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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.
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BLACK STATE CONVENTIONS
home and Reuben E. Fenton12 to Albany. Did they not know who to vote for?
If all the colored men of that great State could have voted in 1862, Horatio Seymour would never have left his home, and the brave, noble chivalrous Wadsworth would have kept the honor of his State untarnished through those two dark and memorable years. How many colored men voted for McClellan.13 How many failed to vote for Lincoln and Johnson, and could every colored man in the land have voted, what countless thousands would added to the majorities of the latter? All we ask is an equal chance with the white traitors varnished and japanned with the oath of amnesty. Can you deny us this and still keep faith with us? "But," say some, "the blacks will be over-reached by the superior knowledge and cunning of the white." Trust us for that. We will never be deceived a second time. "But," they continue, "the planters and landowners will have them in their power, and dictate the way their votes shall be cast." We did not know before that we were to be left to the tender mercies of these landed rebels for employment. Verily, we thought the Freedmen's Bureau was organized and clothed wlth power to protect us from this very thing, by compelling those for whom we labored to pay us, whether they like our political opinions or not! In addition, there is something said about assigning freedmen and refugees forty acres of land each, and a chance for pre-emption and purchase when it is confiscated or sold for taxes. The noble and gallant soldier at the head of that Bureau said the other day to one of his subordinates, "If you find a man working the freedman as slaves, set off his house, garden and yard, take possession of his land, and set the freedmen at work upon it yourself."
Have the employers of white voters always controlled their votes? Let the history of elections answer. But some of our friends fear we might vote with our former masters. What if we did? Whose business is it? If they legislated according to the old ideas, we would never do it a second time, and if they legislated according to the new idea, we would vote for them again. Is it against us that we are known to possess a high regard for gentlemen --that we like to be with them--that we prefer them to the rude, the vulgar and the unworthy (other things being equal)--that we would not vote for traitors, nor at the dictation of mitred priest nor rich rumseller? Can the mass of the white voters say as much? Is anyone more skeptical now as to our capacity to use well the ballot, than almost all of you were two ago as to our ability to use the bayonet? And yet how soon were those swept in oblivion, and we affirm that the same course in regard to the ballot --trying it--will be followed by the same result. Only give us the chance, and we promise you, before God and mankind, that, by patient industry , by wise economy, by prudence and uprightness, by intense loyalty, by unremitting zeal in the cause of learning, of culture and intelligence, we will justify and vindicate before heaven and earth the wisdom of your course, and will demonstrate that the right way is the safe way.
In view of the late occurrences, can anyone of you doubt for a moment our fate, if left to the Legislatures and Governors of these restored States?
Look at Governor Pierpoint, of this State--elected by men of unconditional loyalty, and by all supposed to be loyal to freedom and equal rights. Before he is in Richmond a month he gives completely over to the "Virginia element," deserting his former friends, and calls together the Legislature for the purpose of re-enfranchising the rebels of Virginia, and cooly tells them they have nothing to do with negro suffrage! Behold the potency of wine and fine dinners!
When the United States Court sat at Norfolk and the Grand Jury indicted fifty-seven of the leading traitors of Virginia, the District Attorney, through some chicanery, kept twenty of them off the list. He doubtless has his reward in the promise of their votes and influence to place him in Congress.
These are the men who have been regarded as our friends, and if they do such things, what may we expect from those whom you regard as our enemies?
We are "sheep in the midst of wolves," and nothing but the military arm of the Government prevents us and all the truly loyal white men from being driven from the land of our birth. Do not then, we beseech you, give to one of these "wayward sisters" the rights they abandoned and forfeited when they rebelled until you have secured our rights by the aforementioned amendment the Constitution.
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