The Cotton Tax.
Hon. W. H. Allen, of Coahoma, opposed the Cotton Tax in the following speech:
MR. SPEAKER: The proposition of the gentleman from Yazoo, as set forth in the amendment submitted, to levy and collect a tax of one dollar per bale on cotton, in addition to all the other levies made, for the protection of our Delta from overflow, seems to me to be the enactment of a measure that will prove a hardship to the poor and homeless laborer, not unlike that repressive measure by which Great Britain to-day, governs Ireland. I was amazed, Mr. Speaker, when a few days ago, the House passed the labor contract bill, which, if it had been permitted to have become a law would have entailed untold hardships upon that class of people, of whom I am an humble representative. Pass this amendment, Sir, in less than two years, the fairest and richest section of Mississippi will be destitute of the toiling class, which gives it to-day its commercial standing. The burdens of personal and real taxes at this time are grievous, and borne with much suffering and deprivation, and now to increase them, with the present stringency of the money market would lead, in my judgment, to the utter and complete destruction of our labor interest. That interest in this State should be fostered by the Legislature, who should place around it the strong arm of its protection and care, and while a large part of it has not in the past, and does not to any great extent at present, agree politically with the party that holds the reins of government, still it appreciates the position; that the utmost harmony must exist between the labor and capital, represented respectively and almost exclusively by the black and white races. Enactments, such as is here presented for adoption, has to a great extent unsettled the laboring element in the Atlantic States, and that portion who are able to leave the home of their childhood are coming to this section of our State, in which this oppressive measure is to operate. With the present low sale of cotton and no decrease in the rent of land, with the advanced prices for the necessities of life, the black man and the poor white man will be crushed between the upper and nether mill-stone if the amendment prevails.
Mr. Speaker, the industrial centers throughout this country are to-day in a cauldron of intense agitation, aggravated by the unsettled condition of the white laborer. Strikes are the rule and the trains between a number of States are at a standstill, and the direst results apprehended. Giant corporations, with their millions of treasures, gained by the hard labor of the poor man, are holding their councils to discuss the situation and to secure information direct from the toilers as to their grievances. They profess their inability to afford necessary relief to the laborer, who, on scanty wages and unnatural hours of service, presents the picture of despair. The next step is communism and agrarianism, and you know the result. This situation is brought about by the desire of legislatures to advance the interests entirely of corporations and syndicates, and it is this species of monopoly that undermines the stability of our governments, desolates fertile acres, and the small farmer is swallowed up, and if this cotton tax amendment prevails on our laborers, development into slaves will be short and complete. I am, sir, decidedly opposed to the enactment of this cotton tax, which would, in my judgment, unsettle commercial interests of our section, and be an instrument of wrong and injustice that would retard the progress of our section. I hope the amendment will not be adopted.