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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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lace, 69) has said that the word servitude has a larger meaning than the word slavery. "The word 'servitude' implies subjection to the will of another contrary to the common right." A man is in a state of involuntary servitude when he is forced to do or prevented from doing, a thing, not by the law of the State, but by the simple will of another. He who enjoys less than the common rights of a citizen, he who can be forced from the public highway at the will of another, who can be denied entrance to the cars of a common carrier, is in a state of servitude.
The 13th Amendment did away with slavery not only, and with involuntary servitude, but with every badge and brand and stain and mark of slavery. It abolished forever distinctions on account of race and color.
In the language of the Supreme Court: "It was the obvious purpose of the 13th Amendment to forbid all shades and conditions of African slavery." And to that I add, it was the obvious purpose of that amendment to forbid all shades and conditions of slavery, no matter what sort or kind—all marks of legal inferiority. Each citizen was to be absolutely free. All his rights complete, whole, unmaimed and unabridged.
From the moment of the adoption of that amendment, the law became color-blind. All distinctions on account of complexion vanished. It took the whip from the hand of the white man, and put the Nation's flag above the negro's hut. It gave horizon, scope and dome to the lowliest life. It stretched a sky studded with the star of hope above the humblest head.
The Supreme Court has admitted, in the very case we are now discussing, that:
"Under the 13th Amendment the legislation"—meaning the legislation of Congress—"so far as necessary or proper to eradicate all forms and incidents of slavery and involuntary servitude, may be direct and primary, operating upon the acts of individuals, whether sanctioned by State legislation or not."
Here we have the authority for dealing with individuals.
The only question then remaining is, whether an individual, being the keeper of a public inn, or the agent of a railway corporation, created by a State, can be held responsible in a Federal Court for discriminating against a citizen of the United States on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude? If such discrimination is a badge of slavery, or places the party discriminated against in a condition of involuntary servitude, then the Civil Rights Act may be upheld by the 18th Amendment.
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