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Interposition Resolution in Response to Brown v. Board of Education, 1957

From: Acts of the Territorial Legislature and Acts of the Legislature, 1822-Present, Series S 222

Page 1 of the Interposition Resolution, 1957

About This Document

The Florida State Legislature passed this resolution in opposition to the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas case that ended legal segregation in public education. Racial segregation was originally found to be constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in the landmark Plessy v. Ferguson case in 1896. That decision laid the legal foundation for what became known as Jim Crow laws throughout the nation, and especially in the U.S. South, by declaring segregation legal only if the facilities were “separate but equal.” But the Brown decision removed that foundation, and many segregationists saw the case as an opening wedge to ending all segregation. Therefore, the Florida Legislature argued that the decision usurped the state constitutional powers, and passed the resolution to declare the Court's decision in 1954 as null and void.

Although he initially condemned the Brown decision, as did the majority of Southern elected officials, Governor LeRoy Collins fought with the Florida Legislature to prevent them from passing the "interposition" resolution. Such a resolution was intended to "interpose" itself between the citizens of Florida and the United States government in order to prevent what the legislature contended was an illegal intrusion by the Federal government upon the right of the state by imposing integration. Governor Collins utilized a little-known provision of the state constitution by unilaterally adjourning the legislature to prevent it from passing the resolution. After the legislature returned and passed the resolution, he had no power to veto it, because it was not a law but only a resolution expressing the opinion of the legislature on the matter of racial integration. However, as it passed through his office, Collins hand-wrote the following at the bottom of the interposition resolution:

"This concurrent resolution of 'Interposition' crosses the Governor's desk as a matter of routine. I have no authority to veto it. I take this means however to advise the student of government, who may examine this document in the archives of the state in the years to come that the Governor of Florida expressed open and vigorous opposition thereto. I feel that the U. S. Supreme Court has improperly usurped powers reserved to the states under the constitution. I have joined in protesting such and in seeking legal means of avoidance. But if this resolution declaring the decisions of the court to be 'null and void' is to be taken seriously, it is anarchy and rebellion against the nation which must remain 'indivisible under God' if it is to survive. Not only will I not condone 'interposition' as so many have sought me to do, I decry it as an evil thing, whipped up by the demagogues and carried on the hot and erratic winds of passion, prejudice, and hysteria. If history judges me right this day, I want it known that I did my best to avert this blot. If I am judged wrong, then here in my own handwriting and over my signature is the proof of guilt to support my conviction.

LeRoy Collins, Governor."

May 2, 1957.

Transcript

A RESOLUTION TO DECLARE THE UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT DECISIONS USURPING THE POWERS RESERVED TO THE STATES AND RELATING TO EDUCATION, LABOR, CRIMINAL PROCEDURE, TREASON AND SUBVERSION TO BE NULL, VOID AND OF NO EFFECT; TO DECLARE THAT A CONTEST OF POWERS HAS ARISEN BETWEEN THE STATE OF FLORIDA AND THE SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES; TO INVOKE THE DOCTRINE OF INTERPOSITION; AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.


BE IT RESOLVED BY THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE STATE OF FLORIDA, THE SENATE CONCURRING:


That the Legislature of Florida doth hereby unequivocally express a firm and determined resolution to maintain and defend the Constitution of the United States, and the Constitution of this State against every attempt, whether foreign or domestic, to undermine and destroy the fundamental principles, embodied in our basic law, by which the liberty of the people and the sovereignty of the States, in their proper spheres, have been long protected and assured;

That the Legislature of Florida doth explicitly and pre-emptorily declare that it views the powers of the Federal Government as resulting solely from the compact, to which the States ar parties, as limited by the plain sense and intention of the instrument creating that compact:

That the Legislature of Florida asserts that the powers of the Federal Government are valid only to the extent that these powers have been enumerated in the compact to which the various States assented originally and to which the States have assented in subsequent amendments validly adopted and ratified;

that the very nature of this basic compact, apparent upon its face is that the ratifying States, parties thereto, have agreed voluntarily to surrender certain of their