Baptists and the American Civil War: October 28, 1865

californiaThe California State Convention of the Colored Citizens concludes this day. Many Baptists are among the delegates who at the conclusion of the gathering issue an “Address by the State Convention of Colored Citizens to the People of California,” which reads as follows:


The Convention of colored citizens, assembled in Sacramento on the 25th, 26th, 27th and 28th of October, present their claim for equal rights before the law, and proceed to show on what principles they predicate their claim, and why those rights should be awarded them in common with all other citizens. First–As freemen by creation, by the laws of California, and by the laws of the Republic. The Declaration of Independence, the great charter or bill of rights of our government, on which is based our National Constitution and all the laws of our country says “all men are created equal,” and, as a sequence, all are entitled to equal privileges or “inalienable rights” with which they “are endowed by their Creator,” and “among those rights” (others being connected therewith) “are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” The other rights which are indissolubly connected with the foregoing, and without which those expressed would become a nullity, are the protection of the laws, and an equal voice in framing those laws and choosing the administrators thereof. The Constitution and laws of California make all men free, slavery or involuntary servitude is forbidden within her borders, hence all whose citizenship can be established are fully entitled to equal rights before the law. Slavery existed for three quarters of a century and was sanctioned by the Government; it was sustained by compromises, not by the Constitution, until the Government declared that slavery and Republican principles were incompatible with each other and could not co-exist, and must be separated. Then, to effect that object, and to establish a Republic based on Freedom, the Emancipation Proclamation was issued, and the Constitutional Amendments, abolishing slavery for ever from the land, were introduced. These positions and facts are known, and need no argument from us to establish them.

Second–We claim the privileges of citizenship by right of birth, as natives of the soil, against whom no attainder can exist. The former slavery of a portion of our race works no corruption of blood in them; they are now freemen, and consequently citizens, and as such are subject to all the liabilities and entitled to all the rights, privileges and immunities of citizens. Our citizenship being established, we maintain that there are other and still stronger reasons why the rights which are in equity guaranteed to all citizens should not be withheld from us. We are loyal to the Government, and yield willing obedience to the powers that be. No taint of treason lurks within the bosoms of our race; no charge of disloyalty has ever been brought against one having Negro blood in his veins. Our love of country is proverbial; our devotion to the land of our birth, its customs, habits and institutions, and our reverence for the laws which govern us, are unquestioned. We have given evidence of our fealty to the Union by the ardor with which we flew to arms at our country’s call, and by the sacrifice of thousands of lives to preserve intact the indissolubility of the Union, and to vindicate Republican principles before the world, as exemplified in this Government. Notwithstanding the ignominy with which we have been treated by the American people, we have ever maintained a Christian spirit of forgiveness, and a willingness to sustain our reputation as peace-loving, law-abiding citizens, and a desire to perpetuate the name and glory of our common country.

Third–We assert our right to the immunities of citizenship by our intelligence and moral worth, our reputation for truthfulness, the religious and devotional characteristics of our race, and our ability to understand and appreciate the principles of the Government under which we live. We assert, and defy contradiction, and the criminal, sanitary and eleemosynary statistics of the country will sustain our assertion, that of the colored population throughout the United States, there are fewer criminals and paupers than among any other class of the community. We are a self-sustaining community, and are no burden on the body politic, while we contribute to the general expenses of Federal and State Governments.

Fourth–We claim the Elective Franchise on the universally conceded ground that representation and taxation should accompany each other. By representation is not meant the mere fact of being included in the apportionment, but by having a voice and vote in choosing representatives. We are taxed in common with all other citizens. We pay cheerfully not only the State and Municipal tax on property and for business purposes, but we also pay War tax, Poll tax, and all others which are assessed. We do not demur at that. We live under a wise, liberal and beneficent Government, which extends its parental protection, like the sunlight of heaven, on all who come within its sphere. We are willing to aid in sustaining the Government by means, as our brethren have by arms, we only claim those rights which should be awarded to all citizens of the Republic. We also claim additional educational facilities for our children. By the present and unjust and partial laws many of our children are growing up in ignorance, deprived of all advantages of education. We require, for the above reasons, full and equal school privileges. We are not content primary schools alone, we want the higher advantages of education to produce in the rising generation the highest development of mind. These advantages are open to others, and, in a free country, the blessings of education should be diffused on all, irrespective of rank or station.

FELLOW-CITIZENS–We present to you our views on this important subject, and we refer you to the proceedings of our Convention for a fuller explanation of our action on these important subjects.


Men and Brethren:

For the fourth time the colored citizens of this State assembled in Convention, by their representatives, and the session just closed a degree of harmony and good feeling prevailed, unexampled in deliberative bodies. We met to devise ways and means to obtain the highest privilege of citizenship, the Elective Franchise; to increase the educational facilities of our children; to promote temperance, morality and frugality; to encourage progress in Agriculture, Mechanics, and all the Industrial pursuits, and to advance the cause of TRUTH, VIRTUE and Christian piety.

How well we have succeeded in the work for, which we were appointed, we leave to you to judge. We here lay before you the result of our labors, and are willing to abide the test of your judgment.

We call your attention to the various subjects which were under the deliberation of the Convention.

First–And most important, is the position we took as regards Truth, Virtue and Christian piety. Although the discussion of these subjects was not the primary cause for which the Convention was called, yet they overbalance all other subjects, for without them no good can be accomplished. We took high grounds on these subjects, and we earnestly invite your attention to the report of the Committee on Public Morals, and the resolutions appertaining thereto introduced by the Business Committee, and we feel confident that your mature judgment will endorse the action of your representatives.

Second–The Elective Franchise demanded a large portion of our deliberations. This is an important subject, as relating to our interests in this country and our rights as men and citizens. With prayerful consideration we entered upon our duty, and our minds were sorely exercised in view of the great responsibility which rested on us. We commend to your notice the action of the Convention, the able report of the Committee on that subject, the convincing argument produced, and the powerful speeches made on the occasion.

Third–The education of our offspring was not neglected. You are doubtless well aware of the disabilities we labor under as regards the educational progress of the rising generation. In consequence of the unjust provisions of the law, in many localities our children are growing up in ignorance. We call upon you to use your influence, in your respective localities, to the end that our children may receive the advantages of the Public Schools. We are taxed for the general School Fund, but in many places our children are deprived of its benefits. In reference to the San Jose School, we believe, by united efforts on our part and a small individual contribution, that it can be made an Institute where the higher branches can be taught and principles of virtue and religion instilled into the youthful mind. The principal, Professor Peter W. Cassey, is well known in this State, and by scholarly acquirements and Christian character he is eminently fitted for his position. That, however, should not cause us to lessen our efforts to obtain a repeal.

Fourth-We next call your attention to the report of the Committee on Industrial pursuits. The subjects introduced, and the action taken thereon, merit and should receive careful consideration. To gain an eminence in the new field of political equality, toward which our journey tends, we must prove ourselves equal in art, industry and labor, as well as in knowledge and piety, to all others. We must not be satisfied with mediocrity, we must endeavor to excel.

Fifth–On the subject of Statistics we are not as full as we would wish. In consequence of the limited attendance at the Convention, the Committee on that subject had not sufficient materials on which to work. Their report, however, is alike instructive and interesting, and althought limited, it is reliable.

Sixth–We have organized a State Executive Committee, consisting of men who are well known throughout the State for their ability, untiring industry, and devotion to our cause and the welfare of mankind.

Seventh-We have pledged your fealty to the Government as order loving, law-abiding citizens. We are responsible for your loyalty, and fell proud of our responsibility.

In Conclusion–Brethren, we urge you to continue the good work we have so auspiciously commenced. Form committees in your respective Counties, sustain and encourage them by your irreproachable conduct, by your industry and observance of the Christian virtues. Encourage also our State Executive Committee. Give them to know that you place confidence in them and they will repose the same in you. And now, Brethren, farewell. May God keep and preserve you in the paths of usefulness.”

Sources: “Proceedings of the California State Convention of the Colored Citizens, Held in Sacramento on the 25th, 26th, 27th, and 28th of October, 1865” (link)