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Scripto | Transcribe Page
New-York State Convention of Colored Citizens, Troy, August 25-27, 1841
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forfeit their recognizances; these facts, bing taken into account, would greatly alter the annals of crime.) Granted. But why is this? Inquire of the Constitution of the State, and it will appear that this population are degraded from the rank of citizenship; and it is the very nature of republicanism to prove, that if you degrade a man from the rank of citizenship for no fault of his, you force him upon the road to crime and delinquency. Else, what would be the value of citizenship or republicanism? It is an absurdity in terms to say that you can degrade a man without a manifestation of the same on his part. If, then, the colored population be chargeable with a disproportionate number of small offenses, let the change be laid to the right source--the defect in the Constitution of the State; and if that be the source of the evil, in the name of the peace, prosperity, and the fair fame of our republic, let the source be removed that the evil may perish.
But, fellow citizens, a question of this kind may occur to you--that, although the State may suffer harm from the disenfranchisement of her colored population, would it not be a greater evil to make them equal with the whites; and would it not degrade the latter to associate with the former?
This is a fair statement of a popular objection, and we will meet it in candor and sincerity.
We answer the objection by saying, that men may be politically equal, and yet remain socially distinct: this grand problem it has been the glory of American institutions to demonstrate. The Jews, for example, down-trodden in every European nation, in our State enjoy political equality, and yet maintain their separate social identity. And the same is true of the Society of Friends. But there is a living and complete confutation of this objection in the State of Massachusetts, which, rather than tax colored men without granting them votes, so long ago as 1792 enfranchised her colored population; and no one can point to that State as peculiar for confounding what our objectors term social distinction.
Another objection may occur to you. You may say that if the elective franchise be granted to the colored population, they may, "en masse," join one of the parties which politically divide the State, and thus fatally prejudice the interests of the others.
Such an occurrence, we solemnly assure you, fellow citizens, in the nature of things, can never happen: for, from an extensive knowledge of them, we can assert, that they are divided in their views with respect to the politics of our country, the same as other classes of the community; and are now found connected with the different parties which divide the State; and under any circumstances, we have reason to believe that they would still be found mingling with the different parties, as now found. But we are not appealing to parties in this matter; it is no party measure. Ours is a most just cause, a righteous claim--to consider which, belongs to no party, but the whole people.
Another objection may possibly be urged, namely: that the colored population are too ignorant and degraded, rightly to exercise the previous boon of the elective franchise. Freemen of New-York, can you patiently listen to this wily, threadbare argument? Unfit to vote? Is there any thing in our institutions which has a greater power to unfit men to vote, than there is in the tyrannical despotisms of Europe? Have the colored population who have lived under the glorious institutions of the State of New-York had less opportunity rightly to appreciate the value, and exercise the privilege of voting, than the ten thousand per annum who swarm our genial shores, from the besotted and deadening sway of European kings? What a compliment to the monarchical form of government.
But we are able to appeal to facts which entirely overthrow this objection. During 49 years, the colored population of Massachusetts have voted on an equality with the whites; and we triumphantly appeal to the long list of able men selected by the people of the Bay State, to show that the equal privilege of voting, as manifested in selecting public servants; and corruption at the polls is an offence never yet alleged against the colored voters of the Bay State.
Another fact we boldly assert: that in proportion to their number, the colored population of the State of New-York are not more ignorant of reading and writing than their fairer fellow citizens. And further: in the city of
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