Petition to the Congress of the United States

To the Honorable, the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States, in Congress assembled:


The petition of the subscribers, colored citizens of Denver in the Territory of Colorado, respectfully showeth: – That the Constitution, framed by an Union Administration Convention, and adopted by an almost insignificant majority of the legal voters of Colorado, preparatory to admission as a State, excludes all colored citizens of the Territory of Colorado, from the right of suffrage by the incorporation in the instrument of the words, “all white male citizens,” thereby making color or caste and not intelligence and patriotism, the test for the right of suffrage. In view of this gross injustice on the part of the framers of the State Constitution of Colorado, founded on prejudice against color along, we, your humble Petitioners, beseech your Honorable Body not to admit the Territory as a State until the word white be erased from her State Constitution and your petitioners will ever pray, &c.

It has been said, frequently and emphatically, that we are very insignificant in number here, but your Honorable Body will be surprised to learn that we form a much larger proportion of the population of the Territory than the whole people here do to very many of the old States with whom they desire to have equal representation in the Senate. Infact in many cases the proportion is more than double and in much larger proportion than among the white, our families reside upon that soil. If your Honorable Body will take the pains to enquire and will believe the statements of the men who took a part in framing the Constitution, you will learn that it has been accomplished by the utmost recklessness and disregard of law, and in many cases by actual fraud. We are taxed by men who made the Constitution, and are allowed no representation. They even tax us to support public schools to educate their children from the benefits of which schools our children are excluded.

We ask for nothing but even handed justice, and we feel assured that you will not turn a deaf ear to our humble and earnest appeal and as in duty bound your Petitioners will ever pray:


William J Hardin

William H Green

Jeremiah Lee

Edward J. Sanderlin

Philip Thompson

A.C. Clark

David Absom

Washington Reddy

William Botts

Jerrett Smith

Andy Crawford

John Jones

Henry Lovesend

R.H. Higgentoshen

John Dimery

Samuel Jones

Samuel Wilson

Samuel Lancaster

Nathanial Davis

N.P. Allen

Henry Williams

Allen Smith

Henry Smith

Wm Randolph

John Fluellen

D. White

Wm Leayres

Isaac Brown

Isaac Smith

Harvey Armstrong

Jackson Sith

John Curtis

L. Smith

Wm McFarland

James Cole

Perry Colima

Calvin Colima

Wm. Blackwood

Thomas Goodrich

Henry Mitchel

Joseph Queen

Robert Twine

George Burgess

F. Woodfork

Joseph Henshaw

Richard Armstrong

Richard Hussey

Wm Johnson

Thomas Riley

Green Terrell

Marshal Green

James P. Beckworth

Caleb Baustin

Henry Henderson

Peter Livingston

Wm Rogers

Geo Washington

Wm P. Noyd

P. Buckner

John Seals

Spencer Seals

Murphy Seals

John Clay

H. Cummings

P. Reed

Henry Hill

Dennis Jones

Isam Gardner

James Stiles

John Reed

James Williams

George Surley

Theodore Lyons

O. Lyons

Thomas White

John Bowman

C Casinno

Wm Butler

Perry Byrd

W. Thompson

H. Thompson

David Evans

Thomas Smith

Jackson Calwell

George McManus

Jackson Burns

Wm McSpeidden

Henry Holms

Robert Thomson

Jerry Dougherty

Sam P. Clark

James Martin

S.J. Walker

Thomas Allen

H.O. Wagoner

B.L. Ford

J.G. Smith

Jno Miller

George Plummer

W. Ellis

Andy Ryan

John Frazier

Jerry Crutchville

A. Audover

James Macland

Richard Glass

G. Cunningham

C. Painter

Henry Pomter

W. H. Tate

George Carter

John Gilbert

Wm Bird

H. Johnson

D. Miller

Sam Rector

A. Arbour

John Hamilton

John Fisher

Wm Clark

J. Dudley

M. Martin

W. Bell

M. Clay

Jas Gordon

E. Parker

H. Garner

Wm Parker

W.H. Hall

B. Noland

Thos Johnson

Wm Smith

Robt Walters

C. Smith

Levi Walters

J. Adams

Letter published in the Western Citizen (Chicago newspaper) October 29, 1850


“We publish the following letter written by a fugitive slave, now residing in this city, to his master. Our readers cannot fail to sympathize warmly with the manly spirit which it breathes.

Quincy, Ill. Oct. 10, 1848

COL N. G. WOODS: — Sir – I never thought that it would be my duty to write you a letter of this kind, but of necessity I am driven to it. Sir, I have thought seriously and deliberately upon this matter, and have finally come to the conclusion that I am entitled to my liberty. Sir, you know that you have told me a great many times that I was as free as you were: well, I listened to you, but I could not make it appear so to me. You say that you have worked harder than I do. Admit that; I ask who enjoys the income of your labor? Can you say that I enjoy it, or can you say that I ever enjoyed the half of what my services were worth to you? Now, sir, if I were as free as you are, why did you not pay me for my services, you could not have thought that I was satisfied with what you chose to give me. For instance, you have not given me a decent suit of clothes since you have owned me, which is now almost five years; and you don’t like to see me have on anything to make me look well; if I would wear your old clothes, you would like me much better. There is another thing in consideration – in our travels about, you always, as is natural, want the best accommodation, when you have it to pay for; then, if I am as free as you are, I should want the same. But I notice this, that you always try to get me on the floor in your room to sleep, and when a chance offers for me to get a bed, you will not let me have it if you can help it, as I have frequently heard you say that anything on the floor would do. And there is another thing; you have a way of calling me boy, and negro, when before gentlemen. Now I don’t think that this makes you look any larger, and I assure you that it makes me feel much smaller.

I have told you that I would not leave you, but I find that I can’t serve God and serve you; for when I am reading my Bible at night, after waiting and putting you to bed, you frequently make me quit reading and go to bed, so that I can get up early to serve you. Now, sir, if I was as free as you are, you could not have such dominion over me. I am now actuated by your own words. You say that I am as free as you are; well, if I can do better by myself than I can with you, I feel that I am at liberty to do so; for this is common to all free men. Then it can’t be said that I have run away from you, if I am as free as you say; and moreover, I am free according to the laws of this State, which I learn are as follows: If a man brings his slave here and remains in the State 10 days, that the slave is then free. So, with this on my side, I don’t think that I have done wrong in leaving you. But there is one thing – you shall not have it to say that I stole your money and ran away from you. I have left you without a dollar in my pocket, and sink or swim, I shall depend on my own exertions for a living. I have served you faithfully for nearly 5 years, and now I can’t show a dollar; and if I were to serve you 10 years more it would be no better. Well, supposing that I have been worth $150 a year to you, and have served you 4 years and 6 months, then you have made $675, or saved that much; then you have lost nothing by my leaving you. Surely you could not want me to work a lifetime to pay for what you gave me, when in the above statement it is already paid. Now, sir, I must bid you farewell; I expect to go to Canada, but I don’t know at what point I shall stop, and if you will excuse this liberty, I shall not impose any more of my letters upon you. I hope you will not wish me ill, as I am acting in self-defense; and as I know when you got married I should see a hard time. Sir, you have my best wishes for your success in your present and future engagements, and if we never meet on earth, I hope to meet you in Heaven.

Your humble servant,

B.L. Ford”


“Publicamos la siguiente carta escrita por un esclavo fugitivo, que ahora reside en esta ciudad, a su amo. Nuestros lectores no pueden dejar de simpatizar calurosamente con el espíritu varonil que respira.
Quincy, Illinois, 10 de octubre de 1848
COL N. G. WOODS: Señor, nunca pensé que sería mi deber escribirle una carta de este tipo, pero por necesidad me veo obligado a hacerlo. Señor, he pensado seria y deliberadamente sobre este asunto y finalmente he llegado a la conclusión de que tengo derecho a mi libertad. Señor, usted sabe que muchas veces me ha dicho que yo era tan libre como usted: bueno, le escuché, pero no pude hacérmelo parecer así. Dices que has trabajado más duro que yo. Admita eso; Pregunto ¿quién disfruta de los ingresos de tu trabajo? ¿Puedes decir que lo disfruto, o puedes decir que alguna vez disfruté la mitad de lo que valían mis servicios para ti? Ahora señor, si yo fuera tan libre como usted, ¿por qué no me pagó por mis servicios? No podría haber pensado que estaba satisfecho con lo que usted decidió darme. Por ejemplo, no me has dado un traje decente desde que soy dueño, es decir, ya casi cinco años; y no te gusta verme con nada que me haga lucir bien; Si me pusiera tu ropa vieja, te agradaría mucho más. Hay otra cosa a tener en cuenta: cuando viajamos, como es natural, siempre queremos el mejor alojamiento, cuando hay que pagarlo; entonces, si soy tan libre como tú, debería querer lo mismo. Pero me doy cuenta de que siempre intentas tumbarme en el suelo de tu habitación para dormir, y cuando se me presenta la oportunidad de conseguir una cama, no me la dejas, si puedes evitarlo, como lo he hecho frecuentemente. Te oí decir que cualquier cosa en el suelo serviría. Y hay otra cosa; Tienes una manera de llamarme niño y negro cuando estoy delante de caballeros. Ahora no creo que esto te haga parecer más grande, y te aseguro que a mí me hace sentir mucho más pequeña.
Os he dicho que no os dejaría, pero encuentro que no puedo servir a Dios y serviros; porque cuando estoy leyendo mi Biblia por las noches, después de esperaros y acostaros, muchas veces me hacéis dejar la lectura y acostarme, para poder levantarme temprano para serviros. Ahora, señor, si yo fuera tan libre como usted, usted no podría tener tanto dominio sobre mí. Ahora estoy impulsado por tus propias palabras. Dices que soy tan libre como tú; bueno, si puedo hacerlo mejor solo que contigo, siento que tengo la libertad de hacerlo; porque esto es común a todos los hombres libres. Entonces no se puede decir que me he escapado de ti, si soy tan libre como dices; y además soy libre según las leyes de este Estado, que sé que son las siguientes: Si un hombre trae a su esclavo aquí y permanece en el Estado 10 días, entonces el esclavo es libre. Entonces, con esto de mi parte, no creo que haya hecho mal al dejarte. Pero hay una cosa: no podrás decir que robé tu dinero y me escapé de ti. Te he dejado sin un dólar en el bolsillo y, hundido o nadando, dependeré de mis propios esfuerzos para ganarme la vida. Les he servido fielmente durante casi 5 años y ahora no puedo mostrar ni un dólar; y si te sirviera 10 años más no sería mejor. Bueno, suponiendo que yo haya valido para usted $150 al año, y le haya servido durante 4 años y 6 meses, entonces usted habrá ganado $675, o habrá ahorrado esa cantidad; entonces no has perdido nada con que te deje. Seguramente no podrías querer que trabaje toda la vida para pagar lo que me diste, cuando en la declaración anterior ya está pagado. Ahora, señor, debo despedirme de usted; Espero ir a Canadá, pero no sé en qué punto me detendré, y si me disculpan esta libertad, no les impondré más cartas mías. Espero que no me deseen ningún mal, ya que actúo en defensa propia; Y como sé que cuando te casaste, lo pasaría mal. Señor, tiene mis mejores deseos de éxito en sus compromisos presentes y futuros, y si nunca nos encontramos en la tierra, espero encontrarnos con usted en el Cielo.
Su seguro servidor,

B.L. Ford