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Equality Before the Law: Oration Delivered by Prof. J.M. Langston at the Fifteenth Amendment Celebration
will be found among us, no one to jus-     of our exclusion, in some localities,
tify such regulations by common carriers,  from
and when they will be made to adjust       JURY, PUBLIC PLACES OF LEARNING AND
themselves in their orders and regula-       AMUSEMENT, THE CHURCH AND THE
tions with regard thereto, to the rules                 CEMETERY.
of the common law.  The grievance of       I will only say, however, (and in this
the citizen in this particular is neither  statement I claim the instincts, not less
imaginary  nor  sentimental.  His ex-      than the well-formed judgement of man-
perience of sadness and pain attests its   kind in our behalf), that such exclu-  
reality; and the awakening sense of        sion at least seems remarkable, and is
the people generally, as discovered in     difficult of defense upon any consider-
their expressions, the decisions of sev-   ations of humanity, law, or Christianity.
eral of our courts, and the recent leg-    Such exclusion is the more remarkable
islation of a few States, shows that this  and indefensible since we are fellow-
particular discrimination, inequitable     citizens, wielding like political powers,
as it is illegal, cannot long be tolerated eligible to the same high official posi-
in any section of our country.             tions, responsible to the same degree,
            INN-KEEPERS.                   andin the  same manner, for the dis-
  The law with regard to inn-keepers,      charge of the duties they impose; in-
is not less explicit and rigid.  They      terested in the progress and civilization
are not allowed to accommodate, or re-     of a common country, and anxious, like
fuse to accommodate way-faring  per-       all others, that its destiny be glorious
sons, according to their own  foolish      and matchless.  It is strange, indeed,
prejudices, or the senseless and cruel     that the colored American may find
hatred of their guests.                    place in the Senate; but is denied ac
  Their duties are defined in the fol-     cess and welcome to the public place
lowing language, the very words of the     of learning, the theatre, the church and
law.                                       the graveyard, upon terms accorded to
  "Inns were allowed for the benefit       all others.
of travelers who have certain privileges           NO COMPLAINTS MADE.
whilst they are in their journeys, and       But, Mr. President and friends, it ill
are in a more peculiar manner protect-     becomes us to complain, we may not
ed by law."                                tarry to find fault. The change in pub-
  "If one who keeps a common inn, re-      lic sentiment, the reform in our national
fuses to receive a traveler as a guest,    legislation and  jurisprudence,  which
into his house, or to find him victuals,   we this day commemorate, transcend-
or lodging, upon his tendering a reason-   ant and admirable, augurs and guaran-
able price for the same, the inn-keeper    tees to all American citizens complete
is liable to render damages in an action   equality before the law, in the protec-
at the suit of the party grieved, and      tion and enjoyment of all those rights
may also be indicted and fined at the      and privileges which pertain to man-
suit of the King."                         hood, enfranchised and dignified.  To
  "An inn-keeper is not, if he has suit-   us, the 13th Amendment of our Consti-
able room, at liberty to refuse to re-     tution--abolishing slavery and perpet-
ceive a guest, who is ready and able to    uating freedom-the 14th Amendment,
pay him a suitable compensation.  On       establishing citizenship and prohibiting
the contrary, he is bound to receive       the enactment of any law which shall
him, and if upon false pretences, he re-   abridge  the  privileges or immuni-
fuses, he is liable to an action."         ties of citizens of the United States, or
        THESE DOCTRINES OLD.               which shall deny the equal protection
                                           of the laws to all American citizens,--
  These are doctrines as old as the        and the 15th Amendment, which de-
common law itself; indeed, older, for      clares that the Right of citizens of the
they come down to us from Gaius and        United States to vote shall not be
Papinian. All discriminations made,        denied or abridged by the United States
therefore, by  the keepers of public       or by any State, on account of race,
houses in the nature of inns, to the       color, or previous condition of servitude,
disadvantage of the colored citizen, and   are national utterances which not only
contrary to the usual treatment accord-    recognize, but sustain and perpetuate
ed travelers, is not only wrong morally,   our freedom and rights. To the colored
but utterly illegal.  To this judgment     American, more than to all others.
the public mind must soon come.
   Had I the time, and were it not too         THE LANGUAGE OF THESE AMENDMENTS
great a trespass upon your patience, I                 IS NOT VAIN.
should be glad to speak of the injustice   To use the language of the late
and illegality, as well as inhumanity,     Hon. Chas. Sumner,  "within the


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



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