fbpx Skip to main content

Hillyer Resolutions

The resolutions sent up by the Georgia Convention give in emphatic and succinct terms the views of that body on this important subject, but are so framed as not to be adapted for direct action by this Convention, and complying with the suggestion of the Georgia Convention, your Committee deem it appropriate that resolutions be specially framed and submitted for action by this body as follows:

God speed the day that, when by suggestions like those we here submit, or by better ones, if any can make them, men and women and girl children, and all the innocent and the good, may be safe as they come and go, and in their homes, whether such homes be in castle or cabin!

The law is very weak and imperfect. “We speak this to our shame.” But lynching is not the remedy. Lynching blunts the public conscience, undermines the foundations on which society stands, and if unchecked will bring on anarchy.

We should not stop with merely writing and teaching and praying against the lynchers, leaving the helpless and innocent victims of crime with no adequate or sufficient protection. Our condemnation is due with equal emphasis, and in many cases with much greater emphasis, against the horrible crimes which cause the lynchings.

President Roosevelt, in a public address delivered at Little Rock, Ark., in October of last year, as reported at the time in the public press, amongst other things said:

“We urgently need in this country methods for expediting punishment–methods for doing away with delay, methods which will secure to the public an even chance with the criminal. At the present the right of appeals is in criminal cases so abused as to make it a matter of the utmost difficulty ultimately to punish a man sufficiently rich or sufficiently influential to command really good legal talent.

“If the law is reasonably speedy and reasonably sure, it takes away one great excuse for lawlessness. If some horrible crime is committed, and the people feel that under the best circumstances there will be an indefinite delay in the punishment of the criminal, and that the punishment will be uncertain, even when the time for administration of it comes, then a premium is put on that kind of law breaking which more than other is a menace to the law.

“I earnestly hope that some substantial improvement shall be made in the direction of securing greater expedition and greater certainty in the administration of justice, especially in the administration of criminal justice.”

Let it be observed that the complaint here is not in regard to what the law declares to be crime or in the punishment which the law denounces against crimes, but the difficulty lies in the remedies given in legal administration for the enforcement of the law; the trouble being, not as to what the law is, but as to carrying it into effect.

The daily papers are teeming with accounts of horrible tragedies and crimes, and they seem to be growing worse and more numerous. The law as now contrived, in the hands of offenders of all classes, offenders and defenders, who know how to use or misuse the law, is but a poor protection and dependence for the innocent and the good.

The evils above named and the remedies needed are confined to no part of the United States, but crimes and lynchings have become so general and so frequent in nearly all parts of our common country as to form an appalling aggregate–enough to make any Christian shudder or sadden the heart of a patriot.

But what shall we do about it? The answer is: Make the law better and make it stronger. Amend the law. Give it more promptness and more wisdom and more justice and more certainty in its own enforcement. Astonish the murderer and rapist by its quickness and its certainty. If the law will protect the innocent and the good in all the States, the innocent and the good in all the States will respect the law. Enlarge the powers of the courts. Take away the unreasonable provisions by which so many advantages are given to the criminal in the trials. Give the State the right of appeal or to have a writ of error just like the criminal has, and in every criminal trial put the State and the accused upon terms of perfect equality, so that innocent and good people may rely on the law for protection rather than rush into irregular and dangerous force under methods of their own.

Your Committee are well aware that this Convention has no ecclesiastical jurisdiction, but it is recommended that all our membership guided by Bible precept, and with prayers for the blessing of Almighty God, agitate for and insist on amendments in the criminal laws and judicial procedure until all men know that the courts will surely visit just and speedy punishment upon the guilty in every case.

It is hoped that the discussion of this important subject may be taken up and continued by the different State conventions and district associations until combined public sentiment shall demand and obtain the needed and appropriate remedies and amendments of the kind indicated. Respectfully submitted,

N.W.P. Bacon, Chairman George Hillyer
W.C. Lattimore J.B. Hawthorne
F.C. McConnell E.E. Folk