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months' schooling. This is true in highly prosperous localities, but the Southern States are poor. I am no pessimist nor alarmist. The progress in mining and in manufactures has been great, but agriculture and tillage and common roads are not in a flattering condition. Excluding Delaware, Maryland and Missouri, the assessed valuation of property in the remaining Southern States diminished, from 1860 to 1880, $2,313,398,644. The State of New York is said to be worth in taxable property as much as all the Southern States. Ignorant labor dooms to poverty. It is idle to be drawing roseate pictures of the "new South" until the laboring classes in intelligence and skill are far ahead of present attainments. The loss from stupid or unskilled labor would educate a hundred times over every child in the South. With her sparse population, with means not half what they were in ante-bellum days, with double the number of children to be educated, it is impossible for the South, by any tax short of confiscation, to provide education for the children within her borders.
It is well to open our eyes to stubborn, irremovable facts, and confront the perils growing out of them. Reference has been made to the alarming fact that in the late slave-holding States and in the District of Columbia, there is a non-attendance of 1,741,339 white children, and of 1,038,026 negro children. That may be prospective peril, but its fearfulness may be estimated if we consider that the South had, in 1870, 4,159,216 illiterates, and in 1880, 4,715,395, an increase of over one-half a million, in spite of the educational activities of the intermediate ten years. The total number of illiterates of voting age in the slaveholding States in 1870 was 1,167,303 ; in 1880, 1,354,974-an increase of illiterate voters of 187,671. The total number of males of voting age in the South in 1880 was 4,154,125, and of these 1,354,974 were illiterate. Thirty-two and three-tenths per cent. of the voters in the South are illiterate. Of the illiterates sixty-nine and seven-tenths per cent. are colored, and thirty and three-tenths per cent. whites. It is specially significant that these figures show an increase of illiterate voters in the last decade.
If my first postulate be true, that education is fundamental to the right discharge of the duties and functions of American citizenship, may I not, in homely language, ask our Governors, What are you going to do about this illiteracy and consequent peril? The life of the Republic is one desperate and prolonged struggle against ignorance, and the States are impotent in the encounter.
Of the pervasive and vicious effects of ignorant suffrage it is not
easy to make a calculation. Through demagogues, "bosses,” corrupt schemers, a vote, the symbol of freedom, becomes the instrument of caprice, or revenge, or bribery. The ballot-box ceases to be the registry of intelligent convictions or unselfish patriotism. General corruption will spread itself through all degrees in the State-justice will be sold in the tribunals-separation of departments in the Government will cease, each prostituted to the low purpose of personal revenge or partisan success; voters, making money of their liberty, will transfer their loyalty to where it will turn to most advantage, and offices will become spoils for the adventurous and unworthy.
Ours was designed to be a representative government. Representatives are not mere deputies. A representative is to think for his constituency, to give them the benefit of intelligence, patriotism, profound study of the Constitution and political economy and State craft. He is to enrich his mind by observation, travel, study of history, diplomacy and biography, to discipline his powers by thorough training, and thus fit himself for his responsible duties.
Ignorant suffrage reverses all this, and puts in public councils the weak, vacillating, ill-informed, corrupt. Fidelity to principle, courageous adherence to convictions, broad culture, ripe judgment, sage experience, will be of little worth, and the voice of the rabble becomes the interpreter of laws, the decider of contracts, the moulder of policy. The principle of inter-citizenship is, I believe, peculiar to our Confederation A citizen of one State is a citizen of every other State. Combine with this the far-reaching results of the elective franchise, as affecting directly the election of President and Representatives, and indirectly of Senators, and illiteracy assumes darker and broader proportions. An election in the most benighted Congressional district concerns every citizen of the Union and every interest dependent on taxation, the currency, or any general legislation. Not merely the South, but the whole Union, is imperilled by ignorant and therefore controlable suffrage. In view of the inability of the South and of these perilous possibilities, the patriotism of the country makes an appeal to the Government for prompt and adequate relief.
The negroes, who in some of the States are a majority of the population, are poor, and pay a very small part of the taxes. The aggregate value of the whole property of colored tax-payers in Georgia was $6,589,876, while the total taxable property was $287,269,403. The Comptroller of South Carolina is confident that the white people in the State pay nine-tenths of the taxes. In Wilmington, N. C., the negroes outnumber the whites in about the
ratio of eleven to eight. Of about every $12 of the school fund, the whites pay $11 and the negroes $1, and yet of these $12 the negroes get $8.50 and the whites $3.50. In Danville, Va., the city taxes, exclusive of license tax for corporate uses, in 1882, were about $40,000, of which $1,206.63 were paid by negroes. In Kentucky, the apportionment of school fund, at the rate of $1.40 per capita, to colored children, is $129,458. The taxes, together with all the fines and forfeitures collected from the negroes, are devoted to education of colored children, and yet there is a deficit in the colored school fund of $92,345.36.
These things are not said to their disparagement. Their poverty is not of their creating. Suffrage in their hands is exceptionally dangerous, because elated by the suddenness and manner of their liberation, unacquainted with the responsibilities of freedom, crazed by vague and false notions of liberty, deluded by bad men with promises which cannot be fulfilled, they often make elections a farce, and voting a blind submission to the dictates of partisans and the decrees of midnight conclaves.
The illiteracy of the negroes creates an imperative obligation. Unlike other immigrants, they came to America by compulsion, under circumstances of peculiar hardship and cruelty. Their servitude was recognized and guaranteed by State and Federal Constitutions, by international treaties, by Congressional legislation, by judicial decisions. The Government of the United States suddenly emancipated the slaves, as suddenly raised them to citizenship and made them voters. They possessed no property to make them conservative, no habits nor traditions of self-government, no education to qualify them for the duties and privileges of freemen and citizens. Cunningly and systematically misled and inflamed, they have become the tools of demagogues and the prey of the wicked. Manumission and enfranchisement create an obligation on the part of the Federal Government to fit them for the temptations and responsibilities of citizenship, and save them and our institutions from the perils of ill understood liberty and ignorant and reckless use of the franchise. Negroes are free, but as the distinguished Commissioner of Education, than whom no American is doing more for the cause of popular enlightenment, has tersely said: “The slavery of ignorance remains."
Negroes are the wards of the nation. Philanthropy, humanity, party success and fanaticism all wonderfully combine for their elevation and education. There are, however, thousands of illiterate
men and women of our own race, our own kith and kin, for whom no special sympathies are awakened, and who make no appeal to partisan or sectarian selfishness. The danger of illiteracy of the black voters is, perhaps, no greater than the danger of illiterate white voters. The consequence of illiteracy of white women may be more alarming, because more far-reaching. Whatever is said about the elevation of “our brother in black” appeals to my heart and judgment, and has my ready co-operation, but the white people are in peril, too. Slavery is abolished. God be praisedbut the negro remains in the South in the closest contact with the Caucasian, and putting aside all questions of ethnology, of comparative capability, he is a blind simpleton, or a madman, who does not see, and trembles while he sees, that the presence on the same soil of two populous and distinct races, ineffaceably marked by opposite colors, with centuries of traditions and habits behind each not easily forgotten, or adjusted, is a problem and a peril that statesmen, philosophers and philanthropists seem not to have begun to study. Super-add to race prejudice and chasm-producing traditions, deep poverty, derangement of labor system, slow and painful adaptedness to a different, even if a better, civilization, the current of immigration flowing anywhere rather than to the South, notwithstanding the genial climate, pure and abundant water, superior healthfulness, cheap and productive lands, exhaustless and varied mineral products, and the patriot and the Christian may well have his whole being stirred to the profoundest depths when he seeks to penetrate the dark future, and interrogate as to the destiny of his home and his people. Often deeply concerned fathers and mothers ask me “What of the night?” I can only answer, Do what lies nearest in the light of duty and conscience and the Scriptures, and leave results to God. If any safe solution there is, it must be in the school-house and church-house, in education and in the gospel of Jesus Christ, bearing in mind that the object of education is not so much the imparting of knowledge as the developing of power and the building inward strength of character. Education is no catholicon any more than freedom is; it does not cure social and political ills. It must be supplemented by and allied to the uplifting, renovating, regenerating power of the Christian religion.
When the illiteracy of both races, adults and minors, men and women, is combined, we have a stimulus for effort that cannot be surpassed. The measure lies outside of party politics. The magnitude and imminence of the peril should awaken torpid patriotism into
vigorous activity-should call forth “a fresh flow of consciousness”
-should stir lassitude into real. A perilous exigency is upon us. The Republic is in a death struggle with ignorance. If this menace and strain were during war, pendente lite, interposition and relief would come promptly and without dissent. Is self-preservation less an obligation in peace than in war? To preserve the life of society is the first duty. A government is bound to protect its own existence against any enemy that may assail it. Such a mass of illiteracy as we have is worse than foreign invasion; incites domestic violence, gives supremacy to bad passions and appetites, and is a perpetual menace to the life and well-being of republican institutions. Of the constitutionality of Federal aid there is hardly a loop to hang a doubt upon. Those who emancipated, citizenized and enfranchised the negroes, to whom belongs exclusively the honor of that sublime and eventful act, are estopped from denying the legality or the expediency of making good the Act of Freedom. In the history, the laws, and the institutions of the United States, from the earliest period of our nationality down to the present time, there is an unbroken line of precedents committing the Government to the policy, and sanctioning in fullest measure the principle of aid to education. Since 1785 the Government, beginning before the present Federal Union was formed, has given 79,000,000 acres of the public domain to public schools, colleges and universities. Before the grant of 1862, in aid of agricultural and mechanical schools, the old States, and Maine, Vermont, Kentucky, and Tennessee, had received not an acre of the public lands. Under the stimulus of this Federal aid, the States which were not cursed by African slavery established vigorous systems of free schools and prosperous universities. If example has ever ripened into custom and custom into law, if a course of uninterrupted observance ever matures into prescription, then Federal aid is a res adjudicata.
In giving this aid some general principles should control.
(1.) It should be based on illiteracy, and not on population. Illiteracy creates the danger and the obligation, and justifies the exercise of the power.
(2.) It should be adequate, continued for ten years, and decrease annually after the second year, so as not to beget a sense and habit of dependence, and so that at the expiration of the term of years, when the aid is withdrawn, the States will be able to carry on the school system in improved efficiency.
(3.) The aid, at farthest, after the second year, should be contin