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Proceedings of the State Convention of the Colored Freemen of Pennsylvania, Held in Pittsburgh, on the 23d, 24th and 25th of August, 1841, for the Purpose of Considering their Condition, and the Means of Its Improvement. (Copy 2)
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shall arrange our address under as many heads as it naturally contains, and consider the several resolutions under their appropriate heads. By pursuing this course, we believe that each part may better be remembered, and better understood.--We begin with
The Right of Suffrage
A restriction in the third article of the Constitution of Pennsylvania deprives us, as colored men, of the right of suffrage; and a resolution of the Convention declares this restriction to be impolitic, oppressive, and wrong. It is impolitic for the state thus to restrict any portion of her inhabitants, because it degrades them, and in so far detracts from the honor and respectability of the state. It deprives them of one of the most powerful stimulants to a virtuous and upright life; paralyzes their efforts to attain wealth and respectability; and thus lessens the general wealth of the state, and the amount of taxes which would otherwise be paid into the state treasury. It is oppressive, because we are required to pay the same homage and obedience laws as other citizens, and the same taxes, and are yet denied the same equivalent. It also deprives us of political defence. Our worst adversary may be a candidate for an office, the salary of which is in part made up of taxes paid out of our own pockets, and yet we have not the power of casting a single vote prevent his triumph. It tears away the bulwark, the very citadel of our liberties and leaves us exposed on every side. It is wrong, because it inflicts punishment upon the innocent. The elective franchise is the highest privilege known to republicans; it is the foundation and only safeguard of all political rights; and to deprive one of it, is to inflict the highest political punishment.
But what is our crime, that such excessive punishment should be inflicted upon us? What abuse have we ever made of this privilege? What is there in our past history to show, that in so far as our number or influence is concerned, the interest of the state, and of the nation, may not be safely trusted in our hands? Under all circumstances, and upon all occasions, we have been to our country and obedient to her laws; and in so far as permitted, contributed our share to its happiness and prosperity; and we deem it but simple justice that we should in common with others, share its privileges.
Before dismissing this part of our address, permit us to say a few words in regard to the payment of
Some have supposed, that because we are not allowed to vote, we ought not to pay taxes; but this is in part a mistake. Taxation was in use, long before voting, as it is practised in this country, was known; and the equivalent which in those days received for their taxes was protection. The subject paid into the treasury of the king so much taxes; and the king granted the subject, as an equivalent, so much protection. Such is the case in many kingdoms even at the present day; such as Russia, Austria, Turkey &c. The power that receives taxes is always bound to protect; and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, by receiving into her treasury our taxes guarantees to us the protection of her laws. We pay our taxes, then, not the less for vote, but the more for the protection of the laws.
The important subject of
next claims our attention: and we cannot too much commend to your attention and practice, the resolution of the Convention on this subject. Considered in itself, educatlon is a matter of the first importance, on account of the moral pleasure and elevation which it imparts to its possessor, but when, in addition to this, it is remembered that it qualifies for every thing useful, good and great, its lmportance is infinite. But the education which we recommend is that which qualifies for usefulness in its best and most extensive sense; and is not finished, until its subject has learned some trade, by which he may decently maintain himself in society. Labor is the natural
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