Reports on Two Iowa Conventions
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Reports on Two Iowa Conventions
March 21, 1857. PROVINCIAL FREEMAN. Chatham, Canada West. Colored Convention in Iowa.
We have received the proceedings of a Convention of colored men, held in Muscatine, Jan. 5th, 1857; and regret that the want of space prevents us from giving the Proceedings in full. Mr. Bowser of Henry County was chosen President; Benjamin Matthews of Muscatine, Vice-‐ President; Wm. Bener of Linn, and Charles Jackson of Muscatine, Secretaries. A. Clark, R.H. Cain, J.T.L. Honer [sic: Hiner], Committee on Declaration of Sentiment reports as follows:
WHEREAS, We, the colored people of the State of Iowa, in convention assembled, feel ourselves deeply aggrieved by reason of cruel prejudice we are compelled to suffer, in this our native land, which is as dear to us as the white man, knowing full well that the blood of our forefathers, in common with that of the white man, was poured out in the open battle-‐field, in defence of the liberties we now are deprived of, we are compelled to make the following appeal and address. "We hold these truths to be self-‐evident that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness: to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just power from the consent of the governed." Now, if this be a fact, we hope no one will or can deny that, as we are men, we do, and ought of a right, claim the rights of men; and we do claim to be men -‐ and appeal to you, in the name of God and an oppressed, down-‐trodden, disfranchised people, for those rights we are deprived of -‐ holding up in characters of living flames, that immortal instrument, the Declaration of Independence, to your sight, which should teach all men that God is just, and will suffer no inequality among his people without just retribution. We ask in the name of God, how long shall our cries be scanned by an intelligent and civilized people? Behold the blight of the noonday of the nineteenth century! Civilized Christianity chastising suffering humanity -‐ robbing, disfranchising the colored people of their inalienable rights to liberty and its security! Oh! will you stop and pause for a moment! Remembering that God rules the destiny of men and of nations, we leave our appeal to your consideration trusting in God for the justice of our cause.
Three other Committees were appointed, composed of the following gentlemen:
On form of Petition, -‐ A. Clark, R.H. Cain and J.P. Prichard.
On Education -‐ T.C. Mott, R.H. Cain and Noah Tutt.
Select Committees also made reports upon the subject of Colonization and Emigration.
The report on emigration reads as follows:
We, the committee to whom was referred the subject of emigration, beg leave to say that we deem it unnecessary to enter into an elaborate detail on the subject; but we think proper to say that we would recommend to our people that their interests and elevation had better be sought in this our native land, and especially while our enemies are conniving at every scheme to remove us from the soil of our nativity, it behooves us to stand fast and let our cry and our watchword be, by the help of God, we are here and we intend to live and die here, ever trusting
in God for the advancement of our cause; believing the patriotism and progress of the American people sufficient to recognize our rights in common with the rest of mankind.
To the report upon Emigration we would especially call the attention of our readers, and we do it because we object to some of their conclusions.
We have never, and our friends will do us the justice to say so, broached the subject of Emigration while lecturing in the States, but carefully refrained from any discussion on the subject. On the other hand, we have always denounced in unmeasured terms, the infernal schemes concocted by the American Colonization Society, to force the free colored people from their native home to a common grave in Africa. We thought it to be our duty to demand in the name of a constitution, that we believe to be capable of an Anti-slavery construction, every right that is guaranteed to the poorest and meanest white man in the land. In this we were sincere, because we believe while colored man consent to remain in the United States, its their duty to battle unceasingly for their rights. But when it comes to the question, where can their interests individually and collectively be best promoted? We answer unhesitatingly CANADA, CANADA, and no splendid declamation or Pompous rhetoric about the land of our nativity, or the patriotism and progress of the American people, can change this conviction in us, so long as one slave remains upon the soil to lift his fettered hands to God. We deny that "our enemies are conniving at every scheme to remove us from the soil of our nativity." The Committee knows as well as we do, that Pro-slavery men in the United States never urge the propriety of the free colored people emigrating to Canada, on the contrary they use every argument against it. The oppressors of our race in the United States are sagacious, they know that in union there is strength. Their dreams of future conquest and plunder are disturbed by visions [sic] of black regiments upon the Canadian frontier, with the red cross of St. George at their back. In emigrating to Canada we cannot possibly make our condition worse, but we have every chance of making it better, to argue otherwise would be fool hardy in any man or set of men. But we are asked if we intend to leave our brethren in bonds? We answer no. The same reasons that induced us to leave slave-holding in Virginia, where many of our own relations are in slavery, has [ ] us to exchange the partial liberty in one of the so‐called free states, for that sure and perfect freed in secured to every man by the genius of the British constitution. The example of successful Lawyers, Doctors, Merchants and Mechanics among the colored people of Canada, must necessarily effect the institution of slavery, especially if the materials used were formerly its victims. These are moral weapons and at the same time effectual ones in over-throwing slavery. Archimedes said that if he had a place whereon to stand, he would turn the world upside down. Colored men in the States need a spot whereon to stand, so that they can get a lever under slavery. We have that spot here in Canada, where all may labor unitedly too for the extinction of American slavery, and if there is not power enough in our fulcrum to raise that bloody system to its very foundation, we will get old England to lean upon it, and slavery will be at an end. - H.F.D.
The soldiers of the 60th U.S. Volunteers (colored regiment) held an impromptu meeting in convention last Tuesday at Camp McClellan, at which an address was delivered by Mr. Alex Clark of Muscatine, and resolutions were adopted expressive of the satisfaction at the results of the war in the overthrow of slavery and defeat of the rebels, and requesting from the Legislature of Iowa an inauguration of the proposed amendment to our State Constitution, through which equal political rights may be secured in our State. An address is to be prepared embodying these views. Of which more anon.
Nov. 4, 1865–Davenport Daily Gazette–Editorial entitled “The Appeal of the Colored Soldier of Iowa” accompanying the long article transcribed below on the convention of black soldiers held at Camp McClellan on October 31, 1865:
We trust no one of our readers will fail to give careful attention to the simple and calm appeal of the colored soldiers of Iowa printed in this issue of the GAZETTE, and accompanied by an account of the proceedings had at the regimental convention at which the preparation of the appeal was suggested and authorized. These Iowa soldiers address their appeal to the people of the State for whom and in whose stead they have been to the field and there faithfully served their country at the cost of personal peril and personal hardship. Each one of these seven hundred colored soldiers represented in the field a white citizen, who but for the proxy of that negro soldier would have been compelled to enter the ranks and incur the risk of battle. Having thus given two years of faithful service to the common cause they, with a calm respect which must command universal admiration, ask that that service shall have due appreciation and reward. They have nobly performed their duty of citizens in the field; they ask for recognition as citizens at home. Does any intelligent and candid man–be he Republican or Democrat, negro- admirer or negro-hater–honestly believe that this request ought to be denied or disregarded? Is there in all our State a citizen who denies that these appealing soldiers have not earned all they ask for? Is there one who doubts that in granting the boon for which these soldiers so humbly plead, the State would suffer the slightest damage or the safety of the “white man’s country” be at all imperilled? Can any one anywhere tell us why the ballot should not be placed in the hands of these Iowa soldiers who have so faithfully used the bullet in the Nation’s defense?
It is to conjecture the answers to these queries to be given by two classes of our voting population–the copperheads and the whiskey-heads. These colored soldiers volunteered to swell the army of “Lincoln’s hirelings” sent to “subjugate our Southern brethren.” If allowed to vote they will certainly throw their ballots just as they did their bullets–to hurt sympathizers with rebellion and slavery. They have resolved against the use of whiskey and the frequenting of saloons. If allowed a voice in elections they will most likely be fanatical on the Temperance question and won’t vote for drunken men to hold office. Of course, then, copperheads and whiskey-heads will unite in declaring that “no nigger ought to be allowed to vote.” But what do loyal and sober men say? Let all such read this appeal and answer our queries as to God and their conscience.
Nov. 4, 1865–Davenport Daily Gazette–Long news article entitled the “Convention of Colored Soldiers at Camp McClellan”:
In accordance with the earnest desire of numerous members of the regiment, the enlisted
men and non-commissioned officers of the Sixtieth U.S. Infantry (colored regiment), numbering about 700 persons, met in mass convention at Camp McClellan, Davenport, on Tuesday, Oct. 31st, 1865.
The convention was organized by electing Alexander Clark of Muscatine, President, and 1st Sergt. I.N. Tripler, Secretary.
The following named gentlemen were chosen Vice Presidents:
1st Sergt. Edward Herenden, Co. A
" " Samuel Meeks, Co. B
" " P. Neal, Co. D
" " D. Segrel, Co. E
" " Benjamin Franklin, Co. F
" " Loundon Triplett, Co. J
" " Alfred Mason, Co. K
Corporal G. Kelpher, Co. G
" Wm. Edwards, Co. H.
Mr. Clark, on being conducted to the chair, spoke as follows:
“Soldiers of Iowa: I would have been pleased if the honor you have conferred on me had been bestowed on a member of the regiment, and were it not for the interest I felt and the position I occupied in the organization of the regiment, I should feel loth [sic] to occupy the honored position to which you have called me. But I must confess that it is with a heart inexpressibly filled with gratitude and joy that I accept the honor you have done me. It assures me that you have confidence in me know that whilst you were in the field fighting in defense of your flag and mine, I, though at home, was giving aid and comfort to your noble effort.
“Soldiers of Iowa! when I addressed you this morning at your request and that of your gallant Colonel, the noble and brave-hearted soldier John G. Hudson, I said that when, two years ago, I presented you that beautiful flag, the ensign of our country, presented to you by the ladies of Keokuk and Muscatine, I thought it the proudest moment of my life; but I now confess I am doubly thrice proud in presiding over your present deliberations, had after the years of patient service you have given your country. Now, my friends, we have a work to perform, and here to- day. A duty we owe to ourselves and to our race, in asking for those political rights of which we are now deprived. These we must ask of the white citizens of Iowa–our friends who have so nobly maintained and defended the principles of Justice and Liberty throughout the late election campaign. And this recalls to mind what I told you two years ago, that you had true friends in Iowa. I reiterate that cheering truth now. I told you that Gov. Kirkwood, Senator Harlan and Senator Grimes were your friends. They are your friends now. I told you Chief Justice Lowe, Gen. N.B. Baker and Gov. Stone, our re-elected Governor, and ex-Gov. Kirkwood nobly took the stump in defense of our rights. On the principles they defended the State has been carried by a majority of 16,000! Therefore we can now ask the legislature to do its duty and prepare the way for our approach to the ballot box.”
Mr. Emanuel Franklin of Davenport was called for and addressed the convention in a short and pertinent speech, urging prompt and considerate action in furthering the views presented by Mr. Clark.
Addresses were also delivered by Mr. Corbin and by Sergt. Mason.
The convention also appointed a committee of ten, one from each company, to prepare resolutions. Also a committee of ten, one Sergeant from each company, to prepare and publish an address to the people of Iowa. On motion, Alexander Clark was added to the committee.
The convention also appointed a committee of ten, one Sergeant from each company, to draw up a petition to be signed by each man in the regiment and to be presented tot he next Legislature of Iowa, asking for the extension of the right of suffrage, so far as the Legislature can act in the premises. Alexander Clark was appointed to convey such petition to the capital and secure its presentation to the Legislature at its next session.
The following resolutions, as reported by the Committee, were unanimously adopted:
Resolved, That we, the soldiers of the 60th U.S. Infantry, formerly the Iowa African First, having returned home from the battle field, and feeling conscious that we have discharged our duty as soldiers in the defense of our country, respectfully urge that it is the duty of Iowa to allow us the use of our votes at the polls; believing as we do and must that he who is worthy to be trusted with the musket can and ought to be trusted with the ballot.
Resolved, That we recommend our colored friends all over the State to prepare and cause to be presented to our next Legislature petitions asking of that body the action necessary to initiate the amendment to the State Constitution, by the adoption of which the right we desire will be secured.
Resolved, That we recommend to our people throughout the country that patient pursuit of education, industry and thrift which will certainly be rewarded with increasing intelligence and wealth.
Resolved, That we recommend to our people everywhere to abstain from the use of intoxicating drink and from frequenting saloons.
Resolved, That we still have confidence in the President and the Republican Administration; and rest in the hope that they will do all that can be done to secure us our rights and protect our friends in the South from wrong and oppression.
Resolved, That we mourn, as we ever must, the sad fate of the martyr-President, Abraham Lincoln, the Great Emancipator and devoted friend of our race, yet rejoice that the great work which God appointed him to perform has been so nearly accomplished that the wrath of the oppressor is utterly powerless to prevent a full and glorious consumation.
The Convention then closed and adjourned, with three rousing cheers for Col. John G. Hudson and the officers and men of the 60th U.S. Colored Infantry; three cheers for Governor Stone, ex-Gov. Kirkwood, H. Price, H. O’Conner and Jacob Butler, and three cheers for A. Clark and the officers of the Convention.
Alexander Clark, Pres.
Ord. Sergt. I.N. Triplett, Sec.
THE ADDRESS OF THE CONVENTION OF COLORED SOLDIERS TO THE PEOPLE OF IOWA.
Fellow countrymen: We wish we could truthfully address you as “fellow-citizens.” Having established our claim to the proud title of American soldiers and shared in the glories won by the deeds of the true men of our own color, will you not hear and heed our appeal? We appeal to the justice of the people and of the Legislature of our State for those rights of citizenship without which our well earned freedom is but a shadow; we ask you to recognize our claims to manhood by giving to us that right without which we have no power to defend ourselves from unjust legislation and no voice in the Government we have endeavored to preserve. Being men, we claim to be of that number comprehended in the Declaration of Independence, and who are entitled not only to life, and liberty, but to equal rights in the pursuit and securing of happiness–in the choice of those who are to rule over us.
We appeal to your magnanimity, to your good faith, to your sense of justice. We ask no privilege, we simply ask for our own rights, long denied by the misguided and now conquered South, and withheld from us at the North in obedience to the political teachings and demands of a slaveholding public opinion. We will not believe but that the people of Iowa will be the first to do full justice to the men of color, as they have been among the foremost in upholding the flag of our country.
We rejoice in the fact and congratulate the people of our own color in every part of the land that in the recent election for Governor the gallant Stone, who marched as bravely up to the manhood suffrage issue as he was wont to do in the field of battle against the enemies of the country in arms, has been again chosen to the Gubernatorial chair by the handsome majority of more than 15,000 votes. In this fact the colored citizens of Iowa take courage and are the more incited to show our white friends that if we do not get our rights as citizens and voters, it is not because we do not deserve and have not fairly earned them, but only because prejudice and wrong still triumph over Truth and Righteousness. Seeing what our eyes have already beheld during the past four years we know that the day of full triumph is coming as surely as the Omnipotent reigneth. We patiently wait our time, desiring ever to prove faithful to God and our country, and hoping that suffering humanity, now contending for equal Rights and Justice, will ere long be made to rejoice in the hearty sympathy and aid of all good and true men everywhere. Trusting that this our appeal will receive a candid consideration from the people of Iowa, we subscribe ourselves in behalf of our brethren and race:
Alexander Clark, of Muscatine Iowa
Sergt. Edward Herenden, Co. A, 60th U.S. Inft.
" I.N. Triplett, Co. C, 60th U.S. Inft.
" Samuel Meeks, Co. B, 60th U.S. Inft.
" J. Neal, Co. D, 60th U.S. Inft.
" Daniel Segrel, Co. E, 60th U.S. Inft.
" Benjamin Franklin, Co. F, 60th U.S. Inft.
" Loundon Triplett, Co. I, 60th U.S. Inft.
" Alfred Mason, Co. K, 60th U.S. Inft.
" Wm. Edwards, Co. N, 60th U.S. Inft.
" G. Kelper Co. G, 60th U.S. Inft.
Committee appointed by the Convention of the 60th U.S. colored Infantry.