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Proceedings of the State Equal Rights' Convention, of the Colored People of Pennsylvania, held in the city of Harrisburg February 8th, 9th, and 10th, 1865 : together with a few of the arguments presented suggesting the necessity for holding the convention, and an address of the Colored State Convention to the people of Pennsylvania.
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BLACK STATE CONVENTIONS
The Hon. Mr. Bingham, was next introduced by the President, and said that on the question of equal rights, he thought old Allegheny sound. He spoke in complimentary terms of the size and intelligence of the Convention and thought the memorial awhile ago read was an able and opportune paper. One of the members of the Legislature, in a conversation with him thought that should the question of extending the elective franchise to colored people, be presented to the people of the State, it would be lost by about one thousand against one. Mr. Bingham was, however, of the opinion that his county would do much better than that on the question.
He said that the strongest speech, he ever delivered in the Senate, was against that prejudice which endeavored to prevent colored men from presenting such a memorial as the one adopted here to-night The gentleman proceeded at length to show the changes through which the American people were now passing, and adverted to the fact, that in the Dred Scott case, the Court having decided the man a slave, the Chief Justice went entirely out of the record to give an additional opinion on a subject not before them, and that now the Almighty has overturned him and all who sustained him. He advanced the belief that any man who four years ago would have said that the general government would interfere with slavery where it existed, would have been thought a fit subject for yonder lunatic asylum. But Providence had changed all of this, yes slavery was dead; there is no resurrection or human power that can raise this wrong again, or bind the chains around the black man as they existed four years ago to-night. He declared that this country was yet to be an asylum for all men, without regard to color or clime. Still, said he, "you must not hope to see prejudice entirely wiped out In your life time. I will not flatter you; that which had the growth of a century cannot die out in a year, and permit me in conclusion, to say that as long as I live no deed or word of mine shall ever be against the negro's enjoyment of every legal and political right." The address was received with great applause and three cheers given at its conclusion.
The vast audience, led by Mr. D. B. Bowser, and accompanied by Mr. D. D. Turner at the melodeon, then sang the John Brown hymn.
Prof. Geo. B. Vashon was called up and introduced by the President. The Professor said that he was not prepared to make a set speech and thought it best for the audience to excuse him, but as they insisted upon his saying something and as he thought no one could be present in such an assembly as this without feeling some degree of inspiration he would present such thoughts as naturally arose in his mind.
He said that we had come together in this Convention to present our claim for equal and impartial liberty, that principle of liberty which is instilled in every man at his birth, that spirit, which is common to every human breast, that freedom which is desired by all men, whether they be the fur-clad denizen of the polar regions or the swarthy children, blackened by the sun of the tropics. The sentiment, "that whatever interests mankind, as such interests me," was the sentiment uttered by a slave, and it makes an echo in the heart of every man to-day. It was that sentiment which brought the echo from Russia, England and all Europe.
The speaker said that the American people might become great and powerful,--they might be able to count the whole continent as theirs,--and see no inch of soil not dotted by villages or other marks of civilized life,--their scholars may look in their reach to the limit of human knowledge and become almost creative in their grasp of intellect,--but if their government be not founded and administered in justice and equity, if the people did not enjoy impartial liberty and equality before the law, there was nothing secure or permanent in this country.
He thought, if it were necessary, that we would come together every year until our complete enfranchisement were secured. If we should die while making the effort, let us remember the words of Byron,11
They never fail who die in a just cause.
But he believed we were nearing the good time when all men throughout the broad expanse of this country would enjoy equal legal and political privileges and immunities.
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