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Equality Before the Law: Oration Delivered by Prof. J.M. Langston at the Fifteenth Amendment Celebration
			
                                       2
        THE LAWS OF A NATION                land, or in any other Christian country
are no more the indices of its public       of Europe.  Nor is there any such dis-
sentiment and its civilization, than of     tinction made, to my knowledge, in the
its promise of progress toward the per-     whole body of the Roman civil law.
manent establishment of freedom and                 13TH AMENDMENT.
equal rights. The histories of the em-
pires of the past, no less than the na-       Among the changes that have been
tions of the present, bear testimony to     wrought in the law of our country, in
the  truthfulness  of this statement.       the order of importance  and dignity,
Because this is so, her laws, no less than  I would mention, first, that slavery abol-
her literature and science, constitute      ished, not by State but National enact-
the glory of a nation, and render her       ment, can never again, in the history of
influence lasting.  This is particularly    our country, be justified or defended
illustrated in the case of Rome, immor-     on the ground that it is a municipal
talized, certainly, not less by her laws    institution--the creature of State law.
than her letters or her arms.   Hence       Henceforth, as our emancipation has
the sages, the jurists, and the states-     been decreed by national declaration,
men of all ages, since Justinian, have      our freedom is shielded and  protected
dwelt with delight and admiration up-       by the strong arm of National law.
on the excellencies and beauties of         Go where we may, now, like the at-
Roman  jurisprudence.   Of the civil        mosphere about us, law protects us, in
law Chancellor Kent eloquently says:        our locomotion, our utterance and our
"It was created and matured on the          pursuit of happiness.  And  to this
banks of the Tiber, by the successive       leading and fundamental fact of the
wisdom of Roman statesmen, magis-           law, the people, and the various States
trates and sages; and after governing       of the Union, are adjusting themselves
the greatest people in the  ancient         with grace and wisdom.  It would be
world for the space of thirteen or four-    difficult to find a sane man  in our
teen centuries, and undergoing extra-       country who would seriously advocate
ordinary vicissitudes after the fall of     the abrogation of the 13th amendment
the Western Empire, it was revived,         to the Constitution.
admired, and studied in northern Eu-          In our emancipation, it is fixed by
rope, on account of the variety and ex-     law that the place where we are born,
cellence of its general principles.  It is  is, ipso facto, our country; and this
now taught and obeyed, not only in          gives us domicil, a home.  As in sla-
France, Spain, Germany, Holland, and        very we had no self-ownership, nor in-
Scotland, but in the islands of the         terest in anything, external to our-
Indian Ocean, and on the banks of the       selves, so we were without country and
Mississippi and the St. Lawrence.  So       legal settlement.    While slavery ex-
true it seems, are the words of d'Auges-    isted, even the free colored American
seau, that "the grand destinies of Rome     was in no better condition; and hence
are Lot yet accomplished; she reigns        exhortions, prompted in many instances
throughout the world by her reason,         by considerations of philanthropy and
after having ceased to reign by her         good-will, were not infrequently made
authority."  And the reason through         to him to leave his native land to seek
which she here reigns, is the reason of     residence and home elsewhere, in dis-
the law.                                    tant and inhospitable regions.  These
         CHANGES OF OUR LAW.                exhortions  did not always pass un-
                                            heeded, for eventually a national or-
  It is no more interesting to the pa-      ganization was formed. having for its
triot than to the philanthropist, to trace  sole  purpose  the  transportation to
the changes which have been made,           Africa of such colored men as might
during the last decade. in our legisla-     desire to leave the land of their birth
tion and law.   Nor is there anything       to find settlement in that country. And
in these changes to cause regret or         through the influence of the African
fear to the wise and sagacious lawyer       Colonization Society, not a few, even,
or statesman.  This is particularly true    of our  most energetic, enterprising,
since, in the changes made, we essay no     industrious and able colored men, not
novel experiments in legislation and  to    mention thousands of the humbler
law, but they are justified by princi-      class, have been carried abroad.
ples drawn from the fountains of our          It may be that, in the providence of
jurisprudence, the Roman Civil, and         God, these persons, self-expatriated,
the Common law.  It has been truth-         may have been instrumental in build-
fully stated that the common law has ing    up a respectable and promising
made no distinction on account of race      government in Liberia; and that those
or color.  None is now made in Eng-         who have supported the Colonization




			
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Equality Before the Law: Oration Delivered by Prof. J.M. Langston at the Fifteenth Amendment Celebration

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