Page images
PDF
EPUB

ation makes provision to meet the Federal fund through the fiscal year ending June 30, 1919.

On or before June 1st, 1919, the Agricultural College charged with the extension work is required to make formal certification to the Secretary of Agriculture as to the State's appropriation for the fiscal year beginning July 1st. This matter should receive your prompt attention, for failure to act before June 1st would almost completely demoralize and disperse the present force of farm demonstration agents, home demonstration agents and extension specialists in marketing, dairying, horticulture, crops, live stock, etc.

I advise that you make provision for the first year's work without delay, reserving to the adjourned session consideration of appropriation for subsequent years.

ROADS

Improved public highways are an index to advanced civilization. They are the means as well as the evidence of prosperity. The prosperity of city and country alike demands continued improvement of our public roads. We have made but a small beginning. In many counties of Alabama during several months of the year in the winter season the roads are a social and industrial blockade. It is an effective blockade. It should be raised in the interest of the social and commercial intercourse of the people of town and country. The work must be done largely by counties and local communities affected. But travel and transportation over the public highways are no longer entirely local. The automobile and the truck have made the erstwhile local community road a part of a system of wide scope and importance, so it is no longer reasonable and just to expect local communities to bear the entire burden. It should be borne by the National, the State and the County governments operating jointly. The national government has recognized and acted upon the principle and provided funds for the purpose. I recommend that provision be made for meeting all requirements necessary to secure our full share of national road funds available for use in this State. In this co-operation lies the solution of the good roads problem.

UPKEEP OF ROADS

But we must not only build good roads, we must maintain them after they are built. The chief defect of our present system lies in the fact that we have failed to make adequate provision for the upkeep of the few good roads we have built. Money spent in building roads without provision for their upkeep is money

wasted. Millions of dollars have been literally thrown away in this manner. It is high time we were applying a little common sense in this direction.

This question of road building and road keeping is one of tremendous possibilities for our State. Its wise solution is vitally necessary to the full development of our agricultural, industrial and educational interests. It should be approached with clear understanding and broad vision.

CONVICT LEASE SYSTEM

Our system of contracting the labor of convicts is a reproach to the State. As a means of picturing the conditions under which these unfortunates are working I quote from a report of a committee of the Legislature of 1915:

“This subject was approached with an open mind. After consideration we have been forced to the conclusion that the convict lease system of Alabama is a relic of barbarism, a species of human slavery, a crime against humanity. We do not advocate the pampering of prisoners, and we are not seeking to prepare for them a bed of roses. They should be punished severely; they should be made to work; their fate should be an example to others. We have no legal or moral right after they are sentenced to add thereto 'cruel and unusual punishment.' A sentence to hard labor should not impliedly include a deprivation of nourishment, an absence of God's sunlight, the breaking of bones, the maiming of limbs, the disfigurement of persons, the loss of life itself. Lessees should not have the authority after jury and judges have acted, to add punishment which no court in the first instance would have imposed.

"Farmers' sons, tillers of the soil, bred-in-the-bone to open life; mountaineers, lovers of nature, used to God's country, we found them in the bowels of the earth, going in hours before the sun rose and coming out hours after it had set. The imposition of tasks from ten to fourteen tons of coal a day required, and from one to four tons added to guard against rock in the coal, the enforcement of these tasks by brutal treatment so brutal that in some instances brought to the committee's attention, the skin was literally beaten from the back, causing scars that will be carried to the grave, ill-prepared and insufficient food, their burial in roughly constructed boxes made from lumber taken from old houses, at a cost not exceeding $2.50 a funeral, are all illustrations of man's inhumanity to man.

"It may be said that we mention exceptional cases. We found them of general occurrence. We know these conditions exist because we saw them and have had evidence of them. Instances could be multiplied except for lack of space in this report.

“Under normal conditions the convict would not perform average work, yet we find under this driving slavery system, where the free miner mines two tons, the convict produces four. The convict should not be allowed to choose his work, but without experience, knowledge, aptitude or training, he should not be forced to take his life in his hands by engaging in labor dangerous even to those who are trained and experienced in such work, on account of falling rocks, explosives, unsupported roofs, gas and dust explosions.

“Our courts have decided that no one can contract against his own negligence and where the convict is working under control of the lessee the latter is liable for injuries received through his negligence or wanton or willful acts. We find that under the late leases of the State, they are so worded that the convict is under the control of the State and when maimed or injured has no remedy, however great may be the negligence, or however wanton or willful may be the act causing his injury. The State has therefore become not only a partner, but also a protector of these iniquities.

“The condition of the convicts in the turpentine and lumber camps of the State is as bad if not worse than in the mintes. They are made frequently to rise at four in the morning, day in and day out, walk five or six miles to work, toil all day long, with insufficient water and food, in the heat of the sun until darkness comes, and then forced to walk into camp for their supper.

“The system is wrong. It is indefensible. The more one studies it the greater his horror; but as dark as this phase of the picture is it does not compare with the more dangerous feature of setting a prisoner to a task of this kind because of one mistake, and have him come out after years with a bitter enmity and hatred toward mankind. This is the class of man most dangerous to society. He cares for nothing now. He has undergone the · most excruciating pain, the hardest toil, the deepest humiliation. He has been driven like the beasts of the field by heartless task masters. Instead of society in the form of laws having protected Verself from one considered an offender, she has multiplied and urned loose upon her own head the danger she is seeking to avoid."

I am not prepared to say whether the conditions have been improved since that report was made. The State received the approximate sum of $750,000 for the hire of its convicts for the year ending September 30, 1918. If the lease system is abolished and the convicts placed at non-remunerative work a like sum must be drawn from some other source. If they are put to work in the public roads an outlay of several hundred thousand dollars will be required for equipment for the work and for their safekeeping. It might be best to use them in developing and working

the coal lands that belong to the State. Under direct supervision of agents of the State the same humane treatment could be given them as is given to free labor. It is a complex question, full of difficulties. I shall make a study of it and present for your consideration at the adjourned session the result of my investigation with recommendations.

WORKMEN'S COMPENSATION

One of the most important matters that will engage the attention of the Legislature is that of compensation for injured workmen and their dependents.

I recommend the enactment of a fair, just and workable Workmen's Compensation Act. More than forty states have enacted such legislation with good results in most of them. Much general information, both theoretical and practical, is readily available in convenient form as the result of investigations and the operation of such laws in other states. Besides, a committee appointed by the Legislature of 1915 will present a bill for your consideration.

Protection and compensation are the fundamentals of Workmen's Compensation laws. They operate to safeguard the uninjured and compensate the injured. They afford protection to the family of the injured during the period of disability of the bread winner, and insure the family against absolute dependency in case of his death. The injured workman and his family are assured of speedy settlement of claims and are protected against the designs of shysters and ambulance chasers.

The cost of accidents and injuries is a proper charge against the products of manufacture. The provisions made against the wear and destruction of machinery should cover the human machine as well.

While workmen's compensation laws are primarily intended for the benefit of the workmen, they operate to protect the interests of the employer as well as the employee through the saving of large sums that go to pay the costs and expenses of litigation. Not only so, but a properly administered workmen's compensation law will very materially reduce the business of our courts, resulting not only in saving to litigants but to the State as well. Viewed from every standpoint, justice, economy, humanity and self-interest alike appeal for this legislation.

JUDICIARY

I recommend the creation of a committee of the Senate and House, or a committee of lawyers not members of the Legislature, to sit during the recess and make a survey of our judiciary

system and court procedure and to re-arrange the judicial circuits with a view to reducing the number of circuit judges and courts, if any are found to be unnecessary. Many judges of circuit courts have not enough business in their circuits to engage more than one-third of their time. Court officials, and all other State officers for that matter, should work for the State twelve months of each year with reasonable vacations. I can see no more reason for the State paying men full year salaries for three or four months' work than there is for private business concerns paying their employees for work which is not performed. Such practice is unheard of in private business.

Not being a lawyer I shall be very sparing with suggestions about judicial matters. There is one suggestion, however, concerning criminal procedure that I would like for you to consider very carefully. The purpose of imprisonment at hard labor as a puni nent for violators of the law, is not merely that adequat punishment should follow crime, but primarily that violators of the law may be reformed and restored to the State as good citizens. Other states have adopted the indeterminate sentence, by means of which the convict may by good conduct and self-reformation abbreviate the term of his service and re-establish him'self as a useful member of society. I invite your attention to this subject, with a view to the amendment of our criminal procedure so as to introduce the principle of indeterminate sentence or other like feature.

CODE OF PUBLIC STATUTES

Section 85 of the Constitution declares that "it shall be the duty of the Legislature, at its first session after the ratification of this Constitution and within every subsequent period of twelve years to make provision by law for revising, digesting and promulgating the public statutes of this State, of a general nature, both civil and criminal."

This matter should receive your attention.

PUBLIC SERVICE UTILITIES

A matter that is if prime importance and in need of proper adjustment involves the regulation of public service utilities. There is widespread dissatisfaction with the present laws governing the subject. I shall submit a special message for your consideration at the adjourned session.

PORT OF MOBILE

The port of Mobile, standing at the gateway of our vast river system, is truly an asset of the State. This fact has been for

« PreviousContinue »