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Proceedings of the National Convention of the Colored Men of America: held in Washington, D.C., on January 13, 14, 15, and 16, 1869.

1869 National Convention in Washington DC 45.pdf

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39

illustrious names, that to single out any two of three from that sparkling galaxy would seem invidious. Suffice it, that the mere mention of those honored names serves to thrill us now to the very core, and that they shall be cherished enduringly in our hearts, to be handed down to the grateful remembrance of our latest posterity. God grant that each one of the possessors of those names may long be spared to us, and that the day may be far distant, when we shall be called upon to lay them away, with tender hands, and with tearful eyes, by the side of their latest striken compeer--the ever-to-be-lamented Thaddeus Stevens!

But fellow-citizens, let us not forget, in our grateful recognition of those effectual services for our benefit and behoof, that the All-loving Father allows them to us only upon the condition that we labor earnestly and untiringly in our own behalf. He may, indeed, send us His Messiah, as "the way, the truth, and the life;" but every day, He requires us "to work out our salvation with fear and trembling." Still, His promise, that cannot lie, abides; and assured beyond a doubt, is that guerdon of success which awaits us, if we only toil faithfully unto the end. Then let us not be found wanting in this crisis of our fate; but let us firmly and unflinchingly address ourselves to the duties of the hour.

In our present condition, we are an unjustly degraded people; for we are stripped, more or less, in every State in this Union, of privileges and franchises which are fully enjoyed by every class of our white fellowcitizens. This ostracism of us, without any crime on our part, urgently demands redress. And for this redress, and in order to secure our immunity against any future encroachment upon our interests, the current of all political experience points but one measure; and that is, to render the right of suffrage and of eligibility to office as universal as citizenship itself. We all understand fully the importance of this right of suffrage; we know that it the dearest treasure in the gift of any government--the strongest weapon in the possession of the subject, repelling the approaches of despotism, and guaranteeing the possession of all other franchises--a weapon that, in the expressive language of Pierpoint--

"Executes a freeman's will,

As lightning doth the will of God."

Now, to deny such a right to one class of citizens while it is accorded to another, without a good reason for such a discrimination, is manifestly unjust and anti-republican. Let us, then, in the premises, appeal to Congress, reminding it that the Federal Constitution, in article four, section four, provides that "the United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a republican form of government." Let us urge upon that body and upon the great mass of the American people whom it represents, that in settling the definition of the epithet "republican," we are not estopped, either by ancient or modern assumptions of it, for the purpose of describing manifest tyrannies, from interpreting it in the light derived from the Declaration of Independence--that Magna Carta of our liberties--that, setting aside Grecian and Roman precedents, as well as those of mediaeval Europe, and of the fathers of our own Government, blinded as the latter were, by a spirit of compromise, or hampered by evils which they confidently believed to be ephemeral, we should determine and insist upon it that a "republican form of government" is one deriving its powers from the consent of the governed--one in which taxation is the correllative of the right to be represented therein. Let us appeal to them to consider, that most of our State Governments are mere aristocracies, the more intolerable, because by them the insignia of (so-called) republican nobility are conferred upon the many, while they are withheld from the few. And in making this appeal, let us insist, as we rightfully can do, upon our citizenship and upon the proofs of determined manhood and loyalty manifested by colored men at different periods of our national history, and especially during the late unholy rebellion. If the black soldier's prowess at Red Bank, of Revolutionary fame, and at New Orleans during the war of 1812, is forgotten, surely his gallant bearing at Fort Pillow, and be

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