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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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however, but one disability. For let the word "white" be stricken from the Constitution, and black and mulatto persons come at once into the enjoyment of a full and complete legal equality; then the last vestige of the old barbarous and inhuman Black Laws will have been wiped out, and a new order of things instituted, whose peculiar and distinguished characteristics will be a democratic and Christian regard for the rights of all mankind, whatever their condition or complexion. What are the reasons, then, which we have to offer in favor of the erasure of the word "white" from the State Constitution? The Declaration of Independence, and the American definition of human freedom, declares that all men are created equal--that is, that all are equally endowed with natural and inherent rights. These rights are not created by Constitutions, nor are they uncreated by Constitutions. Their existence is not dependent upon the curl of a man's hair, the projection of his lips, the color of his skin, or the clime in which he had his birth. They are a constituent element of manhood--whether that manhood be found encased in ebony or ivory. And it is the natural and peculiar function of government not to destroy these rights, but to guard and defend them. When government fails to perform this function, its acts become unjust, anti-democratic, and cruel. And then it becomes the duty of the law-making power of the State to alter and amend the laws in such a manner as to secure equal and exact justice to every inhabitant. In the name of the manhood of black and mulatto persons, then,--in the name of his inherent rights, which are inseparable from that manhood--and in the name of the true function of government, we ask the amendment of the Constitution.
In this first consideration, it will be perceived that we have assumed the manhood of black and mulatto persons. This we have done, because, at this late day, after so much has been done by the colored people of the State and Nation to educate, refine and elevate ourselves, so that we, may be useful in our day and generation, to ourselves and mankind, we suppose that no one of moderate intelligence would question our humanity and manhood. But if there are persons who still would question our mental and moral capacities and, therefore, our membership of the human family, we need only call the attention of such to the fact, that we have among us persons who are distinguished for their enterprise and attainments as doctors of medicine, those who are skillful and successful as attorneys and counsellors at law, and still another class whose industry and learning, whose devotedness and piety make them acceptable and influential as ministers of the Gospel. Indeed, not many years ago, a German University of Heidelberg, did itself and the colored people of the United States the honor to confer upon one of our number, in consideration of his scholarship and Christian bearing, the doctrinate of divinity. Nor is this all that can be said in this direction. We have among us poets, orators and authors whose genius, eloquence and learning place them among the savans of this country. When we read the poetry 'of Whittier, all aglow with the radiance of divine inspiration--the historical pages of Bryant, enlivened and beautified by a rich dramatic style--the speeches of Webster, whose manly sentiments and beautiful expression render them acceptable and captivating, let us not forget the effusions of Whitfield, the historical productions of Nell, and the burning and masterly eloquence of Douglass. Nor are we without mathematical and mechanical ingenuity. There are colored men who have done themselves great credit and the State great service by their mathematical and mechanical genius. These achievements of a mathematical and mechanical, a literary and scientific sort, to which allusion has been made are but the results of primitive, original fundamental faculties which belong to our nature, and which establish beyond decent cavil our unity and identity with the human family. Indeed, there is no argument in favor of the unity of the human race so strong and impregnable as this one from a psychological standpoint. Under existing circumstances we make no apology for this episode in favor of our manhood.
The second consideration which we have to offer in favor of the amendment of the State Constitution, is the fact that caste legislation--legislation founded upon accidental or complexional differences--is contrary to the drift and meaning of the United States Constitution. We find no word white in that instrument. It regards every man as a man, whether his skin be white or black, and as the possessor of rights which civil society ought to respect and protect. Indeed, it is stated in the preamble that it was ordained and
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