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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 19.pdf

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19

Recognizing ourselves as native Americans, and knowing ourselves as members of the great American body politic, while we ask the recognition and protection due any and all of like political condition, as in the past, so in all time to come, with unfettered limb and manly endeavor we shall labor with our white fellow countrymen, native and naturalized, in mine, on farm, in workshop, in foundry, in factory, everywhere, to develope the material and industrial powers of our land, making wind, water, and earth to aid in the accomplishment of its mission of liberty and law, honor and justice, Christianity and civilization.

And while this is our purpose, and feeling, as all other intelligent and honest citizens must, the value of national honesty and honor, and the responsibility of each citizen and every class of citizens for its sacred maintenance; while we demand that all contracts made in the interest of the Government be liberally and fully met, according to their terms, we promise, to this end, more than a tithe, if need be, of the fruits of ourindustry, as our influence and votes, that our national obligations receive no detriment. As we tolerate no political party which favors repudiation, so will we co-operate in no movement, industrial or other, which proposes or countenances it. In all laboring men's movements, as in political organizations, we hold as binding and inviolable the sentiment that the national honor and the national faith should be maintained in all its fullness, being as sacred as the sovereignty which we have pledged as its sure guaranty.

Notwithstanding all these things, said with regard to our purposes of loyalty, the elements of our strength, as far as labor of an agricultural, mechanical, commercial, artistic, and other character is concerned; and notwithstanding, in an important sense, the freedmen are the laborers and mechanics of the South, as matters stand, necessarily so, supplying the bone and muscle of the industry of that section, we are not insensible of our weakness in our disorganized condition, and our utter inability to compel a full and just recognition of our claims for larger and more certain compensation for services rendered, and a larger opportunity to follow those diversified pursuits of industry which in New England and our Northern States generally have done so much to enlighten, elevate, and bless the people.

This brings us to a question of vital moment: Is it practicable to so organize our industrial forces and direct our labor as to compel the wealthy classes, the landholders and planters, to recognize and admit our power and respect our claims accordingly?

The importance and difficulty of answering this question every intelligent person friendly to the laboring masses of the world must appreciate. In our case, however, it is indeed doubly difficult and vexing, by two considerations, which make it proper for us to ask and expect legislative action by Congress in our behalf. In the first place, our people are not only poor, but they are the objects in their comparatively new condition of freedom of a hatred which shows itself in demonstrations of outrage and bloodshed in many parts of the South to such an extent as to require, if our interests, industrial and other, are to be protected, immediate and positive action on the part of State and federal officials. In the second place, by reason of our too long oppressive and degrading life as slaves we are, as far as our masses are concerned, ignorant of the many benefits resulting from co-operative labor.

This latter difficulty will only be overcome as, through education, we more thoroughly comprehend the value of combined effort on the part of the laborer to secure consideration and wealth. Of the good purpose of the Government to protect us, and as far as need be, put within our reach the opportunity and means of education, our treatment since our emancipation affords reasonable assurance.

We have attempted the solution of this question, in the organization of our National Bureau of Industry, with none other than anxious and earnest solicitude for the welfare of our working millions and their posterity.

We would unite all these masses upon a principle of common interest, whose accomplishment is practicable, and by which their highest earthly good may be compassed.

We would, therefore, have the laborer understand that acres, however vast, in plantations, however immense--uncultivated, are profitless, like principles promulgated through party platforms unaccepted by popular endorsement at the polls; and besides, that these uncultivated, are profitless, like principles promulgated through party platforms unaccepted by popular endorsement at the polls; and besides, that these uncultivated acres cannot be made profitable without labor, any more than political principles can be made influential and effective through party agency, without the approval of the popular will.

We would teach that labor is the parent of capital, and that well-directed, intelligent and united industry brings national wealth, as it brings individual competence and independence.

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