Senators’ Records (1914)

Senators’ Records (1914)

During the debate in the Senate of the United States on the joint resolution proposing to amend the Constitution by extending the suffrage to women, the race question obtruded itself and, as a result, many Senators, by their speeches and votes, put themselves on record. This record will be of interest to Negro voters throughout the country.

Two amendments to the resolution were offered, both intended to repeal the Fifteenth Amendment. The first, proposed by Vardaman, of Mississippi, was to insert after the word “sex” the following:

But in all other respects the right of citizens to vote shall be controlled by the State wherein they reside.

The second, offered by Williams, of Mississippi, proposed to amend by inserting before the word “citizens” the word “white,” so that, as amended, the section would read:

Section 1. The right of white citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

Of the Senators from the South the following only signified their opposition to the repeal of the Fifteenth Amendment: Bradley, of Kentucky; Du Pont, of Delaware; Chilton, of West Virginia; Fall, of New Mexico; Catron, of New Mexico; Ashhurst, of Arizona. Thornton, of Louisiana, opposed the Vardanian amendment, but expressly stated that he was ready at any time to support a straight resolution repealing the Fifteenth Amendment. Saulsbury, of Delaware, did not vote, but was announced as favoring both amendments. Reed, of Missouri, opposed the Williams amendment, but he had already voted for the Vardanian amendment. Bankhead, Clark, of Arkansas, Robinson, Culberson, Fletcher, Goff, Simmons, Smith, of Maryland, Smith, of Arizona, and Stone, of Missouri, did not vote and were not announced as on either side.

Of the Northern Senators, Meyers, of Montana, voted for both amendments. Newlands and Pittman, of Nevada, voted for the Williams amendment.

During the debate Pittman, of Nevada, stated that he opposed the suffrage amendment because he realized that its passage would embarrass the South in its treatment of the Negro problem, and because he did not care to endanger the chances of future anti-Japanese legislation by alienating the South on the Negro question. His colleague. Newlands, in a speech in support of the woman’s suffrage amendment, took occasion to state his belief in Negro disfranchisement and white supremacy. Borah, of Idaho, in a long speech and in numerous shorter ones, opposed the suffrage amendment on the ground that it would not be enforced in the South as to colored women and that he would not be a party to writing into the Constitution another provision which he knew would not be enforced. Bryan, of Florida, and the two Mississippi Senators supported the proposed repeal of the Fifteenth Amendment by their speeches. This proposition was opposed by Bristow, Townsend, Gallinger and Clapp.

Of the Senators who by their stand on this question showed themselves as opposed to the interests of the colored people, only Newlands, of Nevada, comes up for re-election this year. Unfortunately, the Negro vote in his State is of slight importance. It should, however, be cast solidly against the re-election of Senator Newlands. Of Senators who have on this and other matters shown that they have the interests of the colored people at heart, the following come up for re-election: Bradley, of Kentucky; Bristow, of Kansas: Gallinger, of New Hampshire; Jones, of Washington; Sherman, of Illinois.

In the recent fight for the Jones amendment to the Smith-Lever bill the issue was not clearly drawn, because the introduction of the Shafrotli amendment caused persons who otherwise would have voted for the Jones amendment to oppose it. However, one Republican Senator, Brady, of Ohio, intimated throughout his debate his opposition. He also comes up for re- election this fall and should be opposed by the colored voters.

Citation: Du Bois, W.E.B. 1914. “Senators’ Records.” The Crisis. 8(2):77–78.