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Proceedings of the Civil Rights Mass-Meeting held at Lincoln Hall, October 22, 1883. Speeches of Hon. Frederick Douglass and Robert G. Ingersoll.

1883DC-National-Washington_Proceedings (20).pdf

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17

such legislation, can be called into activity, for the reason that the prohibitions of the amendment are against State laws and acts done under State authority. The essence of said decision being, that the managers and owners of inns, railways, and all public conveyances, of theatres and all places of public amusement, may discriminate on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude, and that the citizen so discriminated against, is without redress.

This decision takes from seven millions of people the shield of the Constitution. It leaves the best of the colored race at the mercy of the meanest of the white. It feeds fat the ancient grudge that vicious ignorance bears towards race and color. It will be approved and quoted by hundreds of thousands of unjust men. The masked wretches who, in the darkness of night, drag the poor negro from his cabin, and lacerate with whip and thong his quivering flesh, will, with bloody hands, applaud the Supreme Court. Then men who, by mob violence, prevent the negro from depositing his ballot—who with gun and revolver drive him from the polls, and those who insult with vile and vulgar words the inoffensive colored girl, will welcome this decision with hyena joy. The basest will rejoice—the noblest will mourn.

But even in the presence of this decision, we must remember that it is one of the necessities of government that there should be a court of last resort; and while all courts will more or less fail to do justice, still, the wit of man has, as yet, devised no better way. Even after reading this decision, we must take it for granted that the judges of the Supreme Court arrived at their conclusions honestly and in accordance with the best light they had. While they had the right to render the decision , every citizen has the right to give his opinion as to whether that decision is good or bad. Knowing that they are liable to be mistaken, and honestly mistaken, we should always be charitable enough to admit that others may be mistaken; and we may also take another step, and admit that we may be mistaken about their being mistaken. We must remember, too, that we have to make judges out of men, and that by being made judges their prejudices are not diminished and their intelligence is not increased. No matter whether a man wear a crown or a robe or a rag. Under the emblem of power and emblem of poverty, the man alike resides. The real thing is the man—the distinction often exists only in the clothes. Take away the crown—there is only a man Remove the robe—there remains a man. Taken away the rag, and we find at least a man.

There was a time in this country when all bowed to a decision of the Supreme Court. It was unquestioned. It was re-

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