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Title: Modern Industrialism and the Negroes of the United States - The American Negro Academy, Occasional Papers No. 12
Author: Grimké, Archibald Henry, 1849-1930
Language: English
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*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Modern Industrialism and the Negroes of the United States - The American Negro Academy, Occasional Papers No. 12" ***

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  Occasional Papers, No. 12.

  The American Negro Academy.

  Modern Industrialism and
  the Negroes of the
  United States


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What is that tremendous system of production, organization and struggle
known as modern industrialism going to do with the Negroes of the United
States? Passing into its huge hopper and between its upper and nether
millstones, are they to come out grist for the nation, or mere chaff,
doomed like the Indian to ultimate extinction in the raging fires of
racial and industrial rivalry and progress? Sphinx's riddle, say you,
which yet awaits its Oedipus? Perhaps, though an examination of the past
may show us that the riddle is not awaiting its Oedipus so much as his
answer, which he has been writing slowly, word by word, and inexorably, in
the social evolution of the republic for a century, and is writing still.
If we succeed in reading aright what has already been inscribed by that
iron pen, may we not guess the remainder, and so catch from afar the
fateful answer? Possibly. Then let us try.

With unequaled sagacity the founders of the American Republic reared,
without prototype or precedent, its solid walls and stately columns on the
broad basis of human equality, and of certain inalienable rights, such as
life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, to which they declared all men
entitled. Deep they sunk their foundation piles on the consent of the
governed, and committed fearlessly, sublimely, the new state to the
people. But there was an exception, and on this exception hangs our tale,
and turns the dark drama of our national history.

Those founders had to deal with many novel and perplexing problems of
construction, but none seemed so difficult to handle as were those which
grew out of the presence of African slavery, as an industrial system, in
several of the States. At the threshold of national existence these men
were constrained by circumstances to make an exception to the primary
principles which they had placed at the bottom of their untried and bold
experiment in popular government. This sacrifice of fundamental truth
carried along with it one of the sternest retributions of history. For it
involved the admission on equal footing into the Union of a fundamental
error in ethics and economics, with which our new industrial democracy was
forced presently to engage in deadly strife for existence and

The American fathers were, undoubtedly, aware of the misfortune of
admitting under one general government, and on terms of equality, two
mutually invasive and destructive social ideas and their corresponding
systems of labor. But they were baffled at the time by what appeared to be
a political necessity, and so met the grand emergency of the age by
concession and a spirit of conciliation. Many of them, indeed, desired on
economic as well as on moral grounds the abolition of slavery, and
probably felt the more disposed to compromise with the evil in the general
confidence with which they regarded its early and ultimate extinction.

This humane expectation of the young republic failed of realization, owing
primarily and chiefly, I think, to the potent influence upon the
institution of slavery of certain labor-saving inventions and their
industrial application in England and America during the last quarter of
the eighteenth century. These epoch-making inventions were the spinning
jenny of Hargreaves, the spinning machine of Arkwright and the mule of
Crompton, in combination with the steam engine, which turned, says John
Richard Green, "Lancastershire into a hive of industry." And last, though
not least in its direct and indirect effects on slavery, was the cotton
gin of Eli Whitney, which formed the other half--the other hand, so to
speak--of the spinning frame. The new power loom in England created a
growing demand for raw cotton, which the American contrivance enabled the
Southern planter to meet with an increased supply of the same. Together
these inventions operated naturally to enhance the value of slave labor
and slave land, and therein conduced powerfully to the slave revival in
the United States, which followed their introduction into the economic
world. The slave industrial system, no longer then a declining factor in
the life of the young nation, assumed, instead, unexpected importance in
it, and started promptly upon a course of extraordinary expansion and

Two other circumstances combined with the one just mentioned to produce
this unexpected and deplorable result. They were the slave compromises of
the Constitution and the early territorial expansion of the republic
southward. These compromises gathered the reviving slave system, as it
were, under the wings of the general government, and so tempered the
adverse forces with which it had to struggle for existence within the
Union to its tender condition. They embraced the right to import Negroes
into the United States, as slaves, until the year 1808, which operated to
satisfy, in part, the rising demand of the South for slave labor; also the
right to recover fugitive slaves in any part of the country, which added
immensely to the security of this species of property, and the right of
the slave-holding States, under the three-fifths rule of representation in
the lower house of Congress, to count five slaves as three freemen, which
rule, taken in conjunction with the equality of State representation in
the upper branch of that body, gave to that section an immediate and
controlling influence upon federal policy and legislation.

The territorial expansion of the republic southward coincided curiously in
point of time with the territorial needs of the slave system incident to
its industrial revival. Increased demand for the products of slave labor
in the market of the world had, by the action of natural causes, raised
the demand for that labor in the South. This increased demand was
satisfied, to a limited extent, by the Constitutional provision relative
to the importation of that labor into the United States prior to the year
1808, and to an unlimited extent by the peculiar Southern industry of
slave breeding, and the domestic slave trade, which, owing to favorable
economic conditions, became presently great and thriving enterprises for
the production of wealth. The crop of slaves grew in time to be as
valuable as the crop of cotton, and the slave section waxed, in
consequence, rich and prosperous apace. But as our expanding slave system
was essentially agricultural, it required large and expanding areas within
which to operate efficiently. Wherefore there arose early in the
slave-holding section an industrial demand for more slave soil. There was
a political reason, also, which intensified this demand for more slave
soil, but as it was merely incidental to the economic cause, I will leave
it undiscussed for the present. This economic demand of the expanding
slave system for more land was met by the opportune cession to the United
States by Georgia and North Carolina of the southwest region, out of which
the States of Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee were subsequently carved,
and by the acquisition of the Louisiana and the Florida territories. So
much for the causes, conditions and circumstances in the early history of
the republic, which combined to revive slavery, and to make it an
immensely important factor in American industrial life, and consequently
an immensely important factor in American political life as well.

Just a word in passing regarding the character of Southern labor. It was,
as you all know, mainly agricultural. Its enforced ignorance, and its
legally and morally degraded condition, incapacitated the slave-holding
States from diversifying their single industry and limited them to the
tillage of the earth. This feature was economically the fatal defect of
the slave industrial system in its rivalry with the free industrial system
of the North. There were, of course, other forms of labor employed in the
South, such as the house-servant class, while many of the Negroes on
plantations and in Southern cities worked as carpenters, bricklayers,
blacksmiths, harness-makers, millwrights, wheelwrights, barbers, tailors,
stevedores, etc., etc.; but, as labor classes, they were relatively of
slight importance in point of numbers, and as wealth producers, in
comparison to the field hand.

Unlike the Indian under similar circumstances, the Negro did not succumb
to the terrible toil and inhumanity of his environment. He did not decline
numerically, nor show any tendency to do so, but exhibited instead
extraordinary vitality and reproductive vigor. In physical quality and
equipment he was, as a laborer, ideally adapted to the South, and
accordingly augmented enormously in social and commercial value to that
section, and in numbers, at the same time. He possessed, besides, certain
other traits which fitted him peculiarly to his hard lot and task. He was
of laborers the most patient, the most submissive, the most faithful, the
most cheerful. He was capable of the strongest affection and of making the
greatest sacrifices for those to whom he belonged. In his simple and
untutored heart there was no desire for vengeance, and in his brave black
hands he bore nothing but gifts to the South--gifts of golden leisure,
untold wealth, baronial pleasure and splendor, infinite service, and
withal, a phenomenal effacement of himself. Economically weak, yet
singularly favored by a fortuitous combination of circumstances, slave
labor flourished and expanded until at length it came into rough contact
and rivalry with modern industrialism as it leaped into life under the
magical influence of free institutions in the non-slaveholding half of
the Union.

It might be said that modern industrialism in America had its rise in
certain causes and circumstances which existed at the beginning of the
present century. It is well known how at that time almost the entire
commerce of the civilized world outside of Great Britain and her colonial
possessions was carried on under the American flag, in American bottoms,
and also how among British orders in council, Napoleon's Berlin and Milan
decrees and our own embargo and non-intercourse acts, retaliatory measures
adopted by our government, this splendid commerce was speedily and
effectually destroyed, and how finally this catastrophe produced in turn
our first industrial crisis under the Constitution. New England found
herself, in consequence, in great and widespread public distress, and her
large capital, erstwhile engaged in commercial ventures at vast profit,
became suddenly idle and non-productive. But it is an ill wind which blows
no good. So it was in the case of New England at this period. For the ill
wind which carried ruin to her commerce and want to hundreds of thousands
of people, carried also the seeds and small beginnings of all her
subsequent manufacturing greatness and prosperity. With the development of
manufactures, which now followed, and the diversifying of American
industries in the northern section of the Union, modern industrialism as a
tremendously aggressive social factor and system of free labor was
thereupon launched upon its long and stormy rivalry and struggle with
slave institutions and slave labor for the possession of the republic,
and, as a resultant of this conflict, it began to affect also the history
and destiny of the Negroes of the United States.

New England, naturally enough, was not at all well disposed toward a
government whose acts had inflicted upon her such bitter distress, such
ruinous dislocations of her capital and labor. This angry discontent was
much aggravated later by the War of 1812, into which, in the opinion of
that section, the country was precipitated by reason of Southern
domination in national affairs. And thus was, perhaps, awakened in the
North for the first time a distinct consciousness of the existence in the
peculiar labor and institutions of the South, of interests and forces
actively opposed to those of free labor and free institutions.

With the close of this war and the conclusion of peace, the
non-slaveholding section took on fresh industrial life and embarked then
upon that career of material exploitation and development which has placed
it and the wonderful achievements of its diversified industries in the
front rank of rivals in the markets of the world. From this period dates
the beginning of our national policy of protection of domestic industries,
and the rise of a powerful monied class in politics which bore to the new
industrial interests similar relations to those sustained by the slave
power to Southern labor and institutions. The early policy of a tariff for
revenue with incidental encouragement inaugurated by Hamilton, was now
readapted to the growing needs of the new industrialism, and the growing
demands of its champions. The principle of protection was made as elastic
in its practical application to tariff legislation as Northern industrial
interests would, from time to time, and in their stages of rapid progress,
seem to require.

The labor employed by the new industrialism was free white labor, each
unit of which as wage earner and citizen was vitally concerned in whatever
made for its safety and prosperity. The universal prevalence of the
principle of popular education, and the remarkable educational function
exercised upon the mental and moral faculties of the people by a right to
a voice in the government, gave to this section in due time the most
intelligent, energetic and productive labor in the world. Indeed, it is
now well understood that modern industrialism attains its highest
efficiency as a system of production in that society where popular
education is best provided for, and where participation of the masses in
the business of government reaches its fullest and freest expression. The
freer and the more intelligent a people, all things else being equal, the
more productive will be their labor over that of a rival's who may be
wanting in these regards. The early and unexpected revival and expansion
of slavery in the South was thus followed and met by a rapid
counterexpansion of free industrialism at the North on an extraordinary

This conflictive situation evolved presently industrial complications and
disturbances of the gravest national importance. Following the treaty of
Ghent, the South fell into financial difficulties, and experienced quite
generally an increasing pressure of hard times. Although wealthy and
prosperous heretofore, it then began to exhibit symptoms of industrial
weakness, and to assume more and more a dependent attitude toward the
monied classes of the free States. On the other hand, the free
industrialism of those States waxed bolder in demands for national
protection with the thing it fed on. Its cry was always for more, and so
the tariff of 1816 was followed by that of 1824, and it in turn by the one
of 1828, during which period industrial depression reached a crisis in the
South, producing widespread distress among its slave-planting interests.

Here is Benton's gloomy picture of that section in 1828: "In place of
wealth a universal pressure for money was felt; not enough for common
expenses; the price of all property down; the country drooping and
languishing; towns and cities decaying, and the frugal habits of the
people pushed to the verge of universal self-denial for the preservation
of their family estates." What was the cause of all this misfortune and
misery? Benton found it, and other Southern leaders also, in the unequal
action of federal fiscal legislation. "Under this legislation," he
shrewdly remarks, "the exports of the South have been made the basis of
the federal revenue. The twenty-odd millions annually levied upon imported
goods are deducted out of the price of their cotton, rice and tobacco,
either in the diminished prices which they receive for these staples in
foreign ports, or in the increased price which they pay for the articles
they have to consume at home."

The storm centre of this area of industrial depression passed over
Virginia, the Carolinas and Georgia. The very heart of the slave system
was thus attacked by the unequal fiscal action of the general government.
The South needed for its great staples of cotton, rice and tobacco the
freest access to the markets of the world, and unrestricted competition of
the world in its own market, and this the principle of protection denied
to it. For the grand purpose of the new policy of protection was to occupy
and retain as far and as fast as practicable, and in some cases a little
farther and faster, a monopoly of the home market for the products of the
new industrialism, and therefore to exclude foreign buyers and sellers
therefrom on equal terms with their domestic rivals. Owing to the
limitations of its peculiar labor the South was disabled from adapting
itself, as the North had just done, to changing circumstances and new
economic conditions, and so was deprived of participation in the benefits
of a high tariff. Its slave system and industrial prosperity were
accordingly caught by the free industrialism of the North at a fatal
disadvantage and pressed mercilessly to the wall.

And so it happened that the protective tariff which was welcomed as a boon
by one set of industrial interests in the Union was by another set at the
same time denounced as an abomination. But when the struggle between them
grew fierce and threatened to disrupt the sections a compromise was hit
upon and a sort of growling truce established for a season whereby the
industrial rivals were persuaded that, in spite of the existence of bitter
differences and memories, they could nevertheless live in peace and
prosperity under the same general government. The soul of the compromise
measures of 1833, which provided for the gradual abolishment, during nine
years, of the specific features of the high tariff objectionable to the
South, failed, however, to reach the real seat of the trouble, namely, the
counterexpanding movements of the two systems, with their mutual
inclinations during the operation, to encroach the one upon the other, and
a natural tendency on the part of the stronger to destroy the weaker in an
incessant conflict for survivorship, which would persist with the
certainty and constancy of a law of nature, compromise acts by Congress to
the contrary notwithstanding. And so the struggle for existence between
the two industrial forces went on beneath the surface of things. Meanwhile
modern industrialism was gaining steadily over its slave competitor in
social strength and political importance and power.

This conflict for industrial domination developed logically in an
industrial republic into one for political domination. It was unavoidable,
under the circumstances, that the strife between our two opposing systems
of labor should gather about the federal government and rage fiercest for
its possession as a supreme coign of vantage. The power which was devoted
to the protection of slavery and the power which was devoted to the
protection of the new industrialism here locked horns in a succession of
engagements for position and final mastery. It seems to have been early
understood by a sort of national instinct, popular intuition, that as this
issue between the contesting systems happened to be decided the Union
would thereupon be put in the way of becoming eventually either wholly
free or wholly slave, as the case might be. Wherefore the two sections
massed in time their opposing forces for the long struggle at this quarter
of the field of action.

It has already been noted that certain advantages had accrued to the South
from the original distribution of political power under the national
Constitution, and from sundry cessions of territory to the general
government after the adoption of that instrument. But while the South
secured indeed the lion's share of those early advantages, the North got
at least two of considerable moment, viz., the Constitutional provision
for the abolition of the African slave trade, in 1808, which imposed,
after that year and from that source, a check upon the numerical increase
of slaves within the Union, and, secondly, the Ordinance of 1787, which
excluded forever the peculiar labor of the South from spreading into or
taking root in the Northwest territory, and, therefore, in that direction
placed a limit to its territorial expansion. Together they proved
eventually of immense utility to free industrialism in its strife with the
slave industrial system, the first operating in its favor negatively, and
the second positively in the five populous and prosperous commonwealths
which were subsequently organized out of this domain, and in which free
labor grew and multiplied apace.

The struggle over the admission of Missouri into the Union terminated in a
drawn battle, in which both sides gained and lost. The slave system
obtained _in esse_ an additional slave State and two others _in posse_,
out of the Louisiana territory, while free industrialism secured the
erection of an imaginary fence through this land, to the north of which
its slave rival was never to settle. Maine was also admitted to preserve
the _status quo_ and balance of political forces between the sections.
Alas! however, for the foresight of statesmen who build for the present
only, and are too much engrossed by the cares and fears of a day to see
far into national realities, or to follow beneath the surface of things
the action of moral and economic laws and to deduce therefrom the trend of
national life. The slave wall of 1820, confidently counted upon by its
famous builders to constitute thenceforth a permanent guarantee of peace
between the rivals, disappointed these calculations, for it developed
ultimately into a fresh source of discord and strife. And in view of the
unavoidable conflict of our counterexpanding systems of labor, their
constant tendency to encroach the one upon the other in the operation, and
the bitter and ever-enduring dread and increasing demands of the weaker,
it was impossible for the compromise of 1820 to prove otherwise.

The South, under the leadership of Calhoun, came presently to regard the
Missouri arrangement as a capital blunder on its part, and from the
standpoint of that section this conclusion seems strictly logical. For the
location of a slave line upon the Louisiana territory operated in fact as
a decided check to the expansion of slavery as a social rival and a
political power at one and the same time, while it added immensely to the
potential strength of the rapidly expanding forces of modern
industrialism in its contest for social and political supremacy in the

In the growing exigency of the slave industrial system, under these
circumstances, the reparation of this blunder was deemed urgent, and so,
in casting about to find some solution of its problem, the attempted
abrogation of the compromise law itself not being considered wise by
Calhoun, the slave power fell upon Texas, struggling for independence. An
agitation was consequently started to correct the error of the Missouri
compromise by the annexation of a region of country described in the
graphic language of Webster to be so vast that "a bird could not fly over
it in a week." What the South had lost by the blunder of the slave wall of
36° 30' was then expected, barring accidents of course, to be restored to
it in the new slave States, and in the large augmentation of slave
representation in the general government, which would eventually ensue
from the act of annexation. But the accident of the Mexican war wrecked
completely the deep scheme of the Texan plotters, and neutralized the
political advantage which had accrued to the slave power in the admission
of Texas into the Union by the acquisition of California and New Mexico at
the close of that war. It was a checkmate by destiny. Chance had at a
critical moment aligned itself definitely on the side of modern
industrialism in the American republic and given a decisive turn to the
long contest with its slave rival.

With the admission of California as a free State the political balance
between our two opposing systems of labor was irreparably destroyed. For,
while the South possessed Texas, and an expectation of acquiring new slave
States therefrom, this expectation amounted practically to a bare
possibility. For it was found, owing to the inferior colonizing resources
of the slave system, far easier to annex this immense domain than to
people it, or to organize out of it States for emergent needs. On the
other hand, the superior colonizing ability of free labor, taken in
conjunction with all that vast, unoccupied territory belonging to it and
inviting settlement, promised, in the ordinary course of events, to
increase and confirm this preponderance of political power, and so to seal
the fate of slavery. Nor do I forget in this connection that the bill,
which organized into territories Utah and New Mexico, was, in deference to
Southern demand, purged of the Wilmot _proviso_. But this concession on
the part of Northern politicians had no real value to the South, for, as
Webster pointed out at the time, slave labor was effectually interdicted
from competing with free labor for the possession of this land by a power
higher than the Wilmot _proviso_, viz., by a law of nature. The failure,
however, to re-enact this decree of nature in 1850 prepared the way for
the demolition of the slave wall four years later, and thus operated to
hasten the grand catastrophe.

The repeal of the Missouri compromise did for the more or less fluid state
of anti-slavery sentiment at the North what Goethe says a blow will do for
a vessel of water on the verge of freezing--the water is thereby converted
instantly into solid ice. So did the agitation produced by the abrogation
of that act convert the gradually congealing sentiment of the free States
on the subject of slavery into settled opposition to its farther extension
to the national territories and into a fixed purpose to confine it within
its then existing limits. But to put immovable bounds to the territorial
expansion of the slave industrial system was virtually, under the
circumstance, to provide for its decline and ultimate extinction, for the
beginning of a period of actual and inhibited non-extension of slavery as
a rival system of labor in the Union would mark the termination of its
period of growth and the commencement of its industrial decay. The peril
of the slave system was certainly extreme, and the dread of the slave
power was not less so.

The national situation was full of gloom and menace to the industrial
rivals. For the passions of the slave power were taking on an ominously
violent and reckless energy of expression, which, unless all signs fail,
would take on presently a no less violent and reckless energy of action.
The crisis was intensified, first, by the repeal on the part of certain
free States of their slave-sojournment laws; second, by the extraordinary
activity of the underground railroad; third, by increasing opposition in
the North to the execution of the Fugitive Slave law, all of which, acting
together, seriously impaired the value and security of slave property in
the Union; fourth, by that fierce, obstinate, but futile, struggle of the
South to obtain possession of Kansas, and the exposure thereby of its
marked inferiority as a colonizer in competition with modern
industrialism; fifth, by the growing influence of the abolition movement,
and, sixth, by those nameless terrors of slave insurrections, which were
evoked by the apparition of John Brown at Harper's Ferry. This acute
situation was finally rendered intolerable to the slave power upon the
election of Abraham Lincoln on a sectional platform, pledged to a policy
of uncompromising resistance to the farther extension of slavery to the
territories. Worsted within the Union, it was natural that the South
should refuse to yield at this point of the conflict, and that it should
make an attempt, as a dernier resort, to secede from it with its peculiar
institution for the purpose of continuing the battle for its existence
outside of a political system in which it had been overborne and hemmed in
upon itself by modern industrialism and so doomed by that inexorable force
to slow but absolutely certain extinction.

But the Union, which had developed such deadly industrial peril to the
South, had created for the North its immense industrial prosperity, was,
in sooth, the origin and mainspring of its powerful and progressive
civilization. And so, while the preservation of the peculiar institution
and civilization of the former necessitated a rupture of the old Union and
the formation of a new one, founded on Negro slavery, every interest and
attachment of the latter cried out for the maintenance of the old and the
destruction of the new government. The long conflict of the two rival
systems of labor culminated in the war to save the old Union on the part
of the North and to establish a new one on the part of the South, whose
Constitution rested directly upon the doctrine of social unity. Social
duality was the great fact in the Constitution of the old Union; social
uniformity was to be the great fact in the new. A State divided socially
against itself cannot stand. The South learned this supreme lesson in
political philosophy well, much more quickly and thoroughly than had the
North, whose comprehension of it was painfully slow. And even that part of
the grand truth which it did come to apprehend after prolonged wrestlings
with bitter experience it reduced to practice in every emergency with
moral fears and tremblings.

In the tremendous trial of strength between the sections which followed
the rebel shot on Sumter the South was at the end of four years completely
overmatched by the North, and by sheer weight of numbers and material
resources was borne down at all points and forced back into the old Union,
less its system of slave labor. For the destruction of the Southern
Confederacy had involved, as a military necessity, the destruction of
Negro slavery, which was its chief cornerstone. With the adoption of the
Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution the ancient cause of sectional
difference and strife, viz., duality of labor systems, was supposed, quite
generally at the North, to have been removed, and that a new era of unity
in this respect had thereupon straightway begun. It seems to have been
little understood by the North at the time, and since, for that matter,
that Negro slavery in the South would die hard, and that it has a fatal
gift of metamorphosis (ability to change its form without changing its
nature), and that while it had under the well-directed stroke of the
national arm disappeared as chattel slavery, it would reappear, unless
hindered, as African serfdom throughout the Southern States, and that they
would return to the Union much stronger politically than when they
seceded, and much better equipped for a renewal of the unquenched strife
for industrial existence in 1865 than they were in 1860.

The immediate work of reconstructing civil society in the old slave States
to meet the new condition of freedom was now by an egregious executive
blunder left wholly to the master class, with the startling result at its
close that, whereas Negro slavery had been abolished, Negro serfdom
reappeared in every instance as the industrial basis of the reconstructed
States, and that a serf power was about to take the place of the slave
power in the newly restored Union more dangerous than the old slave power
to free industrialism than five is greater than three in federal numbers.
For, while according to the old rule of slave representation in the lower
house of Congress it took five slaves to nullify the votes of three
freemen, under a new rule of apportionment which would probably obtain
five serfs would be equivalent politically to five freemen. At this all
the ancient hatred and dread of its Protean rival blazed hotly in the
heart of the North, and with its passionate fear emerged a no less
passionate desire to secure forever the domination of its industrial
democracy over the newborn nation.

Actuated by this motive to dominate the republic, the freedmen whom the
old master class had by prompt legislation reduced to a condition of
serfdom were thereupon raised by the North through Constitutional
amendment to the plane of citizenship. And when this act proved
inadequate to arrest the threatened Southern revival in the national
government, the ballot was next placed in their hands to avert the
impending danger. It was under such circumstances that the work of
Southern reconstruction was entered upon by Congress, i. e., in reality by
the North, the South having had its chance and failed to reconstruct
itself upon a basis satisfactory to its victorious rival, and in
consonance with its sense of industrial and political security and

I know that it is now the universal vogue to criticize and condemn this
stupendous work of Congress as wholly wanting in knowledge of human nature
and as woefully deficient in wise statesmanship. I know also that
hindsight is at all times attended with less embarrassment to him who uses
it than is foresight; and I know, besides, that those historic actors who
had not attained unto a position of futurity in respect to their task, but
whose task sustained to them that relative place instead, were obliged to
do the best they could with whatever quantum of the latter faculty they
might have possessed and toward the manful achievement of their duty. And
this is what Congress did at this juncture. In view of the long, bitter
and disastrous strife between the two sets of industrial ideas and
interests in the republic, of the complex and earthquake circumstances and
conditions in which they were thrown in relation to each other at the
close of the rebellion, together with the imperious urgency for immediate
and decisive action on the part of the North, I confess that it is
extremely difficult to see even with the aid of hindsight what other
practicable course was then open to that section to pursue than the one
selected by Congress in the emergency as the best and wisest. And all
things considered, it was the best and wisest, which, when the present
generation of criticism and reaction has passed, will, I think, be so
adjudged by impartial truth.

Congress might at this juncture have led the country by another way out of
the perils which threatened afresh its peace and security, by a way
dreadful and inhuman, it is true, but which offered nevertheless a radical
and permanent cure for the evils which flow naturally from the union under
one general government of two mutually invasive and destructive industrial
systems, viz., by the forcible deportation of the entire black population
of the South, and the introduction into their stead of an equal number of
white immigrants. Such a course would have certainly achieved the
unification of the sections by the extinguishment and elimination of the
weaker of our two rival systems of labor. It was, however, a solution of
its Southern problem, which the nation was in morals, economics and
humanity precluded absolutely from adopting, for three simple and
sufficient reasons: First, for the sake of the South, which, wasted and
bewildered, lay sullen and prostrate amidst the wreck and chaos of civil
strife and at its lowest ebb of productive energy and wealth, its sole
recuperative chance depending on the labor of its former slaves. To deport
this labor, under the circumstances, would have been cruelly to deprive
that section of its last vital resource, and to sink it to a state of
industrial collapse and misery, by the side of which its condition at the
close of the war might have seemed prosperity and paradise. Second, the
nation itself could ill sustain the shock incident to such a huge
amputation from the body of its productive labor, and which must have, for
long and bitter years, affected disastrously its solvency, greatness and
progress. Besides, the presence in the lately rebellious States of a mass
of loyal people, like the blacks, constituted an immensely important
element of strength and security to the newly restored Union. And, third,
the blacks themselves had by two centuries of unpaid toil bought the right
to remain in a country which had enslaved them, yet for whose defense and
preservation against foreign and domestic foes and through three wars they
had bared their brave arms and generous breasts and poured out royally and
without measure their devotion, their blood and their life.

The general welfare of the reunited nation demanded not only political
unification of the States under one supreme government, but their social
unification as well on a common industrial basis of free labor. The
coexistence under the old Constitution of two contrary systems of labor
had given rise to seventy years of strife and rivalry between the
sections, and had plunged them finally into one of the fiercest and most
destructive wars of modern times. It was clearly recognized at the close
of that war that the foundations of the restored Union should be made to
rest directly on the enduring bedrock of a uniform system of free labor
for both sections, not as formerly on the shifting sands of two
conflicting social orders. For as long as our ancient duality of labor
system shall continue to exist there will necessarily continue to exist
also duality of ideas, interests and institutions. I do not mean mere
variety in these regards which operates beneficiently, but profound and
abiding social and political differences, engendering profound and abiding
social and political antagonisms, naturally and inevitably affecting
sometimes more, sometimes less, national stability and security, and
leaving everywhere in the subconscious life of the republic a sense of
vague uneasiness, rising periodically to the keenest anxiety, like the
ever-present dread felt by a city subject to seismic disturbances. For
what has once happened, the cause continuing, may happen again.

The Southern soil was at the moment broken up roughly by the hot
ploughshare of civil war. It might have been better prepared for the
reception of the good seed by the slower process of social evolution. But
the guiding spirits of that era had no choice. The tide of an immense
historic opportunity had risen. It was at its flood. Then was the accepted
hour--then or never it appeared to them--and so they scattered broadcast
seed ideas of the equality of all men before the law, their inalienable
right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and the derivation of
the powers of all just governments from the consent of the governed. These
revolutionary ideas fell alongside of the uptorn but living roots of other
and hostile political principles, and of the ramified and deep-growing
prejudices of an old social order, and had forthwith to engage in a life
and death struggle against tremendous odds for existence. Many there are
who see in the reconstruction period nothing except the asserted
incapacity of the Negro for self-government--nothing but carpet-bag rule
and its attendant corruption. But bad as those governments were, they
were, nevertheless, the actual vehicles which conveyed into the South the
seeds of our industrial democracy and of a new social and political order.
From that period dates the beginning of an absolutely new epoch for that
section. The forces set free then in the old slave States have been
gradually unfolding themselves amid giant difficulties ever since. They
are, I believe, in the South to stay, and are destined ultimately to
conquer every square inch of its mind and matter, and so to produce the
perfect unification of the republic, by producing the perfect unification
of its immense, heterogeneous population, regardless of race, color or
previous condition of servitude, on the broad basis of industrial and
political equality and fair play.

The contest of the old industrial rivals has, in consequence of this
influx of democratic ideas into the South, and the resultant modification
of environment there, taken on fresh and deplorable complications. The
struggle between the old and the new which is in progress throughout that
section is no longer a simple conflict between the two sets of industrial
principles of the Union along sectional lines, as formerly, but along race
lines now as well. The self-evident truths of the Declaration of
Independence invading the old slave States have divided that house against
itself. Their powerful ally, popular education, is creating everywhere
moral unrest and discontent with present injustices and a growing desire
on the part of the Negro to have what is denied him, but which others
enjoy, viz., free and equal opportunities in the rivalry of life. This
battle of ideas in the South is, in reality, a battle for the enduring
unification of the sections, the permanent pacification of the republic.
The labors of the fathers for a more perfect union will have been in vain
unless the Negro wins in this irrepressible conflict between the two
industrial systems of the country. It is greatly to be lamented that a
question of color and difference of race has so completely disabled the
nation and the South from seeing things relating to this momentous subject
clear, and seeing them straight. Those who see in this problem only a
conflict of races in the South see but a little way into its depths, for
underlying this conflict of races is a conflict of opposing ideas and
interests which have for a century vexed the peace of the nation. The
existence of a system of labor in the South distinct from that of the
North separated the two halves of the Union industrially, as far as the
East is from the West, made of them in truth two hostile nations, although
united under one general government. This difference has been the cause of
all the division and strife between the sections, and it will continue to
operate as such till completely abolished.

The clinging of the South, under the circumstances, to its old social and
political ideas and system, or to such fragments of them as now remain,
and its persistent attempts to put these broken parts together, and to
preserve thereby what so disastrously distinguishes it from the rest of
the country, is an economic error of the first magnitude--an error which
injuriously affects its own industrial prosperity and greatness by
retarding its material development and by infecting at the same time with
increasing unrest and discontent its faithful and peaceful black labor.
The fight which the South is making along this line is a fight not half so
much against the Negro as against its own highest good, and that of the
country's, for it has in this matter opposed itself ignorantly and madly
to the great laws which control the economic world, to the great laws
which are the soul of modern industrialism, laws which govern production
and exchange, consumption and competition, supply and demand, which
determine everywhere, between rival parts of the same country and between
rival nations as well, that commercial struggles, industrial rivalries,
shall always terminate in the survival of the fittest. If in such a battle
the South sow seeds of economic weakness, when it ought to sow seeds of
economic strength, it will go down before its rivals, whether those rivals
be in this country or in any other country or part of the world. In such a
struggle if it would win it will need to avail itself of all the means
which God and nature have placed at its disposition.

One of the most important of these means, perhaps the most important
single factor in the development and prosperity of the South, is its Negro
labor. It is more to it, if viewed aright, than all of its gold, iron and
coal mines put together. If properly treated and trained it will mean
fabulous wealth and greatness to that section. Lest you say that I
exaggerate, I will quote the estimate put upon this labor by the
Washington _Post_, which will hardly be accused of enthusiasm touching any
matter relating to the Negro, I think. Here it is:

"We hold as between the ignorant of the two races, the Negro is
preferable. They are conservative; they are good citizens; they take no
stock in social schisms and vagaries; they do not consort with anarchists;
they cannot be made the tools and agents of incendiaries; they constitute
the solid, worthy, estimable yeomanry of the South. Their influence in
government would be infinitely more wholesome than the influence of the
white sansculottes, the riff-raff, the idlers, the rowdies and the
outlaws. As between the Negro, no matter how illiterate he may be, and the
poor white the property owners of the South prefer the former."

The South cannot, economically, eat its cake and have it too. It cannot
adopt a policy and a code of laws to degrade its Negro labor, to hedge it
about with unequal restrictions and prescriptive legislation, and raise it
at the same time to the highest state of productive efficiency. But it
must as an economic necessity raise this labor to the highest point of
efficiency or suffer inevitable industrial feebleness and inferiority.
What are the things which have made free labor at the North the most
productive labor in the world and of untold value and wealth to that
section? What, but its intelligence, skill, self-reliance and power of
initiative? And how have these qualities been put into it? I answer
unhesitatingly, by those twin systems of universal education and popular
suffrage. One system trains the children, the other the adult population.
The same wide diffusion of knowledge, and large and equal freedom and
participation in the affairs of government, which have done so much for
Northern labor, cannot possibly do less for Southern labor.

For weal or woe the Negro is in the South to stay. He will never leave it
voluntarily, and forcible deportation of him is impracticable. And for
economic reasons, vital to that section, as we have seen, he must not be
oppressed or repressed. All attempts to push and tie him down to the dead
level of an inferior caste, to restrict his activities arbitrarily and
permanently to hewing wood and drawing water for the white race, without
regard to his possibilities for higher things, is in this age of strenuous
industrial competition and struggle an economic blunder, pure and simple,
to say nothing of the immorality of such action. Like water, let the Negro
find his natural level, if the South would get the best and the most out
of him. If nature has designed him to serve the white race forever, never
fear. He will not be able to elude nature; he will not escape his destiny.
But he must be allowed to act freely; nature does not need our aid here.
Depend upon it, she will make no mistake. Her inexorable laws provide for
the survival of the fittest only. Let the Negro freely find himself,
whether in doing so he falls or rises in the scale of life.

With his labor the Negro is in the market of the world. If, all things
considered, he has the best article for the price offered, he will sell;
otherwise not. But it is of immense value and moment to the South in both
respects. If his labor in all departments of industry in which it may be
employed be raised by education of head and hand, by the largest freedom
and equality of opportunities, to the highest efficiency of which it is
capable, who more than the South will reap its resultant benefits? So will
the whole country reap the resultant benefits in the diffused well-being
and productivity of its laboring classes, and at the same time in the
final removal of the ancient cause of difference and discord between its
parts. But if the Negro fail by reason of inherent fitness to survive in
such a struggle, his failure will be followed by decline in numbers and
ultimate extinction, which will involve no violent dislocation of the
labor of the republic, but a displacement so gradual that while one race
is vanishing another will be silently crowding into the space thus

The commercial and industrial rivalry of the nations of the world was
never so sharp and intense as at the present time, and all signs point to
increased competition among them during this century. In this contest the
labor of each country is primarily the grand determining factor. It must
from sheer necessity and stress of circumstances be brought in each
instance to the highest state of economic efficiency by every resource in
the possession of the respective world rivals. And this will be attempted
in the future by each of these world rivals on a grandeur of scale and
with a scientific thoroughness and energy in the use of educational means
not yet realized by the most progressive of them. For those nations who
succeed best in this respect will prevail over those others which fail to
raise their labor to an equally high grade of efficiency. Now, if Negro
labor is the best for its climate and needs, the South must seek
earnestly, constantly, by every means in its power, to raise that labor to
the highest state of economic efficiency of which it is capable. That
section must do so in spite of its chimerical fears of Negro domination,
in spite of its rooted race prejudices. It must educate and emancipate
this labor, all hostile sentiment of whatever nature to the contrary
notwithstanding, if it will hold its own in that great cosmic struggle for
existence in which it is now engaged with powerful rivals at home and
abroad. Nor can the republic be indifferent on this head. No country in
this age of strenuous commercial competition can forget with impunity its
duty in this regard. Neglect here brings swift retribution to any nation
which carries a vast horde of crude and relatively inefficient labor into
an industrial struggle with the rest of the world, for the world's labor
will henceforth assume more and more the character of vast standing armies
engaged in world-wide industrial warfare. Each unit of these industrial
armies will be ultimately trained and disciplined to the highest possible
efficiency, and will some time form together perfect machines, which will
operate with clock-like precision and purpose at any given quarter of the
field of action. In obedience to the first law of nature our country in
its battle with industrial rivals to retain present advantages and win new
ones in world markets, will have to elevate the whole body of its labor
regardless of color or race, to the highest state of economic productivity
of which that labor is capable in all of its parts. Colossal forces are
behind and under the movement which is making for the final emancipation
of the Negro, and for his eventual admission on terms of complete equality
of rights and opportunities into the arena of that never-ending rivalry
and struggle which is the law of progress.

The Negro has proved himself one of the best soldiers in the world; he
will prove himself in this country, provided fair play be accorded him,
one of the most productive laborers in the world also. He has the capacity
for becoming one of the best all-round laborers and artisans in our
industrial army of conquest and one of the best all-round citizens of the
republic likewise. Overcome, then, your prejudices, ye white men of the
South, and ye white men, too, of the North; trust the Negro in peace as ye
have trusted him in war, nor forget that the freest and most intelligent
labor is ever the best and most productive labor, and that liberal and
equal laws and institutions are the one unerring way yet discovered by
human experience and wisdom whereby modern industrialism and democracy may
reach their highest development and the highest development of humanity at
the same time. This is the age of the people, of consolidation and
competition. It is the age of industrialism and democracy, aye,
industrialism and democracy are destiny. Try ever so hard, we shall not
escape our destiny, neither the Negro, nor the South, nor the nation.


Transcriber's Notes:

Passages in italics are indicated by _underscore_.

The misprint "peirod" has been corrected to "period" (page 6).

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