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Scripto | Transcribe Page
Proceedings of the State Convention of the Colored Men of the State of Ohio, Held in the City of Columbus, January 21st, 22d and 23d, 1857.
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and unsullied fame, but has been admitted to that celestial habitation above, where he shall spend a glorious eternity in the immediate presence and favor of the great architect of the universe. Then while we are meditating upon his death, let us determine to imitate his life, and so be a blessing to the world, and an honor to our creator.
ADDRESS TO THE PEOPLE OF OHIO
Citizens of Ohio:--We address you in the name of the colored people in the State, (many of whom are natives) who have been deprived of their natural, civil and political rights, and all for no crime which is contrary to the spirit of the Constitution and your own Bill of Rights. "Hear us," citizens, "for our cause," while we present you facts in relation to the manner in which we have been oppressed, which ought to make your cheeks tingle with shame, especially when you remember it is done in the face of our Bibles, Missionary Societies and under the nose of the church. You say we are ignorant. If we are ignorant, you are the cause; if we are less educated and intelligent than you, the crime lies at your door. But we deny that we are more dishonest and more improvident than other classes of citizens, and those who assert to the contrary, the onus probandi, that is, the burden of proof, rests with them, and not with us.
In 1802, the old Constitution was adopted in convention, and here was the beginning of the enactments against the people of color, for prior to that day they voted, could hold office, and exercise the full right of franchise under the laws of the Territorial Legislature.
In all elections," says that instrument, "all white male inhabitants above the age of twenty-one years, having resided in the State one year next preceding the election, and who have paid, or are charged with, a State or County tax, shall enjoy the right of an elector."
This clause, on first trial, was negatived by 19 to 15, but on reconsideration it was a tie, and the casting vote given in its favor by Edward Tiffin, Esq., who was the presiding officer. Thus our vote was taken from us by the inconsiderate will of one man. We trust he is in Heaven, but it is exceedingly questionable to say the most.
Now these gentlemen tacitly admit that there was a class of black inhabitants in the State above the age of twenty-one years, who had paid, or were charged with, a State or County tax, and therefore were entitled to vote, but they purposely kept them from it because they had the power. It reminds us of a circumstance which took place in a Southern city only a few weeks ago. A colored man was on trial for stealing, in the County Circuit Court of St. Louis, and the main witness against him was a white boy. Defendant's counsel asked him: "Boy, do you know the nature of an oath?" The witness replied: "Yes sir; to swear agin the nigger!"
So the gentlemen who framed the Constitution thought they were discharging their duty and filling the end and purpose of civil government by making a rule agin the niggers. That anti-negro clause has been transferred almost verbatim to the new Constitution, adopted March 10th, 1851, at Cincinnati. And for the sake of an enlightened civilization we would it were not there. Now, in Convention, where the latter passed and became the supreme law of the State, were 95 members, and among the number were the flowers of the Democratic and the old Whig parties, but only seven were found who were willing to restore the rights of an elector to colored men. The New Constitution substitutes the words or phrase, "every white male citizen of the United States," for white male inhabitants, and with this exception it is substantially the same. Now the Constitution of the United States recognizes but two classes of citizens, to-wit: Native and adopted.
Article 2d, section 51st, says: "No person except a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of President, &c." Now, ninety-nine out of every hundred colored men now living in the United States were born in it. Hence the Convention of '51 is guilty of deliberately, we will not say maliciously, of depriving us of our birth-right, or a right which we acquired by being born on the soil, and the only right which gives a chance to the oft repeated declaration, "I am an American citizen." But we insist that the
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