Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Gov. Bickett's Pardons, Unfair Hiring, Dispute Over Alcohol in State Legislature, 1917

 “News from the State Capitol,” March 13, 1917, Scotland Neck Commonwealth
State Board of Pardons Should Have Been Created By Legislature…Anti-Saloon Losing Cast
One sin of omission for which the recent legislature is answerable consists of its failure to create a State Board of Pardons. It should have been done years and years ago and until that duty is attended to the public and press will continue to unfavorably criticize many actions of the one man who now is invested alone with the power.
For that reason, if there were no other, the Governor should be a warm advocate of the change, yet the subject was not even mentioned. An additional reason for the change is found in the great proportion of time the Chief Executive taken up in the consideration and disposal of the numerous applications for executive clemency—and till further and more potent argument in favor of a pardon board is the self-evident fact that no one person ought to be vested with this authority and power—to the exclusion of all the rest of the world.
I am prompted to make this reference to the subject at this time because of the criticism, made public in some of the daily papers, of Gov. Bickett’s action in the case of Mincher, the Lenoir county convict guard, convicted by a jury of cruelly and inhumanely whipping a convict and sentenced by Judge Bond to a year’s imprisonment—jail, and who gets off with a $25 fine by the Governor’s commutation. The recent exposure of wholesale cruelties by this very class of men, revealed through the legislative investigation committee, left the public in no mood for “clemency” to such culprits so soon.
As I have just stated, the subject of a board of pardons was not mentioned during the session of the legislature just adjourned, either in the Governor’s messages to that body or by the lawmakers of their own initiative, which is strange, for there has been considerable discussion of the question in preceding years.
Gov. Craig pardoned several men who were proven to be innocent of the crimes of which they were convicted and already Gov. Bickett (in office only two months) has pardoned at least one innocent man. Thus it is seen how important it is that applications, however numerous, should always be carefully considered—and they consume too much of the time of the governor that ought to be devoted to other matters.
I have no word of censure for any governor who is disposed to be merciful—I commend him for it, and hope we will never elevate to that office a heartless and unmerciful man.
I take no stock in the attacks on any governor’s “sentimentality” or kind-heartedness and merciful disposition—knowing full well that if those virtues were expelled some of their critics might be petitioning for pardon some day in the future—but the action of Gov. Bickett in the case under consideration was certainly ill-timed, in the public mind if not unjustified by the whole evidence. If the commutation of Mincher’s sentence (not a day of which has he yet served) had been made before the legislature adjourned, there might have been a board of pardons by this time. Let us hope the law-makers will be alive to the subject next time.
Double-Barrel Office Holders
According to the terms of a measure which Senator Person of Franklin got through the legislature, the State Reference Librarian is charged with the duty of issuing a “blue book” to the end that the men and women carried on the State’s pay-roll may be made to appear and the salaries paid each of them.
Senator Person things and so do a lot of others that there is and has long been too much double-barrel office holding. For years and years there have been conspicuous instances of such near graft. Clerks who hold well paid regular jobs in public offices and draw annual salaries “hogging” legislative clerkships and other salary-drawing jobs have been a common practice—and much of that sort of thing that does not appear on the surface is not allowed to reach the public. Other men and women, some who come here from other sections of the state for the purpose of securing some of those places, are turned down—although they are equally well fitted and often more deserving (especially from a political standpoint) than those who grab the rake-off through the pull of higher up officials.
If Mr. Librarian Wilson carries out the intent of the Person blue-book law and closely scans the paid warrants on the State treasury, the volume will furnish some interesting reading.
The legislative halls and offices are this week in the hands of the clean-up squad of the capitol. Chief Clerk Lassiter of the House has returned to his home and private business at LaGrange, and Chief Clerk Self of the Senate has gone to Statesville to resume his regular work in the office of the Collector of Internal Revenue. Some of the Raleigh employees of the General Assembly are back at their regular work on Easy Street. The “Fake Bill Artist” remains incognito.
Keeping History Straight
Supt. R.L. Davis of the Anti-Saloon League is out in a statement in which he criticizes the friends of prohibition in the legislature for lethargy and charges up to their inactivity and lack of interest, coupled with the opposition of Speaker Walter Murphy, the failure of the several additional prohibitive laws which his organization presented for passage, including the ouster bill and that to create the office of prohibition commissioner.
There are a number of ardent temperance men in the present legislature. If they did not urge the adoption of the anti-saloon league program as earnestly as that organization thinks they should have done, what was the reason. The statement of “brother” Davis is hardly fair to them.
Sometimes a project of even a great cause is rendered unpopular by bad management and unwise liens of procedure on the part of those directing it.
Personally I do not share in a widespread “prejudice” that has existed for some time against certain gentlemen connected with this class of legislation (for alleged reasons which is not necessary to detail here) and which during the recent session of the General Assembly directed much of its effect and influence against the superintendent of the anti-saloon league. But that it did exist and was a factor in the conditions which obtained and the results which followed, is well known to those members of the anti-saloon league committee on legislation as well as others, who came here in the interest of the bills that failed to go through. By the way, is it not about time the temperance people changed the name of their organization?

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