Status: Complete

FEB 19 1918

Ackgd 2/19/18

February 18. 1918.

Mr. Joseph P. Tumulty,
Secretary to the President,
Executive Mansion,
Washington, D. C.

Dear Sir:

I am in receipt of yours of February 14 informing us
that the President had referred to the Attorney General our appeal
for a word of condemnation of the torturing and burning at Estill
Springs, Tenn., of a colored man accused of murder. This morning
we have a letter from the Attorney General, by William C. Fitts,
Assistant Attorney General, informing us that "under the decisions
of the Supreme Court of the United States, the Federal Government
has absolutely no jurisdiction over matters of this kind; nor are
they connected with the war in any such way as to justify the
action of the Federal Government under the war power."

On February 15 we telegraphed Governor Rye of Tennessee,
a copy of which is attached. On the 14th Covernor Rye is reported
in the Knoxville Journal and Tribune and other Tennessee papers as
saying that he did not know what authority he had in the matter.
No reply or acknowledgment of our appeal to the Governor of Tennes-
see has yet been made.

In view of this statement of the Attorney General and
the silence of the Governor of Tennessee, we beg you to lay this
matter again before the President lest the laws be flouted and
justice denied. A statement from the President at this time, if
he would be disposed to make it, would have a tremendously stimu-
lating effect on the morale of the colored people whose sons are
preparing to give their lives for America and who in sadness of
heart and some disturbance of mind are looking apprehensively
toward Tennessee to see whether in our own nation law or mob
violence is to be supreme.

The President's inspiring moral leadership as a man, no


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