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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.13.pdf

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crime of holding human beings in slavery. Then, no doubt, a war would have been inaugurated to make this government, in fact as well as name a free Government, and, at the end of such a war, if the friends of freedom were victorious, it would be unnessary to agitate the question of justice and equal rights, for the citizens who were guilty of no crime; the people who fought for justice would be just when victory crowned their efforts. But, as I have said, the victors in the late war fought to save the Union, and, to do this, they found it necessary to emancipate the slaves. When peace was established, very many of the war party, perhaps a majority, certainly a large minority, were not in favor of giving full justice to the emancipated slaves, now citizens; and the Democratic, or peace party, were enemies of justice and equal rights.

But the war partly felt the they were in honor bound to protect the freedman in their civil rights and very many, perhaps a majority, were in favor of giving them full justice, and political rights. It was foreseen by the founders of the Association that these questions would be discussed for several months, perhaps years; and that the interests of the colored people demanded that they should take a part in the discussion. Therefore, I have for the past year advised the friends in every part of the State to discussed political questions, and particularly to bring before the present Governments of non-reconstructed States were recognized by Congress. Reconstruction is the great question that has agitated for several months past, and now agitates the public mind. At first, the Republican members of Congress, supported by the Republican party, claimed that, as the governments of the States that rebelled had been overthrown, new governments could not be legally established; expect by the authority of Congress. The President, supported by the Democratic party claimed that the States had no authority to break their relations with the general government, or secede; therefore, that they had not destroyed their former relations with the Government, and he had the authority to recognize new governments that were established by those States. An issue having been thus joined, an appeal was made to the people, who are the jury to decide. The elections, that have been held, show that the people will sustain Congress, and the decision of Congress must therefore be final. While the Republican members of Congress were, at first, nearly unanimous in claiming that Congress alone had the authority to reconstruct the rebel States, they were not, by any means, united upon a policy of reconstruction; and so long as they did not agree, it was right, yes, it was of great importance that the colored citizens of this and other Southern States should, themselves, in every honorable and peaceable way, bring the attention of Congress to their true condition and if possible, convince them that no plan of reconstruction was just or safe which ignored the right of colored Union men to take part in the new governments, but allowed disloyal men to do so; thus placing Union men, both white and colored, at the mercy of rebels,

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