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Proceedings of the Civil Rights Mass-Meeting held at Lincoln Hall, October 22, 1883. Speeches of Hon. Frederick Douglass and Robert G. Ingersoll.

1883DC-National-Washington_Proceedings (56).pdf

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                               53

to provoke, and their forgiveness to insult. Turn the tables— change places—and with what fierceness, with what ferocity, with what insane and passionate intensity we would hate them!

The colored people do not ask for revenge—they simply ask for justice. They are willing to forget the past—willing to hide their scars—anxious to bury the broken chains, and to forget the miseries and hardships, the tears and agonies, of two hundred years.

The old issues are again upon us. Is this a Nation? Have all citizens of the United States equal rights, without regard to race or color? Is it the duty of the General Government to protect its citizens? Can the Federal arm be palsied by the action or non-action of a State?

Another opportunity is given for the people of this country to take sides. According to my belief, the supreme thing for every man to do is to be absolutely true to himself. All consequences—whether rewards or punishments, whether honor and power, or disgrace and poverty, are as dreams undreamt. I have made my choice. I have taken my stand. Where my brain and heart go, there I will publicly and openly walk. Doing this, is my highest conception of duty. Being allowed to do this, is liberty.

If this is not now a free government; if citizens cannot now be protected, regardless of race or color; if the three sacred amendments have been undermined by the Supreme Court—we must have another; and if that fails, then another; and we must neither stop, nor pause, until the Constitution shall become a perfect shield for every right, or every human being, beneath our flag.

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