CITIZENSHIP AND THE BALLOT.
John Mercer Langston
In the broad and far-reaching track of slavery across this country, we witness a grand desolation of civil and political rights. Every class in the American population can enter its complaint that it has been shorn of many rights and privileges, by reason of its existence. But none can utter that long, loud, lamentable complaint, making the ear to tingle and the heart to bleed, that can be uttered by the colored American, the immediate victim of its barbarous torture. As a slave he has been denied himself, his wife, his children, and his earnings. And when emancipated his freedom has been, in some sense, a mockery, because he has been deprived of those civil and political rights and powers which render enfranchised manhood valuable and its dignities a blessing.
The colored man is not content when given simple emancipation. That certainly is his due, at once and without condition ; but he demands much more than that: he demands absolute legal equality He claims the right to bring a suit in any and all the courts of the country, to be a witness of competent character therein, to make contracts, under seal or otherwise, to acquire, hold, and transmit property, to be liable to none other than the common and usual punishment for offences committed by him, to have the benefit of trial by a jury of his peers, to acquire and enjoy without hindrance education and its blessings, to enjoy the free exercise of religious worship, and to be subjected by law to no other restraints and qualifications, with regard to personal rights, than such as are imposed upon others. All this he claims. In some States all this is conceded to him. There is one thing more, however, he demands; he demands it at the hands of the nation and in all the States. It is the free and untrammeled use of the ballot. Shall he have it?
Never was there a more fitting time to consider, discuss, and decide this question. Since the outbreak of the terrible rebellion, the colored American has had another and better introduction to the American people They are beginning to regard him with greater favor, and their old stubborn prejudices are beginning to soften. Indeed, in some States they have already entered upon the work of repealing those legislative malformations known as Black Laws. Once in the path of justice and of duty, it is easy for us to pursue it till we reach the glorious goal.
It becomes our duty in this connection to consider and refute, if possible the chief objections urged against Negro suffrage.
In the first place, it is urged, with an air of very great confidence, that none other than a white man can, or ought to be, an elector. Hence it is that in well-nigh all the States in which persons of African descent are denied the elective franchise, you will find in their organic laws language like the following:
"Every white male citizen of the United States, of the age of twenty-one years, who shall have been a resident of the State one year next preceding the election, and of the county, township, or ward in which he resides such time as may be prescribed by law, shall have the qualifications of an elector and be entitled to vote at all elections."
What is meant by the word white as here used? The courts have not left us without an answer to this question. For the courts of Ohio, from whose constitution these words are quoted, both under the constitution of 1802 and the constitution of 1851, have given a full consideration to the word "white" and settled its definition for all time in the light of what they please to call well-established legal principles. They furnish us in their definition this very unique and remarkable classification of the people, to wit, the black, the mulatto, and the white; and they hold " that all men nearer white than black, or of the grade between the mulatto and the white are white, and entitled to vote as white male citizens." This certainly gives breadth and comprehension to the word "white," and makes all persons except blacks and mulattoes "white." Let one more drop of Anglo-Saxon blood than Negro course your veins and you are at once endowed with the requisite qualifications of an elector.
On this point let full justice be done the court. Let it speak for itself. In the case of Parker Jeffries vs. John Ankeny and others, at the December term of the court in bane, this doctrine was held, in the following words :
"In the constitution and laws on this subject there were enumerated three descriptions of persons, whites, blacks, and mulattoes, upon the last two of which disabilities rested; that the mulatto was the middle term between the extremes, or the offspring of a white and a black ; that all nearer white than black or of the grade between the mulattoes and the whites were entitled to enjoy every political and social privilege of the white citizen; that no other rule could be adopted so intelligible and so practicable as this, and that further refinements would lead to inconvenience and no good result." This is the law of Ohio to-day.
In 1859, when the Legislature of Ohio was within Democratic control, "an act to prescribe the duties of judges of elections in certain cases and preserve the purity of elections," was passed, the first section of which reads as follows:
"That the judge or judges of any election held under the authority of any of the laws of this State, shall reject the vote of any person offering to vote at such election and claiming to be a white male citizen of the United States whenever it shall appear to such judge or judges that the person so offering to vote has a distinct and visible admixture of African blood." This statute, however, has been pronounced unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, in the celebrated case of Anderson vs. Millikin and others, as re- ported in the eleventh of the Ohio State Reports, and the old doctrine on this subject reaffirmed.
Upon what principles of humanity, justice, and law is this doctrine founded? And upon what principles of logic or law are such complexional discriminations made? This color theory of the elective franchise finds no sanction in the affirmations of reason, or in the dictates of common sense. Nor is any sanction given it in the organic law of our nation. The Declaration of Independence announces tile doctrine, "that all men are created equal," and the Constitution. in which no word "white" is found, provides "that Congress shall guarantee to each State a republican form of government," and "that the citizens of each State shall be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of the citizens of the several States." Democracy, too, which is the soul of law, and but another name for justice itself; "conceding nothing but what it demands, and demanding nothing but what it concedes," guarding the rights of the humble as well as the exalted, and protecting the rights of the black man as well as the rights of the white man, scouts it as absurd and unjust, inconsistent and irrational.
It is true that the Opinion obtains to a very great extent among all classes of our people that the Constitution of the United States, either by the direct use of the word '' white, or by some phraseology equivalent thereto, does, and was intended to exclude colored men from every right and privilege of a legal and political character under it. Hence the gibberish jargon "that our government is a white man's government." This notion, however, is forever refuted by these masculine and truthful words of one of the justices of our national Supreme Court. He says:
"It has been often asserted that the Constitution was made exclusively by and for the white race. It has already been shown that in five of the thirteen original States colored per sons then possessed the elective franchise, and were among those by whom the Constitution was ordained and established. If so, it is not true, in point of fact, that the Constitution was made exclusively by the white race. And that it was made exclusively for the white race is, in my opinion, not only an assumption not warranted by anything in the Constitution, but contradicted by its open declaration, that it was ordained and established by the people of the United States, for them- selves and their posterity; and, as free colored persons were then citizens of at least five States, and so in every sense p art of the people of the United States, they were among those for whom and whose posterity the Constitution was ordained and established."
On what ground, then, does the white man claim to be a voter? And on what argument can he predicate his monopoly of the voting privilege? Does he claim it as an inherent and natural right, peculiar to himself? Does he claim it on the ground of peculiarity of origin? Does be demand it on the basis of peculiar conventional regulation? What are the peculiar legal or political characteristics that distinguish him to the exclusion of his black fellow-countryman as a citizen of the United States and a voter ? Blind prejudice can make answer to these questions with great readiness. It would say, he is white. But what is the answer of wisdom, logic, and law? They would say, the color of a man's skin is no criterion or measure of his rights.
This fact will be fully recognized by our courts when they come to make that definition of citizenship, and the rights, and powers of a citizen, which, while it excludes the elements of white and black, but contains all the essential qualities that distinguish the citizen, will challenge criticism and defy refutation . It is to be hoped that the Supreme Court of the nation will have occasion to give us this definition very soon. We certainly need it. It ought to be given, in justice to the colored American, and that the whole people of the country may learn from some authoritative source who constitute the citizens of the land, and upon what their rights and powers depend.
This objection to the black man's voting is wholly physical and external. He is black, and therefore he shall not vote.
It is as if all the men who have black hair and black beards, being in the majority and having the power, should decide that they alone are voters, and that no man having light hair and sandy beard shall vote; or, as if all the men of large noses in the hand banding themselves together, should decide that they atone are voters, and that no man having a small nose shall vote. One might well ask, where is the justice of this procedure? Men of light hair and sandy bears might resist with propriety the decision of the black-hair and black-beard gentry. And who would say that the small-nose men had no right to utter powerful anathemas against the men of large nasal proportions, who had committed this unnatural outrage. These supposed eases sufficiently illustrate and refute this objection.
It is also urged, by way of objection to our nose of the ballot, "that we are an ignorant and degraded class, and would not use the elective franchise in an intelligent and manly manner if we had it."
This objection, like all others of similar character, is to be met with firmness and candor. It is not to be forgotten in this connection, that we have served as shaves in this country for more than two hundred years, and that during these many years of our servitude few indeed have been the rays of light that have streaked the darkness of our existence. Nor is it to be forgotten that the nominally free among us have been haunted by a prejudice more terrible than that which pursued the Cagots of Spain and France. This pro-slavery public sentiment has been well-nigh omnipotent, as omnipresent. It has entered every cranny and crevice of American society. It has closed against us the school, the college, the law, and the theological seminary. It has hindered our progress in politics, religion, literature, and the arts.
Notwithstanding all this, we have made surprising advancement in all things that pertain to a well-ordered and dignified life. Though uttered frequently, it may be, in unclassic and inelegant English, we have always been able to give the reason for our political as well as our religious faith.
We have grown among us authors and orators, doctors and lawyers; we have established newspapers and periodicals; we have founded churches and erected schools; we have furnished our pulpits with ministers and our school rooms with teachers of our own complexion. We have held large State and national conventions, con ducting our business with accuracy and precision, according to the rules by which ordinary deliberative assemblies are governed. The leading men of these gatherings, in handling the great subjects of interest to the American people at large, as well as the topics pertaining more especially to our own welfare, have made exhibitions of a very correct and thorough understanding of our national history, the genius of our institutions and the philosophy of our politics. Indeed the newspapers and periodicals of this and foreign countries on such occasions have made handsome and flattering mention of their displays of learning, eloquence, and power.
It may not be inappropriate to offer here the opinion of Hon. Samuel Galloway on this very point, given as long ago as 1849. In speaking of our condition and progress he said :
" Now they (the colored people) have many and well-conducted schools; they have teachers of respectable intellectual and moral qualifications; there are many who command general respect and confidence for integrity and intelligence; questions of general and proper interest have become with them topics of discussion and conversation; in a few words, the intellectual and moral tone of their being is ameliorated." But it may be said that such words, if true, can only have application to the colored men of the North. This, however, cannot be so, for it must be well understood by all conversant with the history and character of the colored people of this country, North and South, that very many of our most sober, industrious, and thrifty men come from the South; indeed it will not be denied that seven-eighths of our mechanics, gun-smiths, blacksmiths, brick and stone masons, carpenters, cabinet-makers, plasterers, and painters come from the Southern section of the land. This is said not in praise of slavery and slave-holding institutions, but in spite of them. This statement only testifies to the energy, the enterprise, the purpose and genius of the colored American.
On this point the history of our country will furnish us no inconsiderable evidence, for if it can be shown that in the past, when opportunity was given us, we wielded the ballot with intelligence and conscientiousness, who can say, after many years of progress in all substantial and valuable attainments, that we are not now able to vote in a skillful and conscientious manner.
It will be remembered that persons of African descent, under our old confederation, were voting citizens of the United States, and voted in at least five States of the Union at the time of the adoption of our national Constitution. With regard to this matter, Justice Curtis, formerly of the United States Supreme Court, in his dissenting opinion in the famous Dred-Scott case uses these words : "Of this there can be no doubt. At the time of the ratification of the articles of confederation all free native-born inhabitants of the States of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and North Carolina, though descended from African slaves, were not only citizens of those States, but such of them as had the necessary qualifications possessed the franchise of electors on equal terms with other citizens." And he might have added that when the United States Constitution was framed colored men voted also in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware, and Tennessee. Indeed they voted in a majority of the States, and in very many of the Northern States they have continued to vote to this day.
In this connection the manly and vigorous words of North Carolina's ablest and most distinguished jurist are of special value. The Hon. William Gaston, of the supreme court of North Carolina, in pronouncing the opinion of that court in the case of the State vs. Manuel, makes use of these brave utterances:
"According to the laws of this State (North Carolina) all the human beings within it, who are not slaves, fall within one of two classes. Whatever distinctions may have existed in the Roman laws between citizens and free inhabitants, they are unknown to our institutions. Before our Revolution, all free persons born within the dominions of the King of Great Britain, whatever their color or complexion, were native. born British subjects- those born out of his allegiance were aliens. Slavery did not exist in England, but it did in the British Colonies. Slaves were not, in legal parlance, per- sons, but property. The moment the incapacity, the disqualification of slavery was removed, they became persons, and were then either British subjects or not British subjects, according as they were or were not born within the allegiance of the British King. Upon the Revolution no other change took place in the laws of North Carolina than was consequent on the transition from a colony dependent on a European King to a free and sovereign State- slaves remained slaves, British subjects in North Carolina became North Carolina freemen, foreigners, until made members of the State, remained aliens, slaves manumitted here became freemen; and, therefore, if born within North Carolina are citizens of North Carolina, and all free persons born within the State are born citizens of the State. The Constitution extended the elective franchise to every freeman who had arrived at the age of twenty-one, and paid a public tax, and it is a matter of universal notoriety that, under it, free persons, without regard to color, claimed and exercised the franchise until it was taken from freemen of color a few years since by our amended Constitution." In none of these States, in which we have been allowed the use of the ballot, have we betrayed the confidence or the trust reposed in us. No flattering promises, no false statements of designing politicians, no offers of money or strong potations of liquor have been used by partisans with any degree of success in our case. We have constantly sought out the party and the candidates that would conserve and perpetuate American liberty and free institutions. No mere party shibboleth has ever had weight with us. Our training, secured in a life of oppression; our experience, gathered from contact with the instruments of torture and despotism, wed us to the party of freedom and free principles.
Touching the capability and sincerity with which the right of suffrage is exercised by the colored men of New York, the Hon. Wm. H. Seward, now occupying the first position in the Cabinet of President Johnson, holds the views presented in the following letter:
WASHINGTON, May 16th, 1850.
DEAR SIR: Your letter of the 6th inst. has been received. I reply to it cheerfully and with pleasure.
It is my deliberate opinion, founded upon careful observation, that the right of suffrage is exercised by no citizen of New York more conscientiously, or more sincerely, or with more beneficial results to society, than it is by the electors of African descent. I sincerely hope that the franchise will before long be extended, as it justly ought, to this race who of all others need it most.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
WM. H. SEWARD.
This objection, however, if it possesses any real significance, and if urged with any degree of sincerity and candor covers entirely too much ground. For under it, what be comes of the ignorant and degraded white American, and what of the newly-naturalized foreigner, whose untutored mind fails to read and understand the meaning of American politics?
Leaving these objections, then, we come with sobriety and earnestness to the question: Upon what ground does the colored American plant his claims to the elective franchise? As far as the native-born inhabitants of the country are concerned, we have no faith in the opinion that the right of suffrage is, in any sense to be regarded simply as conventional. We hold that it is an inseparable and essential element of self-government; and none, certainly, on reflection, will question this position. Without the privilege of saying who shall make our laws, what they shall be, and who shall execute them, there can be no self-government. This was the sentiment of the Fathers of the Republic; and upon this foundation-principle, as upon enduring granite, they established the free institutions of the land. This right is not created by constitutions simply, nor is it uncreated by them. Its existence does not depend upon the texture of man's hair, the conformation of his countenance, or the color of his skin. It is a constituent element of manhood; and it stands prominent among the chief duties of civil society to sustain and guard it.
But are we men, and are we so related to the American Government that it owes us any obligation of protection in the exercise of this right ? The declaration that we are men requires no amplification or illustration. The anti-slavery movement of this country has progressed too far, and the character and achievements of the colored American stand now too prominently before the world for his manhood to be doubted. Nor is it any denial of his man- hood that his fellows, overcoming him by brute force, have enslaved and outraged him; for this notion was forever blasted when Terence, clad in chains, rushed out upon the Amphitheater of Rome, thrilling the vast concourse there assembled, by the announcement of the masculine and nervous sentiment: "Homo sum: atque nihil humani a me alienum puto."
Our relation to the Government will be seen at once, when it is remembered, in the first place, that we are native-born inhabitants and therefore citizens. That nativity gives citizenship is a doctrine fully recognized by American law and American usage. Its existence, as far as our country is concerned, dates back to the very beginning of the Government. Chancellor Kent gives it full indorsement in these terms: " Citizens, under our Constitution and laws, mean free inhabitants, born within the United States or naturalized by the laws of Congress. If a slave born in the United States be manumitted or otherwise legally discharged from bondage, or if a black man be born within the United States, and born free, he becomes thenceforward a citizen."
But when we urge our citizenship as a reason why we should be allowed to vote, we are very gravely informed that voting and holding office are not essential to citizenship. It is said, women are citizens, and so are minors, but they are neither allowed to vote nor hold office. Why put us in the category and condition of women and minors? Qualified by age, residence, and general attainments,our position is now one of men, and we demand this right prima facie as such. There may be ingenuity in this ambidexterity, but certainly no reason. It is but a crude and inconsistent dogma, injected into American law and American politics by slavery. Its true character, however, becomes more apparent as we progress.
Our relation to the Government and its duty toward us will be more fully apprehended when we call to mind the fact that we are, and always have been, taxpayers. Nor is the amount of tax we pay to be regarded as trivial and of small account. In proportion to our number, we pay a very handsome and considerable sum. In the State of Ohio, in which, according to the census of 1860, the colored men number only 36,673, over ten millions of dollars are held by them,subject to taxation. In the city of Cincinnati alone they are owners of nearly two million of dollars' worth of personal property and real estate. In the farming districts of the State-in Gallia, Jackson, Pike, Ross, Highland, Franklin, Clark, Shelby, and Mercer counties-the colored men are owners of large farms, Which, in many instances, are well stocked and cultivated according to the most approved methods of agriculture. But the taxes paid by the colored men of Ohio are small, compared with those paid by the same class in the larger and more densely populated States. The taxes of the colored men of the States of New York, Pennsylvania, and Louisiana swell to large, indeed, enormous proportions.
These tax burdens, too, we have met most cheerfully. Never have we excused ourselves, and never have we been excused from them on account of our color or our race. Even when, after payment of them, denial has been made us of any advantage accruing therefrom, on account of our color, they have been levied and paid to the entire satisfaction of the Government.
It will not be denied that taxation and protection are correlative terms. If the Government taxes a man it owes him protection. Nor can it be justly denied that he who meets the burden imposed by the Government, who pays its taxes, who supplies it with the materials of life and development, should have a voice in the enactment and execution of the laws according to which its taxes are imposed, collected, and expended. Taxation, protection, and representation we hold, therefore, to be inseparable, constituting at once the bond of union and the bond of obligation between the Government and the citizen.
It is to be borne in mind, also, that we have not only promptly met our obligations as taxpayers, but we have behaved ourselves, at all times and under all circumstances, as earnest and devoted patriots. Indeed, we love this country. We love it as our native country, although it has been the land of our sore oppression. Its Constitution and the free institutions, which are its natural outgrowth, are objects of our fondest affection. The evidences of this affection are found scattered through the history of the country, as it records the heroic deeds of the colored American in our revolutionary struggles, the war of 1812, and the bloody battles of our late stupendous rebellion.
Always on the side of the Government, always struggling for the maintenance of law and order, we have rallied at the call of the country, bringing her our strong arms, our indomitable courage, and our unswerving loyalty.
To our own conduct in this respect our statesmen, orators, and generals have borne their testimony in the most eulogistic terms. Over the gallant conduct of the colored soldiers of the Revolution the glowing periods of Eustis and Pinckney cast a halo of immortal beauty, while their brilliant achievements on Lake Erie and at New Orleans are immortalized in the eloquent sentences of Drake and Jackson.
Says Governor Eustis, of Massachusetts, in a speech delivered in Congress, December 12, 1820:
"At the commencement of the Revolutionary War, there were found in the Middle and Northern States many blacks and other people of color capable of bearing arms, a part of them free, the greater part slaves. The freemen entered our ranks with the whites. The time of those who were slaves was purchased by the States, and they were induced to enter the service in consequence of a law, by which, on condition of their serving in the ranks during the war, they were made freemen. In Rhode Island, where their numbers were more considerable, they were formed, under the same considerations , into a regiment commanded by white officers, and it is required in justice to them to add that they discharged their duty with zeal and fidelity. The gallant defense of Red Bank, in which this black regiment bore a part, is among the proofs of their valor. "Among tile traits that distinguish this regiment was their devotion to their officers; when their brave Colonel Greene was afterwards cut down and mortally wounded, the sabres of the enemy reached his body only through the limbs of his faithful guard of blacks, who hovered over him, and protected him, every one of whom was killed, and whom he was not ashamed to call his children. The services of this description of men in the navy is also well known."
The Hon. Charles Pinkney, of South Carolina, when addressing the House of Representatives of the United States on the same occasion, also said:
"It is a most remarkable fact that, notwithstanding, in the course of the Revolution, the Southern States were completely overrun by the British, and that every Negro in them had an opportunity of leaving his owner, few did. They were then, and still are, as valuable a part of our population to the Union as any other equal number of inhabitants. They were in numerous instances the pioneers, and, in all, the laborers of your armies. To their hands were owing the erection of the greatest part of the fortifications raised for the protection of our country some of which, particularly Fort Moultrie, gave at that early period of the inexperiences and untried valor of our citizens, immortality to American arms, and in the Northern States numerous bodies of them were enrolled into and fought, by the side of the whites, the battles of the Revolution."
In the constitutional convention of New York held in 1821, Dr., Drake, the delegate from Delaware County, said:
"In your late war they (the colored people of New York) contributed largely to some of your most splendid victories. On Lakes Erie and Champlain, when your fleets triumphed over a foe superior in numbers and engines of death, they Were manned in a large proportion with men of color. And in this very house, in the fall of 1814, a bill passed, receiving the approbation of all branches of your Government, authorizing the Government to accept the services of a corps of 2,000 free people of color. Sir, these were times which tried men's souls. In these times it was no sporting matter to bear arms. These were times when a man shouldered his musket he did not know but he bared his bosom to receive a death wound ere he laid it aside; in these times these people were found as ready and as willing to volunteer in your service as any other. They were not compelled to go. They were not drafted. No! Your pride had placed them beyond your compulsory power. But there was no necessity for its exercise ; they were volunteers; yes, they were volunteers to defend that country from the inroads and ravages of a ruthless and vindictive foe, which had treated them with insult, degradation, and slavery." The hero of New Orleans, Gen. Andrew Jackson, addressed his colored troops in these complimentary and matchless words:
"Soldiers! When on the banks of the Mobile I called you to take up arms, inviting you to partake the perils and glory of your white fellow citizens, I expected much from you; for I was not ignorant that you possessed qualities most formidable to an invading enemy. I knew with what fortitude you could endure hunger and thirst, and all the fatigues of a campaign. I knew well how you loved your native country, and that you as well as ourselves had too defend what man holds most dear- his parents, wife, children , and property.
You have done more than 1 expected. In addition to the previous qualities I before knew you to possess, I found among you a noble enthusiasm which leads too the performance of great things.
" Soldiers: The President of the United States shall hear how praiseworthy was your conduct in the hour of danger, and the representatives of the American people will give you the praise your exploits entitle you to. Your general anticipates them in applauding your noble ardor.
" The enemy approaches, his vessels cover our lakes, our brave citizens are united and all contention has ceased among them. Their only dispute is, who shall win the prize of valor, or who the most glory, its noblest reward."
That the blood of loyal fathers courses the veins of loyal sons is manifest from the fact that the only loyal class in our population is that furnished by the colored American. He has conceded to others the monopoly of treason. No traitor encased in ebony has been found in all the land. Those who boast of ivory encasings furnish the traitors. Davis and Stephens, Vallandingham and Pendleton, together with all the lesser bodies that reflect their treason, claim any other than a Negro origin. We are glad of it. We lay no claim to these men. They may h)e learned, able, and eloquent, h)ut with hearts surcharged with treason their learning, ability and eloquence are riot to be prized as the common sense and sound judgment of a loyal man, however black, whose soul is obedient to the commands of liberty and patriotism. When, at the commencement of the present rebellion, we proffered the Government our services, and the President, the governors of the various States, and the chief commanders of our army rejected them, informing us that this was a "white man's war," our ardor and enthusiasm abated not a single tittle. We were patient. We did not run to the enemy. We gave him no aid. With us he found no comfort. At length the time came when our learned statesmen, our sagacious politicians, and our earnest generals discovered that the rebellion was of such proportions, its spirit so malignant and obstinate, that " military necessity," if not justice, demanded that the colored American have a place as a soldier in the mighty contest which has been waged for the maintenance of liberty, free principles, and democratic institutions. We were then called to the service; and that our response has been manful is proved by the fact that notwithstanding we were at first denied equal pay, the usual allowance for clothing, and every opportunity for pro motion beyond the rank of a non-commissioned officer, We have already given to the service over two hundred thousand stalwart, brave, and gallant men. And since entering the service the colored soldier has been truly heroic. You Will seek in vain among the soldiers of any land, ancient or modern, for exhibitions of greater endurance, more undaunted courage, and more enthusiastic devotion than he has displayed. His behavior at Port Hudson, at Milliken's Bend, at Nashville, at Petersburg, at Suffolk, at New Market Heights, at Fort Wagner and Olustee, not to mention many other places at which the colored soldier played a conspicuous part, covers him with imperishable glory. It has been especially fortunate, too, for this country that the colored American has been so earnestly patriotic and loyal. For divided as the country has been, the South arrayed against the Government thousands of disaffected persons in the North indirectly giving sympathy and aid to the rebellion, the colored American has been, by reason of his numbers and Spartan qualities as a soldier, a power aiding greatly in bringing victory to the arms of the Government.
With regard to our numbers, our strength, and the value of our loyalty to the Government, the judicious and truthful statements of Robert Dale Owen in a letter addressed to the Hon. Salmon P. Chase, on the conditions of lasting peace, and founded upon the facts anni figures of 1860, are comprehensive and clear. He says :
" By the census of 1860 the number of white males between the ages of 18 and 45 is, in the loyal States, about four millions, and in the disloyal States about one million three hundred thousand; a little upwards of three to one. The disproportion seems overwhelmingly great. But this calculation, as a basis of military strength, is wholly fallacious, for it includes persons of one color only. Out of the above four millions the North has to provide soldiers and (with inconsiderable exceptions, not usually extending to field labor) laborers also. But of the three millions and a half of slaves owned in the rebel States, about two millions may be estimated as laborers. Allow three hundred thousand of these as employed in domestic services and other occupations followed by women among us, and we have seventeen hundred thousand plantation bands, male and female, each one of which counts against a Northern laborer on farm or in workshop. Then of that portion of population whence soldiers and out-door laborers and mechanics must chiefly be taken, the Northern States have four millions and the Southern States three millions. Supposing the Negroes all loyal to their masters, it follows that the true proportions of strength available in this war-that is, of all soldiers to fight and laborers to support the nation while fighting-may fairly enough be taken at three in the South to four in the North. Under the supposition of a South united, without regard to color, in an effort for recognition , shall we obtain peace by subduing her? If history teach truth we shall not. Never, since the world began, did nine millions of people band together, resolutely inspired by the one idea of achieving their independence, yet fail to obtain it. It is not a century since one-third of the number successfully defied Great Britain. But let us suppose the Negroes of the South loyal to the Union instead of to their masters, how stands the matter then? In that case, it is not to a united people, hut to a Confederacy divided against itself, that we are opposed; the masters on one side, the laborers, exceeding them in number, on the other. Suppose the services of these laborers transferred to us, what will then be the proportion on either side of forces available, directly and indirectly, for military purposes? As about five and three-fourths to one and one-third; in other words, nearly as nine to two. Such a wholesale transfer is, of course, impossible In practice. But in so far as the transfer is possible, and shall occur, we approach the above results." But, Indeed, our transfer has been, as a class, a wholesale one. It has been so all along the past. It Is so to-day; if not in bodily presence, certainly in spirit and aspiration. And it is a source of special pride and pleasure that We are able to announce the fact that this has been so from the very beginning of the American Government. For if history be true he who on the second day of October, 1750, was advertised in the Boston Gazette or Weekly Journal as a runaway slave, fell twenty years afterwards in the Boston massacre, March 5th, 1770, in "the first act of the drama of the American Revolution," a hero and a martyr. Crispus Attucks, a mulatto slave, was the first American that fell giving his life and blood in defense of his country. His bold and daring conduct stirred the hearts and nerved the arms of Iris comrades, whom John Adams describes in his plea in defense of the soldiers who shot him, as a "motley rabble of saucy boys, Negroes and mulattoes, Irish Teagues and outlandish jack tars." Be it so. God takes the weak things of the world to confound the mighty. And Attucks and Gray, Caldwell, Maverick and Car, were the first offerings of the country deemed worthy to be made against "the encroachments of arbitrary power."
As the first hero of the Revolutionary War was a black man, may we not indulge the hope and prayer that the last hero of our present struggle may be one of the dark-hued sons of American toil. And when we rear that monument in the midst of the Mississippi Valley, which shall perpetuate the glory of our present victorious achievements, a monument of grander and loftier proportions than Bunker Hill monument, may we not inscribe his name upon its granite sides in golden characters.
We claim the elective franchise in the name of our man hood, our nativity, and our citizenship, in the name of the doctrine that taxation, protection, and representation are naturally inseparable, and in the name of that loyalty under the promptings of which we have performed for the country and the Government, in the army and the navy, such brave and manly deeds. We claim it, too, because we are intelligent men, men of sufficient intelligence to wield it conscientiously and with good results to the State.
In making our claim in the light of these considerations we come with no new and unusual theories, in the name of no false and fanatical conceptions of right and law. Our claim is based upon principles which, when applied to any and all other classes of the people, are recognized as just and democratic.
In addition to these all-sufficient reasons in favor of our claim we cannot fail to mention a consideration that must sooner or later result favorably to us from political necessity . Our arms are victorious; the revolted States are now to be reconstructed in accordance with the fundamental principles of the Constitution and the anti-slavery policy of the Government. As the Government has, for the last four years, needed loyal and earnest men to handle the musket in war, so it to-day needs men of the same character to wield the ballot in sustaining its principles. the ballot is no less potent than has been the musket. From what source can these loyal and earnest voters be had? The white men of the seceding States have almost all shown themselves unfaithful to the Government; not more than one-fourth of them have remained heartily true to the Union. This faithful and honorable minority will not be able by its votes to sustain the policy of the Government. The other part of the white population has been conquered, it is true, but not converted. Their submission is only that of restive and malignant rebels- sullen acquiescence, while they are actuated by no other purpose than to hinder and, if possible, prevent the establishment of the great principles that underlie our governmental policy. What more could be expected of men whose souls have been embittered by their sad experiences in the effort to establish their independence, and who have been educated by the teachings of slavery and the false social influence it engenders to hate the Government and despise the free principles it seeks to establish in the subjugated States. But one course will be left the Government. It cannot import voters. They must certainly be residents of the States in which they vote. Its only course will be to put the ballot in the hands of the Negro, who, in all the history of the past, has given incontestable evidence of his devotion to the Union of the States founded on the Constitution and freedom. Thus, as military necessity brought us emancipation and arms, political necessity may yet bring us enfranchisement and the ballot. Touching this point, one of the ablest and most profound thinkers of our country utters the following pregnant words on the question
"Do we need the aid of the Negro as a loyal citizen? They (all thoughtful men) will admit it to be one of the great questions of time day, whether (leaving the abstract right or wrong of the case untouched) we can prudently or safely for our own sakes withhold from the freedman his political rights, and thus leave disenfranchised, at a critical juncture in our history, a loyal half of a disaffected population. They will ask themselves whether, as we have found need of the Negro as a soldier to aid in quelling the rebellion we do not require his assistance as pressingly in the character of a loyal citizen in reconstructing on a permanently peace on an orderly basis in the insurrectionary States."
This is a fit theme for the consideration and reflection of our wise men. Upon it we need not dwell at length in this connection. The future will bring us its golden promise.
The path of duty with regard to us is plain to the American people. Justice and magnanimity, expediency and self-interest indicate but one course. Shall those who are natives to the soil, who fight the battles of the country, who pledge to its cause their property and their sacred honor be longer denied the exercise of the ballot? It ought not, it cannot be. The great events that are coming to pass in this nation, the crumbling of slavery and the dissipation of prejudice, give prophecy of a different result. God and destiny are on our side, and it becomes the colored American to prepare himself at once for the complete investure of legal equality.
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