Freedmen's Meeting in Washington.
The following is the speech of Hon. Henry Wilson, alluded to in the foregoing correspondence: [Henry Wilson (1812-1875), Senator from Massachusetts, 1855-1873, dedicated himself to emancipation, because of his observations of slavery on an early visit to Washington DC; he was a national anti-slavery leader]
New York, July 5.--A Washington dispatch to the Herald states that a meeting of the National Colored Monument Association was held yesterday in the grounds of the Treasury Department. John Flood was chairman.
Letters were read from Gov. Andrew, Dr. Channing, Horace Greeley, Gen. Fremont, and Frederick Douglass. Addresses were made by Mr. Day, a negro, Henry Wilson, ex-Governor Hahn, of Louisiana, [George Michael Hahn (1830-86) was the pro-union governor of Louisiana from 1864-65, and supported black suffrage] Gen. Gregory, and others.
The following abstract of Henry Wilson's speech will be read with interest:
Mr. Wilson gave an account of his first coming to Washington, now about thirty years ago, of the sales of slaves he had witnessed, the brutality of the treatment of the slaves and the despotism of the slave masters; but, said he, I thank God slavery is dead and buried. Thank God for that [cries of "amen" and cheers], and I want to say to you to remember--carry it to your neighbor, and let it go from neighbor to neighbor across the continent--that the freedmen of the United States shall be protected in all their rights. [Immense cheering.]
Slavery has robbed your cradles; it shall rob them no more. (Cheers.) It has had its auction blocks; the auction blocks are gone forever. It has had its bloodhounds: those bloodhounds shall be on the tracks of your race no more. (Loud and continued cheering.)
Let the former slave masters understand this. Let every rebel in the country, from the Potomac to the Rio Grand, understand that their power and authority over the black man on this continent has passed away forever.
I want them to understand it is destroyed, and with its death the compromises of the Federal Constitution, the laws of Congress, the black laws of the late slave States and of the free States, and all the political dogmas and ideas upon which the system of slavery depended, must be numbered among the things of the past. The Dred Scott interpretation of the Constitution from the Supreme Court, under which the negro has no political right which a white man is bound to respect, goes with all this other rubbish into the dumping-ground of slavery. (Immense applause.)
I want them to understand that their black code and their black laws and all they have done to hold men in slavery, were abolished forever with slavery itself, and I serve here to-day a notice upon them that I have procured a bill, which I intend to introduce, too, on the first day of the first next Congress, for the personal liberty of every freedman on this continent, and I want them to understand that I belong to a body of men who are accustomed to sleep on the field of victory--a class of men who accept the doctrines of the New Testament--who accept as the living faith of the North American Republic, the Declaration of Independence,--a class of men who represent the principles of liberty, of humanity, of justice, and a set of men who never were and never can be defeated.
Nothing is more sublime than the record of the black man in this struggle. They have stood by our brave soldiers and sailors in the thickest fights. They have guided them against the enemy. They have stood by our men, when fugitives from starving prisons and given them food, they stood by the country faithfully in the hour of trial, and the country will stand by them."
In conclusion, Mr. Wilson urged his hearers to temperence, industry and economy, to educate themselves and their children to be an ornament and a blessing to the country.
[The "foregoing correspondence" includes this paragraph:]
In connection with the Fourth of July celebrations, you will notice the colored people's celebration at Washington, and the admirable speech delivered thereat by Senator Wilson. I enclose you a sketch of the speech referred to, no fuller account having been published. Mr. Wilson speaks in the right tone to the slaveocracy and should be sustained by the most earnest support of every friend of Equal Rights and Equal Laws.[by G. J. H., Boston, Mass., July 7, 1865]