In reply, Wallace invokes states' rights and the Constitution to demand the federal government stay out of Alabama.
Telegram from Governor George Wallace of Alabama to President Kennedy
May 13, 1963
The statute you site as authority for sending troops to the city of Birmingham even though invoked previously by you is in direct conflict with Art. 4, Section 4 of the Constitution of the United States which states that the U.S. shall guarantee to every state of the Union a republican form of government and which also provides that the U.S. can use its National Military forces to quell domestic violence only when requested to do so by the Legislature of that State or the Governor if the Legislature cannot be convened. Neither the Legislature or I, as Governor, has requested you to send troops into the state to quell domestic violence.
The constituted authorities of the State of Alabama, City and Country are able and have not failed or refused to suppress domestic violence which has occurred in the City of Birmingham. I refer you to Title 10, Section 333.
Our founding fathers in drafting Article 4, Section 4 of the Constitution expressly limited the central government in matters of domestic violence within a state. Neither the Congress of the United States nor you as the Chief Executive of the United States can violate this most basic constitutional guarantee.
You imply in your telegram that you will use federal troops to implement an alleged agreement worked out by "Community Leaders."
We have heard and read much about the agreements entered into by this group of so-called negotiators but their activities have been clothed in secrecy. With the exception of the Chairman, one Sydney Smyer, they have even refused to identify themselves. Apparently, from the actions you have taken, you know the identity of the members of this committee. I urge you to make public the names of the members of this committee, whom they represent and by what constitutional authority they have presumed to act.
Each of the lawfully constituted officials of the City of Birmingham, Jefferson County, and State of Alabama has publicly denied having any knowledge of any so-called agreement and has equivocally denied the authority of any group of white citizens to negotiate with the lawless mobsters who had been leading the Negroes of Birmingham in weeks of violence and law breaking until this violence was put down by local and state law enforcement officers.
There is no precedent for the use of federal National Military troops to enforce an alleged agreement by unauthorized, anonymous individuals working in the secrecy without authority of any duly constituted officials.
In my judgment your duty is to guarantee the right of this State and the City of Birmingham to handle their own domestic affairs, and any intervention into the affairs of this State or the City of Birmingham, whether by the use of National Military troops or otherwise, is in direct violation of your constitutional obligation.
George C. Wallace
Governor of Alabama
My American Experience
Who is your favorite 20th-century American president? Was it Reagan? Kennedy? Clinton? Or one of the other 14 men who helped usher the United States through the 1900s? Who do you think was the most influential?