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Scripto | Transcribe Page
Proceedings of the Connecticut State Convention of Coloured Men, Held at New Haven, On the September 12th and 13th, 1849.
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Duty to ourselves and to our children, fidelity to the great principles of impartial justice and a deep regard for the dignity of the State, compels us to seek a redress of our grievances at your hands.
It is true that some may oppose us and cry silence; but what would they have us do in this day and age of the world, with the history of this country and especially of New England before us, teaching us that "the soul is dead that slumbers"--what would they have us do when the glorious spirit of freedom is abroad in the earth with its quickening energies, inspiring the hearts of men with the sacred fire of that liberty which cannot be quenched--whose power every man must feel. To all "those who would repress all tendencies to liberty and emancipation," we would remark in the language of one, whose name and influence will endure as long as this Republic remains, that they must "go back to the era of our Liberty and Independence, and muzzle the cannon which thunders its annual joyous return. They must revive the slave trade with all its train of atrocities. They must suppress the workings of British philanthropy, seeking to meliorate the condition of the unfortunate West Indian slaves. They must arrest the career of South American deliverance from thraldom. They must blow out the moral lights around us, and extinguish that greatest torch of all which America presents to a benighted world, pointing the way to their rights, their liberties, and their happiness. And when they have achieved all these purposes, their work will be yet incomplete. They must penetrate the human soul, and eradicate the light of reason and the love of liberty. Then, and not till then, when universal darkness and despair prevail, can you perpetuate slavery, and repress all sympathies and all humane and benevolent efforts among freemen."
We ask you to appreciate and honor such noble sentiments, and remove from us that mark of political degradation which was unjustly fixed upon us at the time when the present State Constitution was adopted.
"The rights of man do not depend upon the accidents of his birth, or color, or clime--man's rights are those which God and nature have established, and are therefore called natural rights--such as life and liberty, and need not the aid of human laws to be more effectually invested in every man than they are; neither do they receive any additional strength, when declared by the municipal laws to be inviolate; on the contrary, no human Legislature has power to abridge or destroy them unless the owner himself shall commit some act which amounts to their forfeiture."*
But how can the rights of any class of men be safe, or secure, when they have no voice at the ballot-box? when they are stripped of the freeman's helmet, sword and shield--the elective franchise? Who shall guard their interests, when those in whom the spirit of prejudice and injustice is found, make and administer all the laws by which the wronged and oppressed are to be governed?
No one will pretend that we have by any crime forfeited our rights. In the providence of God we are here. Our fathers were torn from their native country and brought to this land by the cruel hand of oppression--here they died the victims of outrage and cupidity, and now, we, their descendants, say in the language which your Pilgrim Fathers thought and expressed in this their then wilderness home, when surrounded by the storms of Winter, and the yells of the Savage, "Qui transtulit, sutinet."
Ours is the claim of humanity. We are aware that the spirit of infidelity denies our claim to the privileges of a common brotherhood; and that it sometimes finds an utterance in places where reason would teach us to expect better things. We are sensible of the influence which appeals and declarations like the following exert when addressed to the prejudices of men. "Who," says the writer, "shall respect a people who do not respect their own blood? If it is to be seen a few ages hence, that the blood of the Miltons, the Hampdens, the Hookers and the Winthrops, has everywhere drunk of the muddy waters of the Niger, the profanation will declare itself in a people dulled in their wits, without manhood or spiritual force."+
We do not say with what grace this comes from one anointed to preach the truth of that God, who "hath made of one blood all nations of men for to
- Sir Wm. Blackstone. [note in the original]
+Rev. Dr. Bushnell's Oration before the Society of Phi Beta Kappa in Yale College, 1837. [note in the original]
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