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Proceedings of the Freedmen's Convention of Georgia : assembled at Augusta, January 10th, 1866, containing the speeches of Gen'l Tillson, Capt. J.E. Bryant, and others


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Proceedings of the Freedmen's Convention of Georgia : assembled at Augusta, January 10th, 1866, containing the speeches of Gen'l Tillson, Capt. J.E. Bryant, and others


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of the




Assembled at Augusta, January 10th, 1866.




Published by Order of the Convention.


(Corner Jackson & Ellis Streets,)




Persuant to a published notice, the delegates from several counties convened at Springfield colored Baptist Church, Augusta, Ga., Jan. 10th, 1866.

The hour having arrived for the organization of the convention, the house was called to order by Rev. Wm. J. White, of Richmond county, whereupon, he nominated James Porter, of Savannah, for temporary Chairman, who upon taking the chair, made a few appropriate remarks, after which, R A Harper, of Augusta, was requested to act as Secretary. Chaplain H M Turner, by request of the Chairman then offered prayer.

On motion, the convention resolved to invite General Tillson, and the Mayor of the city to attend the convention at any time they could make it convenient, and that, Whereas, Captain J E Bryant, Lawyer Aaron A Bradly, and Chaplain H M Turner, were in the house, and they being on duty in the State, be requested to participate in the proceedings of the convention.

Mr. Bradly remarked that he was at home any how. That he received his christian education in this Church, though he had been away thirty-four years, but he should be pleased to assist his fellow citizens.

Chaplain Turner said he was well known in Georgia, he was a South Carolinian by birth, but had preached all through Georgia, many years ago, and he was at home really, but he thanked them for their courtesy.

On motion, a committee of five were appointed to examine the credentials of the delegates, provided the Chairman examined theirs first, C L Delemotta, R L Kent, R E Rucker, Henry Strickland, M Davis, were appointed.

On motion, the various Ministers of the city were invited to take seats in the convention, and have the privilege of speaking, but not to vote. A few others who accompanied the delegates from various counties were admited to the same courtesy, the several delegates then went before the committee on credentials, who examined ail their papers, after which the committee on the same, reported as follows.

We, your committee appointed to examine the credentials of the


several delegates, beg leave to report the following arrivals which we learn will be greatly enlarged this evening, and to-morrow. Richmond county, William J White, R A Harper, R L Kent, Lewis B Carter, Samuel Drayton; Chatham county, James Porter, U L Houston, C L Delemotta, David Waters, L B Toomer; Bibb county, Lewis Smith, W D Banks; Greene county, Valantine Thomas, Charles Morton, Lbraham Colsby; Cobb county, Henry Strickland, E Ruckner; Wilkes county, Lewis Williams, Henry Nelson, S W Sherman; Fulton county, Frank Quarles, James Tate, Joseph Wood, Andrew Jackson, Isaac Calhoun; Clarke county, William Finch, J Williams, Madison Davis, Daniel Brady; Morgan county, Edmond Johnson, Richard Jones, Shadrick McAlster; Warren county, William Harris; Muscove county Jerry Buckner, Henry Thomas, J Holbrock, Thomas Rhodes, H Benton. Several others appeared without credential, which the committee left for the convention to dispose off, as they deemed best, which subject was laid over for after consideration.

A resolution then prevailed offered by Rev. U L Houston, of Savannah, that a committee of nine be appointed to nominate officers for permanent organizations. Carter, of Richmond, Toomer, of Chatham, Williams, of Clark, Martin, of Greene, Quarles, of Fulton, Rucker, of Cobb, Williams, of Wilkes, Jones, of Morgan, Smith of Bibb, were appointed. During the absence of the committee, Rev. U L Houston addressed the convention on such subjects as he thought required their special attention, and was applauded while speeking. He was followed by Jackson of Fulton, and Finch of Clark. The remarks of the gentlemen were well timed, and were often broken by the cheers of the audience. They said, we had not come to hold a Secession convention, nor to throw off their loyalty to the general Government, or to their native State, neither was it their intention to kill or hurt any one, but as free men, we have met to ask for free laws, we mean to seek justice for all men irrespective of color, or condition. The laws which now govern us, were oppressive and cruel, we want them changed.

The committee on Nomination having returned, reported the following names: For President, James Porter, for Vice Presidents, the Chairman of each county delegation, for Secretary, R A Harper, for Assistant Secretary, L B Toomer, which was adopted, and the several officers took their positions.

The Chairman said he thanked the convention for the honor they had conferred upon him, and asked their assistance in the management of the affairs of the convention. Mr. Bradly moved that Cushing's Manuel be the rules which should govern the deliberations of the convention.

Mr. Turner opposed it upon the ground that the colored people were unaccustomed to conventions, and thought a few simple rules would be preferable.

Quite a discussion took place upon the subject, till finally, a


committee was appointed to draft such rules as was thought best adapted to the occasion. The committee consisted of Chaplain Turner, Revs Finch, Kent, White, and Delemotta, who, after a short absence, returned and reported the following which was unanimously adopted:


1. This convention shall hold one regular session each day, commencing at 9 1/2 o'clock a m, and adjourn at 1 1/2 o'clock p m.

2. One-third of the members shall constitute a quorum for the transaction of business.

3 No member shall leave the convention without permission of the President, and no member shall be recognized, or his motion received before the convention, unless he is within the bounds of the convention.

4. No member shall be recognized on the floor unless he rises to his feet, and first address the President, and shall not be allowed to speak more than twice upon the same subject without permission of the convention.

5. No member sball speak over ten minutes at one time, without special consent of the house, and all personal allusions must be avoided.

6 No member shall give the lie, or use any inflammatory language within the bar of the convention.

7. Each session shall be opened with religious services by one who shall be selected as Chaplain of the convention.

8. One Marshall and two Assistants shall be appointed to seat persons, and be obedient to the orders of the President, in the government of the convention.

9. No resolution shall be entertained unless it is seconded by another member, and not discussed till stated by the Chair.

10. When two members claim the floor at once, the Chairman shall decide the one in order, nor shall he be interrupted without another member rises to a point of order, which privilege shall be granted only through the judgment of the Chairman.

11. The President shall appoint all committees not otherwise provided for by the convention.

12. The votes shall be taken by the yeas and nays, unless a rising vote is called for.

13. All distinguished guests shall be introduced to the President, and the President shall introduce them to the house, who shall receive them by a rising acknowledgement.

14. No whispering or muttering calculated to interrupt the quiet of the house shall be allowed.

15. In all cases where the above rules do not meet the case at issue, the Chairman may appeal to Cushing's Manuel, which shall be recognized.

On motion, Rev Henry Watts was elected Chaplain of the convention.


On motion, S W Sherman was elected Marshal, with F Pearce, and R Washington, for assistance.

A resolution then prevailed, that a committee consisting of the Chairman of each county delegation, be appointed to effect a plan for the State organization, which will have its Headquarters at some designated place, and every county in the State be a branch of the main body. That each county have one Vice President, and as many assistant Vice Presidents as the Societies might require. The committee being appointed.

On motion, a committee was appointed to prepare a memorial to the Legislature of Georgia

On, motion, a committee was appointed to report on the condition of the colored people throughout the State.

On motion, a committee was appointed to draw up such resolutions as would express the sense of the convention to the country.

On motion, a provisional committee was appointed to attend to situating the delegates from a distance.

The convention then adjourned by ordering the rules read each morning after the reading of the minutes.


Persuant to adjournment the convention assembled at 9 1/2 a m, President Porter in the Chair. Prayer by Chaplain Watts, roll called, minutes read and approved. After reading the rules, several more delegates, who had arrived were reported by the committee on credentials.

Chaplain Turner moved that the third column of the Church be the bounds of the convention. Lawyer Bradly moved the fourth column. Captain Bryant ammended to include the entire Church. Rev Carter, Houston and Finch, all took part in the discussion for a while, but the motion for the fourth column prevailed.

The committee on invitation were called upon to report, but not being prepared, R T Kent moved they be discharged. After some debate, S W Beard, Moses Gardener, and Jonas Singleton, were appointed, and ordered forthwith to invite General Tillson, Mayor May, the Aldermen, &c.

The committee on permanent organization through the State were called upon, who reported, which report was adopted by a unanimous vote.

The report of this committee will be found at the end of the Proceedings.

Rev. Mr. Edes, of Boston, being present, was introduced to the onvention, and, by request, spoke at some length. He cautioned the convention on several points; advised them to speak out their mind with respect and courtesy to all men; he said he had ever


been their friend, and would be so, as long as he cherished the same opinion of them as a race which he does now.

At the conclusion of the gentleman's remarks, the Committee on Invitations reported that they had fulfilled their mission and that the gentlemen invited, expressed their sincere thanks for the honor conferred upon them, and that they would take great pleasure in complying with the request of the Convention.

On motion a committee was appointed to report the sense of the convention on education; committee appointed was James Porter, S W Beard, Rev R T Kent,

Messrs Toomer and Turner read some resolutions, the reading of which before the convention, was opposed by Mr. Bradly and Delemotta, which was referred to the committee on Resolutions.

On motion, Messrs Kent, Drayton and Waters were appointed a committee to report the sense of the convention on the death of the Hon. Henry Winter Davis.

The convention re-assembled in the afternoon to hear a speech from General Davis Tillson, Assistant Commissioner of the Freedmen's Bureau, which able, eloquent, and masterly-handled speech, we take great pleasure in laying before the public. It is almost needless to say it elicited protracted applause. The General having been introduced to the convention, rose and spoke as follows:

Mr. Chairman:

I gladly accept the invitation to speak before the Convention of the freedpeople of Georgia. Let me begin by congratulating you with the bright and happy prospects with which the New Year opens. Christmas week has passed, and the dreaded and much talked of insurrection of which you never dreamed has not come. You have given still another proof that you cannot, as a race, be even goaded to acts of violence and murder, that as in the days of the rebellion, when the wives and children of your former, and in some instances, doubtless, cruel masters, were in your safe keeping, you are the same, kind, gentle, trusting people, putting far from you all the suggestions of hatred and revenge, patiently waiting for the hand of the Lord to bring your deliverance, and looking to him to avenge your wrongs. In this respect you have a history, and a record, unsurpassed in the annals of the human race. Slowly as justice has come to you; tardily as has been the recognition of your merit, with how much pleasure do I notice, that finally the public press of the country is teeming with praise of your good and noble conduct. Every where about me, I hear the white people speak of you, not only in terms of kindness, but of gratitude.

Side by side with us, you fought beneath that banner, which conquers but to bring security and peace, and under whose folds, thank Heaven, no slave shall hereafter stand.

The past is bright and secure. The future with its destiny and


its duties is before us, and of these, I particularly wish to speak to' you.'

It is of the utmost importance that you should have clear and distinct ideas of the rights secured to you by the Proclamation of the President of the United States, the laws of Congress, and the success of our arms.

1st. You are free, and free for ever. No mortal power can thrust you or your decendants back into slavery. You can never again be bought or sold; the slave pen and the auction block are things of the past.

2d. All you can earn is your own, you have the same right with all other men to accumulate, hold, and enjoy property; the right to be as rich as you can make yourselves by your own energy, industry, and economy.

3d. You have the right to protection for your person and property, and to testify in Court in all cases in which freed people are parties interested.

4th. You have the right to education, the right to cultivate and expand all the powers of body or of mind, which have been given to you and to receive, and exercised that power which knowledge confers. There are some rights and priviliges, as for instance the right of sufferage, and to serve as jurors, that have not yet been conferred upon you.

As the servant of the Government simply. I may with propriety perhaps make known to you the purposes of the Government, so far as they have been declared, beyond this, doubtless it becomes me to speak with caution and modesty, but as I perceive that the question of the right of sufferage is being agitated among you, I will not shrink from saying, that, while it must be evident to all thinking men, that mere difference of color is no sufficient reason for withholding this right, that want of education and capacity to exercise wisely this high prerogative, is doubtless ample and just reason for withholding it. I know it may be said that no such distinction is made among white men, but that both ignorant and vicious whites are allowed to vote. I admit it, and at the same time call attention to the fact that when any considerable number of such persons are allowed to vote, as in large cities, the mischievous consequences prove conclusively that they ought to be deprived of a privilige which they only abuse, and make highly injurious to society. I mention this somewhat delicate subject to all your attention to this fact that whether or not you shall ever enjoy these high priviliges most likely depends largely upon yourselves — not so much upon your asking for them to which there can however be no objection, especially if done in the respectful and modest way which characterizes your petition — as your making yourselves competent and worthy to exercise them. Doubtless some of your number might safely be clothed with these rights now, but I think you will agree with me that the great mass of your people have need to make use of the opportunities of


education— now for the first time afforded them — before they can with advantage to themselves and safety to the country be intrusted with such rights.

With the blessing of providence your future is almost wholy in your own hands. You are no longer chattels but men. The right already conferred upon you, opens a very wide field for the exercise of your industry, energy and capacity. Show that as a people you possess these qualities. Continue peaceful and law abiding, and become useful, prosperous, self-reliant citizens, and you need have but little fear that any rights will long be withheld from you. With the distruction of slavery, all real cause of antagonism between the races disappeared. Sooner or later this will become evident. It will be felt and seen that both races must prosper together, or suffer together, and that not only the highest wisdom, but the truest political economy is contained in the injunction 'to do unto others as we would they should do unto us.'

One of the first duties to be performed in order that you may receive the greatest benefit from the rights already conferred upon you, is the cultivation of kindly relations between yourselves and the white people. This cannot be too strongly stated or too often reiterated. Nothing could be so fatal to your happiness and prosperity as a people, as the growth of suspicion, hatred, and animosity between yourselves and the whites. Let this become a fixed condition, and not even the power of the great Government, which has so solemnly pledged itself to maintain your freedom and which it will certainly make every effort to protect, can save you from suffering, perhaps from destruction. Fortunately there is little danger of this state of things. You have on your part already given the most abundant proofs of your willingness to forget the past and to act in a kind and conciliatory spirit in the future.

I cannot tell you how much pleasure it gives me to assure you that every well meaning man, woman and child in this State will gladly meet you in the same spirit. Everywhere the educated, refined, and responsible people are your friends, they recognize your good qualities, they praise your good conduct, and speak with gratitude of your fidelity in the past, they are willing to aid and countenance any effort for your education, improvement and elevation. And here let me say that I think you are fortunate in being residents of this State which so far as she has taken any action relating to your people, has acted kindly and wisel : First, the Constitutional convention gave to the Chief of the Freedmen's Bureau the right to select certain civil officers or other suitable citizens of this State as Agents of the Bureau. It was fully understood that only high minded, honorable men — who had sufficient manly pride and courage to disregard the prejudice of the people and do justice to all men irrespective of condition or color — should be selected as Agents of the Bureau, and that failing to do this duty, they would be removed and others appointed in their stead. I urged upon the members of the convention that men should be


selected and nominated to me for appointment in whom the intelligent freed people had confidence. In every instance when possible I have consulted your people as to the persons selected as Agents. The plan has not been long enough in operation to pronounce with safety as to the result, but so far as I am informed I am glad to be able to say that the Agents appointed are acting in good faith. ln some cases I know that they are doing it at the expense of their popularity with their own people.

The Legislature of the State has enacted a law which allows colored people to testify in Court, in all cases, in which they are parties interested. It is true that when white men alone are parties interested, your testimony is not admitted, but in this you have little or no interest, it is an act of injustice to the whites alone, and makes it possible for one white man to kill another in the presence of any number of respectable colored persons, and yet escape conviction. It is to be hoped that the glaring absurdity of such a distinction will work its own cure. Further, the proposed new system of laws, which have been prepared for the State, relating largely to the freed people is far more just and liberal than those adopted in some other States. All this exhibits in a strong light the kindly disposition toward you of the higher and better class of white citizens. I know you may say this would be very pleasant if it was only true. You may think I have been deceived and misled by the smooth words and fair promises made by the white people and that I am ignorant or forgetful of the numerous wrongs practiced upon your race, and which you may perhaps have felt in your own persons. But in this you are mistaken. I am in a position where I necessnarily hear and know more of the acts and intentions of the white people towards you than any citizen of the State, from many parts of which I am constantly hearing reports of outrages and murders. Do I not know that, merely because an insurrection was anticipated some of your people were tortured to make them tell that of which they knew nothing, because it had no existence; that in one instance at least a colored man was killed because he belonged to a secret benevolent organization, that many others were arrested, and that the authors of this outrage have nothing better to ofler as an excuse than their own cowardly, perhaps guilty fears! Almost daily I am shamed, mortified and disgusted by hearing men and women of my own race cursing and villifying the negro. But nearly all these people belong to the very large number of white inhabitants of the State, who as shown by the census, can neither read nor write, a few of them can read and write, they wear good clothes, put on a great many grand and foolish airs, and talk about their family and their blood, let me tell you that outside of the annoyance their presence gives better people, these persons are not of the slightest earthly account, they are neither ornamental nor useful. Unless they leave off consuming large quantities of tobacco and whisky, swearing about negro equality and strive earnestly to learn those things which well bred people know by instinct; unless they can


do something more manly and womanly, than spend their time in trying to it)jure and degrade a race they vainly imagine to be inferior to themselves, and whose very ignorance, poverty and want, constitutes the strongest claim for kindness at the hands of humane, just and high minded people, then the day is not far distant, when by respectable white people they will be regarded as beneath the negro in the social scale. Let these people go, they glory in their own shame, they take pride in parading their own hatred and malice, qualities which chiefly distinguish the denizens of the bottomless pit to whose embrace they are hastening, pity, forget, and avoid them ; bear with them patiently as you do with all the other necessary and unavoidable evils which surround you in life.

These same people hate and lose no oppertunity of insulting Yankees, but no respectable Yankee can stoop to accept these insults, especially officers of the Bureau must not do it, for while they can resent and punish these insults with ease and safety to themselves, the persons punished will certainly revenge themselves on some unfortunate member of your race. It is evident that officers of the Bureau can purchase a cheap popularity with certain well-meaning newspapers and people of the North by quarreling with the white people here, but they can only obtain this popularity at the expense, not merely through the suffering, but the death of some of your people. You know this, you have felt it.

Again I unite with you in thanking the Lord, that you are no longer under the unrestrained power and control of such ignorant, wicked and brutal people. Such persons should remember that the real difference among men is in the intention of the heart, and the ruling motives of life, and not in the color of the skin, and that instead of being superior to all colored people, they are infinitily below a really Christian man or woman of color, between whom and themselves there exist a gulf wide and deep. I know of colored people in this State whose lives of real benevolence and unostentatious charity excites my highest admiration. I know of colored men who work hard all day and into the night, and who give one third of all they earn to the support of the poor of their own race, and this I learn, not from their own lips, but from those of their white neighbors. Are these men think you in the presence of our Creator beneath the uneducated, mean and selfish white men and women, who spead their time hating and defaming negroes, I tell you that nothing but the inxhaustable scheme of salvation, and the transforming power of Jehovah can place these persons on a level with the colored men to - whom 1 have referred.

Do not misunderstand me, do not suppose that I am advocating social equality which has never existed among white people, and which I by no means suppose will ever exist among colored people. All persons white and black, have the right to select their associates, and to live on terms of intimacy and social equality with those only whom


they may choose, lind. who maj have like convictiors, feelings, and tastes with themselves.

But all this cruel and detestable conduct on the part of white peo^ pie — who whatever their pretentious or pride, are still reallv low, de- graded and depraved — does not in the slightest degree disprove or contradict what I have said of the kind wishes entertained by the educated and responsible people of the State toward you. No truly good man or woman dare look with hatred and contempt upon the humblest human being. And I ask you with the happy feeling that my advice will not be lost, to be true to your past record, to be cour- teous, obliging, and respectful to the white people, and to conquer . even your enemies by the resistless power of kindness.

Wi^h profound satisfaction I announce to you that throughout the State, except on the Islands and along the Coast, contracts for labor with your people, are being rapidly made, and that generally good wages are paid. When I came to the State to enter upon my duties, some three months since, 1 found that you wer^ receiving from $2 to $4: per month, and sometimes as low as twelve bushels of corn for a year's labor, 'njw from $12, to $15, per month is freely offered, depending upon the soil and' location. No able bodied freed- man in this State who is out of employment, need work for a less sum than 812 per month. Lot him* come to me or go to any officer of the B-reau in the State and he can easily obtain employment at this price, I state without fear of contradiction that this health}^, vigor- ous demand for labor is in no small degree, the result of the efforts of the Freed men's Bureau, and that it has only been reached by per- sistent, patient, earnest work. At first there were almost insur- mountable difficulties in the way, the wh"te people many of whom had lost their property in the war were discouraged, they said it is useless to hire the negro, he will not work unless driven, and this you Yar^ees will not allow us to do. They pointed out to me not a few exceptional cases, but I regret to be compelled to state, numer- ous instances where the freed people had baen given as high 03 one" half of all they could raise on a well stocked plantation, and where through idleness and laziness thej had failed to raise food enough to ia.>t them through the winter, while there were many worthy excep- tions where your people have been industrious, still I am forced by the facts to admit that generally the freed people have not done as well as they might easily have done, and as i hope and believe they will do in the future Of course under these circumstances the plan- ters were disheartened, they said it is useless to attempt to plant as before, we will employ a few of our former trusty servants, and let the rest take care of themselves. They said we dare not trust these people, rf we p ant a crop they will perhaps work until hot weather, or until they get tired or become dissatisfied, and then they will leave, go to some city, live in idleness and be fed by ^he Freedmen's Bureau, On the other hand, the freed people were full of suspicion of their former masters, many of whom had taken advantage of their iguor-


ancG, and practice the most sliamelcsis fraud upon them, and whose advice tney feared to believe or follow, lest they should act against their own interests. The question was, how shall these difficulties be removed, and these conflicdDg interests reconciled. Plainly, the first thing to do was to convinse the planter that labor could be made reliable and profitable, without this belief no one would be so iooU ish as to waste the little money he might have left, in attempting to "plant this year. It would have been simple folly to try to argue a man out of a belief in the facts of his own experience, useless to tell him the freedmen will work well, when he can say truthfully, I have tried them and they havcnot'done it. It was evident that something must be done to restore confidence in the labor of the freed people, or that ere long starvation would stare them in the face and stalk abroad throughout the State, The first order of the BureaU; issued a short time after my arrival, stated distinct y that hereafter no able bodied person, black or white, would be fed bv the Bureau who could earn his or her own support, the freed people were told they must not congregate in cities and live in idleness, but mast go to the country and find homos and employment. DuriLig the next month nearly, or quite* 60,000 rations were saved to the Government in the city of Savannah alone, and a corresponding amount all over the State. It was announced in the orders referred to and afterwards before the Constitutional Convention at Milledgville, that the Govern- ment insisted simply that the freed peoph should be well paid and kindly tf-eated, and that when this was done the Bureau would neither enourage the freed people to violate their con<:ractr, nor permit them ^to do it, that this was an abuse of their freedom, which would be injurious to their employers, and in the end ruinous to themselves. The announcement of a defiaite policy which proposed to do every^ thing right and proper not inconsistent with the freedom of the color- ed people, to make labor reliable and profitable, has worksd a revolu- tion in the eonvictioos, feelings and intentions of the people, white and black. To-day both races are hopeful for the future. From the moment that the reasonable and just policy of the Bareau became known and understood, the prospect began to brighten, and the dark cloud that rested over the future of the State began to lift. Sensi- ble people said, well if the freed people will only work faithfully, we are all right yet, we can atford to pay them good wages and are" will- ing to do ip. From the first, the ellbrts of the^ Bureau has been put forth to assist the freed people to obtain homes, goodwa:|es and kind treatment. It was of coarse felt and understood that education, schools and churches were very important, but first of all the people must have something to eat, something to wear, and shelter for them- ■ selves and families. If all this poisistent, determined labor has been necessary to^,overcomo the bad efiects produced by the idleness or inefficient work of last year, how immensely miportant is it that the experience of this year shall convince planters that your labor is reliable and trustworthy. The next pressing duty devolving upon

officers of the Bureau is to leave notbing undone, no effort unmade, to induce and if necessary to compel the freed people to observe their contracts, to work cheerfally and faithfully, and thus to assist the planters in realizing the hopes we have inspired, and in consequence of which good wages are now offered the freed people of this State, It remains for you to show that the efforts of the Government in your behalf, the assurances given and promises made for your good conduct have not been made in vain. You are on trial before the country; you are to demonstrate this year that the statement that you will not work for good wages is not true, or you are to bring phame and mortification upon your friends, and sorrow and suffering upon yourselves. Let toe urge upon you in the most earnest and impressive manner, that as you separate and go back to your homes, you teach your people to work honesty and industriously this year ; to show the country that they can do more and better under the higher incentives of freedom than they ever did under the lash. Tell them that their future will be moulded, and even to a ]arge extent, fixed by the record they shall make this year. The price you will be able to command for labor hereafter will depend wholly upon the character for industry, honestly and obedience you shall establish. If it shall be as we hope and believe, if at the end cf the year, this land shall be covered with the abandant fruits of your toil, then in- deed will you be blessed. A single year of patient, honest, steady work and the fortunes of your people are established forever. You will have demonstrated the fact which will secure for you all the rights and blessings mankind can bestow. Thenceforward ^you may receive all that any man can possess or enjoy, and all doubt disap* pears of your future prospects and success. Remember nothing worth having is obtained without labor ; that education the most valuable of possessions C3mes only by study and effort: that neither the rich nor the poor, can secure it in any other way, and that if your race are to rise in the scale of civilization, it must come by work, constant patient work, without which any people will sink into barbarism aad insignificance. Kemember that labor is imposed not by the white man, but by your Creator, that it is not a curse but a blessing and that it can only be avoided at the expense of misery and degradation. Work, that you may not only accumulate property and hav3 homes of your own, with all the security and happiness their possession brings, .but that you may educate and elevate your-* selves and your children. Work is the talismanic power which can remove your poverty and ignorance, and replace them with wealth, knowledge and happiLess. I know that in asking you to forget and forgive the past and to become honest, humble and faithful workers. I cannot point you to an example in the past of my own race, but there is that in the history of yours which makes me hope and be- lieve that the appeal will not be in vain, and that we are about to enter upon a career of unsurpassed and unexampled prosperity, which jour labors will help to create. Resolve that you will become an


industrious, thriving, productive people, adding something to the wealth and power of mankind, and you will l3e welcomed as freemen, not only by those among whom you live, but by the world. Do this, and sooner or later, all your rights as a people will be freely conceded and fully recngnized. Your advancement, improvement and elevation will be bounded and circumscribed only by the powers and capacities your Creator has bestowed upon you. Continue to disprove by your future, as you have by your past, the evil prophecies made of you.

You are about to take your place among the free people of the world. Let me urge you by the highest and holiest considerations men can feel, to do your whole duty, to shdV that if providentially the blood of thousands of our noblest and best has been shedj and the nation shaken to its centre that you might be free, that the sacrifice has not been made in vain, but that it has ushered forth a race of freemen, whose patient, kindly industry, and consequent prosperity shall bring a rich blessing to mankind.


Pursuant to adjournment the convention assembled at 9^ o'clock a m, President Porter ill the Chair; prayer by Rev F Quarles; roll called ; minutes read and approved. The President said that General Tillson, on the previous evening, had left several of his General Orders with him, and requested they be submitted to the convention for their examination and approval or disapproval, and also stated that the General would be at the convention at 12 o'clock, and he desired that we proceed to read and pass judgment on the same before the General arrived. All business being suspended for that purpose, L B Toomer, of Savannah, was appointed to carefully read them. [Several sections were read the second time for the benefit of different members. Before getting through with the orders the General arrived and waited till they were all read, after which ho requested any delegate who desired to ask any question on his General Circulars to do so, and if they had any objections to any- thing in them to speak out, for he wanted to know if his action met our approval or not. The General was then asked questions by every- body from all ports of the house which he respectfully answered. This being such an irksome mode, the convention resolved that the Chairman of each county delegation be the spokesman for the whole and their names be Ci^lled in order, and let them question the Gene- ral, which was done. After several hours, the convention resolved, to relieve the General as they knew he was tired, when the following resolution passed unanimously through the convention :

Whereas, This Convention has heard the able, eloquent and de« clarative pledge to equal justice of General Davis Tillson, Assist-


ant Commissioner of the Freedman's Bureau for the State of Georgia, and

Whereas, The General has; submitted all his orders to our inspection for approval or disapproval with an explanation of the same.

Resolved, That we most heartily concur with his entire policy; that all his orders meet our most cordial approval, and that we will support the same in person and influence.

Resolved, That we request the General for a copy of his address delivered before the convention, on the afternoon of the 11th inst., for publication.

On motion the house adjourned till 3 o'clock, p m.


The convention, as per adjournment, met at 3 o'clock p m. Roll call, and minutes read, &c., President Porter asked if any of the the committees were prepared to report. The committee appointed on the death of Henry Winter Davis reported the following, which was adopted ;

Whereas, we have with deep regret received intelligence of the death of the Honorable Henry Winter Davis, Member of Congress from the State of Maryland, and,

Whereas, the nation has lost a great man of humanity, a great advocate, and an uncompromising friend.

Resolved, That this Convention, while willing to submit to the order of Providence, do sincerely mourn the loss of so true a defender as was found in the above named gentleman.

Resolved, That our gratitude and affections shall ever cluster around his memory, and that we will transmit to his children the virtues which characterized his brilliant life.

Resolved, That we deeply sympathize with his bereaved family, and with his political party, who have lost a beloved member and a faithful advocate of equal justice.

The committee on the condition of the colored people gave notice that they were ready to report, whereupon the Chairman called it up, which was read and adopted, after some debate.

We, your committee who was appointed to prepare a report on the condition of the colored people in the State, and to present the same to the honorable body, most respectfully beg leave to submit the following:

It is with much regret that your committee are compelled to inform you, that after hearing the painful stories of a large majority of your delegates, that they deem it imprudent to report them in in the character given. It appears, however, that in some of the counties, our people are farcing as well as can be expected under the condition


of existing circumstances, while in others murder and other horrid outrages are the ordinary sufferings of our people. It appears that in several places through the States, color'^d people are not allowed to travel without passes from their former owners, while others still are afraid to acknowledge themselves free. In many places their meetings are broken up, and schools are strictly forbidden. Several who worked for a share of the crop were driven off, as soon as it was gathered. Men in several places are compelled to work for five and seven dollars per month, and support their families off the same, while old and decrepit persons are turned out to die Though we are happy to say, this is not a universal complaint, many of the white friends are disposed to do a just part, and treat their former slaves with great feeling of regard.

Your committee are also pleased to learn that the most of the offi- cers of the Freedmen's Bureau, are tr.e to the interest of our people. But owing to their large numbers, it is almost impossible for them considerately to adjust every grievance which occurs through the various counties. ^

Your committee would recommend that associations be formed by our people, in every town and neighborhood for the relief of poor and suffering, and to see after the education of our children, and that those associations be composed of as many white citizens as are friend- ly to the interprize, and willing to lend us assistance. And that tne said association have a treasury to deposit a weekly or monthly contribution, which will be disposed of for the benefit of our necessi- ties, as the association may judge expedient. Your committee would recommend that these associations be every where known, as the Frier dly Union Society. And that they be forthwith formed through- out the State.

The committee appointed to prepare a memorial for the legisla- ture of the State, asked the privilege to report and was ^rranted to do so by the chairman. The following address was read before the convention from a committee of nine, and adopted.


To the honorable members of the Senate and House of Represent.

tatives of the State of Georgia, Gentlemen :

Assembled as we are in convention composed of delegates from different parts of the State for the purpose of comparing ideas and blending our efforts together, in devising means for the moral, social and political interest of our people, have thought it not out of keep- ing with the object ^f our convention, to beg your favorable attention to a few facts touching the condition of our race The success and general good of whom are so indissolubly connected with yours.

You have convened to enact laws to govern our no ordinary State. This exercise of power is invested in you by the constitution of a


p^ea^ r^pnblic. The l<^<?al prerogatives of the people have been trans- fered to yoa bj virrao of hy'vnr their cl oscm rt'pri'seiitaiiive-!. There- fore wht'U we appeal to your wis'lom, sense of justice, and tnagna- i^ iijous i^eTierosity, we know rhat your c •nstitueiits as well -your honorable body will concede this picsumption to be the sacred right of your humbl(\st country men.

It is with profound reverence and ackn'^ viedgod izratitudo, that we accept thf precious boon of liberty, which has rt suited in the main from the sa gu'n;iry s ruj/gle and great revolution, but recently terminated in this country Notwithsfan ling we are repeatedly told that the party who freed us, done so, upon the unequivocab'e ground, of military T'ccessity, and not from philanthropic corjsiiierations. I5ut we are n^t concerned about the means, ^ve gratefully accept the re- sult, and accord the honcr to God, This much however you will sub-^cribe to (!ur credit. We never inaugurated a servile icsurrec- tioti. We St- yed peaceably at our hemes, and labored with our usual industry. While you were absent fi^htinjz in the field, though we kfiOM' our p'^wer at the same time, and would frequently speak of it. We knew then it w is in our p )wer to rise, fire your hnuse^, burn your barns, railroads, a-id discom.'node you in a thousand ways. So mnch so, that we could have swe t the country, like a tea ful tornado But we pretered then as we do now, to wait on God, and trust to the institicts cf your humaniry. Though it is impossible for us to re- main indifferent spectatoi s while you are harnessing the State with laws which mu-t i ff^'ct our destiny as a people for :oges to come. This privil ge was not allowed us dunn^: the war, we wet efirced into your service to throw up breast work forts and fortifica.ions, atid do the work of pioneers utiderthe guns of your enemy, where many of us in common with yourselves were killed. We ihus relieved thou- sands ot your men for the armed service of the field

Thereto' e you could not expect us to remain disinterested and dormant, while you are making laws to govern us under such differ'* ent i-elaiioDs as we sustained to our State refore we were freed. Then we had as many different law"^, as wc had masters, every master bad rules to regulite his own domestic subjects. Bat now a uniform sy.s'eu) of laws must govern us, either in an acknowledged capacity with the whites, or as a distii ct branch of the inhabitants of tho State. These laws shi uid either recognize cur rights as a people, or ' Ise the State should not exact of u-j the tribute oi a people, for taxation without representat.' on is contrary to the fundamental princi- ples which govern republican countries.

Buffering from the consequent degradation of two hundred and forty-six years enslavement, it is not to be expected that we are thoro'ighly tual fied to take our position bef-'de those who ftv^r ages have been rocked in the cradl • of education. But as we are willing to bury the past, and foiget the ills of f-lavery, and ass'ime the atti- tude of a- free people, we shall expect your encouragement by the /^re^t^oij of sn'ol) laws m ore cVjuitab)o, and pragre^ssiro. The in-


scrutable hand of Providence has cast our lot among yours, we

bat'e been i orix and reared amor'g you The duj|| of our faibers miiigle with yours in tin* same i;rave yards; you nave trunsiuiMed into our V' ii.s much of the rich blood wh cb course throuj^h yours;' we talk the same ia?iguHj;e, and worship the same Go ; oarui. tners have nursed }ou, and satisfied your hunger with our pap, our associatioa -with you have taught us to revere you. This is your c )untry, but it is ours too; ^ou were born here, so were we; your fathers foUi^ht for it, but our fathers fed them. Therefore we know of n ■ country but this, and if we did, we are too poor to emmi^rate to it, so we si all expect to remain in your midst till providence at least orders a plan of separation.

And being as we are a people susceptable of mental culture and intellectwal growth, as you are, you can not in j>jstice with the pro- gress of society and spread of idta-*, enact laws for the future by the aspects of the present. A few years will materially change our status, education and wealth which are bouiid to be distributed in our 9- ranks will tell in power upon the resources of the State. We there- fore tr'ist your honorable botJy will make laws which will cont/m" plate the future, more than, the present. ChMri^y will forbid you begirding us Vkith limited enactments. We shall want asylums for our lunatics; schools and colleges or our children; hurches for our rt sp •ctivo faiths. 0 :r }Oung men will be aspiring to ihe positions of doctors, lawyers, ministers, army office rs, and every capacity in which they can represent the interest of their people. In return we shall expect to maintain the honor of our State, and the integrity of our country, for shoqild an invading foe plant his symbol upon tte thresh- hold of our free republic, no ha' d shall be raised sooner than ours to strike it down. 13u it would not be reasonable to expect this of us, if your laws denied us justice. It would be in keepiiiif with human nature to side with those whose laws were most equitable. It is contrary to nature, to love that wh ch is no' lovely. We arc in- clined however, to believe that nutriin-/ less than true allegiance to our country and to the interest cf our Stare, will ever character zj our people. Because Georgia which was in many vespects so tolerant, in the days of slavery will not in our opinion, while passing tlirough a glorious transition, be unmindful of our relations to its perpetual security and honor.

We are very thankful for the«pass3ge of the act, which allocs us to testify in your courts, on such qiK'Sti(ms as appertain to our inter- est. But we trust you will not stop there. We need the power to represent our interest in every depa: tment bearing upon our condition as a people. We claim at least conditional sufterage, aijd do most respectiully solicit yo'ir grave body for the privilege to vote in all cases where our interest is at stake, and the educaiion and general intelligence of our people will guarantee security in the exercise of that exclusive ri;:ht.

We also claim that in all cases where we are tried for legal offences


b^'tween each other, a jury consisting of colored men should be em- panneled for that purpose. For it is the right of every man accused of any offence, to be tried by a jury of hi^ peers, and when the pai- ties are al solutel: colored, there could be no injustice done the white man by such a course of action, besides it would give entire Satisfaction to the colored people. And even when white persons should be a party to the affair a proportional representation on the jury would be no unfair intrusion upon tbem.

Being accustomed to your fields, workshops, and to the performs ance of your domestic duties, we claim thorough knowledge of the same, and we are willing as heretofore to work in them for reason- able wa/es, we shall expect to be employed by you, and to do ('Ur work as dutiful servants; at the same time, we shall expecl^ clemen- cy and kind treatment from you. Many of our people who have never had the opportunity of leaving their homes, and having heard such fabulous stories about the splendor of our cities, have left their homes to lounge, in several instances, around our towns and villages, with false ideas concerning the benenti thereby to be realized. But so soon as they shall become a little tempered to freedom, this state of ihiugs will favorably change, indeed, has r-uiarkably changed al-* ready. Thousands are returning to tiieir former homes, or to newly selected ones, and are preparing to raise such produce as the seasons and their means will allow.

We are also sorry to inform you, that thousands have been driven away from their homesteads by their former owners, merely to gratify a vindictive spleen, which they ciierishtd against the ruling power, for which we are not to blame. Others have been forced to leave iu consequence of such inhuman cruelty, that it was impo^-sible to live and endure it. But we trust this state of things will soon sober down, and that the madness of our white people will be transformed into a spirit of agreeableness.

The Freedmen's Bureau has done, we believe, all in its power to alleviate our sufferings and necessities, and appears to be still actu- ated by the same spirit, for which we are under many obligations. But these government agents cannot remain here always, therefore we appeal to you for legal protection against every speci';S of outrage.

We would most respectfully in this connection call your attention to our treatment on the Pvailroads , We are charged equal with the the whites, but do not get, half the accommodation. We are cu. sed and kicked about by conductors; our wives and sisters are black guarded and insulted by the scrapings of earth. The most filthy language is used to our ladies regardless of their respectability, age or character offVring restraint, and generally assigned to cars with no comforts whatever, while the whites who :-ay no more, if as much, have all the conveniences possible, and if we speak of our treatment we are frowned upon with contempt, atid replied to in bitter epithets.

Nor can we close th s memorial witi out calling your attention to the often repeated threats, which we hear ia various parts of the


State, leading us to believe there must be a contemplated plot in reserve for our general extermination

This we infer from being frequently told, ' when the Yankees all leave, you had better leave with them, or you will wish you had,' and other remarks too numerous to mention. True, the better informed of us have but little fears, but there are thousands who are kept in unsettled suspense from such remarks, and we think this greatly militates against the contract system. But give us laws just and equal in their protective bearings, and these fears will be banished and illdesigning men will be utterly powerless.

On motion, Mr S W Beard was appointed to prepare a special copy, to be signed by the President and Secretary, and to be forward- to the Governor of Georgia, with a request that he lay it before the Legislature of this State,

The committee on State Officers not being ready to report. Rev. Lewis Williams was called upon to address the convention which he did at some length, and was followed by E Rucker, of Cobb, F Quarles,of Fulton, and Lewis B Carter, of Richmond.

The committee having returned, informed the convention they were prepared to report, when it was discovered the committee had divided, and there was a majority and a minority report. Report of the majority: J E Bryant, for President; Rev Wm J White, Recording Secretary ; L B Toomer, for Corresponding Secretary. Report of the minority: Rev James Porter, for President; Rev Wm J White, Recording Secretary, and L B Toomer for Corresponding Secretary. After some debet, the report of the majority was adopted, when, on another motion the vote was declared unanimous.

After the election was completed the officers were found to stand thus: President, J E Bryant. Vice presidents : T P Beard of Richmond county, U L Houston of Chatham, W D Banks of Bibb, Edward C Powers of Greene, Henry Nelson, Wilkes, Frank Quarles of Fulton, William Finch of Clarke, S McAlister of Morgan, T Rhodes of Muscogee, William Harris, of Warren, Recording Secretary ; Wm J White of Richmond. Corresponding Secretary : L B Toomer of Savannah, Ga.

On motion, a committee consisting of H M Turner, U L Houston, R T Kent, was delegated to bring in the newly elected officers, who upon being introduced to President Porter, was introduced to the convention, after which the Chair addressed the newly elected officers in a most eloquent manner. So very thrilling and nerve searching, was his appeals to their responsibility as men, whose object would be the political and educational interest of rho colored people of the State, that the officers elect could hardly reply when it came their turn.

The convention adopted the following oath for them to take before going into office, which they all took with right hand lifted


toward heaven, and kissed the Bible at the conclusion of their repetition.

I, _ _ _ _ _ _ _, do before Almighty God and to The Union League for equal rights of the State of Georgia, most solemnly Swear faithfully to discharge all the duties of my Office, and will treat with due regard, all the members of this Association ; and I will also support and defend the Constitution and the Laws of the United States, so help me God.

On motion, a committee was appointed to draft resolutions, expressing the sentiments of the convention on the fiendish assassination of President Lincoln ; Messrs White, Kent and Drayton were appointed.

On motion, the house adjourned to met as per rules.


The convention assembled as per adjournment, President Porter in the Chair, prayer by Chaplain Watts roll called, minutes read and approved, rules of the convention read.

Committee on the death of Mr. Lincoln reported, as follows, which was adopted :

Whereas, This convention owes the privilege of assembling in its present capacity, and the freedom of our persons to the invincable patriotism of the late President Lincoln. And,

Whereas The said President was struck down in the prime of his administrative career, by the foul hand of treason, under the revengeful influence of traitors to the Government who fostered them in every conceiveable right.

Resolved, That we mourn his loss as no others can mourn it on earth, a d that we enshrine his name in our hearts with deific honors.

Resolved, That it is the opinion of this convention that if President Lincoln had lived, justice to all men irrespective of color, would have been meted out, and that the father of liberty would have been the father of rights.

The committee on Education was called upon to report, which report will be found at the end of the proceeding.

0n motion the convention resolved to have 2000 copies of the proceedings printed, for general distribution through the country.

On motion, the convention requested the several churches in the city for a collection on the following sabbath, and all the churches in the State as soon thereafter as their request could be made known to said churches, and that the said collection is be forwarded to the Headquarters of the association at Augusta, Ga , as soon as collected.

Mr. Eberhart Superintendant of colored schools in the State of Georgia, being introduced to the convention, made an interesting ad-


dress. He said he had just returned from a tour through the State, and was much pleased with the State of things among our people He saw we were determined to educate ourselves and that was what we needed He is a friend of our race, ever had been and if we did not know it now, we would in a short time. He did not work for a great name among men, but from a consciousness of duty. He said we were capable of any improveme t that white men were, and time would tell it. The committee on resolutions reported but the convention objecting to some things in them, resolved to adjorn till 2 1/2 o'clock to consider them.

On motion, the house adjourned.


Convention assembled at 2 30 p m. Prayer by President Porter ; roll called and minutes read alter which the newly elected officers came forward and took the oath of office. Captain J E Bryant, the President elect; on taking the oath spoke as follows :

Gentlemen of the Georgia Equal Rights Association:

Having met in convention in pursuance of a call to the friends of impartial justice in this State, and having formed an Association, you have elected me President.

I appear before you to accept the honor, and to thank you for the confidence you have manifested in me.

The call for this convention was addressed to the friends of impartial justice, but was responded to by colored men only. I trust that I shall live to see the day, when a call of this kind will be res onded to equally by both races

I am informed that some of your number felt, that, as colored men only were represted in the convention, the officers of this Association should be colored men exclusively But that, after carefully considering the subject, you were unanimous in your selection. While I believe that you acted wisely in choosing your President from among your white friends, I could wish that the honor had been conterred upon some other person. But, after listening to the remarks of the President of your convention, who, in words that touched my heart as it has seldom been touched, assured me, that in choosing one from the race of your oppressors, to act as President of an Association, organized to secure fur your race equal rights, you manifested the confidence nd esteem entertained for me by yourselves and those whom you represent; I can not decline to accept the position, and I promise, that, with the help of Him, who rules all nations and has by an almost miraculous display of power given you freedom, I will not disappoint you. If my efforts in the past have been such as to lead you to place confidence in me, I trust that nothing in my future conduct shall cause you to lose that


confidence. I shall labor earnestly and fearlessly with what ability God has given me,

You have organized an Association to aid in securing for all, without regard to race or color, equal political rights. If you had chosen for officers Done but colored men, an impression would undoubtedly have been created, that, although your Association was known as an 'Equal Rights' Association, it was, in fact, a society of colored men alone. But, by your action, you have shown that you desire to co- operate with your friends.

loz/y have taken the initiatory step, but, I believe, you will be joined by a large number of the white race, friends of freedom and progress.

You ask only political equalily ; conscious that social equality does not exist, you neither expect or desire it, but you claim for yourselves the right, conceded to white men, to select your associates and protect your wives and daughters from insult, promising safety to their wives and daughters, so far as yourselves are concerned.

I believe that this position is right^ and that the time ivill come when equal political rights will be conceded to every man in this country without regard to race, descent or color.

"Truth, crushed to earth will rise again, The eternal years of God are hers, But error, wounded, writhes in pain And dies amid her worshippers."

A few hundred years ago the inhabitants of Europe Tiere ignorant of the existence of this Western continent. 'But, suddenly, the world, as it were, opened on its hinges and revealed to the wondering gaze of the old world a new continent,' rich in everything which nature could give, with mighty rivers, broad lakes and lofty moun-* tains, whose snow»^capped summits pierced the clouds.

Men, who longed for civil and religious liberty, came to that wils dBrness country, braving almost insurmountable difficulties and hard- ships. Amid the storms of winter one company lauded upon the inhospitable shores of what is now New England.

Other colonists settled in different parts of the country until they numbered some more than three millions.

Strange as it may seem, these men, who came here to escape from religious presccutiou. themselves persecuted those who diflfered from them in religion.

And, what is yet more strange, men, who sought these shores that they might escape from tyranny, established a tyranny mor2 hateful than that which they had endured.

Such is human nature. Men deny to others what they claim for themselves. The injunction of our Savior, *as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise' is little regarded. The inhabitants of this country were oppressed by the Government of


Great Britian, and after remonstrating until remonstrence ceased to avail, they declared war against the mother country, and, presenting to the world the Declaration of Independence, fought to establish the truths therein contained. They declared that 'all men' — not white men — but ' 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.' Standing upon this broad platform of equal rights for all men, and appealing to the God of battles our fore fathers fought seven years, when victory crowned their arms

There wore then thirteen colonies, and, to unite them, establish justice and secure domestic tranquility, they formed a constitution, which, with some amendments, was the Constitution of the United States before the late war.

We would suppose that a people who had fought for equal rights for all men would have established a Government that would secure to all that blessing.

But the descendents of those men who escaped from tyranny in the old world and established religious presecution in this; the people who carried on a seven years struggle to establish a free Government, allowed the worst tyranny that ever cursed the earth to exist in their very midst.

It is true that the statesmen, who framed the constitution, considered slavery to be an evil that would be soon remedied, but interest prevailed, and the institution speedily found able advocates, and, in time, ministers of the Gospel held that it was a divine institution. Not only at the South, did this feeling prevail, but, at the North, large numbers of men were found, who publicly or privately defended slavery

About the year 1854, many of the leaders of the two great political parties into which the country was then divided, believing in the Declaration of Independence and loving liberty, brok off from these parties and formed a new party.

Considering slavery an evil, not only to the master, the slave and the State, but to the whole country, they determined, if possible, to prevent its extension into the territories.

Congress could not, without violating the Constitution of the United States, which is the supreme law of the country, interfere with slavery in the States; but it could refuse to admit a State, whose constitution did not prohibit slavery. This the Republican party proposed to do.

In 1856 they attempted to elect a President but failed. In 1860 th'iy again made the attempt, and were successful, electing Mr. Lin- coln.

The Southern States decided to secede, and this brought on the late war. At first the President attempted to crush the rebellion, and at the same time, protect slavery, but, after fighting nearly two years, and becoming satisfied that the rebellion could not be crushed and


slavery preserved, on the 1st day of January, 1863, he issued his Emancipation Proclamation.

The armies of the South were conquered, and slavery ceased to exist in nearly all of the States.

The Republican party, which, at the commencement of the war, intended to protect slavery in the States, now advocated universal freedom. To secure this, Congress passed a resolution to amend the Constitution of the United States

This having been ratified by two thirds of the States (one of which, I am happy to say, is our State of Georgia) slavery has ceased to exist in the United States. Now the Republican party places itself upon the broad platform of Equal Rights to all. There our fathers stood when they fought the war of the revolution, and there we stand.

Having been a member of the Republican party since its organization, I am happy to accent the Presidency of an Association, which advocates its policy in this the Empire State of the South.

Becoming, as you do, a part of the great Republican party, so far as this is possible in your present condition, it is important that you do your part in securing the grand objects which it advocates. You may perhaps think you can do nothing. You can do much ; I might almost say that you can decide the question. If you, as a people, shall be industrious and peaceable ; if you become educated, and, so far as you can consistently with self-respect, cultivate friendly relations with those who were formerly your masters, it will be as impossible to deprive you of the rights which other citizens enjoy as it would be to prevent the ebb and flow of the ocean.

I have full faith that your future will be bright ; but a great work is before you. It will be my duty, and I can assure you that it will be a pleasurable duty, to assist, so far as I am able ; in doing this not only are you benefitted, but the State also.

There are in Georgia five hundred thousand freedmen. They have heretofore been laborers and have done much to develope the resources of the State. If you are not as a people industrious, not only would you remain poor and become a burden to the State, but property holders would likewise suffer.

They would however, in time, fill your places with laborers from abroad, and drive you from their midst. If you shall be industrious, as I fully believe you will be, then it will be for the interest of men of property to retain you.

It can not be expected that you will be industrious unless you receive fair compensation for your labor. This I shall endeavor to aid you in securing.

Formerly you were obliged to work or submit to punishment, now you must be induced to work, not compelled to do it.

If you are not industrious when you are justly treated, not only will Southern men drive you from their midst, but Northern men will not intefere in your behalf, for the latter dispise the idle, they have ' no use ' for the lazy.


It was for the interest of your master that you should be ignorant, it is for the interest of all that you shall be educated You will be better laborers if educated. Men do not naturally love work, they are induced to work from necessity or interest. That man who has the most wants will usually labor with the greatest industry unless these wants are supplied without labor. The more intelligent men are the more wants they have, hence it is for the interest of all that laborers shall be educated. The more enlightened the inhabitants of a State become, the more prosperous will it be.

New England, with its cold climate and unproductive soil, exerts a powerful influence in this country because its people are educated; while the sunny South, with its genial climate, is less prosperous because its laboring class is uneducated.

I believe that you will be peaceable because when you had cause to fight for liberty, you looked to God for deliverance. Even when your maters were absent in the army, fighting to rivet your chains more firmly, leaving their wives and children unprotected, you were faithful. Now that God has heard your prayers, and your friends are laboring to secure to you your rights, your will, I feel certain, conduct yourselves as law abiding citizens; although outrages are committed upon your people that we should expect only in the dark ages and in the most barbous country, do not allow yourselves to be goaded by these to break the peace. You are not only allowed to defend yourselves and families, but true manhood demands that you do it.

Cultivate friendly relations with every person, if possible. You wish to live in this State, and if you live here you wish to do so in peace. Many of the best me nin your midst are your friends, and wish to give you justice. The Governor of the State has said kind words of you. Although I am unacquainted with him, yet I have reason to believe that he is not only a highly educated and accomplished gentleman and an able statesman, but a christian man who will do what he believes to be his duty. The best men in the State intend to be just, and although justice in their estimation may not mean equal political rights, yet, exemplary conduct on your part will perhaps induce them to advocate even these.

Many of these most wealthy citizens of the State have been reduced almost to poverty; others have but little besides their lands and stock. They are disheartened, believing that you will not work faithfully, and seeing nothing encouraging in the future. Disappoint these men: show them that a freeman is a better laborer than a slave. If you do this, you will not only make them your friends, but you will make them friends of freedom, and they will aid you in securing your rights. Go forth and work out your destiny! The eyes of the world are upon you; some expecting, many fearing your failure, and yet others tremblingly trust you, while many have full confidence in your success. In the latter class I am reckoned, and, with you and for you, I will labor, believing that you will leave


"Footprints in the sands of Time,

Footprints that perhaps another,

Passing o'er life's troubled main,

Some forlorn and shipwrecked brother,

Seeing may take heart again."


The committee on resolutions made their report. But owing to some objectionable features, the motion for their adoption was Iossed. William Finch moved they be read and acted upon seperately, which was adopted. The first resolution was read, to wit

Resolved, That the admission of Western Virginia into the Union, as an independent State carved out of old Virginia by Congress established the fact, that all the revolted States are territories and are under the rule, and regulation of Congress

It was moved the resolution lie on the table, which was followed by a spirited discussion Mr Bradly took the floor and spoke at some length, several gentlemen kept rising to their feet, till the convention become quite excited. The previous question being finally demanded, the motion for its adoption was lost.

The second resolution was read to wit.

Resolved, That from the fact, that the President grants amnesty and pardon with restoration of property — as he says — and they acknowledge it, establishes the truth of the fact, that ail the property of the revolted States, belong to the United States, and that said revolted States are therefore under the control of Congress of the United States.

In likemanner the whole of the resolutions were read and acted upon seperately and after considerable discussion the following were adopted.


Whereas, The colored citizens of the State of Georgia, are here, for the first time in the history of the Government, represented by their delegates in convention assembled, and

Whereas, It is a duty which we owe to our common country and the world, to define our position, that all may know what political rights we claim under the Government which has made us a free people, therefore be it

Resolved, That we claim for ourselves the dignity of manhood in common with all other men of whatever race, that we are endowed by our Creator with all, and the same inalienible rights that are other men's, and that we cannot be deprived of these rights by any


earthly power, nor can any power or individual infringe those rights without insulting humanity and violating the plainest teachings of christianity.

Resolved, That our people are daily subjected to the most cruel abuses by men who, in defiance of law and authority, violate and out- rage the simplest form of moral justice, and we call therefore upon the Government to to bring to speedy justice all such criminals and thus not only vindicate our cause, but the principles of liberty and right.

Resolved, That our most profound gratitude is under Providence, due the Executive and Legislative authorities of the Government for bestowing upon us our original liberty, and that we respectfully ask the same powers to maintain and secure to us the same personal safety, to the enjoyment of the fruits of honest industry and economy, that are enjoyed by other men.

Resolved, That as a people who have ever—under all circumstances, in slavery and in freedom—been loyal and steadfast in our support of the Government, we can more rightfully complain of the denial of the right of sufferage than can those lately in arms against the constituted authorities of the land, complain of Congress for denying them a representation upon its floor

Resolved, That we believe firmly, as did the founders of this Republic, that 'all Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed'

Resolved, That inasmuch as by an act of Congress approved July 17th, 1862, the President was authorized to employ in the military and naval service of the United States, persons of African descent; and whereas, the same act declares that all persons so serving, together with mother, wife, and children of each, 'shall forever thereafter be freehand whereas, all such persons proved their loyalty and courage on many a welltought battlefield, and thousands sealed their devotion to the Union with their blood, we are of the opinion that the survivors are entitler! to all the rights, privileges, and immunities that are all other person's who served in the army and navy

Resolved, That all persons employed or permitted to work on the premises of another, without a written contract, are under an implied contract, and are therefore, entitled to just and full compensation for all services rendered.

Resolved, That the interests of our race can be represented and defended fully only by our own chosen delegates, and that it is unreasonable to suppose that those who once deprived us of our natural rights will now pursue or advocate and sustain a policy commensurate to our necessities.

Resolved, That we claim the right, under the rules of common Law, to be tried, for all offences, by a jury of our peers, and that the white man is not our peer, so long as legal distinctions are made between persons on account of color or race.

Resolved, That every instinct of our nature demands equal justice


without any equivocation or evasion of natural rights, but we do not in any respect desire social equality beyond the transactions of the ordinary business of life, inasmuch as we deem our own race, equal to all our wants of purely social enjoyment.

Resolved, That. inasmuch as we are now a free people we regard the action of certain religious bodies in trying to hold from us church property which was purchased and paid for by our own earnings while we were in slavery, as totally unwarranted by any principles of honor or justice, a disgrace to the religion they profess, and an outrage upon those whom they pretend to recognize as brothers in the same faith ; that we claim all such property as our own, and that we not only have the right to hold and control it, but the right to unite in brotherhood with any christian body that may, in its teachings and sympathies, accord with our feelings.

Resolved, That to our friends in the North who are giving; so freely, and are sacrificing ail the comforts and enjoyments of home, to come among us and assist in our mental and moral elevation deserve our sincerest gratitude and most hearty sympathy and support, and that we invoke the gracious favor and protection of the Almighty to rest upon them.

Resolved, That we discountenance vagrancy and pauperism among our people, and that we will make it our especial business to aid every one to obtain employment and encourage them to earn a competency by honest labor and judicious economy.

Resolved, That we shall support such publications, and patronize such merchants and other business men only among the white population as are our true friends— who sympathize with us in all our difficulties, and who will at all times maintain our rights, not because we are colored, but because the principles of justice are eternal, and are by the God of nature vouchsafed alike to every human creature.

Resolved, That we deem it the duty of the Government to dispose of any lands it may own to the freed people, at such rates, and upon such terms, as will enable them to pay for them without embarrassment ; and thus to secure to themselves and their children permanent homes.

Resolved, That all that has been produced by any person occupying lands under the authority of the United States belongs to the person or persons producing the same, and no person or persons can legally deprive them of it under the laws of the United States.

Resolved, That, whereas, the slaves in certain States and parts of States were declared to be free by Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, issued on the first day of January, a. d. 1863 ; therefore, they are justly entitled to receive, and should receive compensation for services rendered by them since that date.

There being no further business before the house, the convention adjourned sine die.


Thus ended the most remarkable incident in the history of the State of Georgia. Who one year ago only would have thought that the slaves of the Empire State, in the short space of twelve months. would have had the right to assemble in convention and deliberate like their masters that such and such are their rights and that they must have th m accorded to them if peace and prosperity was the desire in the future. What a great leveler time is ! With what per istent determination he ov rturns our fancied bulwarks of right and leaves us unprotected to bitter circumstances of fate. Where are all the air built castles of slavery a year ago? Where are all the bright visions f golden glory and merchantile splendor produced by the bare idea of having a government whose foundation was built upon the traffic of human blood? All swept away like the baseless fabric of a vision, and those who were the subjects of that commercial traffic, and whose bones and muscles aided in the perpetuation of those visions of fancied glory, stand up with their heads above the scum of public prejudice and opinion and declare in unmistakeable tones that they are men, and that they are freemen. The truest philosophy, and the wisest policy is to accept the situation and breast the storm with a determination that good sha l yet be produced out of seeming ruin. We commend to every honest heart and pure mind to consider the claims of these people and give them a patient hearing.

Constitution of the Georgia Equal Rights Association.


"We, the friends of impartial justice in Georgia, in Convention assembled, feeling that the time has come when we should unite to advance the cause we advocate, do form ourselves into an Association, for the purpose, among other things, of assisting the destitute and improving those who need our assistance. Our motto shall be, 'Peace and Good Will to All Men.' The object of the Association shall be to secure for every citizen, without regard to race, descent or color, equal political rights. To secure this object we will labor peaceably, but earnestly.



This Association shall be known as The Georgia Equal Rights Association.



The officers of this Association shall be a President, one Vice-President from each county, Recording Secretary, Corresponding Secretary, Chaplain, Treasurer, and such Committees as the Association shall elect.




The officers, chosen by this Association, shall be elected by ballot at the regular meeting in October, and remain in office three years, providing, however, that the first election shall take plase in January 1866, and the second in October 1868. All officers are to continue in office until their places are filled. Vacancies may be filled at any of the regular meeting.



Sec. 1. It shall be the duty of the president to preside at all meetings of the Association and Council

2. He shall appoint all committees who are not elected by the Association or Council

3 He shall establish an office and give his personal attention to all matters, that may advance the interest of the association or the cause which it advocates.

4. He shall nominate to the Council such officers as they are authorized to elect, and, if a person nominated shall be rejected by the Council, it shall be his duty to nominate another person, and continue to nominate until a choice is made.

5. It shall be his duty to see that all officers of this Assocition faithfully perform the duties, assigned them, and, for bad conduct, he may suspend an officer, providing two thirds of the Council concur therein.

6. Whenever he shall think proper to suspend an officer, he shall immediately order the officer to deliver to him all books, papers or other property, belonging to the Association; and shall, as soon as practicable, call a meeting of the Council, and if two thirds of the Council approve of the action of the President, the officer shall be suspended until the next meeting of the Association.

7. He shall fill the vacancy until the Council have decided the matter.

8. He shall sign orders for the Treasurer to pay money, voted by the Council or the State Association and none others, unless specially authorized to do so by the Council or State Association.

9. He shall call a meeting of the Council, whenever, in his opinion, the good of the cause demands, and shall transact any business, not in conflict with the constitution, which he shall instructed by the State Association or the Council to transact, or that he may consider necessary for the good of the cause.

Par. 2. It shall be the duty of one of the Vice Presidents, designated by the Council, when the State Association is not in session, to perform the duties of the President, when, for any cause, he is unable to perform them.

Par. 3. It shall be the duty of the recording Secretary to keep a correct and impartial record of all the proceedings of the



tion, and, to attend to any business that the Association may direct.

Par. 4 The Cor esponding Secretary shall conduc the correspondence of the Association and Council, under the direction of the President.

Par. 5. The Chaplain shall open all the meetings of the Association with prayer.

Par. 6. The Treasurer shall be elected by the Council, and may be removed by the same, upon the recommendation of the President, whenever, in his opinion, the Treasurer shall not faithfully perform his duties.

He shall have charge of all money or other property, belonging to the Association, and shall give to the President a bond in such sum as the Council may require, for the faithful discharge of his duties.

He shall pay out no money, expect upon order, approved by the President signed by the Secretary of the Council.

He shall invest the money in his hands in such manner as the Council may direct.



Sec. 1. The members of this Association shall be elected by the County Association

2. Each County Association shall be entitled to one representative for each one hundred members, and one for a fraction over fifty including the members of the Subordinate Associations.

3. At the first election of representatives, one third shall be elected for three years, one third tor two years, and one third for one year. At all subsequent elections, one third of the representatives shall be elected annually and remain members of this Association three y ars.

4. The members of the Convention which forms this Constitution and the officers elect of the Association shall be honorary members of the same and shall remain permanent members and be entitled to all the rights and privileges of other members.

5. The members shall be elected at the first regular meeting in January. In case of a vacancy, a representative shall be elected as soon as practicable to filI the unexpired term of such member.

6. No person shall be a member of this Association under the age of twenty-one years.



Sec. 1. The President and Vice President shall constitute a council to attend to such business as is delegated to them by this Constitution or which the State Association may instruct th m to perform.

Sec. 2 They shall elect annually a delegate to congress, (until the right of suffrage shall be given to all men without regard to race or color.) who shall be nominated by the President.


3. If they shall not elect the first person nominated by the President, they shall continue to ballot for a person nominated by him, until a choice is made.

4. The delegate to Congress will be elected in October. In case of a vacency, a delegate shall be elected as soon as practicable, to fill the same.

5. The council shall be called together by the President whenever, in his opinion, this is necessary, and shall be empowered to transact any business not in conflict with the Constitution.

6. They shall decide what compensation each officer shall receive.

Sec. 7 When an officer has been suspended by the Council, they shall fill the vacancy until the State Association shall take action in regard to it.

8. They shall elect a Secretary who shall act as private Secretary to the President, and perform such duties as the Council or President may direct.

9. The Secretary of the Council shall remain in office during the pleasure of the Council.

10. The Council may, by a two thirds vote, suspend the President whenever he shall violate this constitution, in which case, they shall immediately call a meeting of the State Association, and, if two thirds of the Association approve of the action of the Council, the President shall be expelled from office.

11. A majority of the Council shall constitute a quorum for the transaction of business.

ARTICLE VII. Sec. 1. The State Association shall meet annually, in the month of October.

2. The President or Council may call an extra meeting of the Association when they consider it necessary.

Article VIII.


This Association may make any By Laws, not inconsistent with this Constitution.



This Association may organize county and subordinate Associations, at such places and under such regulations as it may deem proper.



This constitution may be altered or amended, at any regular meeting of this Association, by a two thirds vote, providing that notice shall be g ven in writing, by the member submit ing an amendment, at least twenty-four hours before action shall be taken.


Constitution of County Equal Rights Association.


We, the friends of Impartial Justice, believing that in union there is strength, do organize ourselves into an Association to secure for all; 1st, equal political rights ; 2d, assistance for the destitute ; and 3d, the education and elevation of the people.



The name of this Association shall be the Equal Rights Association.



The officers of the Association shall be a President, a Vice President, a Secretary, a Treasurer, a Chaplain, an Examining Committee of three, an Executive Committee of five, and a financial Committee of six.

ARTICLE III. The President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer and Chaplain shall be elected by ballot annually, at the first meeting in January, All the committees shall be filed by the President, on the night of his election, or so soon after as may be practicable All officers are to continue until their places are filled, Vacancies may be filled at any of the regular meetings.



Sec. 1. It shall be the duty of the President to preside at all meetings, to call an extra meeting whenever he may deem it advisable or upon the request of five members, to initiate new members, and to perform all duties that may devolve upon him by the Constitution and (By Laws.)

2. It shall be the duty of the Vice President, in the absence of the President to perform his duties.

3. It shall be the duty of the Secretary to keep a true and impartial record of the doings of the Association, and in the absence of


the President and Vice President to call extra meetings of the Association by the request of five members, and attend to such other duties as the Association may direct.

4. It shall be the duty of the Treasurer to take charge of and safely keep all monies and other property entrusted to him by the Association, and pay out the same only upon a requisition drawn according to a vote of the Association, and signed by the President and Secretary. He shall report once a quarter, and as much oftener as the Society may direct. He shall give to the President a bond in such sum as the Association may require for the faithful performance of his duties.

5. The Chaplain shall open all the meeting with prayer.

6. The Executive Committee shall faithfully attend to all duties imposed in them from time to time, making a report when called upon.

7. It shall be the duty of the examining committee carefully to examine all propositions for membership to the Association and when received by a constitutional vote, to examine the candidate before initiated, and report to the President upon the same.

8. It shall be the duty of the Financial Committee to make all necessary arrangements for furnishing the Association with needed funds, and to perform such other duties as the Society may require of them.



Sec. 1. All persons who are members of the State Association from this county shall be members of the county Association, having all the privileges of other members excepting the privilege to vote.

2. The President and Vice President of each Subordinate Association in this county, and Representatives constitutionally elected from the same shall be members of the county Association.



This Association shall elect representatives as provided in the constitution of the State Association.

ARTICLE VII. If there is but one Association in a county it shall have the powers, and perform the duties conferred upon the county and Subordinate Associations



This Association is authorized to make any By Laws not in conflict with the State Association.

ARTICLE IX. The meetings of this Association may be public or private.



The members of one County Association shall have the privilege attending meetings of all County Associations.

Constitution of Subordinate Equal Rights Association.


We, the friends of impartial justice, believing that in union there is strength, do organize ourselves into an Association to secure for all: 1st, equal political rights ; 2d, assistance for the destitute ; and 3d, the education and elevation of the people.



The name of this Association shall be the Equal Rights Association of County, No .



The officers of the Association shall be a President, a Vice President, a Secretary, a Treasurer, a Chaplain, an Examining Committee of three, an Executive Committee of five, and a Financial Committee of six.

ARTICLE III. The President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, and Chaplain shall be elected by ballot annually, at the first meeting in January. All the committees shall be filled by the President on the night of his election, or so soon after as may be practicable. All officers are to continue until their places are filled. Vacancies may be filled at any of the regular meetings.



Sec. 1. It shall be the duty of the President to preside at all meetings ; to call an extra meeting whenever he may deem it


able, or upon the request of five members, to initiate new members, and to perform all duties that may devolve upon him by the Constitution and By Laws

2. It shall be the duty of the Vice President, in the absence of the President, to perform his duties.

3. It shall be the duty of the Secretary to keep a true and impartial record of the doings of the Association, and in the absence of the President and Vice President to call extra meetings of the Association by the request of five members, and attend to such other duties as the Association may direct.

4. It shall be the duty of the Treasurer to take charge of, and safely keep, all monies and other property intrusted to him by the Association, and pay out the same only upon a requisition drawn according to the vote of the Association and signed by the President and Secretary. He shall report once a quarter, and as much oftener as the society may direct. He shall give to the President a bond in such sum as the Association may require for the faithful performance of his duties.

5. The Chaplain shall open all the meetings with prayer.

6 The Executive Committee shall faithfully attend to all duties imposed on them from time to time, making a report when called upon.

7. It shall be the duty of the Examining Committee carefully to examine all propositions for membership to the Association, and when received by a Constitution vote to examine candidates before initiated, and report to the President upon the same.

8 It shall be the duty of the Financial Committee to make all necessary arrangements for furnishing the Association with needed funds, and shall perform such other duties as the society may require of them.



Sec. 1st. All persons who desire to become members of this Association shall first be proposed by a member in writing, stating name, age, business and residence.

2. The proposition shall be handed to the Examining Committee, who shall report upon the same as soon as practicable, either approving or disapproving.

3. After the committee have reported, a ballot shall be taken and if a majority vote in favor of the candidate he shall be declared elected.

4. After the candidate has been elected he shall be initiated as soon as practicable.

5 The candidates presenting themselves in the ante room, the following questions shall be proposed to them by the Examining Committee : Will you do all in your power to alleviate the wants of the destitute, and to secure to all persons equal political rights, and also defend and protect the Constitution and laws of the United States?

If the Candidate shall answer each of the above questions in the


affirmative, he shall be conducted into the room of the Association by the chairman of the Examining Committee, and be introduced to the President ; after which, the candidate shall sign the Constitution and pay a fee of one dollar, and be declared a member of this Association.



When two or more Subordinate Associations shall have been organized in any county, they shall elect one representative for every twenty five members, who, together with the President and Vice President, shall form a County Associations.


This Association is authorized to make any By-Laws not in conflict with the State or County Associations.


The meetings of this Association may be public or private,


The members of one Subordinate Association shall have the privilege of attending the meetings of all Subordinate Associations.


The Treasurer of this Association shall pay into the Treasury of the State Association, one dollar for each of its members and take a receipt for the same signed by the President of the State Association, and Secretary of the Council.

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Freedmen's Convention of Georgia (1866 : Augusta, GA), “Proceedings of the Freedmen's Convention of Georgia : assembled at Augusta, January 10th, 1866, containing the speeches of Gen'l Tillson, Capt. J.E. Bryant, and others,” Colored Conventions Project Digital Records, accessed September 30, 2023,