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Suffrage Convention of the Colored Citizens of New York, Troy, September 14, 1858.


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Current Saved Transcription [history]

The evening meetings were full of both black and white, and very able speeches were made by Mr. Watkins and Mr. Garnet. Mr. Garnet's speech on Tuesday evening exhibited rare points of analysis, logic, wit and eloquence, and was listened to with the greatest pleasure and applause. We have seldom, if ever, heard Mr. Garnet when he was more happy. We were greatly disappointed at the course of Mr. Watkins; we have known him for a long time, and know he has no confidence in the Republican party -- that he has no sympathy with their principles, politics or actions. We have heard him denounce the party in the strongest terms. He is a radical abolitionist, as all the colored men of the Convention declared themselves to be. He is no mere non-extensionist, but a prohibitionist. He knows no law for slavery. The Republican party, on the other hand, repudiate both abolition and prohibition. They acknowledge law and Constitution for slavery, and would to-day surrender the very members of that Convention, were they fugitives from slavery, into hopeless bondage. We were still more surprised to hear Mr. Watkins misrepresent Mr. Smith's views on two or three important points, the result of which would be, whether intended or not, to prejudice Mr. S. in the minds of the colored people.

Mr. Garnet and Mr. Duffin wish it distinctly understood that they have no sympathy with this movement, and do not wish to have their names identified with it.

We are informed that there will soon be a general Convention of the colored people of this State, perhaps at Rochester, or some central place, to take more considerate action on this subject.--[Correspondent of the N.Y. 'Hour and the Man,' a Gerrit Smith paper.]

The Liberator, October 1, 1858.


1. The Dred Scott Decision was rendered by the Supreme Court on March 6, 1857. Dred Scott, a slave, had been brought by his master into Louisiana Territory north of the line above which slavery was prohibited by law. After he was returned to the slave state of Missouri, he sued for his freedom. Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, writing the majority opinion, held that Dred Scott could never be a citizen within the meaning of the Constitution and therefore had no right to sue in a federal court. The Negro, Taney insisted, possessed "no rights that a white man is bound to respect." Taney also went on to declare that the Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional when it forbade slavery above 36° 30' north latitude.

2. Roger B. Taney (1774-1864), chief justice of the United States Supreme Court (1836-1864), handed down the Dred Scott Decision of 1857.

3. During the gubernatorial campaign of 1858, blacks in New York State were confronted with a dilemma. In that year, Gerrit Smith, candidate of the Radical Abolitionist Party, a group formed at Syracuse, New York, in June 1855, was running against the Republican, Edwin D. Morgan and a Democrat. Blacks had to decide whether to vote for Smith, their longtime friend and benefactor, or the Republican Morgan. Since the Democratic Party was divided and it was conceded by nearly all blacks that Smith had no chance to win, Republicans under Morgan seemed the more likely choice. But, if too many votes were given Smith, the Republicans would very possibly go down to defeat. Hence it seemed imperative that the black vote not be divided.

As many hoped, Morgan was elected. Gerrit Smith received only 5,033 votes. See the New York Tribune, Nov. 20, 1858. See also George Walker, "The Afro-American in New York City, 1827-1860," pp. 205-207.

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