“The courts of the land are the facile instruments of the Anglo-Saxon race. They register its will as faithfully as the thermometer does the slightest caprice of the weather. And yet, the poor boon of a trial in even such courts as these is denied the negro, even when his character is being painted with hell’s black ink and charges that threaten his life are being laid at his door. He is allowed no chance to clear his name; no opportunity to bid a friend good bye; no time to formulate a prayer to God.
“About this way of dealing with criminals there are three horrible features: First, innocent men are often slain and forced to sleep eternally in dishonored graves. Secondly, when men who are innocent are thus slain the real culprits are left behind to repeat their deeds and thus continue to bring reproach upon the race to which they belong. Thirdly, illegal execution always begets sympathy in the hearts of our people for a criminal, however dastardly may be his crime. Thus the execution loses all of its moral force as a deterrent. That wrath, that eloquence, which would all be used in abuse of the criminal is divided between him and his lynchers. Thus the crime for which the man suffers, is not dwelt upon with that unanimity to make it sufficiently odious, and, as a consequence, lynching increases crime. And, too, under the operation of the lynch-law the criminal knows that any old tramp is just as liable as himself to be seized and hanged.
“This accursed practice, instead of decreasing, grows in extent year by year. Since the close of the civil war no less than sixty thousand of our comrades, innocent of all crime, have been hurried to their graves by angry mobs, and to-day their widows and orphans and their own departed spirits cry out to you to avenge their wrongs.
“Woe unto that race, whom the tears of the widows, the cries of starving orphans, the groans of the innocent dying, and the gaping wounds of those unjustly slain, accuse before a righteous God!
“’Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed!’
“These words were penned by the man whom the South has taught us to revere as the greatest and noblest American statesman, whether those who are now alive or those who are dead. We speak of Thomas Jefferson. They have taught us that he was too wise to err and that his sayings are truth incarnate. They are ready to anathematize any man in their own ranks who will decry the self-evident truths which he uttered.
“The Bible which the white people gave us, teaches us that we are men. The Declaration of Independence, which we behold them wearing over their hearts, tells us that all men are created equal. If, as the Bible says, we are men; if, as Jefferson says, all men are equal; if, as he further states, governments derive all just powers from the consent of the governed, then it follows that the American government is in duty bound to seek to know our will as respects the laws and the men who are to govern us.