American Citizen clipping

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"Scorn the prison and the racks;
If you have truth to utter, speak, and leave
The rest to God."

Perhaps a few observations on the South in regard to its laboring classes, the relation and responsibility of the North for the present disturbed state of affairs, may not be inappropriate at a time, when, perhaps, all else becomes of secondary importance; even that perplexing game of chess now being played by Congressmen at Washington, gives precedence to this topic of all absorbing interest.

The departure of so many of the native colored people from this section of the country, going northwest, breaking up their homes, hurrying, fleeing and aimless, in a disorderly and undisciplined manner is a circumstance that gives occasion for much thought, and demands the most careful and rigid investigation into the causes that impel it. The investiture of citizenship by a political party to those who formerly were slaves, their relation to the Government, and in some localities their participation in its affairs, involved difficulties of such magnitude which probably at that time were not contemplated; that diverted their attention from the legitimate needs of the country, in building up the places made desolate by the war, harmonizing differences and restoring good feeling, and directed it to meet the various perplexities the new relationship continually presented.

These new difficulties greatly amplified legislation to honor drafts upon which that character was devised that became baneful in its effects, irritating almost to an incurable resentment the passions that should have subsided with the war; and among the newly enfranchised, encouraging a spirit of such miserable dependency, and exciting to their credulous minds the belief that the least of the ills incident to their existence would receive the healing balm of legislation. Adhering to a course that has been pursued, resulting from delusive views, or wrong and mistaken motives, shows a consistency that springs from very weak judgments or very obstinate minds. This is strikingly characteristic of some of the leaders of that party, after the mistakes of many of the reconstruction measures. That spirit of legislation, rampant at that time, devised just too much of a certain kind to be beneficial, and which was in its nature, too partisan to be salutary. Underlying all other causes, the germ of that legislation has developed much of the bitter fruit of sectional strife and antagonism; and to which is clearly traceable, the present unhappy condition of the colored laborer in this section of the country.

The elevation of the slaves to freemen was an organic change in their condition that necessitated a gradual attainment of the ballot, instead of the sudden and impolitic manner it was conferred. The want of a right conception of its privileges and an intelligent exercise of it, demanded its careful bestowal. But this was not done. In consequence of which the "woes unnumbered" that they have endured, were entailed upon them.

With the overthrow of corruption and ignorance, the intelligence of this country should have been directed to the amelioration of the condition of its laboring classes on a more broad and comprehensive plan. A more general diffusion of knowledge under a better system than they now obtain; the repeal of such laws as militate against the interests of the farmer; the assurance that no encroachment upon their liberties will be attempted, are chief among the measures of relief most imperatively demanded just now. Unless this is done, the agricultural interests of the South will suffer from continued emigration, which, unhappily, is being encouraged by some from motives looking to their own aggrandizement, which the present unsettled condition of the colored people are made to subserve.

These demands are just and equitable, and should be met in a spirit of moderation and fairness; concession should meet these exigencies so freely and firmly as to place an effectual barrier against the spread of discontent; and bring with it an assurance of the encouragement of a better state of feeling, looking to the general welfare of the people and the prosperity of the country.

A little reflection on the part of the colored people should convince them that peace and few things are preferable to great undertakings and great cares; that making haste slowly should govern them in breaking up their homes and leaving the place of their nativity. The removal of one's "household gods" is too serious a matter for experiment, and too sacred for inconsiderateness.

Aeneas attempted his, only when the destruction of his burned and bleeding city admonished him there was virtue in flight. But they must not delude themselves with the belief that the Troy of their hopes perished with the overthrow of ignorant and corrupt domination. Whatever gratification the novelty of migration north may possess, or whatever hope it inspires, its delights, assuredly, will be lost in the difficulties that will be met in competition with its skilled labor, and prosperity retarded until this be overcome. For the ills that give character to the discontent that now prevails, redress should be sought for such as are vital to your happiness and prosperity. No agricultural necessity exists for migrating, soil, climate and nativity urge your stay. If political dissatisfaction exists, it is evidently beyond the power of immediate correction; time, eventually will regulate it. Your premature political birth, forced and sudden growth, and ephemeral life, were engendered by a policy too short-sighted and impolitic for healthy or continued existence. Through it, your career was violent and short-lived; letting loose the passions of avarice and ambition, unrestrained by moral principle, it contained the elements of its own destruction, and hastened the end now bitterly deplored. Your early training was in the school of agriculture, not politics; in the former you will succeed, commensurately, as habits of industry and economy are practiced, and merits general approbation and esteem, and will have all rights accorded you in proportion to the acquisition of such knowledge as will tend to the improvement of your minds, the elevation of your morals and the encouragement of temperance and virtue in your lives and character. Your happiness may be further promoted by a judicious exercise of moderation in your expectations, modesty in your demands and satisfaction with that degree of consideration which you can procure by your abilities in your intercourse with the other race.

In no other section of the Union would forbearance have been exercised as it has in this. Hostilities would have existed North, or anywhere on the face of the earth, with far less encouragement than it has had here; and you will yet be convinced of the wisdom of the control of this Government having passed into intelligent hands, and felicitate yourselves upon its responsibilities being assumed by those whose training and culture qualify them for that end.

Canton, May 17th, 1879.




American Citizen, “American Citizen clipping,” Mississippi State University Libraries, accessed November 28, 2023,

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