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UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA

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THE SILENT SOUTH




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THE SILENT SOUTH



TOGETHER WITH



THE FREEDMAWS CASE IN EQUITY AND
THE CONVICT LEASE SYSTEM



BY

GEORGE W. CABLE




NEW YORK

CHARLES SCRIBNER S SONS
1899



COPYRIGHT, 1885, 1889, BY
CHARLES SCRIBNER S SONS



NOTE.



When the following essays first appeared in
book form (1885) they entered a vacant field.
The equities and ethics of the " Southern Ques
tion " were not at all then, as now so widely they
are, current themes of discussion in literary form.
In seeing a new edition go to press, the author
finds occasion to say enly that whatever value
originally attached to these pages he claims for
them still, as he is not aware of any effort having
been made in the spirit of serious debate, since
their first issue in book form, to answer the state
ments either of conditions or principles here set
forth ; save only the " Open Letters " [CENTURY
MAGAZINE, May-October, 1886] of ex-Senator
John W. Johnston, of Richmond, Virginia, and
Mr. A. E. Orr, of Atlanta, Georgia, which, with
my replies, are to be found at the end of this

volume.

G. W. CABLE.



93498



CONTENTS.



THE FREEDMAN S CASE IN EQUITY.

I. THE NATION S ATTITUDE i

II. OLD SOUTH AND NEW 3

III. THE ROOTS OF THE QUESTION 6

IV. WHAT THE WAR LEFT 12

V. FREED NOT FREE 16

VI. ITS DAILY WORKINGS 21

VII. THE "CONVICT LEASE SYSTEM" 31

VIII. IN THE SCHOOLHOUSE 33

IX. THE QUESTION OF INSTINCT 35

X. THE CASE SUBMITTED 37

THE SILENT SOUTH.

I. A TIME TO SPEAK 43

II. POINTS OF AGREEMENT 47

III. THE STICKING POINT 53

IV. CIVIL RIGHT NOT SOCIAL CHOICE .... 59
V. CALLING THE WITNESSES 65

VI. GUNS THAT SHOOT BACKWARD 73

VII. THE RIGHT TO RULE 79

VIII. SUMMING UP 84

IX. POLITICAL "SOLIDITY" WHY AND TILL

WHEN 96



Vi CONTENTS.

X. THE GEOGRAPHY OF AMALGAMATION . . . 102

XL THE NATURAL-GROWTH POLICY 104

XII. " MOVE ON " 109

THE CONVICT LEASE SYSTEM IN THE
SOUTHERN STATES.

I. A MODEL PRISON 115

II. THE THEORY OF SELF-SUPPORT 119

III. EVIL PRINCIPLES OF THE LEASE SYSTEM . 124

IV. IN TENNESSEE THE SYSTEM AT ITS BEST . 128
V. IN NORTH CAROLINA 140

VI. IN KENTUCKY 146

VII. IN SOUTH CAROLINA 149

VIII. IN GEORGIA 154

IX. THE PARDONING POWER 156

X. IN TEXAS 158

XL IN ALABAMA 167

XII. IN VIRGINIA 169

XIII. IN ARKANSAS, MISSISSIPPI AND LOUISIANA

THE SYSTEM AT ITS WORST 170

XIV. CONCLUSIONS 174

XV. EXCUSES FOR THE SYSTEM 1^5

APPENDIX.

I. THE TRUE SOUTH vs. THE SILENT SOUTH . 185

II. A REPLY 193

III. Is IT SECTIONAL OR NATIONAL? 206

IV. A REPLY . 208



THE FREEDMAN S CASE IN EQUITY




THE FREEDMAN S CASE IN EQUITY.

i. THE NATION S ATTITUDE.

THE greatest social problem before the Ameri
can people to-day r ts~7"as it has been for a
hundred years, the presence among us of the
negro.

No comparable entanglement was ever drawn
round itself by any other modern nation with so
serene a disregard of its ultimate issue, or with a
more distinct national responsibility. The Afri
can slave was "brought here by cruel force, and
with everybody s consent except his own. Every
where the practice was favored as a measure of
common aggrandizement. When a few men and
women protested, they were mobbed in the pub
lic interest, with the public consent. There rests,
therefore, a moral responsibility on the whole na
tion never to lose sight of the results of African-
American slavery until they cease to work mis
chief and injustice.

It is true these responsibilities may not fall
everywhere with the same weight ; but they are
nowhere entirely removed. The original seed
of trouble was sown with the full knowledge and



2 THE FREEDMAWS CASE IN EQUITY.

consent of the nation. The nation was to blame ;
and so long as evils spring from it, their correc
tion must be the nation s duty.

The late Southern slave has within two decades
risen from slavery to freedom, from freedom to
citizenship, passed on into political ascendency,
and fallen again from that eminence. The
amended Constitution holds him up in his new
political rights as well as a mere constitution can.
On the other hand, certain enactments of Con
gress, trying to reach further, have lately been
made void by the highest court of the nation.
And another thing has happened. The popular "
mind in the old free States, weary of strife at
arm s length, bewildered by its complications,
vexed by many a blunder, eager to turn to the
cure of other evils, and even tinctured by that
race feeling whose grosser excesses it would so
gladly see suppressed, has retreated from its un
comfortable dictational attitude and thrown the
whole matter over to the States of the South.
Here it rests, no longer a main party issue, but a
group of questions which are to be settled by
each of these States separately in the light of
simple equity and morals, and which the genius
of American government is at least loath to
force upon them from beyond their borders.
Thus the whole question, become secondary in
party contest, has yet reached a period of su
preme importance.



THE FREEDMAWS CASE IN EQUITY.



II. OLD SOUTH AND NEW.

Before slavery ever became a grave question ^
in the nation s politics, when it seemed each
State s private affair, developing unmolested,
it had two different fates in two different parts of
the country. In one, treated as a question of
public equity, it withered away. In the other,
overlooked in that aspect, it petrified and became
the corner-stone of the whole social structure ;
and when men sought its overthrow as a national
evil, it first brought war upon the land, and then
grafted into the citizenship of one of the most
intelligent nations in the world six millions of
people from one of the most debased races on
the globe.

And now this painful and wearisome question,
sown in the African slave-trade, reaped in our
civil war, and garnered in the national adoption
of millions of an inferior race, is drawing near a
second seed-time. For this is what the impatient +
proposal to make it a dead and buried issue
really means. It means to recommit it to the
silence and concealment of the covered furrow.
Beyond that incubative retirement no suppressed
moral question can be pushed ; but all such
questions, ignored in the domain of private mor
als, spring up and expand once more into ques
tions of public equity ; neglected as matters of
public equity, they blossom into questions of



4 THE FREEDMAWS CASE IN EQUITY.

national interest; and, despised in that guise,
presently yield the red fruits of revolution.

This question must never again bear that fruit
There must arise, nay, there has arisen, in the
Southjtself, a desire to see established the equi-
ties of the issue ; to make it no longer a question
of endurance between one group of States and
another, but between the moral debris of an ex
ploded evil, and the duty, necessity, and value of
planting society firmly upon universal justice
and equity. This, and this only, can give the
matter final burial. True, it is still a question
between States ; but only secondarily, as some
thing formerly participated in, or as it concerns
every householder to know that what is being
built against his house is built by level and
plummet. It is the interest of the Southern
States first, and consequently of the whole land,
to discover clearly these equities and the errors
that are being committed against them.

If we take up this task, the difficulties of the
situation are plain. We have, first, a revision of
Southern State laws which has forced into them
the recognition of certain human rights discord
ant with the sentiments of those who have always
called themselves the community; second, the
removal of the entire political machinery by
which this forcing process was effected ; and,
third, these revisions left to be interpreted and
applied under the domination of these antago-



THE FREEDMAWS CASE IN EQUITY. 5

nistic sentiments. These being the three terms
of the problem, one of three things must result
There will arise a system of vicious evasions
eventually ruinous to public and private morals
and liberty, or there will be a candid reconsider
ation of the sentiments hostile to these enact
ments, or else there will be a division, some tak
ing one course and some the other.

This is what we should look for from our
knowledge of men and history ; and this is what
we find. The revised laws, only where they
could not be evaded, have met that reluctant or
simulated acceptance of their narrowest letter
which might have been expected a virtual suf
focation of those principles of human equity
which the unwelcome decrees do little more than
shadow forth. But in different regions this atti
tude has been made in very different degrees of
emphasis. In some the new principles have
grown, or are growing, into the popular convic
tion, and the opposing sentiments are correspond
ingly dying out. There are even some districts
where they have received much practical accept
ance. While, again, other limited sections lean
almost wholly toward the old sentiments ; an
easy choice, since it is the conservative, the un
yielding attitude, whose strength is in the ab
sence of intellectual and moral debate.

Now, what are the gains, what the losses of
these diverse attitudes ? Surely these are urgent



6 THE FREEDMAWS CASE IN EQUITY.

questions to any one in our country who be
lieves it is always a losing business to be in the
wrong. Particularly in the South, where each
step in this affair is an unprecedented experience,
it will be folly if each region, small or large, does
not study the experiences of all the rest. And
yet this, alone, would be superficial; we should
still need to do more. We need to go back to ^
the roots of things and study closely, analytically,
the origin, the present foundation, the rationality,
the Tightness, of those sentiments surviving in
us which prompt an attitude qualifying in any
way peculiarly the black man s liberty among us.
Such a treatment will be less abundant in inci
dent, less picture$que\^but it will be more
thorough.

III. THE ROOTS OF THE QUESTION.

First, then, what are these sentiments ? Fore
most among them stands the idea that he is of
necessity an alien. He was brought to our
shores a naked, brutish, unclean, captive, pagan
savage, 1 to be and remain a kind of connecting -/-
link between man and the beasts of burden. The
great changes to result from his contact with a
superb race of masters were not taken into ac
count. As a social factor he was intended to be
as purely zero as the brute at the other end of
his plow-line. The occasional mingling of his
blood with that of the white man worked no
1 Sometimes he was not a mere savage but a trading, smithing,
weaving, town-building, crop-raising barbarian.



THE FREEDMAWS CASE IN EQUITY. j

change in the sentiment ; one, two, four, eight,
multiplied upon or divided into zero, still gave
zero for the result. Generations of American
nativity made no difference; his children and
children s children were born in sight of our
door, yet the old notion held fast He increased
to vast numbers, but it never wavered. He ac
cepted our dress, language, religion, all the fun
damentals of our civilization, and became forever
expatriated from his own land ; still he remained, -^
to us, an ajjen. Our sentiment went Blmd. It
did not see that gradually, here by force and
there by choice, he was fulfilling a host of con
ditions that earned at least a solemn moral right
to that naturalization which no one at first had
dreamed of giving him. Frequently he even
bought back the freedom of which he had been-f-
robbed, became a tax-payer, and at times an
educator of his children at his own expense ;
but the old idea of alienism passed laws to banish
him, his wife, and children by thousands from
the State, and threw him into loathsome jails as
a common felon, for returning to his native land. 1
It will be wise to remember that these were
the acts of an enlightened, God-fearing people,
the great mass of whom have passed beyond all
earthly accountability. They were our fathers.
I am the son and grandson of slave-holders.
These were their faults ; posterity will discover
ours ; but these things must be frankly, fearlessly

1 Notably in Louisiana in 1810 and subsequently.



8 THE FREEDMAWS CASE IN EQUITY.

taken into account if we are ever to understand
the true interests of our peculiar state of society.
Why, then, did this notion, that the man of
color must always remain an alien, stand so un
shaken ? We may readily recall how, under an
cient systems, he rose not only to high privileges,
but often to public station and power. Singu
larly, with us the trouble lay in a modern princi
ple of liberty. The whole idea of American
government rested on all men s equal, inalienable
right to secure their life, liberty, and the pursuit
of happiness by governments founded in their
own consent. Hence, our Southern forefathers,
shedding their blood, or ready to shed it, for this
principle, yet proposing in equal good conscience
to continue holding the American black man and
mulatto and quadroon in slavery, had to anchor
that conscience, their_conduct, and their laws in
! the conviction that the man of African tincture
was, not by his master s arbitrary assertion
merely, but by nature and unalterably, an alien.
\ If that hold should break, one single wave of
irresistible inference would lift our whole South
ern social fabric and clash it upon the rocks of
negro emancipation and enfranchisement. How
was it made secure? Not by books, though
they were written among us from every possible
point of view, but, with the mass of our slave
owners, by the calm hypothesis of a positive, in
tuitive knowledge. To them the statement was



THE FREEDMAWS CASE IN EQUITY. g

an axiom. They abandoned the methods of
moral and intellectual reasoning, and fell back
upon this assumption of a God-given instinct,
nobler than reason, and which it was an insult
to a freeman to ask him to prove on logical
grounds.

Yet it was found not enough. The slave mul
tiplied. Slavery was a dangerous institution.
Few in the South to-day have any just idea how
often the slave plotted for his freedom. Our
Southern ancestors were a noble, manly people,
springing from some of the most highly intelli
gent, aspiring, upright, and refined nations of the
modern world ; from the Huguenot, the French
Chevalier, the Old Englander, the New Eng-
lander. Their acts were not always right ; whose
are ? But for their peace of mind they had to
believe them so. They therefore spoke much of
the negro s contentment with that servile condi
tion for which nature had designed him. Yet
there was no escaping the knowledge that we
dared not trust the slave caste with any power
that could be withheld from them. So the per
petual alien was made also a perpetual menial,-^
and the belief became fixed that this, too, was
nature s decree, not ours.

Thus we stood at the close of the civil war.
There were always a few Southerners who did
not justify slavery, and many who cared nothing
whether it was just or not. But what we have



I0 THE FREED MAN S CASE IN EQUITY.

described was the general sentiment of good
Southern people. There was one modifying
sentiment. It related to the slave s spiritual
interests. Thousands of pious masters and mis
tresses flatly broke the shameful laws that stood
between their slaves and the Bible. Slavery was
right; but religion, they held, was for the alien
and menial as well as for the citizen and master.
They could be alien and citizen, menial and
master, in church as well as out; and they
were.

Yet over against this lay another root of to
day s difficulties. This perpetuation of the alien,
menial relation tended to perpetuate the vices
that naturally cling to servility, dense ignorance
and a hopeless separation from true liberty ; and
as we could not find it in our minds to blame
slavery with this perpetuation, we could only
assume as a further axiom that there was, by
nature, a disqualifying moral taint in every drop
of negro blood. The testimony of an Irish,
German, Italian, French, or Spanish beggar in a
court of justice was taken on its merits ; but the
colored man s was excluded by law wherever it -|r
weighed against a white man. The_ colored m_an
was a prejudged culprit. The discipline of the)
plantation required that the difference between
master and slave be never lost sight of by either. J
It made our master caste a solid mass, and fixed
a common masterhood and subserviency between




THE FREEDMAWS ^AS IN E&TTY.



the ruling and the serving race. 1 Every one of
us grew up in the idea that he had, by birth
and race, certain broad powers of police over
any and every person of color.

All at once the tempest of war snapped off at
the ground every one of these arbitrary relations,
without removing a single one of the sentiments
in which they stood rooted. Then, to fortify the
freedman in the tenure of his new rights, he was
given the ballot. Before this grim fact the
notion of alienism, had it been standing alone,
might have given way. The idea that slavery
was right did begin to crumble almost at once.
" As for slavery," said an old Creole sugar-planter
and former slave-owner to me, " it was damna
ble." The revelation came like a sudden burst
of light. It is one of the South s noblest poets
who has but just said :

" I am a Southerner ;
I love the South ; I dared for her
To fight from Lookout to the sea,
With her proud banner over me :
But from my lips thanksgiving broke,
As God in battle-thunder spoke,
And that Black Idol, breeding drouth
And dearth of human sympathy

1 The old Louisiana Black Code says, " That free people of
color ought never to ... presume to conceive themselves
equal to the white ; but, on the contrary, that they ought to
yield to them in every occasion, and never speak or answer to
them but with respect, under the penalty of imprisonment accord
ing to the nature of the offense." (Section 21, p. 164.)



12 THE FREEDMAN S CASE IN EQUITY.

Throughout the sweet and sensuous South,
Was, with its chains and human yoke,

Blown hellward from the cannon s mouth,

While Freedom cheered behind the smoke ! " l



IV. WHAT THE WAR LEFT.

With like readiness might the old alien rela
tion have given way if we could only, while
letting that pass, have held fast by the other old
ideas. But they were all bound together. See
our embarrassment. For more than a hundred
years we had made these sentiments the absolute
essentials to our self-respect. And yet if we
clung to them, how could we meet the freedman
on equal terms in the political field ? Even to
lead would not compensate us; for the funda
mental profession of American politics is that
the leader is servant to his followers. It was too
much. The ex-master and ex-slave the quarter
deck and the forecastle, as it were could not
come together. But neither could the American
mind tolerate a continuance of martial law. The
agonies of Reconstruction followed.

The vote, after all, was a secondary point, and
the robbeiy and bribery on one side, and whip
ping and killing on the other, were but huge
accidents of the situation. The two main ques
tions were really these : on the freedman s side,
how to establish republican State government

1 Maurice Thompson, in the "Independent."



THE FREEDMAN S CASE IN EQUITY. j^

under the same recognition of his rights that the
rest of Christendom accorded him ; and on the
former master s side, how to get back to the old
semblance of republican State government, and
allowing that the freedman was de facto a
voter still to maintain a purely arbitrary super
iority of all whites over all blacks, and a purely
arbitrary equality of all blacks among themselves
as an alien, menial, and dangerous class.

Exceptionally here and there some one in the
master caste did throw off the old and accept the
new ideas, and, if he would allow it, was instantly
claimed as a leader by the newly liberated thous
ands around him. But just as promptly the old
master race branded him also an alien reprobate,
and in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, if he
had not already done so, he soon began to con
firm by his actions the brand on his cheek.
However, we need give no history here of the
dreadful episode of Reconstruction. Under an
experimentative truce its issues rest to-day upon
the pledge of the wiser leaders of the master
class : Let us but remove the hireling demagogue,
and we will see to it that the freedman is accorded
a practical, complete, and cordial recognition of
his equality with the white man before the law.
As far as there has been any understanding at
all, it is not that the originally desired ends of
reconstruction have been abandoned, but that the
men of North and South have agreed upon a



I4 THE FREEDMAWS CASE IN EQUITY.

new, gentle, and peaceable method for reaching
them ; that, without change as to the ends in
view, compulsory reconstruction has been set
aside and a voluntary reconstruction is on trial.

It is the fashion to say we paused to let the
" feelings engendered by the war " pass away, and
that they are passing. But let not these truths
lead us into error. The sentiments we have
been analyzing, and upon which we saw the old
compulsory reconstruction go hard aground
these are not the " feelings engendered by the
war." We must disentangle them from the " feel
ings engendered by the war," and by reconstruc
tion. They are older than either. But for them
slavery would have perished of itself, and eman
cipation and reconstruction been peaceful revolu
tions.

Indeed, as between master and slave, the " feel
ings engendered by the war," are too trivial, or
at least were too short-lived, to demand our
present notice. One relation and feeling the war
destroyed : the patriarchal tie and its often really
tender and benevolent sentiment of dependence
and protection. When the slave became a freed-J
man, the sentiment of alienism became for the\
first time complete. The abandonment of this
relation was not one-sided; the slave, even before
the master, renounced it. Countless times, since
reconstruction began, the master has tried, in
what he believed to be everybody s interest, to



THE FREEDMAWS CASE IN EQUITY. l $

play on that old sentiment. But he found it a
harp without strings. The freedman could not
formulate, but he could see, all our old ideas of
autocracy and subserviency, of master and menial,
of an arbitrarily fixed class to guide and rule,
and another to be guided and ruled. He rejected
the overture. The old master, his well-meant v
condescensions slighted, turned away estranged,
and justified himself in passively withholding that
simpler protection without patronage which any
one American citizen, however exalted, owes to
any other, however humble. Could the freedman
in the bitterest of those days have consented to
throw himself upon just that one old relation, he
could have found a physical security for himself
and his house such as could not, after years of
effort, be given him by constitutional amend
ments, Congress, United States marshals, regi
ments of regulars, and ships of war. But he
could not ; the very nobility of the civilization
that had held him in slavery had made him too
much a man to go back to that shelter ; and by
his manly neglect to do so he has proved to us
who once ruled over him that, be his relative
standing among the races of men what it may, he
is worthy to be free.



THE FREEDMAWS CASE IN EQUITY.



V. FREED NOT FREE.

To be a free man is his still distant goal. TwiceJ
he has been a freedman. In the days of compul
sory reconstruction he was freed in the presence
of his master by that master s victorious foe. In
these days of voluntary reconstruction he is vir
tually freed by the consent of his master, but the
master retaining the exclusive right to define the
bounds of his freedom. Many everywhere have
taken up the idea that this state of affairs is the
end to be desired and the end actually sought in
reconstruction as handed over to the States. I
do not charge such folly to the best intelligence
of any American community; but I cannot ignore
my own knowledge that the average thought of
some regions rises to no better idea of the issue.
The belief is all too common that the nation,
having aimed at a wrong result and missed, has


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