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Proceedings of the Southern States Convention of Colored Men, held in Columbia, S.C., commencing October 18, ending October 25, 1871.

1871SC-Regional-Columbia_Proceedings 97.pdf

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98

plished? There are but two alternatives. Either the Southern people must protect and foster free labor, by giving it the means of developing itself, and justly remunerating the laborer, and thus rendering him contented, or the restless and discontented laborer will invoke the protection of the National Government, which will result in continual interference with the local affairs of these States, and lessen the respect of the nation for local self-government.

Certainly the former alternative is much to be preferred. No thinking man can doubt what will be the result, if a majority, or even any considerable portion of the Southern people, persistently refuse to recognize the exact state of this question. Yet we hear vague hints that labor must do as capital directs it, and vote as capital chooses that it shall. We say to the Southern people that this is a dangerous experiment. And if they persist in it, it will prove a slumbering volcano that will some day burst forth engulphing alike the capitalist and the laborer. Indeed, it will not do for the South to go another step in that direction. It will not do for the South to go on wasting its energies in useless efforts to preserve, as much as possible, the old system. It will not do for the South to keep up that confusion in the workings of this question that is now so apparent everywhere. We must have a just reciprocity between capital and labor. Labor must not wrong capital, neither must capital attempt to deprive labor of its just reward.

There are serious consequences involved in the proper adjustment of this question, and come home to us with more than ordinary force, from the fact that the greater part of our people are laborers. And we should demand of the Southern people, in view of the two hundred and forty years of unrequited toil; in view of the patient endurance of a people deprived of their natural rights; in view of their unexampled forbearance in the late struggle, when they might have lighted up the towns and cities of the South, and have spread desolation everywhere, that they shall now deal justly with our people. We hope it from their wisdom; we expect it from their policy; we claim it from their justice; we demand it from their gratitude!

Another vital element in the new order of things, is

AN UNTRAMMELLED BALLOT

Liberty is the grand corner stone of our new social structure, and where there is no free ballot there is no liberty.

The heretofore oligarchical tendency of Southern institutions has left a sentiment in the minds of the Southern people which, to say the least, is not very favorable to a free ballot. When, to this, we add the animosities and resentments engendered by the late struggle, the task of securing an untrammelled ballot in the South becomes complicated and extremely difficult. But the case is pressing, and the difficulties must be met and overcome. For, deny it as vehemently as they may, it is a fact, nevertheless, that in some localities in the South, such a thing as a free ballot is unknown. In many cases men are compelled to vote against their convictions of right, and in some instances they are driven from the polls and not allowed to vote at all.

How are these things to be remedied? Paper cannot do it. Parchment cannot do it. Mere legislative acts cannot do it. Already we

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