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- The 1853 Manual Labor College Initiative
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Scripto | Transcribe Page
Proceedings of the Colored national convention, held in Rochester, July 6th, 7th, and 8th, 1853.
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Chancellor Kent supported the motion of Mr. Jay to strike out the word "white.
He did not come to this Convention," said he, "to disfranchise any portion of the community."
Peter A. Jay, on the same occasion, said, "It is insisted that this Convention, clothed with all the powers of the sovereign people of the State, have a right to construct the government in a manner they think most conducive to the general good. If Sir, right and power be equivalent terms, then I am far from disputing the rights of this assembly/ We have power, Sir, I acknowledge, not only to disfranchise every black family, but as many white families also, as we may think expedient. We may place the whole government in the hands of a few and thus construct an aristocracy. * * * * * * But, Sir, right and power are not convertible terms. No man, no body of men, however powerful, have a right to do wrong."
In the same Convention, Martin Van Buren said:
"There were two words which has come into common use with our revolutionary struggle--words which contained an abridgment of our political rights--words which, at that day, had a talismanic effect--which led our fathers from the bosom of their families to the tented field--which for seven long years of toil and suffering, had kept them to their arms, and which, finally conducted them to a glorious triumph. They were 'Taxation and Representation.' Nor did they lose their influence with the close of the struggle. They were never heard in our halls of legislation without bringing to our recollection the consecrated feelings of those who won our liberties, or, reminding us of everything that was sacred in principle."
Ogden Edwards without, said "he considered it no better than robbery to demand the contributions of colored people towards defraying the public expenses, and at the same time to disfranchise them."
But we must close our quotations from these debates. Much more could be cited, to show that colored men are not only citizens, but that they have a right to the exercise of the elective franchise in the State of New York. If the right of citizenship is established in the State of New York, it is in consequence of the same facts which exist at least in every free State of the Union. We turn from the debates in the State of New york to the nation; and here we find testimony abundant and incontestible, that Free Colored people are esteemed as citizens, by the highest authorities in the United States.
The Constitution of the United States declares "that the citizens of each State shall be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of citizens in the "United States."
There is in the clause of the Constitution, nothing whatever, of that watchful malignity which has manifested itself lately in the insertion of the word "white" before the term "citizen." The word "white" was unknown to the framers of the Constitution of the United States in such connections - unknown to the signers of the Declaration of Independence - unknown to the brave men at Bunker Hill, Ticonderoga and at Red Bank. It is a modern word, brought into use by modern legislators, despised in revolutionary times. The question of our citizenship came up as a national question, and was settled during the pendency of the Missouri question, in 1820.
It will be remembered that the State presented herself for admission into
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