Southern Manifesto to Little Rock
The United States Constitution delegates no power to the federal agent in Washington with regard to the education of a State’s citizens. Education, as in qualifications for voting, the Founders’ wisely left to the people of each State to provide for, and for the establishment of schools. Subsequently, the federal Supreme Court has no say or authority in the matter, and every member of Congress should have demanded the impeachment of judges who usurped the authority to legislate.
Bernhard Thuersam, Director
Cape Fear Historical Institute
Southern Manifesto to Little Rock:
On Monday, March 12, 1956, nineteen senators and seventy-seven congressmen, all from the eleven States of the old Confederacy, joined in attacking the Supreme Court of the United States. Their “Southern Manifesto” bristled with angry words. The Supreme Court, they said, had substituted “naked power for established law,” had abused its judicial power, had created chaos and confusion, and had planted racial hatred and suspicion where there had been friendship and understanding.
The names of only three senators normally associated with the Southern bloc were missing from the Manifesto: Albert Gore and Estes Kefauver, both from the border State of Tennessee, and Lyndon Johnson of Texas. Because of his important political position as Majority Leader, Johnson had not been asked to sign at all, and neither had his Texas counterpart, Speaker Sam Rayburn.
More than most,
The historical facts of slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction and its bitter aftermath, crippled the South. The South WAS treated like a conquered territory; it WAS exploited; it DID become ever more insulated and removed from the mainstream of American life. Its fears, frustrations, and antagonisms are without parallel in the American experience.
With his own business background and intimate knowledge of financial conditions in Arkansas,, he particularly had resented the domination of outside economic interests – Northern economic interests. Once, while opposing the routine appointment of a Philadelphia banker to the Federal Reserve Board, he gave a revealing glimpse into his own attitudes.
“The people of the North are extremely solicitous of our welfare and progress,” he said. “They assure us that if we will furnish better schools and abolish poll taxes and segregation that strife will cease and happiness reign. They are critical of our relative poverty, our industrial and social backwardness, and they are generous in their advice about our conduct.
Their condescension in these matters is not appreciated…because these people…have for more than half a century done everything they could to retard the economic development of the South. It is no secret that the South was considered like a conquered territory after 1865. Since that time, the tariff policy and the [railroad] freight rate structure were designed by the North to prevent industrial development in the South; to keep that area in the status of a raw material producing colony. Above and beyond these direct restrictions, the most insidious of all, the most difficult to put your finger on, is the all-pervading influence of the great financial institutions and industrial monopolies. These influences are so subtle and so powerful that they have in many instances been able to dominate the political and economic life of the South and West from within those States as well as from Washington.”
“[Only] since the 1930s has the South begun to share in the prosperity and affluence of America. It has only been during recent years that we have begun to be drawn into the political, economic, and cultural mainstreams of the nation.”
[Fulbright] was in London when the Little Rock crisis began that September. [On] September 24, 1957, Eisenhower ordered federal troops to Little Rock. In a nationally televised speech [Governor Orval Faubus], portrayed Arkansas as under “military occupation,” and spoke of “the warm blood of patriotic citizens staining the cold, naked, unsheathed knives.”
Lyndon Johnson, the leader of the Senate, said he thought “there should be no troops from either side patrolling our school campuses.” Senator Olin Johnson [said]: “I’d never go down without a fight. I’d proclaim a state of insurrection and I’d call out the national guard and then we’d find out who’s going to run things in my State.” One month after Eisenhower called in the troops, [Fulbright] issued his only statement. It was three sentences long:
“It is regrettable and it is tragic that Federal troops are in Little Rock. The people of Little Rock and of Arkansas do not deserve this treatment. The citizens of Arkansas are, and always have been, law-abiding people.”
(Fulbright, The Dissenter [excerpts], Haynes Johnson & Bernard Gwertzman, Doubleday & Company, 1968, pp. 143-153)