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Proceedings of the Convention of Colored Citizens of the State of Arkansas : held in Little Rock, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Nov. 30, Dec. 1 & 2.

1865AK.3.pdf

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191

ARKANSAS, 1865

us and our State, this is not the time nor place to offer frivolous excuses, as regards our ability to solve them in all their bearings and relations to us. When the angry guns in Charleston harbor told the world that the hand of the paracide had been raised, and the blow directed against the world's best model of good government, we were scarcely awakened in our prison-house of slavery into sufficient attention to suppose that the gathering forces around us had any reference to the bettering of our condition, though for over two centuries the obedient slaves of the haughty Southern, and as Gen. Blair4 once said, in a speech in Boston, on the separation of the races, "seemingly bound by ties that amounted almost to those of consanguinity." Those ties, even those of consanguinity, were severed, and the haughty, self-willed people declared, in the face of an enlightened world, that slavery was divine, and accepted it as the corner-stone of a bastard republic,5 whose end and aim was to establish the fact that God had abandoned the Negro to the tender mercies of the modern Egyptian and Apostolic Christians of the nineteenth century. My friends, I am sorry to say, that except the little leaven that eventually leavened the whole,5a the sympathy manifested for us in the war was not all of a flattering character; our condition did then excite the commiseration of the true philanthropist, when on escaping from rebel masters, we were worked upon Union fortifications, and then politely returned for fear of exciting to anger the already kindled ire of "our Southern Brethren."6 I remember well when the poor Negro would be, and was, brutally beaten almost to death for innocently wearing the cast-off clothes of a Union officer whom he served, when the New York World, Chicago Times, and the Missouri Republican took the horrors at the idea of a Negro disgracing the uniform of a Federal soldier.

But Lincoln saw another sight.

It was found, after disaster brought the nation to sober reflection, like the ancients who consulted their soothsayers and seers, so those who were guiding the Ship of State applied to the sages of the nation in this hour of dire affliction and deep humiliation. It was then that Robert Dale Owen, in a letter to President Lincoln, declared that history gave no account of twelve millions of people being conquered, when united and fighting for their independence. He then proceeded to show the relative strength of the two sections—how the one could be reduced and the other strengthened. Public sentiment began to change, and from that time the rising star of the Negro has been seen hovering over Washington.

We have since been seen not only in the uniform of the soldier, but battling for our rights as citizens of the several States in which we reside. God, in his providence, has permitted the seeming ignorant stolidity of the Negro to be more than a match for the learning of the Saxon. After an acquaintance of two hundred years, he woke up in '62, and found the Negro not half as big a fool as he thought he was. True, they had always been accustomed to hear their advice received respectfully, in short monosyllables—yes, sir, massa; or no, sir, massa. They never once dreamed that under this seeming respect there was a human soul, with a will and a purpose of its own. We have now thrown off the mask, hereafter to do our own talking, and to use all legitimate means to get and to enjoy our political privileges. We don't want anybody to swear for us or to vote for us; we want to exercise those privileges for ourselves; and we have met here, under the new order of things, to ask of the people of Arkansas—calmly, dispassionately and respectfully—to give us those rights, and by giving us those rights they will give peace and quiet to the State, and at once place her in advance of her sister States in the march of progress and civilization. We are not asking that the people should try any new experiment in this matter; we do not ask them to go outside the great charter of American liberty—the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence—but rather that they should strictly conform to the letter and spirit of those time-honored documents. That we have testified in the civil courts of nearly all the States, in the early history of the country, is a fact so well established that it is not necessary to deduce the proof. We have also voted in very many of the States, without detriment to the commonwealths in which we enjoyed the privilege. We vote in some of the States to-day, and have the satisfaction of knowing

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