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Scripto | Transcribe Page
Proceedings of the Southern States Convention of Colored Men, held in Columbia, S.C., commencing October 18, ending October 25, 1871.
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of which I am a member, and to friends of other delegations, I expressed my preference for some other gentleman. My intention, from the first, was to advocate the claims of others. But by the report of your Committee, which bears upon its face at least the semblance of unanimity, you have chosen me to the position of President; and the action of the Convention upon the report exhibiting the same feeling, can I, ought I, dare I , refuse the position thus tendered? Where duty and the voice of the people call, I ever strive to obey. As it is your pleasure, then, that I should preside over your deliberations, be it so. As to the matters to be passed upon, you gentlemen know best. When the call was submitted to me, through the letter of my friend from Baltimore, (Mr. Meyers,) I debated within my own mind as to whether or not I could afford, or whether the colored men and the Republican party of the country could afford, such a course. It pointed to the assembling of a particular race- a component part of the American people. I slept upon that question, and determined, in the interest of the race to which I belong, to say "yes, gentlemen, and God speed you." Numbering, as we do, four million eight hundred thousand people in the United States-placed in a most peculiar position- ignorant, feeble, penniless-with certain prejudices directed against us; thrown upon the American body politic, as it were, a leper- why should we not meet together to consider and devise means and measures to preserve our own rights and privileges, and subserve the best interests of the community within which we exist, and of which we form a part, so far as in us the power lies? Wy should we not come together to consider matters of interest to our own race, and, at the same time, contribute towards the peace and prosperity of the whole people, it possible? I believe that it is good for us to meet; that a body of this kind, reflecting the will, and knowing the wants of the colored people of the Southern States, should assemble to devise ways and means by which they may be elevated and brought up to the standard of equality, in every essential particular, that is proper, right and just for man to attain. The impression has gone abroad, and Democratic, as well as quasi Republican papers will seek to make capital our of the face, that we meet as a race for organized efforts against other races. But, gentlemen, you, by your actions, can best disabuse the minds of the American people, as to whether or not we, as colored men, claim peculiar privileges- whether, by our meeting, we are organizing against other races in the country- or, whether we are seeking to rob any man of his rights. Upon your action, gentlemen, depends, in a great part, the future of the colored man, at least in the Southern States. I believe that the nation to-day is watching us with a degree of interest, and I know that the race to which we belong, and here represent, are not only looking to us for counsel, but demand something that will redound to their permanent interest and well being. And you may subserve the purposes of good or evil, according as you speak and act. I feel assured that you will be calm, cool, deliberate and judicious in all that you say and do. I trust that every one here feels the importance which will no doubt be attached to our actions here. With the local troubles which exist in some of our States, this Convention has nothing to do. South Carolina has its bickerings, and its little local troubles. Some men here want office and the loaves and fishes, and some are in
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