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Scripto | Transcribe Page
Proceedings of the State Conference of the colored men of Florida, held at Gainesville, February 5, 1884.
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therefore, it was unconstitutional and void. The feeling that has been cultivated among us since the war to look up to the National Government as the great repository and protector of all the civil and political rights with which we are vested has caused us to overlook one of the cardinal doctrines of our constitutional law, which holds that "the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” The effect of the decision, according to this doctrine, makes the court hold that the power exercised by Congress in passing the civil rights act was not delegated to the United States by the Fourteenth Amendment, nor was it prohibited by it to the States, therefore it was reserved to the States or to the people.
Now let us see how the decision affects us. Hotels, restaurants, or public inns; vessels, steamboats, railways, or common carriers; shows, theatres, and places of public amusement are held in law to be of a quasi public character, because their primal object is largely for the benefit, accommodation and entertainment of the general public; and from time immemorial the public have had rights which according to the common law they were bound to respect. And when we were made citizens, and as such a part of the public we that moment (other things being equal) became entitled to all the rights and privileges enumerated in the civil rights bill, and to the same respect and treatment from those quasi public institutions that have always been accorded to other men. Nor did the Supreme Court decide to the contrary of this. It merely decided that the various States had jurisdiction of these matters, and not the United States ; and that the State legislatures could pass statutes declaratory of what the common law was, but not Congress. Again under the civil rights law we could sue in United States courts for infringements of our civil rights. The Supreme Court holds that we cannot bring suits involving such matters in those courts, but that we must enter such suits in the State courts.
Justice Harlan, a brave man, of Southern birth, dissented from the opinion of the court. He thought that Congress had power under the amendments to the Constitution to pass the civil rights bill, but the majority of the court decided differently, and as the majority ruled, that settled the matter. That decision did not destroy a single one of our rights. They are the same to-day as any other of people in this
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