Nathaniel Hillyer. Egleston.

The North American review (Volume 139) online

. (page 9 of 60)
Online LibraryNathaniel Hillyer. EglestonThe North American review (Volume 139) → online text (page 9 of 60)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

conducting. We shall probably try this expedient and fail, in
the States, as we have failed in the District of Columbia, where
the abolition of negro suffrage has been decreed by Congress,
notwithstanding the fact that the negroes in that district are of
much higher average intelligence than in the States. After
two or three hundred millions of dollars have been expended
in the effort to educate the negro into the knowledge of the
proper uses of political power, and to induce him to forget his
race prejudices and vices, the same party which claims to have
emancipated him will become the most active in his disfran-
chisement. It has begun this process in the same place where it
began his emancipation, the District of Columbia.

All that has been done by Congress to elevate the negro race
in the States has been to wage a conflict with the white race upon
a question of caste, and to stimulate individual negroes to de
mand a social equality which they are not prepared to enjoy, and


which they, equally with the whites, consider an interference with
their natural and exclusive privilege. Neither race desires to blend
with the other, socially or physically, and Congress has not
power enough to compel this union. Individuals sometimes
show a desperate desire for miscegenation, but they indulge it
always at the expense of a loss of the respect of both races.
Congress, to maintain its own consistency upon the point of
securing equal political and social privileges to both races, finding
that negro suffrage in the District of Columbia was injurious
to good government, disfranchised all men of all races there.
Thus we begin to undo what the ballot was intended to
accomplish for the negro in politics ; while fraud has destroyed
the effort to concentrate his financial power in the Freedmen's
Bank, and the Supreme Court has relieved Congress of its
assumed guardianship over his social and family affairs. Legis
lative remedies have failed to remove the negro race from the
plane which they appear to have selected for their pursuit of hap
piness, in accordance with natural laws. This failure is defin
itive, and it is folly to repeat the attempt.

In the South the negroes congregate in dense communities.
The numerous efforts to cause them to disperse into other com
munities have met with little success. It seems probable that
the existing status will continue, and will become more per
manent, as the negroes are better informed, until a change occurs
through some great family movement. Increased intelligence,
accumulated wealth, greater experience in business affairs, and
better education in the industrial arts and in the art of govern
ment, must magnify their power and importance. But, in this
country, this growth will avail but little for their advantage.
Here they have to encounter personal, individual competition
with the white man. The greater their personal success may be
the more they will feel the pressure of caste, and their advance
ment in enterprises which may bring them personal honor and
wealth will be checked by the jealousy of caste, so that the race-
prejudice will forever remain as an incubus on all their indi
vidual or aggregated efforts. Turning to a land that has been
under the seal of darkness until now, we seem to discover the
natural theater for negro development, and welcome it as a door
opened by the hand of Providence to the Africans who have
gained the powers incident to Christian civilization while in


bondage, and are now prepared to enter upon their inheritance
with the assurance of success. The Free States of the Congo
open to the American negro his first real opportunity to prove
himself worthy of the liberties and civilization with which he
has been endowed.


IT would require the ken of a statesman and the vision of a
prophet combined to tell with certainty what will be the ulti
mate future of the colored people of the United States, and to
neither of these qualifications can I lay claim. We have known
the colored man long as a slave, but we have not known him
long as a freeman and as an American citizen. What he was
as a slave we know ; what he will be in his new relation to his
fellow-men, time and events will make clear. One thing, how
ever, may safely be laid down as probable, and that is, that
the negro, in one form and complexion or another, may be
counted upon as a permanent element of the population of
the United States. He is now seven millions, has doubled
his number in thirty years, and is increasing more rapidly
than the more favored population of the South. The idea
of his becoming extinct finds no support in this fact. But
will he emigrate ? No ! Individuals may, but the masses will
not. Dust will fly, but the earth will remain. The expense of
removal to a foreign land, the difficulty of finding a country
where the conditions of existence are more favorable than here,
attachment to native land, gradual improvement in moral sur
roundings, increasing hope of a better future, improvement in
character and value by education, impossibility of finding any
part of the globe free from the presence of white men, all con
spire to keep the negro here, and compel him to adjust himself
to American civilization.

In the face of history I do not deny that a darker future than
I have indicated may await the black man. Contact of weak
races with strong has not always been beneficent. The weak
have been oppressed, persecuted, driven out, and destroyed.
The Hebrews in Egypt, the Moors in Spain, the Caribs in the
West Indies, the Picts in Scotland, the Indians and Chinese in
our own country, show what may happen to the negro. But


happily he has a moral and political hold upon this country,
deep and firm, one which in some measure destroys the analogy
"between him and other weak peoples and classes. His religion
and civilization are in harmony with those of the people among
whom he lives. He worships with them in a common temple and
at a common altar, and to drag him away is to destroy the temple
and tear down the altar. Drive out the negro and you drive
out Christ, the Bible, and American liberty with him. The
thought of setting apart a State or Territory and confining the
negro within its borders is a delusion. If the North and
South could not live separately in peace, and without bloody
and barbarous border wars, the white and black cannot. If the
negro could be bottled up, who could or would bottle up
the irrepressible white man? What barrier has been strong
enough to confine him ? Plainly enough, migration is no policy
for the negro. He would invite the fate of the Indian, and be
pushed away before the white man's bayonet.

Nor do I think that the negro will become more distinct as a
class. Ignorant, degraded, and repulsive as he was during his
two hundred years of slavery, he was sufficiently attractive
to make possible an intermediate race of a million, more or less.
If this has taken place in the face of those odious barriers,
what is likely to occur when the colored man puts away
his ignorance and degradation and becomes educated and pros
perous? The tendency of the age is unification, not isola
tion; not to clans and classes, but to human brotherhood.
It was once degradation intensified for a Norman to asso
ciate with a Saxon; but time and events have swept down
the barriers between them, and Norman and Saxon have
become Englishmen. The Jew was once despised and hated in
Europe, and is so still in some parts of that continent ; but he
has risen, and is rising to higher consideration, and no man is
now degraded by association with him anywhere. In like man
ner the negro will rise in the social scale. For a time the social
and political privileges of the colored people may decrease.
This, however, will be apparent rather than real. An abnormal
condition, born of war, carried him to an altitude unsuited to
his attainments. He could not sustain himself there. He will
now rise naturally and gradually, and hold on to what he gets,
and will not drop from dizziness. He will gain both by con
cession and by self-assertion. Shrinking cowardice wins noth-


ing from either meanness or magnanimity. Manly self-assertion
and eternal vigilance are essential to negro liberty, not less than

to that of the white man.


IN my opinion, the negro will remain where he is, with only
such changes as other races have sometimes made from transient
motives. But he will remain as a race forever practically distinct.
The feeling against the intermarriage with negroes is more in
tense among the whites now than it was when such a thing first
became possible. It is regarded with so much disgust that when
you find a white man or woman ready to marry a negro, you
may be sure the negro will get the worst of the bargain.

The increase or diminution of the negro's political and social
power will depend entirely upon himself. If he continues to
array himself solidly against the whites, following blindly the
renegade element of selfish white men, neither his political nor his
social status can be much improved. As a rule, his Southern
white leaders have no virtues to impart to him, and naturally he
cannot hope for any favors from those whom he strives to injure

He can never hope to gain anything by that kind of self-
assertion which will bring him into contact with and render him
more obnoxious to the ruling race. He will better himself in
every respect by wisely conceding the management of affairs to
those who are more competent to direct them, and by cultivating
the closest friendship with the whites among whom he has to live.

So long as he suffers himself to be made a pliant political
tool, casting his vote as directed from outside his own com
munity, and refusing to identify himself with the property and
intelligence of the section where he lives, his usefulness as a
factor in the public prosperity will be greatly impaired, and he
will be an element of danger to the welfare of society. Education
cannot at once remove the difficulty.

The qualification of a servile race for the enjoyment and
preservation of liberty is a slow and unsteady process at best,
and in this case it is likely to be retarded indefinitely by
the persistent effort to keep the negro at constant enmity with
those who are most competent to train him and most interested
in his advancement. z _ R VANCE>


FOE several years after the war the negroes in the farming
regions of the South manifested an uncontrollable tendency to
roam about the country. They considered no agreement, con
tract, or promise to be binding. They were restless, uneasy,
and suspicious, and utterly untrustworthy as laborers. At a
crisis of the cropping season, the "hands" on a farm would dis
appear one by one, leaving their employer to do the best he
could 5 and the best he could do would be to hire other negro
laborers, who, in their turn, would disappear when their labor
was most necessary. It would be difficult to estimate the results
of this condition of things. More important than the actual
pecuniary losses, though these were considerable, was the irri
tation produced. The planters felt that they had a real griev
ance, and one for which there was no remedy. It was feared
and predicted that the untrustworthiness of the negroes as labor
ers would develop and expand into a characteristic. Time has
shown, however, that the restless and uneasy movements of the
blacks was a natural and inevitable result of their emancipation.
They were simply testing their freedom. They have gradually
settled down, and whatever movement there is among them is as
casual as, and of no greater importance than, similar move
ments of the whites. The great majority of them are reasonably
industrious and economical. Their services as farm laborers
are indispensable. Many of them are accumulating property,
and it is probable that the example of these would tend to pre
vent any general migration. The negroes seem to be doing very
well where they are, and if there is any dissatisfaction among
them in respect of their condition, the feeling may be traced to
the foolish suggestions of those who profess to believe that the
African race in America ought to have reached, in two hundred
and fifty years, a position that the white race has been more
than twenty centuries in reaching.

The fact that the recent marriage of a representative negro
to a white woman has been harshly criticised by the most intelli
gent negroes of the country, would indicate that the aversion to
intermarriage is as strong in one race as in the other. Whenever
the occasion arises, the negro is quick to draw the color line, and
in some sections in the South, notably in the older cities, there are
well-defined social feuds between the blacks and the mulattoes.

The political privileges of the negro in the future will be
precisely what he makes them. To the extent that he manifests


a comprehension and an appreciation of the responsibilities of
citizenship, to that extent will he win the confidence and respect
of his white fellow-citizens. Upon the relations of mutual re
spect and confidence, every man's political privileges depend,
if by "political privilege 77 is meant anything more than the
privilege of voting. In order to enjoy an increase of political
privileges, the negro must become a citizen, not merely by law,
but by understanding, conduct, and sympathy. In this respect
he must be tested by the same rules that are applied to white
men. . Citizenship carries with it the right to hold office, but
it does not confer the office itself. Something besides citizen
ship is necessary to give a man influence, or to win for him the
respect and esteem of his neighbors. The negro must carve out
his own future, not as a negro, but as a citizen, as an indi
vidual. If, by means of education and experience, he is enabled
to proceed in the spirit that should characterize every man who
appreciates the responsibilities of citizenship, he will not lack
the active sympathy of his white fellow-citizens.

The idea that the negro occupies a special place as a citizen
has been carefully nurtured by the politicians ; but it is this idea
that has been more damaging to his progress than any opposi
tion he has ever found at the South. Concessions and compro
mises of one sort and another are the basis of citizenship itself,
and from these concessions and compromises spring the benefits
and advantages of political society, of government. The negro
will gain new opportunities as rapidly as he improves those
that already offer.

So long as he remains ignorant, the negro cannot but prove
a source of danger. Ignorance is always dangerous; it is
specially dangerous where unscrupulous men are found willing
to take advantage of it. The hope is, that the ignorance of the
negro is susceptible of enlightenment, and of this there can be

THE negro will migrate, just as he has for fifty years, though
not impelled by the same causes. The nucleus of the negro pop
ulation of Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York City, and Boston
came originally from Virginia, South Carolina, North Carolina,
and Louisiana. They came by reason of manumission, by flight,


or remained when their too confiding masters brought them
up on Northern soil. Since the war, there has been a constant
ebb and flow of this interstate migration, and in many instances
it has completely overslaughed the more stable ante- war popu
lation of the cities mentioned. The stream has penetrated far
to the West and North-west, where many have gone, and
where they receive higher wages than they did at the South.
On the other hand, at the close of the Rebellion, many of the
younger men, born at the North, went South, generally set
tling in the States from which their fathers had migrated.
They took an active part in reconstruction politics. Of those
born at the South prior to the war, a large number followed
Union officers home, gained educational advantages, a knowl
edge of men and affairs, and have since returned as teachers
and business men. Hitherto, migration has followed the natu
ral law, and seemed confined to the younger men. Now, the
impulse affects those of mature age, and the South seems, as
it should be, their natural goal. The negro will not only
migrate, he will also emigrate j but only when impelled by
absolute poverty or despair, or when led by prospects of pecu
niary gain, and not in sufficient numbers to affect appreciably
his social or political status in the South. He will become,
however, more and more interested in the capabilities of the
fatherland. From the United States the stream of civiliza
tion will inevitably lead to Africa. The rich table-lands east
of Liberia will be occupied first, and we may look for many
radiating currents therefrom. It would be poetic justice to
see a Negro-American civilization redeeming Africa. The an
tipathy formerly felt by the Negro-American to colonization
has passed away. He now sees quite clearly that to civilize
Africa is to exalt the negro race. Our own Government,
through its Department of State, could aid in this, by ap
pointing every diplomatic and consular officer on the African
continent from among the large number of ambitious and
able colored men. It would be a brilliant stroke of policy
for the spread of our commerce, and for allaying the phantom
of negro supremacy, while it would open up a career to many of
the colored people of the country in the way of business, and
give a renewed impetus to emigration. No wholesale emigra
tion need be looked for immediately. Even if Henry Clay's
wished-for bridge of boats could span the Atlantic, and the


blacks could be induced to cross in a continuous throng, the
daily birth-rate, so largely increased under improved social regu
lations, would more than balance the daily list of emigrants.
The negro's home is at the South. Reconstruction, exodus,
ku-klux, Danville riots, proscription, and political trickery, all
have failed to dislodge him. The white people are used to him,
and cannot indeed get along without him. Though the negro is
at the mercy of the white people at present, and is easily managed,
cheated, cajoled, and ruled by the old master class, he yet
thrives under it all. He is educating his children, has a hold
now on the land, and daily grows stronger in every element of
good citizenship. A century hence, he will be the ruling power
at the South, unless all human experience, and all laws, social,
economic, and statistical, are at fault. It is to the negroes
interest to remain at the South, and even to encourage his
Northern brother to come there also. The highest colored popu
lation in any Northern State is 65,000 in Pennsylvania ; Ohio
comes next, with 63,000. The lowest is Oregon, with only 346.
In fact, there are only seven Northern States that have over
20,000 negroes.

The tendency at the South will be toward the predominance
of pure blacks. This is already observable. The tendency
of blacks to assert themselves, while resulting disastrously
under reconstruction, would operate far otherwise under more
normal conditions. In only isolated cases will the negro seek
to marry with white people. Few negroes who have any real
pride of race ever do. In all experience of forced cohabitation
before the war, the white was the persistent miscegenationist,
the black was the victim. Statistics and the observation of trav
elers inform us of the decrease of the numbers of mixed bloods.
They must be absorbed into the white society, where they actu
ally belong. But for caste-prejudice, they would long since have
disappeared. When, socially and politically, the negro is in
the ascendancy at the South, the far-seeing, ambitious, and by no
means fastidious, white politicians will eagerly seek alliances
among the black leaders. To many this is an abhorrent thought ;
but it is inevitable, possessing only this palliative, for those who
cherish a pride of race, that it never will become as common under
freedom as under slavery. The negro of 1984 will be a very
different person from the negro of to-day. The Northern negro
differs from his Southern brother by habit and training, as


negroes reared and educated abroad surpass those dwarfed at
home by imperfect education and caste feeling. A number
of young colored men are now in training abroad, whose
parents have amassed . fortunes since the close of the war.
Already European alliances have been formed, and many cult
ured men of our race are living happily on Southern plantations.

As a political factor, the negro has not been an undoubted
success. He is too credulous, too easily swayed. With him poli
tics was a sentiment, not a business. He is readily thrown into
a panic, quickly demoralized, and not prompt to seize an advan
tage. His failure in reconstruction was by no means blameworthy.
He merely did as well as any crude, untrained race could do, and
he contended vainly against the acquired instincts and trained
methods of centuries. For a time the negro must be an unimpor
tant political factor, although it were a difficult task to convince
him of it. But he will not always be so, for he is quick to learn
and is a natural politician. Our misfortune lay in the inverse
order of our political and social development. The one which
should have preceded came last. For the past fifteen years the
two have traveled in nearly parallel lines. To-day they are rapidly
changing their relative places. Our social development is prop
erly leaping ahead of the political. With greater discipline, less
imagination, sharpened selfishness, and the augmented confidence
resulting from a solid constituency, the negro politician of the
future will meet his antagonist with a different spirit and keener
weapons, although our higher and true development would be
enhanced, could we be outside of politics for ten years at least.

Wealth, superior intelligence, and a more vigorous demonstra
tion of the absurdity of race-prejudice, will lead to higher social
conditions. Men of color are received abroad on the plane of
merit, because no stain of recent servitude attaches to them.
At the South our social advance must first come as a coy con
cession to us, while in many instances the concession will be on
the other side. By social position in this connection I, of course,
allude only to such recognition as mere law can supply and reg
ulate, as unimpeded travel, the right to entertainment at public
places of amusement, and admittance to schools supported by
public funds.

The negro will help his cause by a wise, cautious, temperate
use, both of assertion and concession ; by tact which is a result
ant of these two powers in social dynamics. There are many cases


where the negro needs more self-assertion. He has often con
ceded away all his rights, and with these the respect partially en
tertained for him.

There is not an intelligent economist, nor the merest tyro
in political ethics, who, putting aside race-prejudices, can say the
negro is not a useful citizen to-day. Every adverse opinion
hitherto held about him Jefferson's, Madison's, De Tocqueville's,
Grimke's, Nott's, and Gliddon's has been quietly disproved, and
apparently through no effort of his own. He is self-support
ing ; he adds to the wealth of the country ; he is accumulating
property j he is gradually buying up the land from which South
ern short-sightedness drives out Northern enterprise. Uncon
sciously, not knowing he was on trial, he has come up to every
reasonable requirement, and dissipated every just fear. He did not
rise and murder during the war. He saved nearly $50,000,000
after the war, though starting with nothing, and white men
robbed him of his savings. He has been more thrifty and patient
as a freeman than ever he was in slavery, as his improved cabin,
the statistics of the cotton crop, and the records of his trade with
the North all show. He is a better customer to the North now
than the Southern white was before the war ; his needs under
freedom are greater. It is he who buys the Yankee notions, the
best cloth, shoes, clocks, and household comforts sold at the
South. His social state is slowly consolidating ; his church sys
tem is steadily assuming coherence and becoming effective ; his

Online LibraryNathaniel Hillyer. EglestonThe North American review (Volume 139) → online text (page 9 of 60)