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Full text of "History and proceedings attending the presentation of a medal to Thomas Peterson-Mundy, Decoration Day, May 30th, 1884"

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5 



The 
Presentation Of A Medal 

To 
Thomas Peterson - Mundy 



/ 



HISTORY AND PROCEEDINGS 
ATTENDING THE PRESENTATION OF A MEDAL TO 

Thomas Peterson - Mundy 




'.,a.-L^,,n. y.a: 



II 



HISTORY AND PROCEEDINGS 
ATTENDING THE PRESENTATION OF A MEDAL TO 

Thomas Peterson - Mundy 




Decoration Day, May 30th, 1884. 
IN THE CITY OF PERTH AMBOY, N. J. 

In commemoration of his having been the First Colored Citizen in the 

Unitedi States to cast a vote under the Fifteenth Amendment 

WITH ADDRESSES BY 
HON. WILLIAM PATERSON 

AND OTHERS 



PERTH AMBOY, N. J. 
THE MIDDLESEX COUTSTTY DEMOCRAT PRINT 

1884 
REPRINTED 1935, H, E. PICKERSGILL, PERTH AMBOY, N. J, 



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(>Q C'J^^^OHE reason for printing this pamphlet will be found 

\J. ^J ' I ' y^ on the concluding page, but some preface explanatory 

of the proceedings should accompany the publication. 
_ Such proceedings are designed to commemorate an 
<^ event that, from its nature, could be only single and singular, 

the exercise of the right of suffrage by the fir^t voter in the 
,/*; United States under the Fifteenth Amendment t'Oi the Federal 

*^ Constitution. This account is compiled mainly from a letter 

which appeared in the Newark Evening News on the day succeed- 
ing the presentation, wherein the circumstances are narrated, 
concisely and correctly. 

The proclamation from the State Department of the United 
States, declaring the adoption of that Amendment was issued 
on the 30th of March, 1870, and appeared in the newspapers on 
the morning of the next day. A special election for the ratifica- 
tion or rejection of a city charter, revised and entire, had been 
appointed to be held in Perth Amboy on the 31st of March, and 
at that election, and within but a short time after the proclama- 
Iti'Cin vcas received, Thomas Peterson, better known as Tom • 
Mundy, was the first of his race who exercised the right of 
suffrage so recently conferred. No other election was held on 
that day either in New Jersey or any other State. The fact of the 
vote thus cast, with the name and biography of the voter, was 
announced at the time, and noticed generally by the press lof the 
country. Nothing ou the part of anyone in dispute of this 
claimant was knov.'n in Perth Amboy until in April last, a para- 
graph appeared in a newspaper at Princeton, asserting that 
the distinction belonged to a colored suffragist in that academic 
borough. To that time Peterson had rested securely on his 
laurels and had no reason to suppose that his title in that respect 
could be slurred or impeached. Investigation proved, however, 
that the Princeton claimau't could show a right accruing only 
from the 13th of April, 1870, and so it was plain, could take 
nothing by his motion. The foundation of this claim will appear 
from the address and letter printed herein. In order to deter- 
mine the priority of claim by Peterson, a committee of citizens, 

[1] 



selected by him, took charge of the matter, and at his request, 
initiated and devised such measures: as they might deem effectual 
and appropriate to estahlish the right beyond dispute. The result 
was that a fund sufficient to procure a gold medal commemorating 
the event, was procured without difficulty. As the person who 
was the first to advise Peterson to exercise the righlt, and the 
officer wboi received the vote on the 3l!st of March, 1870, were 
still living, and the record remained among the municipal archives, 
the fact that such vote was casit on that day could be substan- 
tiated beyond the possibility of a doubt, leaving the cha'nce of 
any having been prior thereto, of the most homopathic and infin- 
itisimal small kind. These two, Mr. J. L. Kearny and Partick 
Convery, both of whom had been in the city government at 
different times and holding various offices, the latter having also 
represented the Assembly District in the Legislature, with Wil- 
liam Paterson, ex-Mayor, and now a Judge of the Court of 
Errors and Appeals, and John Fothergill, an Alderman of the 
city, Democrats, with J. L. Boggs, who had been collector of the 
port for two terms, U. B. Watson, an ex-Mayor and President 
of the B'ank, and I. T. Golding. who had filled various city 
positiions. Republicans, formed the committee or council of action 
chosen by Peterson. This committee, having prepared a suitable 
medal composed of a gold bar from which is pendant a large 
medallion, and having made the necessary arrangements, selected 
Decoration Day as the most appropriate for the purpose of pre- 
sentation, and appointing one of their number to deliver an 
address, gave notice that such commemorative proceedings would 
take place in the Council Chamber of the City Hall. 

Thomas Peterson is a colored man who was born in Metuchen 
in the year 1824, where his father, of the same name, was in 
the service of the Mundy family. Hence comes the appellation 
by which he is kn'own most commonly. In 1828, his parents re- 
moved to Perth Amboy, where his father died. His mother is 
still living at an advanced age, having been born at the close of 
the last century. He married a girl who had served an appren- 
ticeship under the gradual emancipation laws, by which slavery 

[2] 



was abolished in New Jersey, with Andrew Bell, then continuing 
to live in the family of which one of the committee selected by 
him for this occasion, was the head. He is a man well known 
in the city and the eastern part of the county, and has been 
tmiversally respected. By trade he may be said to be a man of 
all work, yet inferior in none, and has been, is still, and no doubt 
will remain quite an institution until called to go where Uncle 
Ned and all the good darkies go. He is intelligent, ais may be 
judged from the fact that the same year in which his race was 
enfranchised, he was chosen, with no opposition, as one of a 
number to revise the Charter for the adoption of which he cast 
his first vote, has been sent several times as a delegate to conven- 
tions of his party, and has been summoned to serve as a juror in 
the County Courts. He was appointed Superintendent of the 
Public School building then just finished, to take charge and 
care thereof by a unanimous vote, when the appointing power 
was entirely of a different political sentiment. No one possesses 
public confidence to a greater extent. On the obverse side of 
the medallion is the Profile of Mr. Linooiln and on the reverse 
these letters : 

Presented By Citizens Of 

Perth Amboy. N. J. 

To 

THOMAS PETERSON, 

The First Colored Voter In 

The United States Under 

The Fifteenth Amendment, 

At An Election Held In 
That City, March 31st, 1870 

At the appointed time. James M. Chapman, a former Mayor, 
was called to preside at the request of the Committee, and after 
some short but very appropriate remarks connected with the 
occasion, the Rev. Dr. Stevenson, of the Presbyterian Church, 
made a brief and suitable prayer. The chairman then introduced 
William Patersiom, who had been selected by the Committee for 
the purpose and who spoke as follows: 

[3] 



Mr. Chairman and Fellow Citizens : 

Having been selected to prepare some remarks setting forth 
the nature of the occasion, and the reasons which have called for 
this ceremonial, I am fearful that any who may entertain great 
expectations from the performance of this part of the pro- 
gramme, will find those expectations vain. Perhaps also, their 
part:ience may be exhausted by the lines being lengthened and 
drawn out beyond what would seem requisite. But they must 
remember that the occasion is unique, and can excuse many 
errors. Standing here by the side of this municipal magisterial 
woolsack, I am reminded of the story recorded of a young scape- 
grace who, hearing some wise ones speculalting on the causes 
that produce the odd sentiment coming over persons frequently 
that the situation in which they find themselves at a given 
moment is not mow, but merely the repe^tition of a former one, 
non-plussed the moralists by saying to them it was just so with 
him, he never lighted a cheroot but what he felt he had been in 
the same situation ever so many times before. That is my case 
now. A college professicr, it is stated, is making the subject an 
interesting study. 

There are events which can happen but once, whether in a 
year or cycles of years, in an age or counftless ages, in short, in 
'ais many untold rolling centuries, as geological scientists assure 
the unlearned oi polloi, have passed away since the glacial bould- 
ers lost their momentum, and skjughed off at the highland range 
by the base of which a part of the proprietary imigrants who 
debarked on these shores from the Caledonia), settled down and 
named their location in memory of the land they left behind. 
That style of nomenclature was retained until aesthetic railway 
magnets exOhanged the original compound word, which had 
merit and meaning for 'ainother without either quality, but of 
more euphonious and artistic sound, and so in this 19th century, 
there is no longer a railroad station at Scotch Plains, but trains 
are whistled down at Fanwood. The chain of hills rising above 
the level location selected by those pioneer settlers, who, it m'ay 
be said also, seem to have had level heads, is part of the long 

[4] 



Allegheny reach, beginning near the Ciulf of Mexico, stretches 
through the Shenandoah Valley and the Blue Ridge, brings up in 
a wide gap at the Catskills, thence jumps over the Hudson tta 
Vermont and New Hampshire, culminating in Mount Wash- 



mgton. 



But it may be asked, in what manner is this chain of remark 
linked in or connected with the event that brings this audience 
here today? I am certain, however, it will not be regarded as 
far-fetched or inappropricifte, when it is considered that what I 
have said has a relation, close and direct, to the municipal history 
of Perth Aroboy. Anything touching that, even incidentally, I 
take it will not be out of place or uninteresting. Refleot that it 
is just two hundred and one years ago, on this 30th of May, since 
the agents of the Proprietors reported to their home lords the 
choice of a location seeming to combine every advantage for the 
foundation of a future colonial metropolis. Within a short time 
the surveyors had carried their lines by notch and hlaze through 
the primeval forest, and planted their stakes at the corners of 
Water street and Pligh street, and Back street, and Gully street, 
and Market street, and Smith street, and South Dock street, 
and North Dock street, and North Back street, forming, as they 
intended, the North Ward of Perth Amboy, to be separated from 
the South W'ard, since South Amboy, by the Raritan, then a 
narrow ferry comparatively to what it has become by the en- 
croachments of the tides. Two centuries ago the foundations of 
this city were laid, and within the original limits, a person may 
look in vain for a memorial of any object that met the eye of 
the emigrant as his foot touched the heather of his future home. 
Over every land mark time has ruthlessly driven his triumphal 
chariot. I ofifer no excuse for detaining your attention a moment 
by this passing allusion to those times in our early history ere 
}-ct the axe of the woodman had leveled the forest and let in the 
sun, before a sail had whitened the fair bosom of our opening 
hay, and when the rushes that lined the river banks, bent only 
beneath the light paddle of the Indian bark. I do not propose 
to dwell at any length just here, for time will not permit. It 

[5] 



•occurred to me, however, that sufficient might be spared to say 
what I have said in reference to those infant days when Perth 
Amboy was wrapped in swathing bands, and at the same time 
contribute to the interest of this ceremony. I am glad to find, 
from the marks of approbation manifested on your part, that I 
w^as not mistaken, and will close this historical allusion to our 
common mother, now begining three centuries of municipal life, 
old as age is counted in this western world, though only a flea- 
bite in the chronology of time, with an extract from lines not 
unfamiliar, perhaps, to some present and needing no quotation 
marks 

Old city of a loyal line, 

And royal ancestry, 
Where rising suns come up amd shine. 

From out the Atlantic sea, 
Fair is the sight that meets the eye, 

As there the waiters lay. 
Blue mirrored from a cloudless sky 
Upon thy opening bay. 

God bless King Charles the Second, and, 

God bless the Duke of York 
Whose grantees on this point of land 

Began a goodly work ; 
Their lineal successors yet. 

Hold royal councils here. 
The Lords Proprietors who set 

In conclave twice a year. 

They had great expectations when 

They laid their colony, 
But as you know, the hopes of men. 

Oft go by contrary ; 
And so instead of rising fame, 

Wealth, honor, and renown. 
For near twOi hundred 3^ears in name. 

It was a one-horse town. 

[6] 



But now the locomotive flies 

Upon the iron track, 
And cars go rushing on the ties, 

And vessels sail and tack, 
And manufactories rise thick — 

The waves of commerce roll, 
And export salamander brick, 

Willi oysters, lore and coal. 

Press onward in your rising course, 

Push forward on the track ; 
The headlights of the iron horse, 

Cast no reflections back ; 
On in the struggle and the strife. 

On at a panting pace, 
A boy can only win in life 

By leading in the race. 

The original emigrants who came across the sea to build a 
home upon this ocean shore, may have been prosaic in nature, 
and their settlement, until within a few years, must be said to 
have partaken of that characteristic. Eventually, however, there 
was a poetic eye as well as one of a practical nature among them 
and we can hope, from what is going on today, that the close 
of two succeeding centuries will realize to a fuller extent the 
enthusiastic anticipations of those who long have slept just where 
the turf slopes down to meet the changing tide. 

Here, then, is an event siii generis, one of its own kind, 
peculiarly peculiar, so to speak, never to occur again in the 
history of this city, this county, this State, or of the United 
States. This particular occasion is tioi commemorate that event, 
to establish the fact, that the right of suffrage conferred by the 
negative language of the Fifteenth Amendment to the Federal 
Constitution, was exercised first within the limits of this muni- 
cipality, wihich, as Horace sang of his patron Marcenas, can 
chain a royal ancestry, and of which its Chief Magistrate can 

[7] 



say in the language of one of the lines, o et presidium et dulce 
decus meum, rendered freely thus, "of which fair home I am 
presiding genius, Chief of Police, and Head Centre." It was 
exercised almost immediately after the adoption of that Amend- 
ment had been proclaimed, it might be said, almost before the 
ink had dried on the paper whereoii it was written. That became 
operative on the 30th of March, 1870, and on the morning of 
the next day, when it was printed and published as a settled 
m'aifrter and a vested right, the first ballot by virtue thereof, was 
cast within the walls of this building, then in the primitive antique 
condition in which royal governors had addressed loyal legis- 
lators, and where in later years State Governoirs, and State 
Legislators, and a State Judiciary, had convened to mould and 
establish the foundations of a new State and a free people, free 
in the exercise of a great prerogation, that of self-government. 
No time was lost between the authority to. act and the a,ct. Such 
first ballot was cast by one who is about to receive a testimonial 
to the fact. The individual who suggested the exercise of the 
right and through whom the presentation will be made, and the 
officer who received the vote, stands with him here today. It was 
a meet coincidence that the adopted citizen should welcome the 
pioneer of an enfranchised race to the highest privilege of free- 
men. Others who act in this free man's council have been 
selected by the one central figure of the group, possibly because 
all have been local magistrates, M'ay<cirs, and Recorders, and 
Aldermen, and Councilmen, and Clerks, and Collectors, and Con- 
stables, and Treasurers, School Superintendents, and Trustees, 
and Assessors, and Street Commissioners, and Chiefs of Police, 
and Federal Collectors and Deputies, and State Assemblymen 
•and State Judges. There is not a virginal high private in the 
company, and, as is well known, the donee >oif this testimonial 
left the ranks soon after joining the electorial armv and became 
a colleague of the speaker in re\ising the charter for the adop- 
tion of which he led the franchise way of all his host. It was 
an augury of good cmen, that there was no political signification 
in that first vote so cast, and it is evident there can be more in 
this movement. All the promoters act in this matter because the 

[8] 



first exercise of that right should ;have proper credit and be 
attested beyond any and every douI»t. The fact has been disputed 
and the man whose prior right had been questioned sought advice 
and counsel to assist him in reading his title clear to voting at 
the polls, lliat was agreed to cheerfully, and cordially, with 
the result about to be witnessed. A medal, with an appropriate 
inscription in raised letters, bearing the profile of the Federal 
Executive under whom the day of jubilee had begun to dawn 
upon the race, was devised. Nor should that be wrought from 
inferior material. Gold, well refined, and that alone, could be 
a true emblem of the right of sufifrage. Required funds for the 
purpose were raised without difficulty, by "prescription," ais one 
of his race put it. Well, as you see, the "prescription" was 
successful, the Head Centre of this Council of Seven will admin- 
ister the dose witih much pleasure, and the patient will take it 
down with equal satisfaction. 

A few words are necessary in explanation of the length of 
time — fourteen years — which has intervened since the event 
about to be commemorated now occurred. 

There is a common saying familiar to all that a darkey is 
under the woodpile. That is just now the case; in fact two of 
them, one over and one under. More than one original Jacobs 
is sure to turn up. That is patent in the scientific world. Rival 
claimants always dispute the priority of inventions or discoveries 
of magnitude or interest. Plenty of examples illustrate this. 
It is easy to find an instance here to show that genius has been 
robbed of the honor due to brain power, and that credit belonging 
to the thought, the ingenuity, the skill, the labor, of one, is appro- 
priated by others. Those are living today who have witnessed 
with me the germ of the principle which causes night to glisten 
with sunbeam brilliancy applied in Perth Amboy new more than 
half a century ago. Then the safest lock in common use could 
ibe opened by a single istrand of wire, and ten years later on, after 
a single lesson, I could spring the catch that closed every mail 
bag in the United States by a blow that would not stun a cat or 

[9] 



cur, for like the small end of an egg, that the feat was easy 
when once learned. Who turns today to yonder grounds where 
living comrades lay forget-me-nots upon dead comrades' graves 
to seek the spot where sleeps the dust of one who first worked 
out the scheme, and developed the practicability of utilizing 
those principles, which in this generation, are not matter of won- 
der, because like the sunlight, so common. It is not the ordinary 
operations on nature that attract attention or can cause surprise. 
Who gives credit to Solomon Andrews for what is due to him 
in this respect? Something akin thus occurred in this matter. 
Another claimant has turned up, unknown, until within these 
latter days. This one has been reposing on his laurels many 
years. No dream of rivalship and disturbed the sereneness of 
his slumbers, for did not his ballot fo'llow the act of enfranchise- 
ment almost as thunder roar succeeds the lightening flash? So 
it came out not long ago that 

Another of the colored clan 
To make a rhyme, say black and tan, 

living in a University town of high repute where the same dark 
hue was interwoven in the academic flag, was carrying a certifi- 
cate that the honor of having cast the first of those little pellets 
which some one sings as executing a freeman's will as lightening 
that of God, belonged to him. A courteous answer returned by 
the editor of the paper in which the claim was set up, to a letter 
of inquiry, revealed the history of that claim and upon what it 
rested. I wnll read the answer in connection with the paragraph 
which first attracted attention. The statement is made fairly, 
but it is clear from the facts of his case, that while "Mtoise" 
insists that his "huckleberry pie is above Tom's persimmon," the 
letter is entitled to "take the black cake." While he is mistaken 
in the idea that the election here w^as for a charter amendment 
about roads, it could have made no difference if it had been so 
long as authorized by law. A vote, whether for person or for 
measures, it a vote where all is legal. That election was to 
adopt or reject an entire new charter, and the fountain is above 
the stream. Had there been no charter in Princeton how could 

[10] 



Mr. Mose have voted ? He voted for officers under a charter, and 
this one for a charter over officers. Any one can see that orig- 
inahty depends u])on priority of date, and that is undisputed. 
I own to an exalted regard for Princeton in more respects than 
one. Many associations are connected with its academic and 
municipal history. In fact it is quite a weak spot about which I 
babble forth occasionally in rills of rhyme and other streams. 
When but a hamlet amid the primeval forest, with the Indian 
pathway still a high road from river to river, the middle class 
Orangeman, who with many of his clan, was driven from the 
Ulster Pale, along the Foyle, in County Donegal, by the harsh 
legislation still characterizing the course of Great Britain toward 
the Green Isle, planted the ancestral stalk right there in that 
retired locality, afterward to become famous in academical re- 
nown and revolutionary history. Some things among his relics 
show that Presbyterian Popes then lent the approval -oif theologi- 
cal sanction to raise funds for building meeting houses by means 
considered at this time as consistent with the morality or the 
minorologies of the shorter catechism. Three generations of 
his descendants, distinguished cr otherwise, are among the child- 
ren of a Dane who is called the mother of statesmen, and a 
fourth is wanting only because of the wrong kind. But when 
Mr. Moses Schenck, born it would seem during my collegiate 
course, proposes to be acknowledged as the "artertype" who led 
the oclored host to enfranchised citizenship and keeping down 
democratic majorities, Princeton or no Princeton, college or no 
college, no matter what I may have said or sung of memories 
and associations that can go out only with the vital spark, I 
shall be, most decidedly, a doubting Thomas. You will see then 
just why this ceremony and presentation have been advised and 
carried out. As long as no adverse claim was known to be set 
up, there was a tacit acknowledgment of right. "Mose" takes 
a step beyond what his medal was designed to and did certify, 
and the objective point, the true inwardness of this demonstra- 
tion, is to expose the fallacy of that claim as publicly as it has 
been made. 

[11] 



Another word to what is longer in remark than should have 
been. My particular part in this ceremonial matter is more orna- 
mental than useful. The only merit I can claim is the sugges- 
tion, that this day, particularly and properly, was the one to 
complete the work of presentation. What time could be selected 
as more appropriate than that in which the surviving comrades 
of those who sleep where all of them one day must sleep, gather 
throughout the land to lay flowers of affection on the graves of 
their companions, and drop a silent tear to their memory. The 
right conferred, of which this medal is emblematic was an inci- 
dent of the sacrifices made to secure the perpetuity of this Union 
of States and people. They who fell befare the serried foe testi- 
fied their devotion in death, and they who survive, swelling, 
man by man and year by year, the numbers of the great majority, 
can continue no custom more beautiful in simplicity than the 
one of paying these floral tributes, when nature is clothed anew 
in the verdure of spring life, and dressed in fair robes of festal 
green. While we are here to commemorate one, and by no 
means a secondary consequence, of a strife now terminated, let 
us trust, forever. Comrades and friends have gathered upon this 
anniversary around the soldiers' graves and standing there, 

Upon the spring-clad turf they strew 

The ofl^erings of love, 
And as beneath the morning dew 

The grass grows green above, 
Will keep those memories green 'till they 

No more life's pathway shall tread. 
And others chant the funeral lay, 

And requiem of the dead. 

Thus shall the pine keep green their fame 

Who for the Union died. 
The palm beneath their names who fell 

Upon the losing side ; 
Comrades and friends for years shall come, 

And in their memory lay 

[12] 



These votive offerings of love 
Each Decoration Day. 

Their work is done, and the brave that sleep, sleep well in 
their dark, lowly homes. The living, once enemies of war, are 
one now in peace. You will join with me in the sentiment thus 
expressed by one who shared the danger and the glory alike 
waiting on the battle field. 

No more on life's parade shall meet 

The brave who dared to do, 
No more the muffled drum roar beat 

The soldier's last tattoo, 
On fame's eternal camping ground 

Their silent tents are spread. 
And glory guards with solemn round 

The bivouac of the dead. 

The sunshine of their native sky 

Smiles sadly on them here. 
And kindred hearts and eyes watch by 

The turf to memory dear; 
Nor shall their glory be forgot 

While fame her record keeps, 
If honor points the hallow'ed spot 

W'here valor [)roudly sleeps. 

To the partakers of the privilege now commemorated in the 
person of the one whose fortune it was to exercise the right 
for the firist time, I would commend the recollection of the sec- 
rifices and services by which the boon was conferred upon them. 
As Minerva sprang full-armed from the brain of Jove so they 
have [lassed to the full stature of American citizens without the 
preparatory training of indentures or apprenticeship. I stop 
here to urge upon their attention the single consideration that a 
higher principle is involved in this gift than the mere manual 
capacity of depositing a folded slip of paper, containing a few 

[13] 



printed or written names in a rectangular box. New privileges 
impose new responsibilities. No class or clan has interfered with 
the free and full exercise of the right thus newly acquired, -and 
this action today is but an indication of the general spirit in 
which the posterity of the tribes who dwelt "where America's 
sunny fountains roll down the golden sand," have been welcomed 
to the full brother-hood of man. That is the philanthropic 
phraseology, I believe, used by enthusiasts, and whatever it may 
mean exactly, seems to cover the ground. For new duties, new 
qualifications are necessary, and these must follow observation 
and experience and practice. New scholars must begin to learn, 
and 'all commence with ABC. The facilities for education are 
more and better now, and of a higher standard, than when the 
right of suffrage was extended among the Caucasian race. There 
is no reason why these facilities should not be improved and a 
corresponding elevation in good attributes must ensue and a 
higher tone in every respect be given. None would seek to with- 
hold these advantages for any reason now, and especially should 
they who have been made partakers of a new covenant and new 
blessings, become fitted for the performance of new trusts, and 
so be enabled, in the coming of time, to rise eventually to those 
grades of excellence and plans of merit that can be attained 
only by a living faith and good works. A right of this high 
character may be abused, and that will be the danger in this case 
against which to guard, until time shall have conquered the 
force of prejudice and passion. 

Do any ask, what of the man? Well, he is no myth, and is 
known as widely as any other, from Sandy Point to Crane 
Creek, and from the Long Ferry to Spa Brook. It may be said 
with entire correctness, that more people have lived with him, 
or been in his employment, at various times and in different pur- 
suits, than with any other single person in the city. A stranger 
would be referred to him as a celebrity and an institution of 
Perth Amboy, an artistic artisan, not in one but in many depart- 
ments, more fully expressed in a common phrase disguised in as 
classical Latin as designates legal or medical terms, a Johannes 

[14] 



Omnium Artium. Thomas Peterson may be an unknown quan- 
tity comparatively, but I should smile at the ignorance of such in 
this community as would venture to say, they had never heard 
of Tom Mundy. An American, with as much propriety, might 
profesis ignorance of the existence of the hero of the hatchet 
story, or an alumnus of Princeton College of Johnny, or one of 
his own race that the soul of John Brown was moving on still. 
His name alone is his passport here in life, and crowned with 
electoral laurel, will be his eulogy in death. 

And so we meet to decorate, 

By token on the Frccdman's coat, 
The man who was in any State, 

The first to cast a Freedman"s vote. 

As I do not propose to encroach om the prerogative of the 
chairman of the committee, I give way now so that he may 
proceed to present the testimonial to the donee with the accom- 
paniment of other and fuller remarks, explanatory of historical 
and personal matters connected with the occasion. I must not 
interfere, by too protracted a line of remarks, with the peculiar 
privilege belonging to him in this respect, and conclude with 
regretting that your patience has been subjected to a longer test 
than designated originally. 



The fo'llowing is a copy of the paragraph in the Princeton 
Press of April last by which attention was first directed to the 
fact of another claimant to contest the prior right in question: — 
"Mose is known far and wide as a professor oi music. He goes 
as far as Atlantic City this seaisioin, and has officiated at 125 
sociables. By the way, he wears a medal conferred upon him by 
the people of New Jersey, in honor of being the first colored 
citizen to vote under the Fifteenth x^mendment in this State.'' 

This paper was brought to the notice of one of this oommittee, 

[15] 



who wrote to the editor in ref;:ard to the article. Under date 
of April 21st, a reply was returned in these words: — 

"Yours of 19th inst. received. Moses Schenck is the colored 
man referred to as 'Mose.' He was born in Princeton, and quite 
an intelligent man. On the 4th of April, 1870, Monday, at the 
annual election for borough officers, after the Democratic Judges 
of Election had telegraphed the Attorney General of the State, 
Moses Schenck, was the first of about 100 colored voters to cast 
a ballot. The medal referred to reads : 'Moses Schenck, First 
Voter under the Fifteenth Amendment, Princeton, N. J., April 
4, 1870.' I gave Mose the medal, and by it did not mean to 
claim for him more than that he was the FIRST VOTER IN 
PRINCETON under the Fifteenth Amendment. The story of 
his actually being the first voter under the Amendment, has come 
up under a misapprehension. I have just spoken to Mose about 
it, and he says he did not set a very high value on Peterson's 
claim, for he only voted on a question of a charter amendment, 
while here, it was the regular election for Mayor, Council, etc. 
Mose is very proud of his medal, and, undoubtedly, shov^^s it 
very freely to strangers, and probably claims more than he has 
a right to." 

Mr. J. L. Kearny, the chairman of the committee, through 
whose original suggestion the right of suffrage under the Amend- 
ment to the Federal Constitution, the adoption of which by 
proclamati'Orn appeared on the morning of March 31st, 1870, 
was exercised first by the person about to receive a certificate 
of the fact, then came forward, and in remarks of isome length, 
suitable and well chosen, presented the testimonial. Pie ex- 
pressed the gratification it afforded him to attest the priority 
of the claim which these proceedings were intended to confirm 
and establish, the events which led up toi the donee appearing 
at the polls, his history, his character and standing in the com- 
munity, the esteem in which he was regarded outside of his own 
race, the demand for his services, the versatility of his powers, 
being an expert in the various and varied industrial pursuits 

[16] 



which he undertook and paying a tribute to his attributes and 
local worth that commanded the assent of all present. Mr. 
Kearny, in this, was qualified, in a peculiar manner, to testify, 
as the one who thus received at his hands the emblem of suffrage 
citizenship, had remained in his service for ten consecutive 
years, which he claimed, entitled him to speak by experience 
and knowledge. When he closed, the donee returned thanks 
briefly for this mark of kindness, he would not soon forget, 

Mr. Patrick Convery, as the officer who had received the bal- 
lot at the polls was then called upon to state his recollections of 
the circumstances attending the event. This he did in a narra- 
tive form and in a manner felicitious and interesting. He said 
there was no question raised as to the right and it was satis- 
factory, especially that as an adopted citizen, it had been his 
privilege to receive the first vote of a class enfranchised on that 
very day. He was glad, also, to be in a position where his 
evidence could sustain the priority of right now designed to be 
established. The remarks of Mr. Convery were timely and 
appropriate, and lent additional interest to the occasion. 

When he concluded, the chairman suggested that while the 
particular ceremony was finished, he trusted those present would 
not separate without taking steps to preserve the proceedings in 
a permanent form. His own idea was that the committee should 
be continued and be requested to collect and publish, in a suitable 
manner, the addresses and remarks to which the audience evi- 
dently had listened with pleasure and satisfaction. For himself, 
he would prefer that the history of an event peculiar in itself 
and which could not occur again, should have some evidence 
of record, and he was willing to contribute his share to that 
purpose. He was glad, especially that "Tom Mundy" was the 
hero of the Freedmen, an institution known well and favorably 
to all classes, and we should take advantage of the good fortune 
that enables us to speak well of him in life, and boi remember 
him in death. 



[17] 



This suggesti'on met the approbation and favor of the audi- 
ence, and after considering and adopting various propositions, 
among which was a liberal and kindly offer on the part of a 
photographic artist to furnish a design from which copies might 
be taken for illustration, it was decided that the proceedings be 
published by the committee and a copy be sent to Trenton and 
Washington for preservation among the records. 

This presentation was not political in any sense, for the com- 
m)i/ttee consisted of prominent men of each party. Thomas 
Mundy, or Peterson, is a Republican, while the chairman of 
the meeting and speakers are Democrats, 




[18] 



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