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Lynching Bill, passed in 1922 by the House of Representatives, but blocked in the Senate by a filibuster conducted by senators from Southern States. The assumption underlying the Dyer Bill was that, if local opinion could not be brought to condemn lynching and punish the lynchers, the federal courts might do so. Accordingly access to federal courts was to be made possible in cases where lynchers were not prosecuted by the State, and not only punishment of culpable peace officers was provided for, but a fine of $10,000, was made recoverable, in a federal court, from the County in which a lynching took place.
The threat of federal action proved efficacious. During the years in which the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People kept the Dyer Bill a live issue in Congress, lynchings sharply declined, as shown by the figures for seven years:
pecially where additional machinery has to be created to enforce them. And if public sentiment could be rallied locally to deal with the practice of lynching and stamp it out, that would be the most desirable form of action from any point of view. But, as the lynching statistics clearly indicate, without threat of outside intervention, without the pressure of public opinion, little can be hoped for. The history of lynching for the past forty years shows, with so few exceptions as to be almost negligible, that the States have proved themselves both unwilling and unable to deal with the problem. The action of the nation as a whole is therefore invited.
One may agree with the statement of President Coolidge in his message to Congress that a multiplicity of federal statutes is undesirable; es
One real hope of improvement lies in the slow process of education in public sentiment now going on in the South. Such men as former Governor Hugh M. Dorsey of Georgia, and Mr. Will W. Alexander of Atlanta-who recently received a Harmon award for his work in the field of race-relations-and others in various States, are slowly gathering and uniting the whites who realize the danger to their race of unchecked excesses against blacks. Educational advance is necessarily slow, and must be assisted by every possible outside pressure. The effect of such pressure is shown in the case of Aiken, where it brought about a third Grand Jury investigation, and although the Grand Jury failed to indict any of the men whose names were freely mentioned on the streets, yet the new governor of South Carolina, John G. Richards, newspapers such as the Columbia "State," the Charleston "News and
Courier" and the Spartanburg "Herald," as well as the State Senate, concurred in condemning this action by Grand Jury. If the tangible results of the effort to punish the Aiken lynchers were negative, the intangible results in the form of assembling and uniting public opinion were distinctly positive. And it is on such intangible factors that hope largely rests.
realize that the problem is one that
The problem is not merely that of
That lynching is more than a local problem is obvious at once to any one who considers it. It is known as an American institution the world over, even in those localities where Americans have gone in the rôle of apostles of civilization and progress. Our moral position in international relations is seriously compromised by the reflection that the United States is the only country on the face of the globe pretending to civilization, where human beings, in the presence of men, women and children, can be burned alive at the stake or done to death in defiance of the courts and with the connivance or actual assistance of officers sworn to uphold the laws and protect the public peace.
The country is coming rapidly to inevitably have to face.
DEMOCRACY IN CHICAGO
Big Bill Thompson, Friend of the Plain People NELS ANDERSON
dumpling of a man was boosted to his feet. He beamed about, bobbing his head to the applause which did not subside until he made the third attempt to speak.
"Thank you, folks," in a high barking voice. He touched his hip pocket, grinning. "Sorry, folks, I got nothing to offer you." They laughed uproariously. Rapport established, he plunged into the subject. Short sentences, sharp like dagger points; he was hitting home. Every moment or two he was interrupted with whoops of delight. Personal liberty was coming back to Chicago. Big Bill would free the plain people from the shackles of reform. He was getting nicely warmed up when a bugle blared forth outside. A man in uniform jammed through to the center aisle. Another uniformed man followed, carrying a gold-trimmed silk flag. Across his breast ranged a row of medals-the most decorated soldier in Chicago. Following them came a huge florid man carrying a cowboy hat. At a gesture from the beaming Caponetti the audience came up shouting for Big Bill the Builder. The trio swung through the aisle to the bugle tune: "You're in the Army now; you're not behind the plow." On the platform they right-faced to
the line of chairs. The big man bowed and sat down. The audience settled back for the show to begin. At a signal from the bald chairman a young, sleek-looking man came bounding out of the audience and took a seat at the piano. Simultaneously another man climbed to the platform and placed a huge board in the center of the stage. He stripped away the cover revealing the bold lines of Big Bill's battle song, "America First," sold at all the news stands, hummed at every corner. After the best vaudeville fashion, the man at the piano began to wriggle and rock. The second man, dramatic as a college yell master, sprang to the footlights singing with such gusto through his megaphone that he swept the crowd along from the first note. Some couldn't follow the words but the sound was deafening when they came to the key line, "America first and last and always." Big Bill, the Builder, became animated as the song progressed. He swayed from side to side shouting now and again to "Sing 'er out!" The building trembled like a storm When the last note died Big Bill arose.
a chuckle that made you want to laugh about something.
A West Side audience always went to his heart. . . . He was working hard in this campaign going to the voters in person because the papers wouldn't give him a fair shake. Gradually the tempo of his talk quickened. In a moment he was loose and loud as a camp meeting
"Yes, they lie about Bill Thompson ... but they rob you everybody robs you!" The crowd had come to his bosom. "They call you low-brows and hoodlums they call me that, too . . . we lowbrows got to stick together . . . look who's against us!"
He named the enemies of the plain people: The newspapers, except Hearst's; the two universities, the social workers, the political purity folks and politicians who wanted to get their feet in the trough.
Now he was at his best, bombarding the high-brows who tried to run Chicago but were too proud to live there. They hid out in the suburbs. They were cheaters, busybodies or they were half-bakes who did not know what it was all about. The crudity of his epithets and ridicule was life giving. When he hurled defiance, gave the lie or mocked, he plunged his hearers into rhapsodies of laughter, howling for Big Bill, the regular guy. In twenty minutes all the local dragons were slain and he turned abroad. William McAndrew, superintendent of schools, was charged with taking George Washington's picture out of the schoolbooks. That was King George's work. work. The King of England would have to keep his snoot out of Amer
ica; and if the King of England didn't like it, why, the King of England could go to hell.
Then he turned to the high-brows who were thinking royal thoughts because they hated plain people. The high-brows were worried. They were spending money like water to beat Big Bill but Big Bill never worried when it came to leaving it to the American voter. He closed with a roar and made a dramatic exit down the center aisle, with bugle and flag leading the way, and the plain people on their feet shouting for Big Bill the Builder. There were other speakers but the crowd was through. They had been entertained and convinced and followed their candidate to the street.
The joyous abandon of this meeting was characteristic of the election. What a comeback for a man who four years earlier left the mayorship, beaten and disgraced! Now he was the man of the hour, greeted everywhere like a patriot back from exile.
Thompson's retirement in 1923 led to the election of William E. Dever, an Irish Catholic Democrat and a wet. In contrast with Thompson who was the son of a rich man and who played with politics, Dever was of plebeian origin, a West Side tannery worker. Once he was alderman and then judge. His record was clean; too clean to excite interest. He promised to enforce prohibition but so had many other candidates. Unlike the rest, he meant it and told the police to do their duty; which was most disconcerting. His practical political friends tried to call him off but it was useless. The drys hurrahed, law-and-order editorials
boomed him, until superficially it seemed that he was getting popular. He padlocked saloons by the hundreds and piled the private stills high in every police station. His courage was no comfort to the Martinis and Marjowskis, bootleggers to the plain people, who had done time or paid fines on liquor charges. Nor was it comforting to the plain people to see the price of liquor jumping with each new effort to clamp down the lid. Dever's stock dropped with the low-brows. It helped him little to be boosted by the highbrows since so many of them lived in the suburbs and had no vote.
A second sore spot in Dever's enforcement program was that his net failed to bring in the big producers and distributors. It really showered gold on their heads by clearing the field of amateurs. They began warring among themselves for the control of the market. Dever's police were powerless to halt the gang wars and had to be content to run about with ambulances picking up the dead and wounded. Naturally, the bootleggers had no objection to Dever and enforcement but when Thompson came booming along with the promise to make Chicago as wet as the Atlantic Ocean, consternation swept their ranks. He would call off the police; the risk would be removed and prices would drop. Dever was doomed. "Dever and decency" became a password to laughter. The plain people would call back, "Away with decency, give us our beer!"
Personal liberty was the real issue, but it was an issue without clash. The Democrats, being on the unpopular side, kept quiet. The