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Alfred J. Anderson to Frederick Douglass, April 20, 1849


Free Suffrage in Ohio.

Frederick Douglass:ーIn accordance with an act passed during the last session of the General Assembly, the voters of the State of Ohio are called on to decide at the ballot box, for or against a Convention to frame a new Constitution. Doubtless this has been sprung upon the people for the sole purpose of manufacturing political capital; they never having either by common agitation or petition, demanded a change of that instrument, notwithstanding there are but few who will deny its absolute necessity.

A little over forty years ago, Ohio was admitted into the Union, with her present proscriptive, but in other respects, liberal Constitution. Under it, and without change, she has from feeble infancy attained to her present over-grown proportions, and now, with lofty pride, ranks among the most flourishing states of this confedracy. Advancements in agriculture, and the arts and sciences meet the eye in every direction. Dark and dreary forests have been swept away, to give place to her rapidly increasing cities and towns, all teeming with an industrious and thrifty population. The whole surface of our country exhibits one vast net-work of rail-roads, canals, and turnpikes, which of themselves speak volumes in favor of her commercial and agricultural importance. Yet notwithstanding these evidences of greatness, the present constitution is inadequate to the wants and wishes of the people, and the progressive spirit of the times.

A change is proposed, and in that change, many important alterations are contemplated. Among the most prominent is the election of United States Senator, Judges of the Courts, and all officers by the people. The stripping of the legislative branch of our State government, of its corrupting patronage, is truly a wholesome and sound reform. There is however the suffrage question, of infinitely greater importance than all the balance put together, upon which there is little or nothing said, and I fear, the studied silence on the part of leading papers advocating reform "omens evil" to the cause of equal rights.

In our present Constitution, only one word disfranchises the colored man. A voter must be a free "white male inhabitant." Will this restriction be applied in the expected alteration of the great organic law of the State? this is a question that presents itself to every one favorable to universal suffrage. The fact is incontrovertible, that the public mind in Ohio has undergone, and is still "undergoing a change," on this subject. So much is this the case, that should the convention to frame a new constitution, be held, say in 1855, the doctrine recognising the political equality of all men would doubtless be established.

The total indifference manifested now on all hands goes to show that a Convention held earlier than the period just mentioned, would result without any particular alteration in this particular feature of it, unless great exertions are made to place the subject in its proper light before the people. How can this be effected? "They who would be free, themselves must strike the blow." The most feasible plan that I can think of would be for the Ohio state central committee of colored people to call a convention as early as possible, for the purpose of adopting measures the best calculated to aid those who are laboring to promote their rights, in the accomplishment of this object. They have reason to anticipate the worst results, therefore no effort should be left untried. Timely exertions on their own part are indispensible, in order to secure ultimate success.

Yours, &c.,

A. J. Anderson.

Eaton, Ohio.


Anderson, Alfred J.




Alfred J. Anderson to Frederick Douglass. PLSr: NS, 20 April 1849. Expresses concern over treatment of blacks under new Ohio constitution.


This document was calendared in the published volume and has not been published in full before.


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