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Scripto | Transcribe Page
Proceedings of the Civil Rights Mass-Meeting held at Lincoln Hall, October 22, 1883. Speeches of Hon. Frederick Douglass and Robert G. Ingersoll.
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verge of another revolution. No patriot, however bold, can wish for his country repetition of those gloomy days.
Now let me say here, before I go on a step further in this discussion, if any man has come here to-night with his breast heaving with passion, his heart flooded with acrimony, wishing and expecting to hear violent denunciation of the Supreme Court, on account of this decision, he has mistaken the object of this meeting, and the character of the men by whom it is called.
We neither come to bury Caesar, nor to praise him. The Supreme Court is the autocratic point in our National Government. No monarch in Europe has a power more absolute over the laws, lives and liberties. Its Judges live, and ought to live, an eagle's flight beyond the reach of fear or favor, praise or blame, profit of loss. No vulgar prejudice should touch the member of that Court, anywhere. Their decision should come down to us like the calm, clear light of Infinite justice. We should be able to think of them and to speak of them with profoundest respect for their wisdom, and deepest reverence for their virtue; for what His Holiness, the Pope, is to the Roman Catholic Church, the Supreme Court is to the American State. It's members are men, to be sure, and may not claim infallibility, like the Pope but they are the Supreme power of the Nation, and their decisions are law.
What will be here to-night, will be spoken, I trust, more in sorrow than in anger, more in a tone of regret than of bitterness.
We cannot, however, overlook the fact that though not so intended, this decision has inflicted a heavy calamity upon seven millions of the people of this country, and left them naked and defenceless against the action of a malignant, vulgar, and pitiless prejudice.
It presents the United States before the world as a Nation utterly destitute of power to protect the rights of its own citizens upon its own soil.
It can claim service and allegiance, loyalty and life, of them but it cannot protect them against the most palpable violation of the rights of human nature, rights to secure which, governments are established. It can tax their bread and tax their blood, but has no protecting power for their persons. Its National power extends only to the District of Columbia, and the Territories-where the people have no votes-and where the land has no people. All else is subject to the States. In the name of common sense, I ask, what right have we to call ourselves a Nation, in view of this decision, and this utter destitution of power?
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