Harper's Weekly 12/16/1865


AS faithful chroniclers, we can not deny that
the various conventions of the colored peo-
ple in the late insurrectionary States compare
favorably with those of their white brethren.
Their conduct is no less orderly; their reason-
ing is indisputably superior; their reasolutions
are of an elevated humanity and common sense
to which those of the other Conventions make
no pretension; while their expressions of grati-
tude and fidelity to the United States, and of
Christian charity toward their late masters, are
in the highest degree encouraging and refresh-
ing after the sullen, reluctant, defiant, acrid
tone of the reorganizing convetions in those

There is no more hopeful sign of the times
than these Conventions. They show that the
colored men are beginning to be conscious of
their duties as well as their rights. The ad-
dress of the State Convention of the colored
Union men of South Carolina to the white men
of the State says, manfully: “Now that we are
freemen, now that we are elevated by the Prov-
idence of God to manhood, we have resolved to
stand up, and like men, speak and act for our-
selves. We fully recognize the truth of the
maxim, the gods help those who help them-
selves.” Every honest citizen who hopes for
speedy peace and tranquillity will say a hearty
Amen to that. We are glad to see the colored
men organizing and speaking, and refusing to
be torpid at a time when their welfare and their
chances are at stake.

And it is really they who do the work of the
Conventions. They are not the puppets of
white men. It has been the fashion to speak
of the slaves as utterly imbruted; as incorrigi-
bly savage, as people who must, at our own
peril, be kept forever in the strictest bondage.
Yet the correspondent of the New York Herald,
a paper which uniformly maligns and ridicules
the colored race, says of the South Carolina
colored Convention that it “has been marked
by a display of ability and decorum that has
won for its members great credit even from
those who see in such gatherings only some
ominous forebodings of insurrection and blood-
shed.” We venture to believe that those fore-
bodings are not as likely to be justified in the
case of the Convention in question as they were
in “such gatherings” as the South Carolina
Secession Convention of 1860. And we have
yet to find in the resolutions of any Convention
of the approved color which has met in the
State of South Carolina or elsewhere in that
region, so much good sense, humanity, and
Christianity as in the following adopted by the
body of which the correspondent speaks:

“Resolved, That it is with deep regret we preceive a will-
ingness on the part of some of the people of this State to
believe that there is danger of an insurrection, and we take
this opportunity of making it known to the world that our
past career as law-abiding subjects shall be strictly adhered
to as law-abiding citizens.

“Resolved, That as the old institution of slavery has
passed away, we cherish in our hearts no hatred toward
those who have held our brethren as slaves; but that we
extend the right hand of fellowship to all, and shall make
it our special aim to establish unity, peace, and love among
all men.

“Resolved, That we shall encourage the freedmen in ac-
quiring habits of industry and obtaining education.”

If the other Convention in South Carolina
had been animated by a spirit as sensible, judi-
cious, and statesmanlike, the State would at
once enter upon such a career of prosperity as
she has never known. Are not such an assem-
bly and such resolutions and such addresses
all written by men of the other color, partial
proofs at least that justice may prove to be good

The president of this Convention was Thomas
M. Holmes
, an ex-slave of the ex-slave Secre-
tary of the Treasury, Memminger. He was for-
merly librarian of the law library of Mr. Mem-
and his partners. Such facts should
be remembered before launching into rhetoric
about “barbarity” and “incapacity.” The
reader will remember George in Mrs. Stowe's
“Dred.” He was a confidential manager.
There are thousands of such men in the late
slave States, who were trusted for their sagacity
and discretion beyond any of “the poor whites.”
Nor was this surprising; for although Governor
Humphreys, of Mississippi, says in an amusing-
ly lofty way, in his inaugural address, that
“Miscegenation must be the work and taste of
other climes and other people,” yet every-
body knows that the clime and the people of the
sunny South have succeeded in making about
three-quarters of the colored population mulat-
toes of various degrees. That may not be mis-
cegenation, but it is amalgamation, and they
are very nearly related. Governor Humphreys
and his friends may spare themselves the state-
ly strain. The court may be supposed to know
some law, and the people of this country will
smile if the Governor is too positive, for they
know all about miscegenation in the late slave

It is plain from the proceedings of the vari-
ous conventions of the colored race that they
fully understand the logic of their situation.
They are freemen, and they ask, “Why should
we suffer on account of the color which an all-
wise Creator has given to us?”“We ask for
no special privileges or peculiar favors, we ask
for even-handed justice, for the removal of
such positive obstructions and disabilities as
past and recent legislation has thrown in our
way and heaped upon us.”“We ask for the
right of suffrage, and the right of testifying in
courts of law. These two things we deem
necessary to our welfare and elevation. They
are the rights of every freeman, and are in-
herent and essential to every republican form
of government.”

This is certainly as reasonable as any thing
we have lately heard in the quarter from which
it comes. Whatever political disability may
be imposed, say these men, let it be real and
not arbitrary. Why allow those whom Mr.
Olmsted and other travelers describe as clay-
eaters and sand-hillers to vote, and exclude
Captain Robert Small or Mr. Memminger's
librarian? If, as the Providence Journal most
aptly says, you gentlemen of the slave States,
with all your Christianizing system of slavery
for two centuries, have only succeeded in mak-
ing this race idle, thievish, and false, suppose
that we try the pagan process of treating them
as men, and see what comes of that.

When we come to that conclusion we shall
have a peace and union which we can trust, and
not before.

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