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Proceedings of a Convention of Colored Citizens: Held in the City of Lawrence, October 17, 1866

1866 Lawrence KS State Convention.9.pdf

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reasonableness, then that law has no soul which makes a man's right to use the ballot—his right of trial by a jury of his peers, and his right to bear arms in defence of his Country, depend on his complexion. Classes founded on property or intelligence may be tolerated even in a republic; but those based on the color of the skin are utterly intolerable even in a despotism. Yet your constitution and laws make these complexional distinctions among Kansas citizens. The great American democracy has the ridiculous honor of being the only nation in Christendom which makes legal discriminations among its free inhabitants on the ground of color. The enlightened world looks in vain for the reason, wisdom, and philosophy of these unjust and unnatural distinctions. Class legislation is always dangerous, because always oppressive and unjust. It is the prolific and never failing source of discussion, dissension, discord, irritation, insurrection, rebellion and revolution. The history of the world attests the truth of this assertion. America has been, and will be, no exception to this rule. Our own late fratricidal war, with all its sacrifices of blood and treasure, had its origin in class legislation. Oppression, whether it be personal slavery or political disfranchisement, is a continual state of war between the government and the people, and must sooner or later culminate in anarchy and blood.

The rulers may cry peace, peace, yet there is no peace but in exact justice, universal freedom, and absolute and entire civil and political equality. Wisdom, then, should admonish you to take warning from the bloody lessons of the past, and remove all legislation in favor of any class, and place the political power of the State, where it justly belongs, in the hands of the people.

But this class legislation is justified on the ground that black men are too ignorant to enjoy equality of rights before the law—that his ignorance would endanger the stability and safety of your institutions. This pretension is not American, nor is it a modern invention. All the despots and tyrants, from the Pharaohs of Egypt to the present monarchs of Europe, have justified all their despotism on the plea that the people were too ignorant to govern themselves, and therefore all power and authority should be in the hands of a favored few. Hence the doctrine of the divine right of kings. We enter our solemn protest against free and enlightened Americans using the defunct pretensions of ancient or modern tyrants to justify themselves in keeping in force laws not only unjust and oppressive, but unreasonable, unwise, and clannish. But if it is ignorance you so much fear, why put the word "white" in the constitution? In legal or constitutional parlance, does that word signify learning or intelligence, or does it imply that all white men are intelligent, and that all black men are ignorant?

Our learning is, of necessity, extremely limited. We have had but few advantages for gaining a knowledge of books, yet we are not the only ignorant people in Kansas. If by some fell stroke

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