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Memorial of John Mercer Langston for Colored People of Ohio to General Assembly of the State of Ohio

1854.OH-08.24 (8).pdf

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OHIO, 1854

more true of white Americans that it is of black ones. Both classes love money, and both will go to the ends of the earth to get it. Since then, it is a cardinal, a fundamental maxim of your political faith that taxation and representation are never to be saundered, but always go together; and since we are taxed in common with all others to meet the expenditures of the government, we respectfully submit, that we ought to have the advantages of a fair and impartial representation.

It is urged in reply to what we have presented however, "That we are an ignorant and degraded class, and would not use the elective franchise in an intelligent and manly manner if we had it." If this were true, it might be proper to withhold from us this right. But it is not true. It is doubly false. We are not more ignorant and degraded than other men. And here we would introduce the opinion of Hon. Samuel Galloway who had abundant opportunity for knowing what he affirmed to be true. In speaking of the progress that the colored people were making in his report of 1840, he said: "Now they have many and well conducted schools; they have teachers of respectable, intellectual and moral qualifications--there are many who command general respect and confidence for integrity and intelligence; they call and conduct conventions and associations of various kinds with order and intelligence;--questions of general and proper interest have become with them topics of discussion and conversation--in a few words, the intellectual and moral tone of their being is ameliorated!" What more could he have said, gentlemen, of the masses among the white people of the State?

As touching this point we would also submit the views of Hon. Wm. H. Seward as presented in the following letter:

Washington, May 16, 1854.

Dear Sir:--Your letter of the 6th inst. has been received. I reply to it cheerfully and with pleasure.

It is my deliberate opinion, founded upon careful observation, that the right of suffrage is exercised by no citizen of New York more conscientiously, or with more beneficial results to society, than it is by the electors of African descent. I sincerely hope that the franchise will before long be extended as it justly ought to this race, who of all others need it most.

I am very respectfully,

Your obedient servant,

William H. Seward.

Thus it will be seen, that in the estimation of such men --men who have bestowed some thought upon our condition and our conduct, that we are not after all so ignorant and degraded that we are incapable of exercising the elective franchise in an intelligent and manly manner.

Permit us to say in conclusion, then, in view of these considerations, we hold that it is unjust, and anti-democratic, impolitic and ungenerous to withhold from us the right of suffrage.

I behalf of the colored people,

J. Mercer Langston.

Frederick Douglass' Paper, June 16, 1854.


1. John Mercer Langston had been commissioned to draw up this report by the Ohio Convention of Colored Freemen which met at Cincinnati in January 1852.

2. Stephen Decatur (1779-1820), American naval officer and son of the naval officer Stephen Decatur (1752-1808), gained fame in the War of 1812 by capturing the British frigate Macedonian. Then, in the so-called Algerine War of 1815, he used his squadron with decisiveness and vigor in forcing the dey of Algiers to sign a treaty which ended American tribute to Algeria.

3. John Barry (1745-1803), U.S. naval officer, was born in Wexford, Ireland. During the American Revolution, he commanded the brig Lexington when she captured (1776) the British tender Edward--first British vessel taken

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