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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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have laws enough upon the statute books to protect the citizen in the enjoyment of every right. But experience teaches us that laws are powerless in the face of public sentiment. We must seek other means for the accomplishment of this object. We must invoke the moral sentiment of the people of the South. Do you say that this is a tremendous task? I answer that there are tremendous issues involved. Have faith, then, and hesitate not to employ moral agencies. For these, like divine promises, when properly understood and applied, will overcome every case of difficulty and distress.
We must impress upon the Southern mind the fact that the time has passed when oligarchy and aristocracy and caste could bear rule. Cause them to know that we live in an era when freedom of thought, freedom of action, and a free ballot, are deemed the priceless heritage of every man. Make them to realize that ours is a civilization of which untrammeled liberty, impartial suffrage and equal rights are the essential elements. And, if we shall apply ourselves earnestly to the task, who can say we shall fail? To the boatman who said it was impossible to brave the raging storm, William Tell, imbued with patriotic ardor, exclaimed: "I know not whether it be possible, but I know it must be attempted." That courage made his mission a success. And, if we are imbued with the same courage, I believe we will succeed. I believe that it is possible to arouse such a moral sentiment among the better classes of the Southern people in behalf of a free ballot that will be held as sacred as were the ancient divinities.
Still another principle, most vital to our new social system, is
EQUALITY OF RIGHTS TO ALL THE CITIZENS.
Some ancient writer has said that the first part of equity is equality. Thus, we may infer that, if there is inequality of rights, there can be no equity. If this be true, what shall we say of equality in the South? For, in whatever direction we go, whether it be in public places of amusement, in the street cars, upon the railroad, in the hotel, or in the wayside inn, we encounter the invidious distinction of caste and oligarchy. We cannot think of these things without impatience; we cannot speak of them without denouncing them as unworthy of an intelligent and humane people. Nay, we would be less than men if we did not everywhere, and under all circumstances, utter our earnest and solemn protest against this inhuman outrage upon our manhood.
Right well I know that legislative enactments alone cannot remedy these social evils. But there is a grant and a moral power in the spectacle of a whole people arising to assert their rights, and demanding justice, which can neither be overlooked or ignored. And now we ask the Southern people, in all candor, if we have not borne this species of oppression long enough? We are weary of being consumed by this moloch, caste; we are weary of being hunted down by the ghosts of the defunct system of slavery; we are weary of being treated as outcasts and strangers in the land of our nativity, and the home of our fathers; and we ask, as it is our right, that these odious discriminations shall cease. Too long already have they been allowed to bear sway in this country. And surely now the time has come when their influence
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