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Minutes of the State Convention of Colored Citizens of Pennsylvania, Convened at Harrisburg, December 13-14, 1848.


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Current Saved Transcription [history]

Robert Purvis,

M. W. Gibbes,

Samuel Van Brakle,


Harrisburg, Dec. 14th 1848.


Fellow citizens,--Being impressed with the spirit of that great law of progress which directs mankind to seek for liberty and happiness under the protection of free institutions, we have assembled in Convention, for the purpose of exchanging our views with each other on the best method of obtaining it. And in pursuance of the object of said Convention, we have been appointed to address you on the subject of our future action.

You will discover in the report of our proceedings, that we have recommended that petitions be sent to the Legislature, praying for a repeal of the word "white" from the Constitution of this State.

The footprints of every step we have trod, are stamped with success. The unanimity of sentiment that prevailed in the Convention, swelled the harmonious notes which announce the proud future. Our favorable reception by the citizens of Harrisburg, and the respectful attention we received in going and returning from the Convention, proclaimed that the people were pleased with our object, and prepared to second our movements.

We have issued an address to the voters of this state, beseeching them to apply their republican principles to our cause, and blot from their Constitution the last remnants of monarchy.

We assume for our basis and corner stone, "that all just governments derive their powers from the consent of the governed," and that, as we have long been numbered with the latter, every principle of republican justice we maintain vindicates our right to be invested with the same sovereignty exercised by others.

We have launched into a new position. Our fathers sought personal freedom--we now contend for political freedom.

The Constitution, by disenfranchising us, while it claims to be republican, has stricken a blow at our manhood, and not only ours, but a majority of those who people this globe.

We intend suing for our rights as men; where the Executive and Legislative branches of the government is the Court, and 400,000 legal voters the jury, our own conduct being the witnesses, and true republican principles the law.

No case, of equal importance, can ever be tried in this commonwealth, whether we regard the elevated character and position of the court, the number, intelligence, and power of the jury, or the incalculable interests at stake, pending on the decision. It stands on an undisputed pre-eminence, far beyond any parallel in history.

The justly celebrated Somersett case, that was tried in England, in the King's Bench before Lord Mansfield, on the 7th of February, 1772, when all established usages and precedents were broken down by the promulgation of a decision from the learned bench, declaring that "slaves cannot breathe in England," was but a very faint daguerreotype likeness of our own.

It is true, that if we succeed, a portion of our jurors, like Lord Mansfield, may reverse their previous decisions. It is also true, that the opinions of many of the jury, like their numbers, have undergone a change in ten years, which is favorable to our claims; either from having the question stripped from foreign issues, or causes unknown to us. Of one thing we are certain, that a large empanelment has been added to the jury, since our case was before the people, from those who were deprived by minority, from exercising the prerogative of voters. These have never had the subject placed before them, in a manner and form requiring their study and investigation. It was a wise forecast in the Convention to embody a proviso, that all future amendments to the Constitution should pass two successive Legislatures, before they were presented to the people for ratification. This measure allows all those favorable to the said amendments, a sufficient time to urge their claims on the attention of the people.

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