the statute books which penalizes the county where a lynching occurs and imprisons those who dare lay hands on him.

The Constitution of the United States declares that "the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited to it by the States, are reserved to the States, respectively, or to the people." This proposed measure plainly violates this provision of the Constitution of the United States and aims at the destruction of local self-government.

In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, let me say that I deplore the rapid change in our Government from a democracy to a bureaucracy, and unless we turn about and retrace our steps the of this country will soon awake to the realization that they have no local self-government and are living under a centralized form of government, with their everyday actions directed and controlled by Federal agencies. If demands for legislation of this character are acceded to by the Congress, there will be no limit it will not be urged to go and which it can consistently refuse to grant. Let me, then, appeal to Members of this House, regardless of the section from whence you come, to stand together and resist and defeat this assault upon the Constitution and the inherent rights of the States guaranteed to them by the provisions of that immortal document.

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