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No. 73 "The Economic Necessity in the Southern States for a Return to the Constitution" Speech of Forney Johnston of Birmingham, Alabama, Member of the National Lawyers Committee of the American Liberty League, October 29, 1935.
No. 73 "The Economic Necessity in the Southern States for a Return to the Constitution" Speech of Forney Johnston of Birmingham, Alabama, Member of the National Lawyers Committee of the American Liberty League, October 29, 1935. American Liberty League. 400dpi TIFF G4 page images Digital Library Services, University of Kentucky Libraries Lexington, Kentucky Am_Lib_Leag_73 These pages may freely searched and displayed. Permission must be received for subsequent distribution in print or electronically. No. 73 "The Economic Necessity in the Southern States for a Return to the Constitution" Speech of Forney Johnston of Birmingham, Alabama, Member of the National Lawyers Committee of the American Liberty League, October 29, 1935. American Liberty League. American Liberty League. Washington, D.C. 1935. This electronic text file was created by Optical Character Recognition (OCR). No corrections have been made to the OCR-ed text and no editing has been done to the content of the original document. Encoding has been done through an automated process using the recommendations for Level 1 of the TEI in Libraries Guidelines. Digital page images are linked to the text file. Pamphlets Available â˜… Copies of the following pamphlets and other League literature may be obtained upon application to the League's national headquarters: Statement of Principles and Purposes American Liberty League Its Platform An Analysis of the President's Budget Message Economic Security Inflation The Thirty Hour Week The Holding Company Bill Price Control The Labor Relations Bill The Farmers' Home Bill The TV A Amendments The New Deal, Its Unsound Theories and Irreconcilable Policies Speech by Ralph M. Shaw How to Meet the Issue Speech by W. E. Borah The Supreme Court and the New Deal An Open Letter to the President By Dr. Neil Carothers The Revised AAA Amendments The President's Tax Program The American Bar The Trustee of American Institutions Speech by Albert C. Ritchie Two Amazing Years Speech by Nicholas Roosevelt Fabian Socialism in the New Deal Speech by Demarest Lloyd The People's Money Speech by Dr. W. E. Spahr Which Road to Take? Speech by J. H. Pew The Blessings of Stability Speech by James W. Wadsworth Legislation By Coercion or Constitution Speech by Jouett Shouse Recovery by Statute Speech by Dr. Neil Carothers Expanding Bureaucracy The Imperilment of Democracy Speech by Fitzgerald Hall Lawmaking by Executive Order The Test of Citizenship Speech by Dean Carl W. Acker-man Today's Lessons for Tomorrow Speech by Captain William H. Stayton New Deal Laws in Federal Courts Potato Control "Breathing Spells" Speech by Jouett Shouse The National Labor Relations Act Summary of Conclusions from report of the National Lawyers Committee Consumers and the AAA Straws Which Tell The Duty of the Lawyer in the Present Crisis Speech by James M. Beck The Constitution and the Supreme Court Speech by Borden Burr Budget Prospects Dangerous Experimentation â˜… AMERICAN LIBERTY LEAGUE NATIONAL PRESS BUILDING WASHINGTON, D. C. â˜… â˜… The Economic Necessity in the Southern States for a Return to the Constitution â˜… â˜… â˜… Speech of FORNEY JOHNSTON of Birmingham, Alabama Member of the National Lawyers Committee of the American Liberty League over the Dixie Network of the Columbia Broadcasting System October 29, 1935 AMERICAN LIBERTY LEAGUE National Headquarters NATIONAL PRESS BUILDING WASHINGTON, D. C. â˜… â˜… Document No. 73 The Economic Necessity in the Southern States for a Return to the Constitution you have finished with this pamphlet please pass it on to some friend or acquaintance who might be interested, calling his attention to the membership blank on page 11. I HAVE understood that a principal object of the American Liberty League is the nonpartisan support of the American Constitution. As a Southerner and a Democrat I have accepted membership on its National Lawyers Committee. There is a systematic effort on foot to discredit the Constitution of the United States and bring into public disfavor the judicial duty of the Supreme Court to apply the Constitution in controversies coming before the Court for decision. The purpose is to amend the Constitution so as to confer arbitrary power on Congress, and to transfer to executive bureaus of the Federal Government direct control over the details of the economic life of the people. In short, to set up a government of men, established by political victory and exercising arbitrary power, instead of a government of laws meeting the test of the Constitution. The wage control boards will be dictated by the victorious group, either employer or employee, prices by producer or consumer groups, and forced by the New Deal and loss of a Constitution into hostile camps. That means permanent insecurity and bitterness. It is idle to talk of security based on threat of arbitrary action, for security in America can exist only under a Constitution assuring fair play, whatever faction may seize the government. The present Constitution has kept the American people free from class distinctions and from class tyranny by limiting the power of majorities. America, made up of many races, of vast conflicting forces, has saved its soul because of the mandate of fair play dictated by the Constitution. Unlimited power means in all human affairs abuse of power. In government it means dictatorship, abuse of taxing power and national tragedy. A single partisan 3 Congress, flushed with political victory, and free from restraint under a Constitution, could take steps as permanent and as blighting as war. That is the program of the New Deal, in the name of security and reform. TrlE movement to discredit and then destroy the Constitution would threaten an era worse than the period of Reconstruction in the South, would dry up its industry, and destroy any chance of harmony among its people. Nor have I any doubt that, nationally, it would result in regional and occupational struggles for control or for dominant position in the central government, for legislative advantages and preferences. The sixth week of a strike of 17,000 coal miners in the Birmingham district, ordered by a remote labor control without concern for the local welfare and using the workers as pawns in a national game, is the first fruit of the Guffey Act, demanded by the President. Within the boundaries of the existing Constitution the permanent problem of unemployment can be dealt with adequately. It has not received serious consideration on that basis. Nor have any of the major problems confronting the American people received effective consideration within the traditional limits of the Constitution, because the principal advisers of the Administration and the President himself desire aggressive and vindictive action that would not be tolerated by a Constitution based upon fair play and limitation of the power of the national legislature. No major policy of the Administration has the support of any previous declaration of principle by the Democratic Party or of any public act or message of any Democratic President. I, for one, am not prepared to admit that all previous Presidents were wrong and that those who have the willing ear of the President are right. The proposed constitutional revolution would rend the South into armed economic camps, 4 with agricultural labor organized against the farm proprietor, with suffrage qualifications overturned in the struggle for class advantage, with town arrayed against country, and the South faced by a breakdown in its markets, in its industry and of its past solidarity of action in every crisis. I hold no brief for any position whatever which industry or labor or agriculture has taken in the past, for the abuse of the tariff or for long deferred processes in effective regulation by just laws under the Constitution of any business threatening the public interest. I state that adequate measures to meet all public requirements are within the scope of the existing Constitutions, state and federal, and that this Administration has made no earnest and sustained effort to try that route. The principle of voluntary farm, industry and trade agreements under public sanction is an established function of government, state and national; but the use of the power of government to force compliance on those who do not voluntarily agree or to dictate the terms on which they can engage in a competitive business, is as alien to American tradition as to the principles of the existing Constitution. Now, there are several methods of attempting to discredit the Constitution. The first is to press legislation through Congress carrying federal aid to a class of numerous voters, legislation known to the Executive and to Congress to be on or beyond the border line of federal power, and thus throw the burden on the Court and the Constitution, if the legislation is declared invalid. The second method is to attempt directly to discredit the Constitution; to magnify the doubts expressed by those who made it, ignoring the century and a half of test and of interpretation which has made it crystal clear and has proven it to be adequate in prosperity and in depression. 5 A familiar method is to compare the Constitution to the obsolete Navy vessel of that name, the old Frigate Constitution, now nothing save a monument and an ancient memory, and by asserting that maintenance of the American Constitution will carry us back to horse and buggy days. Let me read to you what the Supreme Court of the United States said on May 27: "The Constitution established a national government with powers deemed to be adequate, as they have proved to be both in war and peace." Mark those words: "as they have proved to be both in war and peace." The present Administration has, under the high tension of depression, done more to create class, occupational and regional prejudice than any Administration in history, precisely as the President has done more than any previous President, in fact alone among the Presidents of the United States, has spoken and acted to impair popular respect for the protection of a written Constitution, judicially interpreted and applied. It would seem naturally to follow that those who are not direct beneficiaries of preferential action by the Administration would be substantially unanimous in grave disapproval of the program. As to that I can only speak for those with whom I am brought in contact. My associations are predominantly with Southerners and life-long Democrats, small business men, average business men and a few of large affairs and large usefulness in the South. That is my crowd. Yet I say to you that I have yet to meet any man in business, who expresses any opinion at all, who does not now express the belief, in solemn words and with profound conviction, that the program of this Administration is ominous and disruptive. Whatever the statistics quoted by the Administration as to the employment program or as to 6 volume of business, or as to corn-hog votes, there is a blistering unanimity against the present Administration without precedent in my observation or my reading of political and public affairs. It is no mere political opposition. It is the more intense because the cards are dealt by a Democrat, dealing from the bottom of the Socialist pack. There are undoubtedly many beneficiaries of the program who entertain a different view. But as for those who are attempting to carry on the industry, the finance or the business of the South, and are sustaining the major burden of government in my area, I do not happen to have met any single proprietor who would take issue with the conclusion I have stated. that the New Deal, as interpreted by its principal advocates, is a complete repudiation of the traditional principle of the Democratic party is not debatable; that it has violated every substantial covenant of the Democratic platform, reaffirmed by the Candidate, and has specifically undertaken to give effect to the principal planks of the Socialist platform is not debatable; and yet there is not a Senator from a Gulf or Atlantic State South of Maryland who sees fit to oppose. The members of the House of Representatives who effectively question the course of the Administration can be counted on the fingers of a crippled hand. Aubrey Williams, the leader of the so-called Youth Administration, one of the key men in this Administration, a few weeks ago told the teachers of my city that the schools were factories to manufacture opinion supporting the social policy of the Administration. Nothing goes back more centuries toward barbarism than a desire to confuse education with the warping of the mind of a child. It ranks with spring poisoning; and if the Administration desires to qualify for that pastime it has selected the proper staff. Now what legitimate business is it of the Federal Government to teach my 7 children to repudiate that which I know to be essential to civil peace, the principles of the American Constitution as they stand today, unmuzzled by the ghost-writers and hit-and-run drivers of the New Deal. Does not every farmer in the South know that a national wage scale applied to this area would of itself alone dry up the American export cotton market, without the other effective steps of the Administration toward that result? Only last week I learned that a Southern firm recently received in a single mail inquiries for over a hundred and fifty thousand dollars of cotton gin machinery from the Argentine. A national wage scale dictated by the higher productivity and machine cultivation of the corn belt or of the public domain being subsidized by the Government into competitive production in reward for political support in the West, would affect our agriculture precisely as a national wage scale in Southern mills and factories would close them by the thousands. This Administration stands committed to the subjection of production to compulsory federal control. ITH this situation, what can a citizen and a Democrat do? The House of his fathers is occupied by strangers seeking to undermine it. Even the Southern newspapers, as a whole, take it for granted that Five Billion Dollars can't be wrong. And yet, I repeat that I have yet to find a single proprietor of any business whatever in Alabama or elsewhere who agrees with any major program of the Administration. Well, there is nothing left for the time being but free speech; and that, along with the rest of the horse and buggy Constitution, is challenged by those who shrink from the test of fair play under the mandate of an effective Constitution. That general public discussion is essential is 8 not to be doubted. In this brief address I can only point the landmarks. Take the case of the public works. Political projects have no place in a depression program. Say what you will, I say that the vast electric power dams at Fort Peck and Bonneville and Grand Coulee are built as Cheops built his pyramid, out of the taxes of a stricken people. To call those vast wastages of public funds recovery measures is a satire upon the facts. The planned economy of the New Deal in Russia also took good care of its industrial projects, but millions died in Russia of starvation. Four thousand families in Jefferson County are threatened with withdrawal from relief rolls tomorrow night, not for lack of funds but because available funds are being applied to unnecessary public works in remote areas. Cheops must have his pyramid. National wage levels, uniform suffrage requirements, uniform and compulsory pension requirements, forced by federal law upon the states to obtain drawback on federal taxes, mean hasty, ill-balanced legislation and confusion in the South. I am not opposing social or economic reform. I am warning the people of my section against surrendering the responsibility which is both their duty and their opportunity, and selling their self-reliance to a political group organized to centralize political power, finance, taxation and public improvements in the federal government, to be accomplished first by discrediting and then nullifying the American Constitution. The South, by reason of its relative weakness in industry, the limits on its markets, the peculiar nature of its local problems, is of all sections most in need of the protection of the Constitution and most certain to suffer stagnation if standardized by political control in Washington. It WAS not some member of the Liberty League or critic of the New Deal who first indicted a reigning executive for curtailing our 9 foreign trade, for creating a multitude of new offices and swarms of officials to eat our substance, for making judges dependent on his will, or for subjecting us to a jurisdiction not admitted by our Constitution and unacknowledged by our laws, giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation. Those words were written by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence and they were directed at King George the Third. AN INVITATION TO JOIN THE AMERICAN LIBERTY LEAGUE We extend to every American citizen who believes in the fundamental principles which gave birth to the Constitution of the United States an invitation to be* come a member of the American Liberty League. You may indicate your acceptance of this invitation by filling in the necessary information as to your name and address on the enrollment blank below and mailing it to American Liberty League, National Press Building, Washington, D. C. There are no fees or dues. If you are willing and able to give monetary help for the League's support your contribution will be appreciated, as our activities are supported entirely by the voluntary gifts of our members. ENROLLMENT BLANK Date_ I favor the principles and purposes of the American Liberty League and request that I be enrolled as a ( regular i* contributing Signature_ Name (Mr. Mrs. Miss) Street Town County State *As a contributing member I desire to give $___ to help support the activities of the League: Cash herewith_Installments as follows: 5 10