Nathaniel Hillyer. Egleston.

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societies, charitable and otherwise, are multifarious, useful,
and beneficial. Freed from the corrupting influence of poli
tics, he goes into business, and keeps a store, or works in the
mill or the tobacco factory. He is no longer satisfied with the
one-floor cabin ; decency, pride, ambition, impel him to own a
house. All along the route from Washington to New Orleans
one sees these houses, mostly paid for, some paid for two or three
times over, and filled with comforts and conveniences unknown
to the planter of twenty years ago.

In all this I leave out the number and influence of the
educated negroes, who are now scattered broadcast in the South,
thanks to Northern philanthropy. I take no note of upward of
a hundred journals owned and edited by negroes. The elements
which go to prove the negro a useful factor in the Republic are
such as we had no cause to expect from his antecedents. His
drawbacks are the concomitants of slavery, the results of the


blunders of reconstruction, the direct effect of forces outside of
himself. Intemperance, a low standard of morality, an emotional
rather than reflective system of religious ethics, a partial divorce
of creed and conduct, and a tendency (by no means confined to
negroes) of superficial learning and of the less desirable elements
of character, fitness, or brain, to force their way to the front,
are evils which every honest negro must deplore, while sadly
admitting their existence. But he who draws from these facts a
wholesale inference derogatory to the entire race had better
obliterate the histories of France, England, Germany, and Rus
sia, or eliminate from their pages the scandals of social life, the
vicious priesthoods, the bribery and corruption in high places,
the venality, immorality, and degradation which have character
ized these more favored races at various stages of their develop
ment. The most hopeful sign for the negro to-day is his
indisposition to be carried and cared for. He aspires to own his
house, manage his own plantation, conduct his own business,
teach his own school. It is not his fault that he cannot rid
himself of the professed philanthropist and professed politician.
They will insist, despite the negro's protest, upon praying,
thinking, preaching, voting, and caring for him.


THE power to forecast with certainty the destiny of any par
ticular portion of the human family, or any constituent element
in a great nation, has not been conferred upon the wisest of
statesmen or the profoundest of social philosophers. Such a
problem is liable to be affected by so many indeterminate influ
ences that the most skilled judgment may be found at fault.
But there are principles of human nature and tendencies of
civilization, so constant and uniform in their operation, that
he who rightly regards them is not likely to go far astray in
predicting the future of the American negro. In dealing with
this problem, I must be understood to assume that the Republic
of the United States will remain true to the principles of liberty,
equality, and fraternity, which are at once its foundation-stones,
the breath of its life, and the secret of its growth and power.

The negro, in his essential being, is not, as many seem to
suppose, an exceptional creature, but a legitimate member of the


great human family, endowed with the same attributes and
capacities as his Anglo-Saxon brother. His humanity, in spite
of the accidents of birth, climate, and complexion, is identical
with that of his whitest neighbor. He is endowed with all the
natural elements, whether intellectual or moral, of a true man
hood, and capable of the highest achievements in scholarship,
culture, and refinement. American civilization has redeemed
him from slavery, invested him with all the rights of a citizen,
and made accessible to him all the sources of human knowledge j
and we may accept his eagerness to avail himself of his new
advantages as a sure augury of his future attainments and
triumphs. He only needs time to outgrow the scars which
slavery inflicted upon him, and make himself a man among
men. The transformation may be slow, but not on that account
is it the less certain. Moreover, the tendencies of the time are
toward the obliteration of race distinctions and a union of all
branches of the human family in a common struggle for mutual
protection and development.

For these and other equally cogent reasons, I hold that the
negro of the United States is not at all likely to emigrate from
the land of his birth in the vain hope of placing himself in more
favorable circumstances than those which surround him here.
Those who indulge the dream that he will betake himself to
some region of the earth where he can build up a nationality
of his own color, mistake his character, and are sure to meet
with disappointment. He is here, in the land of his birth,
the land of freedom and equality, and here he will remain,
in spite of the contempt of the vulgar and the persecution
of the proud. I am also certain that, in proportion as the
negro qualifies himself by education and refinement to share
the privileges and amenities of cultivated society, he will find
the color of his skin no bar to these advantages. Gradually,
but surely, the vulgar "prejudice of color" will fade out of the
minds and hearts of people of culture, and a black skin, no more
than red hair or blue eyes, will be regarded as a badge of social
inferiority. Nor do I shrink from avowing my belief that when
this day arrives, marriages between whites and blacks, if they
do not become common, will be far more frequent than they are
now, without exciting either wonder or opposition. Ignorance,
whether among citizens of a white or a black complexion, will
always be a source of danger to the country ; but I am confident


that the day is not very distant when the negro will be a useful
and valuable factor in the body politic. His advancement will
not be the fruit either of concession or self-assertion, exclusively,
but of a wise resort to the one or the other method, as circum
stances may require. We may in this particular safely confide
in his own judgment and tact, which have been so well illus-
trated in the past. OLIVER JoHNSON _

THE negro has come to America to stay. As yet, neither migra
tion nor emigration has taken place to any appreciable extent. A
map based on the last census, which shows in colors the race locali
zations of the country, has for its blackest division the Southern
Atlantic slope and the Gulf States. There, climate and con
ditions seem to fix the home of the negro ; and that he thrives where
the white race deteriorates or fails to improve, may be shown by
contrasting corresponding types of the races along the swampy
banks of the Mississippi, in the Louisiana lowlands, or in the mala
rious tide- water country on the Atlantic coast. In the higher coun
try back from the coast, the census map indicates a marked differ
ence j better physical conditions tend to promote an increase of
the white population and a growth in civilization, and further
more it is noticeable that the best Anglo- African civilization is
outside of the black belt. Throughout Virginia, in the limits or
vicinity of the principal Southern cities, wherever in Tennesee
and G-eorgia, the Carolinas and other States there is enterprise,
the negro gets his share of work and is quite as thrifty as the
laboring whites, buys land and builds, and is rapidly getting his
portion of the broken-up Southern plantations. The most im
portant and hopeful fact about the freedman is his desire for
land and education, and this, in spite of the fact that vast
numbers of the race are idle and thriftless, will, I think, fix him
with us forever. The empire of labor which slavery gave the
negro, he means to keep.

Intermarriage with whites is practically as much discouraged
by negroes as by their pale-faced brothers. It will amount to
nothing, although, through slavery, miscegenation is almost
<an accomplished fact. Outside of the Gulf and the Southern
Atlantic States, the pure negro is to-day the exception. As a
result of their changed relations, the tendency to a mingling of


races seems much less strong than under the false conditions of

The political and social privileges of the negroes in the future
will depend on their development, which, in the main, will be in
direct ratio to the efforts made for their improvement. Their
present unfitness, as a class, to use their power, is such that
they will not be allowed, even in the States in which they have
a majority, to assume political control. This is clear, confessed,
and declared to be necessary; but it plainly tends to destroy
republican forms of government, and, if long continued, will
react terribly on those who tamper with the ballot-box. It is
hard to see ahead. The negro has lost much ground politi
cally since the days of reconstruction, but in Tennessee and
Virginia he has of late held the balance of power, voting for
paying State debts in the former, and for repudiating them in
the latter State. His rapid increase in numbers, and therefore
in power, is making him an uncertain and dangerous factor in
politics. The social question will take care of itself. There is
nothing to prevent individuals or classes from choosing their
social distance from other individuals or classes; there can be
no intercourse without the consent of both parties. In society,
as in any form of commerce, when people have what is wanted
little account is made of their race characteristics. Accom
plished and successful negroes will find their place; colored
millionaires will not suffer much from prejudice. In both colored
and white society there is a tendency to distinguish between
black and "bright" members of the race, which will not be
without its effect in the future. In a middle course of action
lies the negro's best hope : he should make the most of himself,
but, if possible, forget grievances, and obey the dictates of
common sense. s> c _ AEMSTEONG .

WITHOUT claiming for the negro any special local attach
ment, it is safe to assert that he is totally void of that spirit of
enterprise which induces man to endeavor to better his fortunes
in strange lands. By nature and by force of circumstances he
is unambitious ; satisfied with a modicum of success in all his
undertakings, he is not inclined to adventure. His preference, as
a race, is most likely to be for agricultural pursuits, and as the


Southern climate must always be congenial to him, it is more
than probable that the South will continue to be the head-quar
ters of the race and the theater of its achievements. Whatever
of excitement his nature demands, is readily gratified by the
mild recreations of rod and gun. Beyond the annual local flit-
tings, begotten oftener of financial failure and disappointment
than of innate restlessness, his desire to explore unknown
regions lies dormant, if, indeed, it exists at all. The Kansas
craze might be quoted in contradiction of this view ; but as that
hegira was simply the outcome of false and alluring promises,
which had its sad and prompt sequel in the homeward travel of
many a foot-sore and heart-sick dupe, it counts for naught in the
way of argument. Of course, as educational advantages increase,
there will be many and notable departures from the general rule
here laid down.

The question of miscegenation bids fair to work out its own
solution according to that dictate of nature which has the pres
ervation of the unities for its object. The probability of inter
marriage with the white race will grow less as time passes on,
and the freedman comes to recognize himself as something more
than a chattel, manufactured for the exclusive use and pleasure
of a superior race. With the cultivation of his mind and the
expansion of his intellect, his self-esteem will be increased, and
the ban which nature herself has placed upon the commingling
of the races will be strengthened by their new-found and self-
respecting pride of race. Thus, while his political and social
privileges will undoubtedly increase, and will be willingly
accorded him by the Southern whites, when he shall have become
fitted for their exercise, the idea of intermarriage must always
remain a remote possibility.

The necessity for improving the moral and mental condition
of the negro being granted, it would be well to consider the
most efficacious manner of so doing. In the present illogical
condition of his faculties, concession and submission would be
controvertible terms. He has never come to place so high an
estimate upon his own brain-power as to pit himself against the
palpable superiority of the educated race ; hence, positive asser
tion and direct guidance on the part of those who would improve
his condition, or win him to a just conception of his rights and
his responsibilities, must for some time to come be deemed the
wisest and truest policy to pursue toward a people kept humble
VOL. cxxxix. NO. 332. 7


by consciousness of their own deficiencies. Given that degree of
education which the average mind attains under the common-
school system of the United States, plus the negro's imitative
nature, which will always cause him to take the social and
political hue of his surroundings, and there is no reason to
apprehend that he will ever become a source of danger to the
nation, in which at present he is a very knotty problem.


THE negro may migrate, but he will not emigrate. He has been
here more than two hundred and fifty years, and quite as much
as any other class he is imbued with our religion and with our
ideas, while he is largely interwoven with our material interests
and prosperity. Every attempt at his deportation to the tropics
or elsewhere, or his segregation on this continent, has signally
failed. Every fact in his history, every known trait in his
character, indicate that he will remain where he is. But while
remaining here, he will also continue as a distinct race. Negroes
have a settled antipathy to intermarriages with whites. The
whites are so saturated with prejudice and the idea of the negro's
inferiority, and so oblivious to the fact that he is now free, with
no limit to his pursuit and enjoyment of life, liberty, and happi
ness, that everything is done by them to discourage, restrict,
and prevent such marriages. But such arbitrary and unnatural
restriction, founded on prejudice, is wholly out of place in
America, and ought to be out of date in any civilized country in
the last quarter of the nineteenth century.

As a colored man, my observation somewhat extensive, both
on the Atlantic and Pacific shores leads me to the conclusion
that the negro's political and social privileges will increase.
The tendency in this country is toward a recognized equality of
all political rights and public privileges. The great underlying
principle o'f the Government is that all men, without reference
to their origin, shall have and enjoy the right and opportunity
to become good citizens, and to make the most of themselves.
"Without this, America would hardly be more than the Old World
was before the French Revolution. We are none of us greater
than events, and we cannot, if we would, annihilate or subvert
the law of sequences.


The negro will win favor both by assertion and by conces
sion. A reasonable view of the situation cannot separate these
two methods. He must concede as well as assert, but always in
the light of acknowledged American principles and of that
higher law, public sentiment. He is only too willing to con
cede, but he must, and by instinct will, assert what both written
and unwritten law accord to him. Neither abject concession on
the one hand, nor boisterous assertion on the other, will avail
him. He must observe the golden mean. Though as yet he is
a source of danger, he will ultimately be a useful element in the
body politic. The danger arises from his imperfect appreciation
of the responsibilities of the ballot, and from the cunning and
violence that are resorted to in the South to deprive him of it.
Aside from this, consistent testimony shows that he is peaceable,
industrious, and progressive in every respect. The negroes con
stitute one-eighth of our population. No available tonnage
could take them back to the land of their forefathers. They are
loyal, patriotic, and thoroughly American, and all they ask is
fair play.




AUGUST, 1884.


IT is one of the maxims of Machiavelli, in which most public
writers and jurists agree, that in order to preserve soundness and
health, all nations should often go back to first principles. And
the reason he gives is that each form of government is usually
framed in the outset on the principles which belong to its best con
dition, and that all departures to any serious extent are unnatural,
and therefore dangerous. This notion is more familiar to prac
tical statesmen than to theoretical reformers, for these are very
apt to insist on putting in the frame-work what, if of any use at
all, is only a temporary device, in no way essential to national
life. "We have our periodical fits of fidgety doubts and fears,
and society is alarmed by ideas of ruin and disruption, as agi
tators come out with threats or prophecies of evil. But the same
shrewd observer, looking back over history, declared that the
multitude, with all its shortcomings, is wiser and more constant
than princes. And inasmuch as every people must have a gov
ernment of some kind, and must, at any rate, fix by choice or
acquiescence the rule under which they live, we have no great rea
son to feel anxious that our social scheme will be much disturbed
by any such troubles as timid people look for. We have had
what is usually a thorough test in civil war, and as it resulted
VOL. CXXXBL NO. 333. 8


in no change in the general principles of government on either
side, during or since the war, we may be confident that what
ever ills may come, they will have to be met and disposed of by
the means belonging to a mixed republic, according as they attack
our general or local prosperity.

The turmoil of election year is pretty certain to magnify all
the disturbing influences in the eyes of a large class of political
enthusiasts. And it so happens that in other countries as well
as here an impression has been produced that elements of social
mischief exist, which are as dangerous as the dynamite and
weapons of the agitators. But for some reason the mass of the
community display no trepidation, and look on these threats and
demonstrations as presenting no novelty in principle, and fore
boding no danger that society may not adequately resist. The
things which seem so full of future woe to many earnest and
uneasy minds are the supposed tendencies toward anarchy and
revolution, produced by the relations of property and those who
lack it. G-ood men groan at the apathy of the stupid public,
who go quietly on their way and pay no heed to the flood of
which they are warned. And so, in their concern, they volunteer
not only moral and religious warnings, which are always worthy
of respect, but also their views of political reforms, upon which
there is always room for honest doubt. But of this there is no
doubt, that whatever may be its apparent obtuseness in ap
preciating the rhetoric and logic of speakers and writers, who
address and perhaps convince audiences that get their political
sustenance in that way, the great undemonstrative body that
makes the nation has instincts so keen and sensitive that no
political sagacity can outstrip them. Universal zeal can seldom
be excited on questions of policy upon which wise men differ.
But the appreciation of what is vital to society itself and the
security of its members, is the inheritance of all reasonable men
alike, and if it is blunted in any one, it is more likely to be so in
those who put their faith in political nostrums than in plainer
and simpler minds. Here the aggregate wisdom is greater than
any individual wisdom, and the aggregate will bears down all
opposition. It is easy to see that the public is not careless on
these topics, although there are no signs of panic. The danger
is greater to those who encroach on the general rights than to
the public itself. But some of the evils may need rough usage,
and, if prolonged, will provoke it.


The mischief most dwelt upon is the supposed malign influ
ence of great wealth in making private property and private com
fort subject to grasping private or corporate interests.

The combinations of labor against employers, and of em
ployers against laborers, do not affect so many people directly.
But proceedings which may burden any one, or subject his
property to encroachment, or his quiet to disturbance, operate
more generally through the community. The history of revolu
tions is largely a history of resistance to obnoxious encroach
ments and burdens. The constitutions of free governments are
chiefly made to prevent them. There is nothing of which men
are more jealous, or on which their minds have for centuries
been more clearly made up. The learned historian, Augustin
Thierry, after completing his research into the history of
the French municipalities, thus expressed himself concerning
the wisdom and constancy of the citizens, whose descendants
were not so fortunate as those of their British neighbors : " Our
ancestors of the middle ages had, as we must acknowledge,
something which to-day we lack, that faculty of the statesman
and of the citizen which consists in knowing clearly what he
wishes and cherishing his determination within him long and
persistently. 77 The development in France of a central tyranny
that checked the nobles in their relations with the crown, but
protected them in their domestic abuses, put off the day of
reckoning for the oppression of that people, until the Revolu
tion swept away, for a time, good and bad together. It cannot
be said that we have any abuses that need a revolution to
destroy them. Any disregard of weak interests is not so much
due to imperfect laws as to laxity in enforcing good laws. It is
true that courts have not been blameless in drifting into doctrines
that do not harmonize with the spirit of our political constitu
tions. In the mutual evasions of responsibility by legislators
casting their burdens on the courts, and courts assuming that
legislative conclusions must be correct, results have frequently
been reached that do not satisfy the sense of the people. Con
stitutional amendments are sometimes declared necessary to
secure protection which most people supposed had been assured
already. But all these remedies are possible, and will come
when urgently demanded. There is, however, some reason for
considering, with a little anxiety, the causes that have led to
disturbances in public serenity, and also to obtuseness in the


public authorities in not perceiving the existence of discontent.
And it is for many reasons unfortunate that neither the legis
lature nor the press reflects the public feeling on many subjects
until it is emphatically expressed.

It is too familiar to need dwelling upon that our own Revo
lution was chiefly due to the fact that the English Parliament
did not understand the American people. No one who has care
fully studied the subject now supposes that representation there,
by such members as our population would have warranted,
would have made any difference. Our colonial agents were men
who had far more personal weight and influence than the average
English country members. The British Parliament has always
been remarkably sensitive to public opinion, and has generally
represented it fairly. But it is that opinion which has local
operation and local expression at the seat of Parliament. Lon
don has for this purpose been more truly Great Britain than
Paris ever was France. The London press has always been
singularly able and outspoken. It may not always give wise
counsel, because it is, after all, representative, and the opinion
it represents is British opinion. But it does represent that,
and usually the majority of voices in Parliament will echo it.
The present state of things is exceptional. Mr. Gladstone is not

Online LibraryNathaniel Hillyer. EglestonThe North American review (Volume 139) → online text (page 10 of 60)