In accordance with Article X, Section 1, Constitution of the Colored National Labor Union, adopted in Convention, December 9, 1869, in the City of Washington, D. C., the second annual meeting will be held at the Union League Hall, Washington, D. C., commencing at 12 o’clock M., January 9, 1871.
Your attention is particularly called to Article II, of the Constitution, Section 1: “The National Labor Union shall be composed of such organizations as may now or hereafter exist, having for their object the amelioration and advancement of the condition of those who labor for a living. Section 2. Each organization shall be entitled to one representative, and each State Labor Union to three for the State at large, in the National Labor Union, provided that representatives derive their election direct from the organization they claim to represent.”
Your attention is further invited to Article IX, Section 1. “Each local organization shall pay a tax of ten cents per member; each state or National organization, ten dollars. The tax of an organization shall be paid upon the presentation of the credentials of the delegates, and no delegate shall be allowed to take part in the deliberations of the Union until the tax is paid.” Delegates will be required to furnish certified copies of the number of members of the associations they represent. Delegates to the meetings of the Union are admitted without regard to race, color, or sex.
In addition to the regular report of each organization, delegates are requested to inform themselves upon the following general questions:
First—What are the occupations in which colored men are more generally employed in your city, county, or state; the rate of wages; the average time made annually.
Second—The number of schools; their grade, average attendance of scholars; how many supported by the state; by charitable institutions; also private schools.
Third—The number of land, building and co–operative associations; their value in real estate and cash.
Fourth—What means or remedy, in your judgment, can best be applied to advance the material interest of the workingmen in your locality and in the United States?
The great importance and necessity of the organization of labor, for its own benefit and the development of the industries of the country, should prompt the workingmen of all occupations in the several states to send delegates to this annual meeting of the National Labor Union.
Newspapers throughout the country will please copy.
ISAAC MYERS, President.
LEWIS H. DOUGLASS, Secretary.
The New Era, November 17, 1870.
This most important body is to meet January 9th, 1871, in the city of Washington. The Executive Committee have issued a circular calling the attention of colored labor organizations to the matter, and inviting them to a hearty co–operation in the good movement.
The primary object of the Union is, the amelioration of colored workmen all over the country, especially in the North. In the circular issued delegates are specially requested to bring FACTS to the Convention; such as number of laborers, the number of mechanics, what proportion of them are employed, the wages paid, number of hours demanded for a day’s work, &c., &c. This looks like business. The majority of all our Conventions are afflicted with talkers; men who think they are especially inspired to give council upon every imaginable subject, from the right of women to vote, to the way in which the Church ought to be ruled. The Executive Committee seem to have had an “eye” on these word–mongers, and to have indirectly told them to ply their business elsewhere. This is as it should be. The era for talk is past, and the era for work is at hand.
Second only to the work of the Church, is the work of this Association, and it is a hopeful sign to see its leaders so thoughtful, and exacting. Let its doings soar high above every political consideration, for it is more important than either Democratic or Republican rule. If but the heads be cool and the hands steady to those who have this labor movement in charge, the desired results cannot but be surely reached.
The Christian Recorder, December 10, 1870.
We publish below the most important resolutions, memorials, and reports adopted at the convention of colored laborers of the nation:
From the proceedings of January 10:
Mr. E. M. Davis, of Philadelphia, after alluding to the necessity of Government aid to enable the colored people of the South to become useful citizens, offered a resolution that a committee of five be appointed to petition Congress to appoint a commission to report upon the material condition of the freedmen and the best means of securing their independence as citizens.
Mr. Harris offered an amendment, which was agreed to, that the commission be selected from known Abolitionists.
Mr. Lewis H. Douglass offered the following:
Resolved, That the president of this convention is hereby instructed to appoint a committee of five to submit to this assembly a comprehensive plan of co–operation, which can be made effective in assisting the freedmen of the South in securing landed property, engaging in such manufactures as they are by life–long habit familiar with, and to secure the desirable end of becoming intelligent, useful, and enterprising citizens, and ask the immediate appointment of the above committee.
The resolution was adopted, and the following committee appointed: Messrs. Nelson, of Texas; Davis, of Pennsylvania; Stokes, of Missouri; Powell, of New York; and Taylor, of Virginia.
Mr. Downing moved that a committee be appointed to prepare an address to the African Colonization Society, requesting them to desist from efforts which tend to unsettle the minds and are hurtful to the prospects of the colored laboring masses. The motion was agreed to, and Messrs. Downing, Loguen, F. Douglass, Williams, De Baptiste, Nesbit, Jennings, and Harris were appointed.52
Mr. Downing, of Rhode Island, from the committee on African colonization, reported as follows:
Whereas two hundred and fifty years of residence in this country is ample evidence of the colored man’s right to consider it his native land; and whereas, by the organic law of the Republic, colored men are equally with white men citizens of the United States; and whereas a permanent location is essential to the peace, happiness, and prosperity of any people; and whereas the more enlightened part of the colored people have omitted no opportunity to impress these sentiments upon the public mind; therefore,
Resolved, That it is with the deepest pain and the keenest sense of wrong that we hear that the American Colonization Society, our ancient enemy, not content with pursuing us forty years before our liberation and enfranchisement, is still upon our track, and is doing all the mischief it can by teaching our people that this is not our permanent home, and that we must go to Africa, or elsewhere.
Resolved, That we regard the persistent efforts of that society as impertinent, uncalled for, and deeply hurtful to the interests of our newly–enfranchised people, and we respectfully entreat the leaders and members of that society to desist from their efforts to alienate our people from their native land.
The following are from the proceedings of January 11:
Resolved, That, as the revenue needed for our Government expenses, and the gradual payment of our national debt, (a sacred debt, growing out of a great war for the life of the republic, and which gave freedom to all the people,) call for some $150,000,000 a year from duties on imports, a wise and just policy requires low duties, or the free import of coffee, tea, drugs, and other necessary articles not produced by us, and such duties on articles we both manufacture or produce and import, and the home–product of which benefit our people, as shall fairly encourage our home–industry, make wholesome competition possible, leave good wages to the working man, save him from the pauper pay of foreign workers, give fair prices in a larger home–market to the farmer, and fit reward to the mechanic and manufacturer; and that we favor such simplifying and adjustment to tariff and internal taxes as may be consistent with these vital and important objects.
Whereas varied industry gives employment to labor and skill of all kinds, develops the resources, increases the internal commerce, gives health to the foreign trade, and helps the civilization of a nation: therefore,
Resolved, That we desire to see mills, shops, farms, and factories of every variety built up and prospering all over our country as natural allies and mutual helps, and that we recognize, as among the evils of chattel slavery, that it confined the South to the production of a few staples, narrowed the range of industrial occupations, and thus created ignorance and poverty, not only among the slaves, but the majority of the nominally free people, irrespective of race; and we hail, as one of the benefits of freedom, the prospect of varying the industry, and thus helping to elevate and develop the character and powers of the people in that portion of our country, and would do all possible in a work so wise and beneficent.
Whereas the American people are compelled annually to pay taxes amounting to over three hundred million of dollars, for the support of the Government, and to meet the interest on a debt incurred to suppress a wicked rebellion; and whereas their ability to bear this enormous annual burden, without absolute ruin, must depend upon the diversity of labor, the development of our national resources, and the general prosperity of the laboring classes; and whereas this diversity, development, and prosperity can in no way be so effectually promoted, and so permanently secured, as by such legislation as shall protect our laboring, mechanical, and manufacturing interests against foreign competition, and, at the same time, create a home market for our agricultural products: therefore,
Resolved, That we believe in a high protective tariff both a financial and an industrial necessity in the present condition of the country, and that it is demanded by every consideration of justice, wisdom, and humanity.
Resolved, That in view of the vast importance of this policy to every great industrial interest of this nation, and, above all, in view of its vital importance to the laboring masses, the Republican party be earnestly advised and requested to engraft the principle of protection to American industry, by a high tariff on such foreign imports as we consume into its creed, and boldly press its consideration upon the country.
Resolved, That we are irrevocably opposed to the free trade policy of the Democratic party, which requires that the one hundred and seventy millions of dollars in gold annually received on duties upon foreign imports shall be hereafter collected by a direct tax upon the American people for the benefit of British capital and labor, and to the destruction of our own manufacturing industry.
Resolved, That the thanks of the Labor Union be extended to Senator Wilson for his able and timely plea, in the Atlantic Monthly of the current month, for the education of the masses, and for his frank recognition of the vital importance of land as a means of that practical education which they require; and that we heartily indorse his recommendation, to men of means, to purchase and dispose of large tracts of land, especially at the South, in the manner proposed by him, with the expression of our conviction that such investments may be made profitable to those who invest as well as to those for whom they are made.53
To the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States, in Congress assembled:
On behalf of the National Labor Union, now in session, and representing a large number of American citizens in the different parts of our country, and especially in the South, we would respectfully but earnestly ask your early action in devising and enacting a national system of public school education, somewhat after the plan proposed in the bill of Hon. G. F. Hoar, of Massachusetts, now before the House of Representatives.54
Reasons and facts to prove the need and importance of such a plan are abundant in the speeches of Mr. Hoar, and of the Hon. W. F. Prosser, of Tennessee, on the subject, and in the late report of the Commissioner of Education, and we beg leave to call your attention to these and kindred documents.
As workingmen and women, seeing your great development of various industries and the need of skilled labor, we ask that, in any plan proposed, technical education in special industrial arts and avocations be provided for to meet this need to benefit skilled workmen, and to increase the value of our industry, to the signal benefit of our country.
Washington, D. C., January 11, 1871.
To his Excellency U.S. Grant, President of the United States:
On behalf of the National Labor Union, now in session, and representing a large body of American citizens in different parts of our country, and especially in the South, we would respectfully, but earnestly, ask your efforts and influence in favor of a national system of public school education, somewhat after the plan proposed in a bill by Hon. G. F. Hoar, of Massachusetts, now before the House of Representatives. Reasons and facts in support of such a measure are abundant in the speeches of Mr. Hoar, and of Hon. W. F. Prosser, of Tennessee, on the subject, and in the late report of the Commissioner of Education, and we beg leave to ask your attention to these and kindred documents.
As workingmen and women, seeing the great development of various industries and the need of skilled labor in mill–factories, farms, and elsewhere, we would respectfully suggest the importance of making technical education in special industrial arts and avocations a part of the proposed system to meet this need, to benefit skilled workmen, and to raise the standard and value of our industry to the advantage of our country.
Washington, D. C., January 11, 1871.
Resolved, That, for the more perfect organization of the workingmen of the United States, this National Labor Union recommend the holding of State Labor Conventions in the several States of the Union.
Resolved, That said State conventions be requested, when assembled, to form themselves into State Labor Unions, and elect a president, vice president, two secretaries, a treasurer, and an executive board, to consist of one from each county in the State. Said member from each county should be president of the county organization.
Resolved, That said State Labor Unions have full power to issue charters to all labor or industrial organizations in the State, and make such other regulations as may advance their general interest.
Resolved, That said Labor Union, immediately on its formation, inform the president of the National Labor Union, and secure its charter from the National Labor Union.
Resolved, That we recommend, especially in cities, that each branch of skilled labor organize separate associations, and that said city organizations organize State, and that State organize national associations, to be composed exclusively of members of a particular branch of skilled labor.
Resolved, That we recommend the formation of co–operative associations as the best form of organization to protect the rights of labor, and advance their moneyed worth.
Resolved, That we recommend to the State conventions the consideration of the following subjects:
1. The probable number of workmen of each branch.
2. The educational facilities of the State.
3. The probable number of children under 18; how many attending school.
4. The price or wages for all kinds of labor.
5. The prices of real estate in each county in the State.
6. The adoption of a constitution for the State Labor Union.
7. The adoption of constitutions for county and city organizations.
8. Written reports of the actual condition of the people of each county in the State.
Resolved, That this meeting, immediately on the adoption of the resolutions, proceed to appoint an executive committee of one for each State, who shall have full authority to all said conventions.
Resolved, That this National Labor Union endorse the NEW NATIONAL ERA, edited by Frederick Douglass, Esq., in the city of Washington, as the national organ of the National Labor Union of Colored Men of the United States of America.
Resolved, That the presidents of all Labor Unions be authorized agents to obtain subscribers, and circulate said paper in their respective organizations and locality.
The following were adopted January 12:
To the President and Members of the National Labor Union:
GENTLEMEN: Your committee, to whom was referred the resolution making inquiry in regard to the location of public lands in the various States, and the aid that may be given the colored people of the South to locate on those lands, beg leave to report: That, after a careful consideration of this very important subject, and the great amount of suffering endured by the colored people of some of the Southern States for the want of employment and the insufficiency of pay for their labor—in the first place, for the want of capital and political prejudice; in the second place, because of the excess of the supply of labor for the demand—they believe the resolution is of vital interest to the class of persons referred to; that if the information and aid sought can be placed within reach of the colored people of the South, it will materially and politically benefit all classes of citizens. Your committee beg leave to submit the following resolution:
Resolved, That the president of the National Labor Union be requested to correspond with the Secretary of the Interior, and other persons, upon the subject indicated in the resolution, and communicate any information obtained to the executive officer of the National Labor Union of each State.
The Committee on Capital and Labor made the following report:
Among the many agencies at work during the past five years in advancing the best interests of the colored people we may name with pride the system of savings banks. Under a charter guaranteed by Congress, and approved by the patriot–martyr, Abraham Lincoln, these banks have been established at all the principal cities of the South, and the laborer invited to deposit there his savings. In this comparatively brief period more than seventeen millions of dollars of the earnings of our people have been so deposited. Of this large sum about fifteen million have been withdrawn from time to time, the most of it for the purchase of homes of implements of husbandry and of the means of living. These are indeed vast sums of money, but they afford only an earnest of what may yet be done, when all the millions of laborers of the South shall become frugal, economical and saving, each laying by something every day for future need.
The Governor of Massachusetts, in his last annual message, states that the deposits in the savings banks in that State alone is one hundred and thirty–eight millions two hundred and thirty–two thousand two hundred and seventy–one dollars and fifty–nine cents ($138,232,271.59.) If the same ratio of savings and deposits prevailed among the laboring people of the South, the sum in the savings banks would reach the astounding total of four hundred and thirty–five millions of dollars! And why not? Under the genial sky and from the fertile soil of the South why should not the proceeds of industry and thrift be garnered into safe and responsible savings banks by hundreds of millions? We do not hesitate to recommend the Freedman’s savings Banks, which have already done so much, as worthy the confidence of the people everywhere.
Resolved by the National Labor Union,
That a committee of three be appointed to memorialize the citizens of the United States, praying for the passage of a law for the protection of the ballot–box, and the securement of the purity of the American franchise.
Resolved, That it is the sense of this convention that one of the best means of promoting the elevation, independence, and enterprise of the colored citizens of the United States, whose habits for generations have been in connection with tillage of the soil, is that colored farmers of the nation migrate to those portions of the country where they may obtain good land at no cost.
Resolved, That the Territories of the West and Southwest furnish to the enterprising emigrant desirable locations for the settlement of individuals ambitious to acquire independence, education, and power.
Resolved, That this National Labor Union do earnestly indorse the suggestions made by the trustees of the colored schools of the District of Columbia that caste in our public schools should be abolished, and that the officers of this convention be a committee to memorialize Congress to that end.
Resolved, That we, the members of the National Labor Union, in convention assembled, do thank our late president, Isaac Myers, Esq., for the very able manner in which he has conducted the business of the Union for the past year.
Resolved, That the thanks of this convention are hereby tendered to the Eight–hour League, of Boston, Massachusetts, for their kind manifestation of interest in our efforts to improve the condition of our still outraged people.
Resolved, That the grateful thanks of this convention are tendered to E. P. Rogers, a member of that League, for his able and humane plea to the religious element in this country in his essay, entitled “Christianity, its Relations to Capital and Labor.”
Resolved, That, while we disavow any intention to environ the efforts of this organization by unnecessarily introducing politics, yet it is a duty we owe, as a labor organization, to express our high appreciation of the Republican party and our devotion to its principles, which have done so much already for the elevation of labor and the laborer, and which, by its policy, promises to add so much to the industrial and material interest of our country.
Resolved, That the thanks of this convention are hereby tendered to the scholar, gentleman, and one–armed Christian soldier, General O. O. Howard, for his instructive and encouraging address.
The chairman of the Committee on Cooperation submitted the following report:
Resolved, That, while upholding the dignity and rights of labor, and recognizing the fair claims of capital, we would avoid all captious criticism, blind prejudice, or passionate action, and would earnestly urge the practical wisdom and importance of co–operative plans, whereby intelligent workingmen can obtain lands and combine labor and capital, sharing the gains of both.
The following were adopted January 13:
Resolved, That as a convention, representing the intelligence and virtue of four millions and a half of enfranchised colored Americans, and a voting power embracing a million of loyal electors, we hereby pledge ourselves to an intelligent adherence to the Republican party and its principles—financial and otherwise—condemning both the Democratic party in its sentiments of repudiation, and the National Labor Congress, which, in its “platform,” adopted in its meeting held at Cincinnati, Ohio, August 19, 1870, in which it criticises violently, unfairly, illogically the financial policy of the present Administration, and declares, in fact, in favor of repudiation of our national obligations.
Resolved, That we condemn [completely] this “platform,” and every financial doctrine contained therein, as anti–Republican and false.
Whereas the constitution of the State of Virginia, adopted on the 6th day of July, 1869, declares that all the citizens of that State “possess equal civil and political rights and public privileges,” and that “all persons entitled to vote and hold office shall be eligible to sit as jurors;” and whereas a large portion of the citizens of that State are denied the right to sit as jurors because of their “race, color, and previous condition of servitude:” therefore,
Resolved, That this convention respectfully petition the Congress of the United States to take such action as will insure to all the people of Virginia the enjoyment of the equal rights and privileges which the constitution of that State purports to guarantee to them, without restriction because of color or race, &c.
Resolved, That a copy of this preamble and resolution, certified by the president and secretary of this convention, be sent to the Hon. John F. Lewis, of the Senate, and Hon. Charles H. Porter, of the House of Representatives, with a request that they be presented to the respective Houses of Congress.
New National Era, January 19, 1871.
Third Day’s Proceedings
WEDNESDAY, January 11, 1871.
The third day’s session of the National Labor Union Convention was held in the Fifteenth street Presbyterian Church, Rev. J. B. Loguen, of New York, in the chair, and Lewis H. Douglass, secretary.
The Committee on Co–operation Societies submitted their report, which, on motion, was referred to the General Business Committee.
Mr. Barbadoes, of Massachusetts, presented a series of resolutions of thanks to Senator Wilson for his able and timely plea in the Atlantic Monthly of the current month, and for his frank recognition of the vital importance of land as a means of that practical education which they acquire.
Mr. Myers, of Maryland, offered a resolution asking the convention to appoint State Labor Unions, and indorsing the NEW NATIONAL ERA as the organ of the National Labor Union.
The Committee on Capital and Labor presented the following
Whereas the American people are compelled annually to pay taxes amounting to over $300,000,000 for the support of the Government and to meet the interest on a debt incurred to suppress a wicked rebellion; and whereas their ability to bear this enormous annual burden without absolute ruin must depend upon the diversity of labor, the development of our national resources, and the general prosperity of the laboring classes; and whereas this diversity, development, and prosperity can in no way be so effectually promoted and so permanently secured as by such legislation as shall protect our laboring, mechanical, and manufacturing interests against foreign competition, and at the same time create a home market for our agricultural products: therefore,
Resolved, That we believe a high protective tariff both a financial and an industrial necessity in the present condition of the country, and that it is demanded by every consideration of justice, wisdom, and humanity.
That in view of its vital importance to the laboring masses the Republican party be earnestly advised and requested to engraft the principle of production to American industry by a high tariff on such foreign imports as we produce into its creed, and boldly press its consideration upon the country.
That we are irrevocably opposed to the free trade policy of the Democratic party, which requires that the one hundred and seventy millions of dollars in gold annually received on duties upon foreign imports should be hereafter collected by a direct tax upon the American people, for the benefit of British capital and labor, and to the destruction of our own manufacturing industry.
The chair stated that General Eaton had been invited to address the convention and that he was present.
General Eaton, in response, said he would wish the delegates to make a statement of the educational interest of their part of the country.
Messrs. Myers, Maryland; Taylor, Virginia; Nelson, Texas; Turner and Williams, Alabama; Casten, Georgia; Stokes, Missouri; De Baptiste, Michigan; Bowen, District of Columbia; Downing, Rhode Island, and Barbadoes, Massachusetts, gave interesting details of the school interests in their States.
General Eaton then thanked the delegates for the information they had imparted to him, and addressed the convention on a system of public education, at length, after which Mr. Downing, from the Committee on Capital and Labor, submitted the following
The very limited time during the intermission of the convention within which your committee have had to prepare a report on capital and labor, does not permit them to submit such a report as the importance of the subject demands. They would not think of entering into the question, and shall simply confine themselves to one or two practical points.
The committee express the feeling of the colored laborer, when it says he desires, and believes it to be his interest and duty, to cultivate friendly relations with capitalists. Capital is a power to be appealed to. Capitalists should be impressed that there are reciprocal relations between them and the laborer. Let us impress them that they may make their names blessed by using a portion of their means so that those less favored may be benefited.
The efforts of the struggling masses to the present time, the world over, without regard to nationality or race, show that they have not succeeded in results beyond the immediate pressing demands of simple existence. Some have succeeded beyond this.
The above is true, and it is because the masses have not been generally informed; because they have not been educated. Had they been better informed they would have conceived how desirable and profitable co–operative effort would have been in securing the means of administering to their happiness. If this be true, we can hope to be relieved from our present dependent position mainly by education.
This is, however, the work of time; but shall we not be sufficiently enlightened to–day to observe and apply the agencies used by others looking to ends similar to those we regard as desirable? The interest of labor calls for some central head to look to its interests. Other interests select certain competent agents to plan, devise, and execute for their interest, compensating such agents as is their due for services rendered. This we must do, or we will not succeed. We have not succeeded as we would had we done so. The interests and success of the laborer depends not simply in creating a bureau of labor, to be located at Washington or somewhere else, but measurably in what is equally as necessary to furnish such bureau with the needful means to carry on its operations.
We come together, talk, resolve, and part; but the essential thing needed, means, is wanted. We admit our poverty, our immediate pressing needs; but we can greatly relieve ourselves by all contributing their mite, which will be a might in benefiting labor.
The colored laborer in America has been the special victim of avarice and cupidity from the time he first set foot on the continent. He has been held in abject slavery, despoiled of all rights; consequently is, as must be the case, extremely poor. He was freed from the chain of an individual master and became more completely a slave to the impoverished circumstances that environed him; he became a subject of the murderous hate now cherished toward him, because of his emancipation and loyalty.
His first two imperative needs—bread and shelter—he had not when he was declared free; the want, without money or land, makes him poor indeed; but without them, and added thereto the lack of a material friend makes his situation most deplorable. The colored man is struggling against all this.
It was “necessity” that came to his relief to the extent of freeing him. It also invested him with other rights, justly his as a man without crime—a man to the manor born; but justice or kind offices do not stop here; he expects sympathy and assistance; having been robbed and outraged, he asks for as much as is expected and given to others not thus outraged. It is not expected that the mass will be raised suddenly and completely from their present dependence; but it is desirable for the good of all, the degraded and the elevated, that the most humble of the community should be elevated and made to feel a filial relation to all thereof; universal security and happiness hinges thereon.
For the laborer of the South to properly exercise his convictions as to the best interest of the body–politic he should be placed beyond the restraint consequent upon complete dependence for food and shelter, which dependence exists in the South. It is a common occurrence for the freedman, who is a tenant at will on the lands held pertinaciously by the once man–whipping lord of the South, to be set on the roadside with his family, if he be not murdered, for disregarding as a voter the pleasure of the lord of the soil.
It occurs to your committee how this may, to some extent, be effected. There are certain profitable and honorable pursuits in the South, thoroughly understood by the freedmen, the prosecution of which lead to successful results. Freedmen in the South, industriously inclined, ask the patriotic and humane capitalists of the North not to donate to them any portion of their capital, but to loan the same on sufficient securities, on interest, that they may occupy such an independent position as will enable them as free American citizens to not only freely exercise their judgment as to the best political policy of the nation, but to enable them also to add more extensively to its material prosperity.
Your committee would simply refer to the unkind, estranging policy of the labor organizations of white men, who, while they make loud proclaims as to the injustice (as they allege) to which they are subjected, justify injustice, so far as giving an example to do so may, by excluding from their benches and their workshops worthy craftsmen and apprentices only because of their color, for no just cause. We say to such, so long as you persist therein we cannot fellowship with you in your struggle, and look for failure and mortification on your part; not even the sacred name of Wendell Phillips can save you, however much we revere him and cherish toward him not only profound respect, but confidence and gratitude.55
Adjourned to 7:30 P.M.
The convention reassembled at 7:30 P.M., and opened with prayer by Bishop Loguen.
Mr. J. B. Wolf informed the convention that he was from West Virginia and asked to be a self appointed delegate. So ordered.
The following were appointed as delegates, with power to establish labor unions:
Messrs. John Henry, Maryland; Cassius L. King, Illinois; George L. Mabson, North Carolina; William I. White, Georgia; J. W. Loguen, New York; Washington Spalding, Kentucky; William L. Leslie, Virginia; William Howard Day, Delaware; J. H. Rainey, South Carolina; Abraham Smith, Tennessee; Richard Nelson, Texas; Robert W. Stokes, Missouri; William Nesbit, Pennsylvania; R. C. Pearce, Florida; Oscar Dunn, Louisiana; Francis Fletcher, Massachusetts; Abraham Ford, West Virginia; Charles Lancaster, Kansas; J. J. Spelman, Mississippi; Elias Ray, New Jersey; A. B. Wolf, Wyoming; Charles Slater, Ohio; A. B. Tinroy, District of Columbia; James Jefferson, Rhode Island; John K. Horner, Indiana; John H. Babtiste, Michigan; Lloyd Wheeler, Arkansas; Charles McLyon, Connecticut, and William Warrick, Iowa.
Affairs in the South
The chair called attention to the impossibility of the people of the country to understand from the public press the real condition of things in the Southern States, and suggested that to–day be set apart for each delegate to speak ten minutes on the state of the freedmen, and invited all the delegates to be present.
Election of Officers
The annual election of officers was then proceeded with, with the following result: Frederick Douglass, president; Bishop Loguen, of New York, first vice president; Lewis H. Douglass, secretary; A. N. Barbadoes, Massachusetts, recording secretary, Anthony Bowen, treasurer.
On motion, the election of nine members of the executive board was deferred until tomorrow.
Messrs. Greene and Downing were appointed a committee to conduct the newly elected president to the chair. The retiring president, Mr. Myers, of Maryland, surrendered the position to Mr. Douglass in a brief and pointed address.
Mr. Douglass, taking the chair, thanked the convention for the honor done him, and hoped that the convention would go in harmony that has been its wont. He advised the delegates when they go home to work up and form local societies, and by so doing send at least five hundred delegates to the convention to be held here next year. He had no strength if the convention had none and if they would make the strength he would try and direct them. He called attention, that during the debate of the convention the strictest decorum was recognized, and thought that if the same harmony was continued it would lead to a grand success.
Mr. Douglass, from the Committee on Labor and Capital, made an additional report, and, on motion, it was adopted.
Mr. Wolf was giving a long history of his working in the old anti–slavery time, when he was called to order by Mr. Downing, who stated that historical statements were not pertinent to the business of the convention.
The Committee on Education, through their chairman, Robert W. Stokes, made a long and comprehensive report, which on motion, was adopted.
Adjourned until 9 A.M. tomorrow.
FOURTH DAY’S PROCEEDINGS
THURSDAY, January 12.
The fourth day’s session of the National Labor Union was held at the Fifteenth street Presbyterian Church, Rev. J. B. Loguen, vice president, in the chair.
The session was opened by prayer, by the Rev. A Bowen, of this city.
The chairman called attention to the speech made by Mr. Loguen, in which Mr. Langston had made some uncalled for remarks in reference to Senator Hiram Revels, which remarks, upon making inquiry, he found to be untrue in many respects. He was very sorry that the language had been uttered, and he hoped that in the future deliberations of the convention nothing of the same personal character would be used. Messrs. G. T. Downing and Richard Nelson also made remarks in the same strain.
Mr. L. Douglass moved that a committee of three be appointed to draft a
Memorial to be Presented to Congress,
urging the immediate passage of Senator Sumner’s supplementary bill allowing equal rights and privileges on the railroads of the country, and that the same committee be authorized to cover all the gound of prescriptive education.
Mr. De Baptiste offered a resolution tendering the thanks of the convention to their late president, Isaac Myers, of Maryland, which was passed by acclamation.
Mr. Barbadoes offered a similar resolution of thanks to the Eight–hour League, represented by F. P. Rogers, of Boston, Massachuestts.
On motion of Mr. Isaac White, the privilege of the floor was extended to Mr. E. A. Redstone, of California, member and representative of the National Labor Convention of the United States.
Mr. Frederick Douglass introduced General O. O. Howard, who, in response to the invitation, made an extended and interesting address, suggesting to the convention many valuable hints for their future guidance and consideration.
A vote of thanks was tendered to General O. O. Howard, on motion of Mr. Douglass.
On motion of Mr. J. T. Rapier, a committee of three was appointed to ascertain the best manner of
of the colored men on the public domain, and Messrs. Rapier, Nelson, and Green were appointed such committee.
Mr. Frederick Douglass introduced Mrs. Colonel Tappan, of Louisiana, who addressed the convention at some length on education and the utilization of the public lands for the benefit of the colored people of the South.
Mr. L. H. Douglass offered the following:
Resolved, That it is the sense of this convention that one of the best means of promoting the elevation, independence, and enterprise of the colored citizens of the United States, whose habits for generations have been connected with the tillage of the soil, is, that colored farmers of the nation migrate to those portions of the country where they may obtain good land at no cost.
Resolved, That Territories of the West and Southwest furnish to the enterprising emigrant desirable location for the settlement of individuals ambitious to acquire independence, education, and power. Passed.
A vote of thanks was tendered to Mrs. Col. Tappan for her entertaining and instructive address.
The convention then took a recess until 7 o’clock.
The convention met at 7:30 o’clock.
Mr. Downing, from the Committee on Capital and Labor, submitted a report on the savings banks, showing that $17,000,000 had been deposited by the colored laborers of the country since the banks have been established. On motion, the report was adopted.
Mr. Downing said that there were now some thirty freedmen’s savings banks in the country, with a surplus at the present time of over two and a half millions of dollars, and urged upon the colored people of the nation to husband their resources.
Mr. Frederick Douglass spoke of the importance of having an eye to the future and husbanding their earnings.
Mr. Downing offered the following resoultion:
Resolved, That the National Labor Bureau of the colored men of the nation earnestly endorse the suggestion made by the trustees of the colored schools of the District of Columbia, to the effect of abolishing caste in in the arrangements for public instruction in the District, and, that the officers of this convention be a committee to memorialize Congress to adopt the suggestion.
The resolution was adopted without debate.
Mr. Myers, of Maryland, offered the following resolution:
Resolved, That the President of the National Labor Union be requested to correspond with the Secretary of the Interior and other persons in regard to the location of public lands, and to communicate the information obtained to the executive officers of the National Union of each State.
After considerable debate, the resolution was laid upon the table.
On motion, a committee was appointed to nominate officers for the ensuing year. The president appointed Harris, of North Carolina; Taylor, of Virginia, and Stokes, of Missouri, as such committee.
Mr. Stokes offered the following resolution:
Resolved by the National Labor Union, That a committee of three be appointed to memorialize the Congress of the United States praying for the passage of a law for the protection of the ballot–box and the securement of the purity of the elective franchise.
The president appointed Messrs. G. T. Downing, A. M. Green, and Lewis H. Douglass the committee.
The Rev. C. W. Dennison was called for, and spoke at considerable length.
The Committee on Elections reported the following as the Bureau of Labor for the ensuing year: Isaac Myers, Maryland; George T. Downing, Rhode Island; George De Baptiste, Michigan; J. T. Rapier, Alabama; Edwin Belcher, Georgia; George L. Mabston, North Carolina; R. Nelson, Texas; J. E. Taylor, Virginia; A. M. Green, District of Columbia.
Mr. Harris, of North Carolina, from the Committee on Finance, submitted a report, showing the organization to be in debt $187.
Professor Langston, of the Freedmen’s Bureau, spoke at length, saying that his best efforts would be used to keep the negro in the Republican party. He would use no effort to raise a dollar for the expenses of the Labor Union until he knew whether they were to be entailed upon the Democratic party.
This last remark created a little stir in the convention.
Mr. Downing said, he for one had some personal pride animating his bosom, and he did not want and would not have, any one beg for him.
A collection and subscription was taken up, and $112 was raised to meet expenses. The meeting then adjourned until Friday morning.
FIFTH AND LAST DAY’S SESSION
FRIDAY, January 13, 1871.
The fifth day’s session of the National Labor Union was held in the Fifteenth–street Presbyterian Church, the president, Frederick Douglass, Esq., in the chair.
Mr. Belcher, of Georgia, offered a resolution condemning both the Democratic party and the sentiments of repudiation; also, the National Labor Congress, which, in its platform adopted in its meeting held at Cincinnati, Ohio, August 19, 1870, criticises violently, unfairly, illogically, the financial policy of the present Administration, and declares in fact, in favor of the repudiation of our national obligations, and that they utterly condemn the doctrine contained therein as anti–Republican and false.
This was the cause of a spirited debate, in which some unkind words were said.
The debate was finally closed by Mr. George T. Downing, who introduced a resolution indorsing the course of Mr. Isaac Myers, president of the Colored National Labor Union, in the National Labor Congress, held in Cincinnati, and expressing entire confidence in his integrity to the principles and policy of the Republican party. The resolution was adopted by acclamation.
Mr. Langston advocated the adoption of the resolutions, eulogizing the address of Mr. Myers before the convention in Cincinnati, and then delivered a long address in support of the position taken by him.
Mr. Robert W. Stokes, from the Committee on Homesteads, submitted their report, which is replete with useful information.
On motion, the report was adopted.
A resolution, indorsing the NEW NATIONAL ERA as the organ of the convention, was adopted.
After brief remarks by several members of the convention, Mr. Douglass said that he had invested at least $8,000 in the ERA, and did not think it altogether right for him to saddle the whole expense.
On motion of Mr. Isaac Myers, of Maryland, it was
Resolved, That the convention hold its next annual session in Columbia, South Carolina. He promised those present that if they went there they would meet with a hearty reception.
The chairman then read a letter which he said he had just received from Hon. D. J. Morrill, in which the writer said he was much gratified at the position taken by the convention on the question of capital and labor; accompanying the letter were several hundred pamphlets, for distribution, on “Protection to American Industry.”
On motion, the thanks of the convention were tendered to Mr. Morrill.
After a general discussion the convention adjourned sine die.
ANNUAL ADDRESS OF PRESIDENT MYERS
The following is a synopsis of the address delivered by Isaac Myers, president of the Labor Union, at the opening of the convention:
DELEGATES OF THE NATIONAL LABOR UNION: We are meeting in a period of the world’s history when all parts of the land seem to be convulsed with revolutions.
Indeed, we may say, that this is the age of revolutions and the revolution of ages.
Religious and political dogmas that have been the devotion and guide of individuals and nations for centuries, and which from their supposed perfectness have been robed in the divine garb of infallibility, have been uprooted by the ideas of an advanced civilization, and their deep–rooted convictions forced to loose their hold on the mind of man by great pools of blood that have dyed the land in mourning.
Had men been governed in their deliberations and conduct by the simple moral law, “Do unto others as you would they should do unto you,” we should have had the results without the convulsion.
Not one drop of blood would have been spilled, not one cent of treasure been spent, and not one weeping, wandering widow or orphan would have been seen in all the land, to teach the civilized world that no government or institution can receive an everlasting lease of life only by a strict observance and faithful administration of affairs upon the principles of equity for the common interest of all the people.
No revolution of our day has yet accomplished its mission or purpose. Because of the tenacity with which men hold on to the shattered ideas of an irredeemable past; of the relationship of man to man, and of the duty of those who govern to those who are governed; their Herculean efforts to turn the revolutions backward their challenging of God to battle. We are threatened with another fearful national convulsion that must entail a chronic paralysis of the great national pulse, which is now seemingly convalescent.
Capital and Labor
Not the least, and probably not the most significant revolutionary contest of the times, is the adjustment of the relationship of labor to capital. There is no country in which this question will assume a wider range of discussion, more varied and complex forms and feelings, than in the United States of America, and that, without regard to any fixed laws of political economy. And from the nature of our institutions and privileges of citizenship, there is no country that furnishes so readily the means to solve the problems, and establish some general laws (if they do not already exist) by which labor and capital will be governed in its business intercourse, without endangering the security of the Government or the public peace.
But to suppose a millenium in which labor will get all of its supposed value, and capital will equalize its profit to labor, either by persuasion, reason, or force, is futile, and an utter impossibility. The standard of moral purity, of human nature, that is required to accomplish a revolution so sublime in our present make–up, is too far in the distance for human conception.
There is not a natural antagonism between capital and labor. To admit it to exist, is to admit that there is no Divine economy ruling the world affairs. Their relationship and interest are mutual. One cannot exist or prosper without the aid and co–operation of the other. If a gulf divides, and strife is engendered, it is because of a prejudicial investigation of the cause and effect. The rule is general. Capital is covetous; labor is prodigal. Capital seeks to gather in and increase its store, while labor squanders its surplus to gratify superficial tastes. By the management of their surplus or profits, as stated, capital becomes the stronger, and labor the weaker power. They grow in opposite directions. Were labor more covetous with its surplus gains, as instanced in the examples of Vanderbilt, Stewart, and Peter Cooper, of New York; John Hopkins, of Maryland, and a thousand of other millionaires who commenced life with their brains and hands, the relationship would be different. Capital would be more equalized. And until labor learns to be more generally frugal, hold what it gets, and judiciously invest it, this inequality will forever exist, and no combination that can be formed by the wisdom and cunning of man can control it.
Because of the incapacity and financial weakness of labor and its only source of revenue—a day’s wages—millions of laborers are the absolute slaves of capital, receiving a pittance of the wealth their labor produces. And even the honest, industrious, and frugal laborer often receives less wages than will provide the necessary comforts of life. And very often the capital employed, by which this labor draws its substance, produces this financial embarrassment of the laborer; for capital is often destitute of brains. As for instance, in the cotton–growing States, nearly every planter this year sowed his fields with cotton, expecting, when reaped, without any ability to control the market, to sell for twenty cents per pound, instead, it brought but from twelve to fourteen cents. In this margin, between fourteen and twenty cents lie their entire substance, and replenishing of stock for the next year’s working of the farm. It is very easy to see the disadvantage, in this case, to which both labor and capital is put. Thousands of laborers are robbed of their wages. The land is bare of subsistence, save wood and cotton, and neither will prevent starvation. This is produced by the cupidity of capital in the South.
Another instance is the competition between manufacturers on account of the excess of manufactories for the demand of their products. Not only is the price of the material reduced to the lowest point between its cost of production and its marketable value, but the wages of the laborer is reduced to a point of starvation and desperation, which often results in strikes. Could there be a corresponding reduction in all the productions or necessaries of life at the same time, then the laborer of a particular branch of industry (in which there is an active competition between capital) may be able to subsist at the reduction of wages forced upon him; or could the laborer subsist entirely upon the production of his own skill, the same result may be obtained. But the political economy of the world furnishes us with no such rule or example. In our immediate observation or history the products of one branch of industry may decrease in value twenty–five per cent, while the products of another branch, of more general necessity and consumption, may at the same time increase twenty–five per cent; and the decline in the former be the cause of the advance in the latter.
It is but natural that labor should seek (under such circumstances) to relieve itself from the rapid fluctuations of capital and put itself in a safe position that it may be able to demand and command a compensation that will afford it an independent living.
Trades’ Unions and Strikes
Trades’ unions and other combinations are formed for the purpose of advancing the claims and protecting the interests of the workmen. Unfortunately, by the unwise counsel of brainless leaders, strikes are the first means resorted to as a remedy. Very few instances, if any, can be cited that strikes have produced any permanent good to the strikers; whilst hundreds of instances can be referred to where they have been disastrous in the loss of time and money, to all parties, and the bankruptcy and dissolution of some of the best workingmen organizations in the country. When labor challenges capital to battle, capital is generally the victor. For strikes to be at all successful, a combination of all the workmen of a particular branch of industry must be effected extending over every locality where said trade is conducted, and be provided with a fund sufficient to pay the rate of wages demanded during the continuance of the strike. Otherwise it is folly to attempt the experiment.
The Labor Reform Party
as a means for the elevation of the condition of the workingmen, and to adjust the disputed questions between capital and labor, is a grand farcical clap–trap, cunningly worked upon the unwary workingmen by intriguing politicians, and is even more disastrous to their cause than the numerous ill–advised strikes.
Its pretentions to a wholesale process to elevate the condition of the laboring masses to a financial equality with capital, by getting control of the national and local legislation of the country, is as deceptious and preposterous as the heathen philosophy of producing gold by chemical operation. Whilst labor has a general interest to be protected by national legislation, such as a national education law, land grants to actual settlers, and a tariff for protection to American industries, it also has certain special interests, the chief of which is wages, in all the varied industries of the country, which cannot be regulated by any political legislative body that can be brought into existence.
Rights of Labor to Organize
What is wanting by the laboring men of the country is a fair exchange for their labor. Money, that they can comfortably and independently provide a living for themselves and families, and have a surplus for an emergency and old age. To satisfy this demand of labor is to adjust the relationship between capital and labor and solve the problem.
If labor has any rights that capital is bound to respect, it has a perfect right to be heard through any legitimate organ or organization that does not trespass upon the legal rights of capital, endanger the principles of our republican form of government, or the public security.
It has the same right to organization for the protection that the merchant or manufacturer has to form boards of trade and exchanges to promote their interest. The necessity and practicability of labor organizations for the material advancement of the workingmen, all reasonable–minded men will conside. It is but the duty of the laboring men to adopt that form of organization separate and distinct from politics, that will more readily meet capital in a fair and equitable race.
Co–operative Labor Organizations
seem to be the most effective form of organization to accomplish this result. The concentration of a certain portion of the weekly earnings for the purpose of forming capital with which to establish a business in the event capital will not concede living wages to the laborer. The several co–operative associations in this country are in a flourishing condition; not only are they paying good wages, but paying a good percentage on the capital invested. In one instance the dividends upon the capital invested is appropriated to the purpose of furnishing a homestead for the members of the organization. A preference is often given these associations by business men because of the very superior workmanship found in these establishments. Co–operative associations produce these results:
First. They secure the wages demanded by labor, which is the bone of cooperation.
Second. They are practicable tools for those mechanics and laborers who are ambitious to become capitalists.
Third. They teach the workingmen the offices, duties, responsibilities, and make of capital, and how to respect it.
Fourth. They force habits of frugality, temperance, and economy in the circle of their membership.
Fifth. They impress the members with the importance of an advanced education for their children.
Sixth. They restore order and harmony, and give a fair chance of competition between capital and labor. Next to co–operative associations for the general advancement of the condition of the workingmen, as well as to aid them and all other forms of labor organizations, a
should be established in every city in the United States, composed of representives from all industrial and trade organizations, who should meet once a week for the purpose of interchanging opinions, discussing plans of organization, accumulating statistics in relation to workingmen, trades, etc., and passing upon questions of dispute between employer and employee. This Bureau of Industry will be to the laborer what the Bureau of Trade or Chamber of Commerce is to the merchant. Here capital and labor can be brought face to face. The cause for a reduction of wages, or the reasons for an advance, can be dispassionately discussed and amicably adjusted.
In most cases where strikes have existed, and great losses sustained by the contending parties, it is because of the failure or indisposition to submit the dispute questions to a board of arbitration.
Next to co–operation for the elevation of the workingmen is the
Tariff for the Protection of American Industry,
On this national question there should be no division between the laboring men of the United States. It is alike beneficial to all interests that do not receive their support from importing goods of foreign manufacture without any consideration of their effect upon home industry. It is suicidal to the labor interests of this country to support any party or policy looking to a free trade in the books of foreign manufacture. Not only must such a policy reduce the wages of American workmen to the standard of European wages, but our industries, vast factories and workshops, that are brought in such unequal competition—their products must be forced out of the markets of the world, thereby reducing the demand, as well as the price of labor.
This is a question in which the workingmen are more directly interested than any other class of citizens. The rich can be educated at pleasure, without feeling the pressure of pecuniary embarrassment. The poor, who stand more in need of education, as a means for their elevation, must rely mainly upon a free–school system. The opposition to popular education comes chiefly from that class of American citizens who would build up an aristocratic empire, whose footstool would be free trade, ignorance and slavery to the common people. The opposition is not to such a question of taxes or taxation as the objection to educated labor—a class of labor that wants comfortable surroundings, that will not submit to serfdom that is incapable of self–support, independent, inventive, and enterprising.
A system of national education will not only prove a national blessing, but a national necessity at this time. The future peace and security of the Government will be infinitely indebted to a national system of education for the youths of the present generation.
To the common people who make up the working classes it is the manna of Heaven. Appeals and petitions should be sent, as with the raising of a mighty wind, to the halls of Congress until the Congress of the United States gives the country a national school law that will put school–houses and the privileges of a common English education within sight of every poor man’s domicile in the land.
“Capital and labor must be both sole and willing to see and consider each other’s interests. Make all of either class able to read—able to discriminate correctly between right and wrong—render intelligence and [truth] supreme in deciding their questions of individual interest; lift them up, so that the horizon of each will embrace the interest of all, and the folly and wickedness of an appeal to force or fraud on either hand, will be too apparent to invite the attempt. They would then see how much they have in common, how closely and inseparably they are yoked together. Education, in its large sense; the development of all the powers of man for the best use offers for each the grand instrument for the solution of the difficulties.”
The unions established by the bureau are generally in a flourishing condition. If their delegates do not arrive to this annual meeting it is because of the great financial embarrassment existing in the Southern States; but a more effective organization will materially relieve this condition of the laborers.
I need not tell you who are from the Southern States of the
Insecurity of Life in the South,
and its effect upon industry; the fearful reign of terror that in large portions of Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, North and South Carolina, Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas exists at this time. There is little or no value placed upon human life, if it be a negro.
Emigration and Education
seem to be the only means that can raise the condition of the South to the level with other sections of the country. Three millions of foreign emigrants in the Southern States would produce a spirit of independence and enterprise that is absolutely necessary to elevate the condition of labor, both black and white, and to induce and give security to capital. Provision should also be made for the calling of State labor conventions in States at as early a day as is convenient for the people to assemble in their respective counties and send delegates to represent them. Politics should be left entirely out of these conventions, and the business interests of the people considered. We hope to have the co–operation of all classes of the community, because it is to the benefit of all interests to make labor honest, intelligent, economical, and enterprising. There is no desire, upon our part, to have separate organizations based upon color. We believe the condition of the white laborers will be materially advanced by a co–operation with the colored laborers.
New National Era, January 19, 1871.
Any assemblage of [labor], whether large or small, learned or ignorant, if animated by a high moral purpose, is worthy of respectful consideration; and we think the convention above–named possessed this claim to respect in a pre–eminent degree. It was a convention to assist in improving the condition of a class of laborers who, in addition to great social wrongs, are at the same time the least remunerated of all other classes in the country. The recently emancipated slaves are the most destitute of all the laboring classes of the country. They have no past but the past of slavery—the most barren past that it is possible to contemplate. It is a past in which nothing whatever is done for posterity. In its selfish regard for present advantage and gratification, the system treated its victims as a class having no future. The master had in his slave only so much bone and muscle, out of which he could obtain so much work, and he set about getting that amount of work out of him, without any regard to him as a man, a husband, a father, or a member of society. The slave was simply an instrument for the present. Being property himself, he could own no property. He did not own even the miserable shirt on his back, or the peck of corn allowed him per week. In this condition of destitution he lived and died, and was buried at night, without funeral rites, lest a few working minutes should be lost to the master. It was in this destitute condition that emancipation found the whole slave population. The past had robbed him of property, of education, and of everything but his human nature and its absolute wants, and he was compelled to face the present and future in utter poverty. The land on which he had worked belonged not to him who in sweat and blood had earned it, but to him who was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day, and whose hands knew no toil. The wretched hut that sheltered him and his little ones belonged not to him, but to the man who formerly owned him and his children.
The Government, in giving the negro his freedom, has given him the freedom to starve, and in giving him the ballot–box has given him a coffin. It meant well enough to the negro, but the result has been terrible indeed. It attempted to make men free, but withheld the only conditions upon which they can be so. It has attempted to make men independent voters, but left them a prey to conditions which, in many cases, makes such voting impossible. It has attempted to make them loyal to the Government, but has left them where they are compelled to look to their rebel masters for their very existence.
It is in the light of this state of facts that the late labor convention assembled in this city to consider ways and means by which to benefit the colored laboring classes; and it does appear that the convention had good cause for assembling. It may not have succeeded in its object, to any considerable extent, but it, at least, has shown a sense of the necessity of doing something, and doing that something speedily. There was in the convention, at least, the motive and the will to do, however feeble or ill–advised may have been their measures. Something is gained where men feel; something more is gained where they think, and something still greater is accomplished when they resolve to act. All three of these signs of life were given in the late convention; and hence, small as the convention was, and feeble and imperfect as may have been its purposes, we do not regret that it was held. It was a movement in the right direction, and one which may prove the beginning of an important movement for the improvement and advantage of our suffering class.
There was much more ability in the convention than even we expected to find there; and, what is perhaps still more important, there was much more heart in the object to be gained. The colored people of the South have had little practice in the holding of conventions. There was general harmony, and differences of opinion and feeling were exceptional and temporary. Professor JOHN MERCER LANGSTON felt called upon to criticise Mr. ISAAC MYERS, the ex–president of the convention, for his relation to the National Labor Convention in Cincinnati last year, alleging that that convention was, in fact, a mere tender to the Democratic party, and that Mr. MYERS had, by entering and acting with that organization compromised the cause of justice and freedom; but this was a mere shadow on the otherwise undisturbed current of the convention, and even this was generously lifted when Mr. LANGSTON voted for a resolution declaring Mr. MYERS a devoted and consistent Republican, thus showing that his criticisms of Mr. MYERS were the outgrowth of his love of discussion, rather than any thought that Mr. MYERS had greatly sinned in doing what was charged upon him; or, better still, the occasion gave him a chance to send a rattling volley into the camp of his Democratic enemies. At this point the remarks of Mr. HARRIS were admirable. He showed the difference between Mr. LANGSTON and Mr. MYERS to have been simply this: the latter was admitted to the Cincinnati Convention, and the other, for personal reasons, was not. So that, morally, the one had no cause to complaint against the other.
A very bright man came to us, from old Virginia, in the person of Mr. TAYLOR. This man was cut out by nature for important parts—one of the few black men whose mind slavery itself could not extinguish. Old Virginia has been famous for great white men, and it may yet become equally so for great colored men. This Mr. TAYLOR is without education, in the technical sense of the word, but, if a knowledge of men and the possession of the power to wield his knowledge to wise purposes be education, Mr. T. is quite a liberally educated man.
Among the delegates who came here from the North and South, and from whom we are led to expect great results from their efforts in securing the amelioration of the condition of laboring men and women in the South, we find such earnest, energetic, and able men as EDWIN BELCHER, of Georgia; Hon. JAMES HARRIS, North Carolina; RICHARD NELSON, Texas; Mr. PATTERSON, Arkansas; GEORGE L. MABSON, North Carolina; W. V. TURNER, Alabama; JAMES T. RAPIER, Alabama; ROBERT STOKES, Missouri; BISHOP J. W. LOGUEN, New York; ANTHONY BOWEN, District of Columbia; GEORGE T. DOWNING, Rhode Island; JOHN M. LANGSTON, Ohio; GOERGE DEBABTISTE, Michigan.
We publish in another column some of the more important papers passed upon at the convention.
New National Era, January 19, 1871.
We are among those who think the National Labor Union Convention of Colored Men, recently held in this city, did several wise things, and that its influence will be fraught with much good in the future. There were many practical, common–sense ideas set afloat, that will spring up and produce good fruit, if honestly acted upon, to the laboring men of this country. But we believe the wisest, most practical, and common–sense measure adopted was the proposition that a high protective tariff is not only a financial but an industrial necessity in the present condition of the country, and therefore urging the Republican party to adopt it as a part of their creed. We believe this was a wise, practical, common–sense position for a convention of laboring men to take, because nothing will so surely create a demand for labor and ensure it a just reward as liberal, generous protection to all branches of American industry.
There are now a million laborers engaged in manufactures and mechanical pursuits. The repeal of the tariff which has nursed into existence the establishments that give employment to this mighty army of workingmen, would break down one–half of them at least, and throw half of them out of employment. These half a million of men would therefore, of necessity, be brought into direct and ruinous competition with other laborers. The result would be a great reduction in price of labor, and could not fail to prove more disastrous to them than to the manufacturers themselves. On the other hand, a protective tariff will not only prevent this dire calamity as well to the laboring man as the whole country, but it will gradually add to our manufacturing enterprises, and increase the demand for our laborers till their number is doubled. Every new manufacturing enterprise gives employment to more persons and increases the wages of labor, just in proportion as the demand for it increases. The members of this convention had ability to see this and the courage to recommend the measure best calculated to bring about such a result. They had no nonsense about “a tariff with incidental protection,” “a revenue tariff,” “revenue reform,” and such like clap–trap stuff for gulls. They believed a high protective tariff would call into existence new manufacturing enterprises and create a new demand for labor. They therefore said so, in terms that no one could mistake. For their shrewdness and frankness they deserve the thanks of all friends of American industry.
New National Era, January 26, 1871.
Special to the National Standard
WASHINGTON, D.C., Jan. 11, 1871
The Colored National Labor Convention met here on the 10th inst, and is still in session. Though most of the States are represented, the number of delegates present is considerably less than last year. Several colored men of ability, members of the Southern Legislatures, are among the delegates, also Hon. Wm. B. Turner, representative elect to the XLIst. Congress. Several Committees, entrusted with the business of the Convention, have prepared reports of much value, the substance of which we shall hope to present to our readers hereafter. Addresses have been delivered by the President, Mr. MYERS, of Baltimore; FREDERICK DOUGLASS, Hon. JAMES H. HARRIS, of North Carolina; SUSAN B. ANTHONY, GEORGE T. DOWNING, Esq., EDWARD M. DAVIS, Col. R. J. HINTON, AARON M. POWELL, GILES B. STEBBINS, Rev. A. BOWEN, ROBERT PURVIS, and others. Though not political in its character, the facts presented in the addresses and reports of the condition and needs of the colored workingmen and women of the South are of a most important character, showing conclusively that “Reconstruction” is far from complete, in assuring independence and actual personal freedom and safety to colored citizens.56
WASHINGTON, D.C., Jan. 14, 1871
The National Labor Convention
The National Labor Convention which has been in session in this city since Monday last adjourned yesterday. The attendance, compared with former years, has been moderate. . . . Reports were made and resolutions adopted to the subjects of Homesteads, Co–operation, Capital and Labor, Education, personal insecurity and political proscription in the Southern States, Temperance, and other topics of vital interest to the colored and white workingmen and women of the country.
Edward M. Davis, of Philadelphia, was in attendance as a delegate, and presented to the Convention an excellent plan, already in successful operation in the vicinity of Philadelphia, for co–operative building associations. It was listened to with much interest and heartily endorsed by the Convention. Mr. Davis also offered a resolution which was adopted, asking the government to appoint a commission to be composed of well–known Anti–Slavery men, to visit the Southern States and to report as to the actual condition and needs of the loyal people, colored and white, of the South. Mr. Davis has recently returned from a Southern tour, and is deeply impressed with the importance of giving to the people of the North such information as the resolution offered by him seeks and would provide for. The condition of many of the colored laborers, especially of the rural districts of the South, is indeed forlorn. They make contracts with rebel land–holders, and work for wages, but in the absence of national protection are intimidated, and defrauded in a most shameful, wholesale manner. The bitter fruits of the “magnanimity” policy towards rebels, the colored and loyal white people of the South are compelled now to reap a harvest of. But the whole country is inevitably to be seriously affected thereby. Under the prevalent reign of terror which the reinstated wealthy rebels have inaugurated through the agency of the Ku–Klux, the South is likely to become again at no distant day substantially a political unit. When this objective point is reached, in alliance with the Northern Sham–Democracy, the excessively “magnanimous” Republican party will be forced to surrender its possession of the national government. The consequences to the colored people in particular, and to the nation at large, of such a political transition it is not difficult to foresee. Fortunate would it have been for all classes if the wise and statesmanlike counsels of Wendell Phillips and Thaddeus Stevens in favor of the confiscation of rebel estates and the policy of small homesteads for the freedpeople and landless poor of the South had been adopted by Congress at the proper time.57
It was the concurrent testimony of all the Southern delegates in the Convention that the first and primary need of the colored laborers of the South is personal protection. Landless and dependent as they are, the ballot is to many of them little better than a mockery of freedom. One good result of the Convention will be to disseminate more widely information as to the peculiar perils and trials of the Southern colored workingmen and women. The Caste spirit, too, bears heavily upon Northern colored laboring people—fostered by members of some of the white labor organizations. Afffecte by all the disabilities and the injustice against which white laborers protest, they have also added thereunto the proscriptive influence which in many cases excludes them from workshops simply on account of complexional difference.
Frederick Douglass was chosen President of the National Labor Union for the ensuing year, and it was voted to hold the next Annual Meeting in Columbia, South Carolina, to commence on the second Monday in January, 1872.
National Standard, January 21, 1871.
Reported by the Committee on Addresses, the Hon. ROBERT B. ELLIOTT, Chairman, to the National Colored Convention held at Columbia, S.C., and by that Body issued to the People of the United States.
FELLOW CITIZENS: . . .
In seeking more perfect recognition as members of the great political family to which the interests of humanity have been peculiarly committed, we desire to recognize our obligations and responsibilities as members of this great family, and to assure the American people that we stand among them imbued with a national spirit—with confidence in and devotion to the principles of representative popular government, and with ideas of policy that embrace every individual and interest of our common country.
The fruits of the great legal measures that were intended to establish our rights and interests on a common footing with all other citizens of the nation, have, to some extent and in particular locations, been withheld from us by the prejudices and passions left in the hearts of a portion of our fellow citizens as a remnant of former ideas and associations. We need your aid and sympathy to complete the great work begun and carried on in our behalf. We desire to lay before you the facts of our case in a brief but truthful statement. We have not at command the all–important instrument of a local public press, as the medium of communicating with you; the press of the South, with few exceptions, being in the hands of those interested to lower us in your esteem. We have deemed a convention of our representatives as the most efficient means of laying before you the true state of our condition and feeling.
Since the close of the war a settled policy has controlled the public and private action of the great body of the white people of the South towards us. They have sought to hold us in a condition of modified servitude, so that we should not be able to compete with the industry of the country. They have not been contented to employ the advantages that capital and experience in public and private affairs confer, but have resorted to compulsory means, unsanctioned by the laws of the country, the spirit of American institutions, and the practice of cilivized nations.
The first great effort to carry into effect this line of policy was perhaps most conspicuously displayed in the adoption of the code of laws commonly known as the “Black Code,” passed by the provisional government of South Carolina, in the year 1865, and followed by other States. It is unnecessary to give in detail the features of this system. It established caste of the Oriental type. It furnished courts for the trial of questions of caste. It provided for legal compulsion as a means of procuring our labor, and fixing the rates of compensation and rules of performance. It provided separate laws—civil and criminal—and separate courts for their enforcement. Finally, it allowed us no voice in the passing of the laws that were to govern us, or hand in disposing of the proceeds of our labor taken from us as taxes for the support of the governments of our respective States.58
The action of the military authorities, followed by that of Congress, and, finally, the amendments to the Constitution of the United States, took from the hands of those seeking to establish a system of slavery scarcely less objectionable than that which had just been overthrown, the means of accomplishing their purpose through the forms of law.
The next resort was to subsidize and control, through the motives of favor and fear, the political and civil powers conferred by the liberality of the Government. On the one hand, the friendship and patronage of the white citizens were offered as the condition of complete political subserviency, while on the other hand threats of being deprived of homes and employment as the means of subsistence, were made by the landholders and employers of our respective States. These threats were in many instances carried into effect. It was found, however, that the necessity that existed for our labor left in our hands power sufficient to thwart the efforts for our subjection.
To meet this new difficulty resort was had to secret organizations, with a view to the control of the masses of the colored people by the murder of the prominent representative men of our class, and by the infliction of bodily pain upon a certain number of their followers. As the means proposed involved the commission of the highest crimes known among men, the protection of oaths, secret organizations and disguises were resorted to. We have been hunted like beasts by armed and disguised bands. Many, both men and women, have been killed; vast numbers have received severe corporal punishment; and many more found shelter in the swamps, by day and by night, from this storm of human hatred.
We owe it to ourselves and to our government to acknowledge the well directed efforts that are now being made to bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice. We are assured that the American people are in earnest to secure to us the fruits of the great measures for our civil and political habilitation, and that the Executive and judicial departments of the Government are thoroughly sincere in their determination to give effect to the Constitution and the will of Congress in our behalf.
We ask of you that you will give to the Government the fullest measure of moral support to enable it to complete that which is so auspiciously begun, and that minor differences of sentiment and policy may be hushed while the nation is gathering up its strength to purge the land of the foulest crimes by the sword of justice. When the nation was threatened with division, political differences yielded to the necessity of maintaining its territorial integrity. Now that it is again threatened from the vertex of passion and crime affiliated, let the same devotion to right and justice induce equal efforts to preserve its moral integrity.
While there remains anything to be accomplished in order to secure for ourselves the full enjoyment of civil and political rights, we shall have class interests calling for the united efforts of persons of color. The moment these ends are secured, the motives for separate action will cease, and, in common with all other citizens, we can take our places wherever the interest of the government, industry or humanity may appoint—recognizing only one standard of duty, interest or policy for all citizens.
We do not ask the government or people of the United States to treat us with peculiar favor, but that, in the policy of the laws, our interest may be grouped with those that receive the consideration of our legislative bodies, and that, in the administration of the laws, no invidious distinctions be made to our prejudice.
We affirm that the colored people of the States represented by us have no desire to strike out a line of policy for their action involving interests not common to the whole people.
While we have, as a body, contributed our labor in the past to enhance the wealth and promote the welfare of the community, we have as a class been deprived of one of the chief benefits to be derived from industry, namely: the acquisition of education and experience, the return that civilization makes for the labor of the individual. Our want in this respect not only extends to general education and experience, such as fits the man to adorn the society of his fellows, but to that special education and experience required to enable us to enter successfully the departments of a diversified industry.
We ask that your Representatives in Congress may be instructed to afford such aid in extending education to the uneducated classes in the States we represent as may be consistent with the financial interests of the nation. Although we urge our unrequited labors in the past as the ground of this appeal, yet we not seek these benefits for ourselves alone, but for the white portion of the laboring class in our States, whose need is as great as ours.
In order to secure the promotion of our industrial interest, you can render us assistance. It is true we have no demands to make of the National Government in this respect; but it is in the power of the people of the United States to aid us materially. In order to advance our knowledge and skill in the industrial arts, it is necessary that we should have the advantages of the means employed in the country at large for these purposes. That in preparing for industrial pursuits and in putting our skill in operation, we should come in contact with educated and experienced workmen and be put in possession of the results of their skill and knowledge. If the trades and workshops are shut against us, we cannot reach that point of excellence to which we desire to attain. We ask your aid and sympathy in placing us on the same footing in reference to the pursuit of industry as that enjoyed by other citizens. If after having access to the means of becoming skillful workmen, we fail to attain that standing, we are content to take rank among the industrial classes of the country according to the degree of our proficiency. Should we be excluded from these benefits, a state of things will arise, most prejudicial to the interest of skilled labor, namely: the existence of a great body of workmen ready to supply the market with poor work, at cheap rates. While slavery existed, the Northern States were not affected by the low state of the industrial arts in the Southern States; but labor being now free to find the best market, it is, beyond question, the interest of the artificers of the North to raise the standard of proficiency at the South. It is clearly the interest of the great industries of the North to strengthen themselves by alliance with those at the South. This result would be practicable to the fullest extent, if those of our color throughout the North could be placed in a position to bring among us the best knowledge and skill in the departments of trade to which they belong.
We would do injustice to ourselves, if, forgetting our own personal indebtedness for the blessings of liberty, and the pursuit of independence and happiness, to that outgrowth of Christian civilization, the benignant spirit of our country and century, we should pass unnoticed the condition of those of our race who are still in the state of slavery. The public sentiment of this great nation combined with that of Europe, with the good offices of our Government, is surely sufficient to hasten the abolition of African slavery throughout the world. We sincerely trust that expression may be given to such sentiment as will attract the attention and influence the conduct of those few remaining nations that still maintain slavery as a legal institution.
It is our privilege, in addressing you, to utter the voice of four millions of citizens of this great country. That voice is addressed to those whose humane feelings rendered practicable that consummate act that elevated so vast a body at once to the enjoyment of civil and political manhood. It is not too much to anticipate that partiality for the work that owes its legal completion to you, will influence you to watch carefully the development of its practical results; that no perversion from the purposes of your bounty shall prevent the full fruition of the great principles of justice that actuated you.
The growth of this nation has shown that its institutions are capable of blending into an harmonious brotherhood all nationalities and all interests and industries. In all other instances than that of the accession of our race to citizenship, the accretion of the elements of its population has been gradual—giving time to complete the process of assimilation. In our case, we are well aware that there was much to alarm the apprehensions of those careful statesmen who hesitated to speculate as to the strength of our institutions much beyond what was demonstrated by the precedents in parallel cases in Europe and in our own country. The instantaneous embodiment of four millions of citizens who had for years looked upon the government as not only denying them citizenship, but as preventing them from acquiring that capacity under any other national existence, was, it must be admitted, a startling political fact.
But we are happy to point to the proof of the wisdom of those who regarded that course the safest that was indicated by the demands of justice. We are proud to be able to point to the history of our people since their admission to citizenship as proof that they understand what is due from the citizen to the government owing him protection. Although they have suffered much at the hands of those who would deprive them of their rights, they have appreciated the difficulties and embarrassments that necessarily surrounded the attempts of the government to vindicate their rights, and have waited uncomplainingly until relief could be afforded; although many times they could have found instantaneous relief by imitating their oppressors and taking the law into their own hands.
We would call attention to the fact that the conferring of citizenship on our people, though the occasion, is not the cause of the agitations that have affected the country. The true cause is the spirit of opposition to whatever is enlarged and unselfish in our government, and that does not inure to the exclusive interest of the privileged few which has seized upon the act of the Government as a means of shutting out of the Southern States liberal and national ideas.
We affirm, without fear of contradiction, that the colored citizens of the United States have conducted themselves as good citizens and have displayed aptness to discharge their civil and political duties, as well as an intuitive fitness for that form of Government which we justly regard as the highest expression of civic wisdom.
Under these circumstances, and with the proofs of the truth of our statement abundant on every hand we ask your fullest confidence and sympathy. We cannot point to the work of our fathers as commingled with that of yours in the noble structure of Government we all delight to admire and to guard, but we can claim to have embodied their animating spirit as displayed in our devotion to the truths that they inculcated and our zeal to render their work immortal and imperishable.
With this brief presentation of our views and feelings, we beg to subscribe ourselves, in behalf of those we represent, very respectfully, your humble fellow citizens, and obedient servants,
ROBERT B. ELLIOTT,
JAS. M. SIMMS,
J. T. WALLS,
B. A. BOSEMON,
F. C. ANTOINE,
J. F. QUARLES,
F. G. BARBADOES.
National Standard, November 11, 1871.
One of our exchanges contains the following:
Congressman Elliott, of South Carolina, has submitted an address to the American people asking for “more perfect recognition of the colored people in the workshops and all industrial pursuits, that they may become proficient in mechanical sciences and thereby protect skilled artisans from having to compete in the market with workmen of inferior capability.”
The first step for the colored race to take to receive a “more perfect recognition in the workshops and all industrial pursuits,” is for them to throw themselves on their own resources; to discard the advise of those harpies, who presuming on their credulity and ignorance, have ridden into place and power on their shoulders, and who have striven ever since to sow the seeds of prejudice against the white mechanic. So long as this advice prevails, so long will an antagonism exist.
The National Labor Union has always been opposed to dodging the “negro” issue by any of our trades or labor organizations believing that ultimately the colored race, like every other, must stand on their own merits; that if they shall prove themselves capable of competing with white labor, no legislation can or should keep them down; while on the other hand, if they are tried and found wanting, no class legislation can maintain them in a false position.
The National Labor Union is and ever has been opposed, alike from motives of principle and policy, to any unjust discrimination of race or color. From principle, because it recognised the line of demarcation to be between the man who, by physical or intellectual labor, contributes to the substantial wealth of the nation, and the man who lives on the product of others’ toil; from policy, because in view of the alarming and increasing power of capital, it cannot afford to have a house divided against itself; because it is only by systematic organization and united effort it can hope for success.
The action of the National Labor Congress at the Philadelphia session, in admitting colored delegates on terms of perfect equality with the white representatives, spoke volumes in favor of the honesty and earnestness of its members, though strange to say, this circumstance seems to have been overlooked by advocates of the Elliott stamp. The fact that a deep–rooted prejudice against association with them had existed, and probably then existed in the minds of many, is the highest tribute which can be paid to their good faith, because it conclusively proved that they could and did rise superior to these prejudices, could sacrifice them on the altar of principle for the advancement of the common good.
But it must not be forgotten there are two sides to this question. The National Labor Union is extending the hand of fellowship, did so in the belief that it would be accepted in good faith; that the co–operation of the colored race would be secured thereby. It accepted the results as presented; it did not enquire into or discuss the motives which prompted Congress in conferring on them the franchise. It dealt with living issues. It recognized that their votes would strengthen or weaken the labor movement; that they would either become allies or enemies, and its subsequent action proved it alive to its interests and duty. It had no idea however, of extending special privileges to any class, of permitting the colored delegates to “run with the hounds and hide with the hare,” while it required from the white delegates an implicit allegiance. It did not propose to allow one branch of its members to become the pillars of oppression, the stool pigeons of the very powers, whose aggressions it was organized to resist, and the other to organize to give them battle. It expected from each an equal obligation, an honest, thorough co–operative effort. Unless this has been or can be secured it is needless to talk about a “more perfect recognition of their rights,” &c. &c. They must learn to respect the rights of others first.
If they will look at the question for an hour, they must see the futility of arraying themselves against the only class from whom they can expect any material aid; and the worse, than folly of re–arousing the prejudices which happily have been forgotten. The first step to do so, however, is as we have already stated, to think for themselves, to give a wide berth to the scallawags who are leading them to a path fraught with danger and ruin.
Workingman’s Advocate, November 11, 1871.
The following letter from Senator Sumner was read at the Convention of Colored Men at Columbia, S.C., on the 23d ult.:
BOSTON, Oct. 12, 1871.
Dear Sir: I am glad that our colored fellow–citizens are to have a Convention of their own. So long as they are excluded from rights, or suffer in any way on account of color, they will naturally meet together, in order to find a proper remedy, and since you kindly invite me to communicate with the Convention I make bold to offer a few brief suggestions.
In the first place, you must at all times insist upon your rights, and here I mean not only those already accorded, but others still denied, all of which are contained in equality before the law. Wherever the law supplies a rule, there you must insist upon equal rights. How much remains to be obtained you know too well in the experience of life. Can a respectiable colored citizen travel on steamboats or railways or public conveyances generally without insult on account of color? Let Lieut. Gov. Dunn of Louisiana describe his journey from New Orleans to Washington. Shut out from proper accommodation in the cars, the doors of the Senate Chamber opened to him, and there he found that equality which a railroad conductor had denied. Let our excellent friend, Frederick Douglass, relate his melancholy experience when within sight of the Executive Mansion, he was thrust back from the dinner table where his brother–commissioners were already seated. You know the out–rage. I might ask the same question with regard to hotels, and even common schools. A hotel is a legal institution, and so is a common school. As such, each must be for the equal benefit of all. Now, can there be any exclusion from her on account of color? It is not enough to provide separate accommodations for colored citizens, even if in all respects as good as those of other persons; equality is not found in equivalent, but only in equality. In other words, there must be no discrimination on account of color. The discrimination is an insult, and a hindrance, and a bar, which not only destroys comfort and prevents equality, but weakens all other rights. The right to vote will have new security when your equal right in public conveyances, hotels, and common schools is at last established; but here you must insist for yourselves by speech, by citizens in the enjoyment of equal rights. Of this there can be no doubt. Among the cardinal objects in education, which must be insisted on, here again must be equality side by side with the alphabet. It is in vain to teach equality if you do not practice it. It is in vain to recite the great words of the Declaration of Independence, if you do not make them a living reality. What is lesson without example? As all are equal at the ballot–box, so must all be equal at the common school. Equality in the common school is the preparation for equality at the ballot–box; therefore, do I put this among the essentials of education. In asserting your own rights you will not fail to insist upon justice to all, under which is necessarily included purity in the Government. Thieves and money–changers, whether Democrats or Republicans, must be driven out of our temple. Tammany Hall and Republican self–seekers must be overthrown. There should be no place for either. Thank God! good men are now coming to the rescue. Let them, while uniting against corruption, insist upon equal rights for all, and also the suppression of lawless violence wherever it shows itself, whether in the Ku–Klux–Klan outraging the South, or illicit undertakings outraging the Black Republic of Hayti. To these inestimable objects add Specie Payments, and you will have a platform which ought to be accepted by the American people. Will not our colored fellow–citizens begin this good work? Let them at the same time save themselves and save the country. These are only hints which I submit to the Convention, hoping that its proceedings will tend especially to the good of the colored race. Accept my thanks and best wishes and believe me, faithfully yours,
National Anti–Slavery Standard, November 4, 1871.
We have received, but have not had room to publish, a two or three column “brief” presentation of the claims of the colored laborers. It emanated from a convention recently held at Columbia, South Carolina, the enterprising Justice Nelson being the Texas delegate. Of all the black men in Texas Justice Nelson was the fittest to represent the working men of color, for he is the hardest worker among men. His hands are horny with toil. He works like a blacksmith from sun up to sun down, and knows all about earning the bread that he eats in the sweat of his brow. Well, Justice Nelson went to South Carolina representing his over–worked brethren, who generously contributed of their hard–earned means to send him there. He comes back with a “two column brief presentation,” though we are utterly unable to guess of the way in which it shall be made to benefit them.
The doings of the convention were not altogether satisfactory to General Grant, seeing that he is reported to have footed the bills. With regard to the annexation of St. Domingo they resolved to approve it as an “abstract question,” but provided that they must not be understood “as casting any reflection on that great and good man, Hon. Charles Sumner.” On the whole we conclude that the convention was harmless, and afforded colored men who don’t labor, a nice little trip and a pleasant time at the expenses of the colored men who do labor.
Galveston (Texas) News, December 1, 1871.