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RIGHT AND DUTY OF COLORED FELLOW-CITIZENS
IN THE ORGANIZATION OF GOVERNMENT.
LETTER TO COLORED CITIZENS Of North CarolINA, MAY 13, 1865.
THE letter to Mr. Sumner by colored citizens is the first public expression of their interest in the suffrage. The answer was according to the sentiments Mr. Sumner had early declared.
HON. CHARLES SUMNER, Washington.
WILMINGTON, N. C., April 29, 1865.
DEAR SIR, We, the undersigned citizens, Executive Board of the Colored Union Leagues of this city, respectfully ask your attention to the subject of Reconstruction in this State, and for a few plain directions in relation to a proper stand for us to make.
We forward also a copy of the Herald, containing an article on Reconstruction, which causes us much anxiety, in connection with other facts that are constantly pressed upon our attention in this Rebel State, although much is said concerning its loyalty that is unreliable and untrue. Many of us have done service for the United States Government, at Fort Fisher and elsewhere, and we shrink with horror at the thought that we may be left to the tender mercies of our former Rebel masters, who have taken the oath, but are filled with malice, and swear vengeance against us as soon⚫ as the military are withdrawn.
We are loyal colored citizens, and strive in all things so to conduct ourselves that no just cause of complaint may exist, although we suffer much from the unwillingness of the Secessionists to regard us as freemen, and look up to the flag of our country with trembling anxiety, knowing that the franchise alone can give us security for the future.
We speak with moderation and care, we lay no charges, but we fear that an ill-judged lenity to Rebels in this State will leave little to us and our children but the bare name of freedmen. We remember Louisiana! Better "smash the egg" than permit it to produce a viper.
We beg an early answer. Direct, simply, "Alfred Howe, Wilmington, North Carolina." Do not frank your letter: I send a stamp. For reference,
Jonathan C. Gibbs mentions the name of Rev. H. H. Garnett, a colored Presbyterian minister in Washington, and Hon. Judge Kelley, from Pennsylvania.
JONATHAN C. GIBBS,
ALFRED HOWE, President.
WASHINGTON, May 13, 1865.
ENTLEMEN,—I am glad that the colored citizens of North Carolina are ready to take part in the organization of government. It is unquestionably their right and duty.
I see little chance of peace or tranquillity in any Rebel State, unless the rights of all are recognized without distinction of color. On this foundation we must build.
The article on Reconstruction to which you call my attention proceeds on the idea, born of Slavery, that persons with a white skin are the only "citizens." This is a mistake.
As you do me the honor to ask me the proper stand for you to make, I have no hesitation in replying that you must insist on all the rights and privileges of a citizen. They belong to you. They are yours; and whoever undertakes to rob you of them is a usurper and impostor.
Of course you will take part in any primary meetings for political organization, open to citizens generally, and will not miss any opportunity to show your loyalty and fidelity.
Accept my best wishes, and believe me, Gentlemen, Faithfully yours,
This letter was extensively circulated. The New York Herald printed it in an editorial article entitled "The Chase-Sumner Political Movement Social War Threatened," where it said:
"As soon as Mr. Johnson assumed the reins of the Government, Mr. Sumner made an effort to control his official action and secure his assistance in carrying on this appendix warfare to the Abolition question, and thus plunge the country into a sanguinary social war. Finding it impossible to draw President Johnson into his schemes, he at once plants himself in opposition. . . .
"This letter, although short, is explicit and unmistakable in its meaning. Its purpose is evident to the most casual observer. Knowing, as he must, at the time, that the President held that the question of conferring the privilege of suffrage upon the colored people of the South rested exclusively with the States, he endeavors to stir up a feud and create a dissatisfaction among this class. Like the speech of Chief Justice Chase, its whole tendency is to incite the negroes to insurrection, by giving them the impression that the Government is against them. There is not a word in the communication counselling obedience or respect to the laws of the Government. They ask him for direction, and he, in response, counsels them to take part in the organization of the Government, that it is their right
and duty. In the face of the fact that there is no law in their State or in the Constitution of the United States recognizing that right, he tells them that those who oppose them are usurpers and impostors."
HOPE AND ENCOURAGEMENT FOR COLORED
LETTER TO THE EDITOR OF "THE LEADER," IN CHARLESTON, S. C., MAY, 1865.
THE following brief note appeared in the first number of The Leader, a weekly paper which began at Charleston, 1865.
TRUST that you will do everything possible to arouse hope and encouragement in the colored people. Let them know that their friends will stand by them. All white persons who have any regard for the Declaration of Independence ought to unite in favor of its principles, and insist that they shall be made the foundation of the new order of things. Courage! the cause cannot fail.
Believe me, dear Sir, faithfully yours,
PROMISES OF THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE, AND ABRAHAM LINCOLN.
EULOGY ON ABRAHAM LINCOLN, before the MUNICIPAL AUTHORITIES OF THE CITY OF BOSTON, JUNE 1, 1865.
Think nothing of me, take no thought for the political fate of any man whomsoever, but come back to the truths that are in the Declaration of Independence. You may do anything with me you choose, if you will but heed these sacred principles. You may not only defeat me for the Senate, but you may take me and put me to death. ABRAHAM LINCOLN: Crosby's Life of Lincoln, p. 33.
They [colored people having the ballot] would probably help, in some trying time to come, to keep the jewel of Liberty in the family of Freedom. IBID., Letter to Michael Hahn, of Louisiana, March 13, 1864: McPherson's Political History of the United States during Reconstruction, p. 20, note.