Political and Civil Rights in the United States

By Thomas I. Emerson; David Haber | Go to book overview

CHAPTER I
THE RIGHT TO SECURITY OF THE PERSON

A. IDEAL AND REALITY

TO SECURE THESE RIGHTS -- THE REPORT OF THE PRESIDENT'S COMMITTEE ON CIVIL RIGHTS

Washington: U. S. Government Printing Office, 1947, pp. 6, 20-30

Freedom can exist only where the citizen is assured that his person is secure against bondage, lawless violence, and arbitrary arrest and punishment. Freedom from slavery in all its forms is clearly necessary if all men are to have equal opportunity to use their talents and to lead worthwhile lives. Moreover, to be free, men must be subject to discipline by society only for commission of offenses clearly defined by law and only after trial by due process of law. Where the administration of justice is discriminatory, no man can be sure of security. Where the threat of violence by private persons or mobs exists, a cruel inhibition of the sense of freedom of activity and security of the person inevitably results. Where a society permits private and arbitrary violence to be done to its members, its own integrity is inevitably corrupted. It cannot permit human beings to be imprisoned or killed in the absence of due process of law without degrading its entire fabric....

Most Americans enjoy this right, but it is not yet secure for all. Too many of our people still live under the harrowing fear of violence or death at the hands of a mob or of brutal treatment by police officers. Many fear entanglement with the law because of the knowledge that the justice rendered in some courts is not equal for all persons. In a few areas the freedom to move about and choose one's job is endangered by

____________________
1
The President's Committee on Civil Rights was appointed by President Truman on December 5, 1946 to study and make recommendations for strengthening and improving "the civil rights of the people." The Committee was composed of 15 distinguished citizens, headed by Mr. Charles E. Wilson, President of the General Electric Company. After a comprehensive survey, extending over a year, the Committee issued its findings and recommendations in a report. The following extract from the report embodies the Committee's findings with respect to the status of the right to security of the person at the end of 1947. The Committee's appraisal may be taken as an authoritative, if perhaps moderate, statement of the problem.

-1-

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