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Scripto | Transcribe Page
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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and credit to the sentiment advanced in the 9th article, 1st. and 2d sections of our State Constitution, which declare
1st. That all men are born equally free and independent, and have certain inherent and indefatigable rights, among which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty, of acquiring, possessing and protecting property and reputation, and of pursuing their own happiness.
2d. That all power is inherent in the people, and all free governments are founded on their authority, and instituted for their peace, safety and happiness. For the advancement of those ends, they have at all times, an inalienable and indefeasible right to alter, reform or abolish their government, in such a manner as they think proper.
We remember with feelings of both joy and sorrow, that the time once was, in the history of our State (before the encroaching spirit and domineering power of the slave oligarchy had subverted or controlled the pulpit, press and forum of almost every State in the Union) that all men were in reality recognized as entitled to the enjoyment of these indefeasible and inalienable rights. But through the dominant power of this crude and most barbarous institution, every right and every instinct, whether inherent or conventional, has been assailed and trampled under foot and crushed out of the black man whenever possible to reach him, over the broad expanse of our country. We have been hunted and driven from State to State, by the most cruel enactments, and have been abused, insulted, and disgraced wherever found, through and by the influence and power of that monster which having bloated itself by reveling in our blood and tears for more than three centuries upon the continent and adjacent islands, now rolls itself in defiant gluttony in the blood and treasure of your brightest and noblest youth and your unexampled prosperity of more than half a century.
We have borne our disfranchisement patiently. We have calmly submitted to the most wicked and outrageous treatment at the hands of persons, who, in the hour of National trial and State invasion, have deserted your cause, and even invited the enemy to your doors, and given him aid and comfort in the work of sacking your homes and murdering your children, brethren and fathers. We barely escaped the horrid massacre at Detroit, New York,34 and other places, because of the active measures taken by the National government to protect us against our own irresponsible population of rebel sympathizers and those whom they had invited from other parts of the country to fan and feed the fire of rebellion, and inaugurate a counter revolution throughout the entire North.
The State authorities of Pennsylvania, with a loyal population of loyal colored people numbering a fraction less than sixty thousand, (60,000) through the cruel, proscriptive policy of our State Government toward her colored people, were as perfectly powerless for their own protection as for ours. the day when the keepers of the house trembled, and strong men bowed themselves, when the doors were shut in the streets, and the sound of the grinding was low, and men rose up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of music were brought low,--when the foot of the rebel horde polluted and desecrated our soil, plundered our towns and villages, threatened our State Capitol, and loosed the silver cord of thousands of our best and bravest young men at Gettysburg, and men were afraid of that which was high, and the grasshopper had become a burden,--when, instead of the music of the organ and the church choir, our churches were turned into general recruiting offices, and drums and trumpets and the clash of swords greeted the ear, even then, so firm a hold had the power and influence of the accursed institution (that was pouring out the nation's blood in streams) upon the hearts of our people, and so infatuated were they by the seething, poisonous prejudice distilled by this despotic power and diffused throughout the land, that the colored people of the State, rushing by hundreds to the scene of danger and the field of death, were coldly denied the right to strike one blow even for their own defense or yours, under sanction and by authority of the State Government.
Now how does this action comport with section 21st, article 9th of our State Constitution which says, "the right of the citizens to bear arms in defence of themselves and the· State, shall not be questioned?" It may be assumed that the word "citizens" shuts us out from this privilege, since some claim that we are not citizens, and not eligible to become so on account of color.
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