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Proceedings of the Colored National Labor convention : held in Washington, D.C., on December 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th, 1869.

1869-WASHGINGTON DC-Colored national Labor Convention 18.pdf

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18

Southern industry cannot be grown successfully without his labor. This is abundantly proved by the fact that attempts which have been made since the war by Northern capitalists to grow cotton and sugar on Southern plantations upon plans suggested by their Northern experience, and contrary to the method of culture adopted by the coloured labourers of the South, have proved abortive and disastrous in well nigh every instance, as too many men, shipwrecked in means by their efforts at fortune-making in growing these staples are ready to testify.

It is not to be interred from this statement that the general ignorance of the ex-slave is forgotten, nor is any one to presume therefrom that slavery is to be regarded as having been a school with special claims to consideration by reason of its peculiar adaptability to impart extraordinary and valuable instruction in the art of cotton and sugar culture. All that is intended is, that an experience of two hundred and forty-five years as the labourer in cotton and sugar-fields; has given the negro, though denied school, church and civilizing and elevating influences, such knowledge of the oil and its improvement, the nature and treatment of the cotton seed and plant, the tillage and growth of sugar cane; the seasons and their usual and abnormal effects upon crops; the agricultural implements and their proper regulation for use, as to make him, above all others, for the time being, the successful cultivator of these produces.

It will not be denied by any intelligent person that the rough unlettered farmer of Ohio and Illinois, who has had fifty years experience in the cultivation of corn and wheat in those States, can furnish better and more valuable information with regard to the soil, its productiveness, and the advantageous tillage of the Western staples, than Greeley or Emerson, although the former writes on topics of political economy, while the latter announces and expounds theories of philosophy and morals.

With a voting power under out present and just system of reconstruction of seven hundred and fifty thousand electors, and an actual laboring force of three millions, out of four millions and a quarter of hardy sons and daughters of toil, native to the soil, inured to the climate, acquitted with the habits and customs of the people generally, and knowing by an experience more valuable, perhaps, than the learning of the books, the methods of agriculture, the difference system of mechanical labor, and the common and less complicated affairs of commerce, we are an element in the industry of the country of importance, value, and power.

But for our own good and the welfare of our country in all things pertaining to her material and moral well-being, we seek a better and broader opportunity to gain knowledge in the fields of agriculture, mechanical, commercial, artistic, and professional labor, and this knowledge we would energise, direct, and make more largely effective through the enlightening and sanctifying influence of education. Our mottoes are liberty and labor, enfranchisement and education! The spelling book and the hoe, the hammer and the vote, the opportunity to work and to rise, a place on which to stand, and to be and to do, we ask for ourselves and children as the means in the use of which, under God, we are to compass these achievements which furnish the measure, the test, and justification of our claim to impartial treatment and fair dealing.

That this end may be reached, we ask, first of all, that trades be opened to our children and that they be given the benefit of a just and equitable system of apprenticeship; in the second place, that for every day's labor given we be paid full and fair remuneration, and that no avenue of honest industry be closed against us; and thirdly, since we believe that the intelligence, the elevation, and happiness of all people depends in no small degree upon the diversity of their industrial pursuits, we ask that we may work in the printing office, whether private or governmental, in the factory, the foundry, the workshop, upon the railroad, the canal, the river, the steamboat, in the warehouse, the store, wherever labor is to be done and an able and faithful work man is wanted we conceive that we may claim a place without distinction as to our color or former condition, since all that can be demanded by the employer is ability, faithful performances of the contract made, and the employee reasonable treatment and the compensation promised. Hence, while we condemn that spirit which in its proscriptive regulations denies us industrial opportunity and the fruits of honest toil, we rejoice in all those evidences of prospective good which we and other laboring classes see in the erection of factories and foundries in Maryland, Virginia, Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama, promising that our strong and labor hardened hands, our intellectual powers, quickened by the influences of education, and our purposes made doubly earnest by considerate treatment and the prospect of just compensation, shall all be given to the development of the industrial resources of our several States in the interest of our employers.

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