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The silent South, together with the freedman's case in equity and the convict lease system online

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that the world must look to the young South,
only, for progressive ideas of human right among
us. May be it was easy to make the mistake of
calling this admirable gentleman to testify that
" neither race wants it." But see how quickly
Commissioner Orr provokes the reader to dis-
miss him, too, from the witness-stand : Speaking
of mixed schools, which, he says, " both races
would protest against" but which, mark it,
"The Freedman's Case in Equity" does not ask
to have forced upon any community or forced


by either race upon the other anywhere Mr.
Orr says, " I am so sure of the evils that would
come from mixed schools that, even if they were
possible, I would see the whole educational sys-
tem swept away before I would see them estab

Ah ! gentlemen, you are not before a Con-
gressional investigating committee that gets Re-
publican facts from Republican witnesses and
Democratic facts from Democratic witnesses, and
then makes two reports. You are before the
judgment-seat of the world's intelligence ; and
if you cannot bring for evidence of a people's
feelings their own spontaneous and habitual ex-
pressions to those who think with them ; and,
for the establishment of facts, the unconscious or
unwilling testimony of your opponents, then it is
high time you were taking your case out of this
court. 1 As for us we can prove all we need
prove by the gentlemen themselves.

1 They might easily have brought in colored school teachers.
Many of these favor separate colored schools, for the obvious
reason that those are the only schools they may teach in. They
do bring in just two witnesses from a side avowedly opposed to
them ; but it is not our side, either. One is the late Bishop
Haven, of whom we shall speak presently. The other, a young
white woman on a railway train, who forbidden to enjoy her
civil rights and her peculiar social preferences at the same time
threw away a civil right to retain the social preference ; which
was her business, not ours, and proves nothing whatever for or
against anybody else ; but whose expression of pride at being
mistaken for a quadroon proves her an extremely silly person.


Once only does the opposite side bring for-
ward the actual free utterance of a colored man
professing to express a sentiment of his race;
well nigh a magazine column of " negro elo-
quence " and adulation poured upon a confer-
ence of applauding " Bishops and Brethren "
because of the amazing fact that when in the
neighboring vestry-room, he had " thoughtlessly
asked " the governor of the State if he could get
a drink, that magnate sent for and handed him a
glass of water ! Unlucky testimony ! which no
candid mind can deny is an elaborate confession
of surprised delight at being treated with indis-
criminative civility. We are told, however, that
it is offered simply to show the affectionate "feel-
ing of that people toward their white neighbors."
Thus a display of affection is utilized to give a
color of justice to the mutilation of just such
equal rights as this one whose unexpected recog-
nition called forth this display of affection ! So
they go round and round their tether.

They summon her for "the sole object" of suggesting that she
and such as agree with her which lets us out as plainly as it
does the other side are " unsafe as advisers and unfair as wit-
nesses." Certainly they are.




Our demonstration is complete ; but there fol-
lows a short corollary : While the colored peo^\
pie always did and still do accept with alacrity
an undivided enjoyment of civil rights with the
white race wherever cordially offered, they never
mistake them for social privileges, nor do they
ever attempt to use them to compel social inter-
course. We might appeal to the everyday street-
car experience of hundreds of thousands of resi-
dents in New Orleans and other Southern cities;
or to the uniform clearness with which civil rights
are claimed and social advances disclaimed in the
many letters from colored men and women that
are this moment before the writer. But we need
not. We need refer only to our opponents in
debate, who bring forward, to prove their own
propositions, a set of well-known facts that turn
and play Balaam to their Balak. Hear their
statement: "They" the colored people "meet
the white people in all the avenues of business.
They work side by side with the white bricklayer
or carpenter in perfect accord and friendliness.
When the trowel or hammer is laid aside, the
laborers part, each going his own way. Any
attempt to carry the comradeship of the day into
private life would be sternly resisted by both
parties in interest."

We prove, by the other side's own arguments,


that the colored people always accept the com-
mon enjoyment of civil rights and never con-
found civil with social relations. But in just one
phase of life there is a conspicuous exception ;
and an exception especially damaging to the tra-
ditional arguments of our opponents. And who
furnishes our evidence this time ? Themselves
again. We allude to the church relation. We
are asked to confront the history of an effort
made, they say, many times over, by Bishop
Haven and the Northern Methodist church gen-
erally, soon after the late war ; an effort to abolish
racial discrimination in the religious worship of
the church in the South composed of Northern
whites and Southern blacks; its constant and
utter failure ; and the final separation of those
churches into two separate conferences, and into
separate congregations wherever practicable.
These facts are brought forward to prove the
existence of race instinct, intending to justify by
race instinct the arbitrary control, by the whites
of the relations between the two races ; and the
conclusion is sanguinely reached at a bound, that
the only explanation of these churches' separa-
tion on the color line is each race's race instinct,
" that spoke above the appeal of the bishop and
dominated the divine influences that pulsed from
pew to pew." But the gentlemen are too eager.
What in their haste they omit to do is to make
any serious search at all for a simpler explana-



tion. And how simple the true explanation is !
Bishop Haven and his colleagues, if rightly re-
ported, ought to have known they ^vould fail.
They were attempting under acute disadvantages
what none of the Protestant churches in America,
faithfully as they have striven for it, has ever been
able extensively to accomplish. That is, to get
higli and low life to worship together. The char-
acter of much ritual worship and of nearly all
non-ritual worship naturally and properly takes
for its standard the congregation's average intel-
ligence. But this good process of assortment,
unless held in by every proper drawback, flies
off to an excess that leaves the simple and un-
learned to a spiritual starvation apparently as bad
as that from which non-ritual worship, especially,
professes to revolt. Bishop Dudley, of Kentucky,
has lately laid his finger upon this mischief for
us with great emphasis. But, moreover, as in
society, so in the church, this intellectual standard
easily degenerates toward a standard of mere
manners or station. Thus the gate is thrown
wide open to the social idea, and presently not
our Dorcases only, but at times our very bishops
and elders, are busy trying to make the social
relation co-extensive with the church relation.
With what result? Little, generally, save the
bad result of congregations trimming themselves
down to fit the limitations of social fellowship.
See the case cited. Here were whites, cultured,


and counting themselves, at least, as good as
the best in the land ; and here was an ignorant,
superstitious race of boisterous worshipers just
emerged from slavery ; one side craving spiritual
meat, the other needing spiritual milk, and both
sides beset by our prevalent American error that
social intimacy is one of the distinct earnings of
church membership. Of course they separated.
It is but a dwarfed idea of the church relation
that cramps it into the social relation. The
church relation is the grandest fraternity on
earth. 1 Social relations are good and proper,
but can the social relation grasp all these condi-
tions in one embrace ? Can any one social circle
span from the drawing-room to the stable, from
the counting-room or professional desk to the
kitchen, from the judge's bench to the tailor's
and cobbler's, from the prince's crown to the
pauper's bowl ? Yet without any social intimacy
the prince may be the pauper's best friend, and
even the pauper the prince's ; and the church re-
lation ought to be so wide and high that all these
ranks might kneel abreast in it in common wor-
ship, and move abreast in it in perfect, active, co-
laboring fraternity and regard, gathering any or
every social circle into its noble circumference,
never pressing one injuriously upon another, and
above all things never letting in the slender but

1 " There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor
free, there is neither male nor female." Gal. iii. 28.


mischievous error of confusing Christian fra-
ternity with social equality. Yet the high and
low nigh all our country over are kept apart in
divine worship by just this error or the fear of it.
Fifty thousand Bishop Havens could not, until
they had overthrown the domination of this mis-
take, get the lofty and the lowly to worship to-
gether. How could they but separate ? And
the dragging in of a race instinct to account for
the separation is like bringing a pole to knock
down strawberries. Other things will, but a be-
lief in instinct will not, keep the races apart.
Look at the West Indies. But not even mis-
cegenation may the reader forgive us the be-
draggled word could have saved such a scheme
from failure.

The gentlemen prove absolutely nothing for
their case, but much against it. For here is
shown by actual experiment that even where
there is not of necessity a social relation, yet
when the social idea merely gets in by mistake
of both classes, the effect will not be social con-
fusion, but a spontaneous and willing separation
along the strongest lines of social cleavage. The
log the church will not split the wedge the
social impulse ; but the wedge will split the log.
The uncultured, be they white or black, in North
or South, will break away on one side with even,
more promptness and spontaneity than the cul-
tured on the other, and will recoil, moreover, to


a greater distance than is best for any one con-
cerned. Thus far are we from having the least
ground to fear from the blacks that emptiest of
phantasms, social aggression. Thus far are we
from needing for the protection of social order
any assumption of race instinct. And so do
the advocates of our traditional sentiments con-
tinually establish the opposite of what they seek
to prove.

They cite, again, to establish this assumption
of race instinct, the spontaneous grouping to-
gether of colored people in such social or semi-
social organizations as Masonic lodges, military
companies, etc. But there is no proscription of
whites in the lodges of colored Odd-fellows or
Masons. In Georgia, for example, the law re-
quires the separation of the races in military com-
panies. The gentlemen forget that the colored
people are subject to a strong expulsive power
from the whites, which they say must and shall
continue whether it is instinct or not; and that
the existence of a race instinct can never be
proved or disproved until all expulsive forces are
withdrawn and both races are left totally free to
the influences of those entirely self-sufficient social
forces which one of the gentlemen has so neatly
termed " centripetal." But even if these over-
looked facts were out of existence, what would
be proved ? Only, and for the second time, that
the centripetal force of social selection operates



so completely to the fulfillment of these gentle-
men's wishes, that there is no longer any call to
prove or disprove the existence of race instinct,
or the faintest excuse for arbitrary race separa-
tions in the enjoyment of civil rights.

Thus, setting out with the idea that the social
integrity of the races requires vigorous protection
from without, they prove instead by every argu-
ment brought to establish it, that every relation
really social, partially social, or even mistakenly
social, takes instinct or no instinct the most
spontaneous and complete care of itself. We
are debating the freedman's title to a totally im-
personal freedom in the enjoyment of all imper-
sonal rights ; and they succeed only in saying,
never in bringing a particle of legitimate evidence
to prove, that " Neither race wants it " ; an as-
sertion which no sane man, knowing the facts,
can sincerely make until, like these gentlemen,
he has first made the most woful confusion in
his own mind between personal social privileges
and impersonal civil rights.


But they have yet one last fancied stronghold.
They say, " The interest of both races is against
it " ; that is, against a common participation in
their civil rights ; and that it is, rather, in favor of
a separate enjoyment of them. Now, there are
people but their number is steadily growing less


who would mean by this merely that the in-
terest of both races is against common participa-
tion because they are against it and have made
separate participation the price of peace. But the
gentlemen whom we have in view in these chap-
ters, though they must confess their lines often
imply this, give a reason somewhat less offen-
sive in its intention. They say common partici-
pation means common sociality, and common
sociality, race-amalgamation. Have we not just
used their own facts to show conclusively that
this is not what occurs? Yet these two reasons,
so called, are actually the only ones that scrutiny
can find in all the utterances pledging these gen-
tlemen to " the exactest justice and the fullest
equity." Nay, there is another ; we must main-
tain, they say, " the clear and unmistakable
domination of the white race in the South."
Why, certainly we must ! and we must do it
honestly and without tampering with anybody's
natural rights ; and we can do it ! But why do
they say we must do it ? Because " character,
intelligence, and property " belong preeminently
to the white race, and " character, intelligence,
and property " have " the right to rule." So,
as far as the reasoning is sincere, they are
bound to mean that not merely being white
entails this right, but the possession of " charac-
ter, intelligence, and property." And the true
formula becomes " the clear and unmistakable


domination " of " character, intelligence, and
property " " in the South." But if this be the
true doctrine, as who can deny it is ? then why
after we have run the color line to suit our-
selves through all our truly social relations
why need we usurp the prerogative to run it so
needlessly through civil rights, also? It is
widely admitted that we are vastly the superior
race in everything as a race. But is every col-
ored man inferior to every white man in charac-
ter, intelligence, and property ? Is there no " re-
sponsible and steadfast element " at all among a
people who furnish 16,000 school-teachers and
are assessed for $91,000,000 worth of taxable
property? Are there no poor and irrespon-
sible whites ? So, the color line and the line of
character, intelligence, and property frequently
cross each other. Then tell us, gentlemen,
which are you really for ; the color line, or the
line of character, intelligence, and property that
divides between those who have and those who
have not " the right to rule " ? You dare not
declare for an inflexible color line ; such an an-
s\ver would shame the political intelligence of a

Another point just here. The right to rule :
What is it? It is not the right to take any
peaceable citizen's civil right from him in whole
or in part. It is not the right to decree who may
earn or not earn any status within the reach of


his proper powers. It is not the right to oppress.
In America, to rule is to serve. There is a news-
paper published in Atlanta called " The Consti-
tution." The Instrument of which this name is
intended to remind us, and of which it is well to
keep us reminded, is founded on a simple princi-
ple that solves the problem of free government
over which Europe sat in dark perplexity for
centuries, shedding tears of blood ; the principle
that the right to rule is the consent of the ruled
and is vested in the majority by the consent of
all. It took ages of agony for the human race
to discover that there is no moral right of class
rule, and that the only safety to human freedom
lies in the intelligence, virtue, and wealth of com-
munities holding every right of every being in
such sacred regard, and all claims for class or
personal privilege in such uniform contempt, that
unintelligence, vice, and poverty, having no potent
common grievance, shall naturally invest intelli-
gence, character, and property with the right to
rule. It took ages for us to discover the neces-
sity of binding intelligence, character, and prop-
erty to the maintenance of this attitude by giving,
once for all, to the majority the custody and right-
of-assignment of this truly precious right to rule.
Is this mere sentiment ? A scheme in the clouds ?
Who says so cannot truly qualify as a whole
American citizen. The safety of American gov-
ernment is that intelligence, virtue, and wealth


dare not press any measure whose viciousness or
tyranny might suspend the expulsive forces that
keep unintelligence, vice, and poverty divided
among themselves ; and that intelligence and
virtue hold themselves entirely free to combine
now with wealth and now with poverty as now
the lower million or now the upper ten shows the
livelier disposition to impose upon the other.
But the only way to preserve these conditions is
to hold sacred the will and voice of the majority.
Of course there are friction and imperfections in
their working ; but human wisdom has not yet
found any other scheme that carries us so near
to perfect government. The right to rule is a
right to earn the confidence and choice of the
majority of the whole unfettered people. Yet it
is in the face of this fundamental principle of
American freedom that our traditionist friends
stand, compelling six million freedmen to mass
together under a group of common grievances,
within a wall of these gentlemen's own avowed
building, then charging them with being
" leagued together in ignorance and irresponsi-
bility," and then talking in large approval about
" minorities " not earning, but " asserting and
maintaining control." And a proposition to set
such antique usurpation of human rights aside,
to remove the real grievances that make a com-
mon cause for six million distrusted and distrust-
ing people, to pull down that wall of civil not

8 4


social distinctions that tends to keep them
" leagued together in ignorance and irresponsi-
bility," to open to them the civil not social
rewards of gentility and education, and the re-
sponsibilities of knowledge and citizenship, to
arouse in them the same concern in common pub-
lic interests that we feel, and to make all their for-
tunes subject to the same influences as ours,
this, we are told, is " against the interest of both
races " ! And this we have from men who,
claiming a preeminent right to speak for the
South, claim with it a " right to rule " that fails to
signify anything better than the right of the white
man to rule the black without his consent and
without any further discrimination between in-
telligence and unintelligence or between respon-
sibility and irresponsibility/' In other words, a
principle of political and civil selection such as
no freeman could possibly choose and which can-
not be the best interest of any American com-
munity. So the other side are our witnesses
again. And now we may say to them, as the
lawyers do in court, " That will do."


The case is before the reader. The points of
fact made in our earlier paper the privations
suffered by the colored people in their mat-
ters of civil rights have been met with feeble
half-denials equivalent to admissions by oppo-


nents in controversy too engrossed with counter
statements and arguments, that crumble at the
touch, to attend to a statement of facts.' In the
end they stand thus : As to churches, there is
probably not a dozen in the land, if one, " col-
ored " or " white," where a white person is not at
least professedly welcome to its best accommo-
dations ; while the colored man, though he be
seven-eighths white, is shut up, on the ground
that " his race " prefers iy to the poor and often
unprofitable appointments of the " African "
church, whether he like it best or not, unless he
is ready to accept without a murmur distinctions
that mark him, in the sight of the whole people,
as one of a despised caste and that follow him
through the very sacraments. ' As to schooling,
despite the fact that he is to-day showing his
eager willingness to accept separate schools for
his children wherever the white man demands the
separation, yet both his children and the white
man's are being consigned to illiteracy wherever
they are too few and poor to form separate
schools. In some mountainous parts of Ken-
tucky there is but one colored school district in
a county^ 'In railway travel the colored people's
rights are tossed from pillar to post with an ever-
varying and therefore more utterly indefensible
and intolerable capriciousness. In Virginia they
may ride exactly as white people do and in the
same cars. In a neighboring State, a white man


may ride in the " ladies' car," while a colored
man of exactly the same dress and manners
nay, his wife or daughter must ride in the notor-
ious " Jim Crow car," unprotected from smokers
and dram-drinkers and lovers of vile language.\
" In South Carolina," says the Charleston " News
and Courier," on the other hand, " respectable
colored persons who buy first-class tickets on any
railroad ride in the first-class cars as a right, and
their presence excites no comment on the part of
their white fellow-passengers. It is a great deal
pleasanter to travel with respectable and well-
behaved colored people than with unmannerly
and ruffianly white men." In Alabama the ma-
jority of the people have not made this discovery,
at least if we are to believe their newspapers. In
Tennessee the law requires the separation of all
first-class passengers by race with equal accom-
modations for both ; thus waiving the old plea
of decency's exigencies and forcing upon Amer-
ican citizens adjudged to be first-class passengers
an alienism that has thrown away its last shadow
of an excuse. But this is only the law, and the
history of the very case alluded to by our tra-
ditionist friends, in which a colored woman gained
damages for being compelled to accept inferior
accommodation or none for a first-class ticket, is
the history of an outrage so glaring that only a
person blinded to the simplest rights of human
beings could cite it in such a defense.


A certain daily railway train was supplied, ac-
cording to the law, with a smoking-car, and two
first-class cars, one for colored and one for
whites. The two first-class cars were so nearly
of a kind that they were exchangeable. They
generally kept their relative positions on the
track ; but the " ladies' car " of the morning trip
became the " colored car " of the return, after-
noon, trip, and vice versa. But the rules of the
colored car were little regarded. Men, white and
black, were sometimes forbidden, sometimes al-
lowed, to smoke and drink there. Says the
court, " The evidence is abundant to show that
the rule excluding smoking from that car was
but a nominal one, that it was often disregarded,
that white passengers understood it to be a nominal
rule, and that adequate means were not adopted
to secure the same first-class and orderly passage
to the colored passengers occupying that car as

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Online LibraryGeorge Washington CableThe silent South, together with the freedman's case in equity and the convict lease system → online text (page 5 of 13)