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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.

1843NY 13.pdf

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Current Saved Transcription [history]

[13]

to a committee was, that it might pass through a close and critical examination, and perceiving some points in it that might in print appear objectionable, to have it somewhat modified, and also that it might proceed forth from a special committee, of which the author should be the chairman, and thus receive the usual credit due to chairmen of committees presenting documents to public bodies.

H. H. Garnit arose to oppose the motion of reference, and anticipating more than was contemplated by the mover, and fearing the fate of the address, if the motion prevailed, proceeded to give his reasons why the motion should not prevail, and why the address should be adopted by the Convention, and sent out with its sanction; in doing which Mr. Garnit went into the whole merits of the case. He reviewed the abominable system of slavery, showed its mighty workings, its deeds of darkness and of death—how it robbed parents of children, and children of parents, husbands of wives; how it prostituted the daughters of the slaves; how it murdered the colored man. He referred to the fate of Denmark Vesey and his accomplices—of Nat Turner; to the burning of McIntosh, to the case of Madison Washington, as well as to many other cases—to what had been done to move the slaveholders to let go their grasp, and asked what more could be done-if we have not waited long enough—if it were not time to speak louder and longer—to take higher ground and other steps. Mr. Garnit, in this speech, occupied nearly one hour and a half, the rule having been suspended to allow him to proceed. It was a masterly effort, and the whole Convention, full as it was, was literally infused with tears. Mr. Garnit concluded amidst great applause.

Frederic Douglass, not concurring with certain points in the address, nor with the sentiments advanced by Mr.. Garnit, arose to advocate its reference to the committee, and also to reply to Mr. Garnit. Mr. Douglass remarked, that there was too much physical force, both in the address and the remarks of the speaker last up. He was for trying the moral means a little longer; that the address, could it reach the slaves, and the advice, either of the address or the gentleman, be followed, while it might not lead the slaves to rise in insurrection for liberty, would, nevertheless, and necessarily be the occasion of an insurrection; and that was what be wished in no way to have any agency in bringing about, and what we were called upon to avoid; and therefore, he hoped the motion to refer would prevail.

Mr. Garnit arose to reply, and said that the most the address said in sentiment, with what the gentleman excepted to, was, that it advised the slaves to go to their masters and tell them they wanted their liberty, and had come to ask for it; and if the master refused it, to tell them, then we shall take it, let the consequence be what it may.

Mr. Douglass said, that would lead to an insurrection, and we were called upon to avoid such a catastrophy. He wanted emancipation in a better way, as he expected to have it.

The question of reference was further discussed by James N. Gloucester, taking the same view of the case with Mr. Douglass; and by Wm. C. Munro, who opposed its reference, concurring fully in the views expressed by Mr. Garnit.

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