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Scripto | Transcribe Page
Minutes of the State Convention of Colored Citizens of Pennsylvania, Convened at Harrisburg, December 13-14, 1848.
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These are a portion of the difficulties that must be met and overcome, and every argument that we furnish by our conduct, that militates against our cause, procrastinates the period when we must finally triumph.
But let no one be mistaken from what we have said respecting condition, or that we would make it a standard; it is only a means. If it could be made a standard, there would not be the remotest possibility of success by rallying under it.
But let no man falter under the supposition, that the path marked out is so narrow, that we cannot walk in it. Even if condition were the standard, the path has been trodden by one, whose life and character was a shining ornament among us for upwards of three score years, a model man, one of nature's noblemen. If integrity of character, connected with all the characteristics which render men good and great, could not preserve him from the ban of proscription, then it must be admitted that condition can present no qualifications, capable of being a passport of admission into the rights and privileges of citizenship in this state. It has been argued that we were disfranchised on the grounds of condition. This we deny. The reasons urged for our disfranchisement were founded on condition. Those who laboured to disfranchise us, dared not to make condition the standard. While they asserted our inferiority, they were too cowardly to give us a fair field to become competitors for the prize of merit. They were cunning logicians, and well knew that no argument founded on condition would meet the false prejudices of their constituents. They knew that the period had long since passed when it would be possible to frame a standard of condition that would separate the white from the colored people.
So they disfranchised us by extinguishing justice-- disqualifying merit, assuming condition as their reason, and complexion as the standard. By refusing to make their standard the basis for their reasons, they have admitted its injustice; and by refusing to make their reasons their standard of disqualification, they have denied their validity. As our Constitution has not prescribed any standard of religious, moral or intellectual qualifications, we could not have been disfranchised if misfortune had not placed them in our possession. So no amendment could have passed the Convention, and been adopted by the people, having pecuniary qualification, that would have wholly disfranchised us. Condition was but the pretext--the capital on which to furnish arguments--a passport to power, and that point being gained, they were determined to disfranchise us, as a body, on account of complexion; they did not need reasons, because they were prepared to vote on the ground of prejudices. And if their power had been co-extensive with their wills, many of them would not only have disfranchised us, but the poor of every nation, and whole political parties, that were opposed to them in the bargain.
Therefore, our only hope of effecting a change, in the fundamental laws of this State, is through a successful appeal to the voters thereof, whose sovereign will must direct her future destiny.
We have not only shown, that they did not disfranchise us on account of our condition, but that they COULD not. And if further testimony be needed, we will bring to the stand, Mr. Martin, of Philadelphia county, the member of the Convention who bears the distinguished honor of having introduced the word "white" into the Constitution. He says in a speech on that subject, "Much has been done for these people--schools have been kept up--they have been instructed in all the sciences, and in the rudiments of religion, and I haved known but one solitary instance of a good result, although I have lived forty years on the same spot, and have been well acquainted with all that has been done. There is a BLACK gentlemen in Philadelphia county, JAMES FORTEN, a sail maker, who is an exception.23 What is his situation? He has accumulated property, obtained a respectable standing, and in consequence of his colour, is noticed more than a white man would be in the same situation. I will say, therefore, that all these attempts are fallacious, and that nothing can be done to place the coloured race by the side of the whites."
We leave you after reading the above extract to decide for yourselves, whether Mr. Martin was induced to insert the word "white" from the view that our people had failed to reach that high position contemplated by their benefactors, or from a spirit of jealousy at the notoriety that followed their success, in "consequence of their colour." It could not have been the former, because he represents them as having "obtained the rudiments of religion,
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