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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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In humiliating the colored people of this country, this decision has humbled the Nation. It gives to a South Carolina, or a Mississippi, Railroad conductor, more power than it gives to the National Government. He may order the wife of the Chief Justice of the United States into a smoking-car, full of hirsute men and compel her to go and listen to the coarse jest of a vulgar crowd. If gives to a hotel-keeper who may, from a prejudice born of the rebellion, wish to turn her out at midnight into the darkness and the storm, power to compel her to go. In such as case, according to this decision of the Supreme Court, the National Government has no right to interfere. She must take her claim for protection and redress, not to the Nation, but to the State, and when the State, as I understand it, declares there is upon its Statute book, no law for her protection, the function and power of the National Government is exhausted, and she is utterly without redress.
Bad, therefore, as our case is under this decision, the evil principle affirmed by the court is not wholly confined to or spent upon persons of color. The wife of Chief Justice Waite-I speak it respectfully-is protected to-day, not by law, but solely by the accident of her color. So far as the law of the land is concerned, she in the same condition as that of the humbles colored woman in the Republic. The difference between colored and white here is that the one, by reason of color, needs legal protection, and the other, by reason of color, does not need protection. It is nevertheless true, that manhood is insulted, in both cases. No man can put a chain about the ankle of his fellow man, without at last finding the other end of it fastened about his own neck.
The lesson of all the ages on this point is, that a wrong done to one man, is a wrong done to all men. It may not be felt at the moment, the evil day may be long delayed, but so sure as there is a moral government of the universe, so sure will the harvest of evil come.
Color prejudice is not the only prejudice against which a Republic like our should guard. The spirit of caste is dangerous everywhere. There is the prejudice of the rich against the poor, the pride and prejudice of the idle dandy against the hard handed working man. There is worst of all, religious prejudice; a prejudice which has stained a whole continent with blood. It is in fact, a spirit infernal, against which every enlightened man should wage perpetual war. Perhaps no class of our fellow citizens has carried this prejudice against color to a point more extreme and dangerous than have our Catholic Irish fellow citizens, and yet no people of the face of the earth have been more relentlessly persecuted and oppressed on account of race and religion, than the Irish people.
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