334 NEW YORK, NEW YORK
the United States in November.¹ They are not only men but freemen, not
only freemen but citizens of the Republic and men among men.
The people of this country are composed of different nations and races,
but no race in the United States have as much at stake in the present election
as we who have been so recently invested with the rights of manhood and
citizenship. The rights of all others have been secured and confirmed by
time and practice. No power in the country is tempted to interfere with or in
any manner abridge such rights. With us the case is different. We are still a
hated caste, and motives stand thick through all the land for compassing
our degradation. The master class at the South is not yet reconciled, and
there are many in the North who sympathize with them. Hence, though we
are now free and legally enfranchised, though we are equal before the law
with all other citizens, we have reasons for special vigilance and exertion in
order to hold and exercise the rights so recently secured to us as a class.
As a general rule, I deprecate all appeals to classes for political pur-
poses. The time is not distant when all classes will be merged in a common
citizenship, and when to be an American citizen will be sufficient to insure
respect in every part of the country and among all classes of the American
people; but that time has not yet come, and until it does come, we are
almost compelled to act as a class to exert our proper inﬂuence. We are, in
some measure, on trial before our country and the world, and thoughtful
men are everywhere watching and studying our deportment in the exercise
of the high trust with which we are now invested.
It was once said that the negro does not know enough to vote, and this
was the only decent ground upon which our right to vote was denied and
I am sony to say that some of our number—only a very few—men
who have more learning than common sense, have been making conces-
sions to this degrading idea. They have been writing to Mr. Sumner ² and
sundry other white gentlemen in different parts of the country to tell them
how to vote.
Now, if we colored people are so destitute of sense and political sagac-
ity as to ask the white people how we shall vote, it might be well to confine
all voting to the white people, and thus save the trouble and expense of
counting our votes at all.
1. The Fifteenth Amendment granted the right of suffrage to all male citizens of the United
States. Passage of the amendment by the necessary three-fourths of the states secured its ratification in
2. Charles Sumner.
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