Meeting at the African Church
May 4, 1867
A meeting was held at the African Church in which many Republicans spoke, including the Honorable Charles Gibbons.He called people to vote based on ideas, not race, and to never get political advice from someone who protests one's right to vote.
MEETING at THE AFRICAN CHURCH -- Speech by Hon. Charles Gibbons, of Pennsylvania.-- A mass meeting was held at the African church last evening, the occasion being an address from Hon. Charles Gibbons, Speaker of the House of Delegates of Pennsylvania. The meeting was composed chiefly of colored persons, who filled the house, though there were a few whites interspersed among them. Among those present were Governor Peirpoint, Colonel Charles H. Lewis, Colonel Mallory, of the Freedmen's Bureau, and a number of army officers. The meeting was called to order at a few moments after 8 o'clock, and John H. Oliver, colored, was called to the chair. The proceedings were opened with the hymn "Blow, ye Trumpets, Blow!" and prayer by Nelson Vanderball, colored. Hunnicutt, with a few prefatory remarks, introduced the speaker. During his remarks he denied that he had ever urged the colored people against the whites. The present struggle was one of ideas, not of races, and he had only urged upon the black people political opposition to those who were unwilling to accede to them the rights and privileges properly theirs. "If you wish to consult a rebel," said he -- "and I call things by their right names -- if you wish to consult a rebel concerning the purchase of a horse, do so. If you wish to consult him concerning the purchase of land, do so. But never consult a man who has fought against this country concerning your vote." ["No! we won't."] The speaker of the evening being introduced, commenced his address with the statement that he had consented to speak to them by invitation. He appeared as a man without public position, and not seeking one. He came not as the agent or emissary of any political party, and could therefore speak to them as a disinterested friend. He then spoke of his attachment to the Republican party since 1856 and then gave an account of its history and progress, and the cause of secession and the war as attributed by that party. He referred to its power throughout the North, and said that it was responsible for all the legislation of the last six years, and it was not ashamed of it. It had raised the negro from the state of slavery and made him free, and it had placed the ballot in his hands. [" Amen ! "] The people of the North expected that the colored people of the South had intelligence enough to know who were their friends. [" We do dat."] He did not wish to bo misunderstood. He urged them to hatred towards no one, white or black. He had read where speakers had advised them to work so as to win the esteem and confidence of their former masters. [Cries of "We will."] If they would trust in God and merit his blessings that would be sufficient, lie then spoke of the condition of the people of Virginia, and their inability to pay high wages for labor. If their employers paid them fairly and honestly what they promised them, they should not stand upon a dollar or two, when they knew he was unable to pay more. [Cries of " We won't."] He then spoke of labor and its necessity, its many branches, and their mutual dependence upon each other, and urged upon his hearers to go to work. He had heard a great deal concerning confiscation. He wished his hearers to be cautioned against any such doctrine, for the Republican party would never consent to such a measure unless driven to it by the conduct of the radical secessionists of the South. The Republican party wish to act humanely and kindly. They had no malice against the southern people who had been forced into the war by a military despotism such as never was known. They asked them to meet them now as brethren, as friends, and as citizens of a common country. The only issue between the people of the North and the people of the South had been that of slavery, and that was now done away with. He could take the Bill of Rights of Virginia and read from it the platform of the Republican party, and he only asked Virginians, in reorganizing their State, to stand upon the Bill of Rights, and they would stand upon the Republican platform. He then entreated his hearers to abandon the idea of confiscation and go to work. [Murmurs of mingled approbation and disapproval.] They should remember the story of Mr. Brooke's turkey Jacob, who, after trying in vain to hatch by setting on a brickbat, died trying to hatch turkeys out of a nest of rotten apples. He believed that the colored man knew his rights, and could maintain them at the ballot-box without quarrelling or contention with their old masters or anybody else. He next spoke of Virginia -- its past glory, the pride of its people, and the beauty of its hills and valleys. The people of Virginia were proud, and with their beautiful State they had reason to bo proud; but they.had depended too much upon its ancient reputation and past glory. The people had folded their arms, stood still, and allowed themselves to be outstripped by their sister States of the West and North, and unless they nerved themselves at once to labor and improvement, they would yet be outstripped by others. He then continued to argne ably upon the importance of labor and internal improvement as essential to commerce, citing several examples among the great cities of the North and West. He nad noticed that several journals of the South had been inviting foreign emigration, and emigrants of the North to come down and buy southern lands. If the southern people would conform to the principles, and adopt the platform of the Republican party, the hardy men of the North would come down by thousands, labor and develop the lands, build up the State, and place it where it should have been long ago. In conclusion, he urged union and harmony. "Let the blood of the past be wiped out; let us gather around the graves of our dead, and bury past animosities with them. Let us unite upon the platform of the Republican party, and gathering lessons from the past, labor for this grand, glorious Government, which is destined to be the greatest government the sun ever shone upon." He was followed by Governor Peirpoint in one of his short, practical, non-commit-tal speeches; which was well received, however. Several other of the old style of Radical speeches were made; after which the meeting dispersed.
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“Meeting at the African Church,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed July 8, 2020, https://reconstructingvirginia.richmond.edu/items/show/590.