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Minutes of the State Convention of the Colored Citizens of Ohio, Convened at Columbus, Jan. 15th, 16th, 17th and 18, 1851.

1851OH.14.pdf

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270

BLACK STATE CONVENTIONS

portioned to the equality of its laws? When we see the Bey of Tunis abolishing slavery in his dominions, why is it that the universal conscience approves the deed? When Americans are rescued from the Algerines, why is it that the nation unites in the praise of those rescuing them? When the Autocrat of Russia lifts up with his own hand, the thousand serfs in his dominions, on to a half constructed platform of equality, why is that there is an acclaim in favor of the act, so far, around the world?10 And why is it thrown in the scale of justice, to weigh against the oft-repeated terrors of his vindictiveness? Is it not because the universal conscience affirms this principle to be just, and the only principle to be exercised between man and man?

Our fathers of the revolution recognized this principle on the birth day of this nation, and proclaimed--"all men:"--not a part of men--but 'ALL men are created equal, endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." To secure these rights said they, "governments were instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed." They here announced two important principles: First, That governments are instituted for the protection of the rights of--not of a set of men--but of the ALL men spoken of: And, Second, That the government which does not protect the rights of all men, is not just. And even now, North Carolina and Virginia vie with Connecticut and Rhode Island in claiming the honor of first making such a declaration. In accordance with it colored men in N. Carolina, up till 1831, used the elective franchise in common with others. This, it seems to us, and this only, is in accordance with the spirit of free institutions, just like the democracy so eloquently described by Hon. Wm. Allen of our own State, "which asks nothing but what it concedes. And concedes nothing but what it demands. Destructive only to despotism, it is the sole conservator of liberty, labor, and property. It is the law of nature pervading the law of the land. "Yes,"--he glowingly continues, "that is a noble, magnanimous, sublime sentiment, which expands our affections, enlarges the circle of our sympathies, and elevates the soul of man, until claiming an equality with the best, he rejects as unworthy of his dignity, any political immunities over the humblest of his fellows." We respectfully represent to you, that the continuance of the word "white" in the Ohio State Constitution, by which we are deprived of the privilege of voting for men to make laws by which we are to be governed, is a violation of every principle thus announced.

It is also contrary to the governmental principles adopted practically in the law of nations, namely, that those born in a country are members of the body politic, on arriving at the requisite age, and on fulfilling the equal conditions imposed upon all. So that no accidental circumstance, like the color of the hair or the shape of the nose, has any power in reference to their rights.

Gentlemen: We have been taught by you to believe, that the United States' Constitution is the Supreme law of the land. The fifth clause 1st section, Article second, recognizes the principle that natural birth gives citizenship, otherwise, there seems to us to be no sense in the naturalization laws. Those of us, therefore, who were born in the United States, and reside in Ohio, are citizens of Ohio. If citizens of this State, entitled, by the United States' Constitution, to all the rights and immunities of citizens of the several States. The elective franchise being among these rights and immunities, we respectfully urge upon you our claim.

Says chancellor Kent [Vol. II, p. 258, sec.32,] "Citizens, under our constitution and laws, mean free inhabitants born within the United States, or naturalized under the laws of Congress. If a slave, born in the United States, be manumitted, or otherwise lawfully discharged from bondage, or if a black man be born within the United States, and born free, he becomes thenceforward, a citizen." If Chancellor Kent be correct, we respectfully ask, where is the right to disfranchise us?

Said the Hon. Mr. Baldwin,11 before the United States' Senate, "When the Constitution of the United States was framed, colored men voted in a majority of these States; they voted in the States of New York, in Pennsylvania, in Massachusetts, in Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Delaware and North Carolina; and long after the adoption of the Constitution, they continued to vote in North Carolina, and Tennessee also. The Constitution of the United States makes no distinction of color. There is no word 'white' to be found

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