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Scripto | Transcribe Page
Proceedings of the National Conference of Colored Men of the United States, Held in the State Capitol at Nashville Tennessee, May 6, 7, 8 and 9, 1879.
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POLITICAL STATUS OF THE COLORED PEOPLE.
By J. C. CORBIN, OF ARKANSAS
Finding it to be impossible for me to attend the National Conference, I take this opportunity and manner of expressing my regret, and also my hope that this meeting will be a grand success, and that its deliberations may be conducted with such wisdom, calmness and dignity as to attract the respectful attention of the nation. Especially do I hope that the Conference will have the moral courage to admit the truth, utter the truth and face the truth, whether seemingly it shall be for or against us as a race. If the propositions it submits are tenable and reasonable, they will enforce conviction; otherwise they will only provoke recrimination. The topic assigned me, " The Political Status of the Negro," seems at first to call for merely a definition, and to resolve itself into a discussion of the topic whether it is more desirable to be disfranchised by the law, or in violation of the law.
Of the two conditions, that of being disfranchised by the law seems preferable, since it implies an absence of the violence which necessarily accompanies the other mode, or the political trickery which is sometimes used as an economical substitute for violence, being a little more genteel in appearance and no less conclusive in effect. That disfranchisement of the Negro, by some one or all of these means, has been effected in portions of the South is a fact attested in the strongest manner by eye witnesses, statistics and results of elections. That white men have been disfranchised in the South by law and in opposition to law, is another fact just as well established. That the fact of the Negro's disfranchisement is not one peculiar to his race; he simply followed the precedent set him long before by white men when he yielded to superior force. That they did so under peculiar circumstances is no reflection upon the manhood of the one or the other. But a condition of disfranchisement, whether it be in consequence of law or in violation thereof, must necessarily be temporary and transitory. The spirit of our age. the genius of our Government, the grave evils that follow in its wake, all strongly tend to shorten its duration; so that they that be with us are mightier than they that be against us. Like a pendulum, public opinion oscillates between extremes, but can rest only at the mean position. The Negro occupies an essential position in the political economy of the South, and is not destitute of social influence. Year by year, as statistics show, he increases in number, wealth and intelligence, the instrumentalities which alone can render his ballot effective in protecting his rights and securing his enjoyment of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is an admitted fact that his labor is the basis of the wealth of the South. Time will certainly develop the truth that his real welfare must be the object of as studious solicitude on the part of Southern political economists as that of the laboring classes of the North is on tlie part of Northern statesmen. If this lesson can be learned in no other school, it will be in that of experience, to whose stern teachings the most refractory must at length yield their acquiescence. Political experience teaches that overwhelming majorities are ominous. The projecting part, in parties as in matter, has a tendency to crack and fall. This principle secures to the Negro at least the portion of the " balance of power; " so that, as expressed by an Arkansas politician, " it don' t matter which end is up, he is worth something to somebody." It should be his desire to make that "something" a very
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