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Minutes of the Fifth Annual Convention for the Improvement of the Free People of Colour in the United States; Held by Adjournments, in the Wesley Church, Philadelphia; from the first to the fifth of June, inclusive; 1835.


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Minutes of the Fifth Annual Convention for the Improvement of the Free People of Colour in the United States; Held by Adjournments, in the Wesley Church, Philadelphia; from the first to the fifth of June, inclusive; 1835.


Pamphlet (32 p. ; 21 cm.)














In the United States







Sixth and Cherry sts.



AGREEABLY to public notice, the delegates appointed to attend the Fifth Annual Convention met at Wesley church at 10 o'clock A. M. John P. Burr, President of the Conventional Board took his seat as chairman of the meeting, and Samuel Vanbrakle and Junius C. Morell, officiated as secretaries. Prayer was offered by the Rev. Edward Crosby of New York, and after some preliminary remarks by the chairman, it was on motion Resolved, That this meeting adjourn till 3 o'clock.

Monday afternoon, June 1, 3 o'clock.

The delegates again assembled, and the president of the Conventional Board called the house to order, and a prayer was offered up in behalf of the objects of the Convention, by the Rev. Stephen Smith. It was then on motion Resolved, that a committee of five be appointed to nominate officers for the Convention.

The committee reported as follows, which was unanimously adopted.

REUBEN RUBY, President,

James H. Fleet,

Nathan Johnson, } Vice Presidents,

John F. Cook, Secretary,

Samuel Van Brakle,

Henry Ogden, } Assistant Secretaries;


On motion of Robert Purvis, Resolved, That a committee of one member from each state be appointed by the chair, to lay before this Convention, such business as may be necessary to be acted upon, and report to-morrow morning. The president appointed Stephen Smith, Columbia; Augustus Price, Washington City, D. C.; Francis Lippins, Easton; Nathan Johnson, New Bedford; George A. Black, Portland; and Robert Purvis, Philadelphia.

Tuesday Morning, June 2d, 9 A.M.

A quorum being present, prayer was offered by the Rev. Stephen Smith. The minutes of the previous sittings were read and the roll called.

Mr. Purvis of the committee appointed to report business necessary for the action of the Convention arose and stated, "That the limited time allotted the committee had deprived them of extending their investigation as far as they desired, but they had arrived to the conclusion, that they could not better execute the important trust committed to their care, than by recommending to their consideration and attention, the business that engaged the attention of the Convention last year." The report was received, and committees were appointed on the several subjects, brought forward by the committee of inquiry last year, for which the reader is referred to the minutes of 1834. As but few of the committees reported we shall omit their notice at present, together with the rules and regulations, they being the same as those used on former occasions.

3 o'clock, P. M.

President in the chair, the meeting was opened by a prayer from the Rev. Mr. Rhoads. On motion of F. A. Hinton, seconded by R. Purvis, Resolved, That a committee of five be appointed, to inquire into and report in writing, whether we ought, and how far, to countenance, aid, and cooperate with the measures of the American Anti-slavery Society. The resolution was adopted and referred to the committee.

On motion of Augustus Price, seconded by Stephen Smith, Resolved, That this Convention do now proceed to organize an association to be known by the name of the American Moral Reform Society, for improving the condition of mankind, embracing for its creed, the principles contained in the declaration of sentiment published in the minutes of the Convention of last year.


Here J. C. Morell called for the reading of the declaration of sentiment which was read by the secretary. He then requested the mover to make some explanations, in support of the resolution.

Here F. A. Hinton introduced Edwin P. Atlee of Philadelphia, who addressed the convention with much fervour and good feeling concerning our condition. A.H. Price's resolution was again read, upon which a warm and animated discussion arose; after which it was withdrawn by Mr. Price, and the following substituted by F. A. Hinton, seconded by S. Smith :

Resolved, That it is the sense of this convention, that we do form a National Moral Reform Society.

Which, after much debate, was adopted.

On motion of J. C. Morell, seconded by J. H. Fleet,

Resolved, That a committee be appointed, to inquire into the expediency of devising ways and means by which colored students of medicine may obtain a regular and legal diploma.

Adopted and referred to Messrs. Morell, Fleet and Hinton.

On motion of W. Whipper, Resolved, That a committee of five be appointed to prepare a constitution for a National Moral Reform Society.

Whereupon Messrs. Whipper, Smith, Price, Crosby and Powell were appointed.

Resolved, That a committee be appointed to condense the reports of the several delegations.

Whereupon Messrs. Purvis, Whipper and Closson were appointed.

On motion of J. P. B. Eddy, seconded by Mr. F. C. Lippins,

Resolved, That hereafter delegates to our National Convention be elected by the people in general meeting assembled.

Which, after much discussion was laid over, the hour of adjournment having arrived.

Wednesday morning, June 3d.

After prayer by the Rev. E. Crosby, the house proceeded to business. Alfred Niger of Providence, Rhode Island, Benjamin Clark of York, Pennsylvania, and Joshua Woodlin of Burlington, N. Jersey, appeared and took their seats. A report of the situation of the people of colour, in Burlington, was read and received, also one from York, Pennsylvania. Mr. Purvis of the committee appointed to consider the claims of the presses in our favour presented the following report.



The committee to consider the claims of such papers as are devoted to the cause of human rights, in this country, do respectfully report that they have duly considered the importance of the subject, referred to them. Your committee believe that it is only through the instrumentality of that most potent reformer of public sentiment the public press, that any certain, speedy and radical change will be effected in the moral and political relation which we, as a people, hold in this country. And we beg leave to recommend the adoption of the following resolution.

Resolved, That this Convention deem it obligatory upon every Christian, philanthropist, and patriot, of whatever hue or condition, to give his aid and support to those presses devoted to the great and holy cause of human rights.

Robert Purvis,

James H. Fleet,

Frederick A. Hinton. } Committee.

A communication was then read by the secretary of the convention, from the Baltimore Phoenix Society, which on motion of Mr. Morell, was referred to a select committee of three; whereupon Messrs. Whipper, Van Brakle and Price were chosen, to report on Friday afternoon next.

It was moved by J. P. B. Eddy, seconded by Joshua Woodlin,

Resolved, That this convention when assembled shall have power to elect any abolitionist as an honorary member in the convention, being from any city or place where there are no delegates to represent the colored people.

Mr. Shipley and Mr. Buffum were introduced, and admitted as honorary members in this convention.

On motion of Mr. Ogden, seconded by R. Purvis, it was

Resolved, That a committee of two be appointed to correspond with gentlemen in Liberia, and endeavour to ascertain the situation of those of our brethren who may have considered themselves deluded by the American Colonization Society, with a request that they publish their correspondence from time to time.

Messrs. Purvis and Hinton were appointed.

On motion of Mr. Van Brakle, seconded by Mr. Johnson, it was unanimously

Resolved, That Mr. Henry Ogden be, and is hereby requested to act as an assistant secretary to this convention.


Mr. Arnold Buffum then advanced and addressed the meeting and was followed by Mrs. Moore; both of whom spoke in a very feeling manner.

On motion of Mr. Powell, seconded by Mr. Smith, it was unanimously Resolved, That the thanks of this convention be tendered to Mrs. Moore, Dr. E. P. Atlee, and Mr. A. Buffum, for their congratulatory remarks offered at the present session.

On motion of Mr. Morell, seconded by Mr. Lippins, it was unanimously Resolved, That the thanks of this convention be tendered through the president and secretary, to the members of the Pennsylvania Society, for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery, for their praiseworthy exertions in behalf of suffering humanity.

On motion of Mr. Powell, seconded by S. Van Brakle, it was Resolved, That the house go into a committee of the whole, to consider the state of the union, and report this afternoon, at 5 o'clock.

On motion of Mr. Clark, seconded by Mr. Morell, it was Resolved, that the thanks of this convention be tendered to that veteran in the cause of immediate emancipation, Benj. Lundy—that we sympathize with him in his sufferings for the cause of abolition, and the welfare of colored Americans.

On motion of Mr. Price, it was unanimously Resolved, That Mr. E. Hambleton, of the Clarkson Anti-Slavery Society of Pennsylvania, be permitted to address this convention. Also, that Mr. Eli Hambleton be admitted as an honorary member in this convention.

Adjourned by prayer, by the Rev. J. Todd, to meet at three o'clock this afternoon.

Wednesday afternoon, June 3.

Prayer by the Rev. Mr. Rhoads. President in the chair. Roll called by the secretary, minutes of the preceding meeting read. On motion of Mr. Samuel Van Brakle, seconded by Nathan Johnson, it was unanimously

Resolved, That the members of this convention return their sincere thanks to the theological students of Lane Seminary, in the state of Ohio, for their spirit of philanthropy, and their zeal in the cause of abolition ; with the hope that they may be laden in the day of Eternity, with an everlasting trophy of glory.

On motion of Mr. Ogden, seconded by Mr. Van Brakle, it was


Resolved, That the Rev. Mr. Rhoads be and is hereby appointed chaplain of this convention.

W. Whipper, of the committee to whom was referred the resolution in relation to the formation of a National Reform Society, submitted a constitution as their report, which was received, taken up by sections, and adopted.

On motion of Mr. Price, seconded by Mr. Closson, it was unanimously Resolved, That this convention do adjourn on Friday evening next, sine die.

On motion of Benjamin Clark, seconded by John D. Closson, it was unanimously

Resolved, That the thanks of this Convention be tendered, through the President and Secretary, to the Hon. John Evans, of York, Pa., for his noble defence in the case of the wife of John Williams, of Middletown, Pa., and the rescue from the jaws of slavery, of his two infant children.

On motion of William P. Powel, seconded by Mr. J.P. B. Eddy, it was Resolved, That the Conventional Board bring in the report of their proceedings of last year, a statement of the funds, and all other business left in their hands to transact, on Friday morning next.

On motion of W. Whipper, seconded by A. Price, it was unanimously Resolved, That a committee of three be appointed to prepare an address to the people of the United States, giving an exposition of the principles of our society, and the wants of our people.

Whereupon Messrs. Whipper, Price, and Niger were appointed.

On motion of Mr. W. P. Powell, seconded by Mr. Crosby, it was Resolved, That a committee of three be appointed to prepare the minutes of this (the Fifth) Annual Convention of the Free People of Color, for publication.

Messrs. Whipper, Hinton and Fleet were appointed that committee.

On motion of Mr. Benjamin Clark, seconded by Mr. Lippins, it was unanimously Resolved, That this Convention hail with joy the progress of the temperance reformation among the colored, as well the white inhabitants of our country ; and as intemperance and slavery are closely allied, this convention recommend to our people the formation of temperance societies, which we believe will facilitate the cause of immediate and universal emancipation.


On motion of Mr. Price, seconded by Mr. Smith, it was unanimously Resolved, That a committee of three be appointed to inquire into the expediency of promoting the science of medicine among our people in the United States.

Which resolution was afterward referred to a committee already appointed on a similar subject.

On motion the convention then adjourned.

Thursday morning June 4th.

President in the chair. Prayer by Mr. Rhoades. Roll called, and minutes of the preceding meeting read by the secretary.

On motion of Mr. W. Whipper, seconded by J. F. Cook, it was unanimously

Resolved, that this convention recommend the formation of auxiliary societies to the American Moral Reform Society, in all the cities, towns, and villages, in the U. States where our people are located, and they are hereby requested to send delegates to anniversary meetings of the parent institution.

The following resolution moved by the same gentlemen was also after much discussion adopted:

Resolved, that each society formed auxiliary to the American Moral Reform Society, contribute at least five dollars, at each annual meeting to aid in promoting the objects of the said society.

The following resolutions presented by Mr. James H. Fleet and seconded by John F. Cook were unanimously passed.

Resolved, that this convention recommend to the free people of colour throughout the U. States, the propriety of petitioning congress and their respective state legislatures to be admitted to the rights and privileges of American citizens, and that we be protected in the same.

Resolved, that this convention recommend to the free young men of colour throughout the U. States, the propriety of forming and promoting societies for their improvement in moral and literary knowledge.

Mr. Price, of the committee to whom was referred the suggestion in relation to manual labour schools, offered the following as their




The committee to whom was referred the duty to ascertain how many manual labour schools are established in the U. States; for the instruction of coloured youths, beg leave to state, that as far as the committee have been able to learn, there is but one, which is located in the village of Peterborough, Madison County, N. York State, founded by Gerritt Smith, Esq. The number of scholars is limited to eighteen ; at present there are but nine : this school has been in operation one year. In conclusion, your committee beg leave to offer the following resolution for your consideration and adoption.

Resolved, that this convention recommend to their auxiliaries and to the free people of colour throughout the United States, the propriety of taking up collections, and opening books, and receiving subscriptions to aid in erecting a manual labour college, to be located in some place hereafter named by the American Moral Reform Society of the free people of colour. Furthermore, that each auxiliary society or delegation shall transmit to each annual meeting of the American Moral Reform Society, a report of the amount subscribed and collected ; and when a sufficient amount shall have been obtained, the annual meeting of the Moral Reform Society, of the free people of colour, shall then proceed to the location and erection of a manual labour college.

Those who voted in favour of the above report as amended, are Messrs. Downing, Closson, Ogden, Woodlin, Smith, Clark, Whipper, Cook, Fleet, and Reuben Ruby, President. The gentlemen voting on the contrary, are Messrs. Johnson, Niger, Eddy, Gordon, Morell, Cornish, Van Brakle. Price, and Lippins.

On motion of Mr. Morell, seconded by Mr. Eddy, it was

Resolved, that this convention do recommend to our people annually to assemble in conventions, by delegates for the purpose of devising ways and means for our future elevation.

On motion of Mr. Whipper, seconded by Mr. Downing, it was Resolved, that this convention, request the board of managers of the American Moral Reform Society, to establish as soon as possible a press, to be the organ through which the principles of our institution, shall be made known to the world. And be it further Resolved, that the delegates to this convention do, immediately on their return home, use their efforts to obtain subscriptions for the same,


On motion of Mr. Morell seconded by Mr. Van Brakle, it was Resolved, that all delegates to our conventions, from the city and county of Philadelphia, shall be elected by the people.

On motion the meeting then adjourned.

Thursday afternoon, June 4th.

Prayer by the chaplain. President in the chair, the roll being called. A report from the committee appointed on the exclusion of our people from church privileges and travelling by steam boats, was received and laid upon the table.

A very fervent and affectionate letter from the Rev. Charles W. Denison, expressing his hearty cooperation in the objects of the convention, and his regret at being unable to be present at their deliberations, was presented by W. Whipper, and read by the secretary. He informed the convention "that his projected History of the People of Colour, was in a good state of progress, and would be put to press as soon as all the materials for which he had made extensive arrangements could be obtained.

On motion of B. Clark, seconded by J, P. B. Eddy, it was

Resolved, That a committee of three be appointed to ascertain the number of High Schools in the United States, that have accepted colored students upon the same footing with other persons, and that the thanks of this body be presented to the directors and professors, if any there be of such high schools, for their benevolence and philanthropy, in thus recognizing our rights and those of our children, as American citizens.

Messrs. Clarke, Eddy and Downing were appointed.

On motion of Mr. Morell, seconded by Mr. Clarke, it was

Resolved, That the thanks of this convention be tendered, through the president and secretary, to the different Anti Slavery Societies in the United States, for their untiring zeal in the cause of human liberty.

At the suggestion of W. Whipper, seconded by R. Purvis, it was

Resolved, That it is the duty of every lover of freedom, to abstain from using the products of slave labour, as far as practicable.

On motion of S. Smith, seconded by T. Downing, it was


Resolved, That when this Convention adjourn, it adjourn to meet in the city of New York, on the first Monday in June, 1836.

On motion of R. Purvis, seconded by W. Whipper, it was

Resolved, That we do most heartily welcome that distinguished philanthropist and friend of the human race, Mr. George Thompson, to our shores, and most ardently desire that the blessing of Heaven may crown his illustrious mission to this country.

On motion of W. Whipper, seconded by S. Smith, it was Resolved, that the free people of colour are requested by this convention, to petition those state legislatures that have adopted the Colonization Society, to abolish it.

The hour of six having arrived, the convention was prolonged by motion to half past six o'clock.

On motion of W. Whipper, seconded by R. Purvis, it was

Resolved, That we regard with heartfelt admiration, the high and holy stand taken by many ministers of the Gospel and Christian churches, in favour of Immediate Emancipation, and do sincerely request our colored churches, to exert themselves equally to promote the cause of Moral Reform.

On motion of Mr. Clark, seconded by Mr. Purvis, it was

Resolved, As we have been informed that sugar is manufactured in France, from the beet root, therefore be it Resolved, That we recommend to our people the practicability of making an effort some where in this state, to produce sugar from that root, and if successful, to report to the next convention, the result of their efforts.

On motion of F. C. Lippins, seconded by S. Smith,

Resolved, That this Convention appoint a committee of five, to nominate officers for the government of the American Moral Reform Society, instituted by this Convention.

Which motion was under consideration when the meeting adjourned.


June 5th, Friday morning.

President in the chair. Prayer by the chaplain. Roll was called. Minutes of the preceding meeting read.

The resolution of the previous meeting, in relation to appointing officers was then called up and after much debate was adopted, and the house proceeded to the choice of the committee, which resulted as follows; viz. Messrs. Whipper, Smith, Purvis, Van Brakle, and Lippins. On motion of Mr. Morell, seconded by Mr. Van Brakle, it was

Resolved, that a committee of five be appointed to report to the next annual convention, as near as practicable, the actual number of coloured slave holders in the U. States, with their names and location, and the number of slaves held by them : as well as any incidents connected therewith, and also to suggest such measures, as may be in their opinion best calculated to remedy the evil complained of.

Messrs. Morell, Price, Woodlin, Smith, and Van Brakle, were appointed.

On motion of Mr. Purvis, seconded by Mr. Frederick A. Hinton, it was unanimously

Resolved, that this convention recommend the Liberator, a weekly paper published by our devoted friends Garrison and Knapp, in Boston, as eminently deserving of the support of every free coloured citizen in these U. States.

Resolved, that it is further especially recommended to all who subscribe for papers devoted to our cause, to bear in mind, that patronage includes a punctual compliance with the terms of subscription.

Mr. Whipper, of the committee to report proper officers for the government of the American Moral Reform Society, reported the following citizens of Philadelphia as its officers, which was unanimously received and adopted.


JOHN P. BURR, President,



John B. Roberts,

Stephen H. Gloucester,

Joshua Brown,

Thomas Butler.

The report of the New York delegation in relation to the improvement of their people, was received, read, and on motion of John F. Cook, referred to the committee on condensing reports.

The credentials and report of J. Peck of Carlisle, Penn. was received and read. J. Peck was admitted as a delegate.

A petition from Providence, R. I., was received and read, and on motion referred to the committee on condensing reports.

The report on the condition of the people in Essex county, New Jersey, was received, read, and referred to the committee as above.

The report of the committee on distinctions in travelling, and associating in churches with the whites, was taken up, and on motion adopted as amended.


Your committee have had under consideration the subject assigned to them, and beg leave to report the following as the conclusion of their investigations.

First, that this Convention request ministers of the Gospel, in the different sections of our country, to use their influence in their several churches, to extinguish the prejudice, if any there exists, which debars colored members from equal rights and privileges in the same. And also, do recommend to our people and the friends of our race, to patronize those lines of stages and steamboats, which make little or no distinction among their passengers.

On motion of W. Whipper, seconded by R. Purvis,

Resolved, That we recommend as far as possible, to our people to abandon the use of the word "colored," when either speaking or


writing concerning themselves ; and especially to remove the title of African from their institutions, the marbles of churches &c.

Which motion was under consideration when the Convention adjourned.

Friday afternoon, June 5th, 1835.

Prayer by the chaplain, President in the chair; roll called; minutes of previous meeting read.

William Whipper's resolution in relation to us, using the words "colored" and "Africans," was called up, and after an animated and interesting discussion, it was unanimously adopted.

On motion of J. F. Cook, seconded by Robert Purvis, it was unanimously Resolved, that each delegation in this Convention be a committee to promote the objects of the American Moral Reform Society, in their respective communities.

On motion of William Whipper, seconded by Robert Purvis, it was Resolved, that a committee of five be appointed to nominate the Conventional Board.

Messrs. Hardenberger, Downing, Whipper, Morell and Purvis were chosen.

On motion of Henry Ogden, seconded by John D. Closson, it was Resolved, that the thanks of this Convention be tendered to the colored schools of Philadelphia, for their liberal donation and praise-worthy exertions for the encouragement of our schools.

The committee appointed to nominate a Conventional Board, report the following, which was adopted :



Thomas L. Jennings, Rec. Secretary.

Henry Lippins, Cor. Secretary.

Thomas Downing, Treasurer.

Committee—James R. Hicks, Theo. S. Wright, Leaven Williams, Philip A. Bell, John Robertson, Samuel E. Cornish and Christopher Rush.

On motion of Mr. Hinton, Resolved, that the Declaration of Sentiment be printed with the minutes of this Convention. Carried.


On motion of J. D. Closson, seconded by Mr. Niger, Resolved, that the committee on publication cause to be printed 2000 copies of the minutes of the Convention, and each delegation be presented with 100 copies gratis. Adopted.

On motion of Mr. Morell, seconded by Mr. J. F. Cook, it was Resolved, that each delegation be a committee to nominate the Vice-Presidents and Corresponding Secretaries for their respective places.

The committee on the exclusion of colored youths from mechanical employment made the following report:

The committee to whom was referred the resolution to point out the most efficient means of promoting a general knowledge of those mechanical arts from the acquirement of which colored youths are excluded, beg leave most respectfully to report:

That their knowledge of the extent of this great barrier to our elevation, beyond the boundaries of the state of Pennsylvania, is very limited. And while they with pleasure acknowledge that there are several trades in this state accessible to colored youths, such as shoe makers, sail makers, carpenters, tailors &c., they regret at the same time, to say, that after acquiring these arts, they are with few exceptions, excluded from any patronage, except that given to them by those with whom they acquire the trade, who are mostly colored men; consequently, the chance of pursuing their respective occupations, is very limited. They also state, that there are many of the most important, lucrative arts, from which they are wholly excluded: such as jewellers, watch makers, machinists, and many others too tedious to mention. And as a remedy for this great evil they would recommend that this Convention instruct the several delegates to enforce on the minds of their constituents the necessity of encouraging manual labour schools, where our youths may acquire the necessary arts, and afterwards become proprietors of establishments, and impart encouragement and instruction to others. They would also have this Convention appeal, through its minutes, to abolitionists throughout the country, who are mechanics, to take colored youths, and teach them their respective trades, and encourage them in their pursuit.

Stephen Smith,

James Cornish,

Francis C. Lippins. } Committee.


The Committee on High Schools made the following report:

The committee to whom was referred the resolution relative to the number of High Schools in the United States that admit colored students upon an equal footing with the rest of the community, beg leave to report, that, so far as they have been enabled to ascertain there are within the several states, six Colleges, or High Schools, viz.: Oneida Institute, in the state of New York, of which the Rev. Beriah Green is the President; Mount Pleasant, in Amherst, Mass. Mr. Hubbard principal; Canaan in the state of New Hampshire, the Rev. Mr. Kimball, principal; one in Ohio, viz. the Western Reserve; one in Gettysburg in the state of Pennsylvania, and one in the city of Philadelphia, of which Miss Buffum is principal.

Your committee now suggest the propriety of the following resolution:

Resolved, that this Convention recommend the youth of our people speedily to embrace the present opportunity to procure a classical education, and that the thanks of this Convention be tendered to the Directors and Professors of all such institutions, for their generous philanthrophy and liberal patriotism in thus acknowledging the imperishable rights of man.




On motion of William Whipper, seconded by A. Price, it was unanimously Resolved, that this convention do most heartily congratulate the friends of religion, morality and equal rights on the happy termination of slavery in the West India colonies, and do rely with the utmost confidence, that the operation of those principles will bring forth the same happy result to our much favored, yet GUILTY country.

On motion of R. Purvis, seconded by F. A. Hinton, it was unanimously Resolved, that, in proportion as we find the spirit of Colonization dying, prejudice diminishes. Therefore, we desire the friends of human liberty never to cease smiting the monster until its ghost has ceased to delude the philanthrophy of the nation.

On motion of Mr. Morell, seconded by Mr. Clark, it was Resolved, that this Convention recommend to our people to discountenance and refrain from witnessing the pro-slavery farces and apelike exhibitions, commonly known as Colonization meetings.

On motion of Mr. Powell, seconded by Mr. Purvis, it was

Resolved, that this Convention place no confidence in a society recently formed in Boston, called "the American Union," believ-


believing it to be only Colonization in a new dress, or a wolf in sheep's clothing.

On motion of Wm. Whipper, seconded by Robert Purvis, it was

Resolved, that our duty to God, and to the principles of human rights, so far exceeds our allegiance to those laws that return the slave again to his master, (from the free states,) that we recommend our people to peaceably bear the punishment those inflict, rather than aid in returning their brethren again to slavery.

On motion of J. Cornish, seconded by Mr. Morell, it was

Resolved, that this Convention, in the name of the people it represents, present its special thanks to the Ladies constituting the Female Anti-slavery Society throughout this country, believing their untiring exertions and irresistible influence to be a most powerful auxiliary in the great cause of emancipation.

On motion of J. F. Cook, seconded by Mr. Morell, it was

Resolved, that this Convention recommend to their auxiliary Society at Baltimore, to grant free citizens of color to participate in selecting and electing delegates to our Convention by paying a sum not less than twenty-five cents per annum.

The following persons were appointed Vice-Presidents and Corresponding Secretaries in the following places, as agents for the Annual Convention of the Free People of Colour.
















On motion of Wm. Whipper, seconded by S. Smith, it was

Resolved, that the delegates present pledge themselves to furnish a sufficient amount of money to pay for the printing of the minutes, as soon as they can be prepared for the press.

On motion of George H. Black, seconded by S. Smith,

Resolved, That we recommend to our people the 25th day of June, to be kept as a day of fasting and prayer, in behalf of our suffering brethren in slavery.

On motion of W. Whipper, seconded by R. Purvis,

Resolved, That the Christian forbearance practised by our people during their persecution by those mob riots of 1834, merits the praise and respect of the whole Christian world; and is a most successful refutation of the pro-slavery arguments advanced in this country, by men who are governed by inveterate and warlike dispositions.

Resolved, That their peace, quietude and humility, during that period of excitement, have, in point of civilization and Christian kindness, placed them far above the agitators, abettors, or actors of that humiliating and degrading persecution.

The committee to whom was submitted the various reports on the condition of the free colored population, respectfully report, that the various documents submitted to their charge, possess much interesting and useful matter, and exhibit the most flattering prospects of our people, throughout the various sections of our country. They have found them too numerous to admit of publication in the minutes, but do most respectfully suggest, that they may be placed in the hands of the Executive Committee of the American Moral Reform Society, together with all other documents that may be committed to their charge, for publication in the anti-slavery periodicals.

On motion of Mr. Morell, it was Resolved, that all the former appointments of Vice-Presidents and Corresponding Secretaries, except those where we have made especial appointments at this session, be continued.

On motion of Robert Purvis, seconded by Wm. Whipper, it was unanimously Resolved, that the thanks of this Convention be, and are hereby tendered to the President, Vice-President and Secretaries, for the dignified manner in which they have discharged their arduous duties.


On motion, Resolved, that the President and Trustees of this Church receive the thanks of this Convention, for accommodating us with this house.

REUBEN RUBY, President.


NATHAN JOHNSON, } V. Presidents.

JOHN F. COOK, Secretary.


HENRY OGDEN,} Assistant Secretaries.




Reuben Ruby, George H. Black.


New Bedford.

William P. Powell, Nathan Johnson.



Alfred Niger, Nathan Gilbert.



Thomas L. Jennings, Thomas Downing, Edward Crosby, Samuel Hardenberger. Philip A. Bell,

Troy, N. Y.

Wm.Rich, Wm. M. Livezeley, Clarence Seldon.



John D. Closson, Henry Ogden, John A. King.


Joshua Woodlin.



Junius C. Morell, Robert Purvis,

James Comish, James Newman,

Samuel Van Brakle.



Rev. Stephen Smith, William Whipper.


Rev. J, P. B. Eddy, F. A. Hinton,


Francis C. Lippins.


Benjamin Clarke.


William H. Chapman, Andrew J. Gordon.


John Peck.


John F. Cook, Dr. James H. Fleet, Augustus Price.

N. B. Each delegation paid in five dollars, to carry out the objects of the Convention.

Declaration of Sentiment.

That this Convention earnestly deplore the depressed condition of the coloured population of the United States; and they have in vain searched the history of nations to find a parallel.

They claim to be the offspring of a parentage, that once, for their excellence of attainment in the arts, literature and science, stood before the world unrivalled. We have mournfully observed the fall of those institutions that shed lustre on our mother country, and extended to Greece and Rome those refinements that made them objects of admiration to the cultivators of science.

We have observed, that in no country under Heaven have the decendants of an ancestry once enrolled in the history of fame, whose glittering monuments stood forth as beacons, disseminating light and knowledge to the uttermost parts of the earth, been reduced to such degrading servitude as that under which we labour from the effect of American slavery and American prejudice.

The separation of our fathers from the land of their birth, earthly ties and early affections, was not only sinful in its nature and tendency, but it led to a system of robbery, bribery and persecution offensive to the laws of nature and of justice.

Therefore, under whatever pretext or authority these laws have


been promulgated or executed, whether under parliamentary, colonial, or American legislation, we declare them in the sight of Heaven wholly null and void, and should be immediately abrogated.

That we find ourselves, after the lapse of two centuries, on the American continent, the remnants of a nation amounting to three millions of people, whose country has been pillaged, parents stolen, nine generations of which have been wasted by the oppressive cruelty of this nation, standing in the presence of the Supreme Ruler of the Universe, and the civilized world, appealing to the God of nations for deliverance.

Surely there is no people on earth whose patriotic appeals for liberty and justice possess more hallowed claims on the just interposition of Divine Providence, to aid them in removing the most unqualified system of tyranny and oppression, under which human beings ever groaned.

We rejoice that it is our lot to be the inhabitants of a country blest by nature, with a genial climate and fruitful soil, and where the liberty of speech and the press is protected by law.

We rejoice that we are thrown into a revolution where the contest is not for landed territory, but for freedom; the weapons not carnal, but spiritual; where struggle is not for blood, but for right; and where the bow is the power of God, and the arrow the instrument of divine justice; while the victims are the devices of reason, and the prejudice of the human heart. It is in this glorious struggle for civil and religious liberty, for the establishment of peace on earth and good will to men, that we are morally bound by all the relative ties we owe to the author of our being, to enter the arena and boldly contend for victory.

Our reliance and only hope is in God. If success attend the effort, the downfall of Africa from her ancient pride and splendour, will have been more than glorious to the establishment of religion; every drop of blood spilt by her descendants under the dominion of prejudice and persecution, will have produced peaceful rivers, that shall wash from the soil of the human heart, the mountains of vice and corruption, under which this nation has long withered.

And if our presence in this country will aid in producing such a desirable reform, although we have been reared under a most debasing system of tyranny and oppression, we shall have been born under the most favourable auspices to promote the redemption of the world; for our very sighs and groans, like the blood of martyrs, will prove to have been the seed of the church; for they will freight


the air with their voluminous ejaculations, and will be borne upwards by the power of virtue to the great Ruler of Israel, for deliverance from this yoke of merciless bondage. Let us not lament, that under the present constituted powers of this government, we are disfranchised; better far than to be partakers of its guilt. Let us refuse to be allured by the glittering endowments of official stations, or enchanted with the robe of American citizenship. But let us choose like true patriots, rather to be the victims of oppression than the administrators of injustice.

Let no man remove from his native country, for our principles are drawn from the book of divine revelation, and are incorporated in the Declaration of Independence, "that all men are born equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Therefore, our only trust is in the agency of divine truth, and the spirit of American liberty; our cause is glorious and must finally triumph. Though the blighting hand of time should sweep us from the stage of action; though other generations should pass away, our principles will live forever; we will teach our children, and our children's children, to hand them down to unborn generations, and to the latest posterity; not merely for the release of the bondman from his chains, nor for the elevation of the free coloured man to the privilleges of citizenship; nor for the restoration of the world from infidelity and superstition; but from the more fatal doctrine of expediency, without which the true principles of religion can never be established, liberty never secure, or the sacred rights of man remain inviolate.

It is our fortune to live in an era, where the moral power of this nation is waking up to the evils of slavery, and the cause of our oppressed brethren throughout this country. We see two rival institutions* invoking the benevolence of nations to aid in changing our condition. The former proposes an indirect action on the sin of slavery, by removing the free, to the land of their fathers. The latter, a direct action on the subject of slavery by denouncing its guilt, while it pleads for the elevation of the free coloured man in the land of his nativity.

The former we reject. First, because it is unnecessary, there being sufficient amount of territory on this continent to contain ten times the number of its present inhabitants. Secondly, Because it is anti-republican in its nature and tendency; for if our country were now overflowing with a redundant population, we should deny

  • The Am. Co. So. and A. A. S.S.


the right of any one class of men to designate those that should be first removed. Thirdly, Because if the few be removed, we have no security that slavery would be abolished; besides, if that were achieved, the victims of prejudice would scarcely be removed in a century, while the prejudice itself would still exist. Therefore we, as ardent lovers of our country's welfare, would be guilty of leaving it to writhe under the dominion of a prejudice inimical to the principles of morality. religion and virtue, while on the contrary we might have aided its removal. Therefore we believe and affirm that the duty we owe to the land of our birth, the interest of our suffering brethren, the cause of justice, virtue and religion, appeal to us in the most emphatic strains to remain on our soil, and see the salvation of God and the true principles of freedom.

Therefore we do not desire to see our numbers decreased, but we pray God that we may lawfully multiply in numbers, in moral and intellectual endowments, and that our visages may be as so many Bibles, that shall warn this guilty nation of her injustice and cruelty to the descendants of Africa, until righteousness, justice and truth, shall rise in their might and majesty, and proclaim from the halls of legislation that the chains of the bondsman have fallen, that the soil is sacred to liberty, and that without distinction of nation or complexion she disseminates alike her blessings of freedom to all mankind.

Then let us rally around her standard and aid in cementing and perpetuating that bond of union.

As it regards the latter institution, we believe that it is preparing the way for that desirable event. With them we will make one common cause, satisfied to await the same issue.

With them we are willing to labour for its achievement, and terminate our lives as martyrs, in support of its principles. We will raise our moral flag, bearing for its inscription, "do unto others as you would have them do unto you;" under this banner we will rally our countrymen without distinction of caste or complexion.

We therefore declare to the world, that our object is to extend the principles of universal peace and good will to all mankind, by promoting sound morality, by the influence of education, temperance, economy, and all those virtues that alone can render man acceptable in the eyes of God or the civilized world.

We therefore consider it due to our friends, and our enemies, nay, to the world, that previous to our taking this decided stand, we should make this just exposition of our sentiments. We have drawn out principles of human rights from an authority above


human legislation.—Therefore we cheerfully enter on this moral warfare in defence of liberty, justice, and humanity, conscious that whether we live to witness its completion, or die in anticipation of its glorious results, that it has already been committed to the friends of liberty and christianity throughout the world, and to them we look for its final consummation.—We therefore mutually pledge ourselves to these principles, the cause and the world, to do all that in our power lies, to hasten the period when justice and universal liberty shall sway the sceptre of nations.

To the American people.

Fellow Citizens—We form a portion of the people of this continent, on whom an unmeasurable amount of obloquy, and scorn, and contempt have been poured, on account of the depravity of our morals ; and who have been educated under the influence of a system, that impairs the mental vigour, blights with its blasting influence the only successful hope on which the mind can be reared, that keeps from our grasp the fruits of knowledge, the favour or just and equitable laws, and presents a formidable barrier to the prosecution of arts and sciences of civilized life. The lucrative avocations, mechanic arts, and civil associations by which men acquire a knowledge of government, and the nature of human affairs, have been almost wholly reserved as a dignified reward, suited only to the interest and use of the fairer complexion. Yet, in despite of all these, when all the avenues of privileged life have been closed against us, our hands bound with stationary fetters, our minds left to grope in the prison cell of impenetrable gloom, and our whole action regulated by constitutional law and a perverse public sentiment, we have been tauntingly required to prove the dignity of our human nature, by disrobing ourselves of inferiority, and exhibiting to the world our profound Scholars, distinguished Philosophers, learned Jurists, and distinguished Statesmen. The very expectation on which such a requisition is founded, to say the least, is unreasonable, for it is only when the seed is sown that we can justly hope to reap. If amidst all the difficulties with which we have been surrounded,



and the privations which we have suffered, we presented an equal amount of intelligence with that class of Americans that have been so peculiarly favoured, a very grave and dangerous question would present itself to the world, on the natural equality of man, and the best rule of logic would place those who have oppressed us, in the scale of inferiority. This we do not desire; we love the appellation that records the natural and universal rights of man, (to enjoy all the attributes of human happiness,) too well, to deprive a single being on earth of such an heavenly inheritance. We can never consent to degrade the creation of man by even attempting to defend the impartiality of his Author. If there be those who doubt that we are made in the image of God, and are endowed with those attributes which the Deity has given to man, we will exhibit them our "hands and side."

The general assertion that superiority of mind is the natural offspring of a fair complexion, arrays itself against the experience of the past and present age, and both natural and physiological science. The ignorance that exists on this subject we are not accountable for, nor are we willing to admit a theory alike irreconcilable with philosophy and common sense.

It is in view of these mighty evils that exist in our country, which are truly national, that has caused us to meet in annual convention for six successive years to take into consideration the best method of remedying our present situation by contributing to their removal; during which period we have associated the collected wisdom of our people, in their representative character, from half the states of this Union, extending from Maine to Washington, southernly, and from thence westwardly to Cincinnati, Ohio, and have come to the conclusion to form a National Moral Reform Society, as a means best calculated to reach. the wants and improve the condition of our people.

We have selected four valuable subjects for rallying points, viz.: Education, Temperance, Economy, and Universal Liberty. We hope to make our people, in theory and practice, thoroughly acquainted with these subjects, as a method of future action. Having placed our institution on the high and indisputable ground of natural laws and human rights, and being guided and actuated by the law of universal love to our fellow men, we have buried in the bosom of Christian benevolence all those national distinctions,


complexional variations, geographical lines, and sectional bounds that have hitherto marked the history, character and operations of men; and now boldly plead for the Christian and moral elevation of the human race. To aid us in its completion, we shall endeavour to enlist the sympathies and benevolence of the Christian, moral and political world. Without regard to creeds, we shall only ask for the fulfilment of Christian duty, as the surest method of extending righteousness and justice. We shall aim to procure the abolition of those hateful and unnecessary distinctions by which the human family has hitherto been recognized, and only desire that they may be distinguished by their virtues and vices.

We hope to unite the colored population in those principles of Moral Reform. 1st. As a measure necessary to be practiced by all rational and intelligent beings, for the promotion of peace, harmony and concord in society. 2d. As a measure necessary to aid in effecting the total abolition of slavery. And 3d. As having a tendency to effect the destruction of vice universally.

In order to this, we will appoint agents to disseminate these truths among our people, and establish auxiliaries wherever practicable, that the same leaven of righteousness and justice may animate the body politic. We will establish a press, and through it make known to the world our progress in the arts, science, and civilization. For aid in the prosecution of our undertaking we shall appeal to the benevolence of nations, but more particularly to our own. For, as God has so abundantly blessed her with internal resources as a means of gratifying her spiritual and temporal wants, so we believe she should employ them to his honour and glory, in disseminating the blessings of education, peace, happiness and prosperity to her own fellow citizens. And if America is to be instrumental through the providence of Almighty God in blessing other portions of the peopled earth, by extending to the heathen and Pagan idolater the knowledge of the true God, a pure science, an unadulterated religion, an exalted and benevolent philanthrophy, how necessary is it that she should first purify her own dominions, by extending to all her children those divine and precious gifts ; so when she shall have joined other nations in rearing the standard for the redemption of the world, every ray of light that may reach those benighted regions will, when falling on the prism of truth, present one pure, unmixed stream of Christian love, and cease to becloud


the horizon of everlasting justice. We will first appeal to the Christian churches to take the lead in establishing the principles of supreme love to God, and universal love to man. We will do all in our power to aid her in forming a moral structure against which "the gates of hell cannot prevail."

We plead for the extension of those principles on which our government was formed, that it in turn may become purified from those iniquitous inconsistencies into which she has fallen by her aberration from first principles ; that the laws of our country may cease to conflict with the spirit of that sacred instrument, the Declaration of American Independence. We believe in a pure, unmixed republicanism, as a form of government best suited to the condition of man, by its promoting equality, virtue, and happiness to all within its jurisdiction. We love our country, and pray for the perpetuation of its government, that it may yet stand illustrious before the nations of the earth, both for the purity of its precepts, and the mildness and equableness of its laws.

We shall advocate the cause of peace, believing that whatever tends to the destruction of human life, is at variance with the precepts of the Gospel, and at enmity with the well being of individuals as well as of society. We shall endeavour to promote education, with sound morality, not that we shall become "learned and mighty," but "great and good." We shall advocate temperance in all things, and total abstinence from all alcoholic liquors. We shall advocate a system of economy, not only because luxury is injurious to individuals, but because its practice exercises an influence on society, which in its very nature is sinful. We shall advocate universal liberty, as the inalienable right of every individual born in the world, and a right which cannot be taken away by government itself, without an unjust exercise of power. We shall exhibit our sympathy for our suffering brethren, by petitioning congress to procure the immediate abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia, and her territories. We shall endeavour to strengthen public sentiment against slavery, so long as a slave treads the soil of these United States. We shall aim at the extinction of mental thraldom; an evil much more dangerous, and exceeding the former, both in extent and power. We shall persuade our brethren from using the products of slave labour, both as a moral and Christian duty, and as a means by which the slave system may be successfully abrogated,


We shall appeal to the coloured churches to take decisive measures to rid themselves of the sin of slavery and immorality. We shall endeavour to pledge all the ministers and elders of our churches to the cause of Moral Reform. We hope to train the undisciplined youth in moral pursuits, and we shall anxiously endeavour to impress on our people everywhere, that in moral elevation true happiness consists. We feel bound to pursue the present course as a duty we owe to ourselves, our God, our common country, and the interests of suffering humanity. The free coloured population of the United States now amount to about 400,000, and are constantly increasing by a double process, and we believe that the philanthropic exertions that are now making in our country for the abolition of slavery, will shortly remove the fetters from thousands annually, and these will be continually adding to our number. We are unable to conceive of any better method by which we can aid the cause of human liberty, than by improving our general character, and embracing within our grasp the liberated slave for moral and mental culture. By pursuing this course we shall certainly remove many of the objections to immediate emancipation. And we further believe, that all who have either thought or felt deeply on this subject will not only sanction such an organization, but will feel bound to aid in promoting its objects. We shall intreat those that are constantly persecuting and calumniating our general character, to cease with their vituperations, and suffer a people already bowed to the dust, to breathe out their existence in peace and quietude. We will intreat our brethren to bear with Christian fortitude the scoffs and indignation that may be cast on them on account of their complexion, and pity the source from whence it emanates, knowing it is the offspring of wickedness and ignorance.

In the present state of society, we must expect to endure many difficulties, until the world improves in wisdom, and a polite education, and a more liberal and enlightened philosophy supplants the present system of national education. If we but fully rest ourselves on the dignity of human nature, and maintain a bold, enduring front against all opposition, the monster, prejudice, will fall humbly at our feet. Prejudice, like slavery, cannot stand the omnipotence of Truth. It is as impossible for a bold, clear and discriminating mind that can calmly and dispassionately survey the structure upon which prejudice is founded, and the material of which it is


composed, to be chained within its grasp, as it is for the puny arm of rebellious man to control the operations of the universe.

We will endeavour to establish in our people a correct knowledge of their own immortal worth, their high derivation as rational, moral and intelligent beings. We shall appeal to them to abandon their prejudice against all complexion and bury them in oblivion, and endeavour to live in the same country as children of one common father, and as, brethren possessing the same holy, religious faith, and with a zeal determined on the promotion of great and glorious objects. We shall endeavour to impress on them, at all times, to maintain in every station of life that affability of manner, meekness, humility and gentleness, that ornaments the Christian character; and finally, we will appeal to Heaven for the purity of our motives, and the rectitude of our intentions, and to men for the means of prosecuting them; to Christians, philanthropists and patriots, without regard to creed, profession, or party. In short, we shall aim to whatever seemeth good, consistent with these principles, for the promotion and welfare of our people.

Having now stated the most prominent objects that will command our attention and support, there are others, that from mere custom and usage, many might suppose it were our duty to vindicate. From these we must respectfully dissent, viz.: We will not stoop to contend with those who style us inferior beings. And as we know of no earthly tribunal of sufficient competency and impartiality to decide on a question, involving the natural superiority of individuals and nations, we shall not submit so grave a decision to creatures like ourselves, and especially to our enemies. In the preamble of our constitution, we claim to be American citizens, an<I we will not waste our time by holding converse with those who deny us this privilege, unless they first prove that a man is not a citizen of that country in which he was born and reared. Those that desire to discuss with us the propriety of remaining in this country, or of the method of our operations, must first admit us as a cardinal point, their equals by nature, possessing [like?] themselves, from God, all those inalienable rights, that are universally admitted to be the property of his creatures. We will not admit that strength of mind lies concealed in the complexion of the body. Having now performed a duty we owed to the people of these United States, in explaining the whole course of action, of an Institution for the improvement of the


morals, bearing the broad and illustrious title of American, we view in anticipation, the most happy results to our beloved country, and will most heartily rejoice, if that in an hour of danger, we shall have been fortunate enough to have aided in rescuing her from the evils into which she has fallen ; and we do most cordially hope that a moral fabric may be reared, that will promote the cause of righteousness and justice throughout the universe.




The American Moral Reform Society.

In view of the most mighty consideration that ever engaged the attention or man, and resting our· hopes of a triumphant success on the great Author of all good, we, the subscribers, citizens of the United States of America, in Convention assembled, believing that the successful resuscitation of our country from moral degeneracy depends upon a vigilant prosecution of the holy cause of Moral Reform, as in its promotion is involved the interest, happiness and prosperity of the great Republic, and also that the moral elevation of this nation will accellerate the extension of righteousness, justice, truth, and evangelical principles throughout the world : Therefore, in accordance with the recommendation of the fourth annual Convention, held in the city of New York, we do agree to form ourselves into a National Society, based on the principles set forth in the Declaration or Sentiment.

ART. I. This Society shall be called THE AMERICAN MORAL REFORM SOCIETY.

ART. II. Any person may become a member of this Institution who shall pledge himself to practice and sustain the general principles or Moral Reform as advocated in our country, especially those of Education, Temperance, Economy, and Universal Liberty, by contributing to its objects.

ART. III, The annual meeting of this Society shall be on the second Monday In June, in each year, in the city of Philadelphia.


ART. IV. The officers of this Society shall consist of one President, four Vice Presidents, three Secretaries, (Foreign, Home and Recording,) a Treasurer, and a Board of Managers of seven persons.

ART. V. It shall be the duty of the Board to supervise and direct the action and operation of the Society, as well as its financial concerns.

Section 1st. All candidates for membership must apply to the Board of Directors, whose duty it shall be to admit all who subscribe to the principles contained in this Constitution.

ART. VI. Any member violating the principles set forth in this Constitution will be disqualified for membership, and shall be subject as the Board may direct.

ART. VII. The funds of this Society shall be appropriated to the diffusion of light on the subject advocated, and its Constitution may be altered from time to time, so as to keep pace with the great object of Moral Reform.

Signed on behalf of the officers of this Society.

JAMES FORTEN, Sen., President.

Vice Presidents.






ROBERT PURVIS, Foreign Corresponding Secretary,

WILLIAM WHIPPER, Home Corresponding Secretary,

JAMES FORTEN, Jr., Recording Secretary.

BOARD OF MANAGERS—John P. Burr, Chairman, Rev. Morris Brown, John B. Roberts, Thomas Butler, F. A. Hinton, Joshua Brown; Stephen H. Gloucester, Secretary.

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Convention for the Improvement of the Free People of Color, Fifth Annual (1835 : Philadelphia, PA), “Minutes of the Fifth Annual Convention for the Improvement of the Free People of Colour in the United States; Held by Adjournments, in the Wesley Church, Philadelphia; from the first to the fifth of June, inclusive; 1835.,” Colored Conventions Project Digital Records, accessed May 22, 2024,