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Equality Before the Law: Oration Delivered by Prof. J.M. Langston at the Fifteenth Amendment Celebration
country, consequent upon the triumph      that in his judgment, in spite of, and
of the abolition movement, its coming     contrary to common law rules applied
was inevitable.  And, therefore, as its   in the case, certainly of all others, and
legal necessity, as well as political, is recognized as fully settled, the colored
recognized and admitted, opposition to    citizen was denied those accommoda-
it has well nigh disappeared.  Indeed,    tions, facilities, advantages and priv-
so far from there being anything like     ileges, furnished ordinarily by common
general and organized opposition to the   carriers, inn keepers, at public places
exercise of political powers by the en-   of amusement and common schools;
franchised American, the people ac-       and which are so indispensable  to
cept it as a fit and natural fact.        rational and useful enjoyment of life,
                                          that without them citizenship itself
          CIVIL RIGHTS BILL.              loses much of its value, and liberty
  Great as the change has been with       seems little more than a name.
regard to the legal status of the colored              EQUALITY.
American, in his freedom, his enfran-       The judicial axiom, "omnes homines
chisement, and the exercise of political  aequales sunt," is said to have been given
powers, he is not yet given the full ex-  the world by the jurisconsults of the
ercise and enjoyment of all the rights    Atonine era.  From the Roman, the
which appertain by law to American        French people inherited this legal sen-
citizenship.  Such as are still denied    timent; and, through the learning, the
him; are withheld on the plea that        wisdom and patriotism of Thomas Jef-
their recognition would result in social  ferson and his revolutionary compatri-
equality; and his demand for them is      ots, it was made the chief corner-stone
met by considerations derived  from
individual and domestic opposition        of jurisprudence and politics. In consid-
individual and  domestic opposition.      ering the injustice done the colored
Such reasoning is no more destitute of    American  in denying him  common
logic than law.  While I hold that        school advantages, on general and equal
opinion sound, which does not accept      terms with all others, impartial treat-
mere prejudice  and  caprice, instead     ment in the conveyances of common
of the promptings of nature, guided       carriers, by sea and land, and the en-
by cultivated taste and wise judgment     joyment of the usual accommodations
as the true basis of social recognition;  afforded travelers at public inns, and
and believing, too, that in a Christian   in vindicating his claim to the same,
community, social recognition may         it is well to bear in mind this funda-
justly be pronounced a duty, I would      mental and immutable principle upon
not deal in this discussion with mat-     which the fathers built, and in the
ters of  society.  I would justify the    light of which our law ought to be
claim of the colored American to com-     construed and enforced. This obser-
plete equality of rights and privileges   vation has especial significance as re-
upon well considered and accepted         gards the obligations and liabilities of
principles of law.                        common carriers and inn-keepers; for
  As showing the condition and treat-     from the civil law we have borrowed
ment of the colored citizens of this      those  principles largely which have
country, anterior to the introduction     controlling force in respect to these
of the Civil Rights Bill, so called, into subjects.  It is manifest, in view of
the United States Senate, by the late     this statement, that the law with re-
Hon. Charles Sumner, I ask your at-       gard to these topics is neither novel
tention to the following words from a     nor unsettled; and when the colored
letter written by him:                    American asks its due enforcement in
  "I wish a bill carefully drawn, sup-    his behalf, he makes no unnatural and
plementary to the existinig Civil Rights  strange demand.
Law, by which all citizens shall be
protected in equal rights:-                        COMMON SCHOOLS.
  (1.) On railroads, steamboats and pub-   Denied, generally, equal  school ad-
lic conveyances, being public carriers.    vantages, the colored citizen demands
  (2.) At all houses in the nature of      them in the name of that equality of
"inns."                                    rights and privileges which is the vital
  (3.) All licensed houses of public       element of American law.  Equal in
amusement.                                 freedom, sustained by law; equal in
  (4.) At all common schools.              citizenship, defined and supported by
  "Can you do this? I would follow as      law; equal in the exercise of political
much as possible the language of the       powers regulated and sanctioned by
existing Civil Rights Law, and make  law,  by what refinement of reasoning,
the new bill supplementary."               or tenet of law, can the denial of com-
  It will be seen from this very clear     mon school and other educational ad-
and definite statement of the Senator,     vantages be justified?  To answer that,


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



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