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Scripto | Transcribe Page
Colored Men's State Convention of New York, Troy, September 4, 1855.
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the honor of a brave defence. He had not then forgotten that this right is sacredly guaranteed in the Constitution of the United States, in the Constitution of every State in our Union.
Well, the two great political parties have found that the free exercise of the right of speech is incompatible with Southern feelings and interest --that it disturbs our Southern brethren. So they have, therefore, in their kindness attempted to give peace to the slaveholders. They have endeavored to do what God in his infinite wisdom has decreed that it shall be impossible to do. "There shall be no peace to the wicked, saith my God."
This is a confession that the exercise of free speech is incompatible with the relations of master and slave. It is a tacit admission of guilt. Innocence has nothing to fear from discussion. It folds its arms and throws itself open to the severest scrutiny. It is only the dark wing of iniquity that seeks to burrow out of sight--to hide itself from the observation of man. It said by Junius of Lord Granville that his character would only pass without censure so long as it passed without observation. Such is the case with Slavery. With it, observation and censure are synonymous. Therefore, they aim to put down all discussion. If it were possible for the South to do so, it would disband every anti-Slavery organization in the land. Still, the slaveholders would have no peace. For down in the heart of every one of them, God has planted an abolition lecturer, which is continually saying to him, "Thou art verily guilty in regard to thy brother." Cowper was quite right, after all, in regard to slavery, when he said:
I would not have a slave to till my ground. To fan me when I sleep. My heart would throb at every sound.
I have experienced slavery in my own person. Before I formed a part of this living, breathing world, the scourge was plaited for my back, and the fetter forged for my limb. By though my blood still burns, and my heart bounds as I look back to those dark days of slavery, I would rather at this moment exchange places with the veriest whipped slave of the South, than the wealthiest slaveholder of that region. He can have no peace. His mind must be constantly casting up mire and dirt. You can see him gather up his bowie-knife and revolver and place them under his pillow at night. That bowie-knife is intended to pierce the heart of the slave, and that revolver to scatter his brains to the four winds of Heaven. But they first pierce the heart of the slave owner's happiness, and scatter his peace to the winds, ere they reach the poor slave. The slaveholder can know no peace. There is no safeguard for the South save in the preservation of the relations of master and slave. Just let it be rumored that ten slaves have been overheard to say that they are tired of being flogged, and they mean to fight, and the whole South is in a tremor. This is why the South wish you to give up the right of free speech.
Let us view the encroachments of the slave power in another light. The Constitution of the United States provides that in all cases at law where the value of the property concerned is more than twenty dollars, trials by jury shall be provided. The South has found that this will not do. It has found that there is a species of property in the South which must not come under this jury definition. Congress passed such a law in 1850, in the shape of the fugitive slave bill. The writ of habeas corpus was formerly regarded as the most valuable provision. It provided for the delivery from imprisonment of any person, unless good cause was shown for his detention. The Constitution provides that this writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when, in cases of rebellion or riot, the public good require it. But it has been found to be in opposition to the designs of the slave power, and the two grand parties have united together, and declared that it shall be nullified. The presumption of the law formerly was that every man is free until he is proven to be otherwise. But now, the slave power, bold and arrogant, has asserted the contrary principle. Every colored man, under the Fugitive Slave Bill, is presumed to be a slave unless he proves himself to be otherwise.
A pure and unbribed judiciary used to be thought something of here in the North. But Slavery demands something else. And in the Fugitive Slave enactment it has secured its demands. It demands and provides that when a judge shall convict any prisoner of being a slave, or in other words, of being
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