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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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societies were formed by contract —as though at one time men all lived apart, and came together by agreement and formed a government. We might just as well say that the trees got into groves by contract or conspiracy. Man is a social being. By living together there grew out of the relation certain regulations, certain customs. These at last hardened into what we call law—into what we call forms of government—and people who wish to defend the idea that we got everything from the King, say that our fathers made a contract! Nothing can be more absurd! Men did not agree upon a form of government and then came together—but being together they made rules for the regulation of conduct. Men did not make some laws an then get some property to fit he laws, but having property they made laws for its protection.
It is hinted by the Supreme Court that this is in some way a question of social equality. It is claimed that social equality cannot be enforced by law. Nobody think it can. This is not a question of social equality, but of equal rights. A colored citizen has the same right to ride upon the cars —to be fed and lodged at public inns, and to visit theaters, that I have. Social equality is not involved.
The Federal soldiers who escaped from Libbey and Andersonville, and who in swamps, in storm, and darkness, were rescued and fed by the slave, had no scruples about eating with a negro. They were willing to sit beneath the same tree and eat with him the food he brought. The white soldier was then willing to find rest and slumber beneath the negro's roof. Charity has no color It is neither white nor black. Justice and Patriotism are the same. Even the Confederate soldier was willing to leave his wife and children under the protection of a man whom he was fighting to enslave.
Danger does not draw these nice distinctions as to race or color. Hunger is not proud. Famine is exceedingly democratic in the matter of food. In the moment of peril, prejudices perish. The man fleeing for his life does not have the same ideas about social questions as he who sits in the Capitol wrapped in official robes. Position is apt to be supercilious. Power is sometimes cruel. Prosperity is often heartless.
This cry about social equality is born of the spirit of caste—the most fiendish of all things. It is worse than slavery. Slavery is at least justified by avarice—by a desire to get something for nothing—by a desire to live in idleness upon the labor of others—but the spirit of caste is the offspring of natural cruelty and meanness.
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