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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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Social relations depend upon almost an infinite number of influences and considerations. We have our likes and dislikes. We choose our companions. This is a natural right. You cannot force into my house persons whom I do not want. But there is a difference between a public house and a private house. The one is for the public. The private house sis for the family and those they may invite. The landlord invites the entire public, and he must serve those who come if they are fit to be received. A railway is public, not private. It derives its powers and its rights from the State. It takes private land for public purposes. It is incorporated for the good of the public, and the public must be served. The railway, the hotel, and the theatre, have a right to make a distinction between people of good and bad manners—between the clean and the unclean. There are white people who have no right to be in any place except a bath-tub, and there are colored people in the same condition. An unclean white man should not be allowed to force himself into a hotel, nor into a railway car—neither would the unclean colored. What I claim is, that in public places, no distinction should be made on account of race or color. The bad black man should be treated like the bad white man, and the good black man like the good white man. Social equality is not contended for—neither between white and white, black and black, nor between white and black.
In all social relation we should have the utmost liberty—but public duties should be discharged and public rights should be recognized, without the slightest discrimination on account of race or color. Riding in the same cars, stopping at the same inns, sitting in the same theatres, no more involve a social question or social equality, than speaking the same language, reading the same books, hearing the same music, travelling on the same highway, eating the same food, breathing the same air, warming by the same sun, shivering in the same cold, defending the same flag, loving the same country, or living in the same world.
And yet, thousands of people are in deadly fear about social equality. They imagine that riding with colored people is dangerous—that the change acquaintance may lead to marriage. They wish to be protected from such consequences by law! They dare not trust themselves. They appeal to the Supreme Court for assistance, and wish to be barricaded by a Constitutional Amendment ! They are willing that colored women shall prepare their food—that colored waiters shall bring it to them—willing to ride in the same cars with the porters and to be shown to their seats in theatres by colored ushers—willing to be nursed,
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