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Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)


College of the Pacific

First Advisor

Malcolm R. Eiseler


This historical account of the Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill of 1920 has been undertaken for two main purposes. The first may be termed the author's interest in lynching as an American institution. The second is a desire to portray clearly the facts concerning the first major legislative attempt to curb the practice by Federal legislation. The author has no private grudge to present and no special interests to serve on the subject. Consequently, this may be taken as an objective analysis of the arguments pro and con on a proposed legislative measure.

Since the major argumentation occurred in the House, whereas the Senate merely filibuteded or repeated those same arguments, most of the contents of this work are presented from the House and one chapter is devoted to the manner in which the Senate disposed of the Bill.

The author proposes to refer to the Bill always with a capital "B" that no confusion may arise as to what legislation is concerned in any given statement.

A definite attempt has been made to provide local color and to give the reader a glimpse of the attitudes of the day. For this reason, quotations have been used freely from Congressional source. One thing was certainly impressed upon the writer's mind and that was the general culture and ability of the Congressmen. On the lynching issue arguments were often tinged with an overabundance of emotion. Nevertheless, the language, the adroitness, the beauty of speech proclaimed the fine forensic background of many of our representatives in Washington.

The author wishes to make clear that he is attempting to present only the arguments of the Congressmen whether these arguments were good or bad, complete or incomplete in their analysis. This is the history of a legislative measure, not a dissertation upon the subject of lynching in general. In this literary effort the method of presentation has been to deemphasize chronological development and to present the major and minor issues of the Bill itself as argued by its proponents and opponents. This procedure has been followed in order to avoid a mere condensation of the Congressional Record. Instead, there is a desire to gather all the important arguments into a logical, orderly, and consolidated series; for as those familiar with the Record will testify, arguments rarely answer each other directly. Usually pages and pages of new arguments, different issues, and even new subjects intervene.

This leads the author to the statement that because of the manner in which debates appear in the Record, he found it particularly gratifying to attempt a "round up", so to speak, of the myriad of speeches, committee reports, etc. that constituted the total forensic effort on this particular measure and to separate the total into its logical subject heads, to sift major and minor arguments into separate divisions and finally to derive one consolidated account.If he has succeeded in reaching this objective, he feels that his effort will not have been in vain





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