The Colored American clipping

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Settle, Josiah Thomas, 1850-1915; Morgan, John Tyler, 1824-1907; Suffrage

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Attorney Settle Riddles the Inconsistent and Illogical Argument of Alabama's Senior Senator for Disfranchisement of Colored People

To The Colored American:

After reading the press report of Senator Morgan's speech in the Senate against the "Prichard resolution," I feel it my duty to ask space in your valuable paper to protest against some of his unfair and unjust assault upon the Negro race. It seems a sad commentary upon the Anglo Saxon's love of fairness, for a distinguished Senator to pour out his wrath upon an entire race of people, in a place where no member of that race can reply to him, especially when that Senator himself owes his seat in that august body to a practical nullification of the recent amendments to the federal constitution, and the suppression of the votes of tens of thousands of American citizens, both white and black.

I have not yet seen the Senator's remarks in full and do not therefore know what "legal aspect" he took of the 14th and 15th amendments to the constitution. No matter what his views may be however, these amendments are a part and parcel of the organic law of our country; purchased at too great a cost of blood and treasure to be repealed, nullified or disregarded to suit the sentiment of those who have never accepted them in good faith. Negro valor and patriotism helped largely to save and perpetuate the integrity of the Union, together with all the blessings of American citizenship, against the efforts of the Senator and his school of thinkers who sought to destroy both, yet he would admit to full participation in the affairs of government those who sought to destroy it, and exclude those who helped to defend and keep it undivided as a rich heritage to all succeeding generations.

Negro suffrage is no more responsible for the Hayes Tilden controversy than is white suffrage for Goebelism in Kentucky; nor has the Negro ever shown greater political degeneracy than has een recently shown by the Goebel element of the democratic party in Kentucky. The Senator contends that there is a natural supremacy in the whites, and a natural deficiency in the blacks morally, socially and intellectually. If this be true, why does he invoke hostile legislation against the Negro to maintain that supremacy? Were I in his place, I would be ashamed to admit that it was necessary to disfranchise the entire Negro race to maintain the supremacy of the whites. Handicapped as the Negro is, it seems strange that a superior race should find it necessary to still further handicap him by emasculating his citizenship that his white competitor may continue in the supremacy. Thousands represent the blending of the races through many generations, the product of former conditions, in whom are found a large degree all the best traits of their chivalric Southern fathers, many represent the very highest moral, intellectual and social excellence, many of fine business attainments are vastly superior to the Senator financially even here in the South. Many are his superiors in the highest walks of intellectual life where merit and not accident of birth is the criterion by which men are judged, and still others are as profoundly learned in the law as the Senator himself, and yet he would disfranchise all of these, to maintain the supremacy of the ignorant, lawless and improvident whites in the mountains of his own state, whose highest ambition is to make illicit whiskey, evade the revenue officers and clog the wheels of progress generally.

Does the Senator seriously contend that purer and better government can be obtained through the illiterate, degraded and debauched white vote, such as always exists in large cities and sometimes in rural districts, than through the refined and cultivated black man, with large interests at stake, who pays his taxes and helps to bear all the burdens of government? Would the Senator disfranchise the distinguished educators Booker T. Washington and W. H. Council who are doing so much for his own state and mankind at large, to maintain the supremacy of an element of his own race who contribute largely to the penitentiary and jails of his state? The Negro asks no special legislation in his favor, he seeks no social intercourse with those who do not want him; all that he asks is that he be given the same opportunity to work out his temporal salvation, which is given every other American citizen. It seems strange that his party should see so much in the semi-savage Filipinos and the mixed-blooded Cubans to admire, while they can see so little in the Negroes at home who have absorbed their religion and their laws; are the products of their civilization, and tens of thousands of them are akin to them through their ancestors! The Senator says he has seen Negro votes bought for a dollar; that may be true, but should the entire race be disfranchised for that? If the Senator's superior race had not been in the disreputable habit of buying these ignorant votes, they would not have been sold. The turpitude of the buyer is certainly as great as that of the seller. The law makes it greater.

During the last 25 years I have seen hundreds of white votes bought, sold and delivered, yet that is no reason why that entire race should be disfranchised. As a race the Negro has made more sacrifices to vote for the men and party of his choice than any other; In fact it used to be the main objection to the Negro as a voter in the South, that it was impossible to alienate him from the republican party. During the years of 1875 and 1876 I have seen him in Mississippi sacrifice their crops, their homes, and sometimes their lives rather than vote against their party. The Negro's loyalty to party is almost as great as the Negro soldiers loyalty to flag - it is a rare thing to hear of him deserting. The Senator speaks of finding a home for the Negro. His home is already found; this is his country by nationality, by his labor he has enriched it, and by his blood he has defended it. It would be unsafe for any man, white or black to go into the cotton belts and encourage the Negro to leave. It is a rare thing to hear any of the old master-class in the South preaching the disfranchisement of the Negro. It comes mainly from those who were too poor to own Negroes before the war, and have sprung into prominence by happy accident since.

The Negro today numbers nearly ten millions; pays taxes on nearly a billion dollars worth of property; he has hundreds of colleges and thousands of schools, he is successfully competing with his white brother in all the learned professions, also in all the trades, callings and avocations; he is keeping step with the Anglo Saxon in the march of progress, and yet the Senator would disfranchise the entire race, and in their stead welcome and enfranchise into our body politic all the sewerage of the old world, representing socialism, nihilism, commonism and all the other fanaticisms which clog the wheels of progress, paralyze the arteries of commerce and threaten the very foundations of American institutions. The Senator says Negro suffrage has done more to retard the progress of Mississippi and Louisiana than anything else; I think he is sadly mistaken. Hostility to the protection of home industries and a sound financial system have kept those states behind more than anything else. Surely the white man in this country represents a higher, purer, nobler, broader and more enlightened manhood and civilization than to claim that the disfranchisement of the Negro is necessary to secure the permancy of his moral, social and intellectual supremacy. Let the Senator and his party place the qualifications to exercise the elective franchise as high as they please; let it be education, wealth or moral excellence and we will come up to it, but to disfranchise us, or even seek to do it in the face of our history in this country is unmanly, ungodly and unworthy a generous and liberty-loving people.

Memphis, Tenn.





The Colored American, “The Colored American clipping,” Mississippi State University Libraries, accessed December 2, 2023,

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