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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 53.pdf

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that when such oflicera in whole and mdi- vidu4ly absolve themselves, by individually and unitedly forswearing themselves from legal relation ~iid obedience to the United States Government, the State whose politi- cal existence depended on the legal relations of its officers to the General Government must per consequence, as such, cease to ex ist as~ State, reverting back to its territorial relationship. Hence the fundamental right of reconstruction. The Constitution, bejun the ornanic voice of the people, as such sets out in conspicu- ous prominence, the fundamental postulate that the States as such have no rights hut those which are secondary and contingent upon the will of the General Government. Here is the rule which they have ordained. (Constitution, art. VI.) This Constitution and the laws of the United States made in imursuance thereof; all treaties made or which shall be made under the authority of the United States shall be the supreme law of the land, asid the judges in every State shall he bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstand- ing. Just as if the framers of the Constitution knew that there might be some States restive under treaties which would in their estima- tion affect injuriously their interests; just as though they knew that some parties would rise within some of the States to submit to Congressional laws with the same readi- ness that they show in submitting to the organic law of the land; just as though the foanders of our Government feared that men of narrow and local prejudices would inter- pose either the organic or statutory laws of their States as guarding them from encroach- ment under the doctrine of the reserved rights of the States, the above clause was or- dained to settle finally and effectually all such matters. I assert, then, therefore, that neither suffrage nor secession belong to the States to regulate. Within the present decade nearly one- third of all the S tes expressed the belief, aye, indeed, asserted the reserved right of the States to secede, and fought four yea s to maintain and defend it; and they and those in the North wLo believed with them, have not ceased to entertain the doctrYc simply because they have not the present might to defend it. The doctrines hitherto applied to secession (now that it is subdued) are readily upplied to State rights and suf- frage by the same persons and for the sa. ~e reasons. And the fear is, that if the State rights doctrine in connection with spffrage becomes a success in this nation it will be at the expense of national honor and probably of national existence. Whoever knows anything of the true na- ture and character of our Government, readily acknowledges that it is contradistin- guished from the other great powers, in that it is a government that derives its powers from the consent of the governed, and that the only way known to us and acknowledged by us, is to express that consent through the ballot-box and we have declared to the world that whenever the Government fails to secure these ribhts, it should be altered or abolished. Now, in the presence of these facts, I ask what right, what justice is there in inviting to our country foreigners, asking them to dissolve the connection that exists between them and the nation of their nativ- ity; to abandon all its protection and guar- anties and to assume the responsibilities of our naturalization, and thereby place them- selves in a position to be drafted into the army, to risk their health, their limbs and life to defend any or all of the States, in case either of rebellion or invasion of any Of them, and after they have performed their duties as citizens and soldiers of the United States, to be told by the Government that enticed them from their homes, thst de- manded that they should abandon the pro- tection of their native land, that promised to give them full citizenshipto be told by that Government that it regrets that it is powerless to protect them in their rights to suffrage, a right, by which, in this country, all other eights are secured; the right, indeed, by the proper exercise of which, the people inten - ded the perpetuity of the national Govern- ment.

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