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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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tangled by technicalities, and whose hearts are not petrified by precedents; and for Presidents who will protect the blackest citizen from the tyranny of the whitest state. As you cannot trust the word of some white people, and as some black people do not always tell the truth, you must compel all candidates to put their principles in black and white.
Of one thing you can rest assured: the best white people are your friends. The humane, the civilized, the just, the most intelligent, the grandest are on your side. The sympathies of the noblest are with you. Your enemies are also the enemies of liberty, of progress and of justice. The white men who make the white race honorable believe in equal rights for you. The noblest living are, the noblest dead were, your friends. I ask you to stand with your friends.
Do not hold the Republican party responsible for this decision, unless the Republican party endorses it. Had the question been submitted to that party, it would have been exactly the other way—at least a hundred to one. That party gave you the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments. They were given in good faith. These amendments put you on a constitutional and political equality with white men. That they have been narrowed in their application by the Supreme Court, is not the fault of the Republican party. Let us wait and see what the Republican party will do. That party has a strange history, and in that history is a mingling of cowardice and courage. The army of progress always becomes fearful after victory, and courageous after defeat. It has been the custom for principle to apologize to prejudice. The Proclamation of Emancipation gave liberty only to slaves beyond our lines—those beneath our flag were left to wear their chains. We said to the Southern States: "Lay down your arms, and you shall keep you slaves." We tried to buy peace at the expense of the negro. We offered to sacrifice the manhood of the North and the natural rights of colored man upon the altar of the Union. The rejection of that offer saved us from infamy. At one time we refused to allow the loyal black man to come within our lines. We would meet him at the outposts, receive his information, and drive him back to chain and lash. The Government publicly proclaimed that the war was waged to save the Union, this slavery. We were afraid to claim that the negro was a man—afraid to admit that he was property—and so we called him "contraband." We hesitated to allow the negro to fight for his own freedom—hesitated to let him wear the uniform of the Nation while he battled for the supremacy of its flag.
These are some of the inconsistencies of the past. In spite of them we advanced. We were educated by events, and at last
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