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State Papers and Addresses of Governor Herbert L. O'Conor
Volume 409, Page 446   View pdf image (33K)
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446 State Papers and Addresses

by. local, municipal, county, and state police forces. A national system of
policing is not practicable. A vast Federal force would be required to pene-
trate each community as effectively as can local enforcement officers. Such a
force would not be consistent with our system of Government. There is no
purpose to try to build up a national police force to supercede, rival, or even
relieve local law enforcement agencies in the enforcement of local law. "

In this connection, it is important for Governors to consider carefully any
proposals which would clothe volunteers with law enforcement powers or which
would arm them with police weapons.

Our history, especially during war times, is replete with instances of ex-
cesses of vigilantism. As the-chief law enforcement officer of the State, the
Governor is responsible for keeping the volunteers under control.

How often are excited patriots prone to lose their heads and cry out, "Never
mind the Law! Put down this outrage! Punish these culprits and let us not
waste time on legal authority!"

There was such a case, which I am sure all of us are proud to remember.
It occurred even before America was a Nation, but when the colonies were
already united under the democratic ideal of justice. There was a street fight
in this very City of Boston, an unfortunate demonstration which got out of
hand. It was called the Boston Massacre. There were patriots then who
shouted "Never mind the Law. Punish the Redcoats and punish them quickly!"
But there was a lawyer here as much a patriot as the shouters were, and Mr.
John Adams knew that it was much more important to keep the law in working
order than to substitute—ever so temporarily—a government of men.

So the Redcoats went on trial like other disturbers of the peace. They
were entitled to legal defense before the Bar, and they got it. John Adams
defended them himself. That was a rather sensational example. Very few o±
us are likely to engage in one like it. But every one of us, as Chief Enforce-
ment Officers of our States, have the same obligation put upon us.

Reference is intended not only to misguided and hot-tempered demonstra-
tions. Occasionally the Law is tested as dramatically as in the instance cited
above. But much more often the very same testing takes place without great
publicity, as a part of our everyday life. Enforcement officials and judges and
jurymen re-enact many times each day throughout the land the scene of gov-
ernment being carried out by Law. The humblest citizen is entitled to have
his rights weighed and adjusted by some branch of our great judiciary system.

Does such a statement lack "news value" here in America, because such
happenings are so commonplace? If so, then so much the better for all of us! In
more than half the world today, such a statement would be news of the fore-
most importance to everyone. In all-too-many countries today there is gov-
ernment not by law but by man.

How much responsibility, therefore, falls upon us as Governors! There is
no freedom, where there is no justice. There is no Democracy where law ceases
to function in its joint capacity—that of upholding the State and of standing
eternal watch over the rights of the people.

Of equal importance is the need for proper organization and mobilization

 

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State Papers and Addresses of Governor Herbert L. O'Conor
Volume 409, Page 446   View pdf image (33K)
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