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Scripto | Transcribe Page
Memorial of John Mercer Langston for Colored People of Ohio to General Assembly of the State of Ohio
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302 BLACK STATE CONVENTIONS
"The enemy approaches, his vessels cover our lakes, our brave citizens are united, and all contention has ceased among them. Their only dispute is, who shall win the prize of valor, or who the most glory, its noblest reward."
THOMAS BUTLER, Aid-de-camp.
Thus it is very evident that the glory and honor of the Revolution and the War of 1812, are to be shared with colored men of the country. And these facts will serve to answer the question "what right have the children of Africa to a homestead in a white man's country?" "Their rights," in the truthful language of John G. Whittier, "like that of their white fellow citizens dates back to the dread arbitrament of war. Their bones whiten in every stricken field of the Revolution; their feet tracked with blood the snow of Jersey; their toil built up every fortification south of the Potomac; they shared the famine and nakedness of Valley Forge, and the pestilential horrors of the old Jersey prison ship." Have we then no claim to an equal participation in the blessings which have grown out of the national independence, which we fought to establish? Is it right, is it just, is it generous, is it magnanimous to withhold from us those blessings and "starve our patriotism?" What foreigner, what Irish or German emigrant has ever given such evidences of deep devotion to your government? And yet you have taken pains to make special arrangement by which in due time they are to enter upon the full enjoyment of citizenship. To this arrangement we would not object. We simply ask that we who have given such strong and significant proofs of our love of this country and its laws, be clothed in the livery of free and independent citizens.
Another ground, upon which we claim a participation in the rights and privileges of citizenship, is the fact that we are tax payers--that we willingly bear the burdens imposed upon us by the State. Nor is this fact to be regarded as a light and unimportant one. It will be seen at once that our tax is not of such insignificant account, since our real estate and personal property amount to more than five millions of dollars. Taking it, however, at five millions, and making an estimate according to the rate of taxation, in Lorain county, where the rate of taxation is lower than it is in the average of the counties of the State, our annual tax would amount to $57,165.00. In some counties it would be at least one hundred thousand dollars. In order to illustrate and enforce this consideration still further, I will refer to the amount of property owned by the colored people in the city of Cincinnati, the largest place in the State; and the amount owned by them in Oberlin, one of the smallest places in the State. In Cincinnati the colored people are worth $700,000, which, according to the rate of taxation in that city, will make their taxes $11,550. In Oberlin, where are very few colored residents (only 135,) their property amounts to $98,000. Their taxes then, according to the rate of taxation in that place would be $1,519.00. With such facts as these before your eyes gentlemen, you cannot find it in your hearts to say, that we are an ie., worthless, degraded class of men, and do not deserve the privilege of voting. In this connection I would gladly refer to the circumstances of the colored people in other cities and villages, and especially to their circumstances in several of the farming districts of the State; in Chillicothe, Portsmouth, Zanesville, Columbus and Cleveland, and of their large and well cultivated farms in the Peepee district, the Piketon settlement, and the settlements in Jackson, Gallia, Brown, Highland, Miami, Shelby, and Mercer counties; but I must not enlarge.
Allow me, however, to add, that so far back as 1851, in the returns made from nineteen counties represented in a convention held in this city on the 15th of January, we find that the value of the real estate and personal property belonging to the colored people of those counties amounting to more than three millions of dollars. Since that time we have not been idle. We have been working day and night. Like our white friends we have been doing all we could to extend our borders, to increase our real estate, and add to our small stocks in cash. So that whereas one or two years ago we owned but one lot of farm, now we have two, three, four, and perhaps five. It is often said, that Americans are great lovers of money; and it is true. But it is no
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