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Detectives were put on my tracks to see if they could find that I had sold a pardon or that undue influence had been brought to bear to secure pardons or paroles.
If we had a system, such as the Governor of Colorado has described, it would not be necessary for me to follow the course I have in granting pardons and paroles.
I ask it of you, who are Governors of my sister States : do not take the word of any other man for it; go yourself into the convict camps; go yourself into the penitentiary, and ask the men why they are there and what for; because if you wait in your office for the petitions to come, you will find they can't come.
One day when I had not been in my office as Governor but about two months, my young secretary came in, very much excited, and said, "Governor, there is an escaped convict in the next room; what must I do with him?" I said, “Ask him in here." He came in. He was a little dried-up negro. I asked him where he escaped from. He said from the State farm. I said, “How did you get away?” He told me. He said, “Governor, I have an old blind mother and two little sisters at home. My old mother has gone blind since I was sent to the penitentiary. She can't work and those two little children are too little to make their own living. I got out in order to get up a petition for pardon, so I can go and make a living for them. I had nobody to get up a petition for me; I had no money, my people had no money, and I simply wanted to get back there and get up a petition. I knew if I could get home and see my white folks I could get them to sign the petition, and I have got it.” He pulled it out and it was signed by the best white people of his section, and stated that what he had told me was absolutely true, and I found it was true. I knew it would not do to turn him out just then. All the prisoners might want to escape and bring back petitions; so I sent him back to prison. But in ten or fifteen days I sent that negro home to work for his mother and two little sisters.
Now, gentlemen, we have to go and see for ourselves. It is easy to condemn the other man; it is easy to sit in the jury box and condemn when you can feel the whole atmosphere around you say "Convict him!" When the Judge himself proves to be a better prosecuting lawyer than the lawyer who is prosecuting the case. But when it comes to relieving suffering humanity—not from justice, but from injustice—that is the duty that we are to perform.
I believe as firmly as anything I believe on this earth that when the question may be asked of me, “I was sick and in prison and ye
visited Me," and the answer is given it will be "Forasmuch as ye did it unto one of the least of these, My brethren, ye did it unto Me." And, if these poor fellows shackled in the trenches, without friends to intercede for them, is not "one of the least of these," for God's sake, tell me who is?
IN RE "DIVORCE," ETC.
Governor Blease—Mr. Chairman: I shall not undertake to discuss with the distinguished Governor of Virginia the question of raising corn, because South Carolina holds the world's record, and as to the quality of his corn, I would not for a moment discuss that, because all through prohibition South Carolina we have examples of the quality of his corn, shipped from the capital of his State by his wholesale dealers.
But, Mr. President, the other question in which South Carolina stands alone, and in which, in my opinion, she is superior to all the States of the American Union, written in the fundamental law of my State by a constitutional convention, composed of men of both races, in 1868, and even more emphatically in 1895 by the white people of South Carolina, are the words, "No divorce from the bonds of matrimony shall ever be granted.” It may be, sir, a hardship in some cases, and possibly I might refer to cases where other States might think it was right, still I say to this audience this afternoon, and I say it with pleasure, that the only correct rule, following both the Biblical injunction and the injunction of man, is that which South Carolina follows when she says: "Those whom God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.” If there be one thing in the American Union that is a disgrace to American civilization, it is the sale of American womanhood for foreign titles; if there be another, it is the wholesale and unwarranted granting of divorces because, forsooth, some woman or some man has not got as much money by their marriage as they expected when the marriage ceremony was performed. I am glad that we have no divorce law in South Carolina personally, and if you will look to the rear end of this hall and pick out the best looking red-headed woman in this State you will see why I object personally to divorce. But, Mr. Chairman, when you lay down the law you will reap the harvest that the distinguished Governor from Nevada has pictured to this Conference today.
My State stands alone. We grant no divorces; we recognize no divorces. If a man leaves the State of South Carolina, or a woman,
and goes into another State and obtains a divorce from his wife, he may come back into South Carolina and live; but if he again marries and moves back within the State with a second wife we hold him and his wife guilty of adultery and punish him accordingly; and if there are children born to the union after the divorce, the Supreme Court of South Carolina has stated in their opinion that they are Mlegitimate and cannot inherit the property of the parents. That, I say, may seem to some of you a hardship; but, my friends, it is far better that in a few instances some good woman may suffer, or some man may be caused to suffer, than to lay down a law which would bring, and which is bringing today, in disabuse the solemn bonds of matrimony, which only under any conditions or any circumstances should be contracted for love, sanctioned by a Divine power.
Mr. President, and brother Governors, we do not apply to your States anything wrong. It is your way of looking at the proposition. We do not mean for a moment to condemn you; nor would South Carolina or South Carolinians for a moment set itself up as the only or the proper guardian of the morality of the American nation; but we are glad of the distinction that we hold; we are proud that it is written in our fundamental laws; so that no Legislature, elected possibly by a wave of excitement or from other causes, can change it; it is so written that it is impossible to change it, and of that we are proud.
Now, we cannot follow this rule of desertion all the way through, but in South Carolina when a white man deserts his wife and children, or if he deserts his wife and they are without children, it is a criminal offense to fail to support that wife, or to fail to support the children, if there be such. Consequently the wife can go into a Court of justice and prosecute her husband for nonsupport of herself and for nonsupport of her children, and we punish him as a criminal for failing to do his duty to that woman, to those children, to society and to his State. Therefore, we have but little trouble on this score. Sometimes we have a citizen who drifts to Reno; sometimes we have a citizen that crosses to Augusta, only going across the Savannah River; but when he realizes that when he comes back into the State that a criminal prosecution will hang over his head for the desertion of that woman, who has sworn, not only by man, not only for her love for him, not only for the devotion which she has for her State and her nation, but for her belief in the hereafter and in the God that gave her life that she would stand by him in health and in sickness, old South Carolina says to him, “As she stands by you, you
have got to stand by her.” We are proud of it; we love the distinction.
Now, there is a race of people in my section of the country—and I am painted to the world sometimes as their enemy, but I am not, and if the Governorship of South Carolina depended upon an election next Tuesday and they would leave it entirely to the negro vote, disfranchising for the time the white people, I could receive without trouble seventy-five to ninety per cent. of the negro vote of the State to be their Governor; notwithstanding that I am opposed to educating them, and notwithstanding that I stand alone in this conference and in other places of this nation, not as Governor of South Carolina, but in my individual capacity, believing that there is but one punishment, and that must be speedy, when that negro lays his hands upon the person of a white woman. Such a thing as happened a few days ago in a certain State can't happen in South Carolina; the boasted hero of the black race, who claims to be the superior of the white man in the ring could not disgrace South Carolina by having himself united to a white woman within its borders, thank God, and if it did happen, the law provides a punishment for him and a punishment for her, and the only reason that the law might be called in to protect them would be the location in the State at which the crime might have been committed. Otherwise there might be no need for a grand jury to present a true bill. Mr. Chairman, of that we are proud.
Of course, we cannot apply the same rules to this inferior race that we do to the superior race. And, why not? Because, my friends, you do not understand those people. You condemn us of the South, and yet Ohio follows the example; in Springfield they followed it; New Jersey follows it; Pennsylvania will follow it; because, no matter where it be, North or South, East or West, whenever you touch the Caucasian blood it is the same, and it will prove itself to be the superior, and the history of the world has proved (both the Bible and profane history) that the superior will rule and control, even though it be necessary to wipe the inferior race from the face of the earth. Some men condemn this, and that is their privilege ; but in the Southern States we love a woman; we hold them higher than all things else, and whenever anything steps between a Southern man and the defense of the virtue of the women of his nation and his State, he will tear it down and walk over it in her defense, regardless of what may be the consequences, or what may be his punishment, or the result to himself.
Now, Mr. Chairman, we have a Julge in our State whom I consider the ablest man who has ever been on the bench there. On one occasion several indictments were handed out by the solicitor to the grand jury, and he sat there and heard the solicitor hand out indictment after indictment. After a while he turned around and said, “Mr. Solicitor, are these white people or darkeys, you are handing out these indictments against ?" The solicitor said, "May it please your Honor, they are against colored people.” The Judge looked over to the grand jury and said, "Gentlemen, you can find no true bill against these negroes for the crime for which the solicitor is handing out these indictments. Do you want any cotton raised this year; do you want your fields cultivated; if so, it will not do to bring in true bills on these indictments against these negroes.” The result was no true bills were found. So, it will be seen that we can't treat them as we do ourselves. We treat them as servants. We pay them honestly for the day's work, and I am proud to stand here and make this statement-and when I speak here I know I speak to the American nation, because it has been heralded all over the nation and all over the world what my opinions are on these subjects.
I am proud that I have paroled or pardoned more negroes than all the Governors of South Carolina put together since 1876, when we redeemed ourselves and went back to white supremacy in the old State of South Carolina ; therefore, I say that I am not his enemy, but his friend. and I know him better than you know him. But we don't give them divorce (the speaker was here interrupted).
Governor Carey, of Wyoming : Governor Blease, when you were sworn in as Governor of South Carolina, did you not swear to uphold the Constitution and laws of the State of South Carolina ?
Governor Blease: I did, sir.
Governor Carey: Don't you have a law on the statute books of South Carolina protecting the negro the same as you do the white man?
Governor Blease: Yes, sir. I will answer the Governor of Wyoming (I believe) as I answered this question on the rostrum in South Carolina (I wish to call upon the newspaper men here to quote me correctly now I am not excited-in South Carolina, thank God, I have the record of not only being a fighter, but a cold blooded fighter)-I answer you, sir, by saying this, that whenever the Constitution of my State steps between me and the defense of the virtue of the white women of my State, I will resign my commission, tear it up and throw it to the breezes and march to the defense of her honor