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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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succeeded in banishing the use of intoxicating drinks, our social and domestic happiness has been greatly promoted.
4th. A similar progress has been made in our religious improvements. At the time the Constitution was adopted, but few of our people were professors of religion. They had no places of worship of their own, and no ministers of religion to teach and guide them;--now they have fourteen places of worship, and in most of them they have Sabbath Schools and Bible Classes, which are a means of great good. Besides this, there are a large number of our people in different parts of the State who worship with white congregations, and are communicants in their churches. This shows how great their improvements in this respect has been since the adoption of the provision the Constitution of which we complain and which we hope will now be removed.
In view of these facts, showing as they do, such a marked improvement in our physical, mental, social and moral condition, we ask: Why should we not be allowed to vote? That the few who live in this State would corrupt its politics, is an objection that has not enough of truth in it to save it from ridicule. What are nine thousand people among three hundred and twelve thousand, or 1,600 voters among 65,000?--and what is there in our character which warrants the apprehension of evil to the people of this State, should they extend to us the right of suffrage?
It is asked--why we wish for the right of the elective franchise when we have made such improvements without it? We answer: we have made this improvement not because of this deprivation of our civil rights, but in spite of it, under the discouraging influences which always attend such a deprivation, and we have therefore shown ourselves worthy of the rights we ask at your hands. Political disfranchisement tends to political, social and moral degradation, just as truly as the possession and exercise of political rights tends to elevate the political, social and moral condition of a people. We are your fellow citizens--native born and with you we must live and die. You have an interest then whether you feel it or not, in our welfare; in our being intelligent, virtuous and good citizens. We cannot be ignorant, vicious and degraded without an injury to yourselves. It is for your good as well as our own, that we should be attached to the Government and have confidence in the equity of its laws, and in the justice of its administration. But the surest way to degrade us, is to disfranchise us; the most direct way to make us bad citizens is to treat us as aliens.
We do not wish to be pointed at as a degraded class in the community. Neither do we believe that the color of the skin is any indication either of virtue, wisdom, or justice any more than it is of personal degradation; but we regard it as a physical manifestation for which an ALL WISE CREATOR is alone responsible. We ask the right of suffrage upon the same principles upon which the men of the revolution fought the battles of their country, that "Taxation and Representation should go together." True, we have been exempted from a State tax, by an Act of the Legislature. But this does not exempt us from paying our proportion of the expenses of the General Government.
The State tax is not probably one twentieth the amount of the indirect tax collected through the medium of the National Revenue. On every tariffed article we consume, we are taxed. Of this we do not complain. We have never asked to be relieved from our portion of the burdens of government. We only ask to be allowed to discharge the duties, and exercise the rights of freemen. We appeal to the good citizens of this State, now to arise and do us justice--to blot out this unjust distinction from the fundamental law of the State, and no longer crush a people, who are making every effort in their power to do their part nobly in life's race.
We are determined to pursue the "even tenor of our way," improving minds and morals, and increasing the amount of our property.
We are determined to plead for our political rights in the name of justice and humanity, inspired by the spirit of the age and the example of every other State in New England.
We are determined to do this with our pens and our voices, and all the humble means in our power as long as there is a thought in our minds, or a pulsation in our hearts; we shall plead with you, if need be, as long as there is a rock in our mountains or a wave on our shores. To this purpose we have "bound ourselves as with hooks of steel."
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