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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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The 14th Amendment provides, that: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States, and of the State wherein they reside."
That is affirmative in its character. That affirmation imposes the obligation upon the General Government to protect its citizens everywhere. That affirmation clothes the Federal Government with power to protect its citizens. Under that clause, the Federal arm can reach the boundary of the Republic, for the purpose of protecting the weakest citizen from the tyranny of citizens or States. That clause is a contract between the government and every man—a contract between wherein the citizen promises allegiance, and the nation promises protection.
By this clause, the Federal Government adopted all the citizens of the States and Territories, including the District of Columbia, and placed them under the shield of the Constitution—made each one a ward of the Republic.
Under this contract, the Government is under direct obligation to the citizen. The Government cannot shirk its responsibility by leaving a citizen to be protected in his right, as a citizen of the United States, by a State. The obligation of protection is direct. The obligation on the part of the citizen to the Government is direct. The citizen cannot be untrue to the Government because his State is. The action of the State under the 14th Amendment is no excuse for the citizen. He must be true to the Government. In war, the Government has a right to his service. In peace, he has the right to be protected.
If the citizen must depend upon the State, then he owes the first allegiance to that government or power that is under obligation to protect him. Then, if a State secedes from the Union, the citizen should go with the State—should go with the power that protects.
That is not my doctrine. My doctrine is this: The first duty of the General Government is to protect each citizen. The first duty of the General Government is to protect each citizen. The first duty of each citizen is to be true—not to his State, but to the Republic.
This clause of the 14th Amendment made us all citizens of the United States—all children of the Republic. Under this decision, the Republic refuses to acknowledge her children. Under this decision of the Supreme Court, they are left upon the doorsteps of the States. Citizens are changed to foundlings.
If the 14th Amendment created citizens of the United States, the power that created must define the rights of the citizens thus created, and must provide a remedy where such rights are infringed. The Federal Government speaks through its representatives—through Congress; and Congress, by the Civil Rights Act, defined some of the rights, privileges and immunities
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