The Race Problem
Benjamin R. Tillman
23 Feb. 1903
Accessed 17 Aug. 2006.
The more serious condition growing out of the negro problem is yet to come, criminologists and officers fear. The negro youth is the threatening cloud obscuring all hope of something better. As the first generation after slavery deteriorated in character and moral worth, the negro children of to-day tend toward vice and crime. In the John Worthy School at Chicago, an institution founded upon benevolent ideas and calculated to teach the mistaught boys at the true path to upright citizenship, a most sickening scandal was brought to light from inquiry into the habits and practices of negro boys, and the investigation afforded a very good index to the inclination of even the very young negro children. The details of the scandal are too vile for publication, but the reader who is familiar with negro conduct may have some idea of the character of the testimony if not of the extent of the offenders misconduct.
The negroes form 2 per cent of the population of Illinois.
Very nearly the same proportion that exists in Pennsylvania.
At the Illinois Home for Female Juvenile Offenders at Geneva 13 per cent, of the inmates are negroes. At the boys' prison at Pontiac 18 per cent, of those incarcerated are negroes. The negro lists in the juvenile prisons are constantly increasing. In the Chester penitentiary no statistics are furnished regarding the relative number of negroes and whites, but in the Joliet prison Warden Murphy affords the information that more than 16 per cent, of the prisoners are negroes. In connection with this it may be stated that of the female prisoners there 27 are white and 38 are negroes.
It may appear in the eyes of some that I am bringing out all this for the sinister purpose of belittling the negro race--of deoming them to obloquy and mistreatment. I want to say to you--and I say it with all the sincerity of my nature--that I do not hate the negro. I was nursed by a black mammy. I have on my farm in South Carolina to-day a negro man of about my own age, Joe Gibson, who has been with me thirty years. He has charge of my keys and of everything I possess there in the way of a house, furniture, horses and carriages, and everything for a farm of 200 acres, worth some twelve of fifteen thousand Dollars. I trust him implicitly. He can not read and write. He has got a wife who is as trustworthy as he is.
All negroes are not bad; a very small percentage of them are bad; but the bad ones are leading all the rest, and they are patted on the back by the politicians at the North. Every farmer throughout the South who is familiar with the locality in which he lives knows that there are on many of those plantations--in fact, on nearly all of them where any considerable number of negroes live--a large number of good, quiet, peaceable, orderly, and more or less industrious colored people, who are endeavoring to make a living with the least labor possible, and getting along pleasantly and peacefully with their white friends. But the younger generation is worthless--wholly unreliable--and in every community there are young vagabonds most of whom have a smattering of education who are doing all the devilment of which we read every day.
The condition which the President has precipitated by his revival of a worn-out policy, the discussion of the status of this man throughout the country and of his future, will not down. It is like Banquo's ghost, and the sooner we take hold of the question in a calm, statesmanlike way and endeavor to set in motion instrumentalities which will do something to stop the agitation and to help these people, if they can be helped, the better it will be for all concerned.
I am ready to lend any information I possess and to give the best thought I have because I have given thought to this subject for the last thirty years, mainly from the point of view I have occupied up to now, that it was my duty to my own people and to my own State to stand forever opposed to any idea of political or social equality on that part of the negro with the whites of South Carolina. You have just had facts collected by a man whose statements with regard to himself would gain credit anywhere as to being an impartial observer and student of this great question. Opposed to that we have a vast amount of nebulous contention and assertion of claims; and I want to read here the latest that I have come across from the very highest negro authority, a man withstands highest in the estimation of white men North and South of any man of his race-Booker T. Washington.
In an address in New York on Washington's Birthday. Booker T. Washington, at a memorial meeting held in the Academy of Arts and Sciences. devoted his remarks to the consideration of the race problem. He said in part:
Unlike the Indian, the original Mexican, or the Hawaiian, the negro, so far from dying out when in contact with a stronger and different race, has continued to increase in numbers to such an extent that whereas the race entered bondage 20 in number, there are now more than 9,000,000. So I went to emphasize the truth that whether we are of Northern or of Southern birth, whether we are black or white, we must face frankly the hard, stubborn fact that in bondage and in freedom the negro, in spite of all predictions to the contrary, has continued year by year to increase in numbers until he now forms about one-seventh of the entire population, and that there are no signs that the same ratio of increase will not hold good in the future. Further than this, despite of all the changing uncertain conditions through which the race has passed and is passing in this country, whether in bondage or in freedom, he has made a steady gain in acquiring property, skill, habits of industry, education, and Christian character.
To deal directly with the affairs of my own race, I believe that both the teaching of history, as well as the results of everyday observation, should convince us that we shall make our most enduring progress by laying the foundations carefully, patiently, in the ownership of the soil, the exercise of habits of economy the saving of money, the securing of the most complete education of hand and head, and the cultivation of Christian virtues.
I can not believe, I will not believe that the country which invites into its midst every type of European, from the highest to the very dregs of the earth, and gives these comers shelter, protection, and the highest encouragement, will refuse to accord the same protection and encouragement to her black citizens. The negro seeks no special privileges. All that he asks is opportunity--that the same law which is made by the white man and applied to the one race be applied with equal certainty and exactness to the other.
Here we have the apostle of technical and industrial education, a man who has warned his people against the folly of political office, showing in spite of his wisdom that he has the same dream.
I quote again:
All that he asks is opportunity--that the same law which is made by the white man and applied to the one race be applied with equal certainty and exactness to the other.
I do not wish to comment on his utterances except to show that his hopes and aspirations are natural and even pathetic. But while he gives advice to his people that is wise, afar off he sees a vision of equality, and I say that his dream can never come to pass. His claims about the negro race are largely guesswork and can not stand against the facts as set out by Hoffman.
Mr. President, I do not want to tire the Senate, but I have here the work of a student of ethnology, of sociology and of philosophy, one of the greatest minds of the last century, Max Muller, the famous Sanskirt scholar, who has delved deeper into the mine of Indian lore and East Indian traditions and religion than any other man, living or dead. In his Essay on Caste, he deals directly with the question which confronts us, and it is my desire, if you will be patient with me, to give you some quotations from this scholar, this man whose sole purpose and desire was to give to his countrymen the truth and the facts, as his long years of laborious research had enabled him to arrive at them. And it is in regard to the question of caste--that inherent, irrepressible, indelible feeling which exists in the mind of every human being under certain conditions and circumstances, for which we are not responsible because it grows with our growth in childhood and becomes part and parcel of every fiber of flesh and bone of which our bodies are composed. In explanation of the conditions which he found in India, Muller says:
As soon as we trace the complicated system of caste such as we find it in India at the present day back to its first beginnings we find that it flows from the least three different sources, and that accordingly we must distinguish between ethnological political and professional caste.
Ethnological caste arises whenever different races are brought in contact. There is and always has been a mutual antipathy between the white and the black man and when the two are brought together, either by conquest or migration the white man has invariably asserted his superiority, and established certain social barriers between himself and his dark skinned brother.
The Areas and Sudras seem to have felt this mutual antipathy. The difference of blood and color was heightened in ancient times by difference of religion and language; but in modern times also, and in countries where the negro has learned to speak the same language and to worship the same God as his master, the white man can never completely overcome the old feeling that seems to lurk in his very blood and makes him recoil from the embrace of his darker neighbor. And even where there is no distinction of color, an analogons feeling, the feeling of race asserts its influence as if inherent in human nature. Between the Jew and the Gentile, the Greek and the barbarian, the Saxon and the Celt, the Englishman and the there is something--whether we call it hatred or antipathy or mistrust or mere coldness--which in a primitive state of society would necessarily lead to a system of castes, and which, even in more civilized countries, will never be completely eradicated.
In tracing the condition in India as far back as he could get any authentic information, Muller tells us that caste existed there from the first settlement of that peninsula and he goes on to describe the various strata of society and of population in the two hundred and odd millions of the inhabitants of Hindostan, and he winds up by saying that the word "casts" itself, in its primary significance, simply means color. He gives some very funny and ridiculous descriptions as to what the law of caste has forced those people to do and to believe and to feel. Here for instance, is one:
Low as the Sudra stood in the system of Manu, he stood higher than most of the mixed castes, the Varnasankaras. The son of a Sudra by a Sudra woman is purer than the son of a Sudra by a woman of the highest caste (Manu X, 30) Manu calls the Kandala one of the lowest outcasts, because he is the son of a Sudra father and a Brahmanle mother. He evidently considered the misalliance of a woman more degrading than of a man.
Just as we do.
For the son of a Brahman father and a Sudra mother may in the seventh generation raise his family to the highest caste (Manu X, G1)--
In South Carolina we recognized ocloroons as white people--
while the son of a Sudra father and a Brahaman mother belongs forever to the Kandalas. The abode of the Kanadalas must be out of the town, and no respectable man is to hold intercourse with them. By day they must walk about distinguished by badges; by night they are driven out of the city.
He goes on the philosophize on this subject one race antagonism and association and contact, and of the laws of the society even in and, and I will give a quotation without reading it all. He gives a remarkable illustration on the sense of indignation of one of the old-time English aristocracy, saying:
Even in England the public service has but very lately been thrown open to all classes, and we heard it stated by one of the most eminent men that the Indian civil service would no longer be fit for the sons of gentlemen. Why? Because one of the elected candidates was the son of the missionary.
As illustrative of the intense cruelty. I may say, which this law in India has brought about, you all recollect the immolation of the child widows who had married in the infancy, and if the husband to whom they had been married died, they were forbidden to marry anyone else. You all recall the Juggernaut car, with the idolators, so as to speak rushing in front and throwing themselves down to be crushed. You all remember the ceremony of burning after maturity, a woman whose husband had died after marriage and all that kind of thing. Muller states here:
In former times a Pariah was obliged to carry a beil--the very name of Pariah is derived from that bell--in order to give warning to the Brahmans, who might be polluted by the shadow of outcast. In Malabar a Nayadi defiles a Braham at a distance of 74 paces - -
If he gets within 74 paces the Brahman is polluted.
and a Nayer, though himself a Sudra, would shoot one of these degraded races if he approach too near.
Here is what I want you gentlemen to consider:
Those who know the Hindus best are the least anxious to see them without caste. Colonel Sleeman remarks:
"What chiefly prevents the spread of Chrstianity is the dead of exclusion from caste and its privileges, and the utter hopelessness of their ever finding any respectable circle of society the adopted religion, which converts, or would-be converts, to Christianity now everywhere feel.
He says further:
Caste can not be abolished in India, and to attempt it would be one of the most hazardous operations that was ever performed on a living political body. As a religious institution, caste [?] die; as a social institution, it will live and improve. Let the Sudras, or, as they are called Tamil, the Petta Pittei, the children of the house, grow into free laborers, the Vaisyas into wealth merchants, the Kshatriyas into powerful barons, and let the Brahmans aspire to the position that intellectual aristocracy which is the only true aristocracy in truly civilized countries, and the four castes of the Veda will not be out of date in the nineteenth century, nor out of place in Christian country. But all this must be the work of time. "The teeth," as a native writer [?] "fall off themselves old age, but it is painful to extract them in youth."
Is this the genesis of the Booker Washington idea?
Muller, after devoting a lifetime to the study of the language, literature, and conditions in India, sums up with this declaration. It is worth all the schools and college sermon, and preachments, religious or political, that have ever been uttered on the subject of African regeneration. The mothers must lift the race or its doom is sealed.
AS SOON AS THE FEMALE POPULATION OF INDIA CAN BE RAISED FROM THE PRESENT DEGRADATION; AS SOON AS A BETTER EDUCATION AND A PURER RELIGION HAVE INSPIRED THE WOMEN OF INDIA WITH FEELINGS OF MORAL RESPONSIBILITY AND SELF-RESPECT; AS SOON AS THEY HAVE LEARNED--WHAT CHRISTIANITY [?] CAN TEACH--THAT IN THE TRUE LOVE OF A WOMAN THERE IS SOMETHING FAR [A?] THE LAW OF CASTE OR THE CURSES OF PRIESTS, THEIR INFLUENCE WILL BE THE POWERFUL. ON THE ONE SIDE. TO BREAK THROUGH THE THE ARTIFICIAL FORMS OF [C?] AND, ON THE OTHER, TO MAINTAIN IN, INDIA, AS ELSEWHERE, THE TRUE CAST RANK, MANNERS, INTELLECT, AND CHARACTER.
Senators will recollect that the Sepoy rebellion of 1857, with all its horrors, [?] duced by reason of the fact that the English officers the forced the Sepoys simply cartridges with hog grease on them. You will say "That is all no good here; [?] civilized Americans; we are the highest type of men." Bonaparte said. "If you a Russian, you will find a Tartar." If you scratch the white man too deep, you [?] the same savage whose ancestry used to roam wild in Britian when the [?] and best men we have, lose all semblance of Christian human beings in their [?] frenzy when some female of their acquaintance or one of their daughters had [?] and they were as wild and cruel as any tiger of the jungle. You can not [?] over by law. Constitutions do not change human nature.
I come now, after this imperfect portrayal, to another feature. There is [?] terial here, and it covers much ground, in reference to racial antagonism. [?] history of the Danube Valley, with its teeming millions of Slavs and Magyars nians and Servians and Dalmatians, and the Turks and the Macedonians, who [?] putting each other's throats for six centuries, all white people at that, but simply with a racial antagonism.
Look at India, with its two hundred and odd millions, nobody knows how many, governed by 400,000 Englishmen. Where in history can you point to an instance in which white men proper, the best type of white men, or even the lowest type, have been dominated very long by any colored people? It is not in our blood. When you force conditions, when you gentlemen relentlessly and remorselessly stand by your mistakes of the period from 1808 to 1872, when the fifteenth amendment was placed on our backs, and say, "It stands there sacred, and it must stay," you force us to face an alternative which in the future is bound to produce a conflict of races. That dire condition is ahead of us, and, like the sword of Damocles, it hangs by a very slender thread.
We ask you to pause and think. We beg you not to drive us to desperation. You [?] we must keep the door of hope open to the negro. Please consider the shutting of door to the white man. If you could force that policy upon my State and we [?] to it quietly and peaceably, in the next fifty years at the outside we would have majority of negroes in South Carolina who could outvote the whites. Give them a peaceful election, no resistance, absolute equality before the law, and what happens? [?] negroes capture the government. They do not own any of the property, or only a very small percentage. They have none of the intelligence, or so little that it does not [?]. They have none of the character, or so little that it does not count. They have [?] of the of the knowledge of government which is bred in our bones. But let us submit; the negroes take possession; let them have a negro government; let them control taxation; and if we have sunk so low by that time as to forget all traditions of Anglo-Saxons, Caucasians, then what follows?
The governing race in any community, where there is absolute equality before the law, and equality for which the President contends before the law, and equality of opportunity, will in time come to amalgamation with any different race that may be there. The reason why we have not had any amalgamation in any of the racial antagonisms of which I have spoken, except in a limited degree, the reason why the Slavs and the [?] in Hungary have never intermarried to any considerable degree, is because [?] hate each other, and which ever one crosses the line loses caste with his fellows and absorbed into the other race.
What is the fundamental hope, what is the dream of the negro agitators, these men [?] are importuning the President now and are making his life a burden to him in reward to appointments to office of men of their race? I will produce a witness. He may be a good one, but that is my fault. In the Washington Post of January 27 I [?] this statement:
[?] STIRS HIS RACE--VIRGINIA NEGRO LEADER TALKS OF SWORD AND TORCH--WASHINGTON CROWD APPLAUD--JAMES 11. HEINOUS PREDICTS FORCIBLE RESISTANCE TO THE VIRGINA CONSTITUTION AND OTHER ACTS OF DISFRANCHISEMENT PASSED BY SOUTH SOUTHERN LEGISLATURES-TEMPER OF A MASS AT LINCOLN CHURCH.
You all read it, at least most of you did. I will incorporate it in my speech, with the [?] of the Senate.
[?] a mass meeting of colored people at Lincoln Memorial Church at 8 o'clock last night, under spices of the Afro-American Council, prominent negro race made addresses the question of disfranchisement in the Southern States and considerable feeling was man[?].
Cyrus Field Adams, Assistant Register of the Treasury, presided. James H. Hayes, of Richmond, the attorney who has been retained by the colored people of [?] to test the disenfranchisement laws of that State, delivered a speech in which he declared the negro has now reached the limit of endurance, and advocated the sword and torch as a [?] for the negro to maintain his manhood. His remarks were received with great enthusiasm. He referred to the fact that during the years which have elapsed since the war sectional feeling between the North and South has died out to such an extent that Virginia now proposes to place [?] of Lee in Statuary Hall in the National Capitol, but said that all this period has not [?] for the negro to advance one inch beyond the place he held when liberated from [?]
There is nothing in Virginia for the negro," he said, "but degradation unless the negroes firm stand, contend for their rights, and, if necessary, die for them. I am not an anarchist," [?] and I dont mean to kill anybody, but to let somebody else kill you." This [?] provoked loud applause and laughter. "In Virginia," added the speaker, "you [?] Crows,'. You opened the meeting to-night by singing 'my country, 'tis of thee,' but I think the time has come when the negro must fight, not theoretically, not intellectually; but fight [?] hands. The disfranchisement of the children of Israel in Egypt has been followed letter [?] by the disfranchisement of the South."
He then spoke about Moses being called to lead the Israelities from their bondage and drew attention to the fact that slavery for four hundred years had made them cowards, so that they were obliged to turn back, drawing a parallel to the case of the negro in America.
"A second time," he continued, "the children of God arose. This time they had the leadership of Joshua, and when they went forth from the land of their bondage they did not go meekly, but carried the sword in one hand and the torch in the other. In this country," also he added, "a second generation has grown up in the forty years since the war. The Atlanta Constitution has threatened us with Kuklux if the growth of Federal appointments in the South continues. I make the prediction that when the Southern people start to Kukluxing this time they will not have as the objects of their oppression the same timid people they kukluxed in the sixties.
"Negroes are leaving the State of Virginia because of the treatment they are receiving. What we want to do is to start something, and keep it up until the white people stop something. We don't intend to be oppressed any longer. We don't intend to be crushed. I am afraid we are anarchistic, that we are anarchists, and I give the warning that if this oppression in the South continues the negro must resort to the sword and torch, and that the Southland will become a land of blood and desolation.
"I want to make the assertion right here that we are not going to be disfranchised in Virginia. It is written in the heavens and engraved upon the stars that the Virginia negro does not intend to submit to disfranchisement. We are told, Let the negro obtain education and wealth if he would gain the political equality which he desires," I say that never was a bigger lie uttered. The [?] the negro advances the more will political rights be denied him. It is not the common negro [?] the South who is cut off the registration lists. It is not the ditch digger. It is the educated men the doctor and lawyer and preacher, who are deprived unlawfully of political rights and [?] by the iniquitious constitution of Virginia, which cost half a million dollars to frame. And I [?] to say that by the time we get through punching holes in the constitution it will cost the State Virginia half a million more."
The sting of that speech is in the tail, and I want to read you what this colored orator, who made the members of his race in that tabernacle or church go wild with enthusiasm, as the report states, said:
"It is claimed that the negro industrial schools are the proper lines of effort for the race. Talk about education and wealth, and say that they make votes for the negro. It's a lie. No, they are destroying votes. Every negro who puts on a clean collar and tries to be a man is destroying a vote. I believe God will take care of us. And just one word about the question of the absorption of the races."
The speaker added significantly:
"No two people having the same religion and speaking the same tongue, living together, have ever been kept apart. This is well known, and it is one of the reasons why the dominant race is crushing out the strength of the negro in the South."
There is your open door and it is easy to see what doom it leads. The purpose [?] and hope of those who indorse this policy and are madly pressing it on us in the South [?] is that we in time shall become a country or State of mulattoes. Wendell Phillips in his Fourth of July speech in 1863 openly advocated amalgamation. Theodore Tilton also advocated it. Thad Stevens practiced it. It was not surprising. It was not to be wondered at that those men who had devoted their lives to the propaganda of abolition should have allowed their sentimentality to get the better of all judgment and race pride. Hayes is of a type of negroes who are growing in number daily. He is [?] more bold and less cunning and cautious than the rest. He repudiates Booker Washington and his teachings, but his race in Washington "go wild" over his ravings.
Look southward, if you please, over the Rio Grande, and tell me what you see no commonwealth, that is self-governing. You see a mongrelized aggregation of Indies and Spaniards and negroes inhabiting that land who make orderly government a byword and a hissing. [?] such doom as that is possible to the Southern States. No such scheme will ever receive the indorsement of the American people, and if it does then god have mercy on the country, for there will be a hundred times more blood shed than ever was shed before. "The stars in their courses fight against sisera. I do not threaten you. I prayerfully [?] you. I know those people. I know your stock as well as mine. You would submit to it. We can not. We dare not. We will not.
I want to touch a moment on the effect of education on men. Under existing [?] we are left absolutely without any barrier in dealing with suffrage other than the ability to read and write. In my State we have enlarged that by permitting that who pays tax on $300 worth of property, whether or not they read or write, to use ballot. But who here is prepared to say that the mere acquirement of enough education, to read and write a good citizen--that it fits a man for the complicated duties of self-government and participation in self-government? Pope declared that
"A little learning is a dangerous thing,"and it is the quintessence of folly to suppose that the African can emulate, or [?] imitate even, the Anglo-Saxon in matters of government. The history of [?] in the continent where it originated and still exists by the hundreds of millions is that of barbarism, savagery, cannibalism, and everything which is low and degrading.
This has been the story of all the centuries. It is idle to expect such beings to be transformed in a generation or two into good citizens capable of governing themselves.
My observation teaches me that where is no moral training there is no character. If along with the training of the head--the mere ability to translate letters into word--there be not a training of the moral faculties faculties, the realization of the difference between right and wrong, the instinct to tell the truth, to be virtuous and honest, what good do your three little r's do?
I did not want to say anything about what are the conditions in the South as I know them to be by personal contact and observation all my life. I have preferred to marshall the evidence of an unbiased witness, who has taken official reports and the scientific data, and to tell you what he has to say about this race. But I am willing to say that [?] little smattering of education which negroes are receiving now has absolutely no [?] upon their upbuilding as a people. It does not increase by one-quarter of an [?] their stature in manhood. It is not elevating, but enervating and destructive of the [?] virtues of the negro race, and they have their virtues as well as we have.
I want to direct your attention to a remarkable fact in the history of this country, which can not be too much dwell upon. When the Southern white men, from 16 to 60 years of age, all of them living in the cotton States, except a few in the mountains, had left their homes during the civil war to follow the standards of Lee and Jackson, of Johnston and Forrest, and when there were absolutely no men there except the old men above 60 and 65 and the little schoolboys--and the country then was much less thickly populated than it is now and altogether more agricultural--with over 4,000,000 negroes there were at least 1,000,000 males of adult age, slaves scattered throughout the breadth of the land, from the Potomac to the Rio Grande, and the wives and daughters of their masters were left to their care and protection.
The negroes knew the war was to settle the question of their future liberty or continued slavery. If there existed in their hearts any cause for hatred and resentment and desire for revenge, such as you gentlemen in your youth were led to believe existed [?] reading Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel and other sources of information and when [?] poured out its plea for the poor, downtrodden African--if these people had [?] been imbued with one-tenth of the hatred of the whites which exist to-day, if they [?] cause for late, what would have been the consequences upon the helpless white women and children then living among them? The very imagination sickens at the picture of rapine and number and of the cruelties and horrors of which we have read in [?] and San Domingo, and which would have been repeated in the South. Yet they were slaves and had, as you believe, ample cause for revenge and hate.
But what are the facts, Senators? During those four dark years there is not of [?] a solitary case where a negro man wronged a white woman. What is the situation [?] take your morning paper and read it any day in the year, and there is hardly a day in which your sensibilities are not wrought up and passions aroused or our pity [?] by some tale or horror and of woe.
I tell you from my own experience and observation that the old sense of security [?] of love and friendship on the part of the negro for his white master and his mistress [?] the children, which I myself experience in my boyhood, had gone. With the remnant the old negroes who were born in slavery and had some of that training (all of whom [?] now necessity above 40) gone, the last restraining and conservative element among [?] will have disappeared. They have been taught that they are the equals of the [?] During the reconstruction period, when they had the ballot and professed to [?], and levied taxes and marched themselves in the statehouses, constantly squander- and stealing of our substances, they learned their lesson well. They tasted blood. They were innoculated with the virus of equality.
"License they mean when they ery Liberty:among the dusky millions who were held in bondage there were, of course, many [?] been cruelty wronged and suffered injustice, but the overwhelming major [?] had no feeling for their masters and their families except love and veneration looked up to them as superior beings. They felt the obligations of the trusts which had been reposed in them, and many of them were true unto death. The fact which can not be disputed is one to give us pause when we undertake to analyze the present conditions.
For who loves that must first be wise and good."
So the poor African has become a fiend, a wild beast, seeking whom he may devour, filling our penitentaries and our jails, lurking around to see if some helpless white woman can be murdered or brutalized. Yet he can read and write. He has a little of the veneer of education and civilization, according to New England ideas.
I do not blame the New England people. They have none, or few, of the negroes. The whole number beyond New York would not equal the negroes in my county. The people up there can afford to theorize and to determine upon the life and death of the civilization of the South from their standpoint of sentimentality, if they are willing, but I do not believe they now willing. I do not believe they want to. I give them credit for more love of humanity and of their kind than to bring on a conflict of that sort. If there were no higher motives. I give them credit for more statesmanship. But, with the constantly increasing hatred between the races, with the older white men, acquainted with the better negroes, dying off, as they are doing rapidly; with the old negroes, the grandfathers of the race, dying off rapidly, as they are doing, in a very short while those who know anything of the relation of the slave and the master in the old days will have disappeared and gone.
And then the younger generation of white men, who are hating these negroes in return, whose animosity and antagonism grow apace with these acute situations and conditions, have got to face this problem. I thank God sometimes that I will not live to see the thing brought to a focus. I am endeavoring in my feeble way to beg you, for God's sake, not to help produce that acute stage of fever and race hatred and carry it through until you bring into people those angry passions which will put the races at each other's throats with the resolve on the part of the whites to die or maintain their supremacy. Every one knows what will be the result.
What effect does it have to appoint a negro to office in a community, many of which I could mention in my State, where there are three or five negroes to one white, just as there are in Indianola three negroes to a white person in that entire community, and in the adjoining county of Washington there are absolutely ten to one, just as in Beaufort, S.C., there are ten to one? What effect does it have for the knowledge to go out all over and among them, at their churches and everywhere else, that the great President of the United States is still their friend; that he does not intend to allow the "door of hope to be shut upon them;" that he wants to offer them an opportunity in life; that [?] is going to recognize them and give them offices to represent the United States Government? Does that tend to peace, tend to good order, tend to produce that feeling of subordination which is their only salvation?
Some people have been ready to believe and to contend that the negro is a white man with a black skin. All history disproves that. Go to Africa. What do you find there? From one hundred and fifty million to two hundred million savages.
I happened in my boyhood, when I was about 12 years old, to see some real Africans fresh from their native jungles. The last cargo of slaves imported into this country were brought here in 1858 on the yacht Wanderer, landed on an island below Savannah, and sneaked by the United States marshal up the Savannah River and landed a little distance below Augusta, and my family bought some thirty of them.
Therefore I had a chance to see just what kind of people these were, and to compare the African as he is to-day in Africa with the African who, after two centuries [?] slavery, was brought side by side to be judged. The difference was as
"Hyperion to a satyr."
Those poor wretches, half starved as they had been on their voyage across the Atlantic, shut down and battened under the hatches and fed a little rice, several hundred of them, were the most miserable lot of human beings--the nearest to the missing [?] with the monkey--I have ever put my eyes on.
Now, I do not go into the philosophy of it, or undertake to act as God's interpreter because I have no ambition of that sort and I would not presume to even suggest a [?] more than to say that if we consider the destinied of this race from a broad standpoint and compare the condition the African in Africa to-day, the highest and [?] with the condition of the American negroes, such as we now have them, or [?] them in 1865, I do not hesitate to say that among the [?] million slaves who were in the South in 1865 there were more good, Christian men and women and gentlemen and ladies than all African could show then or can show now.
Then if God in His providence ordained slavery and had these people transported over here for the purpose of civilizing enough of them to form a nucleus and to become missionaries back to their native heath, that is a question. I have a letter here from distinguished African bishop who believes it, and I want to read it. But the thing want to call your attention to is that slavery was not an unmitigated evil for the negro, because whatever of progress the colored race has shown itself capable of achieving has come from slavery; and whether among those four million there were not more good men and women than could be found among the nine million now is to my mind question. I would not like to assert it; but I am strongly of that belief from the facts know in regard to the demoralization that has come to those people down there by having liberty thrust upon them in the way it was, and then having the ballot and the burdens of government, and being subjected to the strain of being tempted and misled and duped and used as tools by designing white men who went there among them.
A little while back I received a letter from this man--I never met him--making some comment on something he had seen about my utterances in regard to the negro in some speech or lecture. My newspaper friends have always taken it upon themselves to quote everything that is lurid and hot and vitriolic that I say and then to finish by saying. "The Senator from South Carolina made a characteristic speech," leaving anything that was same and rational and decent and eloquent, if I ever rise to eloquence, out of the whole account. That is unintentional, doubtless. In their pursuit for sensation they have done me the great wrong to misrepresent me throughout this country. I do not fret over it. I know that the truth never has overtaken a lie; and I do not intend to undertake it; and I never will even make a start to run down the thousand and one [?] that have been told on me.
But this man, this bishop, wrote me a letter and called my attention to a dream of his, an inspiration and a hope, and to suggest that I should submit his proposition to the Senate of the United States and lend it support. I wrote back to him the difficulty that lay in the way, the obstruction, the well-nigh impossibility of anything being done along that line to the extent he had dreamed of, and I went on to say something about any idea in regard to the negro, giving a little advice, as we are all so prone and ready to [?] Advice is one of those commodities that nobody ever charges anything for except lawyer. I got this letter in return:
Atlanta, Ga., January 24, 1903. Hon. B.R. Tillman,
United States Senator.
Sir: Yours of the 19th instant was upon my table when I reached home from Memphis, Tenn.
You say, if I know anything I ought to know that the negro in the South must ever and forever remain subordinate or be destroyed and annihilated. I know that as well as you do, and even after for a white man can not see the virus of this entire nation, from the Supreme Court of the United States down to the ward politician, as the colored man can see it and feel it. But this determination to degrade the negro and prevent his recognition as a man that God made is not only confined to the ruling masses of the South, but to the North as well. Color prejudice--
He seemed to agree with me in the idea I expressed in the beginning of my speech, that caste feeling, prejudice, whatever you call it, is just as strong in the North as it is with us, except that the provocation to exhibit it does not exist there. But let me go with him--
Just to the North as well. Color prejudice is not a Southern institution alone, but of the United States. Hence my desire for my race to leave the nation and return to Africa. When I was a boy, [?] years ago, I thought then as I do now, that God allowed the negro to be brought to this country and civilized to redeem his kindred in Africa. And since I have traveled from one end of Africa to the other, I am stronger in my conviction than ever. And I did hope that, as Jefferson Davis has the negative force in the freedom of the negro, God had raised you up to be the negative force that should establish through governmental aid a highway for millions of our race to return to the land of our ancestors. I have been looking upon you as a creature of Providence--
Now, is not that a high compliment? (Laughter.) As you know--
God moves in a mysterious waystill think that your utterances in many instances will serve a purpose not even contemplated yourself. Others of my race may denounce you, as they do in mass meetings and on the lecture form of this country, but I shall praise you and wish you godspeed; for I believe that you are ? a purpose of Providence that but few are aware of, and even yourself do not realize. [?] you [?] the tone of your letter, that I am a politician--
His wonders to perform--
I told him that if we could get politicians to emigrate, God knows I would subsidize all the vessels Uncle Sam has and ship them to Africa or to heaven. He says [?].
I judge you think, from the tone of your letter, that I am a politician. But be politics far from me. I am no politician. Nor am I any office seeker for my race. I do not care if a negro gets office in this country while the world stands. A little insignificant office in the face of all the laws that are enacted to prevent our rising to manhood is too small to merit my attention. The negro is a fool for wanting office. He is a fool for enlisting in the Army of Navy or in doing anything to protect a flag that gives white men all the stars and leaves nothing but the stripes [?] the negro. Please do not class me among the politicians.
You see this man has got some gray matter in his kinky head.
You say the natural increase of the negro by birth would be a bar to
emigration solving the race problem. If I could talk with you I would make you
see otherwise. For I know all about it--and acquainted with the statistics of
immigration to this country. But I shall not intrude upon your time and
patience. No reply to this letter will be expected.
Truly, H.M. TURNER.
H.M. Turner is a bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. His scheme is before you to consider.
Now, Mr. President, a little brief summary, and I am done.
I have endeavored in my feeble and humble way to give you such historical light such ethnological light, on this subject as I could come across in the brief time I have had, along with my other duties, to collect. I have relied mainly on the inner light of my own observations and my own feeling and knowledge of conditions.
I do not want to see the African driven to the wall. I do not want to shut the door hope in his face. I am willing to give him every opportunity in life, all that the Declaration of Independence guarantees--life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But that [?] not involve, and so help me God I can not consent to have it involve, the dominance that people over my people.
Then what are we to do? We have, as I have told you, a large negro majority South Carolina. Negroes constituted the wealth of that State before the war when the slaves were chattels. They are there, and they do not want to leave, and we do not want them to leave. What I mean by that is that to-day the superficial thought is [?] if they left our fields would go untilled, our lands would become worthless, there [?] be a vacuum in the productions of that State, and if you took them out of the [?] you would create a cataclysm in finance, and would knock down and destroy not the financial prosperity of this nation but of all Europe.
So you can not approach this problem at a double-quick. It has been coming on for two centuries or more. We will have to take the time to study out the best way to go about settling it and then begin. We had better never begin than to begin wrong. We have already begun wrong. The blunders which have been made since 1865 have produced the present unfortunate and, I might say dangerous situation.
Consider for a moment what it means to undertake to deport these people, to encourage them to emigrate. You are face to face with a problem which in its magnity in expense will approximate the national debt at the close of the war. The getting gether even in small quantity of 200,000 a year, or whatever number might equal birth rate, and giving them the aid and the assistance to go across the ocean, or to South America, or to Mexico, or to the Philippines, or to Cuba, or to Africa, or where else, involves transportation by sea, the food necessary to sustain them while [?] are on the way and in the time they are on shipboard, the food to support life; and [?] when you had land them on the other shore you are compelled by humanity to furnish them with the means of support until they can make a start in the world, until they can plan a crop and gather it.
So I think upon a rough estimate you can not possibly hope or expect to accomplish it under $300 per capita at a very low estimate.
How many of them want to go? I do not know, and certainly there is no law make them go and Congress can not pass one. Joe does not want to gummy Joe. I do not know whether I belong to Joe or Joe belongs to me. Anyhow, we have been together for thirty years, and we have agreed to live together until one or both of us die, [?] when I go away, if I go first, I know he will shed as sincere tears as anybody. I [?] die to protect him from injustice or wrong.
Now, what are you going to do about it? Throughout that broad land there are hundreds and thousands of Joes. They do not care anything about voting. They [?] now anything about it. Left alone and in peace as they are now, they do not know anything about the elections. They have forgotten all they did know about them. They have not voted in South Carolina since 1881, long before they were disfranchised according to the constitution and the law of the State. When we took the government away from them in 1876 we made it clear that we intended to keep it that, after one or two spasmodic efforts, they surrendered all desire or contention, and virtually were satisfied to go and pick cotton on the 6th or 7th of November, when the first Tuesday came.
It is only these pestiferous creatures who are organized, as I said, into little Republican machines to furnish delegates to nominate a Republican President who are bothering about it; and it is those fellows who are in these offices who stir up bad blood and create [?] antagonism and create a feeling of opposition in the minds of all those who are willing to be misled.
Then comes this other idea--I had forgotten it. I wish the Senator from Ohio (Mr. Hanna) was in his seat. I have here a bill which I should like to have him explain. I had almost let it slip my mind. It is Senate bill 7254, introduced by Mr. Hanna, "to provide pensions for freedmen," and so forth. "Be it enacted," and so on. The bill carries with it--how much I do not know--forty, or fifty, or sixty million dollars. Oh, Mr. President, did Mr. Hanna mean that, or is it a political dodge He can not answer, for is not here. If he chooses to answer tomorrow, I shall be glad to hear him.
What has been the effect of this? There are passing up and down the South, from one end of it to the other, agents, shrewd, sharp fellows, mostly mulattoes, who have all meanness of the white man, along with some intellectual superiority--many of them; some of them are good people. But these scoundrels are collecting at the negro churches and schools 10 cents, 20 cents, 30 cents, in accordance with ability of the poor dupes contribute to this fund, to hire lawyers to press this bill through Congress.
My God, was there ever a more infamous scheme to bamboozle and deceive since the freedman's Bureau had those people contribute of their substance fifty-odd million dollars and then you allowed a lot of fellows to steal the best part of it?
Is there anybody on the other side willing to help me put this pension bill in one [?]appropriation bills as a rider? I intend to move it--God knows I will--and let you in on it, if I can get a chance. I want you to put yourselves on record whether you [?] these old negroes as well as I do. I am perfectly willing to give Joe and Kitty, one of whom were old slaves and who are ex-slaves, an appropriation of three or four hundred dollars or $10 a month apiece, and I will give them each a piece of land and them stay on it, and when I want my shoes blacked and carriage horses hitched [?] or anything done for which I pay Joe, I will get it just the same without regard to the pension that Mr. Hanna is proposing to give.
Well, Mr. President, I am done [?] treated this subject but imperfectly, but I have spoken from the soul, from [?] eart, to tell you the truth, so help me God.[?] warn you that in proportion as you arouse false hopes in these people's minds as to [?] future, keeping the door of hope open by giving them offices, you are only sowing wind which will flame up into a whirlwind later on. You can not keep that door without shutting it on the whites. The northern millions which have gone down have gone into negro colleges and schools to equip these people to complete with white neighbors.
All of the millions that are being sent there by Northern philanthrophy has been but [?] an antagonism between the poorer classes of our citizens and these people upon those level they are in the labor market. There has been no contribution to elevate the white people of the South, to aid and assist Anglo-Saxon Americans, the men who are descended from the people who fought with Marion and Sumter. They are allowed to struggle from poverty and in ignorance, and to do everything they can to get along, and [?] see Northern people pouring into thousands and thousands to help build up an African [?] nination.
Senators I leave the subject with you. May God give you wisdom and light to "do [?] ou would have others do unto you."