Speeches delivered by Pat M. Neff, Governor of Texas, discussing certain phases of contemplated legislation Page: 7 of 61
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in a series of addresses, the State as in the matter of road building,
jurisprudence, and education, is hobbled and hamstrung by the limitation,
inhibition and prohibition; of a constitution written by sound statesmen,
fifty years ago, who could not then have anticipated this mighty,
complex, complicated civilization of ours. Their imagination could not
have pictured the many problems that now knock for solution at the door
of legislative consideration. In short, the big, husky boy of 1923 is now,
and will be in the years to come, cramped in his youthful suit of 1876.
Not only is it unwise to put new cloth onto old garments, but it is impossible
to make a suit of clothes that will fit, for fifty years, a growing
giant. I am for a constitutional convention, to write, in the light and
learning of this generation, a new constitution for Texas. If it is good
when written, the people will go to the polls and adopt it; if bad, the
people will reject it. To pass on an entire constitution will be no more
expensive than to hold an election on an amendment which we do almost
When our present Constitution was written we had one lunatic asylum
with a hundred or so inmates. At that time we had no institutions
for the feeble-minded, no epileptic colony, no tubercular sanatorium,
no Confederate Homes, no varied efeemosynary institutions, all filled
with wards of the public maintained and cared for last year at an
expenditure of over two million dollars. This recital of the growth of
eleemosynary institutions for the care and maintenance of the unfortunates
of the State is but suggestive of the growth of the entire machinery
of the government; which cannot now be made to fit into the
provisions of the Constitution written when these numerous institutions
and departments of government were unknown.
THE TIMES AND CIRCUMSTANCES IN TEXAS IN 1875 AND 1923.
It seems to be agreed by all that Texas should have a new Constitution,
but those who are opposed to the re-writing of this document say
that the times and circumstances just now in Texas are such that it
will not be safe to have a Constitutional Convention.
It should be remembered that the present Constitution was written
in 1875, just at the close of the Period of Reconstruction, and that
there was at that time and had been for years, a feeling of distrust
and bitterness in the State. The State Government was in the hands
of the Federal military authorities, or of the negroes and carpetbaggers.
During the preceding year rival military forces actually occupied
the different floors of the State Capitol and armed and bloody
rebellion was threatened as the lion-hearted Coke wrenched the g6vemrnment
from the hands of E. J. Davis. The people's money had been
by Legislatures openly squandered and the people were not only distrustful
of their government, but uncertain as to what the future held
in store for them as a State and as a Nation. If, during these perilous
times and under these troublesome circumstances, a selected delegation
could write a Constitution that would be good for fifty years, it
does not seem hardly fair to say that the citizenship of Texas today
*could not and would not select representatives to a Constitutional Convention
who would be patriotic and intelligent enough to write a Constitution
in keeping with the advanced civilization of this day and generation.
If either the Legislature or the people should today call a
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Neff, Pat M. Speeches delivered by Pat M. Neff, Governor of Texas, discussing certain phases of contemplated legislation, book, 1923; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth5835/m1/7/: accessed May 29, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; .