Southern Race Relations Before and After the War
by Thomas Nelson Page
No race ever behaved better than the Negroes behaved during the war. Not only were there no massacres and no outbreaks, but even the amount of defection was not large. While the number who entered the Northern Army was considerable, it was not as great as might have been expected when all the facts are taken into account. A respectable number came from the North, while most of the others came from the sections of the South which had already been overrun by the armies of the Union and where mingled persuasion and compulsion were brought to bear. Certainly no one could properly blame them for yielding to the arguments used. Their homes were more or less broken up; organization and discipline were relaxed, and the very means of subsistence had become precarious; while on the other hand they were offered bounties and glittering rewards that drew into the armies hundreds of thousands of other nationalities. The number that must be credited to refugees who left home in the first instance for the purpose of volunteering to fight for freedom is believed by the writer to be not large; personally, he never knew of one. However large the number was, the number of those who might have gone, and yet threw in their lot with their masters and never dreamed of doing otherwise, was far larger. Many a master going off to the war intrusted his wife and children to the care of his servants with as much confidence as if they had been of his own blood. They acted rather like clansmen than like bondmen. Not only did they remain loyal, but they were nearly always faithful to any trust that had been confided to them. They were the faithful guardians of their masters' homes and families; the trusted agents and the shrewd counsellors of their mistresses. They raised the crops which fed the Confederate armies, and suffered without complaint that privation which came alike to white and black from the exactions of war. On the approach of the enemy, the trusted house servants hid the family silver and valuables, guarded horses and other property, and resisted all temptation to desert or betray. It must, of course, rest always on conjecture; but the writer believes that, had the Negroes been allowed to fight for the South, more of them would have volunteered to follow their masters than ever volunteered in the service of the Union. Many went into the field with their masters, where they often displayed not only courage but heroism, and, notwithstanding all temptations, stood by them loyally to the end. As Henry Grady once said, "A thousand torches would have disbanded the Southern Army, but there was not one."
The inference that has been drawn from this is usually one which is wholly in favor of the colored race. It is, however, rather a tribute to both races. Had slavery at the South been the frightful institution that it has ordinarily been pictured, with the slave-driver and the bloodhound always in the foreground, it is hardly credible that the failure of the Negroes to avail themselves of the opportunities for freedom so frequently offered them would have been so general and the loyalty to their masters have been so devoted.
One other reason is commonly overlooked. The instinct for command of the white race — at least, of that section to which the whites of this country belong — is a wonderful thing: the serene self-confidence which reckons no opposition, but drives straight for the highest place, is impressive. It made the race in the past; it has preserved it in our time. The Negroes knew the courage and constancy of their masters. They had had abundant proof of them for generations, and their masters were now in arms.
The failure of a servile population to rise against their masters in time of war is no new thing. History furnishes many illustrations. Plutarch tells how the besiegers of a certain city offered, not only freedom to the slaves, but added to it the promise of their masters' property and wives if they would desert them. Yet the offer was rejected with scorn. During the Revolution, freedom on the same terms was offered the slaves in Virginia and the Carolinas by the British, but with little effect, except to inflame the master to bitterer resistance. The result was the same during the Civil War.
The exactions of the war possibly brought the races nearer together than they had ever been before. There had been, in times past, some hostile feeling between the Negroes and the plain whites, due principally to the well-known arrogance of a slave population toward a poor, free, working population. This was largely dispelled during the war, on the one side by the heroism shown by the poor whites, and on the other by the kindness shown by the Negroes to their families while the men were in the army. When the war closed, the friendship between the races was never stronger; the relations were never more closely welded. The fidelity of the Negroes throughout the war was fully appreciated and called forth a warmer affection on the part of the masters and mistresses, and the care and self-denial of the whites were equally recognized by the Negroes. Nor did this relation cease with the emancipation of the Negro. The return of the masters was hailed with joy in the quarters as in the mansion. When the worn and disheartened veteran made his last mile on his return from Appomattox, it was often the group of Negroes watching for him at the plantation gate that first caught his dimmed eye and their shouts of welcome that first sounded in his ears.
A singular fact was presented which has not been generally understood. The joy with which the slaves hailed emancipation did not relax the bonds of affection between them and their former masters and mistresses. There was, of course, ex necessitate rei, much disorganization, and no little misunderstanding. The whites, defeated and broken, but unquelled and undismayed, were unspeakably sore; the Negroes, suddenly freed and facing an unknown condition, were naturally in a state of excitement. But the transition was accomplished without an outbreak or an outrage, and, so far as the writer's experience and information go, there were on either side few instances of insolence, rudeness or ill-temper, incident to the break-up of the old relation. This was reserved for a later time, when a new poison had been instilled into the Negro's mind and had begun to work. Such disorders as occurred were incident to the passing through the country of disbanded troops, making their way home without the means of subsistence, but even these were sporadic and temporary. For years after the war the older Negroes, men and women, remained the faithful guardians of the white women and children of their masters' families.
One reason which may be mentioned for the good-will that continued to exist during this crisis, and has borne its part in preserving kindly relations ever since, is that, among the slave-owning class, there was hardly a child who had not been rocked in a colored mammy's arms and whose first ride had not been taken with a Negro at his horse's head; not one whose closest playmates in youth had not been the young Negroes of the plantation. The entire generation which grew up during and just after the war grew up with the young Negroes, and preserved for them the feeling and sympathy which their fathers had had before them. This feeling may hardly be explained to those who had not known it. Those who have known it will need no explanation. It possibly partakes somewhat of a feudal instinct; possibly of a clan instinct. It is not mere affection; for it may exist where affection has perished and even where its object is personally detested. Whatever it is, it exists universally with those who came of the slave-holding class in the South, who knew in their youth the Negroes who belonged to their family, and, no matter what the provocation, they can no more divest themselves of it than they can of any other principle of their lives.
Such was the relation between the whites and the blacks of the South when emancipation came. It remains now to show what changes have taken place since that time; how these changes have come about, and what errors have been committed in dealing with the Race-question which still affect the two races.
The dissension which has come between the two races has either been sown since the Negro's emancipation or is inherent in the new conditions that have arisen.
When the war closed, and the emancipation of the Negroes became an established fact, the first pressing necessity in the South was to secure the means of living; for in sections where the armies had been the country had been swept clean, and in all sections the entire labor system was disorganized. The internal management of the whole South, from the general government of the Confederate States to the domestic arrangement of the simplest household among the slave-holding class, had fallen to pieces.
In most instances — indeed, in all of which the writer has any knowledge — the old masters informed their servants that their homes were still open to them, and that if they were willing to remain and work, they would do all in their power to help them. But to remain, in the first radiant holiday of freedom, was, perhaps, more than could be expected of human nature, and most of the blacks went off for a time, though later a large number of them returned. In a little while the country was filled with an army of occupation, and the Negroes, moved partly by curiosity, partly by the strangeness of the situation, and, perhaps mainly, by the lure of the rations which the Government immediately began to distribute, not unnaturally flocked to the posts of the local garrisons, leaving the fields unworked and the crops to go to destruction.
From this time began the change in the Negroes and in the old relation between them and the whites; a change not great at first, and which never became great until the Negroes had been worked on by the ignorant or designing class who, in one guise or another, became their teachers and leaders. In some places the action of military commanders had already laid the ground for serious misunderstanding by such orders as those which were issued in South Carolina for putting the Negroes in possession of what were, with some irony, termed "abandoned lands." The idea became widespread that the Government was going to divide the lands of the whites among the Negroes. Soon all over the South the belief became current that every Negro was to receive "forty acres and a mule"; a belief that undoubtedly was fostered by some of the U.S. officials. But, in the main, the military commanders acted with wisdom and commendable breadth of view, and the breach was made by civilians.
From the first, the conduct of the North toward the Negro was founded on the following principles: First, that all men are equal (whatever this may mean), and that the Negro is the equal of the white; secondly, that he needed to be sustained by the Government; and thirdly, that the interests of the Negro and the white were necessarily opposed, and the Negro needed protection against the white.
The South has always maintained that those were fundamental errors.
It appears to the writer that the position of the South on these points is sound; that, however individuals of one race may appear the equals of individuals of the other race, the races themselves are essentially unequal.
The chief trouble that arose between the two races in the South after the war grew out of the ignorance at the North of the actual conditions at the South, and the ignorance at the South of the temper and the power of the North. The North believed that the Negro was, or might be made, the actual equal of the white, and that the South not only rejected this dogma, but, further, did not accept emancipation with sincerity, and would do all in its power to nullify the work which had already been accomplished, and hold the Negroes in quasi-servitude. The South held that the Negro was not the equal of the white, and further held that, suddenly released from slavery, he must, to prevent his becoming a burden and a menace, be controlled and compelled to work.
In fact, as ignorance of each other brought about the conditions which produced the war between the sections, so it has brought about most of the trouble since the war.
The basic difficulty in the way of reaching a correct solution of the Negro problem is, as has been stated, that the two sections of the American people have hitherto looked at it from such widely different standpoints.
The North, for the present far removed and well buttressed against any serious practical consequences, and even against temporary discomfort from the policies and conditions it has advocated, acting on a theory, filled with a spirit of traditionary guardianship of the Negro, and reasoning from limited examples of progression and virtue, has ever insisted on one principle and one policy, founded on a conception of the absolute equality of the two races. The South, in direct contrast with the practical working of every phase of the question, affected in its daily life by every form and change that the question takes, resolutely asserts that the conception on which that policy is predicated is fundamentally erroneous, and that this policy would destroy not only the white race of the South, but even the civilization which the race has helped to establish, and for which it stands; and so, in time, would inevitably debase and destroy the nation itself.
Thus, the South holds that the question is vastly more far-reaching than the North deems it to be; that, indeed, it goes to the very foundation of race preservation. And this contention, so far from being merely a political tenet, is held by the entire white population of the South as the most passionate dogma of the white race.
This confusion of definitions has in the past resulted in untold evil, and it cannot be insisted on too often that it is of the utmost importance that the truth, whatever it is, should be established. When this shall be accomplished, and done so clearly that both sides shall accept it, the chief difficulty in the way of complete understanding between the sections will be removed. So long as the two sections are divided upon it, the question will never be settled. As soon as they unite in one view, it will settle itself on the only sound foundation — that of unimpeachable economic truth.
To this ignorance and opposition of views on the part of the two sections, unhappily, were added at the outset the misunderstandings and passions engendered by war, which prevented reason having any great part in a work which was to affect the whole future of the nation. With a fixed idea that there could be no justice toward the Negro in any dealings of their former masters, all matters relating to the Negroes were intrusted by the Government to the organization which had recently been started for this very purpose under the name of the Freedmen's Bureau. It was a subject which called for the widest knowledge and the broadest wisdom, and, unhappily, both knowledge and wisdom appeared to have been resolutely banished in the treatment of the subject.
The basis of the institution of the Freedmen's Bureau was the assumption stated: that the interests of the blacks and of the whites were necessarily opposed to each other, and that the blacks needed protection against the whites in all cases. The densest ignorance of the material on which the organization was to work prevailed, and the personnel of the organization was as unsuited to the work as could well be. With a small infusion of sensible men were mingled a considerable element of enthusiasts who felt themselves called to be the regenerators of the slaves and the scourge of their former masters, and with these, a large element of reckless adventurers who, recognizing a field for the exercise of their peculiar talents, went into the business for what they could make out of it. Measures were adopted which might have been sound enough in themselves if they had been administered with any practical wisdom. But there was no wisdom in the administration. Those who advised moderation and counselled with the whites were set aside. Bred on the idea of slavery presented in Uncle Tom's Cabin and inflamed by passions engendered by the war, the enthusiasts honestly believed that they were right in always taking the side of the down-trodden Negro; while the adventurers, gauging with an infallible appraisment the feelings of the North, went about their work with businesslike methods to stir up sectional strife and reap all they could from the abundant harvest. And of the two, the one did about as much mischief as the other.
No statement of any Southern white person, however pure in life, lofty in morals, high-minded in principle he might be, was accepted. His experience, his position, his character, counted for nothing. He was assumed to be so designing or so prejudiced that his counsel was valueless. It is a phase of the case which has not yet wholly disappeared, and even now we have presented to us in a large section of the country the singular spectacle of evidence being weighed rather by a man's geographical position than by his character and his opportunity for knowledge.
This self-complacent ignorance is one of the factors which prevent a complete understanding of the problem and tend to perpetuate the errors which have cost so much in the past and, unless corrected, may prove yet more expensive in the future.
The conduct of the Freedmen's Bureau misled the Negroes and caused the first breach between them and their former masters. Ignorance and truculence characterized almost every act of that unhappy time. Nearly every mistake that could be made was made on both sides. Measures that were designed with the best intentions were so administered as to bring these intentions to wreck.
On the emancipation of the slaves, the more enlightened whites of the South saw quite as clearly as any person at the North could have seen the necessity of some substitute for the former direction and training of the Negroes, and schools were started in many places by the old masters for the colored children. Teachers and money had come from the North for the education of the Negroes, and many schools were opened. But the teachers, at first devoted as many of them were, by their unwisdom alienated the good-will of the whites and frustrated much of the good which they might have accomplished. They might have been regarded with distrust in any case, for no people look with favor on the missionaries who come to instruct them as to matters of which they feel they know much more than the missionaries, and the South regarded jealously any teaching of the Negroes which looked toward equality. The new missionaries went counter to the deepest prejudice of the Southern people. They lived with the Negroes, consorting with them, and appearing with them on terms of apparent intimacy, and were believed to teach social equality, a doctrine which was the surest of all to arouse enmity then as now. The result was that hostility to the public-school system sprang up for a time. In some sections violence was resorted to by the rougher element, though it was of short duration, and was always confined to a small territory. Before long, however, this form of opposition disappeared and the public-school system became an established fact.
The next step in the alienation of the races was the formation of the secret order of the Union League. The meetings were held at night, with closed doors, and with pickets guarding the approaches, and were generally under the direction of the most hostile members of the Freedmen's Bureau. The whites regarded this movement with serious misgivings, as well they might, for, having as its basic principle the consolidation of the Negro race against the white race, it banded the Negroes in an organization which, with the exception of the Confederate Army, was the most complete that has ever been known in the South, and the fruits of which still survive today. Without going into the question of the charges that the League taught the most inflammatory doctrines, it may be asserted without fear of question that its teaching was to alienate the Negroes from the whites; to withdraw them wholly from reliance on their former masters, and to drill into their minds the imperative necessity of adherence to their new leaders, and those whom those leaders represented.
Then came the worst enemy that either race had ever had: the post-bellum politician. The problem was already sufficiently complicated when politics were injected into it. Well might General Lee say with a wise knowledge of men: "The real war has just begun."
No sooner had the Southern armies laid down their guns and the great armies of the North who had saved the Union disbanded, then the vultures, who had been waiting in the secure distance, gathered to the feast. The act of a madman had removed the wisest, most catholic, most conservative, and the ablest leader, one whose last thoughts almost had been to "restore the Union" by restoring the government of the Southern States along constitutional lines; and well the politicians used the unhappy tragedy for their purposes. Those who had been most cowardly in war were bravest in peace, now that peace had come. Even in Mr. Lincoln's time the radical leaders in Congress had made a strenuous fight to carry out their views, and their hostility to his plan of pacification and reconstruction was expressed with hardly less vindictiveness than they exhibited later toward his successor.
The Southern people, unhappily, acted precisely as this element wished them to act; for they were sore, unquelled, and angry. They met denunciation with defiance.
Knowing the imperative necessities of the time as no Northerner could know them; fearing the effects of turning loose a slave population of several millions, and ignorant of the deep feeling of the Northern people; the Southerners hastily enacted laws regulating labor which were certainly unwise in view of the consequences that followed, and possibly, if enforced, might have proved oppressive, though they never had a trial. Most of these laws were simply reenactments of old vagrant laws on the statute books and some still stand on the statute books; but they were enacted now expressly to control the Negroes; they showed the animus of the great body of the whites, and they aroused the deep feeling of distrust and much resentment among the Northerners. And, finally, they played into the hands of the politicians who were on the lookout for any pretext to fasten their grip on the South.
The struggle just then became intensified between the President and his opponents in Washington, with the Presidency and the control of the Government as the stake, and with the South holding the balance of power; and, unhappily, the Negroes appeared to the politicians an element that could be utilized to advantage by being made the "permanent allies" of what Mr. Stevens, Mr. Wade, and Mr. Sumner used to term "the party of the Union."
So, the Negro appeared to the politicians a useful instrument, and to the doctrinaires "a man and brother" who was the equal of his former master, and, if he were "armed with the weapon" of the ballot, would be able to protect himself and would inevitably rise to the full stature of the white.
A large part of the people of the North were undoubtedly inspired by a missionary spirit which had a high motive beneath it. But a missionary spirit undirected by knowledge of real conditions is a dangerous guide to follow. And the danger was never better illustrated than in this revolution. Doubtless, some of the politicians were inspired partly by the same idea; but the major portion had but one ruling passion — the securing of power and the down-treading of the Southern whites.
Then came the crowning error: the practical carrying out of the theories by infusing into the body politic a whole race just emerging from slavery. The most intelligent and conservative class of the whites were disfranchised; the entire adult Negro population were enfranchised. It is useless to discuss the motives with which this was done. No matter what the motives it was a national blunder; in its way as great a blunder as secession.
It is uncommonly supposed that Mr. Lincoln was the originator of this idea. The weight of his name is frequently given to it by the uninformed. Mr. Lincoln, however, was too level-headed and clear-sighted a statesman ever to have committed so great a folly. The furthest he ever went was in his letter to Governor Hahn, of Louisiana, in which he "suggested" the experiment of intrusting the ballot to "some of the colored people, for instance... the very intelligent," and as a reward for those who had fought for the Union.
In fact, for a year or two after the war no one in authority dreamed of investing the Negro race at once with the elective franchise. This came after the South had refused to tolerate the idea of the franchise being conferred on any of them, and after passions had become inflamed. The eight years of Reconstruction possibly cost the South more than the four years of war had cost her. To state it in mere figures, it may be said that when the eight years of Negro domination under carpet-bag leaders had passed, the public indebtedness of the Southern States had increased about fourfold, while the property values in all the States had shrunk, and in those States which were under the Negro rule had fallen to less than half what they had been when the South entered on that period. In Louisiana, for instance, the cost of Negro rule for four years and five months amounted to $106,020,337, besides the privileges and franchises given away to those having "pulls," and State franchises stolen. The wealth of New Orleans shrank during these eight years from $146,718,790 to $88,613,930, while real estate values in the country parishes shrank from $99,266,083 to $47,141,699.
In South Carolina and Mississippi, the other two States which were wholly under Negro rule, the condition was, if anything, worse than in Louisiana, while in the other Southern States it was not so bad, though bad enough. But the presentation of the statistics gives little idea of what the people of the South underwent while their State governments were controlled by Negroes. A wild Southern politician is said to have once truculently boasted that he would call the roll of his slaves at the foot of the Bunker Hill Monument. If the tradition is true, it was a piece of insolence which naturally offended deeply the sentiment of the people of the proud Commonwealth of Massachusetts. But his was mere gasconade. Had he been able to carry out his threat, and then had he installed his Negroes in the State-house of Massachusetts, and, by travesty of law, filled the legislative halls with thieves and proceeded to disfranchise the best and the proudest people of the Commonwealth; then had he, sustained by bayonets, during eight years ridden rough-shod over them; cut the value of their property in half; quadrupled their taxes; sold out over twenty per cent. of the landed property of the State for forfeiture; appointed over two hundred Negro trial justices who could neither read nor write, put a Negro on the bench of their highest court, and paraded through the State something like 80,000 Negro militia, armed with money stolen from the State, to insult and menace the people, while the whole South looked cooly on and declared that this treatment was just; then might there be a partial but not a complete parallel to what some of the States of the South endured under Negro rule.
It is little wonder that Governor Chamberlain, Republican and carpet-bagger though he was, should have declared as he did in writing to the New England Society, "The civilization of the Puritan and Cavalier, of the Roundhead and Huguenot, is in peril."
The South does not hold that the Negro race was primarily responsible for this travesty of government. Few reasonable men now charge the Negroes at large with more than ignorance and an invincible faculty for being worked on. But the consequences were none the less disastrous. The injury to the whites was not the only injury caused by the reconstruction system. To the Negroes, the objects of its bounty, it was no less a calamity. However high the motive may have been, no greater error could have been committed; nothing could have been more disastrous to the Negro's future than the teaching he thus received. He was taught that the white man was his enemy when he should have been taught to cultivate his friendship. He was told he was the equal of the white when he was not the equal; he was given to understand that he was the ward of the nation when he should have been trained in self-reliance; he was led to believe that the Government would sustain him when he could not be sustained. In legislation, he was taught thieving; in politics, he was taught not to think for himself, but to follow slavishly his leaders (and such leaders!); in private life, he was taught insolence. A laborer, dependent on his labor, no greater misfortune could have befallen him than estrangement from the Southern whites. To instil into his mind the belief that the Southern white was his enemy; that his interest was necessarily opposed to that of the white, and that he must thwart the white man to the utmost of his power, was to deprive him of his best friend and to array against him his strongest enemy.
To the teachings which led the Negro to feel that he was "the ward of the nation"; that he was a peculiar people whom the nation had taken under its wing and would support and foster; and that he could, by its fiat, be made the equal of the white, and would, by its strong arm, be sustained as such, may, perhaps, be traced most of the misfortunes of the Negro race, and, indeed, of the whole South, since the war. The Negro saw the experiment being tried; he saw his former master, who had been to him the type of all that was powerful and proud, and brave, and masterful, put down and held down by the United States Government, while he, himself, was set up and declared his full equal. He is quick to learn, and during this period, when he was sustained by the Government, he was as insolent as he dared to be. The only check on him was his lurking recognition of the Southerner's dominant force.
The one thing that saved the Southerners was that they knew it was not the Negroes but the Federal Government that held them in subjection. The day the bayonets were withdrawn from the South, the Negro power, which but the day before had been as arrogant and insolent as ever in the whole course of its brief authority, fell to pieces.
It is little less than amazing that the whites of the South should, after all that they went through during the period of reconstruction, have retained their kindly feeling for the Negroes, and not only retained but increased their loyalty to the Union. To the writer, it seems one of the highest tributes to the white people of the South that their patriotism should have remained so strong after all they had endured. The explanation is that the hostility of the Southern people was not directed so much against the United States or its Government, to form which they had contributed so much and in which they had taken so much pride, as against that element among the people of the North that had always opposed them, particularly where slavery was concerned. In seceding, the Southerners had acted on the doctrine enunciated by so distinguished a Northerner as John Quincy Adams in 1839, when he declared that it would be better for the States to "part in friendship from each other than to be held together by constraint," and look forward "to form again a more perfect friendship by dissolving that which could not bind, and to leave the separated parts to be reunited by the law of political gravitation to the centre," and now, slavery and secession having finally been disposed of, they naturally and necessarily gravitated back to the old feeling for the Union.
It is not less remarkable that, notwithstanding all the humiliation they had to endure during the period of Negro domination, they should still have retained their feeling of kindness for the race. The fact, however, was that they did not charge against the race in general the enormities which were committed by them during that period. However they might be outraged by their insolence and their acts, they charged it rather against the leaders than against the followers. The Southerners knew the Negroes; knew their weaknesses and their merits, and knew how easily they were misled. And it was always significant that though the Negroes universally followed their leaders and, when they felt themselves in power, conducted themselves with intolerable insolence, at other times they exhibited their old kindliness, and no sooner was the instigation removed than they were ready to resume their old relation of dependence and affection. Indeed, those who had been the worst and most revolutionary had no sooner sunk back into their former position of civility than they were forgiven and treated with good-natured tolerance.
With the overthrow of the carpet-bag governments, and the destruction of Negro domination at the South, the South began to shoot up into the light of a new prosperity. Burdened as she was by debt; staggering under disasters that had well-nigh destroyed her; scarred by the struggle through which she had gone, and scorched by the passions of that fearful time, she set herself with all her energies to recovering through the arts of peace her old place in the path of progress. The burden she has borne has been heavy, but she has carried it bravely and triumphantly.
Her property values have steadily increased. Mills have been started and manufactories established, and this not only by Southern investors, but, to a considerable extent, by Northern capital, until the South has become one of the recognized fields for investment. This, among other causes, has made the South restive under an electorate which has confined her to one political party, shut her off from ability to divide on economic questions, and which, to a certain extent, withdrew her from her due participation in the National Government. With this, another cause is the charge of the relation between the two races. It is useless to blink the question. The old relation of intimacy and affection that survived to a considerable extent even the strain and stress of the reconstruction period, and the repressive measures that followed it, has passed away, and in its place has come a feeling of indifference or contempt on the one side, and indifference or envy on the other. In some places, under some conditions, the old attitude of reliance and the old feeling of affection still remain. For example, in many families, the old relation of master and servant, of superior and retainer, may still exist. In some neighborhoods or towns, individuals of the colored race, by their ability and character, have achieved a position which has brought to them the respect and sincere good-will of the whites. A visit to the South will show anyone that, in the main, the feeling of kindness and good-will has survived all the haranguing of the politician and all the teaching of the doctrinaire. Ordinarily, the children still play together, the men work together, the elders still preserve their old good-will. The whites visit the sick and afflicted, help the unfortunate, relieve the distressed, console the bereaved, and perform the old offices of kindness. But this is, to some extent, exceptional. It is mainly confined to the very young, the old, or the unfortunate and dependent. The rule is a changed relation and a widening breach. The teaching of the younger generation of Negroes is to be rude and insolent. In the main, it is only where the whites have an undisputed authority that the old relation survives. Where the whites are so superior in numbers that no question can be raised; or again, where, notwithstanding the reversed conditions, the whites are in a position so dominant as not to admit of question, harmony prevails. When the relations are reversed there is danger of an outbreak. The Negro, misled by the teaching of his doctrinaire friends into thinking himself the equal of the white, asserts himself, and the white resents it. The consequence is a clash, and the Negro becomes the chief sufferer so invariably that it ought to throw some light on the doctrine of equality.
This article was extracted from Thomas Nelson Page, The Negro: The Southerner's Problem (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1904). Click HERE to order this book.