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- Equality Before the Law: California Black Convention Activism, 1855-65
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Scripto | Transcribe Page
Minutes of the National Convention of Colored Citizens; Held at Buffalo; on the 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th, and 19th of August, 1843; for the purpose of considering their moral and political condition as American citizens.
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States where it is denied us,-- where our rights are legislated away, and our voice neither heard nor regarded. We also wish to secure, for our children especially, the benefits of education, which in several States are entirely denied us, and in others are enjoyed only in name These, and many other things, of which we justly complain, bear most heavily upon us as a people; and it is our right and our duty to seek for redress, in that way which will be most likely to secure the desired end.
In your wisdom, you will, I doubt not, take into consideration these and the many other grievances which we suffer, and form such organizations, and recommend such measures, as shall, in your wisdom, seem most likely to secure our enfranchisement -- the benefits of education to our children, and all our rights in common with other citizens of this republic
Two objects should distinctly and constantly be borne In mind, in all our deliberations. One is the diffusion of truth, and the other the elevation of our own people. By the diffusion of truth, I mean that we must take a bold and elevated stand for the truth. We must determine, in the strength of God, to do every thing that will advance the great and holy cause of freedom, and nothing that will in the least retard its progress. We must, by every means in our power, strive to persuade the white people to act with more confidence in their own principles of liberty -- to make laws, just and equal for all the people.
But while the color of the skin is made the criterion of the law, it is our right, our duty, and, I hope I may say, our fixed determination, to make known our wrongs to the world, and to our oppressors; to cease not day nor night to
"Tell, in burning words, our tale of woe,"
and pour a flood of living light on the minds and consciences of the oppressor; till we change their thoughts, feelings, and actions towards us as men and citizens of this land. We must convince our fellow-men that slavery is unprofitable; that it is for the well-being and prosperity of this nation; the peace and happiness of our common country, that slavery and oppression be abolished within its borders; and that laws be enacted equal and just for all its citizens.
Proscription is not in accordance with equal rights, no more than is oppression with holy freedom, or slavery with the spirit of free institutions. The present system of laws, in this our country, enacted in reference to us, the oppressed and down-trodden descendants of Africa, do, and will continue to operate like the cankerworm in the root of the tree of liberty, preventing its growth, and ultimately destroying its vitality. We may well say, in the language of a distinguished statesman and patriot of our own land, "We tremble for our country when we reflect that God is just, and that his justice will not always sIeep." By the example of other nations, who have gone before, whose history should be a warning to this people, we learn that slavery and oppression has nowhere prospered long;-- it blasts a nation's glory and prosperity --divides her power -- weakens her strength, and grows like a corroding consumption in her very vitals. "God's judgments will not sleep forever, but he will visit the nations of the earth in justice." We love our common country--
"With all her faults, we love her still."
This is the land where we all drew our first breath; where we have grown up to strength and manhood; "here is deposited the ashes of our fathers;" here we have contracted the most sacred engagements, the dearest relations of life; here we have found the companions of our childhood, the friends of our youth,the gentle partners of our lives; here are the haunts of our infancy, the scenes of every endearing hour: -- in a word, this is our own native land I repeat it, then, we love our country, we love our fellow citizens, -- but we love liberty more.
We, as a people, are called upon to raise our voice in our own behalf, and plead our own rights, because so few are found to plead for us. The oppressed of every other land, no matter how distant their location, no matter what their complexion, when the fact is know that any people are oppressed, and are seeking their freedom, the friends of liberty are ready to espouse their cause, with all the talent and eloquence which this great nation possesses. Men of every rank can plead the cause of freedom. Even the slaveholders, who hold their iron grasp, like the grasp
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