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Smith, James M'Cune. 'Citizenship' in 'The Anglo-African Magazine 1:5 (May 1859)' . New York, N.Y. : T. Hamilton, 1859. [format: newspaper], [genre: article; history]. Permission: Northern Illinois University
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=angloafrican1.html


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of citizenship which the slave States have showered upon their free blacks with a most liberal hand.

4. JUS SUFFRAGII; ‘the right of voting.’ In a majority of the States at the time of the adoption of the Constitution, free blacks exercised the right to vote, and were therefore intitled to that right in a majority of the states, including Virginia and North Carolina.

5. JUS HONORUM; ‘the right to hold office,’ although they have held but few public offices, there is no legal reason why a free black may not hold any office in many of the States, none why he may not become President of the United States.

6. JUS SACRORUM; ‘the right to minister in the sacred things.’ This right is enjoyed by the free blacks throughout the United States, under certain restrictions, in the slave States, looking to the possibility of an insurrection from this source.

Such are the rights which were attached to citizenship among the Romans. Such are the rights which constitute citizenship as expressed in the Constitution, the word must bear the meaning which language itself attaches to it under like circumstances, to wit, when it expresses the relation of the individual to the general government. As in Roman polity, the possession of any of these rights constituted the possessor. For example, according to Justinian, a man emancipated became free as his emancipator, that is a citizen, immediately. According to Cicero, [10] when a slave was enrolled in the census (by consent of his master) he became free, that is, a citizen. Hence, when the framers of the Constitution, nearly all of them slaveholders, ordained the enrollment of slaves (if they were slaves, who were mentioned in the three fifths clause) in the census, actually manumitted them and gave them the right of citizenship.

But in regard to the free blacks of the United States, there need be no interposing interferences. Their right to citizenship is demonstrated as clearly as the meaning of the word itself. Enjoying each one, enjoying all the rights which constitute citizenship, they must be citizens of the United States. Their rights to citizenship of the United States is based upon a firmer foundation than legislative precedents, or judicial decisions, it is based upon the very meaning and definition of term citizen; and in order to impeach that right it will be necessary to blot out from history the annals of lofty Rome, to erase from language the word citizen, and to efface from human polity the relation which the individual bears to the State, in a republic. The free blacks are citizens of the United States, under the Constitution thereof: it is, for us, a most excellent Constitution, ‘a better one,’ as Frederick Douglas has well said ‘than would be framed by a Convention held to-day in the United States.’ But whatever evil the framers of to-day might do, they could not deprive free blacks of citizenship. Such deprivation is not in the nature of things. The framers of the Constitution, like they who superintended, or rather witnessed the growth of the ideas of citizenship in Rome, could no more help admitting freed men to citizenship than could the bee with his hexagonal eye lenses, avoid building a hexagonal cell.

Relying upon this basis for our claims to citizenship, we blacks may smile at the Dred Scott decision, and the various rulings of the minions of slaveholders, who hold for the time, the Executive power of the General Government. We can safely bide our time: we must enforce a full acknowledgment of our rights in the free States, and thus obtain a stand point from which we can put in practice the glorious principles, which, whether uttered by Robespierre or Gerrit Smith, point out in living light our path of duty.

‘1. Les hommes de tous les pays sont freres, et les differents Peuples o'entr'aider selon leur pouvoir comme les citoyens du meme Etat. — 2. Celui qui opprime une Nation se declare l'ennimi de toutes. — 3. Ceux qui font la querre a' un People pour arreter les progres la liberti et les droits de l'homme doivent etre poursuivis par tous, non comme des ennemies ordinaires, mais comme des assassins et des brigands rebelles. — 4. Les Rois, les Aristocrats, les Tyrans
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Smith, James M'Cune. 'Citizenship' in 'The Anglo-African Magazine 1:5 (May 1859)' . New York, N.Y. : T. Hamilton, 1859. [format: newspaper], [genre: article; history]. Permission: Northern Illinois University
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=angloafrican1.html
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