Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

defenses failing him, he fell back on the original sin defense, and insisted that I couldn't expect the whole regiment to be Christians; that there was bound to be some d-n rascals like him in a big regiment.

The South is no exception to this general rule. There are blank rascals and original sinners down there. There are also people, kind and good neighbors, who seem to think loyalty to the South means excessive partisanship. One of the leading public journals of my own section in Tennessee which, in the absence of opposition journals, might wield a vast conservative influence for good, chooses rather, upon all political and sectional issues, to express itself in the language of extreme partisanship, even bitterness, thus misleading public sentiment and practically misrepresenting the majority element of a fraternal city. We have a learned supreme judge in Tennessee who seems to take special pride in declaring to public assemblies throughout the state that the right of secession was one of the most sacred principles implanted by the fathers in the federal constitution. His surprising utterances are sometimes printed at the North, yet the soldiers of the Confederacy as a class are to-day thoroughly loyal to the idea, and the supreme necessity of the union of the states. They are wise enough to know and frank enough to admit that whatever of greatness or strength or hope belongs to our common country, rest mainly upon this basis.

Occasionally, you might find some old time reb, from away out in the woods, with his horse hitched to a saloon post, telling the bystanders very confidentially that he " would like to have just one more whack at the Yankees;” but if you should meet the same old “gray back” the next day, he would probably slap you on the shoulder and tell you as one told me, “that a new generation of fools

would have to be born in the South before they would ever get caught in another such a scrape.”

Partisans belong to all climates and countries. They flourish at the North. Their intemperate expressions are often paraded by the journals of the South. Each side seems to rejoice in making public the sins of the other. It is, in fact, sometimes difficult, except by personal acquaintance, for the people of the two sections to realize the kindly feeling that really lies in the heart of each toward the other.

This presumed antagonism is a national misfortune. It does not represent actual facts. It sets up the imaginary for the real. It excites friction and distrust where no vital danger or real disloyalty to the country or to each other exists, and where there should be only co-operation and mutual sympathy.

It is unfortunate that no political issues have become of sufficient importance since the war to overshadow the problems that still divide the population of the South upon mere lines of color. It is unfortunate that the great body of wealth and intelligence of the South should be arrayed upon one side only of this line. The humbler and ignorant classes thus often lose the benefit of wise and conservative counsels and associations and become a prey to evil influ

A single political organization holds almost supreme sway. The public press nearly always represents the same side of all political questions. Such conditions naturally promote partisanship and are apt to lead to injustice and oppression.

After two centuries of slavery the reorganization of the social, industrial, and political forces of the South must of necessity be slow. To the credit of this institution, it must be conceded that the negroes of the South are more civil

ences.

ized and christianized than any considerable body of the African race in their native land or elsewhere. In their new estate, they are making gradual but steady advances toward a better citizenship.

Their condition in the section in which I reside may serve as an illustration. Nashville is a typical city of the central South, nearly as large as Toledo. Of its seventy-six thousand five hundred inhabitants by the new census, about one-third are colored. At the close of the war the majority of the older class of colored people were field hands. As a rule they were much less intelligent than the colored population of the North.

We have an excellent, well organized state and municipal school system, the benefits of which inure to whites and blacks in proportion to their numbers. More than three thousand colored pupils regularly attend the free public schools of Nashville throughout the scholastic year. The colored tax-payers pay about one-thirtieth of the taxes, and their children receive the benefits of about one-third of the large public school fund. There are three large colleges in Nashville—one of them dignified with the name of a university-exclusively devoted to the higher education and manual training of the colored race. These useful institutions have been erected and largely supported by Northern missionary aid, and are attended by about fourteen hundred pupils, many of them from other Southern states. There are also other smaller schools for the education of colored children, apart from the public schools.

Faithful men from the North and South, men of good courage, high character, and practical judgment, are devoting their lives to the education and elevation of the colored race, not only in my city, but in most sections of the South.

I may also state that the large colored population of Nashville freely exercises the right of suffrage. They have wise and discreet advisers and friends, and public sentiment usually deals justly with this question. Illegalities sometimes occur, but they are evils incident to the mixed condition of society, and to the presence of this large class of uneducated citizens; evils that would occur with similar elements of population in Toledo, Cleveland, or Columbus. As a rule, a just public sentiment also concedes to the colored citizens the full measure of their personal and civil rights in the immediate section under my observation.

In the race of life they are given a fair, square chancea chance to accumulate property, to educate their children, to vote their sentiments, and to demonstrate to the world their title to respect and recognition as a people. Whatever of good capacity has been implanted by Providence in the African race, our Northern friends may be assured, is finding opportunity for development. Its future is already practically in its own hands.

Within the limits of the cotton belt proper their progress is not so satisfactory. Some of the problems involving their future are still in the experimental stage, but their condition is improving.

The same educational and elevating influences are usually at work. Whites and blacks know well that the prosperity and security of both races depend upon kindly and peaceful relations. These relations usually exist. The majority of the whites are intelligent and fair-minded. The colored race is patient, faithful, and generally industrious.

Both elements are entitled to sympathy and forbearance. In the main they will have to work their own way out of the political difficulties that encompass them, supplemented, perhaps, by such wise national legislation, as shall show the

patience of the North, and will have respect for the sincerity and good faith of the efforts of the Christian people of the South.

In his present condition, local, municipal, or political power may be of little real benefit to the colored man. It is not now absolutely necessary for his personal safety, his education, or development in citizenship, yet it may be vital to good order and to the property interests of his neighbor, the more intelligent white man.

Power without intelligence, or misdirected, is a constant danger. The average colored voter of the cotton belt is as yet a field hand.

As a politician, he is as a child. Injustice is therefore inherent in any settlement of the suffrage problem in the far South, under our present franchise laws. While a very sacred principle is involved in this problem, the evil consequences are fortunately local and limited, and we hope in a measure temporary.

The good influences that will be developed in a decade or two of peace and kindly relations seem to promise the safest and most certain assurances of an ultimate cure. Enactments forced upon unwilling communities are generally inoperative, and the exercise of sufficient power to compel obedience in the face of sincere convictions, sometimes becomes a greater injustice than the original wrong.

The North can well afford to be forbearing and fraternal. The gift of suffrage to a race enslaved for two centuries and as yet unfitted for this high prerogative of citizenship, came from the North.'

The ancient rule of the so-called slave power, so long dominant or potent in national affairs, has become only a tradition. Irresistible events have minimized its forces. By the nei census the population of the cotton belt has not kept pace with that of the central South. The great North

« ZurückWeiter »