[Acknowledging the "number" of southern responses to "The Freedman's Case" that it had received, in its March 1885 issue The Century printed this notice about how Cable's critics would be given a chance to respond.]
Freedom of Discussion
No essay on the subject of the freedmen published for many years has attracted wider attention than Mr. Cable's "The Freedman's Case in Equity," in the January Century. The reception of this essay in the Southern States (though not unaccompanied by some amusing reminders of the good old-fashioned bowie-knife and fire-eating days) would seem to be a new proof that the Southern people admit of the honest and free discussion of burning questions in a manner which has not always been characteristic of that section. Not only does the South admit the distasteful opinions of thinkers from other sections, but, what is still more noticeable, it is increasingly tolerant of differences of opinion among its own writers. When one considers the intolerance recently manifested in the North and West in the matter of political independence, and the spirit of "boycotting" shown toward certain Northern leaders and periodicals, and when one sees this new attitude of Southern newspapers and leaders, one has food for reflection. Evidently a great many changes have taken place in this country during the past twenty years.
A number of more or less dissenting essays and "Open Letters" have come to us from the South since the publication of Mr. Cable's last article, but we have thought best to confine the reply, at present, to a single representative essay of some length, which is now in preparation, and which will appear in an early number of the Century.
[For a rebuttal to Cable's case The Century turned to Henry W. Grady, editor of the Atlanta Constitution, whose response appeared in the next issue of the magazine. One of the earliest full-blown defenses of the Jim Crow system, it concludes by declaring that the South, by which of course Grady means the white South, must be left alone to decide the Negro's place. The South, he adds, using the same word that Tom Sawyer uses to describe his plan to free Jim, will settle the issue "without fear or evasion." This essay is "of some length," and chilling in the way it consigns an entire community of people to second-class status as the best of all possible worlds, but it is worth reading as a reminder of the exact cultural context in which MT's various representations of race and interracial relations appeared.]
In Plain Black and White:
A Reply to Mr. Cable
Amid it all, the South has been silent.
There has been, perhaps, good reason for this silence. The problem under debate is a tremendous one. Its right solution means peace, prosperity, and happiness to the South. A mistake, even in the temper in which it is approached or the theory upon which its solution is attempted, would mean detriment, that at best would be serious, and might easily be worse. Hence the South has pondered over this problem, earnestly seeking with all her might the honest and the safe way out of its entanglements, and saying little because there was but little to which she felt safe in committing herself. Indeed, there was another reason why she did not feel called upon to obtrude her opinions. The people of the North, proceeding by the right of victorious arms, had themselves undertaken to settle the negro question. From the Emancipation Proclamation to the Civil Rights Bill they hurried with little let or hindrance, holding the negro in the meanwhile under a sort of tutelage, from part in which his former masters were practically excluded. Under this state of things the South had little to do but watch and learn.
We have now passed fifteen years of experiment. Certain broad principles have been established as wise and just. The South has something to say which she can say with confidence. There is no longer impropriety in her speaking or lack of weight in her words. The people of the United States have, by their suffrages, remitted to the Southern people, temporarily at least, control of the race question. The decision of the Supreme Court on the Civil Rights Bill leaves practically to their adjustment important issues that were, until that decision was rendered, covered by straight and severe enactment. These things deepen the responsibility of the South, increase its concern, and confront it with a problem to which it must address itself promptly and frankly. Where it has been silent, it now should speak. The interest of every American in the honorable plain and equitable settlement of this question is second only to the interest of those specially -- and fortunately, we believe -- charged with its adjustment. "What will you do with it?" is a question any man may now ask the South, and to which the South should make frank and full reply.
It is important that this reply shall be plain and straightforward. Above all things it must carry the genuine convictions of the people it represents. On this subject and at this time the South cannot afford to be misunderstood. Upon the clear and general apprehension of her position and of her motives and purpose everything depends. She cannot let pass unchallenged a single utterance that, spoken in her name, misstates her case or her intention. It is to protest against just such injustice that this article is written.
In a lately printed article, Mr. George W. Cable, writing in the name of the Southern people, confesses judgment on points that they still defend, and commits them to a line of thought from which they must forever dissent. In this article, as in his works, the singular tenderness and beauty of which have justly made him famous, Mr. Cable is sentimental rather than practical. But the reader, enchained by the picturesque style and misled by the engaging candor with which the author admits the shortcomings of "We of the South," and the kindling enthusiasm with which he tells how "We of the South" must make reparation, is apt to assume that it is really the soul of the South that breathes through Mr. Cable's repentant sentences. It is not my purpose to discuss Mr. Cable's relations to the people for whom he claims to speak. Born in the South, of Northern parents, he appears to have had little sympathy with his Southern environment, as in 1882 he wrote, "To be in New England would be enough for me. I was there once, -- a year ago, -- and it seemed as if I had never been home till then." It will be suggested that a man so out of harmony with his neighbors as to say, even after he had fought side by side with them on the battle-field, that he never felt at home until he had left them, cannot speak understandingly of their views on so vital a subject as that under discussion. But it is with his statement rather than his personality that we have to deal. Does he truly represent the South? We reply that he does not! There may be here and there in the South a dreaming theorist who subscribes to Mr. Cable's teachings. We have seen no signs of one. Among the thoughtful men of the South, -- the men who felt that all brave men might quit fighting when General Lee surrendered, -- who, enshrining in their hearts the heroic memories of the cause they had lost, in good faith accepted the arbitrament of the sword to which they had appealed, -- who bestirred themselves cheerfully amid the ruins of their homes, and set about the work of rehabilitation, -- who have patched and mended and builded anew, and fashioned out of pitiful resource a larger prosperity than they ever knew before, -- who have set their homes on the old red hills, and staked their honor and prosperity and the peace and well-being of the children who shall come after them on the clear and equitable solution of every social, industrial, or political problem that concerns the South, -- among these men, who control and will continue to control, I do know, there is general protest against Mr. Cable's statement of the case, and universal protest against his suggestions for the future. The mind of these men I shall attempt to speak, maintaining my right to speak for them with the pledge that, having exceptional means for knowing their views on this subject, and having spared no pains to keep fully informed thereof, I shall write down nothing in their name on which I have found even a fractional difference of opinion.
A careful reading of Mr. Cable's article discloses the following argument: The Southern people have deliberately and persistently evaded the laws forced on them for the protection of the freedman; this evasion has been the result of prejudices born of and surviving the institution of slavery, the only way to remove which is to break down every distinction between the races; and now the best thought of the South, alarmed at the withdrawal of the political machinery that forced the passage of the protective laws, which withdrawal tempts further and more intolerable evasions, is moving to forbid all further assortment of the races and insist on their intermingling in all places and in all relations. The first part of this argument is a matter of record, and, from the Southern stand-point, mainly a matter of reputation. It can bide its time. The suggestion held in its conclusion is so impossible, so mischievous, and, in certain aspects, so monstrous, that it must be met at once.
It is hard to think about the negro with exactness. His helplessness, his generations of enslavement, his unique position among the peoples of the earth, his distinctive color, his simple, lovable traits, -- all these combine to hasten opinion into conviction where he is the subject of discussion. Three times has this tendency brought about epochal results in his history. First, it abolished slavery. For this all men are thankful, even those who, because of the personal injustice and violence of the means by which it was brought about, opposed its accomplishment. Second, it made him a voter. This, done more in a sense of reparation than in judgment, is as final as the other. The North demanded it; the South expected it; all acquiesced in it, and, wise or unwise, it will stand. Third, it fixed by enactment his social and civil rights. And here for the first time the revolution faltered. Up to this point the way had been plain, the light clear, and the march at quick-step. Here the line halted. The way was lost; there was hesitation, division, and uncertainty. Knowing not which way to turn, and enveloped in doubt, the revolutionists heard the retreat sounded by the Supreme Court with small reluctance, and, to use Mr. Cable's words, "bewildered by complication, vexed by many a blunder," retired from the field. See, then, the progress of this work. The first step, right by universal agreement, would stand if the law that made it were withdrawn. The second step, though irrevocable, raises doubts as to its wisdom. The third, wrong in purpose, has failed in execution. It stands denounced as null by the highest court, as inoperative by general confession, and as unwise by popular verdict. Let us take advantage of this halt in the too rapid revolution, and see exactly where we stand and what is best for us to do. The situation is critical. The next moment may formulate the work of the next twenty years. The tremendous forces of the revolution, unspent and still terrible, are but held in arrest. Launch them mistakenly, chaos may come. Wrong-headedness may be as fatal now as wrong-heartedness. Clear views, clear statement, and clear understanding are the demands of the hour. Given these, the common sense and courage of the American people will make the rest easy.
Let it be understood in the beginning, then, that the South will never adopt Mr. Cable's suggestion of the social intermingling of the races. It can never be driven into accepting it. So far from there being a growing sentiment in the South in favor of the indiscriminate mixing of the races, the intelligence of both races is moving farther from that proposition day by day. It is more impossible (if I may shade a superlative) now than it was ten years ago; it will be less possible ten years hence. Neither race wants it. The interest, as the inclination, of both races is against it. Here the issue with Mr. Cable is made up. He denounces any assortment of the races as unjust and demands that white and black shall intermingle everywhere. The South replies that the assortment of the races is wise and proper, and stands on the platform of equal accommodation for each race, but separate.
The difference is an essential one. Deplore or defend it as we may, an antagonism is bred between the races when they are forced into mixed assemblages. This sinks out of sight, if not out of existence, when each race moves in its own sphere. Mr. Cable admits this feeling, but doubts that it is instinctive. In my opinion it is instinctive -- deeper than prejudice or pride, and bred in the bone and blood. It would make itself felt even in sections where popular prejudice runs counter to its manifestation. If in any town in Wisconsin or Vermont there was equal population of whites and blacks, and schools, churches, hotels, and theaters were in common, this instinct would assuredly develop; the races would separate, and each race would hasten the separation. Let me give an example that touches this supposition closely. Bishop Gilbert Haven, of the Methodist Episcopal Church, many years ago came to the South earnestly, and honestly, we may believe, devoted to breaking up the assortment of the races. He was backed by powerful influences in the North. He was welcomed by resident Northerners in the South (then in control of Southern affairs) as an able and eloquent exponent of their views. His first experiment toward mixing the races was made in the church -- surely the most propitious field. Here the fraternal influence of religion emphasized his appeals for the brotherhood of the races. What was the result? After the first month his church was decimated. The Northern whites and the Southern blacks left it in squads. The dividing influences were mutual. The stout bishop contended with prayer and argument and threat against the inevitable, but finally succumbed. Two separate churches were established, and each race worshiped to itself. There had been no collision, no harsh words, no discussion even. Each race simply obeyed its instinct, that spoke above the appeal of the bishop and dominated the divine influences that pulsed from pew to pew. Time and again did the bishop force the experiment. Time and again he failed. At last he was driven to the confession that but one thing could effect what he had tried so hard to bring about, and that was miscegenation. A few years of experiment would force Mr. Cable to the same conclusion.
The same experiment was tried on a larger scale by the Methodist Episcopal Church (North) when it established its churches in the South after the war. It essayed to bring the races together, and in its conferences and its churches there was no color line. Prejudice certainly did not operate to make a division here. On the contrary, the whites and blacks of this church were knit together by prejudice, pride, sentiment, political and even social policy. Underneath all this was a race instinct, obeying which, silently, they drifted swiftly apart. While white Methodists of the church North and of the church South, distant from each other in all but the kinship of race and worship, were struggling to effect once more a union of the churches that had been torn apart by a quarrel over slavery, so that in every white conference and every white church on all this continent white Methodists could stand in restored brotherhood, the Methodist Church (North) agreed, without serious protest, to a separation of its Southern branch into two conferences of whites and of blacks, and into separate congregations where the proportion of either race was considerable. Was it without reason -- it certainly was not through prejudice -- that this church, while seeking anew fusion with its late enemies, consented to separate from its new friends?
It was the race instinct that spoke there. It spoke not with prejudice, but against it. It spoke there as it speaks always and everywhere -- as it has spoken for two thousand years. And it spoke to the reason of each race. Millaud, in voting in the French Convention for the beheading of Louis XVI., said "If death did not exist, it would be necessary to-day to invent it." So of this instinct. It is the pledge of the integrity of each race, and of peace between the races. Without it, there might be a breaking down of all lines of division and a thorough intermingling of whites and blacks. This once accomplished, the lower and the weaker elements of the races would begin to fuse and the process of amalgamation would have begun. This would mean the disorganization of society. An internecine war would be precipitated. The whites, at any cost and at any hazard, would maintain the clear integrity and dominance of the Anglo-Saxon blood. They understand perfectly that the debasement of their own race would not profit the humble and sincere race with which their lot is cast, and that the hybrid would not gain what either race lost. Even if the vigor and the volume of the Anglo-Saxon blood would enable it to absorb the African current, and after many generations recover its own strength and purity, not all the powers of earth could control the unspeakable horrors that would wait upon the slow process of clarification. Easier far it would be to take the population of central New York, intermingle with an equal percentage of Indians, and force amalgamation between the two. Let us review the argument. If Mr. Cable is correct in assuming that there is no instinct that keeps the two races separate in the South, then there is no reason for doubting that if intermingled they would fuse. Mere prejudice would not long survive perfect equality and social intermingling; and the prejudice once gone, intermarrying would begin. Then, if there is a race instinct in either race that resents intimate association with the other, it would be unwise to force such association when there are easy and just alternatives. If there is no such instinct, the mixing of the races would mean amalgamation, to which the whites will never submit, and to which neither race should submit. So that in either case, whether the race feeling is instinct or prejudice, we come to but one conclusion: The white and black races in the South must walk apart. Concurrent their courses may go -- ought to go-- will go -- but separate. If instinct did not make this plain in a flash, reason would spell it out letter by letter.
Now, let us see. We hold that there is an instinct, ineradicable and positive that will keep the races apart, that would keep the races apart if the problem were transferred to Illinois or to Maine, and that will resist every effort of appeal, argument, or force to bring them together. We add in perfect frankness, however, that if no such instinct existed, or if the South had reasonable doubt of its existence, it would, by every means in its power, so strengthen the race prejudice that it would do the work and hold the stubbornness and strength of instinct. The question that confronts us at this point is: Admitted this instinct, that gathers each race to itself. Then, do you believe it possible to carry forward on the same soil and under the same laws two races equally free, practically equal in numbers, and yet entirely distinct and separate? This is a momentous question. It involves a problem that, all things considered, is without a precedent or parallel. Can the South carry this problem in honor and in peace to an equitable solution? We reply that for ten years the South has been doing this very thing, and with at least apparent success. No impartial and observant man can say that in the present aspect of things there is cause for alarm, or even for doubt. In the experience of the past few years there is assuredly reason for encouragement. There may be those who discern danger in the distant future. We do not. Beyond the apprehensions which must for a long time attend a matter so serious, we see nothing but cause for congratulation. In the common sense and the sincerity of the negro, no less than in the intelligence and earnestness of the whites, we find the problem simplifying. So far from the future bringing trouble, we feel confident that another decade or so, confirming the experience of the past ten years, will furnish the solution to be accepted of all men.
Let us examine briefly what the South has been doing, and study the attitude of the races towards each other. Let us do this, not so much to vindicate the past as to clear the way for the future. Let us see what the situation teaches. There must be in the experience of fifteen years something definite and suggestive. We begin with the schools and school management, as the basis of the rest.
Every Southern State has a common-school system, and in
every State separate schools are provided for the races.
Almost every city of more than five thousand inhabitants
has a public-school system, and in every city the schools
for whites and blacks are separate. There is no exception
to this rule that I can find. In many cases the law
creating this system requires that separate schools shall
be provided for the races. This plan works admirably. There
is no friction in the administration of the schools, and no
suspicion as to the ultimate tendency of the system. The
road to school is clear, and both races walk therein with
confidence. The whites, assured that the school will not be
made the hotbed of false and pernicious ideas, or the scene
of unwise associations, support the system cordially, and
insist on perfect equality in grade and efficiency. The
blacks, asking no more than this, fill the schools with
alert and eager children. So far from feeling debased by
the separate-school system, they insist that the separation
shall be carried further, and the few white teachers yet
presiding over negro schools supplanted by negro teachers.
The appropriations for public schools are increased year
after year, and free education grows constantly in strength
and popularity. Cities that were afraid to commit
themselves to free schools while mixed schools were a
possibility commenced building schoolhouses as soon as
separate schools were assured. In 1870 the late Benjamin H.
Hill found his matchless eloquence unable to carry the
suggestion of negro education into popular tolerance. Ten
years later nearly one million black children attended free
schools, supported by general taxation. Though the whites
pay nineteen-twentieths of the tax, they insist that the
blacks shall share its advantages equally. The schools for
each race are opened on that same day and closed on the
same day. Neither is run a single day at the expense of the
other. The Negroes are satisfied with the situation. I am
aware that some of the Northern teachers of negro
high-schools and universities will controvert this.
Touching their opinion, I have only to say that it can
hardly be considered fair or conservative. Under the
forcing influence of social ostracism, they have reasoned
impatiently and have been helped to conclusions by quick
sympathies or resentments. Driven back upon themselves and
hedged in by suspicion or hostility, their service has
become a sort of martyrdom, which has swiftly stimulated
opinion into conviction and conviction into fanaticism. I
read in a late issue of Zion's Herald a letter from one of
these teachers, who declined, on the conductor's request,
to leave the car in which she was riding, and which was set
apart exclusively for Negroes. The conductor, therefore,
presumed she was a quadroon, and stated his presumption in
answer to inquiry of a young negro man who was with her.
She says of this:
"Truly, a glad thrill went through my heart -- a thrill of pride. This great autocrat had pronounced me as not only in sympathy, but also one in blood, with the truest, tenderest, and noblest race that dwells on earth."If this quotation, which is now before me over the writer's name, suggests that she and those of her colleagues who agree with her have narrowed within their narrowing environment, and acquired artificial enthusiasm under their unnatural conditions, so that they must be unsafe as advisers and unfair as witnesses, the sole purpose for which it is introduced will have been served. This suggestion does not reach all Northern teachers of negro schools. Some have taken broader counsels, awakened wider sympathies, and, as a natural result, hold more moderate views. The influence of the extremer faction is steadily diminishing. Set apart, as small and curious communities are set here and there in populous States, stubborn and stiff for a while, but overwhelmed at last and lost in the mingling currents, these dissenting spots will be ere long blotted out and forgotten. The educational problem, which is their special care, has already been settled, and the settlement accepted with a heartiness that precludes the possibility of its disturbance. From the stand-point of either race the experiment of distinct but equal schools for the white and black children of the South has demonstrated its wisdom, its policy, and its justice, if any experiment ever made plain its wisdom in the hands of finite man.
I quote on this subject Gustavus J. Orr, one of the wisest and best of men and lately elected, by spontaneous movement, president of the National Educational Association. He says: "The race question in the schools is already settled. We give the Negroes equal advantages, but separate schools. This plan meets the reason and satisfies the instinct of both races. Under it we have spent over five million dollars in Georgia, and the system grows in strength constantly." I asked if the Negroes wanted mixed schools. His reply was prompt: "They do not. I have questioned them carefully on this point, and they make but one reply: They want their children in their own schools and under their own teachers." I asked what would be the effect of mixed schools. "I could not maintain the Georgia system one year. Both races would protest against it. My record as a public-school man is known. I have devoted my life to the work of education. But I am so sure of the evils that would come from mixed schools that, even if they were possible, I would see the whole educational system swept away before I would see them established. There is an instinct that gathers each race about itself. It is as strong in the blacks as in the whites, though it has not asserted itself so strongly. It is making itself manifest, since the blacks are organizing a social system of their own. It has long controlled them in their churches, and it is now doing so in their schools."
In churches, as in schools, the separation is perfect. The Negroes, in all denominations in which their membership is an appreciable percentage of the whole, have their own churches, congregations, pastors, conferences, and bishops, their own missionaries. There is not the slightest antagonism between them and the white churches of the same denomination. On the contrary, there is sympathetic interest and the utmost friendliness. The separation is recognized as not only instinctive but wise. There is no disposition to disturb it, and least of all on the part of the negro. The church is with him the center of social life, and there he wants to find his own people and no others. Let me quote just here a few sentences from a speech delivered by a genuine black negro at the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church (South), in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1880. He is himself a pastor of the African Methodist Church, and came as a fraternal delegate. This extract from a speech largely extempore is a fair specimen of negro eloquence, as it is a fair evidence of the feeling of that people toward their white neighbors.
In their social institutions, as in their churches and schools, the Negroes have obeyed their instinct and kept apart from the whites. They have their own social and benevolent societies, their own military companies, their own orders of Masons and Odd-fellows. They rally about these organizations with the greatest enthusiasm and support them with the greatest liberality. If it were proposed to merge them with white organizations of the same character, with equal rights guaranteed in all, the negroes would interpose the stoutest objection. Their tastes, associations, and inclinations -- their instincts -- lead them to gather their race about social centers of its own. I am tempted into trying to explain here what I have never yet seen a stranger to the South able to understand. The feeling that, by mutual actions separates whites and blacks when they are thrown together in social intercourse is not a repellent influence in the harsh sense of that word. It is centripetal rather than centrifugal. It is attractive about separate centers rather than expulsive from a common center. There is no antagonism, for example, between white and black military companies. On occasions they parade in the same street, and have none of the feeling that exists between Orangemen and Catholics. Of course the good sense of each race and the mutual recognition of the possible dangers of the situation have much to do with maintaining the good-will between the distinct races. The fact that in his own church or society the negro has more freedom, more chance for leadership and for individual development, than he could have in association with the whites, has more to do with it. But beyond all this is the fact that, in the segregation of the races, blacks as well as whites obey a natural instinct, which, always granting that they get equal justice and equal advantages, they obey without the slightest ill-nature or without any sense of disgrace. They meet the white people in all the avenues of business. They work side by side with the white brick-layer or carpenter in perfect accord and friendliness. When the trowel or the hammer is laid aside, the laborers part, each going his own way. Any attempt to carry the comradeship of the day into private life would be sternly resisted by both parties in interest.
We have seen that in churches, schools, and social organizations the whites and blacks are moving along separately but harmoniously, and that the "assortment of the races," which has been described as shameful and unjust, is in most part made by the instinct of each race, and commands the hearty assent of both. Let us now consider the question of public carriers. On this point the South has been sharply criticized, and not always without reason. It is manifestly wrong to make a negro pay as much for a railroad ticket as a white man pays, and then force him to accept inferior accommodations. It is equally wrong to force a decent negro into an indecent car, when there is room for him or for her elsewhere. Public sentiment in the South has long recognized this, and has persistently demanded that the railroad managers should provide cars for the negroes equal in every respect to those set apart for the whites, and that these cars should be kept clean and orderly. In Georgia a State law requires all public roads or carriers to provide equal accommodation for each race, and failure to do so is made a penal offense. In Tennessee a negro woman lately gained damages by proving that she had been forced to take inferior accommodation on a train. The railroads have, with few exceptions, come up to the requirements of the law. Where they fail, they quickly feel the weight of public opinion, and shock the sense of public justice. This very discussion, I am bound to say, will lessen such failures in the future. On four roads, in my knowledge, even better has been done than the law requires. The car set apart for the negroes is made exclusive. No whites are permitted to occupy it. A white man who strays into this car is politely told that it is reserved for the negroes. He has the information repeated two or three times, smiles, and retreats. This rule works admirably and will win general favor. There are a few roads that make no separate provision for the races, but announce that any passenger can ride on any car. Here the "assortment" of the races is done away with, and here it is that most of the outrages of which we hear occur. On these roads the negro has no place set apart for him. As a rule, he is shy about asserting himself, and he usually finds himself in the meanest corners of the train. If he forces himself into the ladies' car, he is apt to provoke a collision. It is on just one of these trains where the assortment of the passengers is left to chance that a respectable negro woman is apt to be forced to ride in a car crowded with negro convicts. Such a thing would be impossible where the issue is fairly met, and a car, clean orderly, and exclusive, is provided for each race. The case could not be met by grading the tickets and the accommodations. Such a plan would bring together in the second or third class car just the element of both races between whom prejudice runs highest, and from whom the least of tact or restraint might be expected. On the railroads, as elsewhere, the solution of the race problem is equal advantages for the same money, -- equal in comfort, safety, and exclusiveness, -- but separate.
There remains but one thing further to consider -- the negro in the jury-box. It is assumed generally that the negro has no representation in the courts. This is a false assumption. In the United States courts he usually makes more than half the jury. As to the State courts, I can speak particularly as to Georgia. I assume that she does not materially differ from the other States. In Georgia the law requires that commissioners shall prepare the jury-list for each county by selection from the upright, intelligent, and experienced citizens of the county. This provision was put into the Constitution by the negro convention of reconstruction days. Under its terms no reasonable man would have expected to see the list made up of equal percentage of the races. Indeed, the fewest number of negroes were qualified under the law. Consequently, but few appeared on the lists. The number, as was to be expected, is steadily increasing. In Fulton County there are seventy-four negroes whose names are on the lists, and the commissioners, I am informed, have about doubled this number for the present year. These negroes make good jurymen, and are rarely struck by attorneys, no matter what the client or cause may be. About the worst that can be charged against the jury system in Georgia is that the commissioners have made jurors of negroes only when they had qualified themselves to intelligently discharge a juror's duties. In few quarters of the South, however, is the negro unable to get full and exact justice in the courts, whether the jury be white or black. Immediately after the war, when there was general alarm and irritation, there may have been undue severity in sentences and extreme rigor of prosecution. But the charge that the people of the South have, in their deliberate and later moments, prostituted justice to the oppression of this dependent people, is as false as it is infamous. There is belief that the very helplessness of the negro in court has touched the heart and conscience of many a jury, when the facts should have held them impervious. In the city in which this is written a negro, at midnight, on an unfrequented street, murdered a popular young fellow, over whose grave a monument was placed by popular subscription. The only witnesses of the killing were the friends of the murdered boy. Had the murderer been a white man, it is believed he would have been convicted. He was acquitted by the white jury, and has since been convicted of a murderous assault on a person of his own color. Similarly, a young white man, belonging to one of the leading families of the State, was hung for the murder of a negro. Insanity was pleaded in his defense, and so plausibly that it is believed he would have escaped had his victim been a white man.
I quote on this point Mr. Benjamin H. Hill, who has been prosecuting attorney of the Atlanta, Ga., circuit for twelve years. He says: "In cities and towns the negro gets equal and exact justice before the courts. It is possible that, in remote counties, where the question is one of a fight between a white man and a negro, there may be a lingering prejudice that causes occasional injustice. The judge, however, may be relied on to correct this. As to negro jurors, I have never known a negro to allow his lawyer to accept a negro juror. For the State I have accepted a black juror fifty times, to have him rejected by the opposing lawyer by order of his negro client. This has occurred so invariably that I have accepted it as a rule. Irrespective of that, the negro gets justice in the courts, and the last remaining prejudice against him in the jury-box has passed away. I convicted a white man for voluntary manslaughter under peculiar circumstances. A negro met him on the street and cursed him. The white man ordered him off and started home. The negro followed him to his house and cursed him until he entered the door. When he came out, the negro was still waiting. He renewed the abuse, followed him to his store, and there struck him with his fist. In the struggle that followed, the negro was shot and killed. The jury promptly convicted the slayer."
So much for the relation between the races in the South, in churches, schools, social organizations, on the railroad, and in theaters. Everything is placed on the basis of equal accommodations, but separate. In the courts the blacks are admitted to the jury-box as they lift themselves into the limit of qualification. Mistakes have been made and injustice has been worked here and there. This was to have been expected, and it has been less than might have been expected. But there can be no mistake about the progress the South is making in the equitable adjustment of the relations between the races. Ten years ago nothing was settled. There were frequent collisions and constant apprehensions. The whites were suspicious and the blacks were restless. So simple a thing as a negro taking an hour's ride on the cars, or going to see a play, was fraught with possible danger. The larger affairs -- school, church, and court -- were held in abeyance. Now all this is changed. The era of doubt and mistrust is succeeded by the era of confidence and good-will. The races meet in the exchange of labor in perfect amity and understanding. Together they carry on the concerns of the day, knowing little or nothing of the fierce hostility that divides labor and capital in other sections. When they turn to social life they separate. Each race obeys its instinct and congregates about its own centers. At the theater they sit in opposite sections of the same gallery. On the trains they ride each in his own car. Each worships in his own church, and educates his children in his schools. Each has his place and fills it, and is satisfied. Each gets the same accommodation for the same money. There is no collision. There is no irritation or suspicion. Nowhere on earth is there kindlier feeling, closer sympathy, or less friction between two classes of society than between the whites and blacks of the South to-day. This is due to the fact that in the adjustment of their relations they have been practical and sensible. They have wisely recognized what was essential, and have not sought to change what was unchangeable. They have yielded neither to the fanatic nor the demagogue, refusing to be misled by the one or misused by the other. While the world has been clamoring over the differences they have been quietly taking counsel with each other, in the field, the shop, the street and cabin, and settling things for themselves. That the result has not astonished the world in the speediness and the facility with which it has been reached, and the beneficence that has come with it, is due to the fact that the result has not been freely proclaimed. It has been a deplorable condition of our politics that the North has been misinformed as to the true condition of things in the South. Political greed and passion conjured pestilential mists to becloud what the lifting smoke of battle left clear. It has exaggerated where there was a grain of fact, and invented where there was none. It has sought to establish the most casual occurrences as the settled habit of the section, and has sprung endless jeremiads from one single disorder, as Jenkins filled the courts of Christendom with lamentations over his dissevered ear. These misrepresentations will pass away with the occasion that provoked them, and when the truth is known it will come with the force of a revelation to vindicate those who have bespoken for the South a fair trial, and to confound those who have borne false witness against her.
One thing further need be said, in perfect frankness. The South must be allowed to settle the social relations of the races according to her own views of what is right and best. There has never been a moment when she could have submitted to have the social status of her citizens fixed by an outside power. She accepted the emancipation and the enfranchisement of her slaves as the legitimate results of war that had been fought to a conclusion. These once accomplished, nothing more was possible. "Thus far and no farther," she said to her neighbors, in no spirit of defiance, but with quiet determination. In her weakest moments, when her helpless people were hedged about by the unthinking bayonets of her conquerors, she gathered them for resistance at this point. Here she defended everything that a people should hold dear. There was little proclamation of her purpose. Barely did the whispered word that bespoke her resolution catch the listening ears of her sons; but, for all this, the victorious armies of the North, had they been rallied again from their homes, could not have enforced and maintained among this disarmed people the policy indicated in the Civil Rights bill. Had she found herself unable to defend her social integrity against the arms that were invincible on the fields where she staked the sovereignty of her States, her people would have abandoned their homes and betaken themselves into exile. Now, as then, the South is determined that, come what may, she must control the social relations of the two races whose lots are cast within her limits. It is right that she should have this control. The problem is hers, whether or not of her seeking, and her very existence depends on its proper solution. Her responsibility is greater, her knowledge of the case more thorough than that of others can be. The question touches her at every point; it presses on her from every side; it commands her constant attention. Every consideration of policy, of honor, of pride, of common sense impels her to the exactest justice and the fullest equity. She lacks the ignorance or misapprehension that might lead others into mistakes; all others lack the appalling alternative that all else failing, would force her to use her knowledge wisely. For these reasons she has reserved to herself the right to settle the still unsettled element of the race problem, and this right she can never yield.
As a matter of course, this implies the clear and unmistakable domination of the white race in the South. The assertion of that is simply the assertion of the right of character, intelligence, and property to rule. It is simply saying that the responsible and steadfast element in the community shall control, rather than the irresponsible and the migratory. It is the reassertion of the moral power that overthrew the scandalous reconstruction governments, even though, to the shame of the republic be it said, they were supported by the bayonets of the General Government. Even the race issue is lost at this point. If the blacks of the South wore white skins, and were leagued together in the same ignorance and irresponsibility under any other distinctive mark than their color, they would progress not one step farther toward the control of affairs. Or if they were transported as they are to Ohio, and there placed in numerical majority of two to one, they would find the white minority there asserting and maintaining control, with less patience, perhaps, than many a Southern State has shown. Everywhere, with such temporary exceptions as afford demonstration of the rule, intelligence, character, and property will dominate in spite of numerical differences. These qualities are lodged with the white race in the South, and will assuredly remain there for many generations at least; so that the white race will continue to dominate the colored, even if the percentages of race increase deduced from the comparison of a lame census with a perfect one, and the omission of other considerations, should hold good and the present race majority be reversed.
Let no one imagine, from what is here said, that the South is careless of the opinion or regardless of the counsel of the outside world. On the contrary, while maintaining firmly a position she believes to be essential, she appreciates heartily the value of general sympathy and confidence. With an earnestness that is little less than pathetic she bespeaks the patience and the impartial judgment of all concerned. Surely her situation should command this, rather than indifference or antagonism. In poverty and defeat, -- with her cities destroyed, her fields desolated, her labor disorganized, her homes in ruins, her families scattered, and the ranks of her sons decimated, -- in the face of universal prejudice, fanned by the storm of war into hostility and hatred, -- under the shadow of this sorrow and this disadvantage, she turned bravely to confront a problem that would have taxed to the utmost every resource of a rich and powerful and victorious people. Every inch of her progress has been beset with sore difficulties; and if the way is now clearing, it only reveals more clearly the tremendous import of the work to which her hands are given. It must be understood that she desires to silence no criticism, evade no issue, and lessen no responsibility. She recognizes that the negro is here to stay. She knows that her dear name, and her fame, no less than her prosperity, will be measured by the fullness of the justice she gives and guarantees to this kindly and dependent race. She knows that every mistake made and every error fallen into, no matter how innocently, endanger her peace and her reputation. In this full knowledge she accepts the issue without fear or evasion. She says, not boldly, but conscious of the honesty and the wisdom of her convictions: "Leave this problem to my working out. I will solve it in calmness and deliberation, without passion or prejudice, and with full regard for the unspeakable equities it holds. Judge me rigidly, but judge me by my works." And with the South the matter may be left -- must be left. There it can be left with the fullest confidence that the honor of the republic will be maintained, the rights of humanity guarded, and the problem worked out in such exact justice as the finite mind can measure or finite agencies administer.