“The South has defrauded us out of the ballot and she must restore it. But in judging her crime let us take an impartial view of its occasion. The ballot is supposed to be an expression of opinion. It is a means employed to record men’s ideas. It is not designed as a vehicle of prejudice or gratitude, but of thought, opinion. When the Negro was first given the ballot he used it to convey expression of love and gratitude to the North, while it bore to the South a message of hate and revenge. No Negro, on pain of being ostracised or probably murdered, was allowed to exercise the ballot in any other way than that just mentioned. They voted in a mass, according to the dictates of love and hate.
“The ballot was never designed for such a purpose. The white man snatched the ballot from the Negro. His only crime was, in not snatching it from him also, for he was voting on the same principle. Neither race was thinking. They were both simply feeling, and ballots are not meant to convey feelings.
“But happily that day has passed and both races are thinking and are better prepared to vote. But the white man is still holding on to the stolen ballot box and he must surrender it. If we can secure possession of that right again, we shall use it to correct the many grievous wrongs under which we suffer. That is the one point on which all of our efforts are focused. Here is the storm center. Let us carry this point and our flag will soon have all of our rights inscribed thereon. The struggle is on, and my beloved Congress, let me urge one thing upon you. Leave out revenge as one of the things at which to aim.
“In His Holy Word our most high God has said: ‘Vengeance is mine.’ Great as is this Imperium, let it not mount God’s throne and attempt by violence to rob Him of his prerogatives. In this battle, we want Him on our side and let us war as becometh men who fear and reverence Him. Hitherto, we have seen vengeance terrible in his hands.
“While we, the oppressed, stayed upon the plantation in peace, our oppressors were upon the field of battle engaged in mortal combat; and it was the blood of our oppressor, not our own, that was paid as the price of our freedom. And that same God is alive to-day; and let us trust Him for vengeance, and if we pray let our prayer be for mercy on those who have wronged us, for direful shall be their woes.
“And now, I have a substitute proposition. Fellow Comrades, I am not for internecine war. O! Eternal God, lend unto these, my Comrades, the departed spirit of Dante, faithful artist of the horrors of hell, for we feel that he alone can paint the shudder-making, soul-sickening scenes that follow in the wake of fast moving internecine war.
“Now, hear my solution of the race problem. The Anglo-Saxon does not yet know that we have caught the fire of liberty. He does not yet know that we have learned what a glorious thing it is to die for a principle, and especially when that principle is liberty. He does not yet know how the genius of his institutions has taken hold of our very souls. In the days of our enslavement we did not seem to him to be much disturbed about physical freedom. During the whole period of our enslavement we made only two slight insurrections.