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Scripto | Transcribe Page
New-York State Convention of Colored Citizens, Troy, August 25-27, 1841
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people: since the prosperity of the whole is made up of the sums of individual welfare, and whatever injures the welfare of an individual must detract from the prosperity of the whole.
If you combine equals with unequals, the whole must be unequal; if you combined affranchised with disfranchised, free with slave labor, the result must be disastrous to the whole community. Yet such is the present condition of the state of New-York.
This being true, how enormously extensive must be the evil, in what light soever we may view it, which is the result of that arrangement in the State Constitution, by witch 50,000 of her citizens are bereft of all political power? How great a loss is not this to the State? Here is not an unit, but a fiftieth part of the entire body politic, consuming, in their due proportion, the products of the State--dependent, in the same proportion, upon the resources of the State--the subjects of legislation, equally in that proportion, with the other 49-50ths of the people--looking up also to the State as their guardian, and throwing themselves equally upon her laws and her magistracy for protection and defence. The State, in her legislation and arrangements for her own prosperity, and the benefit of her whole people, makes these arrangements proportionably for this portion as for the rest of her people, because they constitute a part of the whole. And yet they are not able to render back their due proportion, because crippled in their energies by the arrangement which deprives them of that right, the possession and free use of which is the living principle, the main-spring of a government. The State, by this policy, inflicts a wound upon herself, and detracts from her real strength; because government is a system having its foundation in the real strength and powers of the whole people; and any arrangement, therefore, in the policy of the State, which paralyzes the energies of any portion of the people, breaks in upon the general order, and sends, in so far, confusion and disorder into the whole system.
This arrangement of our State Constitution is a blow directly crushing the native energies of him whom it directly affects; the full development of all whose powers is essential for his healthy existence, whether we regard him in his intellectual, moral or physical being. It is as true in the two former, as in the latter, that if "one member suffers, the whole suffer with it;" and it is true also, that if he suffers as a mortal being, he suffers, in consequence, in his intellectual and physical being. In which light soever, then, you may view it, whether by any law of the and, local abuse, or the common consent of the people, man is crippled in any of the powers of his being, he is crippled in his whole being; and himself, and all dependent upon him, and all the relations he sustains, whether to social or to public life, to his family or to the body politic, suffers in due proportion.
May we not, then, in behalf of that class among us who feel the evil inflicted upon them, and who labor under all the consequent disadvantages, address you upon this long-continued grievance, to them more than to all others? Nay, more, ought we not to do so? And will you not, where rests the power to create, renew or change any arrangement in the Constitution and the laws, listen to us, if for no other reasons, for the multiplied energies which will call forth in the service of the State. And while so much of real power is lost to the State, and which ought to be regarded as a misfortune, a great calamity is inflicted upon the disfranchised themselves. And what deepens the misfortune which the State has inflicted upon herself, and converts it into an enormity, is these 50,000 people are disfranchised for the commission of no crime.
For what crime can be alleged against the colored population of this State, unless it be criminal in them to love the soil which gave them birth.
The annals of crime in our State do show that, in proportion to their number, they commit a greater number of smaller offences than the whites. (It must be borne in mind, that the police officers arrest colored persons for the slightest faults, and often for no fault at all; because they have not the fear of colored men's votes. The writer of this saw, in December, 1840, eighty colored persons, chiefly women, arrested in one police office, 100 West Broadway, New-York city. All the whites present, with the exception of the proprietor, who demanded to be arrested, were let go scot free. The annals of the Court of Sessions show, that 8 white to 1 colored person,
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