What was the point of this statement by Representative John Farnsworth?

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
18,741
SoCal
#1
I have previously read this 1966 article by Alfred Avins in regards to the views of the draftsmen of the 14th Amendment in regards to anti-miscegenation laws:

https://static1.squarespace.com/sta...ation+and+14th+Amend+Original+Intent+1966.pdf

On page 1231 of this article, Avins quotes Republican US Representative John Farnsworth as saying this:

"[Rep. Rogers] . . . refers to another bugbear with which to scare ignorant people, that of amalgamation. He recites the statutes of various States against the intermarriage of blacks and whites. Well, sir, while I regard that as altogether a matter of taste, and neither myself nor my friends require any restraining laws to prevent us from committing any error in that direction, still, if my friend from New Jersey and his friends are fearful that they will be betrayed into forming any connection of that sort, I will very cheerfully join with him in voting the restraining influence of a penal statute. I will vote to punish it by confinement in the State prison, or, if he pleases, by hanging-anything rather than they should be betrayed into or induced to form any such unnatural relations.25"

My question here is this--what was the point of Farnsworth's comment here? I mean, wouldn't any hypothetical attempt to impose the death penalty for miscegenation in Washington DC (which is where US Congressmen lived while Congress was in session) be struck down by the courts as being unconstitutional due to it violating the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishments? If so, what was the point of having Farnsworth say that he would vote for something that would be declared unconstitutional by the courts?

I get the general point of Farnsworth's statement here--I just want to know why exactly he alluded to the death penalty for miscegenation if such a punishment for such an offense would have been declared unconstitutional by the courts.

Anyway, any thoughts on this?
 

betgo

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
6,107
#2
This was debate about the proposed 14th Amendment. The Democrat from New Jersey was complaining that it might void anti miscegination laws, as it actually did almost a century later. Farnsworth was making light of the objections by taking about the death penalty for miscegination.
 
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botully

Ad Honorem
Feb 2011
3,528
Amelia, Virginia, USA
#3
I thought it was clear that he regarded criminalizing miscegenation as unnecessary, but if Rogers felt he needed to be restrained from it by penalty then Farnsworth would helpfully support draconian punishments.

tl;dr he was being sarcastic.
 
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Jul 2017
292
Srpska
#4
My question here is this--what was the point of Farnsworth's comment here?

I get the general point of Farnsworth's statement here--I just want to know why exactly he alluded to the death penalty for miscegenation if such a punishment for such an offense would have been declared unconstitutional by the courts.
Farnsworth's point was to downplay the effect of Equal Protection Clause on existing miscegenation laws. To downplay it further, he asserted that they could still pass a miscegenation statute with the Fourteenth Amendment in effect, with most stringent punishment attached. This indicates that Farnsworth at least literally had no concerns that the EPC would affect miscegenation laws.

He was right. Separate-but-equal doctrine was devised, and affirmed by the Court at the end of 19th century. Miscegenation laws were struck down only after Brown vs Board of Education which struck down separate-but-equal doctrine, a decade after it.

I don't know how you know that hanging would be cruel and unusual punishment for miscegenation in 1868. I am not sure that it would be.
 
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Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
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SoCal
#5
Farnsworth's point was to downplay the effect of Equal Protection Clause on existing miscegenation laws. To downplay it further, he asserted that they could still pass a miscegenation statute with the Fourteenth Amendment in effect, with most stringent punishment attached. This indicates that Farnsworth at least literally had no concerns that the EPC would affect miscegenation laws.

He was right. Separate-but-equal doctrine was devised, and affirmed by the Court at the end of 19th century. Miscegenation laws were struck down only after Brown vs Board of Education which struck down separate-but-equal doctrine, a decade after it.

I don't know how you know that hanging would be cruel and unusual punishment for miscegenation in 1868. I am not sure that it would be.
"Unusual" historically meant contrary to long usage. In other words, a punishment that was no longer used for decades or more was "unusual" in the historical sense of the word. Did any US states actually have the death penalty for miscegenation at any point in the 19th century? My impression was that none of them did, though it would be interesting if I am wrong in regards to this.
 
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Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
18,741
SoCal
#6
I thought it was clear that he regarded criminalizing miscegenation as unnecessary, but if Rogers felt he needed to be restrained from it by penalty then Farnsworth would helpfully support draconian punishments.

tl;dr he was being sarcastic.
Are you sure that he was being sarcastic here, though? After all, some people in the 19th century did literally believe that there needed to be anti-miscegenation laws in order to restrain people from engaging in miscegenation.
 
Jul 2017
292
Srpska
#7
"Unusual" historically meant contrary to long usage. In other words, a punishment that was no longer used for decades or more was "unusual" in the historical sense of the word. Did any US states actually have the death penalty for miscegenation at any point in the 19th century? My impression was that none of them did, though it would be interesting if I am wrong in regards to this.
Hanging was still used in 1868, widely.
I don't think any US state punished miscegenation with death penalty. But some classified it or treated it as a felony. In most states violations carried penalties similar to misdemeanors.
If death penalty for miscegenation was brought to court it would probably be struck down as unusual because it was not widely used, or used at all, for that violation; and for it to pass scrutiny at least a significant number of states would have to use it, which was not the case. So, you are probably right. However, we do not know. Miscegenation was and could be treated as a felony in law, and hanging was widely applied as means of execution.
 
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botully

Ad Honorem
Feb 2011
3,528
Amelia, Virginia, USA
#8
Are you sure that he was being sarcastic here, though? After all, some people in the 19th century did literally believe that there needed to be anti-miscegenation laws in order to restrain people from engaging in miscegenation.
Yes, I am sure. He calls “amalgamation” (race-mixing) a “bugbear” to fool the ignorant into fearing thus opposing the 14th amendment. As a Republican, he supported it, while the Democrats generally opposed it.
He pokes fun at Rogers for supposedly needing a coercive law to prevent miscegenation, since Farnsworth and his friends need no law; they just wouldn’t as a matter of taste.
 
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Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
18,741
SoCal
#9
Yes, I am sure. He calls “amalgamation” (race-mixing) a “bugbear” to fool the ignorant into fearing thus opposing the 14th amendment. As a Republican, he supported it, while the Democrats generally opposed it.
He pokes fun at Rogers for supposedly needing a coercive law to prevent miscegenation, since Farnsworth and his friends need no law; they just wouldn’t as a matter of taste.
So, how do you think that Farnsworth would have voted had a bill to ban miscegenation in Washington DC ended up on the floor of the US House of Representatives?
 

botully

Ad Honorem
Feb 2011
3,528
Amelia, Virginia, USA
#10
I don't know. He was arguing in favor of the 14th Amendment against what he labeled as Democrat fear-mongering. Miscegenation wasn't the issue being debated; I don't know his feelings on the matter other than what he says in the quoted passage, i.e. he feels they are unnecessary.
You seem fixated on Farnsworth's apparent endorsement of capital punishment for it. Once again, the passage seems clear to me. He is mocking Rogers for not being able to restrain himself without threat of punishment.
 
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