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Scripto | Transcribe Page
Minutes of the State Convention of the Colored Citizens of Ohio, Convened at Columbus, Jan. 15th, 16th, 17th and 18, 1851.
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BLACK STATE CONVENTIONS
not where he may dwell--whether amid the snows of the polar regions, or weltering beneath an African sun, or clanking his iron fetters in this free Republic--I care not how degraded the man--that Promethean spark still lives, and burns, in secret and brilliant grandeur, upon his inmost soul, and the iron-rust of slavery and uninterrupted despotism, can never extinguish it. Did not the American Congress, professing to be a constitutional body, after nine months' arduous and patriotic legislation, as Webster would have it, strike down in our persons, the writ of Habeas Corpus, and Trial by Jury--those great bulwarks of human freedom, baptized by the blood, and sustained by the patriotic exertions of our English ancestors.
The gentleman from Franklin, (Mr. Jenkins), alluded to the Free Soil candidate for Governor. "I will here state, that I had the pleasure, during the Gubernatorial campaign, to hear Mr. Smith make a speech in opposition to the 'Fugitive Law,' in which he remarked, that it was humiliating to him to acknowledge that our forefathers did make a guilty compromise with Slavery in order to form this Union; and so far as the validity of that agreement was concerned, he felt that it was not binding upon him as a man, and that he never would obey any law which conflicts with that higher law, that has its seat in the bosom of God, and utters its voice in the harmony of the world."
Mr. Douglass having taken his seat, Mr. Day of Lorain, obtained the floor, and addressing the President, in substance said:
I cannot sit still, while this resolution is pending, and by my silence acquiesce in it. For all who have known me for years past, know that to the principle of the resolution I am, on principle opposed. The remarks of the gentleman from Cuyahoga, (Mr. Douglass), it seems to me, partake of the error of many others who discuss this question, namely, of making the construction of the Constitution of the United States, the same as the Constitution itself. There is no dispute between us in regard to the pro-slavery action of this government, nor any doubt in our minds in regard to the aid which the Supreme Court of the United States has given to Slavery, and by their unjust and, according to their own rules, illegal decisions; but that is not the Constitution--they are not that under which I vote. We, most of us, profess to believe the Bible; but men have, from the Bible, attempted to justify the worst of iniquities. Do we, in such a case, discard the Bible, believing, as we do, that iniquities find no shield there?--or do we not rather discared the false opinions of mistaken men, in regard to it? As some one else says, if a judge make a wrong decision in an important case, shall we abolish the Court? Shall we not rather remove the judge, and put in his place one who will judge righteously? We all do decide. So in regard to the Constitution. In voting, with judges' decisions we have nothing to do. Our business is with the Constitution. If it says it was framed to "establish justice," it, of course, is opposed to injustice; it it says plainly no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law,"--I suppose it means it, and I shall avail myself of the benefit of it. Sir, coming up as I do, in the midst of three millions of men in chains, and five hundred thousands only half free, I consider every instrument precious which guarantees to me liberty. I consider the Constitution the foundation of American liberties, and wrapping myself in the flag of the nation, I would plant myself upon that Constitution, and using the weapons they have given me, I would appeal to the American people for the rights thus guaranteed.
Mr. Douglass replied by saying--
"The gentleman may wrap the stars and stripes of his country around him forty times, if possible, and with the Declaration of Independence in one hand, and the Constitution of our common country in the other, may seat himself under the shadow of the frowning monument of Bunker Hill, and if the slaveholder, under the Constitution, and with the 'Fugitive Bill,' don't find you, then there don't exist a constitution."
"Yes," resumed Mr. Day, "and with the Constitution I will find the 'Fugitive Bill.' You will mark this,--the gentleman has assumed the same error as before, and has not attempted to reply to my argument. This is all I need now say."
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