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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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cess crowned their efforts, they changed their noble declaration of equal rights for all, and basely interpolated the word "white." They adopted a Constitution that denied the Declaration of Independence—a Constitution that recognized and upheld slavery, protected the slave-trade, legalized piracy upon the high seas—that demoralized, degraded, and debauched the Nation, and that at last reddened with brave blood the field of the Republic.
Our fathers planted the seeds of injustice, and we gathered the harvest. In the blood and flame of civil war, we retraced our fathers' steps. In the stress of warm we implored the aid of Liberty, and asked once more for the protection of Justice. We civilized the Constitution of our fathers. We adopted three Amendments—the 13th, 14th, and 15th—the Trinity of Liberty.
Let us examine these amendments:
The 13th Amendment.
"Neither slavery, nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereo the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States or nay place subject to jurisdiction.
"Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation."
Before the adoption of this amendment the Constitution had always been construed to be the perfect shield of slavery. In order that slavery might be protected, the slave States were considered as sovereign. Freedom was regarded as a local prejudice, Slavery as the ward of the Nation, the jewel of Constitution. For three-quarters of the century, the Supreme Court of the United States exhausted judicial ingenuity in guarding, protecting and fostering that infamous institution. For the purpose of preserving that infinite outrage, words and phrases were warped and stretched, and tortured, and thumb-screwed, and racked. Slavery was the one sacred thing, and the Supreme Court was its constitutional guardian.
To show the faithfulness of that tribunal, I call your attention to the 3d clause of the 2d section of the 4th article of the Constitution:
"No person held to service or labor in any State under the laws thereof, escaping to another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up on the claim of the party to whom service or labor may be due."
The framers of the Constitution were ashamed to use the word "slave," and thereupon they said "person." They were ashamed to use the word "slavery," and they evaded it by saying, "held
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