The law of Maryland continued unchanged down to the year 1810, when the Constitution was amended so as to confine the suffrage to white men. At the same time it was enacted that from and after the year 1810 no man should be deprived of the right to vote, or should be prevented from holding any office, for want of a property qualification -- thus declaring, so far as white people were concerned, in favor of manhood suffrage. This was a departure from the fathers in one respect toward freedom, in another toward slavery. The legislators of 1810 enfranchised the white man and at the same time riveted more tightly the shackles of the black man. Here was a palpable and unjust inconsistency, perpetuated by power at the dictation of avarice. It was believed that cotton had become king. The inventions of Whitney and others had enabled the cotton growers to manipulate their product so successfully as to make it, with slave labor, the most profitable staple of the continent, and thenceforth negro culture became as much a business as cotton culture. Even Maryland and Virginia changed ground from their former condition of determined hostility, as evinced by the sentiments of their representatives in the Convention of 1787, which formed the Constitution of the United States, and became from that day forth the active propagandists of slavery. The men who controlled our State in 1810 decided that slavery rather than freedom was to be preserved, and in support of that decision, the excluded the black man, whether free ot slave, from the ballot box.
For the present I shall follow this subject no further. I desire only to show that manhood suffrage and suffrage for the negro are not untried doctrines in Maryland. The right of all freemen to vote was known, recognized, and established in the first Bill of Rights and Constitution of our noble old State, and that too by the sages, who had conferred to gether and settled upon the inalienable rights of man. When about to appeal to the God of battles to vindicate their sincerity, the truth would assert itself. At such a time they dared not claaim free government for themselves and deny it to others. Slavery as it then existed was the great and irreconcilable foe of their system. They were compelled to accept it temporarily to prevent a division of the colonies, and having once admitted it into their code, they were obliged to receive all its maxims, including that which declared that the slave is not a man but a chattel. From this maxim the conclusion was inevitable that slaves could not vote.
But slavery has been extirpated and cast out. It has been torn away from the vitals of the Union at the cost of great rivers of precious blood. The nation has survived its terrible laceration, and has gathered new strength day by day, until at last it has become powerful enough to enforce the righteous will of the people. Slavery no longer pollutes our [unreadable] or vitiates our logic. Those who were lately slaves are now freemen and citizens, as well of the United States as of the several States wherein they reside and being charged with the duties and burdens of citizenship, it is but fair that they should enjoy its privileges. This is the application of the principles of even handed justice as embodied in the golden rule. Therefore, I repeat let us rejoice that we have returned to the purer creed of the Revolutionary fathers and that after sixty years of schism and heresy we have renounced our sins and been again received into the fold of the primitive political church.