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Liberty, and equality before the law. :Proceedings of the Convention of the Colored People of Va., held in the city of Alexandria, Aug. 2, 3, 4, 5, 1865.

1865VA.6.pdf

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236

VIRGINIA, 1865

our privilege to vote for the men who shall so represent us.

5th. Because we believe that the time has come when the colored people are to be felt as a power in this Government, either for good or evil, and that there is no way so calculated to make him subservient for good as to make him a good and loyal citizen.

6th. Because we believe it will be the means of restoring the balance of power which shall harmonize the conflicting elements which are now so rife in the South.

7th. Because we believe that if the white men will look at the subject in its proper light they will see the necessity of granting us this privilege, as they will find in us friends that will ever vote for men who shall be true to the State and loyal to the United States, and because nothing short of equality in law will ever secure to us the wants which every freeman needs and must enjoy if he will be at peace at home and in the community in which he lives. With those considerations we do most respectfully and earnestly appeal first to the citizens of Virginia that they give ear to our humble petition, that in the reconstruction of the laws of this State they do in the prayer of this Convention and before a just God so harmonize their laws as there shall be no distinction before law on account of color, and that every man shall expect justice before the tribunals of the State, and then shall righteousness go forth as brightness, and truth as a lamp that burneth.

Mr. Brooks desired the report adopted by sections.

Mr. Garnet regarded the report as most able and complete, and hoped it would be adopted as a whole.

Mr. Washington said there was nothing in the report which he could not and did not enthusiastically endorse. The paper, he thought, would do credit to any deliberative body, and desired it adopted as a whole.

Mr. Hobson spoke at some length. He paid a glowing tribute to the framers of the address, and thought that there was not one word too much or one sentence wanting in the report, and hoped it would be adopted nem con.

Wm. E. Walker, of Petersburg, desired that there should be a correction made where the expression in the address read--"our former masters." He moved that the word "masters" be stricken out and the words "our former oppressors" be substituted therefor. The amendment was adopted.

Mr Williams, of Norfolk, spoke at some length on the general question. He contended for the rights of universal suffrage in a most powerful and convincing argument, which was listened to with breathless attention.

Mr. Anderson then moved the previous question, but withdrew it at the suggestion of Mr. Cook.

Mr. Davis, of Hampton, followed in a very feeling address, in which the cruelties of slavery were very graphically portrayed. Having been a slave himself, and having suffered its worst oppressions, he spoke from "the book," and carried the feelings of the entire audience with him.

Mr.Lee, of Fairfax, wished it understood that the paper now under consideration was the production of our own people, and not the work of our northern friends. He knew this charge would be made, and it was well to forestall it.

Mr. Scott, of Danville, rejoiced that slavery had at last been ground under the heel of the Government--under the heel of our great and beneficent Government, into impalpable powder. God bless that iron wheel which had been rolled across this continent and set the captives free! How have we longed--how have we watched and prayed for this great day--this day when we can breathe the free air of an American citizen and worship the God of our fathers under our own vine and fig tree. Can anyone blame us for rejoicing because the galling chains of slavery have been stricken from our limbs? We bear no hatred toward our former oppressors. We will forget and forglve--forglve all those who have treated us as the beasts of the field, but while we forget all the innumerable wrongs which our people have endured for hundreds of years past, let our opposers remember that we are now free, and if they would have bygones be bygones they must treat us as kindly as it is our desire and intention to treat them.

Mr. Jones, of Williamsburg, then spoke in favor of the adoption of the address. He stated the difficulties under which the people of this section of the State labored in securing delegates. The old slaveholders of that section

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