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Scripto | Transcribe Page
Proceedings of the First Convention of the Colored Citizens of the State of Illinois, Convened at the City of Chicago, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, October 6th, 7th and 8th, 1853.
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handed Justice, or for the removal of such positive obstructions and disabilities as past legislators have seen fit to throw in our way, and heap upon us. Without any rational cause or provocation on our part, of which we are conscious we as a people, have been virtually, and with very few exceptions, practically excluded from the schools of the State, (notwithstanding we are tax-payers,) thereby denying our children the most sacred right of a national being, namely, the cultivation of that intellect which the Creator has endowed them.
We are denied the right of giving our testimony in like manner with that of our white fellow-countrymen, in the courts of the State, by which our persons and property, are subject to every species of violence, insult, and fraud, without any redress, even from the common law.
We are also, by law, not only denied the right of citizenship, the inestimable right of voting for those who rule over us in the land of our birth, but, by the so-called "Black Law," we are denied the right enjoyed by the meanest rebel that treads the surface of the earth, the right to live and possess a peaceful home on the broad and beautiful prairies of this noble State.
We would particularly remind you of the late enactment of your Legislature, which was an attemp to strike down at a single blow, the rights of all persons having African blood in their veins, who shall come into the State to seek a peaceful home, and an honorable employment. And yet you invite all others to come freely into the State and possess it, and they shall be protected by your Republican laws, But if any colored person shall come into the State, for the very same purpose which you commend as praiseworthy in others, your Legislators have seen fit to condemn such colored persons as having committed a high crime against the State for which they shall be punished, not with death, but with that which Patrick Henry declared to be worse than death, namely, SLAVERY.
What! is it possible that men, women, and children are doomed to life-long Slavery for the simple act of coming into the State of Illinois, peacefully to reside, and to gain an honest living by cultivating the soil, or as the case may be? Can such monstrous injustice as this, be the will of the People? If so, would it not be more honorable in the Legislature of Illinois, to appoint a day upon which, every colored man, woman, and child should be murdered, and thus set the matters at rest? Do you not perceive that were this act carried into practical execution, (as all laws founded in justice should be,) that there are no bounds to cruelties which it would produce? Are we to be forever proscribed, harassed, annoyed, and persecuted in this way?
Is it possible that men of correct moral principles can so far forget themselves as quietly to stand by and see their fellow-man divested of every national right, without raising their voices, almost en masse, against such lawless and ungodly proceedings?--What! is liberty to the colored man in Illinois about to languish and die? Think for a moment, of the death struggles of a people; for "there are no death struggles like those of expiring Liberty."
We have now stated some of the most prominent features of our disabilities (to call them by no harsher name) of which we complain. And we call on you to-day to consider seriously and candidly whether they are worthy of a great and free people, like yourselves. Consider to-day, candidly, whether we, as a portion of your fellow countrymen, have done anything that should justly subject such laws--that should make us legal outcasts in a State that requires but a few months of residence to make the most ignorant and abandoned subject of the Ottoman Empire an American citizen, with all the sacred right belonging to that world renowned title?
Is it our people who fill your poor houses, your jails, and your prisons? Is it our people that multiply pauperism, crime, and death, by keeping grogshops, gambling houses, and haunts of vice? No! an exhibition of the inmates will clear us from any special charge of guilt in any of these things. Then why are we singled out and made the subject of laws so cruel and so degrading and so contrary to every principle of Republicanism; and of every provision of that declaration which is so justly styled the palladium, and the chart of American liberty.
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