Intro: The year is 2397. The earth has long since been abandoned, as humans have fled to planets throughout the solar system. Yet, in 2397, the Federation of Mars has sent a delegation of historians back to earth to find artifacts which may be of interest to humanity writ large. While on earth, on particularly skilled historian unearths an interesting document. Its title page has been ripped off. All the historian can determine is that it is part of a pamphlet from North America dating back to sometime in the early nineteenth century. He immediately packs the remains of the pamphlet up and brings it back to Mars for further study.
Assignment: Your task, should you choose to accept it (and I would recommend that you do), is to read the following “discovered” source below and to perform an analysis of the text. In essence, you are to use this text to make an argument in 3-4 pages (Double spaced, 12 pt font, 1 inch margins, etc.) about what this document tells us about American society during the period in question. You are, in other words, to frame a thesis, and an argument which supports that thesis, around this source.
Your imagination is the limit on this. The work of a historian is to read documents and figure out what it is trying to say about a given time period. Thus, you may key in on any theme from this letter that stands out to you—as long as you can use that theme to make a broader argument about American society in the 19th century.
As you write, make sure to draw upon specific examples from the text to make your argument. This may mean quoting from relevant parts of the source. You are not to use any outside sources beyond your textbook and other readings/lectures from class in making your arguments. In a word, no outside research should go into this assignment. Do not try to figure out who wrote the document in question. If you do, you will get a failing grade on the assignment.
Grading: Please provide me with a hard copy. The assignment is worth 50 pts and will be grades on the following
Thesis – 15 pts – Full points will be awarded to thesis statements which clearly describe the argument the paper is trying to make. Your thesis sentence should be arguable—that is, it should not be such an obvious argument that it does not require proving.
Argument – 25 pts – Full points will be given to papers that make an illuminating argument based on the text in question about broader American society in the early nineteenth century. Such arguments should be logical and flow from the source material. It should likewise show creativity of thought.
Grammar – 10 pts – Full points will be given to papers that are professional in style and format with two or less grammatical errors. Any quotations from the source are followed with the page number they are from in parentheses. If other readings from class are used, a bibliography in correct format should be included at the end of the paper (this does not count towards the 3-4 page count).
We hold this truth to be self-evident that God created all men equal, and is one of the most prominent features in the Declaration of Independence and in that glorious fabrick of collected wisdom, our noble Constitution. This idea embraces the Indian and European, the Savage and the Saint, the Peruvian and the Laplander, the white Man and the African, and whatever measures are adopted subversive of this inestimable privilege, are in direct violation of the letter and spirit of our Constitution, and become subject to the animadversion of all, particularly those who are deeply interested in the measure.
These thoughts were suggested by the promulgation of a late bill, before the Senate of Pennsylvania, to prevent the emigration of people of colour into this state. It was not passed into law at this session and must in consequence lay over until the next, before when we sincerely hope, the white men, whom we should look upon as our protectors, will have become convinced of the inhumanity and impolicy of such a measure, and forbear to deprive us of those inestimable treasures, Liberty and Independence. This is almost the only state in the Union wherein the African race have justly boasted of rational liberty and the protection of the laws, and shall it now be said they have been deprived of that liberty, and publickly exposed for sale to the highest bidder? Shall colonial inhumanity that has marked many of us with shameful stripes, become the practice of the people of Pennsylvania, while Mercy stands weeping at the miserable spectacle? People of Pennsylvania…doom us not to the unhappy fate of thousands of our countrymen in the Southern States and the West Indies; despise the traffick in blood, and the blessing of the African will for ever be around you.
Many of us are men of property, for the security of which, we have hitherto looked to the laws of our blessed state, but should this become a law, our property is jeopardized, since the same power which can expose to sale an unfortunate fellow creature, can wrest from him those estates, which years of honest industry have accumulated. Where shall the poor African look for protection, should the people of Pennsylvania consent to oppress him? We grant there are a number of worthless men belonging to our colour, but there are laws of sufficient rigour for their punishment, if properly and duly enforced. We wish not to screen the guilty from punishment, but with the guilty do not permit the innocent to suffer. If there are worthless men, there are also men of merit among the African race, who are useful members of Society. The truth of this let their benevolent institutions and the numbers clothed and fed by them witness. Punish the guilty man of colour to the utmost limit of the laws, but sell him not to slavery! If he is in danger of becoming a publick charge prevent him! If he is too indolent to labour for his own subsistence, compel him to do so; but sell him not to slavery. By selling him you do not make him better, but commit a wrong. without benefitting the object of it or society at large. Many of our ancestors were brought here more than one hundred years ago; many of our fathers, many of ourselves, have fought and bled for the Independence of our country. Do not then expose us to sale. Let not the spirit of the father behold the son robbed of that Liberty which he died to establish, but let the motto of our Legislators be: “The Law knows no distinction.” – A MAN OF COLOUR.
I Proceed again to the consideration of the bill of unalienable rights belonging to black men, the passage of which will only tend to show, that the advocates of emancipation can enact laws more degrading to the free man, and more injurious to his feelings, than all the tyranny of slavery, or the shackles of infatuated despotism. And let me here remark, that this unfortunate race of humanity, although protected by our laws, are already subject to the fury and caprice of a certain set of men, who regard neither humanity, law nor privilege. They are already considered as a different species, and little above the brute creation. They are thought to be objects fit for nothing else than lordly men to vent the effervescence of their spleen upon, and to tyrannize over, like the bearded Musselman over his horde of slaves. Nay, the Musselman thinks more of his horse, than the generality of people do of the despised black!–Are not men of colour sufficiently degraded? Why then increase their degradation. It is a well known fact, that black people, upon certain days of publick jubilee, dare not be seen after twelve o’clock in the day, upon the field to enjoy the times; for no sooner do the fumes of that potent devil, Liquor, mount into the brain, than the poor black is assailed like the destroying Hyena or the avaricious Wolf! I allude particularly to the Fourth Of July!– Is it not wonderful, that the day set apart for the festival of Liberty, should be abused by the advocates of Freedom, in endeavouring to sully what they profess to adore. If men, though they know that the law protects all, will dare, in defiance of law, to execute their hatred upon the defenceless black, will they not by the passage of this bill, believe him still more a mark for their venom and spleen.–Will they not believe him completely deserted by authority, and subject to every outrage brutality can inflict–too surely they will, and the poor wretch will turn his eyes around to look in vain for protection. Pause, ye rulers of a free people, before you give us over to despair and violation–we implore you, for the sake of humanity, to snatch us from the pinnacle of ruin, from that gulph, which will swallow our rights, as fellow creatures; our privileges, as citizens; and our liberties, as men!
There are men among us of reputation and property, as good citizens as any men can be, and who, for their property, pay as heavy taxes as any citizens are compelled to pay….And still even they are not exempted from this degrading bill. The villanous part of the community, of all colours, we wish to see punished and retrieved as much as any people can. Enact laws to punish them severely, but do not let them operate against the innocent as well as the guilty. Can there be any generosity in this? Can there be any semblance of justice, or of that enlightened conduct which is ever the boasted pole star of freedom? By no means. This bill is nothing but the ignus fatuus of mistaken policy!
I could write for ages on the subject of this unrighteous bill but as I think enough has already been said, to convince every unprejudiced mind, of its unjust, degrading, undeserved tendency, one more number shall conclude the Letters from
A Man Of Colour
A Few more remarks upon the bill which has been the subject of my preceding numbers, shall conclude these Letters, which have been written in my own cause as an individual, and my brethren as a part of the community. They are the simple dictates of nature and need no apology. They are not written in the gorgeous style of a scholar, nor dressed in the garments of literary perfection. They are impulse of a mind formed, I trust, for feeling, and smarting under all the rigours which the bill is calculated to produce.
By the third section of this bill, which is its peculiar hardship, the police officers are authorized to apprehend any black, whether a vagrant or a man of reputable character, who cannot produce a Certificate that he has been registered. He is to be arrayed before a justice, who is thereupon to commit him to prison–The jailor is to advertise a Freeman, and at the expiration of six months, if no owner appear of this degraded black, he is to be exposed to sale, and if not sold to be confined at hard labour for seven years!!–Man of feeling, read this!–No matter who, no matter where. The Constable, whose antipathy generally against the black is very great, will take every opportunity of hurting his feelings!–Perhaps, he sees him at a distance, and having a mind to raise the boys in hue and cry against him, exclaims, “Halloa! Stop the Negro!”
The boys, delighting in the sport, immediately begin to hunt him, and immediately from a hundred tongues, is heard the cry–“Hoa, Negro, where is your Certificate!”–Can anything be conceived more degrading to humanity–Can anything be done more shocking to the principles of Civil Liberty! A person arriving from another state, ignorant of the existence of such a law, may fall victim to its cruel oppression. But he is to be advertised, and if no owner appear–How can an owner appear, he is exposed for sale!–Oh, inhuman spectacle: found in no unjust act, convicted of no crime, he is barbarously sold, like the produce of the soil, to the highest bidder, or what is still worse for no crimes, without the inestimable privilege of a trial by his peers, doomed to the dreary walls of a prison for the term of seven tedious years!–My God, what a situation is his. Search the legends of tyranny and find no precedent. No example can be found in all the reigns of violence and oppression, which have marked the lapse of time. It stands alone. It has been left for Pennsylvania, to raise her ponderous arm against the liberties of the black, whose greatest boast has been, that he resided in a State where Civil Liberty, and sacred Justice were administered alike to all.–What must be his reflections now, that the asylum he has left from mancipation has been destroyed, and that he is left to suffer, like Daniel of old, with no one but his God to help him! Where is the bosom that does not heave a sign for his, unless it be callous to every sentiment of humanity and mercy?
The fifth section of this bill, is also peculiarly hard, inasmuch as it prevents freemen from living where they please.–Pennsylvania has always been a refuge from slavery, and to this state the Southern black, when freed, has flown for safety. Why does he this! When masters in many of the Southern states, which they frequently do, free a particular black, unless the Black leaves the state in so many hours, any person resident of the said state, can have him arrested and again sold to Slavery:–The hunted black is obliged to flee, or remain and be again a Slave. I have known persons of this descriiption sold three times after being first emancipated. Where shall he go? Shut every state against him, and, like Pharoah’s kine, drive him into the sea.–Is there no spot on earth that will protect him! Against their inclination his ancestors were forced from their homes by traders in human flesh, and even under such circumstances, the wretched offspring are denied the protection you afford to brutes.
It is in vain that we are forming societies of different kinds to ameliorate the condition of our unfortunate brethren, or correct their morals and to render them not only honest but useful members to society. All our efforts, by this bill, are despised, and we are doomed to feel the lash of oppression:– As well may we be outlawed, as well may the glorious privileges of the Gospel, be denied us, and all endeavours used to cut us off from happiness hereafter as well as here!–The case is similar, and I am much deceived if this bill does not destroy the morals it is intended to produce.
I have done. My feelings are acute, and I have ventured to express them without intending either accusation or insult to any one. An appeal to the heart is my intention, and if I have failed it is my great misfortune, not to have had a power of eloquence sufficient to convince. But I trust the eloquence of nature will succeed, and that the law-givers of this happy Commonwealth will yet remain the Blacks’ friend, and the advocates of Freemen, is the sincere wish of
A Man Of Colour.
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