Message of Gov. J. S. Hogg to the twenty-third Legislature of Texas. Page: 20 of 28
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MESSAGE OF THE GOVERNOR.
The people through their convention last August, also adopted the following
W.e pledge the enactment of a law to more justly and perfectly secure
the liens of mechanics, material-men, artisans and laborers." A revision
of the laws now voluminous and inadequate on this subject to more justly
protect the wage-workers, material-men and mechanics, becomes important in
view of the demands and the existing defects in the statute thereon. It is
therefore called respectfully to the attention of your honorable bodies, with
the full confidence that all appropriate, needful remedies will be adopted.
Another important declaration by the people is to be found in the following
expression through their platform:"21.
We believe the custom of hiring out and leasing penal convicts to
corporations and private persons to be against public policy."
By message to the first session of the 22nd legislature this question was
presented, pointing out the evils apparent in the present system of permitting
convicts to be leased or hired out in any respect whatever. Reference
to the report of the Superintendent of Penitentiaries will disclose the
advantage of working them upon State account over the custom of leasing
and hiring them out. There are two paramount objects that should be kept in
view in the control and operation of the penitentiary convicts: First, to carry
out the objects of punishment for crime; and, second, to avoid as far as possible,
placing the convicts in competition with free labor. Experience teaches that
the former object is as impossible as the latter has proven to be impracticable.
The object of penal punishment is to suppress crime and to reform the offender.
It is quite doubtful if crime can be suppressed or the reformation of the
offender accomplished by permitting the convicts to be worked for hire by
private parties or corporations. At best, it is difficult to reform the criminal
element, and this trouble cannot be relieved by exposing the prisoners in
chains to the public gaze while they are working upon railroads and private
farms removed so far from the wholesome effect of prison discipline and moral
influence that may be so conveniently thrown around them while working
on State account. The trouble seems to be that the State now has more convicts
than it is capable of keeping within the walls of the two penitentiaries,
or of working upon the farms she now operates.
There are 3643 of them. Of this number 659 are hired out to railway
companies, and 810 leased to planters. To utilize all this labor upon
State account is impossible without enlarging the industries within the walls
or purchasing more lands on which to work them as farm hands. Neither
can the industries be increased to any considerable extent, nor sufficient
farm lands suitable for convict labor, be purchased without an appropriation
of a considerable amount of money by the legislature; and the great embarrassment
in the way of increasing or extending the industries within the
walls is, that the manufactured articles produced by the convicts are thrown
upon the market necessarily in competition with the products of private capital
and free labor. There will come a time, if it is not now the present, as
manufactories are established throughout tne State, when this may be one of
the most serious problems to be disposed of by the legislature. The State cannot,
in common justice to the wage workers, or to those who invest capital
in manufacturing enterprises, afford to enter convict labor in competition with
them. Right in her way is the same difficulty when she undertakes to operate
them upon farms. At best, the convict problem has always been, as it is
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Hogg, J.S. (James S.). Message of Gov. J. S. Hogg to the twenty-third Legislature of Texas., book, January 12, 1893; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth5861/m1/20/: accessed May 29, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; .