Colored Conventions Project Digital Records

Report of the proceedings of the Colored National Convention held at Cleveland, Ohio, on Wednesday, September 6, 1848.


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Report of the proceedings of the Colored National Convention held at Cleveland, Ohio, on Wednesday, September 6, 1848.


Pamphlet (20 p.)



















The Delegates of the National Convention of Colored Freemen, met in the Court House, Cleveland, 0., Wednesday, September 6th, 1848, 10 o'clock, A, M,

On motion of D. Jenkins of Ohio, Abner H. Francis of N. Y., was called to the chair, and William H. Burnham, of Ohio, appointed Secretary.

The enrolling of Delegates was here gone through with, and on motion, a committee of five on organization was appointed by the Chair, viz :—J.JONES, of Ill., F. Douglass, of N. Y., Henry Bibb, of Mich., C. H. Langston and J, L. Watson,. of Ohio. The Committee reported:

For President, FREDERICK DOUGLASS, of New York. For Vice President, J. JONES, of Illinois. For Secretary, WILLIAM H. DAY, of Ohio.

The report of the Committee was adopted, and the Convention added as Vice Presidents, one from each State represented, viz:—Allen Jones, of Ohio, Thomas Johnson, of Michigan, and Abner H. Francis, of New York.

For Assistant Secretaries, William H. Burnham and Justin Holland, of Ohio.

A Business Committee of seven was hen appointed. A point of order was here raised by A. H. Francis, of N. Y., as to appointing and rejecting gentlemen from the Committee who were not regular delegates, which was settled by passing a resolution, saying, that all colored persons present or who might be present were delegates, and were expected to participate as such.

The Business Committee, consisted of the following persons:—Chairman, M. R. Delany, M. D., New York; C.H. Langston, and D. Jenkins, Ohio; H. Bibb, and G. W. Tucker.

Mich; W. H. Topp, New York, and Thomas Brown, Ohio; and on motion two were added to that Committee, viz:—J. L. Watson, and J. Malvin, of Ohio.

On motion, a Committee on Rules for the government of the Convention was appointed—D. Jenkins, of Ohio, Chairman.

Also, Committee on Finance, G. W. Tucker, of Michigan, Chairman.

The President was conducted to the chair by A. H. Francis, and after an able address from the President and the appointing of the above Committees, the Convention adjourned to 2 1-2 o'clock, P.M.

Wednesday, 2 1-2 o'clock, P. M., Second Session.

The Convention met, President in the Chair. After some remarks of the President as to the requisites to good order, the Business Committee not being ready to report, opportunity was given for a volunteer speech or song. The time not being taken up, the President sang with applause, a liberty song.—Mr. Allan Jones, of Ohio, spoke of the object of the Convention, and followed with a narrative of his slave-life. He said he had earned for his master $10,000, and after he had paid for his liberty, $360, and yet some people would say he was "not able to take care of himself."

The Committee on Rules here reported, and after the discussion of proposed amendment, the Report as a whole was adopted. Messrs. Cox and Day, were here called out to sing a Liberty song.

F. Douglass then offered the following resolution:—That this Convention commends the conduct of Capt. Sayres and Mr. Dayton, in their noble attempt to rescue from cruel bondage 76 of our brethren in the Capital of this Republic, and that we deeply sympathise with them in their present unjust and atrocious imprisonment. F. Douglass made a few remarks in its support. A. H. Francis, of N. Y., made a few remarks on an article in the "Cleveland Plaindealer," abusive of Bibb and the Buffalo Convention, asserting that the article was false in fact and cringing to prejudice in principle. Henry Lott supported the resolution. Frederick Douglass followed, speaking of the principle involved, namely, the morality of running away. After remarks in accordance with the invitation of the President by Messrs. Patterson, Fitzgerald, Lewis, J. M. Langston, Watson, of Oberlin, and Jones, of Ill., the Business Committee reported a portion of the Declaration of Principles [See Resolutions 1, 5.]



The Pledge to sustain, was changed in its position so as to come after the Resolutions, and the Preamble laid on the table for the purpose of first considering the Resolutions, of which the 1st was passed. The 2d, was taken up and earnestly sustained by Dr. Delany. W. H. Day, here obtained the floor, when the President announced that the hour of adjournment had arrived, whereupon the Convention adjourned.

A crowded public meeting was held in the evening at the Court House. The exercises were conducted by Messrs. Douglass, Bibb, and Delany, and the enthusiastic cheering showed how well the sentiments were received.

Thursday, 9 o'clock, A. M. Third Session.

Convention was called to order by the President. Prayer by the Rev, John, Lyle of N. Y.

The names of Delegates not present and who had not been present in person but by credentials, were on motion struck out from the Roll. The minutes of the previous Session were then approved.

William H. Day having the floor, offered an amendment to the 2d, Resolution, namely, to insert the words, "and professional"—which amendment was adopted.

J. D. Patterson, here obtained the floor to object to some expressions used by M. R. Delany in discussing the 2d, Resolution. He argued that those who were in the editorial chair and others, not in places of servants, must not cast slurs upon those, who were in such places from necessity. He said, we know our position and feel it; but when he heard the Doctor say, that he would rather receive a telegraphic despatch that his wife and two children had fallen victims to a loathsome disease, than to hear that they had become the servants of any man, he thought that he must speak.

Dr. Delany replied: He meant not, nor did the Resolution mean to cast a slur upon any individual, and presenting in a strong light the Resolution and its reasonableness, closed with a hope, that his brother (Patterson,) had been convinced, as he took him to be a minister, or student for the ministry—and ministers exert great influence.

John L. Watson, of Cleveland, O., remarked that we were aiming at the same thing, but he had a different way of getting at it. He understood Dr. Delany, as having, the day before, said, that if we became the boot-blacks, the white mechanics would look down on us, but if we became mechanics, etc., they would respect us. To this he took exceptions.



The President suggested that the discussion had taken a desultory turn, and that it would be best to keep to the question.

After remarks by several gentlemen, D. Jenkins moved the previous question, was sustained, and the 2d Resolution adopted. The 3d Resolution adopted also.

The 4th Resolution was read, and J. L. Watson remarked upon it. A. H. Francis, of N. Y., heartily supported the Resolution. He might, he said, relate an experience. He had been in nearly all the avocations named in the Resolution; he had been waiter, etc., and he had been in a mercantile business of $20,000 or $30,000 a year, and was in mercantile business now. He felt that we ought to take a stand in favor of the Resolution.

David Jenkins, of Ohio, was in favor of the Resolution.—He was a painter in the city of Columbus, and although, when first he went there he was not employed by others, he went to work and employed himself, and was there yet. He had succeeded in obtaining contracts from the State and County in which he resides.

Frederick Douglass took the floor. He thought that as far as speakers intimated that any useful labor was degrading, they were wrong. He would suggest a Resolution so as to suit both parties, which he thought might be done. He had been a chimney-sweep, and was probably the first that had ever made the announcement from the public stand. He had been a wood-sawyer. He wished not that it should stand thus: White Lawyer—Black Chimney-sweep; but White Lawyer, Black Lawyer, as in Massachusetts; White Domestic, Black Domestic. He said: Let us say what is necessary to be done, is honorable to do; and leave situations in which we are considered degraded, as soon as necessity ceases.

He was followed by several gentlemen, when Messrs. Patterson, Copeland and Douglass, severally proposed amendments, which were on motion rejected.

The 4th Resolution was adopted with but one dissenting vote.

The Business Committee reported the remainder of the Declaration of Principles. [See Resolutions 6, 10.] The 5th Resolution unanimously adopted.

The 6th Resolution was referred to a Committee of five—Henry Bibb, Chairman. The 7th Resolution was adopted. The 8th Resolution was under discussion when the Convention's hour of adjournment arrived.

Thursday, 2 1-2 o'clock P. M. Fourth Session.



Convention met, President Douglass in the Chair. Prayer by J. D. Patterson. Report of morning session read, corrected and approved, and Convention resumed the consideration of the 8th Resolution.

William H. Topp, of N. Y., was opposed to this Resolution passing, for the reason, first, that he wished to do nothing that would commit himself against the Buffalo nomination, for he intended to give his support and influence to Mr. Van Buren, but all who voted in favor of the Resolution would, to be consistent, be compelled to oppose the Buffalo nominees.

Henry Bibb defended the entire equality position of the Buffalo Convention. J. D. Patterson agreed with Mr. Bibb.

Mr. Day, of Ohio, rose to a point of order, as to the propriety of discussing the merits of the Buffalo Platform, under this Resoution.

The President decided that strictly the point of order would obtain, but as he supposed gentlemen to be giving reasons for not supporting the Resolution, as they were in favor of the Van Buren Platform, he thought they might proceed. Mr. Patterson proceeded, and was soon called to order by the President for not speaking to the Resolution under consideration.

While this was pending, and after earnest remarks by various gentlemen, the Business Committee presented Resolutions 13–23 for the consideration of the Convention.

Resolution No.8 was then adopted; Nos. 9 and 10 adopted.

A Committee of five was here appointed to prepare an Address to the Colored People of the United States—that Committee to report to this Convention.

Eleventh resolution taken up and adopted. F. Douglass was appointed the Committee to carry out the spirit of the 11th resolution. Resolution No. 21, with reference to time of final adjournment, was on motion here taken up and adopted.

Twelfth resolution taken up, and after earnest remarks in its favor, adopted.

The 13th Resolution, referring to the Buffalo nominations, was on motion laid over till morning. 14th adopted. Resolution 15th was read, and the word "necessary" was substituted for the word "justifiable," and the Resolution as amended was adopted; when the Convention adjourned.

Thursday evening, the Public Meeting was held in the Tabernacle, which was more than filled at an early hour; and when at the close the audience joined in singing "Come join the Abolitionists," and sent up three hearty cheers for



"Liberty — Equality — Fraternity," the slaveocrat must have trembled.

Friday, 9 o'clock A. M. Fifth Session.

Convention was called to order by Vice-President Jones, of Illinois. Prayer by Rev. Mr. Kenyon, of Cleveland.

The 13th Resolution was then taken up. Messrs. Francis, of N. Y, Brown and Jenkins, of Ohio, and Lightfoot, of Mich., spoke in its favor. C. H. Langston thought the 8th and 13th Resolutions conflicted, and was opposed to this Convention's saying that the Buffalo Convention had for its object entire equality. He was in favor of the new movement, but would not be so inconsistent as to pass this while the other was on the records. The 13th, on motion, was laid on the table, for the sake of rescinding the 8th. The 8th was rescinded, and the 13th again taken up. After remarks by many gentlemen, the Committee on the Address reported that they had met, and each had proposed a written abstract of what such an address should be, and that the Committee had appointed one of their number from the various abstracts to put together an address. F. Douglass here read the substance of the different abstracts, that the Convention might know the substance of the address. The action of the Committee was approved.

M. R. Delany here proposed a substitute for the 8th Resolution, as follows:

Resolved, That we recommend to our brethren throughout the several States, to support such persons and parties alone as have a tendency to enhance the liberty of the colored people of the United States.

This substitute was adopted, and on motion the 13th Resolution was adopted also.

William H. Day, Frederick Douglass, John Lyle, Sabram Cox, Richard Copeland, and W. B. Depp, asked permission to enter their dissent from the vote endorsing the 13th Resolution on the minutes.

The 14th resolution was so amended as to read, "to obtain their liberty," instead of the words, "effecting their escape," as it was thought that the slave might need to use some other means for liberty than running away.

Resolution 16 adopted. The 17th Resolution was read, when F. Douglass took the floor in opposition to the preamble, inasmuch as it intimated that slavery could not be abolished by moral means alone. Henry Bibb sustained the preamble and resolutions at length. Frederick Douglass replied.



J. Jones, of III., here proposed an amendment to the preamble, as follows:

Whereas, American slavery is politically, as well as morally, an evil of which this country stands guilty; and whereas, the two great political parties of the Union have, by their acts and nominations, betrayed the sacred cause of human freedom; and "whereas a Convention," &c., which was accepted, and the preamble, as amended, prefixed to the 13th Resolution.

The Secretaries were instructed to prepare a synopsis of the proceedings of the Convention, and forward it to Mr. Harris, Editor of the Cleveland Herald, and to the Editors of the North Star, as they had said they would be happy to publish them free of charge. H. G. Turner, Editor of the Cleveland True Democrat made a similar proposal.

It was also resolved to print 500 copies of the proceedings in pamphlet form, and the Secretaries were appointed a Committee of publication.

Convention then adjourned.

Friday, P. M., 2 1-2 o'clock. Sixth Session.

Convention assembled, Vice-President Jones in the Chair.

Prayer by Rev. William Ruth, of Colchester, C. W.

The 11th Rule was suspended, and 5 minutes voted as the allotted time for speakers. No. 19 was called up for reading.

When Frederick Douglass appeared and Dr. Delany asked that the President might now have the attention of the Convention as he was to leave at three o'clock, and had a few parting words to give.

The President's valedictory was able, eloquent and earnest, and a vote of thanks was passed by acclamation. [See Resolution, No. 20.]

No. 49, on motion, was recommended to the consideration of the people of the United States.

22d Resolution being the next in order, was on motion laid on the table. The 23d Resolution was about to be amended so as to pass a vote of thanks to the Sheriff having charge of the Court House, and to all the citizens of Cleveland for their hospitality, etc., as well as to Judge Andrews and the Cleveland Bar, when A. H. Francis, who with his lady had just returned from the Steamboat Saratoga, and had brought back with him Frederick Douglass, proposed that the resolution should read, "to all the citizens of Cleveland excepting one!" He proceeded to state a fact. He went on the steamboat Saratoga, was asking for a cabin passage, was refused by the Clerk,


Report of the

when a gentleman, (God forbid, he would not say gentleman,) a——some one in the audience said-----thing -----in the shape of a colored man, interfered, telling him that it was of no use for him to try to obtain a cabin passage on those boats, and intimating that colored men had no business in the cabin.

The Resolution as amended was adopted, and another as follows:

That Alexander Bowman of the Steamboat Saratoga and resident of Cleveland, receive the burning reprobation of this Convention, until he repents.

And he did receive it, if a unanimous shout against him is any evidence of it. He was fairly ostracised.

Messrs. J. L. Watson, J. Malvin and J. Lott, were appointed committee to inform the parties in each resolution, of the action of the Convention.

Dr. Delany, from the Business Committee reported on Nos. 23, 24, 25, 26, 28, and 28. Nos. 24 and 25 passed.

The Rules were then suspended, to hear two resolutions presented by Elder Kenyon in behalf of the citizens of Cleveland, and moved their adoption by O. D. O'Brien. They were adopted, as follows, the citizens of Cleveland only voting on them:

Resolved, That we hail as an omen of yast good to the colored people of this entire nation, the present Convention held in this city; and that with such examples of Intelligence, eloquence, wit, and power of argument, as have been presented before us in the sentiments and speeches of the various members of said Convention, we are confident of the ultimate elevation of the colored population, to all the social, intellectual, civil and religious rights and immunities, of a republican and Christian country.

Resolved, That we bid a hearty God-speed to these. our brethren, the sons or Africa, and citizens of Amercia, in all well-directed and legitimate efforts to secure for themselves an honorable and elevated position amongst men.

No. 26, as amended, adopted; 27 adopted also. No. 28 taken up, but was almost immediately laid on the table. No. 30 adopted.

No. 29 as amended was adopted, as also Nos. 31 and 32. The preamble to the Declaration of Principles was here taken from the table and adopted.

On motion of G. W. Tucker, No. 22 was taken up, and after earnest discussion indefinitely postponed, No. 3 was here presented by M. R. Delany, as it had been rejected by the committee. G. W. Tucker moved its indefinite postponement.



The Rule was here suspended, and the time of adjournment extended to 7 o'clock. After an animated discussion upon the indefinite postponement, the Rules were suspended to hear remarks from a lady who wished to say something on the subject of the Rights of Woman. The President then introduced to the audience, Mrs. Sanford, who made some eloquent remarks, of which the following is a specimen:

"From the birth-day of Eve, the then prototype of woman's destiny, to the flash of the star of Bethlehem, she had been the slave of power and passion. If raised by courage and ambition to the proud trial of heroism, she was still the marred model of her first innocence; of thrown by beauty into the ordeal of temptation, man lost his own dignity in contemning her intellectual weight, and refusing the right to exercise her moral powers; If led by inclination to the penitential life of a recluse, the celestial effulgence of a virtuous innocence was lost, and she only lived out woman's degradation!

"But the day of her regeneration dawned. The Son of God had chosen a mother from among the daughters of Eve! A Saviour, who could have come into this a God-man, ready to act, to suffer, and be crucified, came in the helplessness of infancy, for woman to cherish and direct. Her exaltation was consummated! * * * * * * * * "True, we ask for the Elective Franchise: for right of property in the marriage covenant, whether earned or bequeathed. True, we pray to co-operate in making the laws we obey; but It is not to domineer, to dictate or assume. We ask it, for it isa right granted by a higher disposer of human events than man. We pray for it now, for there are duties around us, and we weep at our inability.

"And to the delegates, officers, people and spirit of this Convention, I would say, God speed you in your efforts for elevation and freedom; stop not; shrink not; look not back till you have justly secured an unqualified citizenship of the United States, and those inalienable rights granted you by an impartial Creator."

Convention passed a vote of thanks to Mrs. Sanford, and also requested a synopsis of her, from which the above are extracts.

A vote of thanks was here passed to John M. Sterling, Esq., of Cleveland, for the presentation of a bundle of books entitled "Slavery as it is."

Discussion was resumed on the indefinite postponement of the Resolution as to Woman's Right. Objection was made to the resolution, and in favor of its postponement, by Messrs. Langston and Day, on the ground that we had passed one similar, making all colored persons present, delegates to this Convention, and they considered women persons.



Frederick Douglass moved to amend the 33d Resolution, by saying that the word persons used in the resolution designating delegates, be understood to include woman. On the call for the previous question, the Resolution was not indefinitely postponed. Mr. Douglass' amendment was seconded and carried, with three cheers for woman's rights.

No. 34 was passed.

The whole of the 6th Resolution was referred to the next National Convention.

The National Central Committee appointed was—

Frederick Douglas, N. Y. Charles H. Langston, O.

J. Jones, Illinois, Henry Bibb, Michigan, J. G. Britton, Indiana, John Peck, Pennsylvania, George Day, Wisconsin, J.P. Hilton, Mass., Josiah Conville, New Jersey,

On inquiry, it was found that the Convention was composed of Printers, Carpenters, Blacksmiths, Shoemakers, Engineer, Dentist, Gunsmiths, Editors, Tailors, Merchants, Wheelrights, Painters, Farmers, Physicians, Plasterers, Masons, Students, Clergymen, Barbers and Hair Dressers, Laborers, Coopers, Livery Stable Keepers, Bath House Keepers, Grocery Keepers.

At 7 o'clock, the Convention adjourned sine die, with three cheers for Elevation-Liberty-Equality, and Fraternity.

Resolutions, &c., presented to the National Convention of Colored Freemen by the Business Committee.


Whereas, in the present position of the Colored people in the United States of North America, they, as a class, are known to the country and the intelligent world alone as menials and domestics or servants; and

Whereas, it is apparent, as the history of the world, both ancient and modern, will testify, that no people thus conditioned, from the Conventional order of society, can attain an equality with the dominate class; and

Whereas, an equality of persons cannot be claimed, where there is not an equality of attainments,--attainments establishing character, and character being that which is essentially necessary to make us equal to our white fellow-countrymen;--

Resolved, That the following Declaration of Principles we pledge ourselves to maintain and carry out among the colored people of the United States to the best of our ability.

1. Resolved, That we shall forever oppose every action, emanating from what source it may, whether civil, political, social or religious, in any manner derogatory to the universal equality of man.—Adopted.



2. Resolved, That whatever is necessary for the elevation of one class is necessary for the elevation of another; the respectable industrial occupations, as mechanical trades, farming or agriculture, mercantile and professional business, wealth and education, being necessary for the elevation of the whites; therefore those attainments are necessary for the elevation of us. Adopted.

3. Resolved, That we impressively recommend to our brethren throughout the country, the necessity of obtaining a knowledge of mechanical trade, farming, mercantile business, the learned professions, as well as the accumulation of wealth,--as the essential means of elevating us as a class.--Adopted.

4. Resolved, That the occupation of domestics and servants among our people is degrading to us as a class, and we deem it our bounden duty to discountenance such pursuits, except where necessity compels the person to resort thereto as a means of livelihood.

5. Resolved, That as Education is necessary in all departments, we recommend to our people, as far as in their power lies, to give their children especially, a business Education.

6. Resolved, That the better to unite and concentrate our efforts as a people, we recommend the formation of an association, to be known as the----. [Referred to a Committee, and subsequently the whole Resolution referred to the next Convention.]

7. Resolved, That while our efforts shall be entirely moral in their tendency, it is no less the duty of this Convention to take Cognizance of the Political action of our brethren, and recommend to them that course which shall best promote the cause of Liberty and Humanity.

8. Resolved, That we recommend to our brethren through. out the several states, to support no person or party, let the name or pretensions be what they may, that shall not have for their object the establishment of equal rights and privileges, without distinction of color, clime or condition.

9. Resolved, That holding Liberty paramount to all earthly considerations, we pledge ourselves, to resist properly, every attempt to infringe upon our rights.

10. Resolved, That Slavery is the greatest curse ever inflicted on man, being of hellish origin, the legitimate offspring of the Devil, and we therefore pledge ourselves, individually, to use all justifiable means for its speedy and immediate overthrow.

11. Whereas a knowledge of the real moral, social, and political condition of our people is not only desirable but absolutely essential to the intelligent prosecution of measures for our elevation and improvement, and whereas our present isolated condition makes the attainment of such knowledge exceedingly difficult, Therefore

Resolved, That this National Convention does hereby request the colored ministers and others persons throughout the Northern States, to collect, or cause to be collected accurate



statistics of the condition of our people, during the coming year, in the various stations and circuits in which they may find themselves located, and that they be, and hereby are requested to prepare lists, stating--

1st. The number of colored persons in the localities where they may be stationed; their general moral and social condition; and especially how many are farmers and mechanics, how many are merchants or storekeepers, how many are teachers, lawyer's doctors; ministers, and editors; how many are known to take and pay for newspapers; how many literary, debating, and other societies, for moral, mental, and social improvement; and that said ministers be, and hereby are, respectfully requested to forward all such information to a Committee of one, who shall be appointed for this purpose, and that the said Committee of one be requested to make out a synopsis of such information and to report the same to the next colored National Convention.

12. Resolved, That Temperance is another great lever for Elevation, which we would urge upon our people and all others to use, and earnestly recommend the formation of societies for its promotion.

13. Resolved, That while we heartily engage in recommending to our people the Free Soil movement, and the support of the Buffalo Convention, nevertheless we claim and are determined to maintain the higher standard and more liberal views which have heretofore characterized us as abolitionists.

14. Resolved, That as Liberty is a right inherent in man, and cannot be arrested without the most flagrant outrage, we recommend to our brethren in bonds, to embrace every favorable opportunity of effecting their escape.

15. Resolved, that we pledge ourselves individually, to use. all justifiable means in aiding our enslaved brethren in escaping from the Southern Prison House of Bondage.

16. Resolved, that we recommend to the colored people every where, to use every just effort in getting their children into schools, in common with others in their several locations.

17. Whereas, American Slavery is politically and morally an evil of which this country stands guilty, and cannot be abolished alone through the instrumentality of moral suasion and whereas the two great political parties of the Union have by their acts and nominations betrayed the sacred cause of human freedom, and

Whereas, a Convention recently assembled in the city of Buffalo having for its object the establishment of a party in support of free soil for a free people, and Whereas said Convention adopted for its platform the following noble expression, viz; " Free Soil, Free Speech, ,Free Labor and Free Men," and believing these expressions well calculated to increase the interest now felt in behalf of the down-trodden and oppressed of this land; therefore,

Resolved, That we recommend to all colored persons in possession of the right of the elective Franchise, the nominees



or that body for their suffrages, and earnestly request all. good citizens to use their united efforts to secure their election to the chief offices in the gift of the people.

Resolved, that the great Free Soil Party of the United States, is bound together by a common sentiment expressing the wish of a large portion of the people of this Union, and that we hail with delight this great movement as the dawn of a bright and more auspicious day. [The Resolutions were rejected, but the Preamble prefixed to the 13th Resolution.]

18. Resolved That Love to God and man, and Fidelity to ourselves ought to be the great motto which we will urge upon our people.

19. To the honorable members of the Convention of citizens of color of the United States of America, greeting. I beg leave to report for your consideration the result of my labors as an Agent to promote a project of home emigration to the State of Michigan. * * * I was appointed on October the 21th, in the year 1845 by an organization of gentlemen of color in the Vicinity of Lewis, Ohio. * * The object of my agency was to explore wild unsettled territory. * *I found large and fertile tracts of government land, In Kent and other counties but in Oceana and Mason counties there are peculiar facilities which do not present themselves in any of the other parts of the State which I have visited. Oceana and Mason are lake counties with about sixty miles seaboard. There are navigable rivers emptying into Lake Michigan and affording at their mouths good harbors, delightful sites for cities and villages, also with hydraulic powers of every magnitude. Plenty of land ready for the plow at $1,25 per acre. Valuable Timber may be had here in abundance. Grass is now to be found from knee-high to the height of a man. The surface of the meadows is a deep vegetable mould, below which in many places are found beds of Lime. Fruit, FIsh, and Game In abundance. Also, Salt Springs. Plaster of Paris has been discovered there. During the last spring a constant trade was kept up between these lands and Chicago, Milwaukee, and the ports on Lake Michigan. There are four sawmills in the two counties. Lumber is wanted at $7 per thousand on the lake shore. Shingles, shingle-bolts, staves, tan-bark, cedar posts, &.c., all bring a liberal price, and demand. Gold and Silver, and provisions during the season of navlgatIon. I now submit the subject &.c. hoping that you will adopt some feasible plan to arouse our people to consider the importance of the same.


20. Resolved, That the thanks of this convention be tendered to the President for the able and Impartial manner In which he has presided over its deliberations.

21. Resolved, That this Convention adjourn sine die on Friday, Sept. 8th, 6 o'clock P. M.

22. Whereas, we find ourselves far behind the military tactics of the civilized world, therefore,

Resolved, That this Convention recommend to the



Colored Freemen of North America to use every means in their power to obtain that science, so as to enable them to measure arms with assailants without and invaders within; therefore,

Resolved, That this Convention appoint Committees in the different States as Vigilant Committees, to organize as such where the same may be deemed practicable.

23. Resolved, That this Convention return their sincere thanks to Judge Andrews and the Bar of Cleveland, in adjourning the Court and tendering to us the use of the Court House for the sittings of the Convention. [See minutes.]

Resolved, That among the means instrumental in the elevation of a people there is none more effectual than a well conducted and efficient newspaper; and believing the North Star, published and edited by Frederick Douglass and M. R: Delany at Rochester, fuIly to answer all the ends and purposes of a national press, we therefore recommend its support to the colored people throughout North America.

24. Resolved, That the Convention recommend to the colored citizens of the several Free States, to assemble in Mass State Conventions annually, and petition the Legislatures thereof to repeal the Black Laws, or all laws militating against the interests of colored people.

25. Whereas, we firmly believe with the Fathers of '76, that . "taxation and representation ought to go together;" therefore,

Resolved, That we are very much in doubt as to the propriety of our paying any tax upon which representation is based, until we are permitted to be represented.

26. Resolved, That, as a body, the professed Christian American Chruches generally, by their support, defence, and participation in the damning sin of American Slavery, as well as cruel prejudice and proscription of the nominally free colored people, have forfeited every claim of confidence on our part, and therefore merit our severest reprobation.

27. Resolved, That Conventions of a similar character to this are well calculated to enhance the interests of suffering humanity, and the colored people generaIly, and that we recommend such assemblages to the favorable consideraion of our people.

28. Resolved, That the next National Convention of Colored Freemen shall be held in Detroit, Michigan, or at Pittsburgh, Pa., some time in the year 1850.

29. Resolved, That among the many oppressive schemes against the colored people in the United States, we view the American Colonization Society as the most deceptive and hypocritical--"clothed with the livery of heaven to serve the devil in," with President Roberts, of Liberia, a colored man, for its leader.

30. Resolved, That we tender to the citizens of Cleveland our unfeigned thanks for the doings of this Convention.

31. Resolved, That the prejudice against color, so called,



is vulgar, unnatural, and wicked in the sight of God, and wholly unknown in any country where slavery does not exist.

32. Resolved, That while we are engaged in the elevation of our people, we claim it to be our duty to inquire of our public lecturers and agents an explanation in reference to the disbursement of funds they may have collected from time to time for public purposes.

33. Whereas, we fully believe in the equality of the sexes, therefore,

Resolved, That we hereby invite females hereafter to take part in our deliberations.

34. Whereas, a portion of those of our colored citizens called barbers, by refusing to treat colored men on equality with the whites, do encourage prejudice among the whites of the several States; therefore,

Resolved, That we recommend to this class of men a change in their course of action relative to us; and if this change is not immediately made, we consider them base serviles, worthy only of the condemnation, censure, and defamation of all lovers of liberty, equality, and right.



Under a solemn sense of duty, inspired by our relation to you as fellow sufferers under the multiplied and grievous wrongs to which we, as a people, are universally subjected,—we, a portion of your brethren, assembled in National Convention, at Cleveland, Ohio, take the liberty to address you on the subject of our mutual improvement and social elevation.

The condition of our variety of the human family, has long been cheerless, if not hopeless, in this country. The doctrine perseveringly proclaimed in high places in church and state, that it is impossible for colored men to rise from ignorance and debasement, to intelligence and respectability in this country, has made a deep impression upon the public mind generally, and is not without its effect upon us. Under this gloomy doctrine, many of us have sunk under the pall of despondency, and are making no effort to relieve ourselves, and have no heart to assist others. It is from this despond that we would deliver you. It is from this slumber we would rouse you. The present, is a period of activity and hope. The heavens above us are bright, and much of the darkness that overshadowed us has passed away. We can deal in the language of brilliant encouragement, and speak of success with certainty. That our condition has been gradually improving, is evident to all, and that we shall yet stand on a common platform with our follow-countrymen, in respect to political and social rights, is certain. The spirit of the age—the voice of inspiration—the deep longings of the human soul—the conflict of right with wrong—the upward tendency of the oppressed throughout the world, abound with evidence, complete and ample, of the final triumph of right over wrong, of freedom over slavery, and equality over caste. To doubt this, is to forget the past, and blind our eyes to the present, as well as to deny and oppose the great law of progress written out by the hand of God on the human soul.

Great changes for the better have taken place and are still taking place. The last ten years have witnessed a mighty change in the estimate in which we as a people are regarded, both in this and other lands. England has given liberty to nearly one million, and France has emancipated



three hundred of our brethren, and our own country shakes with the agitation of our rights. Ten or twelve years ago, an educated colored man was regarded as a curiosity, and the thought of a colored man as an author, editor, lawyer or doctor, had scarce been conceived.—Such, thank Heaven, is no longer the case. There are now those among us, whom we are not ashamed to regard as gentlemen and scholars, and who are acknowledged to be such, by many of the most learned and respectable in our land. Mountains of prejudice have been removed, and truth and light are dispelling the error and darkness of ages. The time was, when we trembled in the presence of a white man, and dared not assert, or even ask for our rights, but would be guided, directed, and governed, in any way we were demanded, without ever stopping to inquire whether we were right or wrong. We were not only slaves, but our ignorance made us willing slaves. Many of us uttered complaints against the faithful abolitionists, for the broad assertion of our rights; thought they went too far, and were only making our condition worse. This sentiment has nearly ceased to reign in the dark abodes of our hearts; we begin to see our wrongs as clearly, and comprehend our rights as fully, and as well as our white countrymen. This is a sign of progress; and evidence which cannot be gainsaid. It would be easy to present in this connection, a glowing comparison of our past with our present condition, showing that while the former was dark and dreary, the present is full of light and hope. It would be easy to draw a picture of our present achievements, and erect upon it a glorious future.

But, fellow-countrymen, it is not so much our purpose to cheer you by the progress we have already made, as it is to stimulate you to still higher attainments. We have done much, but there is much more to be done. While we have undoubtedly great cause to thank God, and take courage for the hopeful changes which have taken place in our condition, we are not without cause to mourn over the sad condition which we yet occupy. We are yet the most oppressed people in the world. In the Southern States of this Union, we are held as slaves. All over that wide region our paths are marked with blood. Our backs are yet scarred by the lash, and our souls are yet dark under the pall of slavery. Our sisters are sold for purposes of pollution, and our brethren are sold in the market, with beasts of burden. Shut up in the prison-house of bondage—denied all rights, and deprived of all privileges, we are blotted from the page of human existence, and placed beyond the limits of human regard. DEATH, moral DEATH, has palsied our souls in that quarter, and we are a murdered people.

In the Northern states, we are not slaves to individuals, not personal slaves, yet in many respects we are the slaves of the community. We are, however, far enough removed from the actual condition of the slave to make us largely responsible for their continued enslavement, or their speedy deliverance from chains. For in the proportion which we shall rise in the scale of human improvement, in that proportion do we augment the probabilities of a speedy emancipation of our enslaved fellow-countrymen. It is more than a mere figure of speech to say, that we are as a people, chained together. We are one people—one in general complexion, one in a common degradation, one in popular estimation.—As one rises, all must rise, and as one falls all must fall. Having now, our feet on the rock of freedom, we must drag our brethren from the slimy depths of slavery, ignorance, and ruin. Every one of us should be ashamed to consider himself free, while his brother is a slave. The wrongs of our brethren, should be our constant theme. There should be no time too precious, no calling too holy, no place too sacred, to make room for this cause. We should not only feel it to be the cause of humanity, but the cause of christianity, and fit work for men and angels. We ask you to devote yourselves to this cause, as one of the first, and most successful means of self improvement. In the careful study of



it, you will learn your own rights, and comprehend your own responsibilities, and, scan through the vista of coming time, your high, and God-appointed destiny. Many of the brightest and best of our number, have become such by their devotion to this cause, and the society of white abolitionists. The latter have been willing to make themselves of no reputation for our sake, and in return, let us show ourselves worthy of their zeal and devotion. Attend Anti-slavery meetings, show that you are interested in the subject, that you hate slavery, and love those who are laboring for its overthrow. Act with white Abolition societies where-ever you can, and where you cannot, get up societies among yourselves, but without exclusiveness. It will be a long time before we gain all our rights; and although it may seem to conflict with our views of human brotherhood, we shall undoubtedly for many years be compelled to have institutions of a complexional character, in order to attain this very idea of human brotherhood. We would, however, advise our brethren to occupy memberships and stations among white persons, and in white institutions, just so fast as our rights are secured to us.

Never refuse to act with a white society or institution because it is white, or a black one, because it is black; but act with all men without distinction of color. By so acting, we shall find many opportunities for removing prejudices and establishing the rights of all men. We say, avail yourselves of white institutions, not because they are white, but because they afford a more convenient means of improvement. But we pass from these suggestions, to others which may be deemed more important. In the Convention that now addresses you, there has been much said on the subject of labor, and especially those departments of it, with which we as a class have been long identified. You will see by the resolutions there adopted on that subject, that the Convention regarded those employments, though right in themselves, as being, nevertheless, degrading to us as a class, and therefore, counsel you to abandon them as speedily as possible, and to seek what are called the more respectable employments. While the Convention do not inculcate the doctrine that any kind of needful toil is in itself dishonorable, or that colored persons are to be exempt from what are called menial employments, they do mean to say that such employments have been so long and universally filled by colored men, as to become a badge of degradation, in that it has established the conviction that colored men are only fit for such employments. We therefore advise you, by all means, to cease from such employments, as far as practicable, by pressing into others. Try to get your sons into mechanical trades; press them into the blacksmith's shop, the machine shop, the joiner's shop, the wheelright's shop, the cooper's shop, and the tailor's shop.

Every blow of the sledge-hammer, wielded by a sable arm, is a powerful blow in support of our cause. Every colored mechanic, is by virtue of circumstances, an elevator of his race. Every house built by black men, is a strong tower against the allied hosts of prejudice. It is impossible for us to attach too much importance to this aspect of the subject. Trades are important. Wherever a man may be thrown by misfortune, if he has in his hands a useful trade, he is useful to his fellow-man, and will be esteemed accordingly; and of all men in the world who need trades, we are the most needy.

Understand this, that independence is an essential condition of respectability. To be dependent, is to be degraded. Men may indeed pity us, but they cannot respect us. We do not mean that we can become entirely independent of all men; that would be absurd and impossible, in the social state. But we mean that we must become equally iudependent with other members of the community. That other members of the community shall be as dependent upon us, as we upon them. That such is not now the case, is too plain to need an argument. The house we live in are built by white men—the clothes we wear are made by white tailors—the hats on our heads are made by white hatters, and the shoes



on our feet are made by while shoe-makers, and the food that we eat, is raised and cultivated by white men. Now it is impossible that we should ever be respected as a people, while we are so universally and completely dependent upon white men for the necessaries of life. We must make white persons as dependent upon us, as we are upon them.--This cannot be done while we are found only in two or three kinds of employments, and those employments have their foundation chiefly, if not entirely, in the pride and indolence of the white people. Sterner necessities, will bring higher respect.

The fact is, we must not merely make the white man dependent upon us to shave him, but to feed him; not merely dependent upon us to black his boots, but to make them. A man is only in a small degree dependent on us, when he only needs hill boots blacked, or his carpet-bag carried; as a little less pride, and a little more industry on his part, may enable him to dispense with our service entirely. As wise men it becomes us to look forward to a state of things, which appears inevitable.--The time will come, when those menial employments will afford less means of living than they now do. What shall a large class of our fellow-countrymen do, when white men find it economical to black their own hoots, and shave themselves! What will they do when white men learn to wait on themselves? We warn you brethren, to seek other and more enduring vocations.

Let us entreat you to turn your attention to agriculture. Go to farming. Be tillers of the soil. On this point we could say much, but the time and space will not permit. Our cities are overrun with menial laborers, while the country is eloquently pleading for the hand of industry to till her soil, and reap the reward of honest labor. We beg and intreat you, to save your money—live economically—dispense with finery, and the gaities which have rendered us proverbial and save your money. Not for the senseless purpose of being better off than your neighbor, but that you may be able to educate your children, and render your share to the common stock of prosperity and happiness around you. It is plain that the equality which we aim to accomplish, can only be achieved by us, when we can do for others, just what others can do for us. We should therefore, press into all the trades, professions and callings into which honorable white men press.

We would in this connection, direct your attention to the means by which we have been oppressed and degraded. Chief among those means, we may mention the press. This engine has brought to the aid of prejudice, a thousand stings. Wit, ridicule, false philosophy, and an impure theology, with a flood of low black-guardism, come through this channel into the public mind; constantly feeding and keeping, alive against us, the bitterest hate. The pulpit too, has been arrayed against us. Men with sanctimonious face, have talked of our being descendants of Ham—that we are under a curse, and to try to improve our condition, is virtually to counteract the purposes of God!

It is easy to see that the means which have been used to destroy us, must be used to save us. The press must be used in our behalf: aye! we must use it ourselves; we must take and read newspapers; ·we must read books, improve our minds, and put to silence and to shame, our opposers.

Dear Brethren, we have extended these remarks beyond the length which we had allotted to ourselves, and must now close, though we have but hinted at the subject. Trusting that our words may fall like good seed upon good ground; and hoping that we may all be found in the path of improvement and progres.

We are your friends and servants,

(Signed by the Committee, in behalf of the Convention) FREDERICK DOUGLASS,


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Colored National Convention (1848 : Cleveland, OH), “Report of the proceedings of the Colored National Convention held at Cleveland, Ohio, on Wednesday, September 6, 1848.,” Colored Conventions Project Digital Records, accessed February 24, 2024,