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Title: The Early Negro Convention Movement - The American Negro Academy, Occasional Papers No. 9
Author: Cromwell, John W.
Language: English
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*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Early Negro Convention Movement - The American Negro Academy, Occasional Papers No. 9" ***

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  The American Negro Academy.


  The Early Negro
  Convention Movement.



  Published by the Academy.

The Early Negro Convention Movement.

With the period immediately following the Second War with Great Britain,
begins a series of events which indicate a purpose of the nation to make
the condition of the free man of color an inferior status socially and
politically. That this was resisted at every step, revealed the national
aim and purpose.

The protest against prescription in the Church which had asserted itself
in several instances as at St. James P. E. and Bethel in Philadelphia,
Zion in New York, culminated in the organization of two independent
denominations--in 1816 at Philadelphia, in 1820 at New York.

The American Colonization Society was organized in 1816 with the hidden
purpose of strengthening slavery by ridding the country of its free black
population. In 1820 the passage of the Missouri Compromise permitted the
westward extension of slavery and as far north as 36° 30'.

Local legislation, harmonizing with this national action against extending
the domain of freedom and making the country undesirable for the colored
freeman, followed. Two years after the enactment of the compromise, "the
martyrs of 1822" went bravely and heroically to their fate in South
Carolina. In 1827, the Empire State completed its work of emancipation of
the slave began 28 years before, and saw the birth of "Freedom's Journal,"
the first Negro newspaper within the limits of the United States, edited
by John B. Russwurm and Samuel E. Cornish. In 1831, Virginia was convulsed
and the entire Southland shocked by the Insurrection of Nat. Turner. In
the State of Ohio along the Kentucky border, the feeling against the free
Negro had become acute. Mobs occurred, blood was shed and the people were
compelled to look to some spot where they could abide in peace.

It was in these stirring times that the Convention movement which means
the marshalling of the moral forces within the Negro came into existence.
The forces which it evoked were conserved and correlated until the
dynamics of Civil Revolution had wrought desolation and destruction far
and wide, sweeping away forever what had been a basis of the social and
political strength of the Nation.

Prior to this time, there had been a local convention held in
Philadelphia, January, 1817, to protest against the action of the American
Colonization Society that had been organized to remove systematically from
this country all the free colored people in the United States. A glance at
the list of the officers of this, the pioneer deliberative convention of
colored people of which we have as yet any date, shows that the men who
led in this meeting as in the movement of which this paper is a study,
were among the foremost colored citizens whose names have come down to us
from that distant past. James Forten was President, and Russell Parrott,
the assistant to Absalom Jones at St. Thomas, P. E. Church, was the
Secretary. Prominent also in this anti-colonization convention, were
Absalom Jones, Richard Allen, Robert Douglass, Francis Perkins, John
Gloucester--the first settled pastor of a colored Presbyterian
Church--Robert Gordon, James Johnson, Quanmany Clarkson, John Summersett
and Randall Shepherd.

The convention which assembled in 1830 and was the first conscious step
toward concerted action, was in no sense local either in its conception or
its constituency.

The prime mover was Hezekiah Grice, a native of Baltimore, where he was
born just one hundred years ago. In his early life, Grice had met Benjamin
Lundy, and in 1828-9, William Lloyd Garrison, editors and publishers of
"The Genius of Universal Emancipation," published at that time in

In the spring of 1830 he wrote a circular letter to prominent colored men
in the free states requesting their views on the feasibility and
imperative necessity of holding a convention of the free colored men of
the country, at some point north of Mason & Dixon's line, for the
exchange of views on the question of emigration or the adoption of a
policy that would make living in the United States more endurable. For
several months Grice received no response whatever to this circular. In
August, however, he received an urgent request for him to come at once to
Philadelphia. On his arrival there he found a meeting in session,
discussing conflicting reports relative to the openings for colored people
as emigrants to Canada. Bishop Richard Allen, at whose instance he was in
Philadelphia, subsequently showed him a printed circular signed by Peter
Williams, the rector of St. Phillips Church, New York, Peter Vogelsang and
Thomas L. Jennings of the same place, approving the plan of convention.
This approval decided the Philadelphians to take definite action, and they
immediately "issued a call for a convention of the colored men of the
United States to be held in the city of Philadelphia, on the 15th of
September, 1830."

When the time came the Convention assembled in Bethel Church, the historic
building in which was laid the foundation of the A. M. E. denomination.
The convention was organized by the election of Bishop Allen as President,
Dr. Belfast Burton of Philadelphia and Austin Steward of Rochester, N. Y.,
as Vice Presidents, Junius C. Morell, Secretary, and Robert Cowley,
Maryland, Assistant Secretary.

Seven States were represented by duly accredited delegates as follows:

PENNSYLVANIA--Richard Allen, Belfast Burton, Cyrus Black, Junius C.
Morell, Benjamin Paschall, James Cornish, William Whipper, Peter Gardiner,
John Allen, James Newman, Charles H. Leveck, Frederick A. Hinton.

NEW YORK--Austin Steward, Joseph Adams, George L. Brown.

CONNECTICUT--Scipio Augustus.

RHODE ISLAND--George C. Willis, Alfred Niger.

MARYLAND--James Deaver, Hezekiah Grice, Aaron Willson, Robert Cowley.

DELAWARE--Abraham D. Shadd.

VIRGINIA--Arthur M. Waring, William Duncan, James West, Jr.

In addition to these there were honorary members as follows:

PENNSYLVANIA--Robert Brown, William Rogers, John Bowers, Richard Howell,
Daniel Peterson, Charles Shorts.

NEW YORK--Leven Williams.

MARYLAND--James P. Walker, Rev. Samuel Todd, John Arnold.

OHIO--John Robinson.

NEW JERSEY--Sampson Peters.

DELAWARE--Rev. Anthony Campbell and Dan Carolus Hall.

They may well be called the first "forty immortals" in our Valhalla.

The question of emigration to Canada West, after an exhaustive discussion
which continued during the two days of the convention's sessions, was
recommended as a measure of relief against the persecution from which the
colored American suffered in many places in the North. Strong resolutions
against the American Colonization Society were adopted. The formation of a
parent society with auxiliaries in the different localities represented in
the convention, for the purpose of raising money to defray the object of
purchasing a colony in the province of upper Canada, and ascertaining more
definite information, having been effected, the convention adjourned to
reassemble on the first Monday in June, 1831, during which time the order
of the convention respecting the organization of the auxiliary societies
had been carried into operation.

At the assembling of the Convention in 1831, which was fully reported in
"The Liberator," the officers elected were, John Bowers, Philadelphia,
President, Abraham D. Shadd and William Duncan, Vice Presidents, William
Whipper, Secretary, Thomas L. Jennings, Assistant Secretary.

The roll of delegates, reveals the presence of many of the pioneers.
Hezekiah Grice did not attend--in fact he was never a delegate at any
subsequent convention, for two years later he emigrated to Hayti, where he
became a foremost contractor. Richard Allen had died, after having
completed a most remarkable career. Rev. James W. C. Pennington, who for
forty years bore a conspicuous place as a clergyman of sound scholarship,
was a new figure and thenceforth an active participant in the movement.

This convention aroused no little interest among the foremost friends of
the Negro and was visited and addressed by such men as Rev. S. S. Jocelyn
of New Haven, Benjamin Lundy and William Lloyd Garrison. In the "Life of
Arthur Tappan," written by his brother Lewis Tappan, we find the

"A convention of people of color was held in Philadelphia in 1831 of
delegates from several States to consult upon the common interest. It was
numerously attended and the proceedings were conducted with much ability.
A resolution was adopted that it was expedient to establish a collegiate
school on the manual labor system. * * A committee appointed for the
purpose made an appeal to the benevolent. * * * New Haven was suggested as
a suitable place for its location * * * Arthur Tappan purchased several
acres of land in the southerly part of the city and made arrangements for
the erection of a suitable building and furnished it with needful supplies
in a way to do honor to the city and country * * * The people of New Haven
became violently agitated in opposition to the plan. The city was filled
with confusion. They seemed to fear that the city would be overrun with
Negroes from all parts of the world * * * A public meeting called by the
Mayor September 8, 1831, in spite of a manly protest by Roger S. Baldwin,
subsequently Governor of the State and U. S. Senator from Connecticut,
adopted the following:

"Resolved, by the Mayor, Aldermen, Common Council and freemen of the city
of New Haven, in city meeting assembled, that we will resist the
establishment of the proposed college in this place by every lawful

The attempt at the founding of a college in Connecticut was abandoned. It
is hardly necessary to more than mention the Prudence Crandall incident
that disgraced the name of Connecticut at the same period.

What was a kind of National Executive Committee, and known as the
Convention Board, issued the calls for the convention from time to time.

When the next convention was held in 1832, there were eight States
represented with an attendance of thirty delegates, as follows: Maryland
had 3; Delaware, 5; New Jersey, 3; Pennsylvania, 9; New York, 5;
Connecticut, 2; Rhode Island, 1; Massachusetts, 2.

Beginning June 4th, it continued in session until the 15th. The question
exciting the greatest interest was one which proposed the purchase of
other lands for settlement in Canada; for 800 acres of land had already
been secured, two thousand individuals had left the soil of their birth,
crossed the line and laid the foundation for a structure which promised an
asylum for the colored population of the United States. They had already
erected two hundred log houses and 500 acres of land had been brought
under cultivation. But hostility to the settlement of the Negro in that
section had been manifested by Canadians, many of whom would sell no land
to the Negro. This may explain the hesitation of the convention and the
appointment of an agent whose duty it was to make further investigation
and report to a subsequent convention.

Opposition to the colonization movement was emphasized by a strong protest
against any appropriation by Congress in behalf of the American
Colonization Society. Abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia was
also urged at the same convention. This was one year before the
organization of the American Anti-Slavery Society.

There were fifty-eight delegates present when the convention assembled
June 3, 1833. The states represented were Pennsylvania, Maryland, New
Jersey, Delaware, Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York. Abraham D.
Shadd, then of Washington, D. C., was elected President, Richard D.
Johnson of Philadelphia and John G. Stewart were Vice Presidents, Ransom
F. Wake of New York, was Secretary with Henry Ogden, Assistant, and John
B. Depee of Philadelphia, Clerk.

The usual resolutions and addresses to the people were framed and adopted.
In addition to these, the law of Connecticut, but recently passed,
prohibiting the establishment of literary institutions in that State for
the instruction of persons of color of other states was specifically
referred to, as well as a resolution, giving the approval of the mission
of William Lloyd Garrison to Europe to obtain funds for the establishment
of a Manual Training School.

The emigration question was again thoroughly discussed. A committee was
appointed to look into the matter of the encouragement of settlement in
Upper Canada and all plans for colonization anywhere were rejected.

A general convention fund was provided for a schedule showing the
population, churches, day schools, Sunday Schools, pupils, temperance
societies, benevolent societies, mechanics and store-keepers. A most
significant action was one recommending the establishment in different
parts of the country of FREE LABOR STORES at which no produce from the
result of slave labor would be exposed for sale.

The next year, 1834, the convention met in New York, June 8th, with Henry
Sipkins as President, William Hamilton and John D. Closson, Vice
Presidents, Benjamin F. Hughes, Secretary and Rev. H. Francis, Assistant
Secretary. There were seven states represented and about 40 delegates
present. The usual resolutions were adopted, one commending Prudence
Crandall to the patronage and affection of the people at large; another
urging the people to assemble on the fourth of each July for the purpose
of prayer and the delivery of addresses pertaining to the condition and
welfare of the colored people. The foundation of societies on the
principle of moral reform and total abstinence from intoxicating liquors
was advocated. Moreover, every person of color was urged to discountenance
all boarding houses where gambling was admitted.

At the same convention the Phoenix Societies came up for special
consideration and were heartily commended. These planned an organization
of the colored people in their municipal sub-divisions with the special
object of the promotion of their improvement in morals, literature and the
mechanic arts. Lewis Tappan refers to them in the biography previously
referred to. The "Mental Feast" which was a social feature, survived
thirty years later in some of the interior towns of Pennsylvania and the
West. Rt. Rev. Christopher Rush of the A. M. E. Zion, was the president of
these societies. Rev. Theodore S. Wright, the predecessor of Rev. Henry
Highland Garnet at the Shiloh Presbyterian Church, New York, and who
enjoys the unique reputation of claiming Princeton Seminary as his Alma
Mater, was a Vice President. Among its directors were Boston Crummell, the
father of the founder of the AMERICAN NEGRO ACADEMY, Rev. William Paul
Quinn, subsequently a bishop of the A. M. E. Church, and Rev. Peter
Williams. These names suggest that the Phoenix Society movement was not
confined to any special social clique, but was a somewhat wide spread
institution. Unfortunately, there was lost during the excitement of The
New York Draft Riots of 1863, nearly all the documentary data for an
interesting sidelight on the Convention movement, through the study of
these societies.

With 1835, the Convention returned to Philadelphia, June 1-5, was the time
of its sessions. There were forty four delegates enrolled, with Reuben
Ruby of Maine, as president, James H. Fleet of the District of Columbia,
and Nathan Johnson Vice Presidents, John F. Cook of the District of
Columbia, was Secretary, Samuel Van Brackle and Henry Ogden were the

Speaking of its proceedings, "The Liberator" says: "Its pages offered
abundant testimony of the ability of this body to set before the Nation a
detail of the wrongs and grievances to which they are by custom and law
subjected, and they also exhibit a praiseworthy spirit of manly and noble
resolution to contend by moral force alone until their rights so long
withheld shall be restored."

Among other specially notable things, Robert Purvis and Frederick A.
Hinton were appointed a committee to correspond with dissatisfied
emigrants to Liberia and to take such action as would best promote the
sentiment of the colored people respecting the work of the Colonization
Society. The students of Lane Seminary at Cincinnati were thanked for
their zeal in the cause of abolition. Temperance reform was advocated in a
stirring address to the people. The free people of color were recommended
to petition Congress and their respective state legislatures to be
admitted to the rights and privileges of American citizenship, and to be
protected in the enjoyment of the same.

William Whipper advocated that the word 'colored' should be abandoned and
the title "African" should be removed from the name of the churches,
lodges, societies and other institutions.

In 1836, in the columns of "The Liberator" appear calls for two
conventions; the regular annual convention was called to meet in
Philadelphia, June 6, by Henry Sipkins of the Convention Board, and the
urgent language of the call implies doubt in the interest of the people or
the probability of their prompt response to the calls. William Whipper
issued the call, through the same medium, for the Convention of the
American Moral Reform to meet August 2, 1836, also in Philadelphia. It is
worthy of remark that careful perusal of the files of "The Liberator"
fails to disclose a comment on the proceedings of either convention. But
the perusal of the officers of the American Moral Reform shows the
influential man of the Convention Movement at their helm. James Forten,
Sr., the revolutionary patriot, was the President, Reuben Ruby, Rev.
Samuel E. Cornish, Rev. Walter Proctor and Jacob C. White, Sr., of
Philadelphia, were Vice Presidents, Joseph Cassey was Treasurer, Robert
Purvis, Foreign Corresponding Secretary and James Forten, Jr., Recording

The address was drawn up by William Watkins of Baltimore, who two decades
later was an able colleague of Frederick Douglass in the conduct of "The
North Star."

In 1837, the convention of the American Moral Reform was again held in
Philadelphia, August 19th, in which William Whipper, John P. Burr and
James Forten, Jr., were leading spirits. At the adjournment, an extra
meeting was held in St. Thomas P. E. Church, at which an address on
Temperance was delivered by John Francis Cook of Washington.

Sufficient has now been stated to show that the convention movement was
now deeply rooted in the thought of the disfranchised American. The fact
that there was a lull does not at all disprove this contention. The
conventions were great educators, alike of the Negro and the American
whites. They taught the former parliamentary usages and how to conduct
deliberative bodies. They brought to light facts pertaining to the Negro's
status which tended to establish that he was thrifty and steadily
improving as a moral and economic force; while the American whites had in
them an object lesson from which they learned much. In his "Autobiography
of a Fugitive Negro," Samuel Ringgold Ward says: "A State or a National
Convention of black men is held. The talent displayed, the order
maintained, the demeanor of the delegates, all impress themselves upon the
community. All agree that to keep a people rooted to the soil who are
rapidly improving, who have already attained considerable influence and
are marshalled by gifted leaders, (men who show themselves qualified for
legislative and judicial positions), and to doom them to a state of
perpetual vassalage is altogether out of the question."

The work of unifying the race along right lines now proceeded with the
holding of state conventions. There was a state Temperance Convention of
the colored men of Connecticut, held at Middletown, 1836, followed by a
call for a New England Convention at Boston in October. Reference to its
proceedings shows a prior convention held at Providence, R. I., in May.
At the Boston convention a ringing appeal was made to the people, for
total abstinence from all intoxicants, and almost immediately thereafter,
local meetings were held for the purpose of putting in practical operation
the principles enunciated. Not only in New England, but in the Middle and
Western States, local conventions were held during the next decade.

The following extracts from a letter from the veteran educator, Peter H.
Clark, shed a flood of light upon this early movement:

     J. W. CROMWELL,

     Washington, D. C.

     MY DEAR SIR:--

     The people of Ohio held conventions annually for more than thirty
     years. Usually they printed their proceedings in pamphlets.

                    *       *       *       *       *

     A peculiarity of the Ohio conventions was that they were meant to
     improve the condition of the colored people of that State. The
     conventions of those residing in the more eastern States were simply
     anti-slavery conventions, and their memorials and protests were aimed
     at slavery. The first conventions of the men of Ohio were
     self-helpful. By their own sacrifices and with the help of friends,
     they purchased lots and erected school houses in a number of towns,
     or they organized schools and located them in churches.

     Active in this work were the Yancy's, Charles and Walter, Gideon and
     Charles Langston, (brothers of John M.), George Carey, Dennis Hill,
     and chief among them, David Jenkins. Walter Yancy was the agent of
     these men, travelling and organizing societies and schools,
     collecting funds, etc.

     As a result of this self-helping movement, a number of farming
     communities were established, some of which accumulated large areas
     of land, and in Cincinnati, The Iron Chest Company accumulated funds
     and in 1840 erected a block of buildings which still stands.

     Later, the action of the Convention was directed against the Black
     Laws of Ohio. These were repealed in 1849, and colored children were
     permitted to share in the benefits of the school funds, though in
     separate schools. The same legislature elected Salmon P. Chase to the
     United States Senate. The movement thus detailed was the result of a
     bargain between the Democrats of Ohio and the Free Soilers.

     Afterwards the force of these conventions was directed against
     discriminations against colored people which still existed on the
     statute books. Sometimes this force took the shape of petitions,
     memorials, protests, and after the organization of the Ohio Equal
     Rights League, it took the shape of legal proceedings, etc.

     One of the most memorable of these conventions was held in 1852, when
     John M. Langston delivered the best speech of his life, defending the
     thesis, "there is a mutual repellency between the white and black
     races of the world."

     The materials for the speech were collected by Charles Langston, but
     John made the speech. Time has vindicated the position taken by Mr.
     Langston in that memorable address. It was the beginning of the
     Emigration Movement in which Dr. Martin R. Delaney afterwards became

     Effective national conventions have not been numerous in the past
     fifty years.

     One of the most notable met at Rochester in 1852. Frederick Douglass
     presided and I had the honor of being the secretary.

     It was reported that Mrs. Stowe desired to give a portion of her
     earnings from "Uncle Tom" for the founding of a school for the
     benefit of the Afro-American, and this convention was called to
     formulate an advisory plan.

     The plan when formulated, was practically what Mr. Washington
     realized many years afterwards at Tuskegee.

     If you knew Mr. Douglass, you perhaps know that the last years of his
     life were devoted to an attempt to found such a school.

     The Rochester movement came to naught, but its influence upon the
     colored people of the country was wide spread, chiefly because of the
     character of the men who composed it.

     Its proceedings were published in the "North Star," and so far as I
     know, nowhere else. The file of that paper was destroyed with Mr.
     Douglass' Rochester house, and, unless in the Congressional Library,
     no copy now exists.

     The convention at Syracuse, 1864, was another note-worthy assemblage.
     Its was the formulation of a plan of organization known as the
     National Equal Rights League. The rivalry between Mr. Douglass and
     Mr. Langston prevented the wide usefulness of which the organization
     was capable.

     Ohio, Pennsylvania and Illinois organized auxiliary State leagues,
     and in each State much good was done. Mr. Langston, president elect
     of the National Organization, never called it together. * * *

     I have written at length and yet have not answered your questions as
     to men whose names deserve to be embalmed in your proposed book.

     It will take time and thought for the compilation of such a list. The
     men who officiated in the conventions of which I have written, were
     mostly small men, great only in their zeal for the welfare of their

     I am, Sir,

     With respect yours,


     St. Louis, Mo., Dec. 21, 1901.

Within these ten years from 1837 to 1847, a new figure appears on the
scene, a man, though not born free like Paul, yet like the chief captain,
obtained it at a great price. The career of Frederick Douglass was but
preliminary prior to his return from England, and his settlement at
Rochester, N. Y., as editor of "The North Star." By a most remarkable
coincidence, the very first article in the first number of "The North
Star," published January, 1848, is an extended notice of the National
Colored Convention held at the Liberty Street Church, Troy, New York,
October 9, 1847. Nathan Johnson was President, Dr. James McCune Smith,
Peyton Harris, New York, James W. C. Pennington, Connecticut, were Vice
Presidents, Wm. H. Topp, Albany, N. Y., Charles B. Ray, New York City, and
William C. Nell of Boston, were Secretaries. The business committee with
Henry Highland Garnet, Chairman, Charles B. Ray, Leonard Collins,
Massachusetts, Willis A. Hodges, N. Y., and Lewis Hayden, then of Michigan.

There were 67 delegates. From New York, 44; Massachusetts, 15;
Connecticut, 2; Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Vermont, Kentucky
and Michigan, 1 each.

The presence of one delegate, Benjamin Weeden, from a large constituency,
Northampton, Mass., whose credentials stated the fact that a large number
of white citizens sympathizing with the objects of the call had formerly
expressed their endorsement of the movement, was a signal for hearty

A most spirited discussion arose on the report of the Committee of
Education as to the expediency of the establishment of a college for
colored young men, which was discussed pro and con by arguments that can
not be surpassed even after a lapse of more than half a century. The
report gives unstinted praise to the chairman of the committee for his
scholarly style, his choice diction, his grace of manner, and this
statement excites no surprise when we learn that this chairman was
Alexander Crummell.

The next year, September 6, 1848, between sixty and seventy delegates
assembled at Cleveland, Ohio, in the National Convention, the sessions
alternating between the Court House and the Tabernacle. Frederick Douglass
was chosen President, John Jones of Illinois, Allen Jones of Ohio, Thomas
Johnson of Michigan and Abner Francis of New York, were Vice Presidents,
William Howard Day was the Secretary, with William H. Burnham and Justin
Hollin, Assistants. At the head of the business committee stood Martin R.
Delaney, and with him as associates, Charles H. Langston, David Jenkins,
Henry Bibb, T. W. Tucker, W. H. Topp, Thomas Bird, J. P. Watson and J.
Malvin. The line of policy was not deflected. As in previous conventions,
education was encouraged, the importance of statistical information stated
and temperance societies urged.

As showing the representative character of the delegates, the diversity of
occupations, employment and the professions followed, the fact was
developed that there were printers, carpenters, blacksmiths, shoemakers,
engineers, dentists, gunsmiths, editors, tailors, merchants, wheelwrights,
painters, farmers, physicians, plasterers, masons, college students,
clergymen, barbers, hairdressers, laborers, coopers, livery stable
keepers, bath house keepers and grocers among the members of the

But of all the conventions of the period, the largest, that in which the
ability of its members was best displayed in the broad and statesmanlike
treatment of the questions discussed and the practical action which
vindicated their right to recognition as enfranchised citizens, and the
one to which the attention of the American people was attracted as never
before, was the one held in the city of Rochester, N. Y.

With greater emphasis than at prior meetings, this convention set the seal
of its opposition against any hope for permanent relief to the conditions
under which the colored freeman labored by any comprehensive scheme of
emigration. Because of this, it directed its energies to affirmative
constructive action.

In the enunciation of a philosophy able, far-sighted and statesmanlike,
contained in the address to the American people, we behold the wisdom of a
master mind--one then at the prime of his intellectual and physical
powers, Frederick Douglass, the chairman of the Business Committee.

Among the important things done by the convention might be enumerated. It

"We can not announce the discovery of any new principle adopted to
ameliorate the condition of mankind. The great truths of moral and
political science upon which we rely, and which press upon your
consideration, have been evolved and enunciated by you. We point to your
principles, your wisdom and your great example as the full justification
of our course this day. That all men are created equal; that life, liberty
and the pursuit of happiness is the right of all; that taxation and
representation should go together; that the Constitution of the United
States was formed to establish justice, promote the general welfare and
secure the blessings of liberty to all the people of the country; that
resistance to tyranny is obedience to God--are American principles and
maxims, and together they form and constitute the constructive elements of
the American government."

1. The plan for an industrial college on the manual labor plan, was
approved, and Harriet Beecher Stowe, who was about to make a visit to
England at the instance of friends in that country, was authorized to
receive funds in the name of the colored people of the country for that
purpose. The successful establishment and conduct of such an institution
of learning, would train youth to be self-reliant and skilled workmen,
fitted to hold their own in the struggle of life on the conditions
prevailing here.

2. A registry of colored mechanics, artisans and business men throughout
the Union, was provided for, also, of all the persons willing to employ
colored men in business, to teach colored boys mechanic trades, liberal
and scientific professions and farming, also a registry of colored men and
youth seeking employment or instruction.

3. A committee on publication "to collect all facts, statistics and
statements. All laws and historical records and biographies of the colored
people and all books by colored authors." This committee was further
authorized "to publish replies to any assaults worthy of note, made upon
the character or condition of the colored people." This was in keeping
with what had actually been done by the colored people of the State of New
York the year previous, after its Governor, Ward Hunt, had substantially
recommended the passage of black laws which would have forbidden the
settlement of any blacks or mulattoes within its borders and placed
further restrictions on those at that time citizens. The charge of
unthrift against the Negro was utterly disproven by a comparative
statement showing that in those places in which the conditions were the
worst, New York, Brooklyn and Williamsburg, the Negro had increased 25 per
cent in population in twenty years and 100 per cent in real estate

In thirteen counties the amount owned by colored persons was ascertained
to be $1,000,000.


  New York          $755,000       $733,000
  Brooklyn            79,200        276,000
  Williamsburg         4,900        151,000
                     -------        -------
                    $839,100     $1,160,000

  The North Star--Vol.

The convention crowned its work by a more comprehensive plan of
organization than those of twenty years before.

A national council was provided for to be "composed of two members from
each state by elections to be held at a poll at which each colored
inhabitant may vote who pays ten cents as a poll tax, and each state shall
elect at such election delegates to state conventions twenty in number
from each State at large."

The detail of this plan shows that the methods of the Afro-American
Council of 1895, is an almost exact copy of the National Council of 1853.
The chairman of the committee which formulated this plan was Wm. Howard
Day and other members were Charles H. Langston, George B. Vashon, William
J. Wilson, William Whipper and Charles B. Ray, all of them men of more
than ordinary intelligence, information and ability.

But those who saw only in emigration the solution of the evils with which
they were beset, immediately called another convention to consider and
decide upon the subject of emigration from the United States. According to
the call, no one was to be admitted to the convention who would introduce
the subject of emigration to any part of the Eastern Hemisphere, and
opponents of emigration were also to be excluded. Among the signers to the
call in and from the States of Pennsylvania, New York, Michigan, Indiana,
Canada and California were: Rev. Wm. Webb, Martin R. Delaney, Pittsburg,
Pa., Dr. J. J. Gould Bias of Philadelphia, Franklin Turner of the same
city, Rev. Augustus R. Green of Allegheny, Pa., James M. Whitfield, New
York, William Lambert of Michigan, Henry Bibb, James Theodore Holly of
Canada and Henry M. Collins of California.

Douglass in his paper "The North Star," characterized the call as uncalled
for, unwise and unfortunate and premature. As far too narrow and illiberal
to meet with acceptance among the intelligent. "A convention to consider
the subject of emigration when every delegate must declare himself in
favor of it before hand as a condition of taking his seat, is like the
handle of a jug, all on one side. We hope no colored man, will omit during
the coming twelve months an opportunity which may offer to buy a piece of
property, a house lot, a farm or anything else in the United States which
looks to permanent residence here."

James M. Whitfield of Buffalo, N. Y., the Negro poet of America, and one
of the signers of the call, responded to the attacks in the same journal.
Douglass made a reply and Whitfield responded again, and so on until
several articles on each side were produced by these and other disputants.
The articles were collected and published in pamphlet form by Rev. and
Bishop James Theodore Holly of Port au Prince, Haiti, making a valuable
contribution to literature, for I doubt if there is anywhere throughout
the range of controversial literature anything to surpass it.

I am indebted to Bishop Holly for further information respecting this
convention. In a private letter he says:

"The convention was accordingly held. The Rev. William Munroe was
President, the Rt. Rev. [William] Paul Quinn, Vice President, Dr. Delaney,
Chairman of the Business Committee and I was the Secretary." * * *

"There were three parties in that Emigration Convention, ranged according
to the foreign fields they preferred to emigrate too. Dr. Delaney headed
the party that desired to go to the Niger Valley in Africa, Whitfield the
party which preferred to go to Central America, and Holly the party which
preferred to go to Hayti."

"All these parties were recognized and embraced by the Convention. Dr.
Delaney was given a commission to go to Africa, in the Niger Valley,
Whitfield to go to Central America, and Holly to Hayti, to enter into
negotiations with the authorities of these various countries for Negro
emigrants and to report to future conventions. Holly was the first to
execute his mission, going down to Hayti in 1855, when he entered into
relations with the Minister of the Interior, the father of the late
President Hyppolite, and by him was presented to Emperor Faustin I. The
next Emigration Convention was held at Chatham, Canada West, in 1856, when
the report on Haiti was made. Dr. Delaney went off on his mission to the
Niger Valley, Africa, via England in 1858. There he concluded a treaty
signed by himself and eight kings, offering inducements for Negro
emigrants to their territories. Whitfield went to California, intending to
go later from thence to Central America, but died in San Francisco before
he could do so. Meanwhile [James] Redpath went to Haiti as a John Brownist
after the Harper's Ferry raid, and reaped the first fruits of Holly's
mission by being appointed Haitian Commissioner of Emigration in the
United States by the Haitian Government, but with the express injunction
that Rev. Holly should be called to co-operate with him. On Redpath's
arrival in the United States, he tendered Rev. Holly a Commission from the
Haitian Government at $1,000 per annum and traveling-expenses to engage
emigrants to go to Haiti. The first ship load of emigrants were from
Philadelphia in 1861.

"Not more than one-third of the 2000 emigrants to Haiti received through
this movement, permanently abided there. They proved to be neither
intellectually, industrially, nor financially prepared to undertake to
wring from the soil the riches that it is ready to yield up to such as
shall be thus prepared; nor are the government and influential individuals
sufficiently instructed in social, industrial and financial problems which
now govern the world, to turn to profitable use willing workers among the
laboring class."

"The Civil War put a stop to the African Emigration project by Dr. Delaney
taking the commission of Major from President Lincoln, and the Central
American project died out with Whitfield, leaving the Haitian Emigration
as the only remaining practical outcome of the Emigration Convention of

The Civil War destroyed many landmarks and the National Colored
Convention, confined to the free colored people of the North and the
border States, was a thing of the past.

Just after one of the darkest periods of that strife, when the dawn was
apparent, there assembled in the city of Syracuse, the last National
Colored Convention in which the men who began the movement in 1830, their
successors and their sons had the control. The sphere of influence even in
that had somewhat increased, for Southeastern Virginia, Louisiana and
Tennessee had some representation. Slavery was dead; the colonizationists
to Canada, the West Indies and Africa had abandoned the field of openly
aiming to commit the policy of the race to what was considered

Reconstruction even in 1864 was seen in the South peering above the
horizon. The Equal Rights League came forth displacing the National
Council of 1854, yet with the same object of the Legal Rights Association
organized by Hezekiah Grice in Baltimore in 1832. John Mercer Langston
stepped in the arena at the head of the new organization, but under more
favorable auspices than was begun in the movement of 1830. A study of its
rise, progress and decline, belongs to another period of the evolution of
the Free Negro.

This survey of the early Negro Convention Movement has been rapid, the
treatment broad, the sketch is but an outline; lights and shadows will be
supplied by more detailed study, but the perspective will reveal clear and
distinct these four facts:

1. The Convention Movement begun in 1830, demonstrates the ability of the
Negro to construct a platform broad enough for a race to stand upon and to
outline a policy alike far-sighted and statesmanlike, that has not been
surpassed in the seventy years that have elapsed.

2. The earnestness, the enthusiasm and the efficiency with which the work
aimed at was done, the singleness of purpose, the public spirit and the
intrepidity manifested, encouraged and inspired such men as Benjamin
Lundy, William Lloyd Garrison, Gerrit Smith, S. S. Jocelyn, Arthur and
Lewis Tappan, William Goodell and Beriah Green to greater efforts and
persistence in behalf of the disfranchised American, accomplishing at last
the tremendous work of revolutionizing the public sentiment of the country
and making the institution of radical reforms possible.

3. The preparatory training which the convention work gave, fitted its
leaders for the broader arena of abolitionism, and it can not be regarded
as a mere coincidence that the only colored men who were among the
organizers of the American Anti-Slavery Society in 1853, Robert Purvis and
James G. Barbadoes, were both promoters and leaders in the Convention

4. The importance of industrial education in the growth and development of
the Negro-American is no new doctrine in the creed of the representative
colored people of the country. Before Hampton and Tuskegee reared their
walls--aye, before Booker T. Washington was born, Frederick Douglass and
the Colored Convention of 1853, had commissioned Mrs. Stowe to obtain
funds to establish an Agriculture and Industrial College. Long before
Frederick Douglass had left Maryland by the Under Ground Railroad, but for
the opposition of the white people of Connecticut, and within the echo of
Yale College, would have stood the first institution dedicated to our
enlightenment and social regeneration.



1 "Twenty-two Years a Slave and Forty Years a Freeman".--AUSTIN STEWARD.

2 "Life and Times".--FREDERICK DOUGLASS.

3 Autobiography of a Fugitive Negro.--SAM'L. R. WARD.

4 The Life of Arthur Tappan.--LEWIS TAPPAN.

5 History of the Negro in America.--GEORGE W. WILLIAMS.

6 William Lloyd Garrison.--HIS SONS.

7 Anglo-African Magazine 1859.

8 The Liberator--Vols. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.

9 The North Star--Vol. 1, Vol. 3.

Transcriber's Note:

The word "colegiate" has been corrected to "collegiate" (page 7) and
"committe" corrected to "committee" (page 16).

Variations of "Hayti" and "Haiti" are presented as in the original text.

In the original text, the reference note to the table on page 18 does not
contain a Volume Number.

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