Lift Every Voice: African American Oratory, 1787-1900

By Philip S. Foner; Robert James Branham | Go to book overview

shown that he has sacredly guarded and preserved every personal and political right accorded him by the government. Far be it from me to make any right more or less than a natural right. When President Andrew Johnson told Major Stevens that the right of suffrage is a mere political and not a natural right, he said what a majority of the intelligent people of the country do not believe. I know that it is a natural right. It is the common heritage of all mankind, wherever protection and allegiance are implied. It is as ancient as the first-born of humanity, and no written document or constitution can justly withhold it. To do this would give to the monarchist undisputed sway; then would representative democracies lose their brightest gems. But truth is our strong ally. It is the same now as when it spoke through the thunders and smoke of Sinai, and though the whole world of political tricksters move against us with their false arguments, magna est veritas, et praevalebit. . . .

Do you desire then, my friends, to see the righteousness of God prevail? Commit yourselves, I exhort you, in His great name to His cause. Do you want to see the blacks elevated to the position of freemen? Then subdue all these passions of prejudice and injustice. Create within your midst a sentiment of purest philanthropy; a sentiment so radical in its nature that the hearts of the people shall become influenced with the spirit of equality and right. Then will the government of God and all men of all races become one grand mutuality of intellectual and moral design.


85 BREAK UP THE PLANTATION SYSTEM

Francis L. Cardozo

The constitutional conventions elected under the Reconstruction Acts of Congress were the first state assemblies in which African Americans participated as elected representatives of the people. In the South Carolina convention of 1868 there were forty-eight white delegates and seventy-six black, fully two-thirds of whom had once been enslaved. One of the most frequently discussed issues at the South Carolina convention was the land question and the cry for partition of the large estates and distribution among the poorer black and white population. An extended debate raged around a proposed stay law designed to prevent the sale of large plantations for debt. Francis L. Cardozo, a leading African American in the Reconstruction era, who was later South Carolina's secretary of state and state treasurer, delivered an important speech opposing the stay law on the grounds that

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