Citizens, in addressing you in favor of a disfranchisement portion of the legal tax-payers of New Jersey, I feel, from the success our enterprise has already been crowned with, that intelligence, humanity and justice, may be styled characteristics of the citizens of this State.
Knowing, then, that I am speaking to an intelligent and human people, who believe in that noble sentiment set forth in the Declaration of Independence, that "all men are created free and equal," etc. I take the liberty of speaking to you, being one of the disfranchised, and I do not believe your hearts are so callous as not to listen to the voice of the oppressed.
Although the above Declaration declares that "all men are created free and equal," those noble words, in their common acceptance, do not and cannot apply to the disfranchised people I am now speaking of; because, indirectly, you deny the disfranchised are men. You say that all men are created free and equal, and at the same time, you deny that equality, which is nothing more nor less than denying our manhood. If we are not free and equal (according to the Declaration of Independence), we are not men, because "all men are created free and equal."
We confess that there is something about this we never could understand. We are denied our rights as men, at the same time are taxed in common with yourselves, and obliged to support the government in her denunciations. If we are not men, why are we dealt with as such when we do not pay our taxes, or when we infringe the laws? &
There are many reasons why colored men should be enfranchised. We have been reared in this State, and are acquainted with her institutions. Our fidelity to this country has never been questioned. We have done nothing to cause our disfranchisement; on the contrary, we have done all a people could do to entitled them to be enfranchised.
It is said, "there is not sufficient intelligence amongst us to warrant the restoration of those rights," and that we are not sufficiently acquainted with the government, etc.; but they do not say we do not have sufficient intelligence and knowledge of government, to warrant us to pay our taxes, because we cannot thoroughly understand how the money goes!&
If we, who have always been with you, do not understand something of the regulations of this country, how miserably ignorant are the thousands of voters who arrive in this country annually, who know nothing of this government, and but little of any government! There is no just plea, and apology for you to shut every avenue to elevation, and then complain of degradation; what else can be expected, while we are looked upon as things, and treated worse than unthinking animals?
In the Revolution, colored soldiers fought side by side with you in your struggles for liberty; and there is not a battlefield from Maine to Georgia, which has not been crimsoned by our blood, and whitened by our bones. ... In the battle on Lake Erie, Commodore Perry's fleet was manned chiefly by colored seamen. Many black sailors served under Commodore McDonough when he conquered Lake Champlain. & Gen. [Andrew] Jackson called out colored troops from Louisiana and Alabama, and in solemn proclamation attested to their fidelity and courage.
But some of our enemies say, we "had better go to Africa." We ask, Why? They say, we "cannot rise in this country, the prejudices are too strong to overcome," that we had better be "kings among beggars, than beggars among kings." As neither of the positions is enviable, we will not quarrel about the beggarly or kingly conditions. We think these titular philanthropists who try to make the people believe we can never rise in this country, and that money must be raised, by appropriation or otherwise, to expatriate us, would do well to hold their peace - give their extra change to the poor, emigrate to the country of their forefathers as quickly as possible, and take their incendiary reports along with them.
They say, "this is not our country." We would ask, Whom does it belong to? If this country is yours, and was gained by conquest, then we are particeps criminis [Latin for party to the crime], are equally entitled to the spoil.
Africa is urged upon us as the country of our forefather! If this is good sophistry - and we think it will pass - then it follows that all men must go to the country of their forefathers: in this case, the blacks will go to Africa, and the whites to Europe; and where will the mixed races go? We suppose, in such an event, they would occupy the inter-medium - that is, the Mediterranean Sea! What would become of the Indians? Would they go to the country of their forefathers? If so, where is it?
This sophistry is not designed to aggrandize any but the descendants of the European nations; Africa is the country for Africans, their descendants and mongrels of various colors; Asia the country of the Asiastics; the East Indies the place for Malays; Patagonia the country for the Indian; and any place the white man chooses to go, HIS country! &
From the Rochester North Star
February 8, 1850
Reprinted in Clement Alexander Price,
Freedom Not Far Distant
Text courtesy Salem County Historical Society, Salem, NJ