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Scripto | Transcribe Page
Proceedings of the First State Convention of the Colored Citizens of the State of California. Held at Sacramento Nov. 20th 21st, and 22d, in the Colored Methodist Chuch [sic].
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must exert ourselves to accomplish something here. There is plenty of land for us to cultivate, but we must not delay, for the next year there will come to these Pacific shores thousands of men from the old world, and every vacant spot will be taken.
Mr. David Lewis said: One of the most important things for our present consideration is, to obtain the right to be heard upon oath in the courts of justice--this is the one thing needful. As it is, the law is to us a dead letter, a broken staff to lean upon. The oath that should protect life, liberty, and property, all that should throw the shield of law around ourselves and families, is denied us. Now we have no protection, and stand as nothing. "The oath" would make people careful how they act before us. We should then have a voice. As it is, we are scarcely recognized as human beings.
Mr. Ruggles--'Tis an injury to the white man as well as to ourselves, to deny us the right of being heard under oath. Justice is often checked in her course, and the guilty are suffered to escape because the only witnesses to their guilt are those upon whom the law has cast the stigma of being unworthy to be heard.
Mr. Newby gave notice that the Business Committee were ready to report, having united both series of resolutions offered at the opening of this meeting. He hoped this course would put an end to all misunderstanding, and secure the approval of all.
Mr. Stokes was in favor of having the report presented immediately, and he hoped it would be adopted without further debate. He offered a motion to that effect.
This was objected to by several. Some discussion followed. Mr. Stokes withdrew his motion.
The Convention, by vote, adjourned to four o'clock, P.M., after the benediction by the Chaplain.
Afternoon Session, Wednesday, November 21, 1855.
Convention called to order at four o'clock, President Yates in the chair.
The Business Committee, by their chairman, presented their report, as follows:
Whereas, We, the colored people of the State of California, believing that the laws of this State, relating to the testimony of colored people in the courts of justice, recorded in 394th section of chapter 3d of an act entitled "an act for regulating proceedings in the court practice of the courts of this State," as follows: "And persons having one-half or more of negro blood, shall not be witnesses in an action or proceeding to which a white person is a party"--to be unjust in itself, and oppressive to every class in the community; that this law was intended to protect white persons from a class whose intellectual and social condition was supposed to be so low as to justify the depriving them of their testimony.
And, whereas, We believe that careful inquiries into our social, moral, religious, intellectual, and financial condition, will demonstrate that, as a class, allowing for the disabilities under which we labor, we compare favorably with any class in the community.
And, whereas, We believe that petitions to the Legislature, to convene in January, praying for the abrogation of this law will meet with a favorable response; believing, as we do, that it cannot be sustained on the ground of sound policy or expediency:
1. Resolved, That the laws of evidence in judicial investigations should be accommodated to and identical with the laws of the human mind; and, therefore, every fact and circumstance having a tendency to throw light upon the subject under investigation, should be heard and judged of according to their relative weight and value, and with reference to all the circumstances of credit or discredit connected with them.
2. Resolved, That past experience has abundantly shown that all attempts to establish artificial standards of credibility, depending upon such tests as race, color, creed or country, are as unwise as they are unjust; that they serve only on the one side to obstruct the investigation of truth by the erection of useless barriers, and on the other to defraud the excluded classes, while at the same time they subject them in their lives, in their
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