ADDRESS BY COLORED REPUBLICAN TO VOTERS OF COLOR.
Fellow-citizens of Washington county: The condition of public affairs of our county, as it at present exists, and as it has existed for five years past, is such that something out of the ordinary course of party policy is necessary to protect the material interests of our people. The great mass of the Republican party in this county, and in fact the whole State, is composed of people of color. We compose the voting class, who have been made the instruments of designing and treacherous demagogues, who, for their own selfish and dishonest purposes, have made use of the offices to which they were elected by our suffrages as means of making themselves suddenly wealthy, without regard to the interests of their constituents whom they have shamelessly plundered. These men are in general not connected with us who have elected them by any ties of interest; and as a class sedulously abstain from any act showing a desire to assist in bearing a part of the burdens they have so constantly been heaping upon us, but have, instead, been keeping their ill-gotten gains in such places and condition as to prevent any revenue coming from it to the support of the government, or to assist in paying the taxes they were so ready to impose.
The people of Washington county have been more shamelessly robbed than the people of any other county in the State – money absolutely stolen or embezzled by the men who obtained their offices by our suffrages, to the amount of tens of thousands of dollars, and all the county officials, with scarcely an exception, banding together for mutual assistance and to sustain each other, and like other bands of thieves, each to play the part assigned him. This system of high-handed robbery has resulted in enormous taxation, which has steadily increased until it has become double what it was five years ago, without a particle of corresponding benefit. The condition of the public buildings, of the roads and bridges, and public works generally, is a source of shame to our people; and our schools, as schools, may be said to have scarcely an existence. Our county is branded as the Utopia of dishonest and corrupt officials – has a State, and almost national reputation as the harvest-field of policial plunderers, who are and have been pecking at the vitals of a people who have been blindly led to offer themselves as prey to these unscrupulous and insatiable political vultures. All effort to overturn this organized band have hitherto been in vain, and a spirit is even now being manifested by some of our unfortunate, misguided people, to continue as blindly following the leadership of the same men who have openly and notoriously proven themselves to be unworthy of public trust and confidence. Some of these men, gorged with the hard-earned gains of our laboring population, of which they have been rifled, despairing of being again suffered to fatten at the public crib, are now taking their departure for other lands, there to revel in the wealth so suddenly and dishonestly accumulated in this county. The remainder, not yet satisfied, and hoping to perpetuate their disastrous rule, are now striving by any means to again foist upon us. A few men who like their masters have nothing at stake, neither families, property, nor reputation, are lending themselves as tools to be used by these designing men to carry out their nefarious purposes. Their conduct at the convention of the 13th of September may be taken as evidence of what their intentions are as to the future. The wishes of the people are to be utterly disregarded. Nothing but the selfish desires of the so-called leaders is to be considered. We have been in the past – we see and feel now – what are the consequences of the misrule of the men who managed and manipulated that convention. We, the Republicans – the colored men of the county – are held responsible parties of all the evils with which we are surrounded. Our State government is stigmatized at the North as a negro government, and every evil and every disadvantage which the people suffer, and disorder and disturbance which occurs, is said by even Republicans at the North, to be directly chargeable as a consequence of rule. We know that what are known as negro governments are controlled invariably, not by the negro, but by white men who have used the negro as a tool, and who have, in all cases, done the plundering, and appropriated the spoils, using the negro only as a tool and a scape-goat. They have reaped the harvest – we bear the odium. And wherever disturbances have arisen having a political complexion, the negro, and the negro alone, has been the sufferer. Look at the riots in Warren, in Hinds, in Yazoo, in Tallahatchie – at the numerous riots which have occurred in this and other Southern States – at the list of killed and wounded – and you will see that not a name of a single white Republican there to grace the list – to even vary the color. When in consequence of party politics a disturbance occurs, our white Republicans are always conveniently absent. They have derived all the benefits, and we have paid and suffered proportionately, and the widows and orphans of Hinds and Warren counties, and relations and friends and homes the country over, are clothed and draped in mourning in consequence of the rule of such men as those who have been our political task-masters in this county for the five years past.
Can we, as Republicans, bear this burden any longer? Can we bear the stigma of ruining the fair county of Washington, when we had no lot nor part in the evils which are now oppressing us, save the sole act of voting for the dishonest men who have so wilfully misruled us? Can we suffer any more to be the political slaves of the corrupt ring who have so mismanaged us, and who have become so autocratic that they do not allow any Republican to have an opinion different from those they enunciate? The time has come when we must emancipate ourselves from this thraldom, or we will be as veritably political slaves as we ever were personal slaves. We must rid ourselves of this incubus, or in a short time it will own us body and soul.
This has become necessary, indispensable to us, for very many reasons. We need schools – we must educate our children. We – unfortunately ignorant – must suffer during our lives the consequences of our ignorance; but our children must not suffer as we do and have suffered. We must live in our posterity, and our efforts should all be directed to our and their interests. Let us take such steps that the taxes which are collected for the maintenance of our schools will not be diverted from our schools, but will be applied to the purposes for which they are intended. These funds have been grossly misappropriated in the past. Our duty let it be to see that this never occurs in the future.
One further consideration – by no means the least important – at present of the highest and greatest importance – yet remains. We are here as citizens in this county. We have our homes, our families, our little all is here. Many of us were born here; have lived here all our lives, and expect to have our bones deposited here. Shall we not live in peace and harmony with our neighbors among whom we reside? The white people of the county are desirous of having peace and good order in this community, and peace and good order must prevail. We are in no condition to have any strife. We do not desire any. It is against every interest of every man, woman and child in this county to have any such condition of affairs as has lately desolated so many hearthstones – has made so many widows and orphans among our poor people in the counties of Hinds and Warren. We have an opportunity of avoiding all similar difficulties as those in which our fellow citizens of neighboring counties are involved, by joining hands with the white citizens of this county in a general movement to uproot the gigantic mass of corruption which has obtained such foothold in our midst – obtain a good, honest, local government, elect to office men of known honesty and capacity, who will labor for the interest and protection of all citizens, without regard to color or party politics. No more propitious time will ever occur for the inauguration of a movement which must be made sooner or later. Let us now arise in the might of an oppressed and outraged people, and cast off the disgraceful yoke which a few impudent demagogues have fastened upon us, and join with our neighbors, without regard to color or politics, in redeeming ourselves from the spoilers of the county in which we live in common, and peace and prosperity will soon come to you and to them alike.
J. ALLEN ROSS, Chairman People’s Republican Ex. Com.
A. W. SHADD, Secretary.