Page images

In the advocacy of the common-school bill I have for years pointed out the inevitable coming competition between labor cheap because ignorant and labor dear because educated; and that the only remedy is to educate in order that all labor might have wants and thus consume upon itself and at home its increasing production. This is now becoming a recognized fact; and I see that Mr. Powderly vigorously points to this competition as the secret of the distress among the wage-workers of the North and of the great establishments of industry which employ them.

This is so; and presently it will be found that the only tariff which will protect white labor is intelligence for the black.

Pity that we are so slow in learning that justice pays. It is the old story. We are ruined by cheap labor. Compared with the Mongolian and with the negro, the white laborer is an aristocrat reveling in luxuries, with a thousand corresponding wants, to satisfy which he must earn more than the lowly but vigorous competitor by his side.

If now he is to compete for the work from which alone wages, that is to say, purchasing power, can be derived, either his own wages must fall so that his wants must be unsatisfied, which lowers his grade of civilization, or the improvement of the colored man by elevating his condition must compel him to increase his demand for compensation.

Thus it will be seen that whenever two or more different grades of civilization are brought in contact, they are in conflict. They are like bodies of water, which, while apart, may be maintained at different levels, yet when they meet in one common bed they sink and rise through much commotion until they find a common altitude.

Only by pouring in more water, that is to say, more civilization, can the lower level be raised; and by pouring in enough that level may be lifted even to the heavens, from which the waters fall.

What is true in this great industrial conflict is also true in regard to the whole problem of the relations of the races now so inextricably involved in one common fate to be wrought out upon the arena of American history.

In the real and largest sense it is a problem of civilization, in which peculiarities of race are only one, and that by no means the controlling element.

Grander and more powerful than all sympathies, antipathies, and distinctions of race, rise the sentiments and impulses of a common humanity.

There is an instinct of brotherhood within us, and it is impossible for the color of the skin, or even the kink of the hair, or the shape of the shin, to eradicate the idea that the Divinity, in whom the soul originates, considers us all about alike, and loves us still.

If we dissect our moral and intellectual anatomy, we find no greater differences than are manifest in the physical structure of the races. We find in no individual of any race, save in monsters (and they are to be found in all races), a function or faculty which is not common to all individuals of every We find no sentiment or emotion which is not universal; and the differences among men, so far as inherent qualities are concerned, are not of kind, but of degree.


There is nothing which influences or modifies, or which appeals to the nature of one human being which does not influence any other human being. There

may be no perceptible effect in one case, when in the other it may be manifest. But it is there, and is no more lost than the tiny force in physical nature which has moved the mountain, although we may not perceive it.

The leading truth, which must be fully comprehended and admitted if we would arrive at a satisfactory solution of this “race problem,” as we call it, more properly a problem in civilization, is that of the substantial unity of human nature.

If that unity be established or conceded, it follows that under like conditions the same causes will produce upon that nature the same effects. If this be so, it further follows that if we would reproduce or induce given conditions and results, we must use the means which have produced them in other cases, or discover new means and methods having the same effect. More or less may be necessary, but we may be sure that like will produce like, if there be proper adaptation of the means to the end.

Whatever will not yield to the transforming power of that which is shown to have changed one people from the savage to the civilized state, if that power be properly applied to it, is either more or less than human.

If failure follows, then the fault is not in the means, but in the subject to which they are applied. If we find a class of beings or creatures who do not respond to that which from savages has produced Ethiopians, Egyptians, Grecians, Romans, Germans, Englishmen, and Americans, we may be sure that we are not dealing with members of the human race. It does not follow that everything which can stand upright, and which goes upon two legs, is human. But the conceded classification of the negro among human beings is an admission that he is subject to the same influences, is capable of the same transformation under the pressure of the same means and surroundings which have been witnessed in other human beings, in kind, if not in degree. That is to say, the same means which have improved the conditions of other branches of the human family will improve that of the negro, and must be emploved to that end if we would better his condition here.

But now once more arises the question: What really is the problem which we desire to solve? Is the problem simply how to improve the negro and his condition, or does it also include the rest of us in its scope? If it includes all, then we are met by the inquiry, Is that which improves the condition of the negro best for the whole country?

In answering this question we can deal only with the possible. We must assume that the deportation of our colored brethren is not conceivable; because, although a few might be transported to Africa or scattered elsewhere, yet reproduction will increase their numbers in spite of such trifling methods, and our only way to be rid of their presence in the country is to kill them which would be difficult, for many of them already have guns. If they are to remain here, and are not to be remanded to slavery, and are not to continue to be half slave and half free; if we are to be a democracy or a republic, or if under any form of government the negro is to continue to be a component part of the American people; and if it be true that we are to apply to the American people generally hereafter, as heretofore, the means which improve their mental, moral and physical nature, in order to secure their happiness, can it be possible that the negro is to be improved in any other manner, or that his happiness or the general welfare can be secured in any other way, than by treating the negro in all respects as the white man is or ought to be treated ?

Can there be two rules of action for the same human race, in the same country, under the same conditions and the same fundamental laws both of nature and of the state ? Not so long as the protest of the Jew remains a record of the imperishable nature of man:

“Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, passions; fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a Christian is? If you prick us do we not bleed ? If you tickle us do we not laugh? If you poison us do we not die ? - and if you wrong us shall we not revenge? The villainy you teach me I will execute; and it shall go hard, but I will better the instruction.”

We may well let Shylock retain his money; nay, we might give him his drop of blood in return for this impassioned synopsis of the philosophy of humanity.

It is useless to endeavor to evade responsibility. (ain was his brother's keeper, and his experience ought to instruct us that a breach of trust is not an escape from penalty any more than it is a discharge of duty.

All this leads to the simple conclusion that our hope is in treating the negro as we do the white man, the negro child as we do the white child, and both with justice.

Whatsoever is justice for any is justice for all. Whatever improves the inward or outward condition of any improves the whole. And the general welfare will be produced by a justice which is the highest form of duty, and which, while it can see the right with the glance of an eagle, is yet color-blind.

The truth is that human nature is a ray of light from the great central orb of the Divinity. When God said, “Let there be light,” there was light, and everything throughout the universe was adapted to light in the form and the condition in which He made it.

But our race philosophers continually look upon this divine ray through the spectrum. They think there is no light, because of the mystery of refraction. But God did not create the eye to be a spectrum to distort the light; but the eye was made for the light, and the light for the eye, and both in order that the soul might see.


Now these philosophers are wiser than God, and so they have set spectrums in their eyes, and when they look at human nature they see nothing but colors.

Cure your eyes, gentlemen, and you will see through the surface to the divinity within. Then shall you comprehend that every human form is filled with the light which beams from the eye of the All-seeing, and that these colored rays retain their inherent nature.

It is no business of ours that God put His light into the negro form. The negro may be God's dark lantern; but He has use for dark lanterns in His universe or He would not have made them.

Let us be careful, or when we least expect it He will turn the light upon us to our discomfiture. God keeps books, and He will make our accounts balance in the end. He gives no discharge in bankruptcy.

Looking then at the South as we should, we see no reason for the use of other or different means and methods for the improvement of society than are necessary and appropriate at the North and everywhere else.

The Southern problem, or the race problem of the South, is no Southern any more than it is a Northern mystery. It is merely a problem in human nature. Its solution depends upon the proper use of the same means which have improved the condition of men everywhere, regardless of race or color.

“The same light lighteth every man that cometh into the world.”
Education is the solution of the Southern problem.
Education is the solution of the Northern problem.

Education is the solution of the problem of all human advancement. Right education of the physical, mental and spiritual powers of each individual will perfect society, and nothing else will do it.

Five hundred thousand teachers, who constitute the great profession in our country, are solving the difficulties which environ the nation.

True, there be other agencies: the church, the press, and the influence of the daily contact of life.

But the work of the teacher is fundamental and is necessary, in order that intelligence may criticise creed and prevent religion from degenerating into superstition; in order that the press may perform its work at all, and that daily contact with others may not simply reproduce in coming generations the imperfect environment of the present.

The public-school system is the only hope, in the sense that it is the great creative and saving institution of the republic. The general diffusion of knowledge, intelligence and virtue made us a republic.

Education was that diffusion. The common school was the chief agency. Just in proportion to the influence of the common school has been the perfection of the process. As it has been, so it now is, and so it will be. The education of a free people can never be accomplished otherwise than by universal education in common knowledge at the public expense.

Private schools may do something, denominational schools may do much, and higher education possibly may better depend upon individual or corporate endowment; although I doubt it. But all these agencies combined will leave us with an imperfect, unrepublican education for our people. They will never reach one-half of our children. The property, the whole property of the country must educate the children of the country.

As children exist for the common good, and are the nation in the process of perpetuation, so does property exist merely for the common good, and subject to the promotion of the general welfare. Some individuals produce children, some produce property, some produce both; each has a primary care of that which he has by his own effort brought into existence, or preserved.

But society can destroy even life, in battle, and property, by taxation, for the general welfare.

The public-school system is the army which wages everlasting war upon ignorance, and all whose victories are peace.

Taxation by the public must be for the general good, and of necessity results in the public school, without which at least one-half of the property of the country would escape its just contribution to the education of the people, and not less than one-half the children would grow up in ignorance, by reason of the poverty of those who, while they have produced life, may not have made money.

Who has done the most for the country — the mere millionaire, or the hardworking mother of ten healthy children ?

Your great profession was established to wait upon the one at the expense of the other; such is the public school.

Long life to other educational institutions, whether private or parochial, whether sectarian or agnostic, which do not assail it; but death to its enemies ! Let us alone, for the republic will defend its life.

One lesson is apparent from this, and that is the duty of the nation which is itself a republic, and which has pledged itself that every state shall be a republic also, that whenever for any cause, wherever local effort fails, the property of the nation shall educate the children of the nation.

This may better be done, where help is necessary, through state systems and under local administration. But should states and parents persistently fail, the work to be done, which is the preservation of the existence of both nation and states, must not fail. That work must be done, and will be done.

Let no one fear that the cause of national aid to education, for which this mighty Association has labored and petitioned for many years, is dead. That cause is stronger than ever. Time but the impression stronger makes.

The waters of intelligence will overwhelm the cess-pools of ignorance, and fill the land with sweeter life.

This as yet untried power-national aid to common-school education—would solve the Southern problem in ten years.

I believe that it would remove the peculiar dangers which assail the public

« PreviousContinue »