The Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, 1995, Memorial Issue.

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, 1995, Memorial Issue. Table of Contents —————– Sojourner Truth, the Libyan Sibyl………….Harriet Beecher Stowe Reconstruction…………………………..Frederick Douglass An Appeal to Congress for Impartial Suffrage..Frederick Douglas The Negro Exodus…………………………James B. Runnion My Escape from Slavery……………………Frederick Douglass The Goophered Grapevine…………………..Charles W. Chesnutt Po’ Sandy……………………………….Charles W. Chesnutt Dave’s Neckliss………………………….Charles W. Chesnutt The Awakening
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The Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, 1995, Memorial Issue.

Table of Contents

Sojourner Truth, the Libyan Sibyl………….Harriet Beecher Stowe Reconstruction…………………………..Frederick Douglass An Appeal to Congress for Impartial Suffrage..Frederick Douglas The Negro Exodus…………………………James B. Runnion My Escape from Slavery……………………Frederick Douglass The Goophered Grapevine…………………..Charles W. Chesnutt Po’ Sandy……………………………….Charles W. Chesnutt Dave’s Neckliss………………………….Charles W. Chesnutt The Awakening of the Negro………………..Booker T. Washington The Story of Uncle Tom’s Cabin…………….Charles Dudley Warner Strivings of the Negro People……………..W. E. Burghardt Du Bois The Wife of his Youth…………………….Charles W. Chesnutt The Bouquet……………………………..Charles W. Chesnutt The Case of the Negro…………………….Booker T. Washington Hot-Foot Hannibal………………………..Charles W. Chesnutt A Negro Schoolmaster in the New South………W. E. Burghardt Du Bois The Capture of a Slaver…………………..J. Taylor Wood Mr. Charles W. Chesnutt’s Stories………….W. D. Howells Paths of Hope for the Negro
Practical Suggestions of a Southerner………Jerome Dowd Signs of Progress Among the Negroes………..Booker T. Washington The March of Progress…………………….Charles W. Chesnutt The Freedmen’s Bureau…………………….W. E. Burghardt Du Bois Of the Training of Black Men………………W. E. Burghardt Du Bois The Fruits of Industrial Training………….Booker T. Washington The Negro in the Regular Army……………..Oswald Garrison Villard Baxter’s Procrustes………………………Charles W. Chesnutt The Heart of the Race Problem……………..Quincy Ewing Negro Suffrage in a Democracy……………..Ray Stannard Baker

Bibliography of Sources

by Harriet Beecher Stowe

Many years ago, the few readers of radical Abolitionist papers must often have seen the singular name of Sojourner Truth, announced as a frequent speaker at Anti-Slavery meetings, and as travelling on a sort of self-appointed agency through the country. I had myself often remarked the name, but never met the individual. On one occasion, when our house was filled with company, several eminent clergymen being our guests, notice was brought up to me that Sojourner Truth was below, and requested an interview. Knowing nothing of her but her singular name, I went down, prepared to make the interview short, as the pressure of many other engagements demanded.

When I went into the room, a tall, spare form arose to meet me. She was evidently a full-blooded African, and though now aged and worn with many hardships, still gave the impression of a physical development which in early youth must have been as fine a specimen of the torrid zone as Cumberworth’s celebrated statuette of the Negro Woman at the Fountain. Indeed, she so strongly reminded me of that figure, that, when I recall the events of her life, as she narrated them to me, I imagine her as a living, breathing impersonation of that work of art.

I do not recollect ever to have been conversant with any one who had more of that silent and subtle power which we call personal presence than this woman. In the modern Spiritualistic phraseology, she would be described as having a strong sphere. Her tall form, as she rose up before me, is still vivid to my mind. She was dressed in some stout, grayish stuff, neat and clean, though dusty from travel. On her head, she wore a bright Madras handkerchief, arranged as a turban, after the manner of her race. She seemed perfectly self-possessed and at her ease,–in fact, there was almost an unconscious superiority, not unmixed with a solemn twinkle of humor, in the odd, composed manner in which she looked down on me. Her whole air had at times a gloomy sort of drollery which impressed one strangely.
“So this is YOU,” she said.

“Yes,” I answered.

“Well, honey, de Lord bless ye! I jes’ thought I’d like to come an’ have a look at ye. You’s heerd o’ me, I reckon?” she added.
“Yes, I think I have. You go about lecturing, do you not?”
“Yes, honey, that’s what I do. The Lord has made me a sign unto this nation, an’ I go round a’testifyin’, an’ showin’ on ’em their sins agin my people.”

So saying, she took a seat, and, stooping over and crossing her arms on her knees, she looked down on the floor, and appeared to fall into a sort of reverie. Her great gloomy eyes and her dark face seemed to work with some undercurrent of feeling; she sighed deeply, and occasionally broke out,–

“O Lord! O Lord! Oh, the tears, an’ the groans, an’ the moans! O Lord!”

I should have said that she was accompanied by a little grandson of ten years,–the fattest, jolliest woolly-headed little specimen of Africa that one can imagine. He was grinning and showing his glistening white teeth in a state of perpetual merriment, and at this moment broke out into an audible giggle, which disturbed the reverie into which his relative was falling.
She looked at him with an indulgent sadness, and then at me.
“Laws, Ma’am, HE don’t know nothin’ about it–HE don’t. Why, I’ve seen them poor critters, beat an’ ‘bused an’ hunted, brought in all torn,–ears hangin’ all in rags, where the dogs been a’bitin’ of ’em!”

This set off our little African Puck into another giggle, in which he seemed perfectly convulsed.

She surveyed him soberly, without the slightest irritation.
“Well, you may bless the Lord you CAN laugh; but I tell you, ‘t wa’n’t no laughin’ matter.”

By this time I thought her manner so original that it might be worth while to call down my friends; and she seemed perfectly well pleased with the idea. An audience was what she wanted,–it mattered not whether high or low, learned or ignorant. She had things to say, and was ready to say them at all times, and to any one.

I called down Dr. Beecher, Professor Allen, and two or three other clergymen, who, together with my husband and family, made a roomful. No princess could have received a drawing-room with more composed dignity than Sojourner her audience. She stood among them, calm and erect, as one of her own native palm-trees waving alone in the desert. I presented one after another to her, and at last said,–

“Sojourner, this is Dr. Beecher. He is a very celebrated preacher.”

“IS he?” she said, offering her hand in a condescending manner, and looking down on his white head. “Ye dear lamb, I’m glad to see ye! De Lord bless ye! I loves preachers. I’m a kind o’ preacher myself.”

“You are?” said Dr. Beecher. “Do you preach from the Bible?”
“No, honey, can’t preach from de Bible,–can’t read a letter.”
“Why, Sojourner, what do you preach from, then?”
Her answer was given with a solemn power of voice, peculiar to herself, that hushed every one in the room.
“When I preaches, I has jest one text to preach from, an’ I always preaches from this one. MY text is, ‘WHEN I FOUND JESUS.'”

“Well, you couldn’t have a better one,” said one of the ministers.
She paid no attention to him, but stood and seemed swelling with her own thoughts, and then began this narration:–
“Well, now, I’ll jest have to go back, an’ tell ye all about it. Ye see, we was all brought over from Africa, father an’ mother an’ I, an’ a lot more of us; an’ we was sold up an’ down, an’ hither an’ yon; an’ I can ‘member, when I was a little thing, not bigger than this ‘ere,” pointing to her grandson, “how my ole mammy would sit out o’ doors in the evenin’, an’ look up at the stars an’ groan. She’d groan an’ groan, an’ says I to her,–
“‘Mammy, what makes you groan so?’
“an’ she’d say,–

“‘Matter enough, chile! I’m groanin’ to think o’ my poor children: they don’t know where I be, an’ I don’t know where they be; they looks up at the stars, an’ I looks up at the stars, but I can’t tell where they be.

“‘Now,’ she said, ‘chile, when you’re grown up, you may be sold away from your mother an’ all your ole friends, an’ have great troubles come on ye; an’ when you has these troubles come on ye, ye jes’ go to God, an’ He’ll help ye.’

“An’ says I to her,–

“‘Who is God, anyhow, mammy?’

“An’ says she,–

“‘Why, chile, you jes’ look up DAR! It’s Him that made all DEM!”
“Well, I didn’t mind much ’bout God in them days. I grew up pretty lively an’ strong, an’ could row a boat, or ride a horse, or work round, an’ do ‘most anything.

“At last I got sold away to a real hard massa an’ missis. Oh, I tell you, they WAS hard! ‘Peared like I couldn’t please ’em, nohow. An’ then I thought o’ what my old mammy told me about God; an’ I thought I’d got into trouble, sure enough, an’ I wanted to find God, an’ I heerd some one tell a story about a man that met God on a threshin’-floor, an’ I thought, ‘Well an’ good, I’ll have a threshin’-floor, too.’ So I went down in the lot, an’ I threshed down a place real hard, an’ I used to go down there every day, an’ pray an’ cry with all my might, a-prayin’ to the Lord to make my massa an’ missis better, but it didn’t seem to do no good; an’ so says I, one day,–

“‘O God, I been a-askin’ ye, an’ askin’ ye, an’ askin’ ye, for all this long time, to make my massa an’ missis better, an’ you don’t do it, an’ what CAN be the reason? Why, maybe you CAN’T. Well, I shouldn’t wonder ef you couldn’t. Well, now, I tell you, I’ll make a bargain with you. Ef you’ll help me to git away from my massa an’ missis, I’ll agree to be good; but ef you don’t help me, I really don’t think I can be. Now,’ says I, ‘I want to git away; but the trouble’s jest here: ef I try to git away in the night, I can’t see; an’ ef I try to git away in the daytime, they’ll see me, an’ be after me.’

“Then the Lord said to me, ‘Git up two or three hours afore daylight, an’ start off.’

“An’ says I, ‘Thank ‘ee, Lord! that’s a good thought.’
“So up I got, about three o’clock in the mornin’, an’ I started an’ travelled pretty fast, till, when the sun rose, I was clear away from our place an’ our folks, an’ out o’ sight. An’ then I begun to think I didn’t know nothin’ where to go. So I kneeled down, and says I,–

“‘Well, Lord, you’ve started me out, an’ now please to show me where to go.’

“Then the Lord made a house appear to me, an’ He said to me that I was to walk on till I saw that house, an’ then go in an’ ask the people to take me. An’ I travelled all day, an’ didn’t come to the house till late at night; but when I saw it, sure enough, I went in, an’ I told the folks that the Lord sent me; an’ they was Quakers, an’ real kind they was to me. They jes’ took me in, an’ did for me as kind as ef I’d been one of ’em; an’ after they’d giv me supper, they took me into a room where there was a great, tall, white bed; an’ they told me to sleep there. Well, honey, I was kind o’ skeered when they left me alone with that great white bed; ’cause I never had been in a bed in my life. It never came into my mind they could mean me to sleep in it. An’ so I jes’ camped down under it, on the floor, an’ then I slep’ pretty well. In the mornin’, when they came in, they asked me ef I hadn’t been asleep; an’ I said, ‘Yes, I never slep’ better.’ An’ they said, ‘Why, you haven’t been in the bed!’ An’ says I, ‘Laws, you didn’t think o’ such a thing as my sleepin’ in dat ‘ar’ BED, did you? I never heerd o’ such a thing in my life.’

“Well, ye see, honey, I stayed an’ lived with ’em. An’ now jes’ look here: instead o’ keepin’ my promise an’ bein’ good, as I told the Lord I would, jest as soon as everything got a’goin’ easy, I FORGOT ALL ABOUT GOD.

“Pretty well don’t need no help; an’ I gin up prayin.’ I lived there two or three years, an’ then the slaves in New York were all set free, an’ ole massa came to our home to make a visit, an’ he asked me ef I didn’t want to go back an’ see the folks on the ole place. An’ I told him I did. So he said, ef I’d jes’ git into the wagon with him, he’d carry me over. Well, jest as I was goin’ out to git into the wagon, I MET GOD! an’ says I, ‘O God, I didn’t know as you was so great!’ An’ I turned right round an’ come into the house, an’ set down in my room; for ‘t was God all around me. I could feel it burnin’, burnin’, burnin’ all around me, an’ goin’ through me; an’ I saw I was so wicked, it seemed as ef it would burn me up. An’ I said, ‘O somebody, somebody, stand between God an’ me! for it burns me!’ Then, honey, when I said so, I felt as it were somethin’ like an amberill [umbrella] that came between me an’ the light, an’ I felt it was SOMEBODY,–somebody that stood between me an’ God; an’ it felt cool, like a shade; an’ says I, ‘Who’s this that stands between me an’ God? Is it old Cato?’ He was a pious old preacher; but then I seemed to see Cato in the light, an’ he was all polluted an’ vile, like me; an’ I said, ‘Is it old Sally?’ an’ then I saw her, an’ she seemed jes’ so. An’ then says I, ‘WHO is this?’ An’ then, honey, for a while it was like the sun shinin’ in a pail o’ water, when it moves up an’ down; for I begun to feel ‘t was somebody that loved me; an’ I tried to know him. An’ I said, ‘I know you! I know you! I know you!’–an’ then I said, ‘I don’t know you! I don’t know you! I don’t know you!’ An’ when I said, ‘I know you, I know you,’ the light came; an’ when I said, ‘I don’t know you, I don’t know you,’ it went, jes’ like the sun in a pail o’ water. An’ finally somethin’ spoke out in me an’ said, ‘THIS IS JESUS!’ An’ I spoke out with all my might, an’ says I, ‘THIS IS JESUS! Glory be to God!’ An’ then the whole world grew bright, an’ the trees they waved an’ waved in glory, an’ every little bit o’ stone on the ground shone like glass; an’ I shouted an’ said, ‘Praise, praise, praise to the Lord!’ An’ I begun to feel such a love in my soul as I never felt before,–love to all creatures. An’ then, all of a sudden, it stopped, an’ I said, ‘Dar’s de white folks, that have abused you an’ beat you an’ abused your people,–think o’ them!’ But then there came another rush of love through my soul, an’ I cried out loud,–‘Lord, Lord, I can love EVEN DE WHITE FOLKS!’
“Honey, I jes’ walked round an’ round in a dream. Jesus loved me! I knowed it,–I felt it. Jesus was my Jesus. Jesus would love me always. I didn’t dare tell nobody; ‘t was a great secret. Everything had been got away from me that I ever had; an’ I thought that ef I let white folks know about this, maybe they’d get HIM away,–so I said, ‘I’ll keep this close. I won’t let any one know.'”

“But, Sojourner, had you never been told about Jesus Christ?”
“No, honey. I hadn’t heerd no preachin’,–been to no meetin’. Nobody hadn’t told me. I’d kind o’ heerd of Jesus, but thought he was like Gineral Lafayette, or some o’ them. But one night there was a Methodist meetin’ somewhere in our parts, an’ I went; an’ they got up an’ begun for to tell der ‘speriences; an’ de fust one begun to speak. I started, ’cause he told about Jesus. ‘Why,’ says I to myself, ‘dat man’s found him, too!’ An’ another got up an’ spoke, an I said, ‘He’s found him, too!’ An’ finally I said, ‘Why, they all know him!’ I was so happy! An’ then they sung this hymn”: (Here Sojourner sang, in a strange, cracked voice, but evidently with all her soul and might, mispronouncing the English, but seeming to derive as much elevation and comfort from bad English as from good):–

‘There is a holy city,
A world of light above,
Above the stairs and regions,* Built by the God of Love.

“An Everlasting temple,
And saints arrayed in white There serve their great Redeemer
And dwell with him in light.
“The meanest child of glory
Outshines the radiant sun;
But who can speak the splendor Of Jesus on his throne?

“Is this the man of sorrows
Who stood at Pilate’s bar,
Condemned by haughty Herod
And by his men of war?

“He seems a mighty conqueror, Who spoiled the powers below,
And ransomed many captives
From everlasting woe.

“The hosts of saints around him Proclaim his work of grace,
The patriarchs and prophets, And all the godly race,

“Who speak of fiery trials
And tortures on their way;
They came from tribulation
To everlasting day.

“And what shall be my journey, How long I’ll stay below,
Or what shall be my trials,
Are not for me to know.

“In every day of trouble
I’ll raise my thoughts on high, I’ll think of that bright temple
And crowns above the sky.”

* Starry regions.

I put in this whole hymn, because Sojourner, carried away with her own feeling, sang it from beginning to end with a triumphant energy that held the whole circle around her intently listening. She sang with the strong barbaric accent of the native African, and with those indescribable upward turns and those deep gutturals which give such a wild, peculiar power to the negro singing,–but above all, with such an overwhelming energy of personal appropriation that the hymn seemed to be fused in the furnace of her feelings and come out recrystallized as a production of her own.

It is said that Rachel was wont to chant the “Marseillaise” in a manner that made her seem, for the time, the very spirit and impersonation of the gaunt, wild, hungry, avenging mob which rose against aristocratic oppression; and in like manner, Sojourner, singing this hymn, seemed to impersonate the fervor of Ethiopia, wild, savage, hunted of all nations, but burning after God in her tropic heart, and stretching her scarred hands towards the glory to be revealed.

“Well, den ye see, after a while, I thought I’d go back an’ see de folks on de ole place. Well, you know, de law had passed dat de culled folks was all free; an’ my old missis, she had a daughter married about dis time who went to live in Alabama,–an’ what did she do but give her my son, a boy about de age of dis yer, for her to take down to Alabama? When I got back to de ole place, they told me about it, an’ I went right up to see ole missis, an’ says I,–

“‘Missis, have you been an’ sent my son away down to Alabama?’
“‘Yes, I have,’ says she; ‘he’s gone to live with your young missis.’

“‘Oh, Missis,’ says I, ‘how could you do it?’
“‘Poh!’ says she, ‘what a fuss you make about a little nigger! Got more of ’em now than you know what to do with.’

“I tell you, I stretched up. I felt as tall as the world!
“‘Missis,’ says I, ‘I’LL HAVE MY SON BACK AGIN!’
“She laughed.

“‘YOU will, you nigger? How you goin’ to do it? You ha’n’t got no money.”

“‘No, Missis,–but GOD has,–an’ you’ll see He’ll help me!’–an’ I turned round an’ went out.

“Oh, but I WAS angry to have her speak to me so haughty an’ so scornful, as ef my chile wasn’t worth anything. I said to God, ‘O Lord, render unto her double!’ It was a dreadful prayer, an’ I didn’t know how true it would come.

“Well, I didn’t rightly know which way to turn; but I went to the Lord, an’ I said to Him, ‘O Lord, ef I was as rich as you be, an’ you was as poor as I be, I’d help you,–you KNOW I would; and, oh, do help me!’ An’ I felt sure then that He would.
“Well, I talked with people, an’ they said I must git the case before a grand jury. So I went into the town when they was holdin’ a court, to see ef I could find any grand jury. An’ I stood round the court-house, an’ when they was a-comin’ out, I walked right up to the grandest-lookin’ one I could see, an’ says I to him,–

“‘Sir, be you a grand jury?’

“An’ then he wanted to know why I asked, an’ I told him all about it; an’ he asked me all sorts of questions, an’ finally he says to me,–

“‘I think, ef you pay me ten dollars, that I’d agree to git your son for you.’ An’ says he, pointin’ to a house over the way, ‘You go ‘long an’ tell your story to the folks in that house, an’ I guess they’ll give you the money.’

“Well, I went, an’ I told them, an’ they gave me twenty dollars; an’ then I thought to myself, ‘Ef ten dollars will git him, twenty dollars will git him SARTIN.’ So I carried it to the man all out, an’ said,–

“‘Take it all,–only be sure an’ git him.’
“Well, finally they got the boy brought back; an’ then they tried to frighten him, an’ to make him say that I wasn’t his mammy, an’ that he didn’t know me; but they couldn’t make it out. They gave him to me, an’ I took him an’ carried him home; an’ when I came to take off his clothes, there was his poor little back all covered with scars an’ hard lumps, where they’d flogged him.
“Well, you see, honey, I told you how I prayed the Lord to render unto her double. Well, it came true; for I was up at ole missis’ house not long after, an’ I heerd ’em readin’ a letter to her how her daughter’s husband had murdered her,–how he’d thrown her down an’ stamped the life out of her, when he was in liquor; an’ my ole missis, she giv a screech, an’ fell flat on the floor. Then says I, ‘O Lord, I didn’t mean all that! You took me up too quick.’
“Well, I went in an’ tended that poor critter all night. She was out of her mind,–a-cryin’, an’ callin’ for her daughter; an’ I held her poor ole head on my arm, an’ watched for her as ef she’d been my babby. An’ I watched by her, an’ took care on her all through her sickness after that, an’ she died in my arms, poor thing!”

“Well, Sojourner, did you always go by this name?”
“No, ‘deed! My name was Isabella; but when I left the house of bondage, I left everything behind. I wa’n’t goin’ to keep nothin’ of Egypt on me, an’ so I went to the Lord an’ asked Him to give me a new name. And the Lord gave me Sojourner, because I was to travel up an’ down the land, showin’ the people their sins, an’ bein’ a sign unto them. Afterwards I told the Lord I wanted another name, ’cause everybody else had two names; and the Lord gave me Truth, because I was to declare the truth to the people.
“Ye see some ladies have given me a white satin banner,” she said, pulling out of her pocket and unfolding a white banner, printed with many texts, such as, “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof,” and others of like nature. “Well,” she said, “I journeys round to camp-meetins, an’ wherever folks is, an’ I sets up my banner, an’ then I sings, an’ then folks always comes up round me, an’ then I preaches to ’em. I tells ’em about Jesus, an’ I tells ’em about the sins of this people. A great many always comes to hear me; an’ they’re right good to me, too, an’ say they want to hear me agin.”
We all thought it likely; and as the company left her, they shook hands with her, and thanked her for her very original sermon; and one of the ministers was overheard to say to another, “There’s more of the gospel in that story than in most sermons.”
Sojourner stayed several days with us, a welcome guest. Her conversation was so strong, simple, shrewd, and with such a droll flavoring of humor, that the Professor was wont to say of an evening, “Come, I am dull, can’t you get Sojourner up here to talk a little?” She would come up into the parlor, and sit among pictures and ornaments, in her simple stuff gown, with her heavy travelling-shoes, the central object of attention both to parents and children, always ready to talk or to sing, and putting into the common flow of conversation the keen edge of some shrewd remark.

“Sojourner, what do you think of Women’s Rights?”
“Well, honey, I’s ben to der meetins, an’ harked a good deal. Dey wanted me for to speak. So I got up. Says I,–‘Sisters, I a’n’t clear what you’d be after. Ef women want any rights more ‘n dey’s got, why don’t dey jes’ TAKE ‘EM, an’ not be talkin’ about it?’ Some on ’em came round me, an’ asked why I didn’t wear Bloomers. An’ I told ’em I had Bloomers enough when I was in bondage. You see,” she said, “dey used to weave what dey called nigger-cloth, an’ each one of us got jes’ sech a strip, an’ had to wear it width-wise. Them that was short got along pretty well, but as for me”–She gave an indescribably droll glance at her long limbs and then at us, and added,–“Tell YOU, I had enough of Bloomers in them days.”

Sojourner then proceeded to give her views of the relative capacity of the sexes, in her own way.

“S’pose a man’s mind holds a quart, an’ a woman’s don’t hold but a pint; ef her pint is FULL, it’s as good as his quart.”
Sojourner was fond of singing an extraordinary lyric, commencing,–

“I’m on my way to Canada,
That cold, but happy land;
The dire effects of Slavery
I can no longer stand.
O righteous Father,
Do look down on me,
And help me on to Canada,
Where colored folks are free!”

The lyric ran on to state, that, when the fugitive crosses the Canada line,

“The Queen comes down unto the shore, With arms extended wide,
To welcome the poor fugitive
Safe onto Freedom’s side.”

In the truth thus set forth she seemed to have the most simple faith.

But her chief delight was to talk of “glory,” and to sing hymns whose burden was,–

“O glory, glory, glory,
Won’t you come along with me?”
and when left to herself, she would often hum these with great delight, nodding her head.

On one occasion, I remember her sitting at a window singing and fervently keeping time with her head, the little black Puck of a grandson meanwhile amusing himself with ornamenting her red-and- yellow turban with green dandelion-curls, which shook and trembled with her emotions, causing him perfect convulsions of delight.
“Sojourner,” said the Professor to her, one day, when he heard her singing, “you seem to be very sure about heaven.”
“Well, I be,” she answered, triumphantly.
“What makes you so sure there is any heaven?”
“Well, ’cause I got such a hankerin’ arter it in here,” she said,– giving a thump on her breast with her usual energy.
There was at the time an invalid in the house, and Sojourner, on learning it, felt a mission to go and comfort her. It was curious to see the tall, gaunt, dusky figure stalk up to the bed with such an air of conscious authority, and take on herself the office of consoler with such a mixture of authority and tenderness. She talked as from above,–and at the same time, if a pillow needed changing or any office to be rendered, she did it with a strength and handiness that inspired trust. One felt as if the dark, strange woman were quite able to take up the invalid in her bosom, and bear her as a lamb, both physically and spiritually. There was both power and sweetness in that great warm soul and that vigorous frame.

At length, Sojourner, true to her name, departed. She had her mission elsewhere. Where now she is I know not; but she left deep memories behind her.

To these recollections of my own I will add one more anecdote, related by Wendell Phillips.

Speaking of the power of Rachel to move and bear down a whole audience by a few simple words, he said he never knew but one other human being that had that power, and that other was Sojourner Truth. He related a scene of which he was witness. It was at a crowded public meeting in Faneuil Hall, where Frederick Douglas was one of the chief speakers. Douglas had been describing the wrongs of the black race, and as he proceeded, he grew more and more excited, and finally ended by saying that they had no hope of justice from the whites, no possible hope except in their own right arms. It must come to blood; they must fight for themselves, and redeem themselves, or it would never be done.
Sojourner was sitting, tall and dark, on the very front seat, facing the platform; and in the hush of deep feeling, after Douglas sat down, she spoke out in her deep, peculiar voice, heard all over the house,–

“Frederick, IS GOD DEAD?”

The effect was perfectly electrical, and thrilled through the whole house, changing as by a flash the whole feeling of the audience. Not another word she said or needed to say; it was enough.

It is with a sad feeling that one contemplates noble minds and bodies, nobly and grandly formed human beings, that have come to us cramped, scarred, maimed, out of the prison-house of bondage. One longs to know what such beings might have become, if suffered to unfold and expand under the kindly developing influences of education.

It is the theory of some writers, that to the African is reserved, in the later and palmier days of the earth, the full and harmonious development of the religious element in man. The African seems to seize on the tropical fervor and luxuriance of Scripture imagery as something native; he appears to feel himself to be of the same blood with those old burning, simple souls, the patriarchs, prophets, and seers, whose impassioned words seem only grafted as foreign plants on the cooler stock of the Occidental mind.

I cannot but think that Sojourner with the same culture might have spoken words as eloquent and undying as those of the African Saint Augustine or Tertullian. How grand and queenly a woman she might have been, with her wonderful physical vigor, her great heaving sea of emotion, her power of spiritual conception, her quick penetration, and her boundless energy! We might conceive an African type of woman so largely made and moulded, so much fuller in all the elements of life, physical and spiritual, that the dark hue of the skin should seem only to add an appropriate charm,–as Milton says of his Penseroso, whom he imagines

“Black, but such as in esteem Prince Memnon’s sister might beseem, Or that starred Ethiop queen that strove To set her beauty’s praise above
The sea-nymph’s.”

But though Sojourner Truth has passed away from among us as a wave of the sea, her memory still lives in one of the loftiest and most original works of modern art, the Libyan Sibyl, by Mr. Story, which attracted so much attention in the late World’s Exhibition. Some years ago, when visiting Rome, I related Sojourner’s history to Mr. Story at a breakfast at his house. Already had his mind begun to turn to Egypt in search of a type of art which should represent a larger and more vigorous development of nature than the cold elegance of Greek lines. His glorious Cleopatra was then in process of evolution, and his mind was working out the problem of her broadly developed nature, of all that slumbering weight and fulness of passion with which this statue seems charged, as a heavy thunder-cloud is charged with electricity.
The history of Sojourner Truth worked in his mind and led him into the deeper recesses of the African nature,–those unexplored depths of being and feeling, mighty and dark as the gigantic depths of tropical forests, mysterious as the hidden rivers and mines of that burning continent whose life-history is yet to be. A few days after, he told me that he had conceived the idea of a statue which he should call the Libyan Sibyl. Two years subsequently, I revisited Rome, and found the gorgeous Cleopatra finished, a thing to marvel at, as the creation of a new style of beauty, a new manner of art. Mr. Story requested me to come and repeat to him the history of Sojourner Truth, saying that the conception had never left him. I did so; and a day or two after, he showed me the clay model of the Libyan Sibyl. I have never seen the marble statue; but am told by those who have, that it was by far the most impressive work of art at the Exhibition.
A notice of the two statues from the London “Athenaeum” must supply a description which I cannot give.

“The Cleopatra and the Sibyl are seated, partly draped, with the characteristic Egyptian gown, that gathers about the torso and falls freely around the limbs; the first is covered to the bosom, the second bare to the hips. Queenly Cleopatra rests back against her chair in meditative ease, leaning her cheek against one hand, whose elbow the rail of the seat sustains; the other is outstretched upon her knee, nipping its forefinger upon the thumb thoughtfully, as though some firm, wilful purpose filled her brain, as it seems to set those luxurious features to a smile as if the whole woman ‘would.’ Upon her head is the coif, bearing in front the mystic uraeus, or twining basilisk of sovereignty, while from its sides depend the wide Egyptian lappels, or wings, that fall upon her shoulders. The Sibilla Libica has crossed her knees,–an action universally held amongst the ancients as indicative of reticence or secrecy, and of power to bind. A secret-keeping looking dame she is, in the full-bloom proportions of ripe womanhood, wherein choosing to place his figure the sculptor has deftly gone between the disputed point whether these women were blooming and wise in youth, or deeply furrowed with age and burdened with the knowledge of centuries, as Virgil, Livy, and Gellius say. Good artistic example might be quoted on both sides. Her forward elbow is propped upon one knee; and to keep her secrets close, for this Libyan woman is the closest of all the Sibyls, she rests her shut mouth upon one closed palm, as if holding the African mystery deep in the brooding brain that looks out through mournful, warning eyes, seen under the wide shade of the strange horned (ammonite) crest, that bears the mystery of the Tetragrammaton upon its upturned front. Over her full bosom, mother of myriads as she was, hangs the same symbol. Her face has a Nubian cast, her hair wavy and plaited, as is meet.”

We hope to see the day when copies both of the Cleopatra and the Libyan Sibyl shall adorn the Capitol at Washington.

by Frederick Douglass

The assembling of the Second Session of the Thirty-ninth Congress may very properly be made the occasion of a few earnest words on the already much-worn topic of reconstruction.

Seldom has any legislative body been the subject of a solicitude more intense, or of aspirations more sincere and ardent. There are the best of reasons for this profound interest. Questions of vast moment, left undecided by the last session of Congress, must be manfully grappled with by this. No political skirmishing will avail. The occasion demands statesmanship.

Whether the tremendous war so heroically fought and so victoriously ended shall pass into history a miserable failure, barren of permanent results,–a scandalous and shocking waste of blood and treasure,–a strife for empire, as Earl Russell characterized it, of no value to liberty or civilization,–an attempt to re-establish a Union by force, which must be the merest mockery of a Union,–an effort to bring under Federal authority States into which no loyal man from the North may safely enter, and to bring men into the national councils who deliberate with daggers and vote with revolvers, and who do not even conceal their deadly hate of the country that conquered them; or whether, on the other hand, we shall, as the rightful reward of victory over treason, have a solid nation, entirely delivered from all contradictions and social antagonisms, based upon loyalty, liberty, and equality, must be determined one way or the other by the present session of Congress. The last session really did nothing which can be considered final as to these questions. The Civil Rights Bill and the Freedmen’s Bureau Bill and the proposed constitutional amendments, with the amendment already adopted and recognized as the law of the land, do not reach the difficulty, and cannot, unless the whole structure of the government is changed from a government by States to something like a despotic central government, with power to control even the municipal regulations of States, and to make them conform to its own despotic will. While there remains such an idea as the right of each State to control its own local affairs,–an idea, by the way, more deeply rooted in the minds of men of all sections of the country than perhaps any one other political idea,–no general assertion of human rights can be of any practical value. To change the character of the government at this point is neither possible nor desirable. All that is necessary to be done is to make the government consistent with itself, and render the rights of the States compatible with the sacred rights of human nature.
The arm of the Federal government is long, but it is far too short to protect the rights of individuals in the interior of distant States. They must have the power to protect themselves, or they will go unprotected, spite of all the laws the Federal government can put upon the national statute-book.
Slavery, like all other great systems of wrong, founded in the depths of human selfishness, and existing for ages, has not neglected its own conservation. It has steadily exerted an influence upon all around it favorable to its own continuance. And to-day it is so strong that it could exist, not only without law, but even against law. Custom, manners, morals, religion, are all on its side everywhere in the South; and when you add the ignorance and servility of the ex-slave to the intelligence and accustomed authority of the master, you have the conditions, not out of which slavery will again grow, but under which it is impossible for the Federal government to wholly destroy it, unless the Federal government be armed with despotic power, to blot out State authority, and to station a Federal officer at every cross- road. This, of course, cannot be done, and ought not even if it could. The true way and the easiest way is to make our government entirely consistent with itself, and give to every loyal citizen the elective franchise,–a right and power which will be ever present, and will form a wall of fire for his protection.
One of the invaluable compensations of the late Rebellion is the highly instructive disclosure it made of the true source of danger to republican government. Whatever may be tolerated in monarchical and despotic governments, no republic is safe that tolerates a privileged class, or denies to any of its citizens equal rights and equal means to maintain them. What was theory before the war has been made fact by the war.
There is cause to be thankful even for rebellion. It is an impressive teacher, though a stern and terrible one. In both characters it has come to us, and it was perhaps needed in both. It is an instructor never a day before its time, for it comes only when all other means of progress and enlightenment have failed. Whether the oppressed and despairing bondman, no longer able to repress his deep yearnings for manhood, or the tyrant, in his pride and impatience, takes the initiative, and strikes the blow for a firmer hold and a longer lease of oppression, the result is the same,–society is instructed, or may be.
Such are the limitations of the common mind, and so thoroughly engrossing are the cares of common life, that only the few among men can discern through the glitter and dazzle of present prosperity the dark outlines of approaching disasters, even though they may have come up to our very gates, and are already within striking distance. The yawning seam and corroded bolt conceal their defects from the mariner until the storm calls all hands to the pumps. Prophets, indeed, were abundant before the war; but who cares for prophets while their predictions remain unfulfilled, and the calamities of which they tell are masked behind a blinding blaze of national prosperity?

It is asked, said Henry Clay, on a memorable occasion, Will slavery never come to an end? That question, said he, was asked fifty years ago, and it has been answered by fifty years of unprecedented prosperity. Spite of the eloquence of the earnest Abolitionists,–poured out against slavery during thirty years,– even they must confess, that, in all the probabilities of the case, that system of barbarism would have continued its horrors far beyond the limits of the nineteenth century but for the Rebellion, and perhaps only have disappeared at last in a fiery conflict, even more fierce and bloody than that which has now been suppressed.

It is no disparagement to truth, that it can only prevail where reason prevails. War begins where reason ends. The thing worse than rebellion is the thing that causes rebellion. What that thing is, we have been taught to our cost. It remains now to be seen whether we have the needed courage to have that cause entirely removed from the Republic. At any rate, to this grand work of national regeneration and entire purification Congress must now address Itself, with full purpose that the work shall this time be thoroughly done. The deadly upas, root and branch, leaf and fibre, body and sap, must be utterly destroyed. The country is evidently not in a condition to listen patiently to pleas for postponement, however plausible, nor will it permit the responsibility to be shifted to other shoulders. Authority and power are here commensurate with the duty imposed. There are no cloud-flung shadows to obscure the way. Truth shines with brighter light and intenser heat at every moment, and a country torn and rent and bleeding implores relief from its distress and agony.

If time was at first needed, Congress has now had time. All the requisite materials from which to form an intelligent judgment are now before it. Whether its members look at the origin, the progress, the termination of the war, or at the mockery of a peace now existing, they will find only one unbroken chain of argument in favor of a radical policy of reconstruction. For the omissions of the last session, some excuses may be allowed. A treacherous President stood in the way; and it can be easily seen how reluctant good men might be to admit an apostasy which involved so much of baseness and ingratitude. It was natural that they should seek to save him by bending to him even when he leaned to the side of error. But all is changed now. Congress knows now that it must go on without his aid, and even against his machinations. The advantage of the present session over the last is immense. Where that investigated, this has the facts. Where that walked by faith, this may walk by sight. Where that halted, this must go forward, and where that failed, this must succeed, giving the country whole measures where that gave us half-measures, merely as a means of saving the elections in a few doubtful districts. That Congress saw what was right, but distrusted the enlightenment of the loyal masses; but what was forborne in distrust of the people must now be done with a full knowledge that the people expect and require it. The members go to Washington fresh from the inspiring presence of the people. In every considerable public meeting, and in almost every conceivable way, whether at court-house, school- house, or cross-roads, in doors and out, the subject has been discussed, and the people have emphatically pronounced in favor of a radical policy. Listening to the doctrines of expediency and compromise with pity, impatience, and disgust, they have everywhere broken into demonstrations of the wildest enthusiasm when a brave word has been spoken in favor of equal rights and impartial suffrage. Radicalism, so far from being odious, is not the popular passport to power. The men most bitterly charged with it go to Congress with the largest majorities, while the timid and doubtful are sent by lean majorities, or else left at home. The strange controversy between the President and the Congress, at one time so threatening, is disposed of by the people. The high reconstructive powers which he so confidently, ostentatiously, and haughtily claimed, have been disallowed, denounced, and utterly repudiated; while those claimed by Congress have been confirmed.
Of the spirit and magnitude of the canvass nothing need be said. The appeal was to the people, and the verdict was worthy of the tribunal. Upon an occasion of his own selection, with the advice and approval of his astute Secretary, soon after the members of the Congress had returned to their constituents, the President quitted the executive mansion, sandwiched himself between two recognized heroes,–men whom the whole country delighted to honor,–and, with all the advantage which such company could give him, stumped the country from the Atlantic to the Mississippi, advocating everywhere his policy as against that of Congress. It was a strange sight, and perhaps the most disgraceful exhibition ever made by any President; but, as no evil is entirely unmixed, good has come of this, as from many others. Ambitious, unscrupulous, energetic, indefatigable, voluble, and plausible,–a political gladiator, ready for a “set-to” in any crowd,–he is beaten in his own chosen field, and stands to-day before the country as a convicted usurper, a political criminal, guilty of a bold and persistent attempt to possess himself of the legislative powers solemnly secured to Congress by the Constitution. No vindication could be more complete, no condemnation could be more absolute and humiliating. Unless reopened by the sword, as recklessly threatened in some circles, this question is now closed for all time.

Without attempting to settle here the metaphysical and somewhat theological question (about which so much has already been said and written), whether once in the Union means always in the Union,–agreeably to the formula, Once in grace always in grace,– it is obvious to common sense that the rebellious States stand to- day, in point of law, precisely where they stood when, exhausted, beaten, conquered, they fell powerless at the feet of Federal authority. Their State governments were overthrown, and the lives and property of the leaders of the Rebellion were forfeited. In reconstructing the institutions of these shattered and overthrown States, Congress should begin with a clean slate, and make clean work of it. Let there be no hesitation. It would be a cowardly deference to a defeated and treacherous President, if any account were made of the illegitimate, one-sided, sham governments hurried into existence for a malign purpose in the absence of Congress. These pretended governments, which were never submitted to the people, and from participation in which four millions of the loyal people were excluded by Presidential order, should now be treated according to their true character, as shams and impositions, and supplanted by true and legitimate governments, in the formation of which loyal men, black and white, shall participate.
It is not, however, within the scope of this paper to point out the precise steps to be taken, and the means to be employed. The people are less concerned about these than the grand end to be attained. They demand such a reconstruction as shall put an end to the present anarchical state of things in the late rebellious States,–where frightful murders and wholesale massacres are perpetrated in the very presence of Federal soldiers. This horrible business they require shall cease. They want a reconstruction such as will protect loyal men, black and white, in their persons and property; such a one as will cause Northern industry, Northern capital, and Northern civilization to flow into the South, and make a man from New England as much at home in Carolina as elsewhere in the Republic. No Chinese wall can now be tolerated. The South must be opened to the light of law and liberty, and this session of Congress is relied upon to accomplish this important work.

The plain, common-sense way of doing this work, as intimated at the beginning, is simply to establish in the South one law, one government, one administration of justice, one condition to the exercise of the elective franchise, for men of all races and colors alike. This great measure is sought as earnestly by loyal white men as by loyal blacks, and is needed alike by both. Let sound political prescience but take the place of an unreasoning prejudice, and this will be done.

Men denounce the negro for his prominence in this discussion; but it is no fault of his that in peace as in war, that in conquering Rebel armies as in reconstructing the rebellious States, the right of the negro is the true solution of our national troubles. The stern logic of events, which goes directly to the point, disdaining all concern for the color or features of men, has determined the interests of the country as identical with and inseparable from those of the negro.

The policy that emancipated and armed the negro–now seen to have been wise and proper by the dullest–was not certainly more sternly demanded than is now the policy of enfranchisement. If with the negro was success in war, and without him failure, so in peace it will be found that the nation must fall or flourish with the negro.

Fortunately, the Constitution of the United States knows no distinction between citizens on account of color. Neither does it know any difference between a citizen of a State and a citizen of the United States. Citizenship evidently includes all the rights of citizens, whether State or national. If the Constitution knows none, it is clearly no part of the duty of a Republican Congress now to institute one. The mistake of the last session was the attempt to do this very thing, by a renunciation of its power to secure political rights to any class of citizens, with the obvious purpose to allow the rebellious States to disfranchise, if they should see fit, their colored citizens. This unfortunate blunder must now be retrieved, and the emasculated citizenship given to the negro supplanted by that contemplated in the Constitution of the United States, which declares that the citizens of each State shall enjoy all the rights and immunities of citizens of the several States,–so that a legal voter in any State shall be a legal voter in all the States.


A very limited statement of the argument for impartial suffrage, and for including the negro in the body politic, would require more space than can be reasonably asked here. It is supported by reasons as broad as the nature of man, and as numerous as the wants of society. Man is the only government-making animal in the world. His right to a participation in the production and operation of government is an inference from his nature, as direct and self-evident as is his right to acquire property or education. It is no less a crime against the manhood of a man, to declare that he shall not share in the making and directing of the government under which he lives, than to say that he shall not acquire property and education. The fundamental and unanswerable argument in favor of the enfranchisement of the negro is found in the undisputed fact of his manhood. He is a man, and by every fact and argument by which any man can sustain his right to vote, the negro can sustain his right equally. It is plain that, if the right belongs to any, it belongs to all. The doctrine that some men have no rights that others are bound to respect, is a doctrine which we must banish as we have banished slavery, from which it emanated. If black men have no rights in the eyes of white men, of course the whites can have none in the eyes of the blacks. The result is a war of races, and the annihilation of all proper human relations.

But suffrage for the negro, while easily sustained upon abstract principles, demands consideration upon what are recognized as the urgent necessities of the case. It is a measure of relief,–a shield to break the force of a blow already descending with violence, and render it harmless. The work of destruction has already been set in motion all over the South. Peace to the country has literally meant war to the loyal men of the South, white and black; and negro suffrage is the measure to arrest and put an end to that dreadful strife.

Something then, not by way of argument, (for that has been done by Charles Sumner, Thaddeus Stevens, Wendell Phillips, Gerrit Smith, and other able men,) but rather of statement and appeal.
For better or for worse, (as in some of the old marriage ceremonies,) the negroes are evidently a permanent part of the American population. They are too numerous and useful to be colonized, and too enduring and self-perpetuating to disappear by natural causes. Here they are, four millions of them, and, for weal or for woe, here they must remain. Their history is parallel to that of the country; but while the history of the latter has been cheerful and bright with blessings, theirs has been heavy and dark with agonies and curses. What O’Connell said of the history of Ireland may with greater truth be said of the negro’s. It may be “traced like a wounded man through a crowd, by the blood.” Yet the negroes have marvellously survived all the exterminating forces of slavery, and have emerged at the end of two hundred and fifty years of bondage, not morose, misanthropic, and revengeful, but cheerful, hopeful, and forgiving. They now stand before Congress and the country, not complaining of the past, but simply asking for a better future. The spectacle of these dusky millions thus imploring, not demanding, is touching; and if American statesmen could be moved by a simple appeal to the nobler elements of human nature, if they had not fallen, seemingly, into the incurable habit of weighing and measuring every proposition of reform by some standard of profit and loss, doing wrong from choice, and right only from necessity or some urgent demand of human selfishness, it would be enough to plead for the negroes on the score of past services and sufferings. But no such appeal shall be relied on here. Hardships, services, sufferings, and sacrifices are all waived. It is true that they came to the relief of the country at the hour of its extremest need. It is true that, in many of the rebellious States, they were almost the only reliable friends the nation had throughout the whole tremendous war. It is true that, notwithstanding their alleged ignorance, they were wiser than their masters, and knew enough to be loyal, while those masters only knew enough to be rebels and traitors. It is true that they fought side by side in the loyal cause with our gallant and patriotic white soldiers, and that, but for their help,–divided as the loyal States were,–the Rebels might have succeeded in breaking up the Union, thereby entailing border wars and troubles of unknown duration and incalculable calamity. All this and more is true of these loyal negroes. Many daring exploits will be told to their credit. Impartial history will paint them as men who deserved well of their country. It will tell how they forded and swam rivers, with what consummate address they evaded the sharp-eyed Rebel pickets, how they toiled in the darkness of night through the tangled marshes of briers and thorns, barefooted and weary, running the risk of losing their lives, to warn our generals of Rebel schemes to surprise and destroy our loyal army. It will tell how these poor people, whose rights we still despised, behaved to our wounded soldiers, when found cold, hungry, and bleeding on the deserted battle-field; how they assisted our escaping prisoners from Andersonville, Belle Isle, Castle Thunder, and elsewhere, sharing with them their wretched crusts, and otherwise affording them aid and comfort; how they promptly responded to the trumpet call for their services, fighting against a foe that denied them the rights of civilized warfare, and for a government which was without the courage to assert those rights and avenge their violation in their behalf; with what gallantry they flung themselves upon Rebel fortifications, meeting death as fearlessly as any other troops in the service. But upon none of these things is reliance placed. These facts speak to the better dispositions of the human heart; but they seem of little weight with the opponents of impartial suffrage.

It is true that a strong plea for equal suffrage might be addressed to the national sense of honor. Something, too, might be said of national gratitude. A nation might well hesitate before the temptation to betray its allies. There is something immeasurably mean, to say nothing of the cruelty, in placing the loyal negroes of the South under the political power of their Rebel masters. To make peace with our enemies is all well enough; but to prefer our enemies and sacrifice our friends,–to exalt our enemies and cast down our friends,–to clothe our enemies, who sought the destruction of the government, with all political power, and leave our friends powerless in their hands,–is an act which need not be characterized here. We asked the negroes to espouse our cause, to be our friends, to fight for us, and against their masters; and now, after they have done all that we asked them to do,–helped us to conquer their masters, and thereby directed toward themselves the furious hate of the vanquished,–it is proposed in some quarters to turn them over to the political control of the common enemy of the government and of the negro. But of this let nothing be said in this place. Waiving humanity, national honor, the claims of gratitude, the precious satisfaction arising from deeds of charity and justice to the weak and defenceless,–the appeal for impartial suffrage addresses itself with great pertinency to the darkest, coldest, and flintiest side of the human heart, and would wring righteousness from the unfeeling calculations of human selfishness.
For in respect to this grand measure it is the good fortune of the negro that enlightened selfishness, not less than justice, fights on his side. National interest and national duty, if elsewhere separated, are firmly united here. The American people can, perhaps, afford to brave the censure of surrounding nations for the manifest injustice and meanness of excluding its faithful black soldiers from the ballot-box, but it cannot afford to allow the moral and mental energies of rapidly increasing millions to be consigned to hopeless degradation.

Strong as we are, we need the energy that slumbers in the black man’s arm to make us stronger. We want no longer any heavy- footed, melancholy service from the negro. We want the cheerful activity of the quickened manhood of these sable millions. Nor can we afford to endure the moral blight which the existence of a degraded and hated class must necessarily inflict upon any people among whom such a class may exist. Exclude the negroes as a class from political rights,–teach them that the high and manly privilege of suffrage is to be enjoyed by white citizens only,– that they may bear the burdens of the state, but that they are to have no part in its direction or its honors,–and you at once deprive them of one of the main incentives to manly character and patriotic devotion to the interests of the government; in a word, you stamp them as a degraded caste,–you teach them to despise themselves, and all others to despise them. Men are so constituted that they largely derive their ideas of their abilities and their possibilities from the settled judgments of their fellow-men, and especially from such as they read in the institutions under which they live. If these bless them, they are blest indeed; but if these blast them, they are blasted indeed. Give the negro the elective franchise, and you give him at once a powerful motive for all noble exertion, and make him a man among men. A character is demanded of him, and here as elsewhere demand favors supply. It is nothing against this reasoning that all men who vote are not good men or good citizens. It is enough that the possession and exercise of the elective franchise is in itself an appeal to the nobler elements of manhood, and imposes education as essential to the safety of society.

To appreciate the full force of this argument, it must be observed, that disfranchisement in a republican government based upon the idea of human equality and universal suffrage, is a very different thing from disfranchisement in governments based upon the idea of the divine right of kings, or the entire subjugation of the masses. Masses of men can take care of themselves. Besides, the disabilities imposed upon all are necessarily without that bitter and stinging element of invidiousness which attaches to disfranchisement in a republic. What is common to all works no special sense of degradation to any. But in a country like ours, where men of all nations, kindred, and tongues are freely enfranchised, and allowed to vote, to say to the negro, You shall not vote, is to deal his manhood a staggering blow, and to burn into his soul a bitter and goading sense of wrong, or else work in him a stupid indifference to all the elements of a manly character. As a nation, we cannot afford to have amongst us either this indifference and stupidity, or that burning sense of wrong. These sable millions are too powerful to be allowed to remain either indifferent or discontented. Enfranchise them, and they become self-respecting and country-loving citizens. Disfranchise them, and the mark of Cain is set upon them less mercifully than upon the first murderer, for no man was to hurt him. But this mark of inferiority–all the more palpable because of a difference of color–not only dooms the negro to be a vagabond, but makes him the prey of insult and outrage everywhere. While nothing may be urged here as to the past services of the negro, it is quite within the line of this appeal to remind the nation of the possibility that a time may come when the services of the negro may be a second time required. History is said to repeat itself, and, if so, having wanted the negro once, we may want him again. Can that statesmanship be wise which would leave the negro good ground to hesitate, when the exigencies of the country required his prompt assistance? Can that be sound statesmanship which leaves millions of men in gloomy discontent, and possibly in a state of alienation in the day of national trouble? Was not the nation stronger when two hundred thousand sable soldiers were hurled against the Rebel fortifications, than it would have been without them? Arming the negro was an urgent military necessity three years ago,–are we sure that another quite as pressing may not await us? Casting aside all thought of justice and magnanimity, is it wise to impose upon the negro all the burdens involved in sustaining government against foes within and foes without, to make him equal sharer in all sacrifices for the public good, to tax him in peace and conscript him in war, and then coldly exclude him from the ballot-box?
Look across the sea. Is Ireland, in her present condition, fretful, discontented, compelled to support an establishment in which she does not believe, and which the vast majority of her people abhor, a source of power or of weakness to Great Britain? Is not Austria wise in removing all ground of complaint against her on the part of Hungary? And does not the Emperor of Russia act wisely, as well as generously, when he not only breaks up the bondage of the serf, but extends him all the advantages of Russian citizenship? Is the present movement in England in favor of manhood suffrage–for the purpose of bringing four millions of British subjects into full sympathy and co-operation with the British government–a wise and humane movement, or otherwise? Is the existence of a rebellious element in our borders–which New Orleans, Memphis, and Texas show to be only disarmed, but at heart as malignant as ever, only waiting for an opportunity to reassert itself with fire and sword–a reason for leaving four millions of the nation’s truest friends with just cause of complaint against the Federal government? If the doctrine that taxation should go hand in hand with representation can be appealed to in behalf of recent traitors and rebels, may it not properly be asserted in behalf of a people who have ever been loyal and faithful to the government? The answers to these questions are too obvious to require statement. Disguise it as we may, we are still a divided nation. The Rebel States have still an anti-national policy. Massachusetts and South Carolina may draw tears from the eyes of our tender-hearted President by walking arm in arm into his Philadelphia Convention, but a citizen of Massachusetts is still an alien in the Palmetto State. There is that, all over the South, which frightens Yankee industry, capital, and skill from its borders. We have crushed the Rebellion, but not its hopes or its malign purposes. The South fought for perfect and permanent control over the Southern laborer. It was a war of the rich against the poor. They who waged it had no objection to the government, while they could use it as a means of confirming their power over the laborer. They fought the government, not because they hated the government as such, but because they found it, as they thought, in the way between them and their one grand purpose of rendering permanent and indestructible their authority and power over the Southern laborer. Though the battle is for the present lost, the hope of gaining this object still exists, and pervades the whole South with a feverish excitement. We have thus far only gained a Union without unity, marriage without love, victory without peace. The hope of gaining by politics what they lost by the sword, is the secret of all this Southern unrest; and that hope must be extinguished before national ideas and objects can take full possession of the Southern mind. There is but one safe and constitutional way to banish that mischievous hope from the South, and that is by lifting the laborer beyond the unfriendly political designs of his former master. Give the negro the elective franchise, and you at once destroy the purely sectional policy, and wheel the Southern States into line with national interests and national objects. The last and shrewdest turn of Southern politics is a recognition of the necessity of getting into Congress immediately, and at any price. The South will comply with any conditions but suffrage for the negro. It will swallow all the unconstitutional test oaths, repeal all the ordinances of Secession, repudiate the Rebel debt, promise to pay the debt incurred in conquering its people, pass all the constitutional amendments, if only it can have the negro left under its political control. The proposition is as modest as that made on the mountain: “All these things will I give unto thee if thou wilt fall down and worship me.”

But why are the Southerners so willing to make these sacrifices? The answer plainly is, they see in this policy the only hope of saving something of their old sectional peculiarities and power. Once firmly seated in Congress, their alliance with Northern Democrats re-established, their States restored to their former position inside the Union, they can easily find means of keeping the Federal government entirely too busy with other important matters to pay much attention to the local affairs of the Southern States. Under the potent shield of State Rights, the game would be in their own hands. Does any sane man doubt for a moment that the men who followed Jefferson Davis through the late terrible Rebellion, often marching barefooted and hungry, naked and penniless, and who now only profess an enforced loyalty, would plunge this country into a foreign war to-day, if they could thereby gain their coveted independence, and their still more coveted mastery over the negroes? Plainly enough, the peace not less than the prosperity of this country is involved in the great measure of impartial suffrage. King Cotton is deposed, but only deposed, and is ready to-day to reassert all his ancient pretensions upon the first favorable opportunity. Foreign countries abound with his agents. They are able, vigilant, devoted. The young men of the South burn with the desire to regain what they call the lost cause; the women are noisily malignant towards the Federal government. In fact, all the elements of treason and rebellion are there under the thinnest disguise which necessity can impose.

What, then, is the work before Congress? It is to save the people of the South from themselves, and the nation from detriment on their account. Congress must supplant the evident sectional tendencies of the South by national dispositions and tendencies. It must cause national ideas and objects to take the lead and control the politics of those States. It must cease to recognize the old slave-masters as the only competent persons to rule the South. In a word, it must enfranchise the negro, and by means of the loyal negroes and the loyal white men of the South build up a national party there, and in time bridge the chasm between North and South, so that our country may have a common liberty and a common civilization. The new wine must be put into new bottles. The lamb may not be trusted with the wolf. Loyalty is hardly safe with traitors.

Statesmen of America! beware what you do. The ploughshare of rebellion has gone through the land beam-deep. The soil is in readiness, and the seed-time has come. Nations, not less than individuals, reap as they sow. The dreadful calamities of the past few years came not by accident, nor unbidden, from the ground. You shudder to-day at the harvest of blood sown in the spring-time of the Republic by your patriot fathers. The principle of slavery, which they tolerated under the erroneous impression that it would soon die out, became at last the dominant principle and power at the South. It early mastered the Constitution, became superior to the Union, and enthroned itself above the law.

Freedom of speech and of the press it slowly but successfully banished from the South, dictated its own code of honor and manners to the nation, brandished the bludgeon and the bowie-knife over Congressional debate, sapped the foundations of loyalty, dried up the springs of patriotism, blotted out the testimonies of the fathers against oppression, padlocked the pulpit, expelled liberty from its literature, invented nonsensical theories about master-races and slave-races of men, and in due season produced a Rebellion fierce, foul, and bloody.

This evil principle again seeks admission into our body politic. It comes now in shape of a denial of political rights to four million loyal colored people. The South does not now ask for slavery. It only asks for a large degraded caste, which shall have no political rights. This ends the case. Statesmen, beware what you do. The destiny of unborn and unnumbered generations is in your hands. Will you repeat the mistake of your fathers, who sinned ignorantly? or will you profit by the blood-bought wisdom all round you, and forever expel every vestige of the old abomination from our national borders? As you members of the Thirty-ninth Congress decide, will the country be peaceful, united, and happy, or troubled, divided, and miserable.

by James B. Runnion

A recent sojourn in the South for a few weeks, chiefly in Louisiana and Mississippi, gave the writer an opportunity to inquire into what has been so aptly called “the negro exodus.” The emigration of blacks to Kansas began early in the spring of this year. For a time there was a stampede from two or three of the river parishes in Louisiana and as many counties opposite in Mississippi. Several thousand negroes (certainly not fewer than five thousand, and variously estimated as high as ten thousand) had left their cabins before the rush could be stayed or the excitement lulled. Early in May most of the negroes who had quit work for the purpose of emigrating, but had not succeeded in getting off, were persuaded to return to the plantations, and from that time on there have been only straggling families and groups that have watched for and seized the first opportunity for transportation to the North. There is no doubt, however, that there is still a consuming desire among the negroes of the cotton districts in these two States to seek new homes, and there are the best reasons for believing that the exodus will take a new start next spring, after the gathering and conversion of the growing crop. Hundreds of negroes who returned from the river-banks for lack of transportation, and thousands of others infected with the ruling discontent, are working harder in the fields this summer, and practicing more economy and self-denial than ever before, in order to have the means next winter and spring to pay their way to the “promised land.”

“We’ve been working for fourteen long years,” said an intelligent negro, in reply to a question as to the cause of the prevailing discontent, “and we ain’t no better off than we was when we commenced.” This is the negro version of the trouble, which is elaborated on occasion into a harrowing story of oppression and plunder.

“I tell you it’s all owing to the radical politicians at the North,” explained a representative of the type known as the Bourbons; “they’ve had their emissaries down here, and deluded the ‘niggers’ into a very fever of emigration, with the purpose of reducing our basis of representation in Congress and increasing that of the Northern States.”

These are the two extremes of opinion at the South. The first is certainly the more reasonable and truthful, though it implies that all the blame rests upon the whites, which is not the case; the second, preposterous as it will appear to Northern readers, is religiously believed by large numbers of the “unreconciled.” Between these two extremes there is an infinite variety of theories, all more or less governed by the political faction to which the various theorizers belong; there are at least a dozen of these factions, such as the Bourbons, the conservatives, the native white republicans, the carpet-bag republicans, the negro republicans, etc. There is a political tinge in almost everything in the extreme Southern States. The fact seems to be that the emigration movement among the blacks was spontaneous to the extent that they were ready and anxious to go. The immediate notion of going may have been inculcated by such circulars, issued by railroads and land companies, as are common enough at emigrant centres in the North and West, and the exaggeration characteristic of such literature may have stimulated the imagination of the negroes far beyond anything they are likely to realize in their new homes. Kansas was naturally the favorite goal of the negro emigre, for it was associated in his mind with the names of Jim Lane and John Brown, which are hallowed to him. The timid learned that they could escape what they have come to regard as a second bondage, and they flocked together to gain the moral support which comes from numbers.

Diligent inquiry among representative men, of all classes and from all parts of Louisiana, who were in attendance at the constitutional convention in New Orleans, and careful observation along the river among the land owners and field hands in both Louisiana and Mississippi, left a vivid impression of some material and political conditions which fully account for the negro exodus. I have dropped the social conditions out of the consideration, because I became convinced that the race troubles at the South can be solved to the satisfaction of both whites and blacks without cultivating any closer social relations than those which now prevail. The material conditions which I have in mind are less familiar than the political conditions; they are mainly the land-tenure and credit systems, and mere modifications (scarcely for the better) of the peculiar plantation system of slavery days.

The cotton lands at the South are owned now, as they were before the war, in large tracts. The land was about all that most of the Southern whites had left to them after the war, and they kept it when they could, at the first, in the hope that it would yield them a living through the labor of the blacks; of late years they have not been able to sell their plantations at any fair price, if they desired to do so. The white men with capital who went to the South from the North after the war seemed to acquire the true Southern ambition to be large land owners and planters; and when the ante-bellum owners lost their plantations the land usually went in bulk to the city factors who had made them advances from year to year, and had taken mortgages on their crops and broad acres. As a consequence, the land has never been distributed among the people who inhabit and cultivate it, and agricultural labor in the Southern States approaches the condition of the factory labor in England and the Eastern States more nearly than it does the farm labor of the North and West. Nearly every agricultural laborer north of Mason and Dixon’s line, if not the actual possessor of the land he plows, looks forward to owning a farm some time; at the South such an ambition is rare, and small ownership still more an exception. The practice of paying day wages was first tried after the war; this practice is still in vogue in the sugar and rice districts, where laborers are paid from fifty to seventy cents per day, with quarters furnished and living guaranteed them at nine or ten cents a day. In sections where the wages system prevails, and where there have been no political disturbances, the negroes seem to be perfectly contented; at all events, the emigration fever has not spread among them. But it was found impracticable to maintain the wage system in the cotton districts. The negroes themselves fought against it, because it reminded them too much of the slave-gang, driven out at daybreak and home at sundown. In many cases the planters were forced to abandon it, because they had not the means to carry on such huge farming, and they could not secure the same liberal advances from capitalists as when they were able to mortgage a growing “crop of niggers.” Then the system of working on shares was tried. This was reasonably fair, and the negro laborers were satisfied as long as it lasted. The owners of the land, under this system, would furnish the indispensable mule and the farming implements, and take one half the product. The planters themselves relinquished this system. Some of them contend that the laziness and indifference of the negro made the partnership undesirable; many others admit that they were not able to advance the negro tenant his supplies pending the growth of the year’s crop, as it was necessary they should do under the sharing system. Now the renting system is almost universal. It yields the land owner a certainty, endangered only by the death, sickness, or desertion of the negro tenant; but it throws the latter upon his own responsibility, and frequently makes him the victim of his own ignorance and the rapacity of the white man. The rent of land, on a money basis, varies from six to ten dollars an acre per year, while the same land can be bought in large quantities all the way from fifteen to thirty dollars per acre, according to location, clearing, improvement, richness, etc. When paid in product, the rent varies from eighty to one hundred pounds of lint cotton per acre for land that produces from two hundred to four hundred pounds of cotton per acre; the tenant undertakes to pay from one quarter to one half–perhaps an average of one third– of his crop for the use of the land, without stock, tools, or assistance of any kind. The land owners usually claim that they make no money even at these exorbitant figures. If they do not, it is because only a portion of their vast possessions is under cultivation, because they do no work themselves, and in some cases because the negroes do not cultivate and gather as large a crop as they could and ought to harvest. It is very certain that the negro tenants, as a class, make no money; if they are out of debt at the end of a season, they have reason to rejoice.
The credit system, which is as universal as the renting system, is even more illogical and oppressive. The utter viciousness of both systems in their mutual dependence is sufficiently illustrated by the single fact that, after fourteen years of freedom and labor on their own account, the great mass of the negroes depend for their living on an advance of supplies (as they need food, clothing, or tools during the year) upon the pledge of their growing crop. This is a generic imitation of the white man’s improvidence during the slavery times; then the planters mortgaged their crops and negroes, and where one used the advances to extend his plantation, ten squandered the money. The negro’s necessities have developed an offensive race, called merchants by courtesy, who keep supply stores at the cross-roads and steamboat landings, and live upon extortion. These people would be called sharks, harpies, and vampires in any Northwestern agricultural community, and they would not survive more than one season. The country merchant advances the negro tenant such supplies as the negro wants up to a certain amount, previously fixed by contract, and charges the negro at least double the value of every article sold to him. There is no concealment about the extortion; every store-keeper has his cash price and his credit price, and in nearly all cases the latter is one hundred per cent. higher than the former. The extortion is justified by those who practice it on the ground that their losses by bad debts, though their advances are always secured by mortgage on the growing crop, overbalance the profits; this assertion is scarcely borne out by the comparative opulence of the “merchant” and the pitiful poverty of the laborer. Some of the largest and wealthiest planters have sought to protect their tenants from the merciless clutches of the contrary merchant, who is more frequently than not an Israelite, by advancing supplies of necessary articles at reasonable prices. But the necessities of the planter, if not his greed, often betray him into plundering the negro. The planter himself is generally a victim to usury. He still draws on the city factor to the extent of ten dollars a bale upon his estimated crop. He pays this factor two and one half per cent. commission for the advance, eight per cent. interest for the money, two and one half per cent. more for disposing of the crop when consigned to him, and sometimes still another commission for the purchase of the supplies. The planter who furnishes his tenants with supplies on credit is usually paying an interest of fifteen to eighteen per cent. himself, and necessarily takes some risk in advancing upon an uncertain crop and to a laborer whom he believes to be neither scrupulous nor industrious; these conditions necessitate more than the ordinary profit, and in many cases suggest exorbitant and unreasonable charges. But whether the negro deals with the merchant or the land owner, his extravagance almost invariably exhausts his credit, even if it be large. The negro is a sensuous creature, and luxurious in his way. The male is an enormous consumer of tobacco and whisky; the female has an inordinate love for flummery; both are fond of sardines, potted meats, and canned goods generally, and they indulge themselves without any other restraint than the refusal of their merchant to sell to them. The man who advances supplies watches his negro customers constantly; if they are working well and their crop promises to be large, he will permit and even encourage them to draw upon him liberally; it is only a partial failure of the crop, or some intimation of the negro’s intention to shirk his obligations, that induces his country factor to preach the virtue of self-restraint, or moralize upon the advantages of economy.

The land owner’s rent and the merchant’s advances are both secured by a chattel mortgage on the tenant’s personal property, and by a pledge of the growing crop. The hired laborer (for it is common for negroes to work for wages for other negroes who rent lands) has also a lien upon the growing crops second only to the land owner’s; but as the law requires that the liens shall be recorded, which the ignorant laborer usually neglects and the shrewd merchant never fails to do, the former is generally cheated of his security. Among those who usually work for hire are the women, who are expert cotton pickers, and the loss of wages which so many of them have suffered by reason of the prior lien gained by landlord and merchant has helped to make them earnest and effective advocates of emigration. The Western farmer considers it hard enough to struggle under one mortgage at a reasonable interest; the negro tenant begins his season with three mortgages, covering all he owns, his labor for the coming year, and all he expects to acquire during that period. He pays one third his product for the use of the land; he pays double the value of all he consumes; he pays an exorbitant fee for recording the contract by which he pledges his pound of flesh; he is charged two or three times as much as he ought to pay for ginning his cotton; and, finally, he turns over his crop to be eaten up in commissions, if anything still be left to him. It is easy to understand why the negro rarely gets ahead in the world. This mortgaging of future services, which is practically what a pledge of the growing crop amounts to, is in the nature of bondage. It has a tendency to make the negro extravagant, reckless, and unscrupulous; he has become convinced from previous experience that nothing will be coming to him on the day of settlement, and he is frequently actuated by the purpose of getting as much as possible and working as little as possible. Cases are numerous in which the negro abandons his own crop at picking time, because he knows that he has already eaten up its full value; and so he goes to picking for wages on some other plantation. In other cases, where negroes have acquired mules and farming implements upon which a merchant has secured a mortgage in the manner described, they are practically bound to that merchant from year to year, in order to retain their property; if he removes from one section to another, they must follow him, and rent and cultivate lands in his neighborhood. It is only the ignorance, the improvidence, and the happy disposition of the negro, under the influence of the lazy, drowsy climate, to which he is so well adapted physically, that have enabled him to endure these hardships so long. And, though the negro is the loser, the white man is not often the gainer, from this false plantation and mercantile system. The incidental risk may not be so large as the planter and merchant pretend, but the condition of the people is an evidence that the extortion they practice yields no better profit in the long run than would be gained by competition in fair prices on a cash system; and in leading up to a general emigration of the laboring population the abuses described will eventually ruin and impoverish those who have heretofore been the only beneficiaries thereof. The decay of improvements inevitable under annual rentings, the lack of sufficient labor to cultivate all the good land, and the universal idleness of the rural whites have kept the land owners comparatively poor; the partial failure of crops and the unscrupulousness of the negro debtor, engendered by the infamous exactions of his creditor, have prevented the merchants, as a class, from prospering as much as might be supposed; and, finally, the uniform injustice to the laborers induces them to fly to ills they know not of, rather than bear those they have. It is a blessing to the negro that the laws do not yet provide for a detention of the person in the case of debt, or escape would be shut off entirely; as it is, various influences and circumstances appertaining to the system in vogue have been used to prevent the easy flight of those who desire to go, and have detained thousands of blacks for a time who are fretting to quit the country.
Political oppression has contributed largely to the discontent which is the prime cause of the exodus. “Bulldozing” is the term by which all forms of this oppression are known. The native whites are generally indisposed to confess that the negroes are quitting the country on account of political injustice and persecution; even those who freely admit and fitly characterize the abuses already described seek to deny, or at least belittle, the political abuses. The fact that a large number of negroes have emigrated from Madison Parish, Louisiana, where there has never been any bulldozing, and where the negroes are in full and undisputed political control, is cited as proof that political disturbances cut no figure in the case. But the town of Delta, in Madison Parish, is at once on the river and the terminus of a railroad that runs back through the interior of the State; thus Madison Parish would furnish the natural exit for the fugitives from the adjoining counties, where there have been political disturbances. It would be just as reasonable to contend that the plundering of the negroes has had no influence in driving them away, since many of those who have emigrated were among the most prosperous of the blacks, as to deny the agency of political persecution. Families that had been able to accumulate a certain amount of personal property, in spite of the extortionate practices, sold their mules, their implements, their cows, their pigs, their sheep, and their household goods for anything they would bring,–frequently as low as one sixth of their value,–in order that they might improve an immediate opportunity to go away; it is evident that there must have been some cause outside of extortion in their case. There are candid native whites who do not deny, but justify, the violent methods which have been employed to disfranchise the negroes, or compel them to vote under white dictation, in many parts of Louisiana and Mississippi, on the ground that the men who pay the taxes should vote them and control the disbursement of the public moneys. The gentlemen who advance this argument seem to ignore the fact that the very Northerner whom they are seeking to convert to “the Mississippi plan” may himself be a taxpayer in some Northern city, where public affairs are controlled by a class of voters in every way as ignorant and irresponsible as the blacks, but where bulldozing has never yet been suggested as a remedy. For the rest, the evidences of political oppression are abundant and convincing. The bulldozers as a class are more impecunious and irresponsible than the negroes, and, unlike the negroes, they will not work. There has been more of the “night-riding,” the whippings, the mysterious disappearances, the hangings, and the terrorism comprehended in the term bulldozing than has been reported by those “abstracts and brief chronicles of the time,” the Southern newspapers, which are now all of one party, and defer to the ruling sentiment among the whites. The exodus has wrung from two or three of the more candid and independent journals, however, a virtual confession of the fiendish practices of bulldozing in their insistance that these practices must be abandoned. The non-resident land owners and the resident planters, the city factors and the country merchants of means and respectability, have taken no personal part in the terrorizing of the negro, but they have tolerated it, and sometimes encouraged it, in order to gratify their preference for “white government.” The negroes have suffered the more because they have not resisted and defended themselves; now they have begun to convince those who have persecuted them that, if they will not strike back, they can and will run away. No one who is at all familiar with the freedman can doubt that the abridgment of his political rights has been one of the main causes of the exodus. Voting is widely regarded at the North as a disagreeable duty, but the negro looks upon it as the highest privilege in life; to be frightened out of the exercise of this privilege, or compelled to exercise it in conflict with his convictions and preferences, is to suffer from a cruel injustice, which the negro will now try to escape, since he has learned that escape is possible. The women, though free from personal assaults, suffer from the terrorism that prevails in certain districts as much as the men. “We might as well starve or freeze to death in Kansas,” they say, “as to be shot-gunned here.” If they talk to you in confidence, they declare that the ruling purpose is to escape from the “slaughter-pens” of the South. Political persecution, and not the extortion they suffer, is the refrain of all the speakers at negro meetings that are held in encouragement and aid of the emigration. It is idle to deny that the varied injustice which the negroes have suffered as voters is accountable for a large part of their universal yearning for new homes, and it will be folly for the responsible classes at the South to ignore this fact.

As it is the negroes who are fleeing from the South, it is natural to look among the dominant class for the injustice which is driving them away; but it would be unfair to conclude that the blame rests entirely upon the whites, and still more so to leave the impression that there is no extenuation for the mistakes and abuses for which the whites are responsible. Much of the intimidation of the blacks has been tolerated, if not suggested, by a fear of negro uprisings. The apprehension is a legacy from the days of slavery, and is more unreasonable now than it was then; but still it exists. This is not an excuse, but an explanation. The Pharaohs of the time of Moses were in constant dread lest the Hebrews under their rule should go over to their enemies, and their dread doubtless increased the cruelty of the Egyptians; but, while this dread was an extenuation in the eyes of the persecutors, it did not prevent the Hebrews from fleeing the persecution. So the blacks are going without regard to the justification which the whites may set up for their treatment; the only difference between the old and new exodus is that, as the writer heard one negro speaker express it, “every black man is his own Moses in this exodus.” The negro may be lazy; it seems impossible to be otherwise in the Southern climate. He may not be willing to work on Saturdays, no matter how urgent the necessity; the indulgence in holidays is said to be one of the chief drawbacks to the advancement of the emancipated serfs of Russia. The blacks are certainly extravagant in their way, though the word seems to be almost misused in connection with a race who live largely on pork and molasses, and rarely wear more than half a dollar’s worth of clothes at one time. They have not the instinct of home as it prevails among the whites, but incline to a crude and unsystematic communism; the negro quarters of the old plantations are all huddled together in the centre, and, except where the land owners have interfered to encourage a different life, there is still too much promiscuousness in the relation of the sexes. The negro, as a rule, has no ambition to become a land owner; he prefers to invest his surplus money, when he has any, in personal and movable property. In most cases where the blacks have been given the opportunity of buying land on long time, and paying yearly installments out of the proceeds of their annual crops, they have tired of the bargain after a year or two, and abandoned the contract. The negro politicians and preachers are not all that reformers and moralists would have them; the imitative faculty of the African has betrayed the black politician into many of the vicious ways of the white politician, and the colored preacher is frequently not above “the pomps and vanity of this wicked world.” All this is the more unfortunate, as the blacks have a child-like confidence in their chosen leaders, founded partly on their primitive character, and partly on their distrust of the native whites. Both their politicians and their preachers have given abundant evidence of their insincerity during the excitement of emigration by blowing hot and blowing cold; by talking to the negroes one way, and to the whites another; and even to the extent, in some instances, of taking money to use their influence for discouraging and impeding emigration. These are some of the faults and misfortunes on the part of the blacks which enter into the race troubles. The chief blame which attaches to the whites is the failure to make a persistent effort, by education and kind treatment, to overcome the distrust and cure the faults of the negroes. The whites control, because they constitute the “property and intelligence” of the South, to use the words of a democratic statesman; this power should have been used to gain the confidence of the blacks. Had such a course been taken, there would not have been the fear of reenslavement, which actually prevails to a considerable extent among the negroes. So long as a portion of the whites entertain the conviction that the war of the sections will be renewed within a few years, as is the case, the negroes will suspect and dread the class who would treat them as enemies in case the war should come, and will seek to escape to a section of the country where they would not be so treated. Perhaps, too, there would have been a voluntary political division among the black voters, had the whites used more pacific means to bring it about, and had they themselves set the example. And last, but not least, in making up the sum of blame that the whites must bear, is their own unwillingness to labor, which gives the rural population too much time for mischief and too little sympathy with the working classes.
As we have traced the causes that have led to the exodus, and described the conditions which warrant the belief that there will be a renewal of the emigration on a more extended scale next spring, and endeavored to distribute the responsibility for the troubles equitably among whites and blacks, remedies have naturally suggested themselves to the reader; in fact, they are more easily to be thought out than accomplished. A few general reflections may be added, however, in order to indicate the probable solution of the race troubles that have brought about the exodus, if, indeed, the whites and blacks of the South are ever going to live together in peace.

(1.) It is certain that negro labor is the best the South can have, and equally certain that the climate and natural conditions of the South are better suited to the negro than any others on this continent. The alluvial lands, which many persons believe the negroes alone can cultivate, on account of climatic conditions, are so rich that it might literally be said it is only necessary to tickle them with a hoe to make them laugh back a harvest. The common prosperity of the country–the agricultural interests of the South and the commercial interests of the North– will be best served, therefore, by the continued residence and labor of the blacks in the cotton States.
(2.) The fact stated in the foregoing paragraph is so well understood at the North that the Southern people should dismiss the idea that there is any scheming among the Northern people, political or otherwise, to draw the black labor away from its natural home. The same fact should also influence the people at the North not to be misled by any professional philanthropists who may have some self-interest in soliciting aid to facilitate negro emigration from the South. The duty of the North in this matter is simply to extend protection and assure safe-conduct to the negroes, if the Southern whites attempt to impede voluntary emigration by either law or violence. Any other course might be cruel to the negro in encouraging him to enter on a new life in a strange climate, as well as an injustice to the white land owners of the South.

(3.) There is danger that the Southern whites will, as a rule, misinterpret the meaning of the exodus. Many are inclined to underrate its importance, and those who appreciate its significance are apt to look for temporary and superficial remedies. The vague promises made at the Vicksburg convention, which was controlled by the whites, and called to consider the emigration movement, have had no influence with the negroes, because they have heard such promises before. Had the convention adopted some definite plan of action, such as ex-Governor Foote, of Mississippi, submitted, its session might not have been in vain. This plan was to establish a committee in every county, composed of men who have the confidence of both whites and blacks, that should be auxiliary to the public authorities, listen to complaints, and arbitrate, advise, conciliate, or prosecute, as each case should demand. It is short-sighted for the Southern people to make mere temporary concessions, such as have been made in some cases this year, for that course would establish an annual strike. It is folly for them to suppose they can stem the tide of emigration by influencing the regular lines of steamboats not to carry the refugees, for the people of the North will see that the blacks shall not be detained in the South against their will. It is unwise for them to devise schemes for importing Chinese, or encouraging the immigration of white labor as a substitute for negro labor, when they may much better bestir themselves to make the present effective labor content.

(4.) Education will be the most useful agent to employ in the permanent harmonizing of the two races, and the redemption of both from the faults and follies which constitute their troubles. It is not the education of the negro alone, whose ambition for learning is increasing notably with every new generation, but the education of the mass of the young whites, that is needed to inculcate more tolerance of color and opinion, to give them an aspiration beyond that of riding a horse and hanging a “nigger,” and to enable them to set a better example to the imitative blacks in the way of work and frugality. The blacks need the education to protect them from designing white men; the whites need it to teach them that their own interests will be best served by abandoning bulldozing of all kinds.

(5.) Reform in the land tenure, by converting the plantation monopolies into small holdings; abolition of the credit system, by abandoning the laws which sustain it; a diversification of crops; and attention to new manufacturing, maritime, and commercial enterprises,–these are the material changes that are most needed. They can be secured only through the active and earnest efforts of the whites. The blacks will be found responsive.
(6.) The hope of the negro exodus at its present stage, or even if it shall continue another season, is that the actual loss of the valuable labor that has gone, and the prospective loss of more labor that is anxious to go, will induce the intelligent and responsible classes at the South to overcome their own prejudices, and to compel the extremists, irreconcilables, and politicians generally, of all parties, to abandon agitation, and give the South equal peace and equal chance for black and white.

by Frederick Douglass

In the first narrative of my experience in slavery, written nearly forty years ago, and in various writings since, I have given the public what I considered very good reasons for withholding the manner of my escape. In substance these reasons were, first, that such publication at any time during the existence of slavery might be used by the master against the slave, and prevent the future escape of any who might adopt the same means that I did. The second reason was, if possible, still more binding to silence: the publication of details would certainly have put in peril the persons and property of those who assisted. Murder itself was not more sternly and certainly punished in the State of Maryland than that of aiding and abetting the escape of a slave. Many colored men, for no other crime than that of giving aid to a fugitive slave, have, like Charles T. Torrey, perished in prison. The abolition of slavery in my native State and throughout the country, and the lapse of time, render the caution hitherto observed no longer necessary. But even since the abolition of slavery, I have sometimes thought it well enough to baffle curiosity by saying that while slavery existed there were good reasons for not telling the manner of my escape, and since slavery had ceased to exist, there was no reason for telling it. I shall now, however, cease to avail myself of this formula, and, as far as I can, endeavor to satisfy this very natural curiosity. I should, perhaps, have yielded to that feeling sooner, had there been anything very heroic or thrilling in the incidents connected with my escape, for I am sorry to say I have nothing of that sort to tell; and yet the courage that could risk betrayal and the bravery which was ready to encounter death, if need be, in pursuit of freedom, were essential features in the undertaking. My success was due to address rather than courage, to good luck rather than bravery. My means of escape were provided for me by the very men who were making laws to hold and bind me more securely in slavery.

It was the custom in the State of Maryland to require the free colored people to have what were called free papers. These instruments they were required to renew very often, and by charging a fee for this writing, considerable sums from time to time were collected by the State. In these papers the name, age, color, height, and form of the freeman were described, together with any scars or other marks upon his person which could assist in his identification. This device in some measure defeated itself–since more than one man could be found to answer the same general description. Hence many slaves could escape by personating the owner of one set of papers; and this was often done as follows: A slave, nearly or sufficiently answering the description set forth in the papers, would borrow or hire them till by means of them he could escape to a free State, and then, by mail or otherwise, would return them to the owner. The operation was a hazardous one for the lender as well as for the borrower. A failure on the part of the fugitive to send back the papers would imperil his benefactor, and the discovery of the papers in possession of the wrong man would imperil both the fugitive and his friend. It was, therefore, an act of supreme trust on the part of a freeman of color thus to put in jeopardy his own liberty that another might be free. It was, however, not unfrequently bravely done, and was seldom discovered. I was not so fortunate as to resemble any of my free acquaintances sufficiently to answer the description of their papers. But I had a friend–a sailor–who owned a sailor’s protection, which answered somewhat the purpose of free papers–describing his person, and certifying to the fact that he was a free American sailor. The instrument had at its head the American eagle, which gave it the appearance at once of an authorized document. This protection, when in my hands, did not describe its bearer very