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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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But these are not constitutional requirements. The people of Pennsylvania, in their conventional capacity, did not set up such a test on which to base the rights of elective franchise. To have carried out such a principle would have disenfranchised a portion of the whites, while it would have clothed thousands of our people with those very privileges of which they are now denied. We are not asking the voters of Pennsylvania to elevate us; they cannot do it. All we ask of them is, that they "take their feet off our necks," that we may stand free and erect like themsleves. We prescribe for them no form of government; all we desire is that they will practice their own professed principles. In our present form of government, the will of the people is the law of the land. It is therefore the rankest form of injustice and despotism to require of those whom they have denied the exercise of their will in the formation of those laws to yield implicit obedience to the same. All we ask of them to perform, they have sworn before high heaven to execute. We desire to disabuse the public mind with regard to a fatal error which has long been entertained by many gifted and philanthropic minds, viz. that our religious, moral, and intellectual elevation would secure us our political privileges. We aver that it will not; we can now produce sufficient samples in these virtues and acquirements to redeem the character of a world. Sodom would have been saved with a far less proportion. No, if we had colored men who could write like Paul, preach like Peter, pray like Aminadab, iron hearted prejudice would cry out he is black.
If our halls of science, the bar, and the forum, reverberated with the eloquence of Cicero or Demosthenes, or to come down to modern times, if they were capable of eclipsing those master spirits of the American Senate with the power of their genius--or possessed the wealth of Croesus or a Girard, the vulgar voice of the populace would still cry out they are a degraded people, because they are black. We are not among those who believe that neither religion, humanity or legislation can remove this unholy prejudice against our complexion. We know it to be vincible, and we feel assured that where true religion exists it cannot enter. Every human being, according to Scripture, who hates his brother without a cause, is totally destitute of the spirit of christianity. Our political elevation is more depending on the improvement of the white man's heart than on the colored man's mind; we need moral and intellectual cultivation as a means through which we may be able to enlist the advocacy of our friends and influence the minds of our opponents. Our present situation is a living commentary on the principle that governs American legislation, and controls American justice.
Finally brethren, in conclusion we cannot part without again admonishing you that you must not fail to battle with the demon of complexional intolerance first, and let the subject of our condition follow, for unless you pursue this course your labours will prove fruitless. In Massachusetts, Vermont, and Rhode Island they have slain this monster, and now they are enjoying the blessings of political equality. The avenues to industry, wealth, and power now being open to them as to others, they can construct the edifice of their own fortunes, and make their condition vie with that of the most favored class of citizens.
When we take a retrospective view of the past, we have reason to believe that the republican pride of the old Keystone State will excite her ambition to occupy the loftiest position in the temple of freedom. She has already in her legislative capacity erased from her statute books the last remains of domestic Slavery, she will not long suffer her fundamental code to be tarnished with a relic of political barbarism. Until then we must labour with an untiring devotion, making Liberty our watchword and the elective franchise our ruling idea. We must collect our people from their distracting factions, and cement the dismembered elements around one common standard which [will] establish union, and consolidate their strength, and the day will not be distant when we shall be clothed with the robe of citizenship, when the constitution of Pennsylvania like the SUN of liberty will send forth her refulgent rays of civil and political liberty on us as upon the rest of mankind.
Abram D. Shadd,
J. J. Dickson,
J. J. G. Bias,
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