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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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We would not insult you by attempting to argue before the world at this day and hour the barbarity of such a proposition. If such statutes have been passed they are contrary to the letter and spirit of our Constitutions, both State and Federal. It cannot be true that color renders us ineligible to bear arms and to exercise the right of suffrage.
Article 3d, section 1st, middle clause of our State Constitution reads thus, "but a citizen of the United States, who had previously been a qualified voter of this State, and removed therefrom and returned, and who shall have resided in the election district, and shall have paid taxes as aforesaid, shall be entitled to vote, after residing in the State six months." Now this is precisely the condition of hundreds of colored people of the State of Pennsylvania to-day. We deem it a work of supererogation to argue our right to citizenship in the United States. All things rise in proof of this now generally conceded opinion. The thousands of brethren in the army and navy fully recognized as citizen soldiers,--the sentence; "no person except a natural born citizen" found in article 2d, section 5th of our Federal Constitution, together with the opinion of Attorney General Bates, go so far in establishing this point beyond question, that we will not attempt to argue it. Equally clear is the fact that colored men have been qualified voters of this State, and in every sense filled the requirements of article 3d, section 1st of our Constitution. How then can it be affirmed, even by authority of our amended Constitution, that color is the bar to our eligibility to citizenshipin this State?
And even if we concede the point here raised, for argument's sake, there is sufficient in article 9th, section 1st of our Constitution, to entitle us to bear arms in defense of ourselves and the State, and quite enough in section 3d of the same article, to entitle us to such alterations or reforms of our statute laws, or even of the Constitution itself, as shall secure to us the rights of full citizenship within the State, and perfect equality before the law.
But we repeat that all this is attributable to the firm power with which the despotic and controlling institution of slavery ruled the north on all questions touching the conditions and interests of their colored population. Having yielded every point demanded by the south, up to their treasonable seizure of the national property and murder of the national troops, the remuneration of Pennsylvania has been to be styled "mudsills," "cowardly yankee pimps," and to have their soil dishonored, and their people pillaged and murdered by these minions of the despotic system who, like ravenous wolves, have made our State their hunting ground for nearly three years.
We have never yet been secure in our persons, houses, papers and possessions, from unreasonable searches and seizures, as warranted to all persons under the State Constitution. When tried by accusation before our State Courts, it has been almost impossible to secure an impartial jury of the vicinage where persons of the opposite complexion are parties of the suit; and in no case can it be claimed that we are tried, and judgment rendered by our peers.
All these disadvantages have contributed to rivet the shackles of prejudice and political slavery upon us, and throw us upon the mercy of those who know no mercy even up to this very hour of national calamity and moral revolution. Since, then all this is attributable to the power and prejudice fostered and maintained as the direct result of slavery, why should it not now cease? Slavery is now dead. Maryland, Missouri, Tennessee, West Virginia, and even Old Kentucky will yet give the world a spectacle of wealth, prosperity and happiness under the new regime, well worthy of patronage by all their free sisters of the republic.
Slavery [is] dead throughout the land,--black men declared to be citizens of the United States, and marching by tens of thousands on field and flood against this monstrous rebellion, the common enemy of God and man--fighting, "bleeding, dying in defense of our Constitution and the maintenance of our law. Can it be possible that loyal Pennsylvania will still suffer herself to be dishonored by refusing to acknowledge or to guarantee citizenship to those who have suffered so much, and still been foremost among her own sons in defending their country and the interests of the State against treason and rebellion? Is it not our duty to ask in the name of justice, in the name of humanity, in the name of those whose bones whiten the battle-fields of the south, that
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