Tennessee House ponders rescinding women's suffrage ratification


NASHVILLE, Tenn., Aug. 19, 1920 (UP) - The House of Representatives was to meet today with the prospect that an attempt would be made to reopen the suffrage question.

A motion to reconsider may be brought up at any time within two days by Speaker Seth L. Walker.


Walker changed his vote yesterday from "no" to "aye" so he might make an effort to have the House reverse itself and undo the ratification it voted yesterday.

Antiratificationists have been active trying to convert members from the stand they took on the final roll call.

The vote stood 50 to 46 after Walker made his shift, and but few changes would be required to bring reconsideration.

Judge T.D. Debow of the Criminal Court today asked the grand jury to investigate alleged lobbying in connection with the ratification.

The judge in his message to the grand jury said it had been reported by suffrage supporters that "forces of corruption" were operating.


He mentioned no names.

Judge Debow's action follows publication in a Nashville newspaper today of affidavits of two men who alleged an effort was made to bribe Rep. Harry Burn of McMinn County, who voted for suffrage on the final roll call. It was Burn's vote that broke the tie between pro and anti-suffragists in the Legislature.

Four signed statements are offered which declare the story of the attempted bribery is absolutely false.

C.C. Wallace of Lewisburg and E.E. Murray of Nashville, in their affidavits, charge Burn was taken into a room off the House, by Rep. Joseph Hanover, leader of the suffrage forces.

Wallace asserts he understood Hanover to say Burn could get "anything he wanted" if he changed his vote and that "it would be worth $10,000 to you."

A similar story is told by Murray.

Mrs. Leslie Warner, Nashville suffrage worker, in a signed statement, says she overheard the conversation and that "there was no offer of any kind, or anything that remotely resembled an offer."

C.L. Daugherty, secretary to Governor Roberts, in his statement says he heard the conversation and that no offer was made.

Representative Hanover in a statement says:

"I have not directly or indirectly offered anything of value to anyone who supported the nineteenth amendment.


"The charge is ridiculous on its face and amounts to no more than a clumsy effort to blackmail or embarrass friends and supporters of the rights of our women."

Burn says in his statement the affidavits charging bribery are "entirely false and without foundation."

"I voted for the resolution ratifying the suffrage amendment after much careful consideration and solely in response to my own convictions on this question," said Burn. He added his mother had influenced him.

Suffragists believe that when the motion to consider is raised they will muster a greater vote than they did for ratification.

"The victory is won," said Rep. Joseph Hanover, leader of the suffrage forces on the floor. "We will gain votes rather than lose them if the House takes another vote."

Antiratificationists are continuing their efforts to line up votes in an attempt to bring a reversal of the decision of the House.

Two obstacles remain before the amendment is operative: The attempt at reconsideration must be defeated and the legality of Tennessee's ratification proved in the courts.

Members of the Tennessee Constitutional League, composed of lawyers and other antisuffrage organizations, announced legal proceedings will be undertaken.

The argument will be that the state constitution of Tennessee forbade action because it stipulates that a legislature must have been elected before the submission of a proposed amendment on which it is to act.


The contention of the suffragists, upheld in opinions from the Department of Justice and the attorney general of the state, is that this clause was invalidated by the Ohio referendum decision of the Supreme Court.

The secretary of state must promulgate a decree that the amendment is a part of the constitution and women will be able to vote in the November elections.

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