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Proceedings of the Colored Convention of the State of Kansas, Held at Leavenworth, October 13th, 14th, 15th, and 16th, 1863


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Proceedings of the Colored Convention of the State of Kansas, Held at Leavenworth, October 13th, 14th, 15th, and 16th, 1863


Pamphlet (13 p. ; 21 cm.)










In answer to a call issued by the colored citizens of Leavenworth, a Delegated Convention of the colored citizens of Kansas met in the city of Leavenworth, on the 13th of October, and continued in session until the 16th.

At 3 o'clock, P.M., on Tuesday the 13th, the Convention convened in the A.M.E. Church, and was called to order by Mr. J. W. Scott, Chairman of the Committee of Arrangements; and on motion of J. H. Morris, W. H. Burnham was appointed temporary Chairman, and J. W. Scott temporary Secretary.

On motion, the President appointed Morris, Overton, Menser, Twine and Newton, as a Committee on Permanent Organization.

The Committee, after a brief absence, reported as follows:

For President--Rev. John Turner. Vice Presidents--N. Johnson, of Atchison; E. C. Menser of Wyandotte; J. Montgomery, of Lynn, and Thomas Newton, of Leavenworth.

For Secretaries--W. H. Burnham and J. W. Scott, of Leavenworth. For Chaplain--Jesse Henderson, of Leavenworth.

On motion, the Report of the Committee was adopted, and the several nominees declared the officers of the Convention.

The President, on taking the chair, addressed the Convention as follows:

Gentlemen of the Convention:

I thank you for the honor you have just conferred on me, though diffident of my ability to properly discharge the responsible duties that will devolve . . .* discharge of my duty as a presiding officer, I hope that you will make proper allowances for the difficulties of my position, and not judge me too harshly.

Gentlemen, I am glad to see you here. The times are big with events deeply concerning us. Whilst thankful to Providence for the good He is doing for us through the instrumentality of men, yet it does not follow, because so much is being done for us, that we can do nothing for ourselves.

I have no doubt that this war will eventuate in the freedom of every black man in the country. Freedom from Chains and the Lash. But alas! Gentlemen, slavery leaves its sting behind it in ignorance, and its attendant vices,--hateful progeny of the great monster called slavery.

It is for men who, like you, stand forth the representatives of their race, to wage war against the evil heritage that slavery has left us. If we would be great, we must be good. "Righteousness exalts a nation, whilst sin is a reproach to any people."


  • Editors Note: Text mutilation in the original copy of this proceedings has prevented inclusion of at least one line of sentence following the word 'devolve'.

KANSAS, 1863

In our peculiar position, it will not suffice that we are as good as other people. We must be better. We must be on the average more industrious, sober, and truthful, to the end, that by challenging comparison we may confound our enemies, and place potent arguments in the hands of our friends.

"Knowledge is power." Therefore we must get education for ourselves and the children. Each one of us ought to consider the character and elevation of the colored people of Kansas as in his own keeping, and labor with that view. Let each of us, as far as in us lies, endeavor to leaven the mass with new ideas and noble aspirations. Let each one, in his locality, be an example unto others, for precept without example is vain mockery.

Gentlemen, in conclusion, allow me to say that I heartily concur with the gentlemen who called this Convention, and anticipate much good from its deliberations. Again, thanking you for the honor conferred on me, I now enter on the discharge of the duties confided to my care.

On motion, the President appointed as a Committee on Credentials Morris, Twine and Burnham, who, after a brief absence, reported the following gentlemen as duly accredited Delegates:

Atchison Conty.--Wodson N. Twine, W. N. Johnson.

Wyandotte.--Edward Menser, Lilburn Drake.

Lynn.--John Montgomery, Chesley Jones, Charles Clark.

Leavenworth.--Robert Calwell, Burrell Atchison, John H. Morris, . . .+ Wm. Henderson, Samuel Watkins, Wm. H. Burnham, Thomas Newton, Wm. Henderson, Berry Craig, John Turner, J. W. Scott, and Wm. D. Mathews.

Miami.--John Lewis and Rev. Mr. Reed.

Shawnee.--Wm. G. Brooks, Benjamin Barney.

On motion, the President appointed the following Committees:

On Business--W. H. Burnham, John Montgomery, John H. Morris, Wodson N. Twine and Charles Clark.

On Finance--W. N. Johnson, Burrel Atchison, and Wm. Henderson.

On Number and Condition of the Colored people of Kansas--Wodson N. Twine, E. C. Menser, Benjamin Barney, John Lewis and Thos. Newton.

The Business Committee reported the following resolutions, which were adopted:

Whereas, Virtue is the road to happiness, and tends to the elevation of an oppressed people; therefor

Resolved, That the Convention urge our people to be sober, honest and chaste.

Resolved, That whereas, "knowledge is power," we recommend our people to seek education for themselves and children, and that they insist upon their educational rights everywhere in Kansas.

Resolved, That whereas, in this money getting age and nation, wealth is necessary to the elevation of a people, we recommend our people to be industrious and economical; and whereas, agriculture is the surest and most honorable road to independence, we recommend them to seek the country and agricultural pursuits, rather than towns and menial occupations.

Resolved, That we are utterly opposed to all schemes of colonization out of the United States, in whatever guise they may present themselves, considering them as visionary and impracticable; the offspring of hate, prejudice and injustice, ignoring the rights of the minority.

Whereas, The deprivation of the right of suffrage is a grievance hard to be borne, and is a reproach to the State of Kansas, whose history pledges her to freedom; therefore

Resolved, That a Committee of three be appointed to memorialize the next Legislature, to take the initiatory steps towards amending the Constitution, by striking out the word "white" in Article IX.

Resolved, That a Committee of three be appointed to write an address to the people of Kansas, in vindication of our right to the elective franchise.

+Editors Note: Text mutilation in the original copy of this proceedings has prevented inclusion of a few words as noted above.


Whereas, It has been charged by one of the journals of this city--which charge has been further confirmed and corroborated by statements and reports received here from soldiers serving in the ranks of the First regiment Kansas Colored volunteers--that certain officers have obtained money to a large amount from their men, either on pretext of depositing the same in bank for the men, or by borrowing in small amounts; the said money being wholly at the disposal of said officers, who are reported to have given no proof to the men of their holding the same; and

Whereas, We are not able to prove or disprove these rumors, but as they come to us with such force and directness, we are constrained, on behalf of our friends, patriotically serving their country in that regiment, to take some action on them; therefore

Resolved, That we, the colored men of the State of Kansas, do most respectfully call the attention of Major General Blunt to these charges, and ask of him such investigation as will either prove or disprove them, so that the public may be satisfied that no intentional wrong, at least, is done to the colored soldiers of his command. We appeal to Gen. Blunt in the full consciousness that he will do justice, for we have had generous proof of his desire to recognize the courage and soldierly capacity of those of our race who have the honor to serve under him.

Whereas, It appears that the First regiment Kansas colored volunteers have not yet been paid for the period during which they served prior to their final muster into the United States service, January 13th, 1863; and

Whereas; It appears that the Secretary of War caused the issuance of an order directing their payment; and

Whereas, It appears that the original muster-in-rolls of the regiment did not show, as we are informed it is necessary for them to do, in order to warrant the payment by a Paymaster, that any man was enlisted prior to the 13th of January, aforesaid; and

Whereas, It appears that it was a belief which existed in the minds of the officers who had direction of said muster, that the men would be paid, for the time prior to the muster aforesaid, on what are known as Quartermaster of laborers rolls, which caused this error; and

Whereas, It appears that the intention of the War Department was to do justice, and pay this regiment, as all others are paid, from date of enlistment; and as this purpose has been defeated by the cause before mentioned, therefore,

Resolved, That Major General Blunt be requested to lay the facts before the Secretary of War, and the Honorable James H. Lane and S. C. Pomeroy, United States Senators from this State, and the Representative Hon. A. C. Wilder, be respectfully asked to assist in the purpose sought, to the end that the Secretary of War may issue a special order allowing the muster and pay roll, following the order, to bear upon it the date of enlistment of the respective men in such shape as will enable the Paymaster to pay the men, so that justice may be done to those who are faithfully fighting for the nation; and it is further

Resolved, That this Convention cordially and heartily endorses the National policy of Freedom. That in this unnatural war it recognizes no place for the colored race but with the Government and nationality that has made its radiant banner the symbol of human rights; and that we unhesitatingly and earnestly call upon all of our race, who can, to take up arms and serve the cause, the nation, and the flag, which in despite of all hindrances is pressing surely and triumphantly forward to universal liberty, equality in rights for all, and recognition of merit as they only test of manhood; and we further

Resolve, That while we thus urge our brethren everywhere to seek over the red fields of war the shining paths of peace, yet recognizing as a truth the statement, that duties and rights, go hand in hand; that we shall not cease from our just demand upon the Government of the Union, that it remove the invidious barriers which now exist between the white and colored soldiers, and give to the latter as to the former, the same rights of pay and promotion, by which the nation recognizes the worth of the patriotic soldiers who fight its battles.

KANSAS, 1863

Report of the Committee on Population and Condition of the Colored People of Kansas

We, your Committee, to whom was referred the subject of population and conditions of the colored people of Kansas, beg leave to report that in consequence of the imperfect data at hand, we can only arrive at an approximative estimation of the colored population of the State. However, after careful consideration of all the facts at hand, we think we shall not greatly err in saying that the colored population of Kansas is 7,000.

As to their condition, we have cause for congratulation that it is as good as it is. Making proper allowances for their antecedent condition, and the circumstances attending their arrival in the State--a great majority arriving in a state of utter destitution--they have done well.

Though many come under the fond delusion that Freedom means ease and plenty, they soon learn that Liberty requires industry and self-dependence. In their case, Liberty has not failed to vindicate itself by elevating their character and quickening their industry.

Whilst there has been much suffering among them, yet the most has been unavoidable result of circumstances attending their arrival in this State, and not chargeable upon themselves, or upon the good people of Kansas, who as a rule, have been ready to relieve their wants, and kind to "pass their imperfections by," imperfections the growth of slavery and miseducation.

Many have already acquired property, and nearly all are self-sustaining. Most of the suffering among them is owing to so large a per centage of the able bodied male population being in the army.

On the subject of crime, we have to say that not a murder has been committed by a person of color in Kansas for years, and remarkably few cases of theft, or other serious offenses against the laws. In this respect, we may justly claim much for our people. Signed,

Wodson N. Twine,

E. C. Menser,

Benjamin Barney,

John Lewis,

Thomas Newton.

State Central Committee

Rev. John Turner, William D. Mathews, Lewis Overton, Wodson N. Twine and E.C. Menser

Committee on Publication

John H. Morris, J. W. Scott and Lewis Overton.

Committee on Address and Memorial to Legislature

John H. Morris, Wm. D. Mathews and Lilburn Drake.


Citizens of Kansas, we appeal to you on a subject dear to us. We ask of you the right of suffrage. We ask of you calmly to consider the reasons which we shall present, in vindication of our right to the boon which we claim at your hands, and of the propriety of granting our request.

In asking you to grant us the elective franchise, we are not asking you to tread in unknown paths, or depart from the spirit of American Institutions. We only ask you to return to the old ways and the true spirit of the Government.

This Government was founded in the interests of Freedom, the founders thereof appealing to the fundamental principles of Liberty, Justice and Equality, as their warrant for what they did. We therefore hold that to deprive any portion of the native population of this country of so essential a right as that of suffrage, is to do violence to the genius of American


Institutions, and is a departure from the aims of the illustrious founders of the Republic.

To prove that you have departed from the faith and practices of your forefathers, we have only to call your attention to the fact that at the commencement of the present century, colored men voted in nearly all of the States--slave as well as free. It is only within the last thirty-five years that colored men have been deprived of the right to vote in North Carolina and Tennessee.

We mention these facts to disprove the lie that demogogues have so often asserted, that this Government was instituted exclusively for white men, and to vindicate the sincerity of the fathers, when they said they labored for all men, by showing that their practices accorded with their professions.

Nor was this Government founded exclusively by white men, as is often falsely asserted. The Tree of American Liberty, whose spreading branches now overshadow a continent, germinated in a soil watered with the blood of black as well as white men. That black men do not now enjoy the rights for which their ancestors in common with yours fought, is their misfortune, but your reproach.

The white majority, corrupted by unexampled prosperity, and forgetful that the ways of righteousness are the ways of peace," have abused their power to the extent of not only depriving the black minority of the rights of citizenship, but too often of rights common to humanity.

This professedly christian nation has in its practice fallen far short of the maxim of the old Heathen Philosopher of Greece that "that Government is best where a wrong done to the meanest citizen is an insult to the whole State.”

But in the providence of God the injustice of nations, as of individuals, brings its punishment. The annals of mankind, red with the blood of slaughtered nations, is mainly but a record of their errors and consequent punishment.

This nation has long turned a deaf ear to the cry of black man, till at last his wail, unheeded on earth, was heard in Heaven. Heaven’s answer is seen in a land rent in twain by civil war and drenched in fraternal blood. In ruined cities, wasted fields, and desolated homes; in the tears of parents, who mourn their sons untimely slain. In the agony of widowed wives, whose husbands now sleep the sleep that knows no waking. In the silent sorrows and hidden tears of many a beauteous maiden, whose betrothed one shall ne’er return, to bring gladness to her heart, and illumine her countenance with the light of love.

Happily the nation's conscience, schooled by misfortune, is becoming aroused to the necessity of repairing the many wrongs which it has inflicted on the black man.

In the progress of this war, destructive of so many prejudices and fruitful of so many new ideas, it will doubtless be discovered that it is as necessary to make the black man a voter, as it was to make him a soldier. He was made a soldier to RESTORE the Union. He must be made a voter to PRESERVE it.

How else can you restore the Union on any desirable basis? If left in exclusive possession of the machinery of the State governments, will not the white population of the seceded States, humiliated by defeat, estranged beyond hope of reconciliation, burning for revenge, and maddened by the recollection of a thousand injuries, suffered and inflicted, seek to renew the strife on the first opportunity, when, perhaps, the nation is engaged in a foreign war of gigantic proportions.

The restoration of the Union and the elevation of the black man will go hand in hand. The nation will need the black man to vote for her; therefore it will make him a voter. Besides, the right of suffrage will be necessary to the protection of the black population of the seceded States.

Nor would a just and magnanimous nation leave its devoted though humble adherents, to be the victims of oppressive and revengeful legislation, by the still haughty though conquered slave oligarchy of the South.

We therefore have no doubt that in a few years colored men will vote in all of the now seceded States, as they did in North Carolina, Maryland and

KANSAS, 1863

Tennessee, in the earlier and better days of the Republic. And shall Kansas lag behind when the question is one of freedom? Kansas, child of freedom, and prize of many a well fought field!

Kansas, born in the throes of a mighty conflict for liberty and justice, will not, can not, prove recreant to the great principles that stood her sponsors at the baptismal font, and still claim the obedience of her child.

Citizens of Kansas, there is not a cowardly time-server, malignant Copperhead, or hateful Border Ruffian, still lingering in and polluting your state, who will not oppose the granting of our request. The question for your consideration is, whether you will take counsel of your enemies to the prejudice of your friends, however humble they may be. We say, "take counsel from enemies. They will exclaim, "What, will you grant to ignorant negroes, just escaped from slavery, the dearest right of the freeman--a right that requires so much intelligence for the proper exercise thereof?" The argument predicated upon the general want of intelligence among the colored population might at first sight seem weighty; but a good cause was never lost because it could not be defended by the best reasons.

The argument that black men should not vote, because ignorant, is met by the observation that many ignorant white men vote--the want of intelligence among them not working a forfeiture of a natural and inherent right. We contend that our right to vote is natural and inherent; resting it upon the fact of our being born in this country, and upon the form of government under which we live. While we mainly rest our claims on the immutable principles of right and justice, yet there are other and weighty considerations of public policy, which may be urged in favor of extending to the black population generally the elective franchise.

The political equilibrium has been destroyed, and the politics of this country corrupted to an alarming degree by an ignorant and alien mass of voters. Alien alike in birth, religion, and habits of thought. Corrupt, they have corrupted. Brutal, they have brutalized. Acting as a unit, they have disturbed the balance of parties, and elevated to the Presidency men distinguished only for cunning and subserviency to the slave power.

It is the conviction of every thoughtful mind that in the future, as in the past, this disturbing element will be the prize for which demagogues will contend, mutually corrupting each other to the ill of the nation and the reproach of Republican institutions. Should the right of suffrage be extended to the black population, a counterpoise will be found to this disturbing elements. No argument being necessary to convince all that the blacks will vote en masse on the side of liberty, union and the supremacy of the General Government.

A knowledge of the good use they will make of the right when acquired, will silence the objections of every truly loyal and patriotic man. It is a knowledge of the noble uses to which they will apply their newly acquired rights, that embitters the opposition of corrupt and disloyal men. Men now seeking the ruin of their country to the end that they may the more completely run riot in their hatred of liberty and justice. But you will not receive inspirations from the depraved and the disloyal.

You will reflect that our misery is not necessary to your happiness. That your rights can never be secure whilst ours are denied. That if you would propitiate the good genius liberty, at whose benignant smile deserts bloom, you must worship her in spirit and in truth. Remember, that as in architecture, that building is most secure whose base is broadest, so in politics, that government is most permanent, whose base rests on the broadest foundations of justice and liberty. We beg you to condemn that atheistical and brutal dogma that "might makes right." Power creates duties. The fact that we are weak, and you are strong, so far from justifying you in oppressing us, only multiplies our claims on you. With nations, as with individuals, duties are measured by capacities.

In conclusion, we ask you to remember that out of a population of 7,000, we furnished 2,000 soldiers to the Army of the Government, now seeking by the stern arbitrament of the sword to vindicate the offended majesty of laws, and preserve intact the unity of the nation. These soldiers are acknowledged, by universal acclaim, to be equal to any in the great essentials of the soldier; obedience, aptitude for discipline, and courage in the presence of danger. They, emulous of the just renown of the white soldiers


of Kansas, have confronted danger with equal hardihood, bearing the banner of their country proudly aloft, full in the front of battle, encircling a wall of living fire, and hedging it about with gleaming bayonets,

No cowardice on their part has caused it to trail in the dust or dimmed its glories. Kansas, which took the lead in arming black men, has no more devoted soldiers, nor will she ever have just cause to blush for her "Ironclads."

Citizens of Kansas, shall your black veterans return victorious from the war, proud of dangers past, of many toils cheerfully borne, and of honorable scars bravely won, to find themselves still denied the rights of a manhood so nobly vindicated?

O, men of Kansas, let it not be. We say, MEN of Kansas, you who rescued her virgin soil, long betrothed to freedom, from the clutches of the slave power. You who have so often vanquished in battle and chased from your State the Border Ruffians of Missouri--brutal offspring of a civilization oppressed by slavery. You who have done so much for liberty, will not stop now appalled by prejudices derived from slavery, and sole heritage of its hateful rule in Kansas.

No! still obedient to the voice of liberty and honor, you will continue to lead the van of progress. You will not stop to listen to the voice of slavery, whilst yet your soil is wet with blood of martyrs, slain in defence of liberty. Whilst the cries of bereaved widows and orphaned children still ascend to Heaven from the smouldering ruins of your citadel of freedom; there still live among you dishonored matrons and attainted [sic] maidens to cry aloud against the brutal lust of slavery. If there are nay still enchained by the hateful spirit of caste, we beg you to take counsel of your courage, and conquer your prejudices. Anticipate the fruition of time grant us to-day, what you will certainly grant us in a few years at most.

Listen not to the voice of expediency, which in a contest for great principles, to often

Like a deadly blight,

Comes o'er the councils of the brave

Blasting them in their hour of might.

JOHN H. MORRIS, Chairman of Committee on Address.


KANSAS, 1863

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Colored Convention of the State of Kansas (1863 : Leavenworth, KS), “Proceedings of the Colored Convention of the State of Kansas, Held at Leavenworth, October 13th, 14th, 15th, and 16th, 1863,” Colored Conventions Project Digital Records, accessed July 23, 2021,