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Scripto | Transcribe Page
New York State Free Suffrage Convention, September 8, 1845.
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contains the following language: "The free inhabitants of each of these States, paupers, vagabonds, and fugitives from justice excepted, shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of free citizens in the several States." That we were not excluded under the phrase "paupers, vagabonds, and fugitives from justice," any more than our white countrymen, is plain from the debate that preceded the adoption of the article, for, on the 25th of June, 1778, the delegate from South Carolina moved the following amendment in behalf of their State:
In article 4th, between the words free inhabitants, insert "white." Decided in the negative--ayes, two States--nays, eight--one State divided. Such was the solemn decision of the Revolutionary Congress. On the adoption of the present Constitution of the United States no change was made as to the rights of citizenship. This is explicitly proved by the Journal of Congress. Take for example the following resolution, passed in the House of Representatives, December 21, 1803:
On motion, resolved, that the committee appointed to inquire and report whether any further provisions are necessary for the effectual protection of American seamen, do inquire into the expediency of granting protection to such American seamen, citizens of the United States, as are free persons of color, and that they report by bill, or otherwise.
Journal House of Representatives, 1st session, 28th Congress.
Proofs might be multiplied; in almost every State we have been spoken of, either expressly or by implication, as citizens.
What have we done, fellow-citizens, to forfeit the right of the elective franchise? Why should tax-paying colored men, any more than other tax-payers, be deprived of the right of voting for their representatives?
We ask your attention to facts and testimonies which go to show that, considering the circumstances in which we have been placed, our country has no reason to be ashamed of us. Our fathers shared with yours the trials and perils of the Revolutionary, and the last war; when our common country has been invaded by a foreign foe, colored men have hazarded their lives in its defence, our fathers fought by the side of yours in the struggle which made us an independent nation, we offer the following testimonies:
Hon. Mr. Burgess, of Rhode Island, said on the floor of Congress, January 28th, 1828, that "at the commencement of the Revolutionary war, Rhode Island had a number of this description of people; (slaves,) a regiment were enlisted into the continental service, and no braver men met the enemy in battle; but not one of them was permitted to be a soldier until he had first been made a freeman."
Said the Hon. Charles Miner,3 of Pennsylvania, in Congress, February 7, 1828: "The African race make excellent soldiers, large numbers of them were with Perry, and aided to gain the brilliant victory on Lake Erie, a whole battalion of them was distinguished for its soldierly appearance."
The Hon. Mr. Clark, in the Convention which revised the Constitution of New-York, in 1821, said in regard to the right of suffrage of colored men: "In the war of the Revolution these people helped to fight your battles by land and by sea. Some of your States were glad to turn out corps of colored men, and to stand shoulder to shoulder with them; some of your most splendid victories, on Lake Erie and Champlain, where your fleets triumphed over a foe superior in numbers and engines of death; they were manned in a large proportion with men of color; and in this very house, in the fall of 1914, a bill passed, receiving the approbation of all the branches of your Government, authorizing the Governor to accept the services of 2,000 free people of color."
Said the Hon. Mr. Martindale, of New-York, in Congress, January 22, 1828: "Slaves or Negroes who had been slaves, were enlisted as soldiers in the war of the Revolution; and I, myself, saw a battalion of them, as fine, martial-looking men as I ever saw attached to the northern army, in the last war, on its march from Plattsburg to Sacketts Harbor."
On the 20th of March, 1779, it was recommended by Congress to the States of Georgia and South Carolina to raise three thousand colored troops who were to be rewarded for their service by their freedom. The delegation from those States informed Congress that such a body of troops would be not only
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