[Philadelphia: 1866]. Caption title, as issued. 7, [1 blank] pp. Signed and dated at the end in type: "William Nesbit, Joseph C. Bustill, William D. Forten, On behalf of the Pennsylvania State Equal Rights League. Feby. 20th, 1866." Stitched, light margin toning, several contemporary manuscript corrections. Detailed contemporary pencil essay on the League and its work on bottom of page 7 and all of the final blank. Very Good.
This pamphlet, scarce in any form, is rendered unique by the interesting pencil essay appearing at the end. Issuing during one of America's most turbulent eras, it is a powerful assertion, by courageous and politically sophisticated black Pennsylvanians, of their entitlement to equal rights in all areas of American life. This Memorial was presented to Congress a month before passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, declaring Negroes citizens, nullifying newly enacted southern Black Codes, and guaranteeing their equal rights. President Johnson vetoed it, but it became law when Congress overrode him. The League "stands pledged to leave no means untried to regain those rights of which we, citizens of the United States and citizens of Pennsylvania have been so cruelly and unjustifiably deprived... This color which mantles our cheeks and of which we may justly feel proud, has subjected us to every species of outrage, persecution and disfranchisement, but has never been sullied by covering the brow of a single TRAITOR."
The League's representatives-- Nesbit, Bustill, and Forten-- were Pennsylvania black men of determination and accomplishment, long active in the civil rights and anti-slavery movements. Nesbit would vigorously lobby to adopt the Fourteenth Amendment; Bustill, a school teacher, had been a conductor on the Underground Railroad; Forten, a descendant of Philadelphia black activists and leader of the State Equal Rights League, was one of Pennsylvania's most politically influential black Republicans.
The pamphlet emphasizes the Constitution's guarantee of a republican form of government for every State in the Union. Such a government is utterly inconsistent with denial of the suffrage. The League urges Congress to enact the guarantees that became the Civil Rights Act, and the 14th and 15th Constitutional amendments. "We ask that there be incorporated in the Constitution an article which will prevent any legislation... against any portion of the civilized inhabitants on account of race or color; and we ask further, that all such legislation as now exists disfranchising us on that account, be declared VOID, because of its own unconstitutionality -- being anti-republican in character."
An anonymous manuscript essay, written in pencil on the bottom of page 7 and all of the final blank, reports on the "good work" of the League, its members "daily using every effort to bring before the Congress the great necessity of their doing right." The author observes that "the Republican Party must be incalculably benefitted by extending to the Negro the right of Franchise in every State in this Union." Indeed, "Hon Chas Sumner presented this to the Senate & read some of the strongest points... And in the House it was presented by Hon Thadeous Stevens of Pa."
LCP 7625. OCLC 31434647  as of February 2021. Item #36844