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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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As stated above, these propositions rest upon the action of the States in their semi-sovereign capacity. But let us glance at the action of the States as a whole in the capacity of their full nationality. What has been the practice of the nation? In the Constitution, section 2, article 4, we find these words :
"No person held to service or labor in one State, under the law thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due."
According to the decision of the Supreme Court, this constitutional provision is only to be exercised by the Federal Government. In the exercise of that unhappy interrogative, Congress, in the year 1793 and in the year 1850, ordered the rendition of bondmen who had the pluck and fortune to escape from the slave States into the States nominally free. Of the inhumanity, to say nothing of the non-Christianity of the act of 1793, the men of this generation know nothing, save as they may glean from the provisions of the act itself, and from contemporaneous history. Not so, however, with the act of 1850 ; for of its unnatural, unchristian and ungodly provisions, the men of to-day know only too much. Concerning these provisions we will be personally silent, confessing to what Scripture says, without, of course, appropriating to ourself the wisdom : "Surely oppression maketh the wise man mad."—Eccles.. vii, 7.
The just Judge, however, whom we have had occasion already to mention, referring to the shameful fact that both these acts of Congress intrusted the awful power of rendition into slavery to the judgment of a single person, and utterly regardless, too, of his capacity, moral or otherwise, says :
"But the strong objection to the tribunal is that a question affecting human liberty, not for a day or year, but for a life time, is committed to one person, and that person chosen by the very men who would take away the inestimable gift of the Great Author of our being."
There will be found those ready to say that such proceedings as we have been describing were the work of men who can only be called Christians in the most far-fetched sense. We would only be too glad to recognize the strength of the point taken, were there any weight in it, but no feather was ever more imponderable. Is it not a fact that not a few of them stood high in the church, and prided themselves on being called reverend? And, lastly, is it not a fact that when these very enactments were not officially indorsed by the leading church organization of the country, they were passed over in sphinx-like silence, and the man of their number who dare lift up his voice against the great iniquity was pronounced an innovator, a disturber of the peace ; aye, in the majority of cases he was pronounced an infidel.
We could wish that some pen would do for the churches of the country what Judge Stroud has done for the State Legislatures and for Congress, put them on record. Not for purposes of revenge would we have this done, but rather as a warning to future generations. Wherefore does God, in his Word, record the defection of his people, individually and collectively, but that his people in all after time might be warned? Even so would we have recorded the defection of the American church and people from the high Christian ideal marked out in the Divine Word, and which they profess to embrace in all its height, depth, length and breadth, embrace even with enthusiasm. Especially would we have this done for the additional reason that they have never repented of their past recognition of and affiliation with slaveholders ; at least, they have never repented in the eyes of men, and are still largely, both in the North and in the South, in the practice of the slave-holding spirit.
But what have we to say directly upon the practice of American
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