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Scripto | Transcribe Page
Proceedings of the State Convention of the Colored Freemen of Pennsylvania, Held in Pittsburgh, on the 23d, 24th and 25th of August, 1841, for the Purpose of Considering their Condition, and the Means of Its Improvement. (Copy 1)
1841 Pittsburgh PA State Convention.11.pdf
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with themselves. The good order of the Convention, and the correct and prudent manner in which it transacted its business, was matter of admiration to all who visited it. Indeed, it was considered next to a miracle, that such a large number of men could be together for three days, and transact so much important business, without a single unpleasant occurrence.
But, creditable as our Convention has been to all who were in any way concerned in it, and happy as its influence has been, alike upon its members and its numerous visiters and spectators, it is by no means to be considered as the end of the great work of our elevation in this Commonwealth. On the contrary, i should be considered, as it really is, only a happy beginning. He who supposest that meeting together and passing resolutions, however wise and excellent in themselves, will attain our end, is mistaken. And if he builds his hope of success upon such a foundation, let him know assuredly that he builds upon the sand.
The resolutions must be carried out; their spirit must be lived up to, and their instructions practised; otherwise we may look in vain for their happy result. They were drawn up with great care, and strict reference to all the circumstances and relations of our present condition. Their principles are founded in truth, and will prove, to all who embrace them, a foundation which cannot be shaken. The experience and close observation of many years teach us that they are wisely adapted to our best interests, and, if carried out in the spirit and design of the Convention, will unquestionably raise us in society far above our present level.
Our purpose, in this address, is to notice the various resolutions of the Convention; the considerations which induced them; the means by which their objects are to be accomplished; and their result, if properly carried out. We shall arrange our address under as many heads as it naturally contains, and consider the several resolutions under their appropriate heads. By pursuing this course, we believe that each part may be better remembered, and better understood.—We begin with
THE RIGHT OF SUFFRAGE.
A restriction in the third article of the Constitution of Pennsylvania deprives us, as colored men, of the right of suffrage; and a resolution of the Convention declares this restriction to be impolitic, oppressive, and wrong. It is impolitic for the state thus to restrict any portion of her inhabitants, because it degrades them, and in so far detracts from the honor and respectability of the state. It deprives them of one of the most powerful stimulants to a virtuous and upright life; paralyzes their efforts to attain wealth and respectability; and thus lessens the general wealth of the state, and the amount of taxes which would otherwise be paid into the state treasury. It is oppressive, because we are required to pay the same homage and obedience to the laws as other citizens, and the same taxes, and are yet denied the same equivalent. It also deprives us of political defence. Our worst adversary may be a candidate for an office, the salary of which is in part made up of taxes paid out of our own pockets, and yet we have not the power of casting a single vote to prevent his triumph. It tears away the bulwark, the very citadel of our liberties, and leaves us exposed on every side. It is wrong, because it inflicts punishment upon the innocent. The elective franchise is the highest privilege known to republicans; it is the foundation and only safeguard of all political rights; and to deprive one of it, is to inflict the highest political punishment.
But what is our crime, that such excessive punishment should be inflicted upon us? What abuse have we ever made of this privilege? What is there in our past history to show, that in so far as our number or influence is concerned, the interests of the state, and of the nation, may not be safely trusted in our hands? Under all circumstances, and upon all occasions, we have been faithful
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