« AnteriorContinuar »
are others, especially among educators, not less pronounced and serviceable in the forward movement. It is in these quarters, and not among politicians or party newspapers, that we must look for the brightening day.
But it is to be recognized that a right solution of the South's difficulties will not be reached without a sharp and prolonged antagonism between the good and the evil tendencies. Mr. Schurz states the case none too strongly : "Here is the crucial point: There will be a movement either in the direction of reducing the negroes to a permanent condition of serfdom-the condition of the mere plantation hand, alongside of the mule,' practically without any rights of citizenship-or a movement in the direction of recognizing him as a citizen in the true sense of the term. One or the other will prevail." And he adds, “No doubt the most essential work will have to be done in and by the South itself. And it can be."
When President Hayes withdrew the Federal troops from the South, it marked the formal restoration of that local self-government which is a vital principle of the American Union. Of slower, deeper growth, has been the spirit of mutual good-will and confidence, with the free concession to each member of its individual life. Numberless delicate cords have been reuniting the severed sections. Railways, commerce, literature, the tides of business and pleasure travel, the pressure of common problems, the glory of common achievements, the comradeship of the blue and the gray on Cuban battlefields, the expositions of industry, the throb of human feeling as the telegraph tells its daily story of heroism or tragedy-all have done their part. It is by their nobler interests that the sections are most closely united. Beyond the squabbles of politicians is the power of such conferences as those of the Southern Education Commission, where meet the best brains and consciences, the
gifts of the liberal, the plans of the wise, and the energy of the stout-hearted.
The education of a slave into a man, the harmonizing of two races, the common achievement of a great national life, -it is a long work, but it moves on.
"Say not, The struggle naught availeth,
And as things have been they remain.
"For while the tired waves vainly breaking,
"And not through eastern windows only,
When daylight comes, comes in the light,
But westward, look, the land is bright!"
It is difficult to write history, but it is impossible to write prophecy. We can no more tell what lies before us than the Fathers of the Republic could foresee the future a century ago. They little guessed that slavery, which seemed hastening to its end, would take new vigor from an increase of its profits, that, stimulated by the material gain, a propaganda of religious and political defense would spring up, that a passionate denunciation and a passionate defense would gradually inflame the whole country,—that meanwhile the absorption of the mass of citizens in private pursuits would blind them to the evil and peril, and prevent that disinterested, comprehensive statesmanship which ought to have assumed as a common burden the emancipation of the slaves, that the situation would be exasperated by hostility of the sections and complicated by clashing theories of the national Union,-that only by the bitter and costly way of war would a settlement be reached, and that emancipation, being wrought by force and not by persuasion, would leave the master class "convinced against its will," and a deep gulf between the races, whose spanning is still an uncertain matter,-all this was hidden from the eyes of the wisest, a century ago. So is hidden from our eyes the outworking of the century to come.
But the essential principles of the situation, the true ideals, the perils, these were seen of old. Jefferson wrote, "I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is a God of justice." And Washington said, "I can already foresee that
nothing but the rooting out of slavery can perpetuate the existence of our Union, by consolidating it in a common bond of principle." Just so clearly can we read the basal principles on which depends our national safety. We look forward to-day, not to predict what will be, but to see what ought to be, and what we purpose shall be.
We, the people of the United States, are to face and deal with this matter. We are all in it together. Secession has failed, colonization is impossible. Southerner and Northerner, white man and black man, we must work out our common salvation. It is up to us,-it is up to us all!
The saving principle is as simple as the multiplication table or the Golden Rule. Each man must do his best, each must be allowed to do his best, and each must be helped to do his best. Opportunity for every one, according to his capacity and his merit,—that is democracy. Help for the weaker, as the strong is able to give it,-that is Christianity. Start from this center, and the way opens out through each special difficulty. The situation is less a puzzle for the intellect than a challenge to the will and heart.
First of all, it is up to the black man himself. His freedom, won at such cost, means only opportunity, and it is for him to improve the opportunity. As he shows himself laborious, honest, chaste, loyal to his family and to the community, so only can he win to his full manhood. The decisive settlement of the whole matter is being worked out in cotton fields and cabins, for the most part with an unconsciousness of the ultimate issues that is at once pathetic and sublime, by the upward pressure of human need and aspiration, by family affection, by hunger for higher things.
On the leaders of the negroes rests a great responsibility. Their ordeal is severe, their possibilities are heroic. The hardship of a rigid race severance acts cruelly on those whose intelligence and refinement fit them for a companion
ship with the best of the whites, which they needs must crave, which would be for the good of both races, but which is withheld or yielded in scanty measure. Self-abnegation, patience, power alike to wait and to do, these are the price they are called to pay. But the prize set before them is worth it all, the deliverance of their people, and the harmonizing of the long alienated races. They need to beware of jealousies and rivalries of leadership such as have made shipwreck of many a good cause. There is room and need for various contributions. They have a common bond in that ideal which is the most precious possession of the American negro. It is the old simple idea of goodness, set in close relation to this age of productive activity. It requires that a man be not only good but good for something, and sets faithful and efficient service as the gateway to all advance.
But for the right adjustment of the working relations of the two races, the heavier responsibility rests with the whites, because theirs is the greater power. They can prescribe what the blacks can hardly do other than accept.
What we are now facing is not slavery, an institution that may be abolished by statute-but its offspring, Castea spirit pervasive, subtle, sophistical, tyrannic. It can be overcome only by a spirit more pervasive, persistent and powerful the spirit of brotherhood.
Puzzling as the situation is at some points, its essential elements are far simpler and easier to deal with than slavery presented. There is no longer a vast property interest at stake, on the contrary, material interest points the same way with moral considerations. There are complexities of the social structure, but nothing half so formidable as the aristocratic system based on slavery. The gravest difficulty now is a race prejudice, deep-rooted and stubborn, yet at bottom so irrational that civilization and Christianity