For rules of speaking and the way that the speaker should comport themselves in their address, the conventions were ruled by both the prevailing political ritual of the day but also by rules of social conduct and deportment. Thus, textual sources like political manuals as well as treatises on correct deportment can be consulted to better understand the (sometimes) cryptic and intriguing comments contained within the minutes of the conventions.

In understanding the conventions as a political ritual, it’s important to recognize the ways in which the conventions both were modeled off of similar political entities like state legislatures and how the conventions tweaked these models for their own ends, thus performing themselves into political entities. There were several manuals used during the nineteenth century that were referred to by most organizations when it came to setting rules for decorous conduct and the structure of proceedings. 

This chart gives a broad introduction to the three political manuals that were most influential and commonly used during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Delegates at the Colored Conventions were familiar with these manuals—as emphasized through direct references to them [1]—but importantly, this familiarity as well as instigation of the same or similar rules of conduct for the conventions—demonstrates how the conventions were enacting a political community. Thus, tracing these manuals and their influence is important to recognizing the Colored Conventions as more than a hollow imitation of political power, but rather as constituting political rituals in their own rights. 


[1] For minutes that reference manuals specifically, see “Official Proceedings of the Ohio State Convention of Colored Freemen: Held in Columbus, January 19th-21st, 1853.” Columbus, OH., accessed April 6, 2016, and Colored National Convention (1855 : Philadelphia, PA), “Proceedings of the Colored National Convention, held in Franklin Hall, Sixth Street, Below Arch, Philadelphia, October 16th, 17th and 18th, 1855.,”, accessed May 10, 2016,