PAUL CUFFE: VOTING RIGHTS PIONEER — (Extensions of Remarks)[Page: E108] —
HON. BARNEY FRANK
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts. Madam Speaker, Saturday, January 17, is the 250th birthday of Paul Cuffe. He is not well known, but he should be. I was not myself familiar with his important role in our history and as one of those who fought against the terrible racist pattern that mars our early history until it was called to my attention by a constituent, Brock N. Cordeiro of the Town of Dartmouth. Mr. Cordeiro wrote to me and called my attention to Mr. Cuffe’s role. As Mr. Cordeiro notes, in 1781 “Paul Cuffe sought the franchise or relief from taxation without representation” and he played a major role in the fact that this happened in Massachusetts in 1783. Many years later, in 1864, as the Town of Dartmouth, Massachusetts, celebrated its centennial, people noted that “it was his determined and manly efforts, and his refusal to pay the taxes assessed upon him, on the grounds that he had no voice or vote with his neighbors, that finally secured from the Legislature of Massachusetts equal rights of suffrage for the colored man with the white man.”
Madam Speaker, I am very proud as an American of the role that America has played as the first vibrant self-governed Nation, but the racism that marked our early years is the source of trouble which we are still fighting to overcome. It is therefore entirely appropriate to recognize as his 250th birthday approaches the pioneering work of Paul Cuffe. It is very difficult to imagine from our safe haven today what moral and physical courage it took for Mr. Cuffe to defy the racist consensus which confronted him, and his example should be widely hailed.
I am grateful to Brock Cordeiro for calling this to my attention. Mr. Cordeiro noted in his letter to me that he came to this through his academic studies, and because of his own history in the need to confront our racist past and to mark the progress we have made in overcoming it, he wrote a master’s thesis on Mr. Cuffe.
Madam Speaker, as you know, and as I advised Mr. Cordeiro, we do not issue proclamations on people’s birthdays, but given the great historical example that Paul Cuffe has given, I am very proud to insert this tribute to him on his 250th birthday into this Record.