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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 55.pdf

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VII.

white men of this country, who have had the xclusive use and who have used it so stupidly, so out of harmony with the fundamental principles of the Government as to bring on the most stupendous rebellion known to the century, and to drive the nation to the very verge of destruction, making it necessary that 130,000 black men should give their aid to save it. And those black heroes of the Union army by their desperate fidelity and splendid soldiership, as at Wagner, Hudson, Oulustee, entitled themselves not only to liberty, but to citizenship, and the Democrat or conservative Republican who should deny them the right for which their wounds and glorified colors so eloquently plead, is unworthy to participate in the greatness of the nation whose authority these soldiers did so much to vindicate.

Suffrage cannot be extended as a gratuity. The white men of this country should not consider that they are granting anything to us, that they are bestowing us a boon. It is no more a bestowal than if they should agree that we should eat our own victuals, wear our own clothes, go to market with our own money, pay our own debts. If they have the suffrage, they have it for their own exercise of it; if they vote upon the subject for us to have it, they only vote that they no longer stand in our way. The robber who clutches my throat on the highway and afterwards releases me, does not give give me the right to continue my journey, nor does the community that releases us to our rights which they have long withheld from us, bestow them upon us ; and while we admire its wisdom, it has no right to demand our gratitude. Let us hear then no more of this senseless twaddle of "trusting us with the ballot," of "giving us the right to vote." As well might you speak of trusting us with our own personal or real estate ; as well might you propose to give us the right to the pavement or highway, to come or go, to buy or to sell. It is ours because it is yours, and for the same reason that it is yours. It is one of the pursuits of happiness. It is the most honorable means and in the estimation of intelligent Americans, the most permanent and effectual mode of securing the blessings of liberty to ourselves and for those who shall come after us ; and I will here say, but with no purpose to offend, that I pity the immeasurable meanness of the white man that really feels that the possession of the ballot is necessary to his own elevation, but that the black man is so superior a being to him that he can succeed without it.

In conclusion, permit me here to say, that those who oppose the onward march of progress and reform, seem ignorant of the fact that their opposition, the more bitter and determinedly manifested, the more certain it is to accelerate the cause it is intended to destroy. The cause of anti-slavery, for thirty years, fed and feasted upon the opposition brought to bear against it, whether in the forms of legislation, court decisions, mobs, or rebellions. The suffrage reform has strengthened and fattened and extended itself through the folly and perfidy of executive opposition. We are content with the consideration that the work goes bravely on. We have every power in the country harnessed in our service ; Democrats and Conservatives, reconstructed and unreconstructed, are all working for us in spite of themselves. The grandest signs of the present hour is that the spirit of American liberty has grown stronger than all political parties. Political righteousness is no longer proclaimed by a few voices crying in the wilderness. The finest minds, the warmest hearts, the stoutest wills, chosen from all the nation, have marshalled themselves into one grand knighthood for the rights of men. This is the conquering host of the future ; its spirit is progress, its creed is justice ; it will so purify the political atmosphere in this country, that in future no party will dare claim the patronage of the public that has not as its vitalizing power the fundamental principle of political equality.

The chairman of the Judiciary Committee in replying to the address of Mr. Weir, assured them that Congress was fully alive to the question of equal rights, and would not fail to take action in the matter in a short time. He assured them also that they could rest satisfied as to the result of the cause in

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