The Poll Tax.
Pending discussion of the Revenue Bill in the House of Representatives, on Thursday last, Mr. Allen, of Coahoma, said:
Mr. Speaker: I sat very quietly in my chair yesterday, and to-day, listening to the report of the Committee of Ways and means on the bill to raise the revenue to conduct our State for the next two years, but now, sir, I am constrained to rise and express my ideas on this subject.
There is a bill to tax the school teacher, the book-seller – who next? Go and take what the poor man has, and sell it for his poll tax; all, everything he has for a simple poll-tax; and there is another bill which takes that poor man to the court-house, indicts him for a delinquent, and under the law fines him for misdemeanor, and if he is not able to pay the fine, puts him in jail – all for one dollar due the State for a poll-tax, and to secure the payment of this tax and the costs accrued in the trial, the poor man is sold – sold to the highest bidder to work it out.
Now, who are the class that will suffer by the passage of this law? Why, Mr. Speaker, it is the poor laborer, who stands in July’s hot sun between the plow-handles, and in the cold wintry days, the latter part of the year, gathering the cotton and the corn which he has made to pay his debts.
Sir, I venture to say that many have been in the hands of the Jews, who came all the way from Jerusalem, the land of the Cross, to the cotton fields of Mississippi, and ever since that day, nearly two thousand years ago, there has not been money enough left in their hands to pay a poll tax.
As a member of this House, Mr. Speaker, I say the poor colored laborer, as well as the poor white laborer, will pay his poll-tax when able to do so, and take a pride in doing it; but I appeal to the House, in the name of God, and humanity, and justice, do not pass this bill or the amendment, for we have already a law as strong and sufficient as can be for the collection of these taxes. Do not press the poor class to take from them what they have not, and deprive them of what they have – their liberty – by incarcerating them in jail and selling them. Sir, if this law passes and takes effect in the month of December, the poor man has paid all he has made on his crop to the merchant, then the sheriff or county contractor gets him, and during the cold winter, while he is thus in durance, his family are suffering. I oppose the bill and move it be indefinitely postponed.