Speech of Hon. W. H. Allen.
During the discussion on the substitute to H.B. No. 311, in relation to the transfer of the lease of the penitentiary convicts to the Ship Island Railroad Company, Hon. Wm. Allen, of Coahoma, said:
MR. SPEAKER: I am in favor of putting the convicts upon public works, such as the building of railroads and levees, and taking them away from farm work altogether, for I think the putting of convicts to work on the farms is degrading to free labor. But, Mr. Speaker, I am told that the company who now want convicts is the same old firm that has had them for the last ten years, and I see in the Governor’s message that they are indebted to the State for forty thousand dollars, and if this is true I do not favor the passage of the bill. For that reason, I favor a bill that will protect the convict and give them humane treatment, good food and clothe them and work them upon the levees and other public works, which will benefit the whole people. But, Mr. Speaker, this bill seems to me to be the same old matter under a different color, and it reminds me of a story I read once in the paper of an Irishman who got drunk, and went to a colored boarding house and went to bed and to sleep. While he was asleep a boy blacked his face. The next morning when he woke up and looked in the glass and found himself black, he called the boy and told him he had woke up the wrong man for he had woke up a “dam nigger.” So I am told that this railroad company is the same old firm under another color, who have had the prisoners for the last ten years, and before any further action is taken, I favor that the amount due to the State ought to be paid before the lessees are released from their liabilities.