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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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of Cincinnati they are owners of nearly a million of dollars in personal property and real estate, and in Columbus they pay tax upon about three hundred thousand dollars, and in Cleveland upon four hundred thousand. In many of the farming districts of the State, also, such as those in Jackson Pike and Highland Counties, the colored men are owners of large farms, which, in many instances, are well stocked and cultivated according [to] the most approved methods of modern agriculture. Reference might be made to other portions of the State in which colored men are in comfortable and circumstances; but there is no need of this. If our tax were but a mere trifle, the principle would be the same. We ask, then, that you endorse in your legislative decrees the doctrine of the Fathers in regard to this matter. It is hardly necessary for us, in considering this subject, to remind you that our rights in this country date back "to the dread arbitrament of war." Every one well read in the History of the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, knows the part colored men played in those contests. He knows that they stood cheek by jowl with the white men of the country in every battle. He knows that the granite shaft of Bunker Hill was erected to commemorate the valor, the courage and the heroic devotion of the colored soldiers as well as the white. Like white men colored men in this country, with truthfulness and pride can boast,
For God's inalienable rights to man Our Father's fought and bled; So glorious were the rights secured, The sons revere the dead
We have always shown ourselves patriotic and loyal subjects. And in the name of our patriotism, our loyalty and heroic devotion to the country, we make our demand for complete legal equality.
It is fit, in this connection, that your attention be called to the fact that while this vague and indefinite word "white" remains in the State Constitution, we are without a jury trial. We are not tried, as already stated, by our peers; but we are tried by men whose hearts are full of prejudice against us. Therefore, in nine cases out of ten we are not dealt with impartially in the courts of justice. So strong, indeed, is this prejudice against us, in many localities of the State, that lawyers, in presenting the causes of colored clients, are compelled to beseech the court and the jury not to allow the color of their skins to damage their claims. This is not right. The privilege of being tried by an impartial jury is, and ought to be, held in the highest estimation by every person, for it is one of the strong bulwarks of our rights. We demand the amendment of the Constitution, then, for the consideration that, since we have not the qualifications of electors, we cannot act as jurors, and therefore are not tried by our equals, but by those who claim to be our superiors, and who, in almost every case, prejudge our cause.
In the name of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of .the United States, the ancient policy of the Fathers of the Republic, the well-established doctrine that nativity gives citizenship, that taxation and representation are inseparable, in the name of our patriotism and loyal bearing towards the country in a trying hour, as well as the principle that every person ought to be tried by his peers, we ask the erasure of the word "white" from the State Constitution. What sound reason can be offered against this procedure? It is safe for us to say that there is none. There is nothing in the State Constitution against it. The Bill of rights of the State is altogether on our side. Nor can anyone justly claim that we ought not to be made citizens, because of our ignorance and want of mental attainments. Through the influence of our common schools and our religious organizations, our mental condition has been greatly ameliorated within the last fifteen or twenty years. So that, if the objection founded upon our ignorance was ever good for anything, if is now wholly worthless. In our literary qualifications, we compare favorably with other inhabitants of this commonwealth.
Let us assure you, then, in conclusion, that no unjust and oppressive legislation shall ever drive us from this State. We are here, and here we intend to remain. Our position is as fixed and immovable as the pillars of this great State. Your history and your destiny shall be ours. And while
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