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Proceedings of the Convention of the Equal Rights and Educational Association of Georgia : assembled at Macon, October 29th, 1866 : containing the annual address of the president, Captain J.E. Bryant

1866 Macon GA State Convention.7.pdf

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I regarded it a great honor to myself that I was, under these circumstances, the unanimous choice of the convention. Men who but a few months before were slaves, having to use a phrase of politicians, 'no rights which white men were bound to respect,' had assembled to discuss and make known the condition of their people, and organize to labor, unitedly and successfully, to improve their condition, and secure for them those rights which the Declaration of Independence declares to be unalienable. To choose myself from the race of their oppressors, being almost a stranger, was, under the circumstances, proof of the strongest kind that I had the entire confidence of the delegates. I prized this more that I can express to you, and felt that I could not refuse to accept a position which would offer so many opportunities of doing good, when I was assured that a downtrodden people, struggling to gain rights which had always been denied them, placed such generous confidence in me; and, in accepting the position, I said: 'after listening to the remarks of the President of your convention, who, in words that touched my heart as it has soldom been touched, assured me that in choosing one from the race of your oppressors to act as President of an Association, organized to secure for your race equal rights, you manifested the confidence and esteem, entertained for me by yourselves, and these whom you represent; I can not decline to accept the position, and I promise that with the help of Him who rules all nations, and has, by an almost miraculous display of power, given you freedom, I will not disappoint you.' Standing before you to-day, and calling God for my witness, I say to you, that, from that time to this, I have labored early and late, as I have never before labored, to fulfill that pledge. I have walked in the light as God gave me to see the light, regardless of all consequences and all dangers. I have done what I thought was right leaving the result with God.

Although I willingly accepted the honor conferred upon me, nevertheless I was fully aware of the unpleasant position, in which I placed myself by accepting it. I was fully aware that, as an officer of the Government, I had made myself obnoxious to a large class of citizens, because I recognized the late slaves as citizens, and protected them as such. I know that I should, in my new position, render myself still more obnoxious, but I had, during my residence in the State, attempted to do that, and I proposed to continue doing so, and, believing that,

"Truth crushed to earth will rise again—

The eternal years of God are hers;"

I determined to continue to do right, leaving the result with God; believing that, if I lived, good men would at length acknowledge the purity of my motives, whatever they might think of the policy pursued. I was fully aware of the fact that, but a few months before, any white man, who attempted to do what I proposed to do, would

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