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the word, and we should determine at once, whether the colored population could vote or not ; leave nothing for the construction or decision of the assessors and inspectors of the election ; if they were entitled to vote in one part of the State, they should be entitled to vote in every part of it; and the assessor who neglected to assess them violated the law. No distinction should exist; but, Mr. Chairman, said he, carry out the principle; if they should be entitled to vote, place them in your jury box, elect them as members of the Legislature, and to any and all of the offices established by your laws; appoint them Justices of the Peace, Judges of your courts, and then you may say you are real philanthropis,s; he confessed that there would be true republicanism in witnessing upon the bench of your Supreme Court the presiding Judge; the offspring of Africa's shores, sitting in brotherly and religious companionship with his white brethren, deciding upon your rights, your properties, and your lives.
If you will not consent to carry out the principle, but assert that it is impolitic to touch it, you cannot really be their advocates. He could not consent to oppose the principle of liberty-he could not interpose an opinion against the relative rights of any human being-he was opposed to slavery either of the mind or the body-he was in favor of the right of petition, and the petition or prayer of the colored man should be heard and respected; but in giving this vote, he would discard all motives of policy, and unless gentlemen would meet the question broadly, it was hypocritical of them to boast of the "rights of freemen". Let the milk of human kindness instruct us to act our parts-encourage our fellow citizens to intermarry with them—not revolt at it—do not boast of your advocacy of the poor negro, if you mean only to give advantages to the rich one. Where will this principle lead you to ? If the professions of gentlemen are sincere, why do they not carry them out in practice? When he found this illustrated, he would give credit for the amiable and virtuous motives which governed them. If they are not permitted by you, from motives of policy, public opinion, or pride, to enjoy these other rights of citizens in your State, it is in vain for you to object to the adoption of the amendment before the committee. He would at this time vote for the amendment.The disposition to record a different vote upon mere mature deliberation, he reserved to himself; he would not, at this time, leave doubt in the Constitution as to who should or should not enjoy the right to vote.
Mr. Brown, of Philadelphia, said he wished he could give a silent vote on the question, for he knew how desirous the committee had been to avoid the consideration of this subject at this time, and how anxious it now was to prevent a lengthened debate. He would say nothing to provoke a reply; but he felt the subject to be one of too much importance to give his vote upon it without giving his reasons for that vote. He had no agency in bringing it before the Convention; but, like any other subject that might come before it, he would not shrink from giving it a full consideration. No question had been decided, or would be decided by the Convention, of so much importance; being nothing less than to recognize the right of many thousand inhabitants of the State to a political equality with the rest of its inhabitants, or to deprive them of that right. This certainly was a question of too great magnitude to be satisfactorily determined thus briefly and quietly; but it was for every delegate to consider this matter for himself. The amendment of his colleague, (Mr. MARTIN) he said, went to exclude
PENNSYLVANIA CONVENTION, 1837.
from the rights of an elector all negroes and persons of color; and it had been asked by the gentleman from Beaver, (Mr. DICKEY) how it could be determined who such persons were ? It would only be necessary to refer to the Constitutions of several States in the Union, where similar provisions were found, and where no difficulty had ever occured ; besides, this question had been settled by the laws of the United States ; they had defined the meaning of the terms, and had established the principle that no negro could become a citizen of the United States. But does the gentleman mean by this question, that there is no distinction, or that it cannot be settled? The gentleman from Luzerne (Mr. WOODWARD) says, the question whether the negroes were " citizens and freemen", within the meaning of the present Constitution, was now before the Supreme Court, and that we ought to await its decision before we made any further provision on the subject. Can it be, that we ought to leave to the Supreme Court, or to any other tribunal on earth, the power to say who are to be recognized as citizens and electors? This belongs to the people alone, and to them it ought to be submited. The very fact that it is a subject of legal doubt ought to induce us to submit it to the people for their decision. It is our duty to do so ,and no matter of policy ought to deter us from the performance of that duty.
Mr. B. would repeat again, that the question was one of great importance—the position that this race of people occupied in these United States, or that they were hereafter to occupy, was one that no one could look upon with indifference : and he thought it was one that ought to be settled now. The longer it was postponed, the more difficult it would be. If the committee would look back to the situation of this race at the period of the formation of the present Constitution in the United States and in this State, and compare it with the present, they could not but see the great change that had taken place, and how necessary it was now to mark more definitively the lines that were to separate, or the bands that were to unite them with the white race. The gentleman from 'Allegheny (Mr. FORWARD) tells us it is a dangerous question to touch—that if we incorporate with our amendment the one under consideration, it will jeopardize them all. And why? Because there are a strong party of abolitionists in the State. Is this so? Do the abolitionists aim at elevating the negro race to a political equality with the white ? If this be their object, said Mr. B. the sooner the people of Pennsyldania know it the better. He (Mr. B) had thought, it was their rights as human beings the abolitionists had been endeavoring to establish, not their right to a political equality. He thought it was the deprivation of their natural rights, not their social or political rights, that had called forth the sympathy and the devoted exertions of the abolitionists in their behalf. If they have other aims and intentions than the restoration of the former of these-If they demand for the negro political and social equality, whatever may be the consequence, it ought to be known now, and the people of Pennsylvania would demand its avowal.
Did the framers of the present Constitution intend to extend to the negro race the rights of citizens, particularly that of an elector ? Or does its provisions justify such a construction ? The case alluded to by the gentleman from Luzerne, shows that it is doubtful. But what has been the practice under it? Mr. B. said he had not known cartainly, before he came into the Convention, that any negro had ever voted in Pennsyl
vania; but he had been told by gentlemen of the Convention, that there were some hundreds voted in York county ; some thirty or forty in Bucks, and many others in various parts of the State. In the city and county of Philadelphia, he did not believe one had ever voted. Now, said Mr. B. is this just? Ought one portion of the people of Pennsylvania to be deprived of a right that is enjoyed by another portion? Why should the rich negro of Bucks be entitled to a vote any more than the humble negro laborer of Philadelphia ? Is it because the one has property, and the other has not ? By the same rule, the white farmer of Bucks ought to vote, and the white laborer of Philadelphia ought not. If we give to the negro the right of an elector, it is not because he has property, but because he is a man, and a citizen, and, as such, if extended to one, it should be extended to them all -to the poor negro as well as the rich. If we inade any distinction between the white man and the negro it should be because God and nature had made that distinction ; but there could be no republican rule by which we could make a distinction between the rich negro ante poor one-the negroes of Philadelphia, and those of York, or Bucks, they should have equal rights, and the laws should protect them in their full enjoyment.But, why is it that this distinction has been made? Why are they allowed the rights of an elector in one place, and denied it in another? Gentlemen on a former occasion have told us why. It is the tax qualification which some gentlemen told it us was necessary to retain, to prevent the negroes—the "sweeps”, as the gentleman from Bucks terms them, from voting. It it intended that the rich negro shall vote who has property to tax, and the poor white man who has none, to be excluded ? Or is this the tenure by which the rights of an elector are held ? It is the mere will or caprice of an assessor that determines this great question, which ought to be determined by the Constitution alone. This is what gives to the poor negro of York and the rich negro of Bucks the rights of citizenship, and which deprives thousands of both rich and poor of the same right in the city and county of Philadelphia ; and that may give it to every negro in the State. Such practices ought not to be tolerated in a Government of laws. It was justly said by the gentleman from the city, (Mr. Scott) on another occasion, that a fraudulent vote put into the ballot box in any other part of the tate, was a wound inflicted on the whole State. If, then, a negro is allowed to vote in York county, and is not allowed elsewhere, is not the whole State injured? Elections are to be free and equal. And as that gentleman also said, that all qualified voters should be protected in their righta—I would ask that gentleman if negroes could be protected in their enjoyment of this right in the city and eounty of Philadelphia ?
If we concede to them the rights of an elector, the mere right to vote, this will be but one step, which, if we take, we are bound, by all the principles of our Government, to carry fully out. This determines their character as citizens. When this is acknowledged, they are, or ought to be, entitled to the rights and privileges that this title confers. If they have the right to vote, they ought, as my colleague (Mr. M'Cahen) states, to have the right to be elected to the Legislature, and to be judges and jurors; and, this last right was of far more importance to them than any other.The Constitution and the laws recognized the right of citizens io be tried by their peers. It was well known that great prejudices existed, in some
places, againt negroes. It was, therefore, of the first consequence to them to be tried, in part, by those of their own color; but, when could this right be extended to them? He would leave the committee to determine. Again, (said Mr. B.) if we say they are citizens, and giving them the rights of an elector makes them such, they become a part of the Statė, and ought to bear her burdens, and assist in her defence, to be enroled in the militia, and form a part of her armies. And, if they thus fight the battles of the State, the path of honor ought to be open to them, and you should make captains, colonels, and generals of them! Can you do this ? Yet, all this is the necessary consequence of the rights of an elector, which acknowledges them as citizens. This is the higher right-the rest must follow, I ask again, are the people of Pennsylvania prepared for all this? Are they willing to break down all the barriers that divide the races, and make tbem in all things equal ? If they are not, why hold out to them expectations that can never be realized ? Why give them any reason to suppose, that they are entitled to equal rights and equal privileges with the white man, when, by our laws, and the laws of society, they are not, and cannot be permitted to exercise them? This is slavery, indeed! Worse than all the slavery of the south. In the south, they are taught from their cradle that they are inferior to the white man. They believe it, and feel not their degradation. But here, you teach them that they are equal with the white man-but this equality confers no equality of privilege. It elevates them notthey must live among you as degraded beings. Is this liberty? Is this equality? If we are ready to grant to them political equality, let us do it fairly, and guarantee its exercise fully. But, as full and equal rights and privileges have been refused them, and could not be exercised by them, he (Mr. B.) would never consent to make invidious distinctions among them, or place them in a doubtful and dangerous position. He would not
Keep the word of promise to the ear,
And break it to the hope”. He would have them fully protected by the laws; but, he was well satisfied that his constituents would not, at present, sanction equal political privileges. He would, therefore, place them where they had heretofore been supposed to be placed in this State, and as they were now placed by positive provisions in the Constitutions of Connecticut, and perhaps other of the old States, and the new States of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan, of the non-slave holding States. This would be better for them, and for the peace and safety of the State, and the Union. These were the reasons, in part, that induced him to vote for the amendment.
Mr. DORAN, of Philadelphia, asked for the yeas and nays; and,
The question being taken, was decided in the negative-yeas, 49; nays, 61-as follows:
Yzas-Messrs. Bedford, Bigelow, Brown, of Northampton, Brown, of Philadel. phia, Butler, Crum, Cummin, Curll, Darrah, Dickerson, Dillinger, Donagan, Donnell, Doran, Farrelly, Fleming, Foulkrod, Fry, Fuller, Gamble, Gilmore, Harris, Hastings, Houpt, Hyde, Kennedy, Magee, Mann, Martin, M'Cahen, Miller, Myers, Overfield, Porter, of Northampton, Read, Ritter, Rogers, Sellers, Seltzer, Scheetz, Shollito, Smith, Smyth, Snively, Sterigere, Swetland, Taggart, Weaver, Woodward_49.
Nats-Messrs. Agnew, Ayres, Banks, Barndollar, Barnitz, Bayne, Bell, Biddle Bonham, Chambers, Chandler, of Chester, Chauncey, Clarke, of Beaver, Clark, of Dau phia, Clarke, of Indiana,, Cleavinger, Cline, Coates, Cochran, Cope, Cox, Craig, Crain
Cunningham, Darlington, Denny, Dickey, Earle, Forward, Hayhurst, Hendererson, of
Mr. HAYHURST, of Columbia, moved to amend the amendment, by inserting after the word "taxes” these words : “And free male citizens, qualified by age and residence as aforesaid, who shall, within two years next before the election, have paid any public tax required by law, shall also be entitled to vote in the district in which they shall reside".
Mr. H. said that, perhaps, this was not the appropriate place for the amendment to come in. His object in introducing it, however, was to give the right of suffrage to every citizen who had paid a State, county, road, school, or poor tax. It had happened that a man had gone and presented his vote, with a receipt of his having paid the poor tax-when he was told by the election officer that he had not paid his county tax, and consequently he could not vote. Now, the object of his amendment was to extend the elective franchise, to the greatest possible limits. He would not be in favor of any tax, were it not for ascertaining a man's residence.
Mr. STERIGERE suggested that the amendment would come in better between the first amendment, and the amendment just adopted.
Mr. HAYHURST had no objection, to this course, and modified his amendment so as to come in after the word “ taxes".
Mr. DARLINGTON thought the amendment could be amended at any place provided there was nothing taken from it.
The CHAIR said the motion was that the proposed amendment come in between the two amendments which had been agreed to.
Mr. DARLINGTON would suggest that the gentleman might attain his object by inserting in the amendment the words " or other public taxes".
Mr. Hayhurst said he had enquired whether he could insert his amend. ment in one of the amendments which had been agreed to, and it was decided to be out of order.
Mr. DARLINGTON thought, if that was out of order it would be out of order to insert anything between the two amendment adopted, because, as he viewed the matter, they were then an entire proposition.
Mr. STERIGERE considered that the amendment was in its appropriate place, as it did not interfere with, or trenclfupon either of the other amendments.
Mr. HAYHURST then called for the yeas and nays on his amendment, which were ordered.
Mr. DARLINGTON said, he had only made the suggestion for the purpose of getting the amendment in the right place. He could not, however, agree with the gentleman, that it was necessary to extend the right of Buffrage any further than they had already extended it. Already we have extended it, so that all who have resided in the State one year, and paid a State or county tax, are entitled to a vote, and he thought this amendment would merely have a tendency to make the matter more complicated. Every individual in the community is now liable to be taxed for State or county purposes, while it was a known fact, that road taxes operated upon some, without operating upon the whole community. The school tak was not a general tax, although it was a public tax ; to some townships