The Charlotte News

Monday, January 23, 1939


Site Ed. Note: The proposed compromise to obtain some form of Federal anti-lynching legislation, that it would not be made criminal for local law enforcement to be negligent in pursuing lynchers, and that instead of making a Federal crime of lynching, generally defined as a conspiracy by two or more persons to deprive another of Constitutional rights which conspiracy results in death, to provide for investigation and reporting of the crime by the FBI to Congress, would nevertheless not alleviate opposition from recalcitrant Southern Congressmen.

Cash was in favor of this particular piece of legislation, though he had reservations about the reaction which would be stirred in the South by a Federal anti-lynching law of the type previously proposed. He believed that airing the bestial nature of the crime on a regular basis in the press, airing the code of the lyncher and penetrating the Klan mentality, would ultimately effect change at the place where, if there was to be real change at all, it had finally to come, in the homes and minds of the lynchers and would-be lynchers themselves, and those raised by them. Whereas, he feared such Federal force bills against lynching would only raise the mob's fervor the more, to provide a foil off of which the riders would ride to prove demonstratively their continuing rebelliousness to Federal authority, a trait in some unrecreant Southerners since the Civil War--and for a time it did, of course, when the first one was finally passed in 1948.

Yet, to have the crime go continually unpunished in the small-town South was to invite it perpetually to continue, without redress, especially as other rights in society were advanced for minorities in the 1950's and 1960's, again lighting the lynching flame in the deep South.

The 1948 laws, codified as 18 USC 241 and 242, as amended, read as follows:

Section 241--

If two or more persons conspire to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or because of his having so exercised the same; or

If two or more persons go in disguise on the highway, or on the premises of another, with intent to prevent or hinder his free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege so secured--

They shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; and if death results from the acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, they shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for any term of years or for life, or both, or may be sentenced to death.

Section 242--

Whoever, under color of any law, statute, ordinance, regulation, or custom, willfully subjects any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or to different punishments, pains, or penalties, on account of such person being an alien, or by reason of his color, or race, than are prescribed for the punishment of citizens, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both; and if bodily injury results from the acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include the use, attempted use, or threatened use of a dangerous weapon, explosives, or fire, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; and if death results from the acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, shall be fined under this title, or imprisoned for any term of years or for life, or both, or may be sentenced to death.

The term of years to life sentence for resulting death was not included in the laws until 1968. This was the law under which 19 Klansmen were tried in Mississippi's Federal courts in 1967 for the death of the four civil rights workers out of Philadelphia, brutally slain June 21, 1964. Only seven were convicted. Most reached old age in freedom. The maximum sentence unfortunately at the time under the statute was ten years. No state prosecutions were undertaken at the time in a climate sway of which was held by the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission, chartered on the premise of maintaining segregation, and founded out of the ruling authority within the state from the Governor to legislators to law enforcement and local leaders. That climate having changed markedly over the decades, however, in June, 2005, "Preacher" Edgar Ray Killen, the ordained Baptist minister who organized the murderous expedition, was the first of these Klansmen finally to be charged with murder under state law in Mississippi; after successful prosecution by the State Attorney General, he was sentenced to 60 years in prison after conviction for a lesser included offense, involuntary manslaughter.

Rule No. 1*

Rule No. 1 in labor relations is that the boss hasn't got a danged thing to do with the private lives of his employees. If one of them steals a pig or regularly gets put in jail for drunkenness or for beating his wife, why, that might justify the boss in taking notice of his conduct. His private life, that is, would have become a public disgrace. But in general, the rule holds. All the employer buys is services. If they are satisfactory, the wise employer will let it go at that.

The breach of this rule, which looks pretty high-handed, is City Manager Marshall's notice to all City employees who live outside the city limits that they have 90 days to move inside or lose their jobs. Mr. Marshall didn't think this up himself. The Council directed him to do it, reportedly at the insistence of Mr. Albea, whose long experience as a leader in organized labor circles should have taught him better. For it is plain interference with the private lives of these employees. If they prefer to reside in the country, where they may keep a cow and perhaps farm a few acres to supply the family table with fresh vegetables and provender, whose to say them nay? There's no law against it. As City employees, they are subject to no other greater or less restriction of movement than any others, and the Council ought to preserve that right for them.

Paradise Enow

That $150,000,000 cut off from the President's requested appropriation to keep WPA going until June 30, has acquired an enormous significance. On whether it stays cut off or is put back seems to depend not only on the hope of some economy at last in Federal administration but the re-assertion by Congress of its primary authority over legislation. The House, after a test, stuck by the reduction, and the Senate Appropriations Committee voted for it 17 to7.

The Senate itself is the question mark, and much pressure is going to be put on that austere body to impel it to reverse its committee. Strangely enough, a good part of this pressure will be exerted by mayors of cities, men who would let almost no consideration prevent the balancing of their own budgets, men of ingrained conservative habits, for the most part; men who know all too well that public expenditures come ultimately out of grudging private purses.

But the restraints that govern them in handling their own fiscal affairs seem somehow to desert them when they apply their organized influence to Federal legislation. And yet it is not inexplicable, this complete reversal, for in letting Uncle Sam foot the bill for local expenditures without having themselves to answer to the outraged taxpayers, our mayors are in the enviable position of eating their cake and having it too. And that, the little reader will see at once, is too sweet a dream to spoil by waking up.

Competition In Deadlock

To Tennessee's Legislature last week was offered a bill, by its only woman member, to require that applicants for marriage license present a doctor's certificate of freedom from venereal disease. This is not, of course, to be taken as any assurance that the bill will pass. Indeed, if Tennessee's Legislature looks upon marriage as does North Carolina's Legislature, the bill is likely to get nowhere at all.

The official attitude of North Carolina toward the marriage of syphilitics and persons otherwise diseased is that, (1), it is better for them to marry and beget diseased offspring, if they can, than to be forbidden to marry, thus exposing them to a temptation to which, manifestly, they are not total strangers and, (2), their marriage cannot be prevented anyhow so long as they may run off to South Carolina or Virginia or Tennessee and be inducted there, on payment of a fee of several dollars, into the holy state of matrimony.

And this last is altogether a logical argument; so logical, in fact, that we offer it without charge to the Legislature of Tennessee whenever it comes to consider the health-certificate bill. For the unanswerable argument against the bill, of course, is that adjoining states make no such requirement of their prospective brides and bridegrooms, and that therefore the effect of the bill would be primarily to turn over the trade in marriage licenses to Virginia, Kentucky, Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia--and North Carolina, all of which bound the Volunteer State. And all these other states may plausibly fail in their duty because Tennessee fails in hers.

Toward A New Munich

At a meeting of alarmed Frenchmen in Paris yesterday, old Joseph Paul-Boncour, elder statesman of France, warned the Daladier Government:

"If Barcelona falls you will not have to wait long for an ultimatum from Italy supported by Germany, demanding from us that which we are unanimous in not wishing to give but which we are so badly prepared to defend."

But it is probably too late for France to act now. Barcelona may, indeed, repeat the history of Madrid--may stiffen its defense in the end and hold out indefinitely, giving the French time to find a way out. But the odds are more adverse than at Madrid. The terrain does not lend itself so easily to defense. Barcelona is far more subject to being starved out. And it is vulnerable not only from the land but also from the sea, and Mussolini can increase the size of Franco's navy at will.

Altogether, then, it looks as though the jig was up for the Spanish Government, and that France, and with her Britain, are in for it. And with Spain in his hands, the Italian dictator will have his long lines drawn straight across France's road to her African colonies. And in addition he'll be able to dominate Gibraltar. His naval might, indeed, will still not be equal to that of France and Britain, but he will have enormous advantage in position, and that plus the threat of Germany's air might, will make him an immensely formidable opponent.

Old Paul-Boncour has reason, in short. We are probably going to see another Munich before long. France will get her ultimatum to hand over Tunisia, and, at Bumble's insistence, she will likely submit--having no other choice save to risk fighting alone.

Bad News For Lynchers

The compromise which Jack Garner is said to have worked out on the Federal anti-lynching bill, and which the President is reported to be backing, seems admirably contrived. In brief, it is simply that the Federal Bureau of Investigation shall investigate all lynchings and make a report of its findings to Congress.

The great objection to the Wagner-Van Nuys bill, which was killed in the last Congress after a long filibuster by Southern Senators, including North Carolina's Bailey, was that it attempted to give the Federal Government power to decide whether or not local officials had performed their duty and to punish them if it judged that they hadn't. And as Senator Borah pointed out at the time, that was genuinely a very dubious assault on the authority of the states.

The compromise bill eliminates that, since the Federals will have no power to prosecute. And at the same time, it promises to put local officials who are derelict in their duty squarely on the spot. The claim which is invariably made is that they are unable to find out who the lynchers were--obviously a ridiculous claim, in most cases. And investigation by the FBI and publication of its findings will utterly deprive them of that excuse and leave them no choice but to act or confess that they are conniving in murder. At the same time, the knowledge that the dreaded G-men will track them down ought to have a very salutary effect in dissuading potential lynchers from committing the crime at all.

That Mystery Again

Senator Pittman of Nevada is back again with a silver bill, this time for the Treasury to pay $1.29 for silver mined in this country (present arbitrary price, 64.64) and to continue to buy foreign silver only on condition that the purchase money be expended for United States goods.

Explanation of the first proposal is easy and may be had simply by turning to the Statistical Abstract of the United States, which testifies that Nevada is the sixth largest silver producer among the sisterhood of states. But the second, to create in this country what corresponds to the German aski marks, is too much for us. We don't get it.

The woote theory which Congress trustingly swallowed when it passed Senator Pittman's first silver bill was that, in some way not made clear, it would invigorate trade with something like 126 nations of the world and have a most marvelous effect on our own economy. In practice it has not worked out at all so. The principal results as far as the Government is concerned have been the cost of one billion or so smackers in real money and the necessity of building a vast underground storage vault to dam the silver flood which keeps on pouring in by law.

But Senator Pittman is nothing daunted. His only confession of imperfection is that maybe it would be better to swap American goods for all this silver, and thus make a reasonable profit, than to put out the hard cash with no strings to it.


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