James M. Deems Champions Civil Rights
July 10, 1867

In 1867, James M. Deems attended a Union League meeting in Baltimore, where he declared racial discrimination "anti-republican" and called for African-American civil rights and suffrage.

Union League Action—The Sumner-Wilson Bill—Mr. Thomas’s Enabling Act—the Militia Law

A meeting of the Union League of East Baltimore was held at Broadway Hall on Monday evening last, Mr. Thomas C. McGuire, president, in the chair. He said the meeting had been called to receive the report of a committee appointed by the Leagues of East Baltimore to draft resolutions expressive of their views, to be presented to the Federal Congress. Mr. Wm. E. Gordon, secretary of the League, then read the following resolutions, which were unanimously adopted:

Whereas the State of Maryland, through the untiring energy and patriotism of the Union republican party, maintained an attitude of loyalty to the government of the United States during the four years of civil war now happily ended, and in 1864 adopted a constitution and form of government which abolished slavery and disfranchised rebels and traitors from voting and holding office under the State; and whereas, through the treachery and perfidy of her Governor, she has been betrayed into the hands of the disloyal element of the State, the registry law broken down, the civil rights bill ignored and set at defiance, and the State placed in an attitude to all of the wholesome legislation of the Congress of the United States; and whereas the national Congress having met pursuant to adjournment in order to pass such laws as may be necessary to meet the present emergencies of the country; therefore

Resolved, In our judgment, that any constitution that denies representation according to the population, and that disfranchises any of its citizens on account of race or color, is anti-republican, and that it is within the power of Congress under the constitution, which makes it the duty of Congress to secure to each State a republican form of government, to so determine and declare, and we therefore earnestly urge Congress to pass a law that will secure our inalienable rights to us.

Resolved, That we endorse the enabling act introduced by Hon Francis Thomas in the House of Representatives, and believe if the same becomes a law it will place Maryland again alongside of the loyal State, never again to be betrayed into the hands of her enemies.

Resolved, That the Sumner-Wilson bill in our judgment expresses the desire of the loyal white men of this country, and that the same ought to be passed, and that in case it shall become a law (which we earnestly hope may be before the adjournment of the present session of Congress) its operation will defeat the schemes and designs of the disloyal citizens of our State.

Resolved, That the attention of Congress be called especially to the militia bill, passed at the last session of the rebel Legislature of this State, by which all who left this State during the rebellion are enrolled as a part of the militia, and all colored soldiers who fought against treason are excluded; and particularly to the manner in which said law is carried out by the appointment of rebel soldiers and officers to command the same, and urge upon Congress to pass as soon as possible a national militia law that will exclude all such as aided in any manner the late rebellion from becoming a part of the militia force of the country.

Resolved by the Union Republican citizens of East Baltimore, That a committee named in the last resolution be requested to call the attention of Congress to the resolutions of the Grand Union League of Maryland, presented just before the adjournment of Congress, and also to the petition of the Union members of the Legislature, and to earnestly implore our national legislature to grant us the relief therein asked for, or such other relief as in their wisdom they may devise, so that our colored fellow-citizens may be granted the right of suffrage as in the States South of us, rights so justly earned by them during the late rebellion, and thus allow the entire Union republican vote to be polled against the disloyal vote lately enfranchised in direct violation of the constitution and laws of the State.

Resolved, That to carry out the objects of the aforesaid resolutions the chairman of this meeting appoint a committee of persons to proceed at once to Washington to lay these proceedings before Congress, and to urge their favorable action thereon at this time.

A motion was then made to appoint a committee of one hundred to present the resolutions and the petitions praying Congress to pass the Sumner-Wilson bill, and calling attention to the state of affairs in Maryland, to the Federal Congress. After remarks by Wm. M. Marine and R. Stockett Mathews, Esqs., the motion was carried, and the following committee appointed, several of whom are colored citizens:

[Lists several dozen men, including James M. Deems.]

Upon motion, the committee was requested to proceed to Washington on this (Wednesday) morning, in the 8.40 train, and the convention adjourned.

At a meeting of the executive committee of the republican city convention and the executive committee of the State central committee, held on Monday night, a committee of twenty was appointed, of which Hon. John L. Thomas is chairman, to visit Washington yesterday to present to Congress petitions gotten up by some white men, and signed by colored and whites, asking the passage of the Sumner-Wilson bill at its present session, in order that its provisions may be made immediately applicable to the State of Maryland. The committee left yesterday for Washington, as instructed.


The Baltimore Sun, July 10, 1867